Book excerpts Pinnacle of Devotion The Story of Vṛtrāsura

The Story of Vṛtrāsura

In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s Canto Six, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmi related to Parīkṣit Mahārāja the history of Vṛtrāsura. He described how Vṛtrāsura, although in the body of a demon, was able to offer such elevated prayers to Kṛṣṇa that even Indra was astonished.

ajāta-pakṣā iva mātaraṁ khagāḥ
stanyaṁ yathā vatsatarāḥ
kṣudhārtāḥpriyaṁ priyeva vyuṣitaṁ
viṣaṇṇāmano ‘ravindākṣa didṛkṣate tvām

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.11.26)

O lotus-eyed Lord, as baby birds that have not yet developed their wings always look for their mother to return and feed them, as small calves tied with ropes await anxiously the time of milking when they will be allowed to drink the milk of their mothers, or as a morose wife whose husband is away from home always longs for him to return so that she can satisfy him in all respects, I always yearn for the opportunity to render direct service unto You.

Engaged in battle with Indra, Vṛtrāsura asked him, “Why have you not yet killed me? Take your thunderbolt and use it. Hurry up, hurry up!”

Indra hesitated, thinking, “How can I kill him? Vṛtrāsura is such an elevated devotee.”

Vṛtrāsura persistently requested, “In this body of a demon I cannot serve my Lord Kṛṣṇa, so it is better that you kill me.”

Indra had previously attacked him, but Vṛtrāsura was so powerful that he caught Indra’s club and used it to strike the head of Indra’s elephant Airāvata. Airāvata then fell to the ground with Indra on his back. Soon after that, being again attacked by Vṛtrāsura, Indra could nt keep his thunderbolt from falling from his hands.

Vṛtrāsura then said:

paśya māṁ nirjitaṁ śatru
vṛkṇāyudha-bhujaṁ mṛdhe
ghaṭamānaṁ yathā-śakti
tava prāṇa-jihīrṣayā

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.12.16)

O my enemy, just look at me. I have already been defeated, for my weapon and arm have been cut to pieces. You have already overwhelmed me, but nonetheless, with a desire to kill you, I am trying my best to fight. I am not at all morose, even under such adverse conditions. Therefore you should give up your moroseness and continue fighting.

“Why are you not killing me?” Vṛtrāsura asked Indra. “Pick up your thunderbolt again, take your seat on Airāvata, and try to kill me!”

Detached from his body even during the battle, Vṛtrāsura prayed to Kṛṣṇa: “O Kṛṣṇa! I want to ask You for something.”

Kṛṣṇa appeared in Vṛtrāsura’s heart and said, “Yes, I want to offer you a benediction.”

Vṛtrāsura said, “I am not praying that You fulfill my material desires. I only want that my tongue be always engaged in chanting Your names, my mind always absorbed in meditation on You, and my body always engaged in Your service.” This is a very exalted prayer.

ahaṁ hare tava pādaika-mūla-
dāsānudāso bhavitāsmi bhūyaḥ
manaḥ smaretāsu-pater guṇāṁs te
gṛṇīta vāk karma karotu kāyaḥ

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.11.24)

O my Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, will I again be able to be a servant of Your eternal servants who find shelter only at Your lotus feet? O Lord of my life, may I again become their servant so that my mind may always think of Your transcendental attributes, my words always glorify those attributes, and my body always engage in the loving service of Your Lordship?

We only have three possessions: our body, mind, and tongue. It is only by the body, mind, and tongue that we can perform activities. Like Vṛtrāsura, our only desire should be to use the tongue to sing about Kṛṣṇa’s name, fame, glories, and pastimes.

The tongue has no backbone. Still, although it is spineless, it is so powerful that it can perform greatly destructive activities. The battle of Mahābhārata was fought only because Draupadī did not control her tongue. She told Duryodhana, “Your father, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, is blind, and you are also like a blind man.” Because she insulted him in the assembly of great kings, Duryodhana wanted to take revenge by taking off her sārī in public. As a result of this evil deed by Duryodhana, the battle was fought.

Do you know why the battle was fought between the armies of Rāma and Rāvaṇa? It was because Sītā had not controlled her tongue and had thus abused Lakṣmaṇa. When the demon Mārīca came in the form of a golden deer, Sītā begged Rāma, “O beloved Rāma, please bring me this deer, either dead or alive.” As Rāma was leaving to fulfill her request, He told Lakṣmaṇa to protect her in every possible way. Then, after Rāma pursued and shot the deer, Mārīca cried out in the voice of Rāma, “Lakṣmaṇa! Lakṣmaṇa! Come and help Me!”

Sītā told Lakṣmaṇa, “Rāma must be in danger. Why are You not going?”

Lakṣmaṇa replied, “I know that it is impossible for Rāma to be in danger. He is the Lord of lords. Do not be worried about Him.”

