“Dear Yashoda, why don’t you restrict your naughty Krishna? He comes to our houses along with Balarama every morning and evening, and before the milking of the cows They let loose the calves, and the calves drink all the milk of the cows. So when we go to milk the cows, we find no milk, and we have to return with empty pots. If we warn Krishna and Balarama about doing this, They simply smile charmingly.” (Gopis of Vrindavana, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)
She heard it again. Another pleasant night’s sleep broken by noise from the other room. She looked at the clock with hesitation. It was 6 am, again. “This boy really doesn’t like us,” she thought. The noise was a little different this time, but it was just as annoying.
“Shiv, can you check on Rudra, please?” Ambika asked her husband, who lay next to her fast asleep on the bed. “Dear, I’ve gotten up the last three mornings to play with him. I worked all night at the hospital, so I really need to rest. Can you please go?” mumbled Shiv, who sounded barely awake.
Not happy, but realizing that her husband did indeed have a demanding job, being a doctor and all, Ambika woke up to play with her son, who was approaching two years of age. Rudra’s sleeping schedule did not mix well with the parents’. He got between eight to ten hours on average, but he would fall asleep much earlier in the night than his parents. This meant waking up while the parents were still sleeping. Recently, he was given the green light to go play by himself in the adjacent room, which had all his toys in it. The parents thought this would give them more time to sleep. It didn’t.
“Good morning, my dear son. What are you playing with?” Ambika asked as she entered the room. Her child had a new toy in hand. It was a pet rooster that spoke a different phrase every time you touched its belly. Rudra was enamored by it. He kept pressing the button to hear the rooster talk. The mother realized that this was the sound that woke her up this morning. Thinking that her tired husband would likely be awoken by the same sound, Ambika carefully guided her son towards another toy.
There were plenty of toys to choose from. “How in the world did all these get here? He has way too many toys,” the mother thought to herself. There was a mini piano that played songs when you would press the keys. There were plenty of toy cars and airplanes. There was a racetrack for the electronically powered cars. There was even a tiny drum set. Ambika became a little troubled by seeing all this. It suddenly dawned on her that her son might be at risk of being spoiled.
She brought it up with Shiv at breakfast later that morning.
“You know, I think Rudra has too many toys,” she started.
“Is this because he woke you up this morning? It’s not that big a deal,” said her husband.
“No, it’s not that, silly,” she said as she put another pancake on his plate. “I was walking through that room this morning and I realized that he just has too many things. I think he’s going to get spoiled.”
“Now that you mention it, I’ve been thinking the same thing. You know what it is, right?”
“It’s all the people who come over. They’re always giving him things. I know they mean well, but it’s getting to be too much.”
“You’re right,” she said in agreement. “I feel bad telling people not to give things, because it comes from the heart. Maybe we should politely nudge them in the right direction the next time someone comes bearing gifts.”
Just then the doorbell rang. It was Shiv’s brother Vinayak. After being let in, he then entered the kitchen to greet his sister-in-law.
“Hello bhabhi, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Is everything alright?” replied Ambika, wondering why her brother-in-law was at the house so early.
“You guys don’t remember? I’m taking Rudra to the park today. You guys said you needed a day to yourselves to take care of household errands.”
“Oh, that’s right,” said a surprised Shiv. “Thanks so much for doing this,” said Ambika with a smile of relief on her face.
“It’s not a big deal at all. I love spending time with the little guy. We get along very well. Probably because we have similar interests,” said Vinayak jokingly.
Moments after the uncle left with the nephew for their day of fun, Ambika couldn’t help but notice the difference in behavior.
“You know, Shiv, your brother is different with Rudra. He doesn’t spoil him with toys. He plays with him, takes him out for fun, and just gives the gift of his friendship.”
“Now that you mention it, that’s true.”
“I wonder why he doesn’t spoil him. You think we should ask him?”
“Isn’t that kind of rude? ‘Hey man, why don’t you buy stuff for our son?’ That seems like an inappropriate question.”
The matter was tabled until later that night, when Vinayak and Rudra returned. The happy couple asked the uncle if he would be willing to stay for dinner. The entire family could then eat together. It was always difficult to get Rudra to eat, but if his favorite uncle was around, maybe it wouldn’t be so much trouble. Vinayak happily agreed, and a few minutes into dinner Ambika couldn’t help but ask.
“Hey Vinayak, I have a question to ask you, if you don’t mind?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
Ambika continued, ignoring the obvious look of disapproval on her husband’s face.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I notice that you don’t spoil Rudra with gifts, like everyone else seems to. We appreciate that so much. We’ve noticed that he has too many toys, and it’s because others keep giving them as gifts. We were wondering why you don’t do that. Is it intentional? Again, please pardon me for asking, but we’re trying to figure out the best way to deal with the issue.”
Vinayak was more than happy to share his philosophy on the matter. He started by explaining that it was quite natural for others to want to give some sort of physical gift. He mentioned the recent national tragedies and how the public rushed to donate blood, money and other items. Even if the people didn’t need these things, the desire to help was so strong that the people couldn’t help it.
“As far as myself,” Vinayak continued, “I try to look to the example of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. As you may know, He roamed this earth some five thousand years ago in His childhood body. He played in the land of Vrindavana. If you think about it, He has the most to give. He could give everything to anyone. But what is most remembered about His time in Vrindavana?”
“His lifting of Govardhana Hill?” asked Shiv.
“His stealing of the butter from the neighbors?” volunteered Ambika.
“Or what about the time He broke the pot of butter and made mother Yashoda angry?” asked Shiv, trying to outdo his wife.
“Or what about when He and Balarama got all dirty by holding on to the tails of the cows and went for a ride in the mud?” asked Ambika, not to be outdone.
“See, you’re making the argument for me,” said Vinayak. “One could point to so many such things as memorable. Krishna was in the superior position. In whatever room He walks into, He is the superior person. Yet in the most intimate dealings in Vrindavana, He did not play Santa Claus and just give out stuff. He allowed others to be devoted to Him. He gave the gift of His association. Sure, there were times that He improved the material fortunes of others, like when He rewarded the fruit vendor with jewels and when He rescued the poor brahmana Sudama from poverty. But even such things were to improve the quality of their devotion. So maybe intentionally or unintentionally, I try to follow the same example. I’m not Krishna. I don’t have anything impressive to really offer anyway. So I try to give my association, because I know others will value that the most.”
“Oh, I see now,” said Ambika. “So is that what we should tell people? Is that how we should act? Just give Rudra our association instead of providing material support?”
“Well, listen. You guys are the parents. You have to protect your son. I’m just the fun-loving uncle. The most important thing is to give your dependents the same association that Krishna gave to others. You don’t need much for that. Just the name of Krishna itself is enough to change consciousness. If you give that name to your child, allowing him to hear it constantly, then surely in the long run that will benefit him more than anything else.”
Soon dinner was over and Vinayak left, promising Rudra to return again soon. As the couple put their beloved child to sleep that night, they couldn’t help but remember the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, and all the joy he brought to everyone. Mother, father and son all slept blissfully that night.
Child’s room filled with so many toys,
From being spoiled hard to avoid.
Others to come over with gifts bearing,
With so much love at child staring.
But example from Krishna can take,
On how best offering to others to make.
Association most important of all,
That at end of life holy name can call.
Krishna Himself the most to anyone can give,
Prefers gifts allowing for service to Him to live.