“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 is no ignorant fool, though he declares himself to be one in his Damodarashtaka. That song is famous, having been passed on to so many future generations through the Padma Purana. It is said that a wise saint of the Vedic tradition can see past, present and future. With this in mind, why would Satyavrata Muni want so many people to know that he wasn’t very wise? Why would he deprecate himself in such a manner, especially when engaged in the glorious activity of praising the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
First there is the question of seeing God. Can you do it? Do you see Him now? What does He look like? How about when you drove in to work this morning? Did you see Him then? Did He appear in your dreams last night? These seem like loaded questions, as philosophers since time immemorial have been searching after the divine vision, with no luck.
We can make the question easier. Take anything that you prefer, be it your beloved spouse, pet, son, daughter, sister, or brother. The object doesn’t matter; the exercise is what counts here. Can you see that object all the time? Do you always see it, including in the situations mentioned previously? The answer is an obvious “no.”
So many things rush through the mind every second. Consider the drummer in a rock band who plays different beats with his limbs. The right hand is playing quarter notes on the high-hat, the right leg half-notes on the base drum and the left hand full notes on the snare drum. Then there are the various fills and changes in time. Even while all this is going on, the drummer can hear the rest of the band playing. If he is very skilled, he likely thinks of other things at the same time also.
That same experience is there for everyone at every moment. So how can we possibly keep a steady vision in mind? Moreover, there is the issue of access. What if we don’t have a picture handy? If I’m looking at a picture, I’m not looking at anything else. This means that I won’t be able to drive. I won’t be able to study for my exam or complete that expense report for the boss. So even with a high level of access, I don’t have the ability to constantly see.
Satyavrata Muni addresses himself as an ignorant fool because that is every person’s starting position. They lack ability, and in the most important matter, the mission of life, they lack awareness. They don’t know what to do with their time. They don’t know that finding increased enjoyment in eating and sleeping won’t make them any happier than they are right now. They don’t realize that the vital force animating them within is meant for a higher purpose.
Without knowing the higher purpose, how can they know God? They can insist on seeing Him, but what right do they have? Why should they get the divine vision when they won’t appreciate it? Satyavrata Muni knows that any ignorant person can get this vision, but only with help. The person helping them is unlimited. He is also all-pervading. The event glorified by that muni shows how that help manifests.
Mother Yashoda chased after her son. He broke a pot of yogurt and then ran away. Thinking that He shouldn’t get away with it, the mother ran after Him. She eventually caught Him. Then she tried tying Him to a mortar. Normally a simple task, this wasn’t happening for the loving mother. She couldn’t tie Him. It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t ignorance. The Supreme Lord simply cannot be bound unless He agrees to it. Seeing the love in His mother, the child finally gave His consent. From the incident He earned the name Damodara.
In a similar manner, He must give consent to have His vision manifest in the heart. Yashoda did not claim to be very wise. She tied God to a mortar, but she never boasts about it. She never claims that she is the supreme mother, the wisest person in the world who is fast enough to catch someone who moves faster than time itself.
Yashoda is simple-hearted, pure to the core in her desire to love God. The true devotees always think they are ignorant fools, because they know the nature of the divine. They know that not a blade of grass moves without His sanction; therefore how can they ever be overly proud of their accomplishments? That supposed ignorant fool authored a wonderful set of prayers containing words so powerful that the very vision desired jumps out to the eyes of the person hearing with faith and love.
Think that fate in hands my own,
That success through effort alone.
But know that first His consent required,
Like when in tying rope Yashoda tired.
Always too short, though one after another,
Finally Damodara to reward the loving mother.
Simple and pure, love to Him showing,
Towards His feet the wisest souls going.