“Mother Yashoda was firmly convinced of the Vedic injunctions about the importance of cows and the holy name of Vishnu; therefore she took all shelter in the cows and the name of Vishnu just to protect her child Krishna. She recited all the holy names of Vishnu so that He might save the child.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
“You often hear His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada make reference to ‘pure devotion.’ The idea is to distinguish from other kinds of devotion, which automatically implies an approach to the Almighty.
“You have the classic scene of the distressed person looking upwards, to the sky, for assistance. They begin the appeal by acknowledging their lack of attention from the recent past. They feel ashamed for not having paid enough attention to God.
“Now they are ready for a change. They will make things right. They will behave properly. But there is a bargain to be made. First, God must come through for them. Fix the wrong. Heal the sick. Cure the destitute. Alleviate the pain.
“This is quintessential impure devotion. This is not what the Vaishnava should be striving for. Not that the aforementioned worshiper is worthy of criticism. Not that they are considered inferior or even an atheist. Rather, the interaction is not as blissful as it could and should be.
“Pure devotion is the height of an existence. Bhakti is inherent to the soul, which is the basis of identity. I will always have bhakti. Whether I know it or not, I am linked to the Supreme Soul, Paramatma. The more the impurities vanish in the interaction with God the person, the closer to my natural state I come.
“In this light, I have a question pertaining to a specific incident from Krishna-lila. This takes place in Vrindavana, right after the witch Putana has died. The mothers of the community are mortified at what happened, that this supposedly benevolent and beautiful nurse was actually a witch intending to do harm to an infant.
“They were relieved that baby Krishna survived the ordeal, but their immediate reaction was to pray to Vishnu for assistance. They asked that God the person protect their beloved Krishna from calamity. Keep Him safe and healthy.
“Is this not impure devotion? Granted, Krishna is involved, but the people did not know that He was an avatara of Vishnu. They thought He was an amazing child, a gift from above. Nevertheless, material life is dangerous. Why should I ask for protection from God, when in fact no one is forever protected in a land of birth and death?”
There are several explanations. One is that the residents of Vrindavana at that time had already passed through the various stages of purification. Their association with Krishna was a reward, a sort of exceptional achievement in spiritual life. Therefore, the interactions could never be material.
If separating from the nature of the scene for a moment, there could be another explanation. The parents are the guardians of the children. It is only natural to keep an eye on protection. It would be the same as a warrior on the battlefield remaining vigilant in their attack, with the purpose of defense in mind.
To pray to Vishnu for success in one’s occupational duties is not indicative of impure devotion. Rather, one can view the chosen occupation as an assignment from the higher authorities. The Supreme Lord has placed me into a particular situation, and so I should try to do a good job.
If my child is protected by Vishnu, they have an opportunity to grow up and become a great servant of His. They will fulfill the mission of the human birth, and countless previous generations within the family will simultaneously benefit.
If I am praying for protection in order that I may be supported in old age, so that I don’t have to work, so that I can continue to enjoy my senses, then the devotion is obviously impure. Nevertheless, Vishnu is the best person to approach. Enough association in an authorized way removes the impurities, and so the nature of something like chanting a mantra can gradually reach the level of pure devotion: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
After surviving that way,
Mother to Vishnu to pray.
From Putana already protected,
But future danger expected.
God in every direction to call,
So that not again trouble befall.
If thinking impure devotion to show,
Hope for child as devotee know.