“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
Take your house. You know how big it is. You know how many rooms there are. You know what furniture fills each room. You have a general idea of how big the house is in comparison with others. Now take the neighboring home. If you’re not sure which direction to go, take all of them. Go left, go right, go forward and go backward. Now you have several homes.
Extend that vision to the entire community. Now multiply that community by a very large number. Soon you have the whole nation. Then you get several nations, up to the point that you have the whole world. Then you get all the planets, including the sun.
This vision exists. It’s hard to comprehend, for sure, but it is factual. This entirety, this vision of the maximum, is one way to understand greatness. To the person who doesn’t believe in a higher power, a supreme deity, they can at least acknowledge the presence of the whole.
Now imagine trying to capture this whole. It would seem a little silly, no? We can’t even wrap our arms around our house, so how are we going to take control of the entire universe? Sure, we can use cranes, pulleys and other mechanisms for moving and securing large objects, but to do that for the whole world is impossible.
In the Vedas, we learn that this universal form, the virata-rupa, is only one aspect to God. He is nirguna, which means “without material qualities.” He has arms, legs, hands, and a face. We can see Him if we wish, but we have no way of comprehending the nature of those qualities. His form can be small or it can be very large. The virata-rupa is the largest thing we can imagine, and yet He can expand to something much larger than this. He is smaller than the smallest as well.
So now imagine trying to capture God. The nirguna Supreme Lord is impossible to comprehend, so how are we going to even find Him? When He is apparently saguna, that is with a form that we can see in front of our eyes, it seems a little easier, but even then it isn’t very easy. Yet mother Yashoda did it one time. That person who is larger than the largest got bound to a mortar by a rope.
What was her secret? For starters, she was not interested in knowing His greatness. Not that she didn’t believe in God. Not that she foolishly thought she could create every outcome through her effort alone. She just didn’t feel the need to test. She did not need convincing that there is a person who is responsible for the cosmic manifestation, which has so many intricacies that work in harmony for predictability and sustainability.
What is wrong with trying to understand God scientifically? What is wrong with testing His greatness? These things are helpful in understanding Him, but they won’t work in catching Him. The less intelligent might ask what purpose is served by catching Him. The question itself reveals ignorance of the true nature of the Supreme Lord.
By definition, God is all-bliss. This refers to every aspect of His personal self. We work so hard to try to find peace. Peace is necessary for happiness. Yet if God is all-bliss, wouldn’t we be peaceful all the time if we had Him with us? This is the reason for trying to catch Him. If one tries to bind Him for the purpose of fulfilling their desires for money, strength, fame, prestige, honor, or longevity, they will always fail in their attempts.
Mother Yashoda bound her young child with ropes of affection. Indeed, the physical ropes weren’t sufficient. The first one she tried didn’t work. It ended up being too short, by the length of two fingers. No problem. She just got another rope; two of them now joined together. But alas, still short by the same length. Taking more ropes just led to the same result. Her friends started to tease her. She could dress her child just fine. She could tie a belt around His waist, but all of a sudden tying Him to a mortar as punishment was impossible.
Finally, it was Krishna Himself who gave the sanction. He was the one being punished. He knew the love Yashoda felt. He knew why she was trying to tie Him. He gives sanction to all results, including the rewards offered by the many demigods of the Vedic tradition. Not a blade of grass moves without His approval, so certainly He could not be bound unless He agreed to it.
Yashoda caught God in person after He broke a pot of yogurt in a tantrum. That darling child of hers would eventually grow up and leave home, but He still remains with her always. It is said that Krishna never leaves Vrindavana. When He goes elsewhere, He simply expands. In a similar manner, the devotees who love Krishna so much keep Him bound in their hearts, where He happily stays and listens joyfully to their constant glorification of Him. If they ever feel that the naughty Krishna, the origin of the universe, is slipping away, they recite the holy names to bring Him back: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Whenever feeling loneliness attack,
Chanting holy names to bring Him back.
In their hearts Damodara is found,
By pure affection He’s bound.
Like what in Gokula first occurred,
When by broken pot mother disturbed.
Punishment failing, ropes short by fingers two,
Krishna then agreed because mother’s love He knew.