“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
Go to school. Study. Do well on your exams. Get into a better school after that. Dedicate so much of your life for attaining a goal. Go into large amounts of debt, but as long as you make it to the end then it is all worth it. But what do you really gain? What is it that you’re living for? What do you really have, if you’re lacking the love that mother Yashoda offered to her darling child Krishna?
Let’s review some of the things that we can have. A brand new car. A talk show host will give this away to their guests as a kind gesture. Young men will keep pictures of their favorite car on their phones and computers, hoping for the day when they can afford to buy it. But what is the car really? Once you have it, what have you gained? What is there to be enjoyed?
We can make the reward more generic. Wealth. If you have a lot of money, you will be happy, no? You will be able to live without worry. No more wondering if you’ll be able to pay the bills. No more fearing that you’ll starve to death due to lack of funds. But then the animals already eat. They already have shelter. Their defense is not perfect, by any means. We can acknowledge that. The animal can’t defend itself from every attacker, especially if the human being comes at it with a rifle. Yet the human being isn’t entirely safe either. No amount of money can prevent death. The best security scheme in the world doesn’t prevent accidents.
Another reward is renunciation. Forget all the stuff that’s caused you so much pain in your life. No more women to give you grief on a daily basis, telling you how you are the worst person in the world. No more men to treat you poorly and break your heart. No more things; just the simple life. Living in this world of void, what is there to do? There must be some activity to occupy the time. Living means having time. Without doing something, that time is not well spent; the life goes to waste.
If we take a step back and look at it from the higher point of view, all of these rewards manipulate the system in a sense. Getting a lot of things is exploitation of the resources that already exist. Renunciation is trying to win at the same game, but taking a different approach. There is another reward as well: mystic perfection. Again, the ability earned is a way to take advantage of that which is already there.
There is another option. It involves appreciating the person who created everything. It is offering love to Him without motivation and without interruption. The person who loves Him this way wants nothing to do with winning at the game of life. They want nothing to do with exploiting resources for their personal gain or running away from things that cause them pain. They just want to love God; they want to have Him.
Devotion is the only way to have Him. And having Him means having everything. Whatever thing you want, you’ll get. That is what the Supreme Lord does for His devotees. They only want Him to be with them, so it is immediately granted. A factual event from ancient history nicely symbolizes how this works.
In Vrindavana some five thousand years ago, mother Yashoda bound her child Krishna to a mortar. This was punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. She wasn’t going to beat Him. She didn’t tie the rope very tightly, either. Simply she wanted Him to stay put for a while. Krishna allowed this to happen. He is the origin of everything. As the wealthiest person in the world, He owns every single expensive object. Since He is completely satisfied in Himself, He does not need anyone else to make Him happy. As Yogeshvara, He is the supreme mystic, capable of doing the most amazing things.
Yashoda had pure devotion to Krishna. This is what pleases God the most. Knowledge and renunciation are means to that end, but they don’t guarantee the destination. You can be very knowledgeable about the material nature and you can be completely unattached to the constant changes that life throws, but this does not mean you will be devoted to God. You have a better chance at it for sure, but devotion is never dependent on anything.
Yashoda’s devotion brought her Krishna. This is the only reward worth seeking. He is the king of all kings, and He presides over the entire creation without effort. Though being so opulent, He still descends to the village of Gokula and plays in mother Yashoda’s courtyard. By catching Krishna, she has the whole world. He can be caught by anyone who has pure devotion, which is shown in the constant chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Mystic ability, opulence pronounced,
Or other side completely renounced.
In material life what to be gained?
Chewing the chewed, everything the same.
Better if origin of all by your side,
Then real peace over you to preside.
Happiness like that in Yashoda found,
By whose affection Damodara is bound.