“By such childhood pastimes as this He is drowning the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy, and is revealing to those devotees who are absorbed in knowledge of His supreme majesty and opulence that He is only conquered by devotees whose pure love is imbued with intimacy and is free from all conceptions of awe and reverence. With great love I again offer my obeisances to Lord Damodara hundreds and hundreds of times.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 3)
itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣaḿ nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvaḿ
punaḥ prematas taḿ śatāvṛtti vande
Question: Why should there be attention on Krishna’s lila? You don’t have this concept in other religions. Other faiths speak of an Almighty. They insist on surrender to Him. That is not new, but in this Vedic tradition I hear so much about God doing this and God doing that. He comes here, goes there, and displays His opulence everywhere. Wouldn’t it be better if you focused on more generic things? Wouldn’t it be easier to understand the less defined God?
There should be morality. We hear this from those who are worried about the direction society is heading. They think that without guardrails, everything will fall apart. They don’t necessarily explain the purpose of morals. It’s a gut feeling, an instinct that tells them. They’re not sure over the justification for having delineations between right and wrong, but they think they should be there nonetheless.
But a quick study of the matter reveals the answer. Think of any project where a goal is set. Take losing weight for example. You decide that you’re going to undergo some type of austerity. You will only eat twice a day. You will drink lots of water. You will avoid foods that are not good for you. You will avoid eating to the point of making your stomach completely full. Instead, you will leave some room for digestion. You will drink some water with each meal too. Maybe you will exercise a little also.
These are all rules. They are guidelines. By themselves they would seem kind of silly. The outsider would wonder as to the purpose to them. From the goal, however, we understand the purpose. You follow the guidelines in order to reach the desired end, which will ideally make you happier. If you are fit and healthy, you will feel better than you do now.
The same applies to all rules and regulations. Morality is for increasing happiness; it has no other purpose. It is not to limit fun. It is not a way for the miserable to ensure that no one is happier than they are. It is not a way to maintain faith in old traditions that people follow blindly.
The activities described of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are meant to bring happiness. The word in Sanskrit is ananda, which means bliss. His activities, which He displays whenever He so chooses, drown the connected in an ocean of bliss. The Damodarashtaka provides this very description, and it is indeed true.
The generic God cannot do this. At most, one can appreciate Him. If you don’t know what God looks like, where He lives, what He likes, what He doesn’t like, how lovely His features are, and why you should be devoted to Him, under the best circumstances the most you can do is appreciate His opulence. He has created this and every other land. He makes a material nature that operates like clockwork. There is so much intelligence to it that the human being can spend lifetimes studying it. They can rely on this nature. They understand it so well that they sometimes foolishly think they can alter it.
With the generic God you can appreciate Him indirectly, such as through loving your friends and family. You are so thankful to have them in your life. If you’re a little intelligent, you realize that other people have friends and family too. So they also appreciate what their loved ones do for them. Through this knowledge your range of appreciation expands. You can continue appreciating in this way until you reach the complete whole, which is the virata-rupa.
You’ll only swim in an ocean of transcendental bliss when you know God’s lila, though. This is why in Vedic literature so much attention gets devoted to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, you can swim in this ocean of bliss without even knowing that God is God. You don’t need to understand the cycle of birth and death, the difference between matter and spirit, the temporary nature of things, or even the goal of life. Simply by witnessing these sublime activities, you’ll reach a happiness never before experienced.
Unfortunately, in your ignorance you might think that your life is not meant to be spent entirely in this ocean. You’ll think that perhaps you’re weird for appreciating how the Supreme Lord runs in the courtyard of mother Yashoda. You may not want to let others know that you cry tears of appreciation when you hear how God allowed Himself to be bound to the mortar as punishment for having broken mother Yashoda’s pot of yogurt. You’ll worry that you’re supposed to think of things other than the sweet child’s lovely face when confronted by His adoring mother.
Therefore the more generic knowledge is included as well. Morality and virtue exist to help convince you that Krishna’s own pastimes, sva-lila, is meant to be your home. He is so kind that He doesn’t always display the same form. Sometimes He is returning home to the loving inhabitants of Ayodhya. They celebrate in such a way that a new holiday is born: Diwali. Sometimes He delivers knowledge on a battlefield and gives birth to the most famous book: the Bhagavad-gita. The lila is endless, and it all belongs to the same personality. And it all has the same purpose: to drown the witnesses in an ocean of bliss, such as with the residents of Gokula, who saw God in His sweet form of Damodara.
When of generic God to hear,
Towards awe and reverence to steer.
Not just to punish the mentality,
For happiness exists morality.
From appreciation go beyond,
The sva-lila ponder upon.
Then in an ocean of bliss you’ll swim,
Damodara with Yashoda, always thinking of Him.