But Sītā repeatedly insisted, “Please go at once!”

Lakṣmaṇa warned her, “If I leave, demons will come and kidnap you.”

Sītā replied, “Oh, I know why You are hesitating. You are an agent of Bharata. Concealing Your real purpose, You have come with us, hoping to somehow or other kill Rāma and become my husband. But it will never happen! I will die before I accept anyone other than Rāma as my husband.”

Lakṣmaṇa began to weep. “I accept you as my mother. Please do not speak such harsh words. I will go, but I will not be responsible for whatever happens to you.” He took his bow, drew a circle on the ground, and told her, “Do not cross the line of this circle.”

If Lakṣmaṇa had remained with Sītā, she would never have been kidnapped, and thus no battle would have been fought. The battle was fought only because of her sharp words.

Of course Sītā and Draupadī are transcendental personalities, and their speech and actions are engaged only for the Lord’s pleasure. By these examples, they are teaching us conditioned souls that we must always try to control our tongue. In the beginning of devotional life we often do not control our tongues, and this lack of control results in so many nonsense activities. We may disobey our gurus, or even abuse them and other Vaiṣṇavas. So many varieties of offenses are committed due to the uncontrolled tongue. Therefore, to control the tongue is a devotee’s first duty.

How can we control the tongue? It is possible only by constantly chanting the Lord’s holy name, at which time the tongue will have no time for chattering. It is in our spiritual self interest that we avoid laughing frivolously and joking about others, for by such joking we may commit offenses. We can be grave by always chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa. Unfortunately we do not follow this, and we thus suffer the consequences.

By always remembering Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, as well as Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu and Their pastimes, there will be no time for the mind to wander. The mind will become so pure that the tongue and other senses will automatically be controlled, and we will no longer commit offenses.

The mind is controlled only by always remembering Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, and always praying to Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Control of the body is possible if we always engage it in the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, śrī guru, and the Vaiṣṇavas; otherwise, we will quarrel with them. I once heard of a disciple in India who took an axe and threw it at his guru as he slept. That particular night the guru was sleeping in the opposite direction, with his feet where he usually placed his head. The axe thus landed between his legs, and he was saved. Because the guru was a pure devotee, Nityānanda Prabhu and Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva saved him.

We must try to engage our body in such a way that it always serves the Vaiṣṇavas: by cooking, going to holy tīrthas, cleaning the temple or the abode or bhajana-kuṭīra of gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas, and by offering obeisances with eight parts of the body (aṣṭāṅga-praṇāma). By always engaging the body in this way, it will be automatically controlled.

Vṛtrāsura therefore prayed to Śrī Kṛṣṇa:

ajāta-pakṣā iva mātaraṁ khagāḥ
stanyaṁ yathā vatsatarāḥ kṣudhārtāḥ
priyaṁ priyeva vyuṣitaṁ viṣaṇṇā
mano ‘ravindākṣa didṛkṣate tvām

Ajāta-pakṣā iva mātaraṁ khagāḥ means ‘like a baby bird who cannot yet fly.’ “O lotus-eyed Lord,” Vṛtrāsura prayed, “As baby birds that have not yet developed their wings always look for their mother to return and feed them…” The baby bird’s father and mother have gone to collect food, and he chirps as he waits and wonders, “When will my mother come? When will my mother come?” Why does he want his mother? First, the mother will bring him something to eat, and second, he is afraid that crows and owls may seize him and eat him. When the mother comes, his fear disappears and he also gets something to eat.

Initially Vṛtrāsura prayed like this, but being unsatisfied he corrected himself. In the next part of his prayer he said, “As small calves tied with ropes anxiously wait for the time of milking so that they will be allowed to drink the milk of their mothers…” In the morning, a mother cow goes to the pastures to graze. Upon her return, because her calf is tied up, he cannot go to her to take her milk. So he is mooing, and although bound, he is jumping about as calves do. The master of the cow then comes and unties the calf, who jumps up and runs to his mother, taking her udder in his mouth and drinking. The reason he had mooed so loudly was that he wanted his mother to come and give him milk.

What is the difference between the prayer of the bird and the prayer of the calf? The bird wants an insect or worm, which is outside the body of the mother, and he also wants his fear to go away. In the second instance the calf is calling, “Mother, mother,” and the cow comes and gives her own milk. But the calf only wants the milk. The defect here is that the calf gives up his mother when his stomach is full. He then playfully wanders here and there, and when he is again hungry he returns to his mother.

Vṛtrāsura felt that his prayer was still lacking. The hungry calf wept only for milk, and when he was satisfied had no further need for his mother. Vṛtrāsura knew this and did not want to be like that. He therefore offered a third prayer: “priyaṁ priyeva vyuṣitaṁ viṣaṇṇā – As a morose wife whose husband is away from home always longs for him to return so that she can satisfy him in all respects…” In the absence of her beloved husband, a wife always thinks of him and talks to her sons about him. She glorifies her husband’s qualities to them, expresses her concern for his welfare, and describes how she will serve him upon his return by cooking for him and offering him fresh sweet water. There are three aspects in the beloved wife’s service to her husband: uttering his name, always meditating on him, and serving him with her body.

