“O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 4)
You’ve likely played this game before. It involves choosing a place to live. Take money out of the equation. That’s always the greatest barrier anyway. You’d love to live in a nice area, but the housing prices alone keep you out. Then there are the property taxes to deal with. In this game, imagine that money is not a factor. Which place would you choose? Satyavrata Muni picks a place that likely wouldn’t make the top choice on most lists.
There are several factors to consider. Weather is surely one of them. You wouldn’t want to live some place where it’s cold year round. The colder areas are more towards the north, which means that the rising and setting of the sun is a little off schedule too. In the summer you can go entire days without seeing darkness. That’s nice, but then you have to contend with the opposite situation in the winter. Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t see the sun for two weeks.
You can live near the ocean or you can pick a place more inland. The ocean is nice. It’s soothing. It reminds you of the higher nature. It reinforces the fact that compared to the whole earth the individual is miniscule. The ocean brings refreshing breezes, but there is also heightened danger during periods of storm. If there’s a hurricane warning, you definitely have to evacuate first. There is a good chance that you will lose your home as well.
You can live some place where there is a decent climate all year round. No winters to contend with. Hardly any days of rainfall, and it’s not too hot either. But then there’s the danger of earthquakes. That area lies right along a fault line that can shake at any moment. You could also pick a place where your family members live, but then the nature of life is such that people move. Will you go with them? What if you don’t like the area where they go?
Satyavrata Muni chooses a farm community set in an ancient time period as his preferred home. Forget not having wifi and cell phones, there isn’t even electricity. Everything is done by hand. You have to get your food the old fashioned way: farming. There is no meat to be found, as the animals aren’t killed. There is an abundance of cows. The milk from one cow alone can feed an entire family, and this community has hundreds of thousands of cows. They all live very happily, enjoying the company of their young. This means that there is an abundance of milk products.
Not that the people hanker much for things, but they get other items by trading these milk products. Though the area is undeveloped according to the modern standard, it is very beautiful. There is natural beauty all around. There are many neighboring forests, and there is no shortage of things necessary to maintain life.
Though the economic condition is good, it is not the reason for Satyavrata’s decision. There is one darling child in particular living there who is responsible for the entire atmosphere. Everything doesn’t come together by accident. The cows aren’t happy just on their own. The people don’t live peacefully among themselves, free from envy, without a cause. The center of the town is Yashoda’s son. He is the darling to everyone, not just His own family. He is so endearing that whatever He does delights the residents.
He is known as the butter thief. He comes into each home and takes whatever butter is stocked away. The women try to hide their butter from Him, but then He hatches elaborate schemes to find them. When they complain to His mother, the boy shows fake innocence. This delights the women even more.
The boy is known as the son of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. He is known as the all-attractive one. He is also known as the one who was tied by the belly. This name, Damodara, refers to the time Yashoda tied Him to a mortar as punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt. Satyavrata Muni chooses this particular time and incident as his most preferred residence.
Before going any further, we should acknowledge that the sage isn’t crazy. He knows that there is a God. Indeed, he knows that the Supreme Lord can offer any benediction, all the way up to liberation. The less intelligent don’t know this. In the abstract definition of God, the Supreme is simply an order supplier. Sort of like a popular online retailer, He is there to grant benedictions like fortune, long life, and good health.
The more intelligent know that God is also Mukunda, or the person who grants mukti. Mukti is the boon of liberation, freedom from the repetitive cycle of birth and death. Forget wanting stuff and then swearing off of it later, just get out of the cycle altogether. God can grant this reward, and Satyavrata is aware of it.
Still, he asks only to remember Damodara in Gokula, part of the larger area known as Vrindavana. He doesn’t want anything else. He makes this decision with full intelligence. He knows that no area in any world is perfect. All circumstances are temporary and all relationships don’t stand the test of time. He knows that the Supreme Lord’s association is different; it is both everlasting and the source of the highest pleasure.
Damodara is most endearing since He shows how much under the control of the devotees God is. That display makes the bond of affection even tighter to Him. That bond cannot be broken. Mother Yashoda will always love Krishna, no matter where He is. She is never prevented from offering that affection, and neither is anyone else who feels the same way towards Krishna. Satyavrata’s desire is met and the boon is passed on to so many others through his famous Damodarashtaka.
Earthquake at any time to unfold,
Another area ravaged by bitter cold.
One place with summer heat to give,
But empty when no friends there to live.
For muni a farm community space,
With Yashoda’s son, most favorite place.
Mukunda any benediction can grant,
So why this residence to Satyavrata He can’t?