“She gathered more ropes from the house and added to it, but at the end she found the same shortage. In this way, she connected all the ropes available at home, but when the final knot was added, she saw that it was still two inches too short. Mother Yashoda was smiling, but she was astonished. How was it happening?” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 9)
Every person has to work. They are compelled to. It is an integral aspect of living. Even the severely disabled fictional character depicted in the book and subsequent film about World War I had some type of autonomous action. Despite losing the hands, legs, sight, hearing, and speaking ability, what was left could at least gyrate, sending signals in Morse Code.
The individual has the choice for action, but not every choice brings the same result. Two people eat the exact same thing for dinner one night. The first person suffers terrible stomach pains a few hours later. The other one is just fine; sleeping through the night without a problem.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
The person in the background is the Supreme Lord. Even the atheists worship Him. Every person is connected to Him in some way. Those who vehemently deny any sort of superior authority in charge of nature pay homage to the controller by clearly displaying the power of His illusory energy known as maya. Just as an expert actor can make the audience forget that what they are viewing is a scripted performance, so Shri Krishna can fool the conditioned soul into thinking that there is no spiritual energy.
हृद्-देशे ऽर्जुन तिष्ठति
hṛd-deśe ‘rjuna tiṣṭhati
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the body is simply an instrument. The same can be said of the nature itself. Behind the instrument is the operator. Within the localized jurisdiction the individual, jiva, operates the machine that is the body. On the larger scale there is the operator of the srishti, the entire creation. From a pastime involving mother Yashoda we see that two factors are required from that controller for success to occur.
Mother Yashoda had a plan. The actor within the body made a choice, and a conscious one at that. This was not a movement considered involuntary, like breathing or the beating of the heart. She decided to punish her darling child. The same controller of the universe had appeared in her home as the beloved son. Quite small and yet totally adorable, Krishna had broken a pot of yogurt in anger. He then scurried away, as if knowing He had done something wrong.
Yashoda chased after Him and finally caught up to Him. The decision was to punish mildly. Tie the baby up to a mortar so that He wouldn’t run away anymore. To complete the task, to make it saphala, or successful, there had to be outside arrangement.
The mother gathered all the rope that was necessary. This was due to Krishna’s arrangement, though it takes a keen eye to notice. My successful journey to work in the morning requires the arrangement of proper materials. I need an automobile. I need gasoline to start it. I need the traffic lights to run properly. Most importantly, I have the expectation that the roads will be sufficiently clear; no construction closing lanes and no accidents jamming everything up.
Over this arrangement I have little control. I can make sure to have a car and fill it up with gasoline, but the functioning of the engine is so complex that I have to trust that everyone else did their job. Though so many individual actors combined together, unknowingly at that, there is still the great coordinator in the background.
He made sure that Yashoda had sufficient material to fulfill her desire. There was just one problem. Every time Yashoda went to bind Krishna, she found that the rope was two finger-widths short. This was the case every time, no matter how many ropes she tied together. She had all the material a person could ask for. This was something like what would be seen years later with Princess Draupadi. When fiends tried to disrobe her in front of an assembly, they found that the sari magically became endless.
The arrangement at that time was also through Shri Krishna. Though His material nature takes care of the proper configuration in most situations, when there is direct interaction the Supreme Lord acts entirely on His own. Mother Yashoda became successful only after Krishna’s agreement. That is to say the child being punished had to first agree to the punishment in order for the mother to carry out justice.
The same applies for overall success in the human birth. Every person has the right to choose in favor of bhakti, for eschewing material sense gratification for the purpose of connecting with the Divine in pure love. The arrangement is already there; as Krishna sends the guru to light the path towards transcendence. The agreement must also be present, and fortunately Krishna’s favor is easily won. Something as simple as chanting His names captures His attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Taking all of the ropes found,
So that child to mortar bound.
But problem still only one,
That long enough were none.
From arrangement first proceeded,
But agreement also needed.
With success in life’s journey the same,
Favorable when chanting His name.
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