This third prayer is complete in devotion. In it, the word ‘husband’ has actually not been used, but rather ‘beloved.’ This relationship is even more than that of husband and wife; it is not one of duty, but rather one of love.

Although Vṛtrāsura played the role of a demon, he expressed his great desire to love Kṛṣṇa. Just as a chaste lady who chants and remembers her husband’s glories without any reason or desire for personal gain, so the pure devotee serves Kṛṣṇa. This is a very important teaching of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. This history and that of Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja are very significant. Hearing about them, we try to imbibe their qualities.

Kṛṣṇa’s Birth and Baby Pastimes

After reading the first nine cantos of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we come to the Tenth Canto descriptions of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. This Tenth Canto begins by explaining how Śrī Kṛṣṇa entered the wombs of both Yaśodā-devī and Devakī.

yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham

(Bhagavad-gītā 4.7)

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.

When demoniac people are engaged simply in fulfilling worldly desires – ‘eat, drink and be merry’ – at that time Kṛṣṇa or His incarnations come to establish devotion to Himself. At the end of Dvāpara-yuga, Duryodhana, Kaṁsa, Jarāsandha, and Dantavakra were present on the Earth. Although they dressed as kṣatriyas, they were actually demons, always engaged in stealing others’ wives, murdering, and fighting battles. Thus, in order to protect the world from such demons, Śrī Kṛṣṇa advented.

Secondly, Kaśyapa Muni and Aditi performed great austerities to have God as their son, and Droṇa and Dharā also performed austerities to have God as their beautiful and special son so that they could love and serve Him. Kaśyapa and Aditi also wanted God as their son, but not with a specific desire to serve Him with love and affection. For this reason, although Kaśyapa and Aditi became Vasudeva and Devakī, and although Kṛṣṇa came as Devakī’s son, she and Vasudeva could not serve Him. On the very day Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared to Vasudeva, Vasudeva had to take Him from the prison of Kaṁsa to Gokula. In Gokula, Kṛṣṇa had taken birth from the womb of Yaśodā, so when Vasudeva reached Yaśodā’s bedside and put Kṛṣṇa on her bed, Vasudeva Kṛṣṇa merged into Yaśodā’s Kṛṣṇa.

Years later, on the order of Kaṁsa, Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva traveled with Akrūra from Nandagāoṅ to Mathurā. When They arrived at the Vṛndāvana-Mathurā border near the Yamunā at Brahma-hrada, Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva sat on the chariot while Akrūra went to take bath in the river. At that time, Kṛṣṇa, the son of Yaśodā, and Balarāma, the son of Rohiṇī, got down from Their chariot and returned to Vraja, and Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma who were the sons of Vasudeva got up on the chariot. Akrūra then returned to the chariot and all three journeyed to Mathurā.

Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara, the son of Yaśodā, and Baladeva, the son of Rohiṇī, do not go an inch out of Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa is always fully the son of Yaśodā, and He is only partially the son of Vasudeva. This is because when He was in the womb of Devakī, He was in His manifestation of Nārāyaṇa, and Nārāyaṇa is only a part of Kṛṣṇa.

jayati jana-nivāso devakī-janma-vādo

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.90.48)

All glories to Śrī Kṛṣṇa who resides in the heart of all living entities and who is referred to as the son of Devakī (although He is factually the son of Yaśodā).

In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is proclaimed not only to the residents of Mathurā that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the son of Yaśodā-maiyā and Nanda Bābā, but also to Akrūra, Uddhava, Nārada, and the entire world. Although they may see Kṛṣṇa as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva, Yaśodā-maiyā will say, “He is my son.” All gopīs, all cowherd boys, and all Vrajavāsīs will say that Kṛṣṇa is the son of Yaśodā-maiyā.

Which source is most authoritative, the Mathurā-vāsīs or the gopīs? The gopīs, headed by Śrīmatī Rādhikā, are superior to Uddhava, Nārada, Akrūra, and the residents of Mathurā. The words of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and the Vrajavāsīs are true to the highest extent. Those who say that Kṛṣṇa is the son of Vasudeva and Devakī are telling only a partial truth, not the complete truth.

When Śrī Kṛṣṇa took birth at midnight in Gokula, He simultaneously appeared from the womb of Devakī in Mathurā. It is not stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that he ‘took birth’ from the womb of Devakī. Rather He ‘appeared,’ not as a baby, but as a sixteen-year-old youth with long hair, a Kaustubha-maṇi necklace, golden ornaments, and a crown. In Gokula, on the other hand, He had no long hair, no crown, and no ornaments. He was like an ordinary little baby, crying, “Waa-waa-waa.”

