“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
The advice from Satyavrata Muni is pretty clear. Focus on one person. You want to love, that is readily acknowledged. You want to offer affection in a way that isn’t hindered. You want to offer it unconditionally, i.e. without any requirements. Whether the beneficiary reciprocates or not is of no issue; just let there be love. The muni says to offer that love to Damodara, who is also known as Ananta and Vishnu. He is unlimited and all-pervading, and through devotion to Him that perpetual frown can get turned upside down.
Happiness and sadness are part of life, no? One day we’re happy that we get to exercise early in the morning. The clocks have moved back one hour due to daylight savings time. Since we’re accustomed to arising from bed one hour earlier, we take advantage by taking in some fresh air in the morning. We know that we have to arise at a certain time to get the benefit; otherwise we’ll miss our window.
So we’re very happy in this new routine. The exercise makes us feel good. We like getting to go outside. Then there’s a problem one day. It rains. Not just a slight drizzle, but a heavy downpour. Though we try to tough it out, we just can’t do it. It’s raining too hard for us to go outside. Therefore we are saddened. We are more sad than we would be if we had never taken up the new routine. Thus it seems like we got trapped into something, drawn by the allure of temporary happiness, only to have bitter disappointment waiting for us at the end.
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteyaśītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥāgamāpāyino ‘nityāstāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita says that this happiness comes and goes like the winter and summer seasons. He also says that one should learn to tolerate the happiness and the corresponding distress without being disturbed. Obviously it’s easier said than done, but doesn’t this also paint a bleak picture of the journey through life? We know that the seasons come and go. We know that the present cold from winter’s approach will soon give way to the light and heat of spring. And then that won’t last long; soon thereafter it will be very hot in the summer.
If happiness and sadness come and go in the same way, what is the point to Satyavrata Muni’s advice? Why is he asking to focus on Damodara? Doesn’t he know that such focus will only bring him sadness eventually? He won’t get to be happy all the time; that we have realized through our experiences in life.
That focus is of a different nature. It is in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. One way to describe God is “ever-increasing.” You can say that the entire universe represents His width, length, and depth, but even that is inaccurate. Since time and space are infinite, there is no way to know God’s age or size. To say that He is ever-increasing is another way to say that He is unlimited, or ananta.
That “ever-increasing” property belongs to bhakti-yoga as well. If you’ve taken up a routine to start running every morning, gradually you can go for longer distances without tiring. Building up your stamina, you could even run a marathon if you wanted. Nevertheless, at some point you will stop. There will come a break, if not through your physical limitations then at least through time, with its all-devouring force known as death.
With bhakti-yoga, the devotion steadily increases. The pure love, known as prema, can be likened to an ocean which has rivers constantly rushing in. This ocean is impossible to fill up; it cannot overflow. One way to see how that works is to take a glance at the sweet vision of Damodara. This is God involved in a unique pastime. He is being tied to a mortar by His mother, Yashoda.
“God can have a mother? God can be tied up?”
Ah, this is why the prema continues to increase. How can God have a mother and a father? How can anyone catch Him and punish Him? He never does anything wrong, does He? He doesn’t actually take birth; otherwise He wouldn’t be God. He doesn’t need anyone to protect Him. How can this Damodara vision be real, then?
It is the very definition of real, in fact. The changing world is false in the sense that nothing will stay. Everything that you have right now will vanish eventually, including your relationships. God will always stay, including His pastime of being tied to the mortar in Gokula by mother Yashoda. The vision of Damodara will continue to be worshiped by the sincere followers of bhakti-yoga.
It will continue due in no small part to people like Satyavrata Muni, who asks that such a vision remain in his heart. He does not want any other boon. He looks at Damodara again and again with amazement. The love Damodara has for Yashoda is immeasurable. Damodara is so kind that He allows people to pick Him up and place Him on their lap to feed Him. He allows people to tie Him so that they can get a better look at Him.
Best of all, He allows people to connect with Him through sound. By chanting a mantra, He comes to be with them always. Therefore the maha-mantra is the preferred mechanism for catching, keeping, appreciating and loving Yashoda’s darling child, who is the origin of the universe: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
One day happy when something new found,
When taken away into despair abound.
Like the seasons to come and go,
Of their cycle one should know.
Damodara vision not like this,
Steady that face Yashoda to kiss.
When devotion to Him to feel,
To understand the definition of real.