“The same friend of Mother Yashoda addressed Krishna as follows: ‘My dear Mukunda, if Mother Yashoda, the Queen of Gokula, is forced to stand on fire, but is allowed to see Your lotus face, then this fire will appear to her as the Himalayan Mountains: full of ice. In the same way, if she is allowed to stay in the ocean of nectar but is not allowed to see the lotus face of Your Grace, then even this ocean of nectar will appear to her as an ocean of arsenic poison.’ Let the anxiety of Mother Yashoda of Braja, always expecting to see the lotus face of Krishna, be glorified all over the universe!” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)
It just clicked one day. The ability must have been there to start, but something was holding you back. While first learning to drive, there was conscious attention on every turn. One particular difficulty in the beginning was accepting the idea that the automobile continued moving forward even after pressing the brake. For some reason you thought that putting your foot on that pedal one time would stop everything completely, forgetting the concept of momentum and how there needed to be considerable time in deceleration prior to a complete stop.
Then there was an incident at work. It made you so upset that on the ride home you could not think about anything else. It was a distraction, which is supposed to be a negative when operating a motor vehicle. But this time everything went smoothly. You didn’t give conscious attention to the turns, the lights, the other cars on the road, or even the passenger seated next to you. You made it home just fine. The same conditions, but a different experience.
The difference was due to consciousness. External factors consist of material elements, after all. When it comes to spiritual life, there is the opportunity to both transcend the surroundings and also change their nature. A friend once described such changes in Mother Yashoda, who was so anxious to see her son.
1. Fire feeling like ice
The friend was speaking to Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Devotion to Him is known as bhakti, and when there is fixed concentration in that devotion, the process is known as yoga. This is the full manifestation, not simply the physical exercises. Yoga means to connect, and the reference is to the two kinds of souls, individual and Supreme.
This was a friend of Yashoda, the mother who took in Krishna in her home when the boy was only a few hours old. Since He is God, Krishna has no definitive age. He is never a certain number of years old, as time never binds Him. He is so kind that for His devotees He sometimes descends to the manifest world and appears to go through the typical life-cycle of a human being.
As with other aspects of His transcendental body, Krishna’s face is lotus-like. It is beautiful to behold, contributing to the appropriateness of the name, which means “all-attractive.” There has to be an element of devotion, of purity at heart; otherwise the appreciation will be absent. So many bad characters came to Yashoda’s town of Gokula because of attraction to Krishna, but of a different kind. They did not appreciate His lotus-like face; rather, they were intent on meeting death.
The friend described to Krishna that if Yashoda were standing on fire, there wouldn’t be discomfort if she were able to see her darling child’s beautiful face. Not only would the body survive, but the fire would feel like ice found on the Himalaya mountains. This seems like an exaggeration, but the love was so strong that nothing material could affect the queen of Gokula, who was married to Nanda Maharaja.
2. Nectar feeling like poison
The fire feeling like ice is on the positive side. It is a kind of experiment dealing with the condition of association. That is to say if Krishna’s lotus-like face were within eyesight then Yashoda could withstand the many-pronged miseries of this world.
What about the opposite condition? A similar experiment, but where the stimuli is absent. Here the comparison is made to nectar. Even if Yashoda were in an ocean of nectar, there wouldn’t be any joy if Krishna’s face were not nearby. That is to say if she were separated from appreciating her beloved son, nothing could make her feel good. The nectar would feel like poison.
The case applies to the many jiva souls conditioned by the material nature, wandering from one body type to another in search of the elusive transcendental happiness that is found only in bhakti. They get glimpses here and there, ideas from a shadow reflection of the spiritual world, but the real thing can only be brought by the darling of Gokula Himself or one of His representatives.
One way those representatives help to deliver the elixir is through the holy names. An integral aspect of a well-rounded bhakti-yoga discipline, a way of life, the chanting of these names can slowly bring about a change, such that the material existence becomes not as difficult to endure; something like being around a snake whose fangs have been removed. The secret is that these names are non-different from the person being worshiped, and so keeping them close by is actually just as good as seeing the lotus-like face: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Not just on meeting to rely,
With holy names close by.
Shri Krishna, the Supreme one,
Who took role of Yashoda’s son.
Sentiments on association depending,
That mother nature’s force transcending.
Such miseries easily to erase,
When in sight Lord’s beautiful face.
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