Kṛṣṇa’s birth pastime took place in Gokula, not in Kaṁsa’s prison in Mathurā. Fifteen minutes after the birth of Kṛṣṇa, a baby girl was also born from the womb of Yaśodā, and thus two babies were born from Yaśodā – Kṛṣṇa and His younger sister, Yogamāyā.

Vasudeva put Kṛṣṇa down on Yaśodā-maiyā’s bed [The form of Kṛṣṇa in Vasudeva’s arms merged with Kṛṣṇa lying on the bed of Yaśodā-maiyā] and he took that baby girl back to Mathurā. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes Kaṁsa grabbing the feet of Yogamāyā, who was in the form of a newborn baby, in order to dash her on a stone and kill her. She immediately took her form as Mahāmāyā, Durgā-devī, flew into the sky, and kicked Kaṁsa on the head. Kaṁsa was astonished to see that this was his worshipable deity, Durgā-devī (the shadow manifestation of Yogamāyā). Durgā told him, “He who will kill you has already taken birth in another place.”

Śukadeva Gosvāmī explains in this connection that the younger sister of Kṛṣṇa, Yogamāyā, then departed from Kaṁsa’s palace.1 Therefore, Gokula Kṛṣṇa is the elder brother of Yogamāyā.

When Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared from Devakī’s womb, Vasudeva wanted to give some donation in charity to the brāhmaṇas, but because he was in prison he could not. Only in his mind, therefore, could he give away his ten thousand very beautiful cows and calves decorated with gold and silver.

On the same day, everyone in Vraja saw that Yaśodā had given birth to a very beautiful son who was the color of a fresh monsoon cloud, and they became very happy. News of His birth traveled like wildfire, and all the Vrajavāsīs, well decorated and carrying gheerabrī, curd, milk, and butter, went to visit Yaśodā and her new-born child. All the gopīs, the wives of the gopas, gathered in the courtyard of Nanda Bābā and Yaśodā-maiyā and sang this kīrtana: “Nanda ke ānanda bhayo jaya kanhaiyā-lāla – When Kṛṣṇa was born, Nanda Bābā became very blissful.”

Nanda Bābā held a very big festival, at which time he gave in charity many chariots and horses, millions of cows decorated with gold and silver, as well as other valuables. He gave away everything in his house, and everything he gave was replenished.

Mixing yogurt and tumeric together, the Vrajavāsīs made a paste and rubbed it on the cows, calves, and people; so much so that the house of Yaśodā became ‘muddy’ with that paste. Everyone was happy because Nanda Bābā and Yaśodā, although mature in age, had become the parents of such a beautiful son.

Every day there was a variety of festivals at Nanda Bābā’s house. On the third day, Nanda Bābā went to Mathurā to pay taxes to Kaṁsa. Before Kṛṣṇa’s birth, having had no son, Nanda was like a person in the renounced order, absorbed in thought of Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa. However, as soon as he had a child, Kṛṣṇa Himself, he gave up his absorption in Bhagavān and became worried about how he would support his boy. He contemplated, “Now I need wealth, many cows, and a palatial building.”

If Kṛṣṇa is our son, we can rightfully possess wealth, opulence, chariots, many calves and cows, gardens, etc. Otherwise, like one in the renounced order, our needs are best served by always being engaged in serving and remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa and performing kīrtana.

Before Kṛṣṇa’s birth, when Nanda Bābā was detached, he sometimes went to pay taxes and sometimes did not. He felt he had nothing to lose or gain by paying or not paying. But now he was worried that if he did not pay taxes, Kaṁsa would retaliate and some harm might come to his son.

On the same day that Yogamāyā manifested to Kaṁsa as Durgā, Kaṁsa called his demoniac associates and told them, “My worshipable deity, Durgā-devī, told me that Viṣṇu has taken birth somewhere outside of Mathurā. I want all of you to find that baby and kill Him.” The demons thus traveled here and there to fulfill Kaṁsa’s order.

Pūtanā, one of the strongest demons, was like a sister to Kaṁsa. Kaṁsa personally requested her, “O sister, I am fearful because the person who is destined to kill me has now taken birth and is present on Earth as a little baby boy. Can you save me?”

“Oh, why not?” she replied; and, taking the form of a very beautiful gopī, she flew to Gokula.

Pūtanā came to Bhauma Vṛndāvana, the Vṛndāvana of this world which, like the Vṛndāvana in the Lord’s spiritual realm, has nothing to do with māyā. Bhauma Vṛndāvana is sat-cit-ānanda, full of eternal, unfathomed happiness, and transcendental knowledge, as are Yaśodā Bhavan and other pastime places. So how is it that this demoness could go there? Demons can go neither to Goloka Vṛndāvana or to Kṛṣṇa’s abode in this world. So how did it happen that Pūtanā was able to go to sat-cit-ānanda Bhauma Vṛndāvana, to the courtyard of Yaśodā-maiyā?

