“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)
varaḿ deva mokṣaḿ na mokṣāvadhiḿ vā
na canyaḿ vṛṇe ‘haḿ vareṣād apīha
idaḿ te vapur nātha gopāla-bālaḿ
sadā me manasy āvirāstāḿ kim anyaiḥ
If you did a poll of people on the street asking them if they could have one thing what would it be, one answer would be pretty common: money. And why wouldn’t you want money? There are so many expenses. They never end. Even if you’ve paid off your house, there is the property tax to pay each year. Then there is medical insurance; you never know when you’re going to get sick. Then there are all the places you want to visit. With money, you can survive longer; at least in theory. The chief God, deva-vara, gives the best boon, and surprisingly it is not money.
The spiritually cultured know there are a few other boons that you can go for. Religiosity is preferred. Who wants to act like an animal? Perhaps in the age of television and instant news, behaving badly can get you notoriety, but a good person will not want to intentionally transgress common standards of decency.
There is sense gratification, too. You don’t necessarily need money to eat well. Someone else could pay for your things. If you have money but no place to go to purchase things, you’re not really enjoying.
Money is good for this life, but what about the afterlife? So there is the boon of liberation, or moksha. Getting more specific, this reward means no more birth and death. There is a similar cycle that we can perceive right now. We had the body of a child once, and now it is gone. We can never get it back. We had it for only a short time, and just once. This means that we already have personal experience of the “you only live once” concept.
dehino ‘smin yathā dehekaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarātathā dehāntara-prāptirdhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Since we are still alive today, it means that we lived once and survived. The same concept applies for the death of the body. There is birth again. The change is really no different than shifting from youth to adulthood. The body changes, the circumstances shift, but the individual remains alive throughout.
Moksha is the end to birth and death. No more worrying about where you’re going to end up, whether it’s a wealthy family’s home or the ashrama of a yogi. No more chasing after money, since without birth you don’t need to worry about survival. You’re already living in some capacity, without accepting a material body.
Satyavrata Muni says that the only boon he wants from the chief God is the form of Bala Gopala to remain manifest in his heart. Bala Gopala is the same chief God; He is the Supreme Lord who delights the residents of Vrindavana with His childhood play. Why would the muni ask for this boon? He readily acknowledges that Krishna is the chief God, that He is the detail behind the abstract concept of a supreme being. He also knows that Krishna can give any boon, all the way up to moksha.
Why doesn’t he ask for money? Why not religiosity? How is the image of Bala Gopala going to keep Him alive? Actually, this will give him more life than any amount of money will. It will give him a life of devotion, which is true happiness, wherever he is. The muni is very wise in this regard. Bala Gopala once broke a pot of yogurt in mother Yashoda’s courtyard. She then chased after Him and eventually caught Him. She tied Bala Gopala to a mortar as punishment, earning Him the name Damodara.
The image of Damodara manifest in the heart is more valuable than any material reward. Money comes and goes. If you have too much of it, your friends get jealous. If you have too little, no one wants to hear from you. If you have just enough, the money alone doesn’t give you peace of mind. Religiosity is difficult to maintain. It has an end goal, also, so if that goal is not reached the adherence to religious principles is not so valuable. Sense gratification comes in any species; it doesn’t need to be asked for.
Damodara is unique. He isn’t asked for by every person, though He will appear for anyone who wants Him. Satyavrata Muni knows that not everyone is aware of this side of God, where He allows a mother to love Him so much. They may not know that God is beautiful in a transcendental form and that He appears within this creation so often. They may not be aware that His name is identical to Him. Therefore the muni composes the Damodarashtaka, giving it special potency in the month of Kartika, where devotees offer a candle to Damodara while singing it. He has found the real treasure in life, and since he is unselfish, just like Damodara’s mother, he is willing to share it with the rest of the world. He allows the best boon to be sought by anyone.
Bala Gopala the boon the best,
To last forever, unlike the rest.
From getting money others to envy,
No pleasure despite possessions a bevy.
Pure love for God beyond to stay,
Not just this lifetime, never to go away.
Satyavrata in kindness to others to give,
Damodarashtaka, in bhakti’s happiness to live.