“O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Shrimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 8)
namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam
Life got you down? Can’t seem to find your way? Intoxicants no longer doing the trick? Want to escape to something better, but you’re not really sure what that better is? The guaranteed death of every living entity is sure to make a person depressed on occasion. When armed with this knowledge, which seems to be a bad thing, why would anyone want to do anything? What is the point to living if everything ends up back at zero at the end? The belly of Shri Damodara is the abode of the entire universe, which means that it provides shelter for everything, including the despair arising from knowledge of impending death.
Right now you likely have attachments. There are people whom you love. You couldn’t imagine living without them. Previously they were not with you and you can’t account for the infinite past, but you’re not worried about these things. There is the future to be concerned over. There are so many diseases out there. There are so many ways that life can end. You just hope that it doesn’t happen to anyone you care about. You hope against hope, for you know that life must end at some point.
You start off as nothing, a tiny speck living in your mother’s womb, and you end up as nothing, dust in the ground. What is the use of living, then? How should the time in between be spent? Obviously one would want to enjoy as much as possible. Why spend life miserably? Why not find a way to be happy? But how can there be happiness when it is known that everything is going to vanish eventually?
The shelter of the entire universe comes to the rescue. Your own problems are one thing, but think about the universe as a whole. Consider every other living creature, be it moving or nonmoving. Think of how the cow is separated by force from its children and sent to the slaughterhouse. Think of the tree that must survive every harsh winter. Think of the human beings born into poverty. Think of the people dealing with mental diseases, wherein even sitting still in peace and quiet drives them crazy.
One person is the shelter for all of this. He can bring the protection through any aspect of Him, including His belly. If it is to be the abode of the entire universe, then surely that belly must be very large. But in fact, it could be very small, belonging to someone who looks like a small child. Indeed, Damodara is not very big by our estimation. He is small enough to be caught by His mother and then bound to a mortar as punishment for doing something bad.
If the person to whom that belly belongs can get tied, how can there be shelter? How can Damodara do anything for us? From studying the Bhagavad-gita, we see that He creates this and every other universe. You could partially lay the blame on Him for our troubles, but then we learn that He only creates out of our desire. Since He is an abode Himself, we could live with Him. We could live where He always lives; then there are no problems.
Seems like the problem is solved. Just go to Him. Ah, but who will be willing to do that? So difficult it is to get someone to want to do that. In practical terms the shift isn’t difficult. Simply hearing the Damodarashtaka of Satyavrata Muni can deliver that abode. Since someone authored that set of prayers, it means that glorifying Damodara brings His association. Just thinking of Him creates that abode right now. His name itself makes it. That’s why the wise hang on to the holy names for dear life, taking shelter of it whether in good times or bad.
One needn’t rely solely on blind faith to understand the potency of Damodara and His name. He is indeed the origin of the universe, and through His pastimes in Gokula He shows that He can be captured. He can be reached, but through His own will. Yashoda won Him over through her pure love. Her devotion is not tainted with ulterior motives. She does not ask for a long life. She does not seek riches. She is not looking for victory in the human birth. Whether she does well or not is of no concern. She simply loves Damodara, who appears as her son. She only wants Him to be happy and healthy.
Yashoda has this love naturally, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be acquired by others. The love we feel for any object derives from the original relationship to Damodara. It is for this reason that a child can see a picture of Yashoda and Damodara and know that it is something special. They inherently understand the divine influence, though they couldn’t describe it to you.
Satyavrata Muni says that Damodara’s belly is the abode of the entire universe. That belly showed the pure love of mother Yashoda, who teaches everyone about the power of devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Only that yoga will deliver all people, curing all problems. Only that yoga will bring the shelter that everyone is looking for. That belly made famous by the queen of Gokula becomes the repository for the affection of the devotees, who remember Damodara by always chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Entire universe in His belly sits,
Around which rope by Yashoda fit.
His divine nature not knowing,
Incident her pure love for Him showing.
For all to follow that mother’s love stellar,
Becoming in Damodara’s abode a dweller.
Easy to execute, but a decision tough to make,
Confidence from words of Satyavrata take.