In her past birth, Pūtanā was the daughter of Bali Mahārāja. When the Lord’s incarnation, Lord Vāmanadeva, came to the palace of Bali Mahārāja, His exquisite beauty was captivating. Because this daughter had no son, she began to consider, “If a son like this would come into my womb, I would have so much affection for Him.” Vāmanadeva knew her mind and agreed. He contemplated, “Yes, I will come as a baby.” Later, when this lady saw how Vāmanadeva was harshly treating her father, threatening him by taking big steps and binding him in a snake rope, she became furious. “Oh, if You were my son, I would poison You,” she cried. Vāmanadeva also accepted this, and within His mind He said, “Yes, you may do so. You will come within My touch, and then I will purify you and engage you always in My service.”

There is also another reason why Pūtanā was able to enter Vṛndāvana. It was actually Yogamāyā who called her there. By Yogamāyā’s arrangement, the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are ever-fresh. Usually, if a man and his beloved are always together, their affection for each other wanes; but this is not the case in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Still, in that regard, when Yogamāyā arranged for Pūtanā to take Śrī Kṛṣṇa in her arms and put poison in His mouth, this frightened the Vrajavāsīs and their love for Krsna was thus further refreshed.

Kṛṣṇa sucked out not only Pūtanā’s poison but also her soul, and she was thus liberated. She had tried, with all her strength, which was equal to that of ten thousand elephants, to push Śrī Kṛṣṇa off her breast, but she could not do so. Flying into the sky, she cried, “Oh, save me! My dear brother Kaṁsa, save me! Save me!” However, because Kṛṣṇa has declared in the scriptures that He will never give up those who come to Him, He would not let her go and He would not allow her to leave Vraja. Her dead body fell down in Kaṁsa’s garden and smashed it, and thus she could not go to Mathurā and tell Kaṁsa what happened. Kaṁsa was worried that his sister had not yet returned – and in fact she never returned.

After this incident, Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed many other pastimes and killed many demons, such as Tṛṇāvarta and Śakaṭāsura. As a baby, He simply played with His feet as babies do, sometimes sucking His thumb, sometimes sucking His toes, and sometimes playing on a bed. When Śakaṭāsura, the cart demon, came to kill Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa playfully upturned the cart in which he was hiding, and killed him.

Sometimes Kṛṣṇa would put His hands in the mouths of dogs, and sometimes He would wrestle with the horns of large bulls and climb on the bulls’ backs.


At two and a half years old, beautiful Śrī Kṛṣṇa would wander here and there naked. While the Vrajavāsīs were going about their daily activities and while at social functions, Kṛṣṇa would steal butter from various homes with other little boys. The Vrajavāsīs would therefore complain to Yaśodā-maiyā that Kṛṣṇa and His friends were very naughty.

Why did they complain to Yaśodā? The activities of Kṛṣṇa were so pleasing that all thegopīs wanted Him to come daily to their houses and play there; in that way they could relish His pastimes. Seeing that Yaśodā was not able to enjoy these particular boyhood sports, they wanted to give her the opportunity to experiencing them, by ‘complaining’ to her about them. “O Yaśodā,” they would say in effect, “Your boy is so beautiful. How sweet are His movements, and how sweetly He plays. You should try to see all this.”

When Śrī Kṛṣṇa would deny their accusations, the gopīs would ask Him questions like, “Oh? Why does Your mouth have yogurt and butter around it? Why?”

Kṛṣṇa would then answer, “A monkey came and wanted to take butter from My hand, but I would not give it to him. I was actually guarding your house so I tried to drive the monkey away, but he was so naughty that he smeared My face with butter.”

“But why are Your hands full of butter?”

“Oh, you don’t know? My mother has given Me a very valuable gold and pearl bracelet, which became so warm that I felt a burning sensation. So I put My hand in the butter pot to cool it down. I have not taken your butter.”

Once, a gopī who was hiding in her room saw Śrī Kṛṣṇa stealing her butter. While His hands were still in the pot, she caught hold of Him and said, “What are You doing? Are You stealing butter?”

“No, mother.”

“Then what are You doing?”

“Oh, My calf has fallen into this pot. I am searching for him.”

“Oh, where is Your calf? A calf cannot fall down in this little vessel.”

“I will show you,” Kṛṣṇa said, and then pulled out His hands, which were now holding a marble calf. “My father has given Me this toy. I was playing with him, and he fell down in the butter pot.”

Sometimes the gopīs complained to Yaśodā-maiyā, “Kṛṣṇa is so naughty. By His stealing butter and yogurt from our houses, and doing so many other mischievous acts, He will surely have a questionable character in the future. You should try to control Him.”

