“[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
Some five thousand years ago, Gokula was a somewhat dangerous place. Though the wise consider it the ideal destination, in reviewing some of the events that took place there on the surface it looks like the place invited only trouble. The odd thing was that the person in the center of every dangerous situation seemed to survive unscathed. He really shouldn’t have, considering that He was a small child, a helpless infant. The danger was created by different nefarious characters, attackers with ill motives. They came to catch the young child and harm Him, and they failed. Yet the darling mother of that child, who wasn’t nearly as deceptive or equipped with special powers, was able to catch Him from behind one time and tie Him to a mortar.
Was it magic? Some would say “yes.” First there was a problem with the rope. The mother tried to bind her naughty child several times. Each time the rope came up short by the length of two fingers. Then one more time she tried. Finally she was successful. It was as if the boy gave His sanction for being tied to the mortar. He had broken a pot of yogurt in anger, so He knew that punishment was due. He showed all the signs of fear – rapid breathing, tears streaming from His eyes, running away quickly.
yadāsīt tad api nyūnaṁtenānyad api sandadhetad api dvy-aṅgulaṁ nyūnaṁyad yad ādatta bandhanam
“This new rope also was short by a measurement of two fingers, and when another rope was joined to it, it was still two fingers too short. As many ropes as she joined, all of them failed; their shortness could not be overcome.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.16)
The same boy who could survive attacks from an evil whirlwind, a witch who put poison on her breasts used to kill children while nursing, and a demon hiding in a baby’s cart now was tied to a mortar by an innocent mother. She was not known to run very fast, yet she was able to catch Him. She had not a vengeful streak in her. None of the people in Gokula did. They were all pure of heart, which is one reason this child delighted in living there.
This was no ordinary child. For centuries upon centuries yogis have been trying to catch Him. They’ve left home to live in remote caves. They’ve meditated for years, with no distractions, following the proper procedures as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita.
samaṁ kāya-śiro-grīvaṁdhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥsamprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁdiśaś cānavalokayanpraśāntātmā vigata-bhīrbrahmacāri-vrate sthitaḥmanaḥ saṁyamya mac-cittoyukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
“One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)
Still, these meditators have met with little success. The fruitive workers have been searching for Him through enjoyment in a temporary land. The mental speculators have tried to find Him through philosophy and study of the nature around them. Yet of all these people, it was a simple mother in a farm community who not only caught Him but kept Him bound to a mortar, earning Him the name Damodara.
What was her secret? Was it really magic? Was it a miracle? Her desire was different. Rather than look for things for herself, she thought only of the child’s benefit. Rather than seek rewards to be enjoyed in the afterlife, she would intentionally harm her own fortunes if it meant that her child was made happy as a result. Rather than retreat to the desolate caves, she stayed amongst the people and always thought highly of her beloved son. Rather than speculate on the truth, in simply knowing that her son was great she was completely satisfied.
That son is known by many names and through many ways. The less intelligent in the human species know Him as the all-devouring death. They deny His presence everywhere else in life, but when quitting the body they must submit to Him. The slightly more intelligent understand that He is the highest force around, that He can make anything happen. The more intelligent worship Him in fear, understanding that He has attributes and that with those spiritual qualities He can do anything, including punish.
The most intelligent worship Him with love. This is axiomatic. Love for Him means real intelligence. It means finding the true mission to life, in any form. In the Vedic tradition He is known as Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” Yet He does so many things, comes to so many places, and interacts with so many people that He gets so many more names. Damodara is specific to this incident with the queen of Vraja, mother Yashoda. She plays the role of God’s foster-mother. She does not think that her son is God. This is a unique qualification. Her love is so pure that not even Krishna can stop it. He is helpless in her hands, so He immediately grants her wish to offer punishment to Him. He instigates that punishment, and the world benefits as a result.
Some would say this is magic, but in bhakti anything is possible. It is due to the reciprocal affection of God Himself. He can put the devotee in any position He likes. He can make the impossible possible through His will. That is seen to this day in the transformation of those who regularly chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, speaking different languages, and living in different nations, these souls come together and meet life’s mission by practicing bhakti purely, knowing only love for God and the spiritual master day and night.
So many demons to Gokula came,
In different forms, with motive the same.
Yashoda’s darling child to assail,
Yet each one of them miserably to fail.
So much ability but efforts meeting end tragic,
Yashoda bound Him, her effort to eyes magic?
Devotion to Damodara works always this way,
Anything possible when Supreme Lord gives His say.