“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
There are many people to whom we can offer praise and respect. Some are not even real, like the superheroes the children dress up as for Halloween. Some are television and movie stars, and others are things of legend. In the realm of spirituality, there are many important personalities who have done amazing things throughout the years. In the month of Kartika, a special mother takes center stage, and she gets love and respect for once doing something very unique: the time she ran faster than God and caught Him.
She ran out of love and she caught Him due to His will. Nothing happens without His sanction first. The Vedic tradition is famous for its many gods. If you want a son, worship this person. If you want to do well on your big exam in school, worship this other person. If you want good fortune for the upcoming year, on a particular day follow this specific ritual. Though there are distinct personalities worshiped, there is one guiding hand that must sanction everything first. Not surprisingly, He is God, the one and original.
sa tayā śraddhayā yuktastasyārādhanam īhatelabhate ca tataḥ kāmānmayaiva vihitān hi tān
“Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.22)
In the material world, many things seem to take place almost automatically. When we put our two hands together with some force, there is the resulting sound known as a clap. Reproducing the action creates the same reaction. We don’t think there is a higher force involved in this, but there is. The superior nature must cooperate. The intelligent creator made this law in the first place; we simply discovered it after the fact.
And yet the original God does not take an interest in such matters. His expansion known as the material energy manages these reactions. He still gets the credit, since He is the ultimate source of everything, but one wouldn’t say that God appeared before them and made the sound of a clap happen.
This famous mother is known as Yashoda, and the time she ran it was out of love. She chased after a manifest version of God. This version is the original, who appears in the material realm from time to time. There is no difference between spiritual and material for Him. We only make the distinction here for accuracy’s sake. The land of Gokula is in our earthly realm, which goes through creation and destruction in cycles. There is the devastation of fire in between that wipes the slate clean, and then after a certain number of cycles all the planets themselves get destroyed and recreated.
Yashoda gets praise for running after God, who allowed her to catch Him. He is not very easy to catch. Everyone is searching for Him. The praise offered to the mundane is an indication of this. The individual looks for someone to whom to offer worship, not knowing that the person they are meant to worship is always with them, residing in the heart. This is God’s expansion known as the Supersoul. So the search continues until the real God is found, with love and hate mixing in between along with birth and death.
The people who are somewhat spiritually inclined also try to catch God. They follow a specific tradition inherited from their ancestors, and yet they still don’t know much about Him. They don’t know what He looks like, where He lives, why He creates and destroys things, why He allows good and bad to happen, or what to call Him. Left in the dark, they resort to offering affection to pets, friends, family members, celebrities and the like, just as the non-spiritually inclined do.
Then there are those who take spiritual life very seriously. They try to meditate on God. They give up everything. They choose a life free of distractions. They repeat the sacred syllable of om day and night. They no longer want material things. They desire to be desireless. They hope that through this dedication they will one day catch God.
Yet Yashoda caught Him without so much effort. He was in His beautiful form of Damodara. While Rama is found in Ayodhya, Vishnu in Shvetadvipa, Varaha in the lower planetary region, and Krishna Himself in Goloka Vrindavana, Damodara is only found in Yashoda’s home. He is the same Krishna, given the special name due to being tied to a mortar as punishment for having broken a pot belonging to Yashoda.
Is this not a little harsh? Shouldn’t the mother have forgiven her son? Actually, her chasing after Him was in good fun. She did not tie Him very tightly, but just enough to keep Him within her sights. More importantly, Krishna allowed this to happen. He gave Yashoda the honor to give birth to the name and form of Damodara. During the Kartika month every year devotees celebrate that sweet pastime by singing the Damodarashtaka, giving praise to the spiritually fleet of foot mother.
Damodara only with Yashoda found,
By her ropes of affection He’s bound.
In world no other place,
To find that darling face.
The mother to catch Him with ease,
Since her pure devotion He sees.
Unique form of God, like no other,
Forever glorious the loving mother.