One morning while Kṛṣṇa was sleeping, Yaśodā-maiyā was churning curd. She was very beautiful; otherwise how could Kṛṣṇa have been so beautiful? When Kṛṣṇa woke up, He thought, “Where is My mother?” and He began to cry. While she churned, Yaśodā-maiyā was absorbed in chanting, “govinda dāmodara mādhaveti.” Her voice was very sweet, and the sound of her rhythmic churning was like the playing of a mṛdaṅgadhik gādhik tān. It was as though that sound was singing, “Dhik, fie on those who do not serve Kṛṣṇa; fie on them, fie on them.”

Yaśodā-maiyā was so absorbed in churning that although Kṛṣṇa was crying, “Mother! Mother!” she could not hear Him. Crying more and more loudly, He therefore climbed out of bed. As He rubbed His eyes the kājala on them ran down His cheeks, and it was as though the Gaṅgā and Yamunā Rivers were falling from His eyes. Quite naked and with a peacock feather in His hair, He ran to Yaśodā-maiyā, but she still could not hear Him. Finally, grabbing her churning rod with one hand and her veil with the other, He stopped her churning.

“Who is this?” she thought. “O, Kanhaiyā.” Taking Him on her lap, she stroked and caressed Him with much love and affection. Tears poured from her eyes and milk flowed from her breast. Śrī Kṛṣṇa was hungry and He sucked with much intensity.

While feeding Kṛṣṇa, Yaśodā-maiyā noticed that the milk on the stove was boiling over. She thought, “This milk wants to serve Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is taking my milk.”

It is important to understand that Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu’s Ocean of Milk has come from the breasts of Yaśodā-maiyā. Wherever there is milk, it has ultimately come from her, and her milk-ocean is endless and deep. The entire universe is situated in Kṛṣṇa’s mouth, and all the worlds are situated in His stomach. Even if there were millions of oceans of milk and if He were to drink them, they would all finally become empty. On the other hand, Yaśodā-maiyā’s milk supply was so endless that hundreds or millions of Kṛṣṇas could never exhaust that supply.

In the meantime, the milk on the stove was thinking that it had no chance to serve Kṛṣṇa. “What is the use of my life?” the milk considered. “I should give it up.”

Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura also says in his prayers, “Without serving Kṛṣṇa I am so unfortunate, and in this life I have not served Him. I am always absorbed in useless worldly activities to collect possessions, but I am not happy. Although my material goals are like poison, I give up the nectar of bhaktikṛṣṇa-prema, in pursuance of them. I should die. Why do I remain alive? Why am I maintaining my life?”

We should also think like this. “If I am not serving and not doing proper sādhana-bhajana, then what is the use of this life? The human body is endowed with a greater capacity than animals for taking to spiritual life. Although I have higher intelligence and an opportunity for good association, I neglect it and take poison. So why should I not die? Lord Brahmā has made my heart harder than stone, and it is only for this reason that I do not die.”

Before going to bed each night, we should consider our spiritual development: “Has my faith increased today? Has my knowledge and service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa increased?” We do this in business when we close our shop or office in the evening. We calculate our gains and losses. Similarly, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda used to say that every night we should calculate whether our bhakti has increased, or whether it is the same, or whether it has decreased. He said we should do this daily.

If our association is good, then our bhakti will increase; and if not, it will decrease. If we have taken asat-saṅga (worldly association), then we will have a taste for sense enjoyment. If we have taken sat-saṅga (good association) on the same level as ourselves, and viṣayi-saṅga(association of sense enjoyers) as well, then our service will be external and we will also have some taste for material enjoyment.

Suppose we took initiation twelve years ago, or twenty-four years ago. Now it is essential for us to calculate the growth of our service to Kṛṣṇa. Is our sādhana-bhajana the same as when we first joined? Has it diminished, or has it developed? If we sincerely consider such points, we can progress quite easily. If we have not made much progress from the time of joining the mission, if we have a taste for sense enjoyment and if we are simultaneously taking asat-saṅga along with sat-saṅga, this is the result of some offense. We can know, then, that our bhakti is decreasing.

When we first came to our gurudeva we were so enthusiastic. Similarly, with good association we will maintain our enthusiasm. If we do not have enthusiasm, it is due to bad association, offenses, and anarthas2; and an attempt must be made to correct the situation. A boy cannot remain in the same class for twenty years. If he does so, it means that he is not really in class. He is not studying, but rather playing soccer, or cricket, or other games, and taking bad association. He has not actually been in school. We need to calculate our progress, otherwise we cannot improve.

