“Everyone thinks of things in a relative way, in his own terms. This is the meaning of ‘frog philosophy.’ The frog is always thinking of things in relation to his well. He has no power to conceive of the Atlantic Ocean, because his well is his only experience. God is great, but we are thinking of God’s greatness in our own terms, in terms of relative greatness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, 6g)
Kumari was hard at work in the kitchen. There was a big event upcoming at the local temple that she and her family attended. She agreed to make a large batch of cookies for offering to the temple deity, Shyamasundara, the form of the Personality of Godhead looking ever youthful and always beautiful.
Kumari’s daughter was in the kitchen helping her on this day. She knew that her mother always worked hard to serve the Lord, but as she was still a young child, she wasn’t exactly sure who God was or why they worshiped Him in the temple in the way that they did.
“Mom, how great is Krishna?” she asked.
“Oh, His greatness is unlimited, “ Kumari replied. “There is actually no way to understand Him completely. So we just serve Him as best we can and then pray for His mercy.”
Not completely satisfied with the answer, Kumari’s daughter pressed on. “But how great? Is He good at everything? He is better than you at cooking? He is more beautiful than the people we see on television?”
Kumari then told a story to her daughter. This was from Kumari’s time in college, and it related to the same activity they were engaged in that day: baking cookies. “Let me tell you a story, dear,” Kumari began. “This will give you an idea of how we view things and why we’re not able to fully understand God’s greatness.”
In her first year of college, Kumari had made quite a name for herself amongst her friends. She attended school far away from home, so she and other students lived in a dormitory. The nearby dining hall was where they took most of their meals, but the food was not high quality by normal standards. When studying for exams or just spending a night late hanging out, they would often order food from outside. Pizza, Chinese food, Mexican – whatever was inexpensive and would deliver they had no problem ordering.
During one particular cramming session for a big exam, Kumari decided she would bake cookies. The residence hall had a small kitchen area at the end of the first floor, and so very quietly Kumari gathered the necessary ingredients. She had experimented with cooking a little while growing up, and so she had a basic cookie recipe that she would rely on from time to time.
“Kumari, these cookies are amazing,” her friends said to her the first time she made them.
“Oh, thanks, but you’re just saying that. You’re food deprived from all that studying,” she would respond embarrassingly.
“No, seriously. These cookies are great. You need to make these more often.”
And so began a tradition. Whenever the girls would have an exam to study for, the first thing they would do was have Kumari bake her famous cookies. She had a few recipes handy, and so pretty soon word spread beyond the circle of friends. Kumari was known as the expert cookie maker. Everyone considered her cookies to be the best in the world. So pleased that everyone appreciated her efforts, she would sometimes venture outside of the cookie realm and make brownies and cakes.
When the following year began, most of Kumari’s friends had remained in the same residence hall. So excited to see everyone again after the long summer break, it was expected that Kumari would go about making cookies again, especially as a welcome back for everyone. There were some new faces in the hall, however. One of them was a transfer student named Sheila. She entered the room that the girls were hanging out in one day and introduced herself. She also had a Tupperware container in her hand.
“Hi girls. I made these cookies. Please take some,” Sheila told them. The girls, including Kumari, happily indulged. They were amazed by the taste. Kumari was the first one to offer compliments.
“These cookies are amazing. You made these yourself?”
“Yes,” replied Sheila.
“These are really great. Kumari, it looks like you have competition,” Kumari’s friends said in jest.
But in fact, pretty soon Sheila’s cookies became more popular. There was no malice intended from her; it was just the way things worked out. Indeed, soon it was revealed that Sheila was great at cooking pretty much anything. She would regularly bake pizza for the floor, make elaborate cakes for people’s birthdays, and prepare entire meals.
One day while hanging out in one of her friend’s room, a person visiting from a different residence hall entered and asked Kumari if she had any cookies to offer.
“No,” interjected one of the friends. “Didn’t you hear? There’s a new sheriff in town.”
“Yeah? Who?” asked the visitor.
“Sheila. Her cookies are amazing.”
“Really? I can’t believe it. Better than Kumari’s?”
“Yes, for sure,” said Kumari, not giving her friends a chance to embarrass her further.
In this way through Kumari’s greatness, Sheila’s position was established. By being known as someone who could make cookies that were as good as, if not better than, Kumari’s, she earned respect. In the kitchen that day many years later while making cookies with her daughter, Kumari related the story to understanding Krishna.
“See sweetie, I thought I was really good, but another person came along that was better. And then if someone else were to be better, they would be described as making cookies better than Sheila. This is how we understand greatness in all areas. One person is known to be great, and then another person comes and surpasses them. But actually, Krishna is greater than anyone we have ever met. We have no idea how great He is because His potency is inconceivable.”
“What does ‘inconceivable’ mean, Mom?”
“It means that you can’t even imagine it,” explained Kumari. “Like try to think of the biggest number you can. Then know that Krishna is more than that. If you put His greatness into a number, it would be a number that would be too big to understand.”
“I think I see now. So we worship Krishna because we know He is the greatest, even if we can’t explain that greatness?”
“Yes, and part of His greatness is His kindness. Though He is so big, He kindly comes and lives in the temple, allowing us to see Him in a way that gives us a slight understanding of His greatness. He kindly allows us to make food for Him and offer it to Him with love.”
Satisfied for the time being, Kumari’s daughter went back to helping her mother bake cookies for the big event. When the job was done, the daughter had one more thing to say to the mother.
“Mom, I don’t care what your friends back in college thought. I know that you make the best cookies in the world. You make Krishna happy with your cookies, so how can anyone else’s be better?”
Limit in greatness not to stop,
For another to come along and top.
To understand ability in this way,
Better than such and such we say.
But God like this not known,
For all opulence in Him to own.
Better to worship and for mercy pray,
With love and affection His names say.