“O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 6)
namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ
Satyavrata Muni refers to this present land as a network of material miseries. Not only he, but everyone else is trapped in this place. They cannot find a way out, except for the causeless mercy of the person who is unlimited, ananta. Only with His help can one defeat the chain of cause and effect that seems to intelligently plot against the innocent person trying to find some peace and happiness.
A network means things that are tied together; they are related. Think of the national television network. Originally, they are just one station featuring programming. What gives them strength is the relationship they have to other individual television stations. These are known as affiliates, and they agree to air the programming of the network at certain times of the day.
There are advantages for each party. The stations don’t have to worry about filling up air time during critical moments of the day, when viewership is generally higher. The network can find a large audience for their programming, bringing familiarity and attachment. If the content is good, millions of people, perhaps even the majority of all television viewers, can be watching the same thing at the same time.
In the network of material miseries, different aspects of nature seem to be tied together. It is as if they conspire to prevent peace and happiness. It all starts with birth. The baby starts crying when it emerges from the womb. By instinct it knows that it is not safe. The cutting of the umbilical cord symbolizes the first broken bond. The mother will protect most likely, but it is not guaranteed. The child must depend on others in order to survive.
Then there is worry over education. The child must study in order to get ahead. They need this education in order to be self-sufficient later on in life. But the misery doesn’t end after that. Graduating is only one piece of the puzzle. Then they must find employment. They can start their own business if they like, but they are not guaranteed of success. Indeed, failure is a possibility during any stage in life.
Even if the individual makes it through all these uncertainties, they then must contend with disease. Old age also starts to creep in. No longer is it so easy to wake up in the morning. New pains emerge, sometimes for no reason. And then at the end there is impending death, which has been lurking in the background the whole time. Every success does nothing to keep this death away. Time works in concert with the network of miseries, and time’s most powerful force is death.
According to Vedic philosophy, this cycle repeats itself over and over again. So not only does one get trapped for a single lifetime, they fall into the same situation in the next birth. Satyavrata Muni is well aware of this, so he kindly prays to the unlimited to help him. The unlimited, ananta, is also known as Vishnu, which means “all-pervading.” He is everywhere and anywhere, and His abilities are not limited to one particular situation. He can help five thousand people simultaneously if needed.
And how does He help? The muni prays to Damodara, the darling child of mother Yashoda who gets bound to a mortar in the courtyard as punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. That Damodara is known for granting bhakti, or devotion. Bhakti is the way to stop rebirth. It is the way to escape from the network of material miseries. This happens through the direct intervention of Damodara.
His charming face changes the mind of the individual. Instead of looking to exploit the material nature, and thereby falling into the trap, they look for any way to make Damodara happy. They seek ways to remember Him, as if defiantly rejecting the allures of money, sex, wine, idleness and pride. Their desires transform to the point that they don’t even think of liberation so much.
They ask only to have the vision of Damodara again and again. The request is granted through the mercy of the Lord, who simultaneously gives rescue from the ocean of material suffering. How can there be pain and misery for one who knows God’s kindness in allowing His devotees to bind Him? How can the network trap them when they have the transcendental glory of Damodara to break attachments?
Does old age suddenly vanish for the devotee? Do they not have to meet with death?
The same cause and effect is there, but the end result is different. The system is also managed differently. Karma is fruitive action. Do something and then suffer or enjoy the consequences. The person who loves Damodara no longer comes under the influence of karma. They instead are under the protection of God Himself, who looks out for their wellbeing. He ensures that the situations they find are conducive to the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
He manipulates the nature of time so that the month of Kartika becomes very auspicious. It is the month when the Damodarashtaka is sung with love and devotion. He allows for that song to be recorded in books so that it can be read, studied, and relished at any time of the year. He gives full potency to the holy name itself, allowing the devotee to flourish no matter in which aspect of the vast network they find themselves.
In network material miseries tied,
Death no matter how hard tried.
By only one person can be saved,
Who tied to mortar when misbehaved.
Mother binding by belly with rope,
That His vision to stay the hope.
Damodara, the vast network controlling,
His divine glory the devotees beholding.