“Sometimes mother Yashoda used to ask Krishna to bring her a wooden plank for sitting. Although the wooden plank was too heavy to be carried by a child, still somehow or other Krishna would bring it to His mother. Sometimes while worshiping Narayana, His father would ask Him to bring his wooden slippers, and Krishna, with great difficulty, would put the slippers on His head and bring them to His father. When He was asked to lift some heavy article and was unable to lift it, He would simply move His arms. In this way, daily, at every moment, He was the reservoir of all pleasure to His parents.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)
The Vedanta scholar tends to look down at the bhakti process. To them it is just that: a process. A means to an end. A tool to reach a higher level. Once ascending the mountain successfully, so to speak, you cast aside whatever helped you get there. No hard feelings, but the summit is Brahman realization, which is devoid of active engagement.
At least that is their opinion. They consider preparing and offering pure foods in front of a deity and singing and dancing to a mantra to be reserved for the less intelligent. Those who cannot comprehend the high topics of Vedanta, covering the distinction between matter and spirit, accept the devotional path.
The object of service is the one who makes the final determination. Whether he considers a specific activity done in his favor to be childish or indicative of lesser intelligence makes no difference in the long run. If He is not pleased with the effort, then it is more or less a waste of time.
We see from the common interactions between a father and his children that on the other side the person in authority is more than willing to engage. They do not mind descending from their higher position in order to provide reciprocal happiness.
1. Tying a shoe
Your daughter just started wearing shoes. She has been walking for a long time, many months in fact, but everything is reserved to inside the house. She doesn’t go outside much. Lately the mother has been putting on shoes, to which the child is slowly getting adjusted.
Rather than wear the shoes, she has more fun picking them up and playing with them. After a hard day at the office, while lying in bed you get a warm reception from your daughter. She is carrying one of those shoes in her hands. She places it into your hand, essentially asking that something be done.
Not knowing exactly what to do, you decide to tie it. This shoe actually has a Velcro strap, so you simply attach it. After you give the shoe back to your daughter, she decides to remove the strap. Following that she returns the shoe to you. You reapply the strap, and the process repeats.
This goes on for almost ten minutes. The child is so happy playing this game. You would rather rest, but at the same time the look on her face keeps you engaged.
2. Stacking blocks
A similar interaction but this time in the living room. You gave her toy blocks a while back, but she was too young to take an interest. Now she likes to stack them up, but only if you are around. She lays them on top of one another and then disassembles the same.
She hands the blocks to you one at a time. You pretend to stack them, but then she interrupts, completing the job. Afterwards, the cycle repeats. At least she is not watching television, you think.
3. Staring contest
This one really has you amazed. How does such a young child know how to do this? It’s almost something out of an adult comedy routine. You can’t remember how or when it started, but the game is a lot of fun.
What happens is that you stare at your daughter with a serious face. After a few seconds, either one of you starts laughing. Then she immediately goes back to the serious face. You are both trying to see who can maintain the face the longest, knowing that it won’t take much time to break into a smile. This game continues for a long time, with neither side getting bored.
4. Hide and seek
This is an age-old classic. You don’t need any fancy or expensive toys. Not even much furniture. Simply hiding behind you is enough to qualify for a round of the game.
Here again your daughter amazed you. She picked up the game even before she learned to walk. You tried playing peek-a-boo with her once, and a few minutes later she was doing it to you. Hiding behind the sofa and then emerging with an oceanic smile.
Now she likes to hide in another room, in the closet, underneath the blanket – whatever area she can find she will use. This game starts up spontaneously, but it always draws a laugh. Even when you are tired, you can’t help but engage and pretend to not be able to find her.
5. Moving a box
The big toy companies hire advertisers and market researchers to help in the process. It is a large industry, after all. Constant competition. Adding to the complexity are the ever-changing preferences of children. You can give them the best toy in the world, but they may only play with it for a few minutes.
Who would have thought that a plain shipping box could give them so much joy? You only found out accidentally. Upon opening a package and leaving the container on the floor, the child started playing with it immediately. They love to pick it up and move it to different places in the room. Sometimes they stand on it for use as a makeshift ladder.
Compared to time spent in front of a smartphone screen or television screen, this is great. You are more than happy to engage. Let them have as many shipping boxes as they like. No need to recycle, for now.
In these instances the father neither looks down at the child nor feels the time is going to waste. Rather, they will remember those interactions for many years, even if the child should forget them.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the same way. He is atmarama, which means “self-satisfied.” He is in need of nothing. No one can bring Him down since He is full of ananda [bliss]. He can eat with His eyes, if He desires. He never has to go hungry.
Therefore, what can our offerings really do for Him? He has the best friends in Goloka Vrindavana. He has the beautiful and dedicated Lakshmi Devi by His side in the Vaikuntha realm. I am nothing compared to those people, so my bhakti efforts have to be a waste of time.
Krishna will engage me in the same way that the father happily sacrifices time for their children. Shri Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, once explained to Narada Muni that those devotees who are viewed as helpless children by Him tend to be the dearest. Rather than left to fly off and become independent, Rama looks after them constantly. He might even interfere on their behalf, when their desires will lead them in the wrong direction.
The Vedanta path does not feature this oversight. By definition there is no interaction, as Brahman is not a thing. Brahman is more of a concept, a way of viewing the spiritual energy. There is always a source, and through devotional love a person can connect directly with that source, and He will be more than happy to oblige.
With child happy to engage,
Father like equal to behave.
Blocks back and forth stacking,
Hidden daughter’s path tracking.
This way and that to move,
Box preferred toy to choose.
Supreme Lord situated similarly so,
With same endless love to show.
Categories: the five