“Sometimes the naughty babies would crawl up to the cowshed, catch the tail of a calf and stand up. The calves, being disturbed, would immediately begin running here and there, and the children would be dragged over clay and cow dung. To see this fun, Yashoda and Rohini would call all their neighboring friends, the gopis.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality Of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)
Gokula is the sacred land to which the father Vasudeva brought the new child, whose birth and subsequent survival were something of a miracle. The mother Devaki had children previously, but she never saw them grow up. Her wicked brother, Kamsa, was the king of Mathura and he was deathly afraid of any children born to his sister. The focus was on the eighth child, but since death was the cause of fear, Kamsa decided to not take any chances.
In Gokula the young Krishna engaged in many pastimes, or lila. These are dear to the devotees, those of saintly character, since Krishna is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
1. Riding the tail of a calf
Gokula is a farm community. The people are simple. They are not hankering after this thing or that. In modern day industrialized nations the citizens marvel at the advances made to what is called “standard of living.” Indoor plumbing, machines to wash clothes, air conditioning – these amenities are not available everywhere.
The true indicator of advancement is peace. How much at peace are the people? A person can be living in a royal palace and suffer from one misery after another. In Gokula the citizens relied on God first. They knew that He exists and that He is ultimately a person. They also knew that He sometimes descends to the mortal world, so there might be a chance that this Krishna was something special.
The people lived off farming and cow protection. For safety reasons Vasudeva transferred Krishna to the care of Nanda Maharaja and his wife Yashoda. In that home Krishna did many adorable things, like trying to crawl, speak and walk. One time while playing outside He caught the tail of a calf, who then took Him for a ride through the mud. The mothers took great delight from witnessing this.
2. Hand in the butter pot
It is always interesting to see the tendencies in children begin to show, sometimes as soon as a day or two after birth. Krishna’s preferred food was butter. He would love to place His hand inside of a pot and enjoy. There was plenty of supply, especially in Yashoda’s home. When cows are loved and protected, they produce so much milk, the excess of which is used for other products like butter, yogurt and cheese.
Krishna enjoyed butter so much that He was not against stealing. He would intrude into the homes of the neighbors and take their butter, too. When the neighbors tried to hide the butter, Krishna and His young friends would devise plots to acquire the targets anyway.
3. Mother looking into His mouth
Krishna would play in the fields with His friends. He was the center of attention. One day the neighborhood boys lodged a complaint with mother Yashoda. They said her son had eaten dirt. She decided to look into His mouth to see if it was true.
What she saw was the universal form, the virata-rupa. Only the Supreme Lord can display this vision. This was just another form of proof of the Divine nature of her son. After a few moments the vision vanished and the relationship returned to mother-son.
4. Mother chasing after with a whipping stick
Krishna was adorable. He was the love of everyone’s life. This didn’t mean that Yashoda would unnecessarily spoil Him. She punished Him one time for breaking a pot of yogurt in anger. When caught butter-handed, Krishna decided to run away from the loving mother, who chased after Him with a whipping stick.
She wasn’t going to strike Him, but with children the threat is enough. After finally catching up to Him, she decided to tie Krishna to a mortar. This earned Him the name Damodara, which is incorporated into joyous devotional songs that are sung to this day.
The images are not a product of the imagination. They depict real scenes witnessed by real people. There are five senses, after all, and there is potential for interaction with any of them. Just one look at these images in the proper mood can permanently change consciousness for the better.
The clutches of ignorance to free,
From images of Krishna-lila to see.
How once calf’s tail riding,
Stealing butter though mother providing.
Accused of eating dirt from ground,
And punishment to mortar bound.
Devotion’s path always fresh and alive,
Interaction through senses five.
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