“[Seeing the whipping stick in His mother’s hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother’s pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 2)
rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam
sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham
Question: “I hear that the living entities descended to this earth out of their own will. They were with God previously, but then they wanted a change. Their wish was granted, and now they struggle through the cycle of birth and death. But what is really to be gained from having God’s association? If I’m going to be reborn after I die, why should I worry? Why is that a bad thing? What am I missing really?”
If asked to describe what God means in a simple term, which would you pick? The Almighty? Surely He must be greater than everyone else. The unborn? Everything has a birth date, though in actuality the spirit soul never takes birth or dies. Still, there are various births of the soul in the material world and they relate to the temporary bodies accepted. God is the same as His body, and that body is never born. The wealthiest? Yes, God has more money than anyone else. He is also the most beautiful and the strongest. Of all the terms we could think of, likely the one that means “one whose belly is bound by a rope” wouldn’t cross our mind. Yet not only is this term accurate, understanding it gives a hint into what we’re missing.
What is bad with our current situation? Take whatever it is that you like. You must enjoy some activity. There must be some person’s association which you prefer. Now know that whatever it is you like will eventually leave you. This isn’t meant to frighten. It isn’t meant to make one think. It’s simply a statement of fact. The truth arises at the time of birth. Whenever you get something, you should know that one day you will be without it.
In this way life is a sort of torture. You enter a new world, find objects and people, form attachments, and then everything gets snatched away from you. This occurs in cycles within one lifetime, and then everything gets repeated in a subsequent life. Life after life, birth after birth, and death after death the same thing happens. The names and circumstances may change, but the result is always the same.
śrī-prahrāda uvācamatir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vāmitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānāmadānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁpunaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)
Just by knowing the cycle of birth and death, we see what God’s association is not meant for. Money will leave us, so why should we ask God for it? Our life will eventually move on to another situation, so what is the benefit to desperately seeking good health? Strength lasts for as long as the body, sometimes not even that long due to old age.
The benefit of being with God is the association itself. One way to understand that association is to think of the name Damodara. One time in the sacred land of Vrindavana a small child broke a pot of yogurt in anger. The pot was important. His mother was churning the yogurt inside it to make butter. It was hard work. Though she dutifully fulfilled her role as a traditional wife, she was anything but idle. She was a working woman; she worked at home the entire day.
Her son broke the pot on purpose. Knowing that He had done something bad, He ran away in fear. The mother caught Him, however. When she did, she tied Him to a mortar as punishment. The boy cried tears of fear, and He looked lovely the whole time. Since He was tied by the belly, He earned the name Damodara.
That Damodara is the same Almighty. He is the only unborn one. He is invincible and unconquerable. He is without a beginning and without an end. He is all-attractive, so the best name to describe Him is Krishna. When you are with Krishna, you get interactions such as this in Vrindavana. He steals your butter and makes you chase after Him. He cries to show that He respects your authority. He eats your butter to show that your work is satisfying to Him. He looks beautiful in a variety of scenes, creating a collage of memories for your mind.
The soul mired in the cycle of birth and death caused by material desires misses out on these interactions. They miss out on offering love without motivation and without interruption. They miss out on appreciating the person who is most worthy of appreciation. They miss out on singing the glories of the one person whose glories are endless. They miss seeing true love in action, offered by the queen of Vraja, Yashoda. They miss out on swimming in the ocean of transcendental ecstasy that is devotional service.
With material desires you can get pretty much whatever you want. If you’re having trouble, worship one of Krishna’s administrators, who are gods in their own right. But one thing you won’t get is pure love. You won’t get the gift that is most worth having. And yet it can all change in an instant, in one second. It can change today; no need for tomorrow. No need to wait for the afterlife, since the present life brings the opportunity to love the sweet child of Yashoda, who allows the devotees to bind Him with their ropes of affection. That Damodara is accessible to anyone who chants the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
When affection not towards origin of all,
To the material world to unfortunately fall.
That which already chewed again chew,
In cycle of birth pursuit for happiness renew.
To this punishment there is more,
Missing out on Damodara to adore.
A name for God, though not one to expect,
With bhakti today with Him connect.