While the milk was thinking in its humble way, Yaśodā-maiyā considered, “I must try to save this milk.” She immediately started to put Kṛṣṇa down, but He tightly caught hold of her with His hands and feet, like monkeys do, and He firmly held onto her breast with His mouth. He cried out, “I am still hungry! Where are you going?” He held onto her with all His strength. But Yaśodā-maiyā gave Him a loving slap and, removing Him from her lap, sat Him down beside her. Pūtanā had the strength of ten thousand elephants and she used all of that strength to try to remove Kṛṣṇa from her breast, but she could not do so. In a moment, however, with one push, Yaśodā made Him sit down. Although He is is the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the presence of Yaśodā’s love and affection, He became controlled. Though angry, He sat there by her side.

Why did Yaśodā push Kṛṣṇa away? Did she love the milk more than Kṛṣṇa? Was she acting against bhakti? No, she did not love the milk more than she loved Kṛṣṇa. In fact, this Dāmodara-līlā actually illustrates the meaning of bhakti. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has said:

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ bhaktir-uttamā

(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.1)

Try to remember this verse. Bhakti means ‘activitiy performed for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa,’ but here we see that Kṛṣṇa became angry and later broke the yogurt vessel. Were Yaśodā-maiyā’s actions bhakti or not? Yes, they were. Why? Because she was thinking, “My milk is not sufficient to serve Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa also likes milk in the form of butter, yogurt, curd, and so on.” She acted for the well-being of Kṛṣṇa, and whether He cried or not did not affect her. Because her action was for Kṛṣṇa’s welfare, it was bhakti.

The two wrestlers of Kaṁsa, Cāṇūra and Muṣṭika, were giving pleasure to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the mellow taste of chivalry, because Kṛṣṇa loves to wrestle. But their wrestling with Him was notbhakti, because they wanted to kill Him. Their mood and intention were unfavorable, not favorable, for His pleasure. Yet, even when Yaśodā-maiyā pulled Kṛṣṇa’s ears to chastise Him, her action was bhakti. Kṛṣṇa may have cried and wept, but her action was bhakti because it was done with a motive to please Him.

Sprinkling water on the milk until the boiling subsided, Yaśodā-maiyā thought, “Oh, I will give you to Kṛṣṇa. I will engage you in Kṛṣṇa’s service.”

Gurudeva is like Yaśodā-maiyā, giving all devotees help and a chance to serve Kṛṣṇa; he even gives up his own service for this. What does this mean? Guru is always remembering Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and serving them. Being an uttama-bhāgavata, he resides in Goloka Vṛndāvana. He ‘gives this up’ and comes down to the stage of madhyama-adhikārī to help the devotees.3 Some devotees are kaniṣṭhā and some are madhyama – generally they are kaniṣṭhāGuru ‘comes down’ to tell them, “You should not do this, you should do this,” and he sings the kīrtanassaṁsāra-dāvānala-līḍha-lokaemona durmati, and amāra-jīvana kīrtanas. Because he is always giving his mercy, gurudeva is like a mother.

Being angry at Yaśodā-maiyā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa took a rolling pin and cracked a hole at the bottom of the butter pot. Why the bottom? He first tried to tip it over, but He could not do so because He was a little boy. He was able to lift Govardhana upon His finger, but He could not shake that pot. He tried to make a hole on the upper side, but the pot was too thick there. Then, aware that the bottom of the pot was thinner, He made a hole at the bottom so that all the butter would fall out.

He then distributed that butter to the monkeys. When Yaśodā-maiyā understood that Kṛṣṇa had stolen the butter and was distributing it, she tried to catch hold of Him. Great karmīsjñānīs, and yogīs cannot touch the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa by the power of their mind. Jarāsandha and Kālayavana could neither follow nor catch Him. Even the four Kumāra brothers Sanaka, Sananda, Sanātana, and Sanat-kumāra cannot touch Kṛṣṇa by the power of their minds. But Yaśodā, a gopī, and a little heavy-set, ran faster than Kṛṣṇa. Then, after catching Him, she said, “I will teach You a lesson.”

“No, no, Mother, don’t do so! Don’t do so!” And Kṛṣṇa began to weep.

“Then why did You break the pot?”

“I have never broken the pot.”

“Then who broke it?”

“You yourself.”


“You were running so fast that your ankle-bells hit the bottom of the pot, and it broke. You could not see this because you were in a hurry, but I saw.”

“Oh, You are a very big liar and a very naughty thief [She used the word chora, which is ‘thief’ in the Sanskrit language, and it is also the name of Yaśodā’s ancestor.]

“Mother, I am not a thief. In My dynasty, the dynasty of Nanda Bābā, there were never any thieves; although there may be many thieves [Choras] in your dynasty.”

Yaśodā-maiyā began to tie Kṛṣṇa’s waist with some rope, but she could not wrap the rope around Him, not even once. She tied another rope to the first rope, and another, and then another, until the rope was more than one mile long. But still, it was always the width of two fingers too short to go around Him even one time.

