“To the Supreme Lord, whose form embodies eternity, knowledge, and bliss, whose earrings swing to and fro, who shines beautifully in Gokula, who quickly ran from the grinding mortar in fear of mother Yashoda, and who was caught from behind by her, who ran faster than He – to that Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 1)
lasat-kuṇḍalaḿ gokule bhrājamanam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā
- Am I going to hell if I don’t worship God?
- Am I in trouble if I forget about Him?
- What if I tell a lie? Is that going to harm me? I’ve told so many lies already; I’m worried.
- Should I be afraid of God? I must admit, religion scares me.
As if inherently knowing that they are on the wrong track in life, the adult human being, controlled sometimes by a conscience, being consciously aware of the decisions they make, has concern for the afterlife. What they know they’ve only heard from religious leaders, whom they tend to fear. The Almighty to them is an old, mean and spiteful person. He sends locusts to your neighborhood if you are bad. He forces you to sacrifice things, and if you don’t listen to Him you get sent to an awful place to spend all of eternity. The Damodarashtaka has a different idea.
Consider this: God is beautiful. That is correct. We likely have some idea of beauty right now. We see someone of the opposite sex who enchants our mind. We see a painting in a museum that we can’t take our eyes off of. We climb a mountain and have our breath taken away by the view. The flowers someone gives to us as congratulations put is in a good mood.
God is the origin of everything. This means that He is the original artist. He has the most to express and the best ability to express it. This shows He has beauty on the inside. All that is good, all that you prefer, all that you are attached to – know that God creates it. He makes the bad things as well, but even that further increases the display of His artistic talent.
He is also beautiful on the outside. This dichotomy between inside and outside only exists for us. We have eyes. We need them to perceive objects. We can’t see what’s on the inside of someone. We need to hear their words. We need to see their actions. Then we can guess what they are thinking on the inside. Since we can see the outside, we can judge external beauty very quickly.
God’s beauty is indescribable. His body is not different from Him; whereas our body is always changing. Since we were once small infants, it means that the infant body cannot identify us. At the time, people considered us babies, but now we are older. There is a difference between body and identity. Spirit soul is what identifies us.
God’s spirit and body are identical. That body is for the external vision. That body is eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. Since it is all-attractive, one way to address it is Krishna. It is that Krishna whom the Damodarashtaka of Satyavrata Muni describes.
The name of the work means “eight verses to describe Damodara.” Damodara is another name for God. It references the time He was bound to a mortar from the belly. This is a very odd way to picture God, is it not? Why would He be bound to anything? If He is eternal, does it not mean that time has no influence upon Him? Time is the great destroyer. No one can escape the clutches of time, which annihilates everyone through old age and death.
Damodara is also beautiful. This is what it means to have a spiritual body. God bound to a mortar from the belly is so beautiful that sages write songs in glorification of the image. Shri Krishna, the all-attractive Lord, appeared in the sacred land of Vrindavana as a small child. In play, He one time broke the yogurt pot of mother Yashoda, who then punished Him by tying Him to a mortar. God is all-powerful, so He allowed for this to happen.
Damodara is beautiful externally, and He is beautiful in His dealings with the people who love Him. He will do anything for them, in fact. He will stand in their courtyard and pretend to get punished. He will break their pots so that they remember Him while running after Him. He pretends to cry so that wise poets, whose hearts melt over the incident, document everything in beautiful song. He makes sure that beautiful song gets sung especially in the month of Kartika, which brings extra auspiciousness in devotional activities, bhakti-yoga. Through this pastime, Shri Damodara shows that God is a beautiful person who no one need fear, provided they know Him to some degree.
Is God someone to fear,
Should not to me be dear?
Of these things I don’t know,
Where after this life will I go?
For from doubts to be clear,
Sacred Damodarashtaka hear.
In Yashoda’s courtyard He’s found,
Where by ropes of devotion He’s bound.