The gopīs began to laugh and clap. Yaśodā-maiyā was very embarrassed because, even though Kṛṣṇa was born from her womb, she could not bind Him. Her face reddened and tears danced in her eyes. At the same time she prayed to Lord Nārāyaṇa. “O Nārāyaṇa, please save me from disgrace. Why should I not be able to tie my child? Please help me.”

Aware that His mother was praying like this, Kṛṣṇa finally allowed her to bind Him.

Why was Yaśodā-maiyā not able to bind Him at first? What is the significance of the two fingers? One finger represents Yaśodā’s own effort, and this means that Kṛṣṇa cannot be controlled by our efforts in sādhana-bhajana alone. We cannot even see Him, what to speak of control Him. The second finger represents Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is everywhere, but the correct process is required to receive it.

These are the two means of success: (1) Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, and (2) our sādhana-bhajana. An example is given of the cat and the monkey. Kittens need only to weep, “Meow! Meow!” and their mothers will come, take them in their mouths, and carry them here and there. The baby monkey, on the other hand, does all the work, while the mother does nothing. If the mother wants to go somewhere, she simply looks at her child, who will come running and tightly catch hold of her. She will then jump from one tree to another or from one house to another. She will not hold onto the baby. If her baby falls, she will give him up forever, never again taking that child with her.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa may not appear to us despite our practice of sādhana-bhajana; nor will He appear if we are not doing any sādhana, despite the availability of His mercy. Both are needed – our hard endeavor and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. If Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is there, yet we are not doing propersādhana and bhajana, we will not be successful. If both are there, only then can we see Kṛṣṇa. We want to weep for guru’s mercy, the uttama-adhikārī’s mercy, and for Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, for by doing so, we show that we are trying our best to receive it. If we follow these two methods properly and sincerely, we will receive their mercy and we will be able to control Kṛṣṇa as Yaśodā-maiyā did.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa thought, “If Yaśodā-maiyā binds Me, then I can’t go out and play with My friends. Śrīdāma, Sudāma, Vasudāma, Stoka-Kṛṣṇa, Labaṅga, and Arjuna are all waiting for Me.”

All the cows were also waiting for Kṛṣṇa, thinking, “When will Kṛṣṇa come? Only He can take our milk; no one else.” The calves were present, but the cows would not give them their milk. Pushing their calves away, they waited for Kṛṣṇa to come and milk them. With their udders full of milk, they cried, “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!”

Kṛṣṇa thought, “How can I let this happen? The cows will not give milk, and if they are not milked they will die. I must go to them. All the calves will also die if I don’t go there. And the gopīs, like Rādhikā, Lalitā, and Viśākhā (then only two years old), are waiting for Me to play with them. If My mother binds Me, I won’t be able to play with them all.”

Immediately Yogamāyā came. Although the rope was growing longer and Kṛṣṇa’s waist was only twelve fingers wide, He could not be bound. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is powerful, full of hundreds and thousands of various potencies, but of all these potencies, kṛṣṇa-kṛpā-śakti (His mercy energy) is the most prominent. Therefore, when He saw that His mother, who had been working so hard to bind Him, was about to weep, and when He saw her reddish face and her embarrassment before the elderly gopīs who were clapping their hands and laughing, His kṛpā-śakti manifested, His heart melted, and Yaśodā-maiyā easily bound Him with the soft rope used for binding her hair. After this, she tied Him to a grinding mortar.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa was weeping, and His tears, blackened by kājala (eye cosmetic), was running down His cheeks. Rubbing His eyes and taking very long breaths, He looked so beautiful. He was weeping, but so sweetly. His face, His naked body, and His fearful mood were so sweet. Anyone who sees this scene will experience its sweetness.

namāmīśvaraṁ sac-cid-ānanda-rūpaṁ
lasat-kuṇḍalaṁ gokule bhrājamānam
yaśodā-bhiyolūkhalād dhāvamānaṁ
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā

Satyavrata Muni prays, “Oh, may that very form of Kṛṣṇa, with His eyes full of tears and taking long, long breaths, come into my heart.” This is Dāmodara-līlā.

His movements are so sweet, when He looks crookedly at someone His eyes are so sweet, His pastimes are sweet, His mother is sweet, His gopīs are sweet, and His Vraja is sweet. Everything about Him is so sweet. 


1 “Kaṁsa tried to dash the child downward against a piece of stone, but since she was Yogamāyā, the younger sister of Lord Viṣṇu, she slipped upward and assumed the form of the goddess Durgā. The word anujā, meaning ‘the younger sister,’ is significant. When Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, took birth from Devakī, He must have simultaneously taken birth from Yaśodā also. Otherwise how could Yogamāyā have been anujā, the Lord’s younger sister?” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10. 4. 9, purport).

2 Anarthas are unwanted desires, activities or habits which are likened to weeds hindering one’s advancement in bhakti.

3 He doesn’t actually give up his exalted position as an uttama-adhikārī. He remains in his position, but plays the role of, and performs the functions of a madhyama-adhikārī.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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