prabhu kahe,—“eho uttama, āge kaha āra”
Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “O Rāmānanda, that is the topmost, but please speak something beyond this.” Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya then said that vātsalya-prema (parental love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa) is indeed the essence of all perfection.
In his commentary on this statement, Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that sakhya–rasa is superior to dāsya-rasa, but one can find a goal that is superior even to this. Śrī Rāya replied, “Vātsalya-prema is the essence of all perfection.” Śrīla Sarasvatī Prabhupāda expressed this inner intention thus: “Śrīman Mahāprabhu heard Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya’s conclusion that the ultimate goal is sakhya-rasa. Thereupon, Śrīman Mahāprabhu said that sakhya–prema is superior to dāsya–prema. When Śrīman Mahāprabhu requested that he expand further upon the subject, he described vātsalya–prema, love in the mood of parental affection.
Up until this point, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said, “Eho haya – this is good,” but now to this He replies, “Eho uttama – this is the topmost.” Prior to sakhya–rasa being mentioned, whatever scriptural evidence that had been presented had mainly referred to the practitioner who comes in the category of an ordinary living entity; but here the discussion embarks upon the subject of the nitya-siddha-parikaras, or the eternally perfected associates of the Lord. The devotees of śānta and dāsya–rasa are controlled by Bhagavān, but from the stage of sakhya–rasa onward, Bhagavān is controlled by His devotee.
Some of those eternally perfect associates, in the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mother and father, consider themselves to be superior to Him. They regard themselves as His maintainers, and they see Him as the object of their mercy. Their mood to maintain Kṛṣṇa is called vātsalya–prema, or parental love, which demonstrates even more mamatā than sakhya–rasa. Within vātsalya, we find the firm faith and determination (niṣṭhā) of śānta-rasa, the service mood of dāsya-rasa, and especially the fraternal love devoid of shyness or reserve that is peculiar to sakhya-rasa. In addition, we find in vātsalya a mood that Kṛṣṇa must be sustained. Such devotees are His complete protectors, and will even punish, scold, and bind Him.
vātsalye śāntera guṇa, dāsyera sevana
sei sei sevanera iṅhā nāma—‘pālana’
sakhyera guṇa—‘asaṅkoca’, ‘agaurava’ sāra
āpanāre ‘pālaka’ jñāna, kṛṣṇe ‘pālya’-jñāna
‘cāri’ guṇe vātsalya rasa—amṛta-samāna
se amṛtānande bhakta saha ḍubena āpane
‘kṛṣṇa—bhakta-vaśa’ guṇa kahe aiśvarya-jñāni-gaṇe
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā (19.226–229)
“In parental love, all of the qualities found in śānta-rasa, dāsya-rasa, and sakhya-rasa become transformed into a particular service called maintainanence.
“The essence of sakhya-rasa is intimacy devoid of the formality and reverence of dāsya-rasa. It is because of this increased sense of intimacy that one chastises and admonishes Kṛṣṇa.
“One with vātsalya-prema considers oneself to be Kṛṣṇa’s nourisher and maintainer, and cares for Him as one does a son. The four qualities found in the other four rasas are all within this vātsalya-rasa, which is just like nectar.
“The reciprocation of nectarean bliss between Kṛṣṇa and the devotee is such that Kṛṣṇa is completely subjugated by the devotee. This happiness is compared with an ocean of nectar into which the devotee and Kṛṣṇa plunge. This is the conclusion of the aiśvarya-jñānīs, those with knowledge of Kṛṣṇa’s opulence.”
nandaḥ kim akarod brahman
śreya evaṁ mahodayam
yaśodā vā mahā-bhāgā
papau yasyāḥ stanaṁ hariḥ
“Śrī Parīkṣit Mahārāja enquired from Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, ‘What auspicious pious activities did Śrī Nanda Bābā perform so that Śrī Kṛṣṇa agreed to become his son? And what did Śrī Yaśodā do that led to the Absolute Truth Śrī Kṛṣṇa sucking that most fortunate woman’s breast milk?’
Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda then presented one more verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
nemaṁ viriñco na bhavo
na śrīr apy aṅga-saṁśrayā
prasādaṁ lebhire gopī
yat tat prāpa vimukti-dāt
“Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said to Śrī Parīkṣit Mahārāja, ‘O saintly King, the mercy that the gopī Yaśodā received from Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the giver of liberation, was not given to Brahmā, or Śiva, or even to Lakṣmī, who always resides on the chest of Śrī Viṣṇu.’ ”
Here, we see Śrī Kṛṣṇa being controlled by vātsalya–bhāva, parental affection. Despite being the supreme Lord Himself and full of unlimited opulence, He was completely controlled by Mother Yaśodā’s prema, and thus He allowed her to bind Him. Who can bind Him, who is unlimited, having no inside, outside, top, or bottom?
However, due to excessive feelings of possessiveness she thinks Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be the object of protection and maintenance and herself to be His guardian and maintainer, and for His welfare, she bound Him. But no, this is not so. He was bound by vātsalya–prema; this was His mercy upon Mother Yaśodā. Such mercy was never achieved by anyone else. Even Brahmā, who is the son of the Lord, or Śrī Śiva, who has emanated from the Lord’s own body, or even Lakṣmī herself, who resides eternally on the Lord’s chest, cannot obtain such mercy as Śrī Yaśodā received.
Bhagavān has said that He is always subservient to the devotee – ahaṁ bhakta–parādhīnaḥ (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.4.63). In the pastime of His mother binding Him to the grinding mortar, known as dāma-bandhana-līlā, His affection for His devotee is displayed to its highest degree.
With reference to the sukṛti (devotional merits) of Nandarāya and Yaśodā, our ācāryas (recognized preceptors) have said that both are eternally perfect associates. It was Śrī Droṇa and Dharā, who are actually partial expansions (aṁśas) of Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā respectively, who had performed austerities. They had begged from Lord Brahmā the benediction of receiving a relationship with Bhagavān in vātsalya-prema. Lord Brahmā knew them to be partial expansions of Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā. Thus Brahmā, desiring to be the object of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s affection, said to both of them, “Tathāstu – So be it.” If one does not have vraja-prema himself, how can he grant it to someone else?
The query may arise here that since Nanda Bābā and Yaśodā-māiyā are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal parents, what is the need for them to perform austerities? All of this is arranged by Yogamāyā to carry out the Lord’s human-like pastimes. Lord Brahmā knew that this incident marked the start of the manifestation of Bhagavān’s human-like pastimes in the material world. It is also worth noting that when Droṇa and Dharā requested this benediction, some great sages were assembled there who had faith in bhakti that is mixed with knowledge of the Lord’s opulence. Therefore, Droṇa and Dharā directly requested the benediction of para-bhakti, which automatically transformed into their innate vātsalya–prema. Actually, no one can become the mother and father of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by the blessings of Lord Brahmā.
The fact is that when the aṁśīs (full, original forms of Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā) appear in this world, their respective aṁśas (partial expansions) again enter into their bodies. This principle is indicated by Lord Brahmā using the word tathāstu. Lord Brahmā is very far from the position of Śrī Nanda-Yaśodā, so how can he give this type of benediction to another? He himself hankers to take birth in any lower species in Vraja – a deer, animal, bird, tree, or creeper – and considers his life successful if he will be able to obtain the footdust of any resident of Vraja:
tad bhūri-bhāgyam iha janma kim apy aṭavyāṁ
yad gokule ’pi katamāṅghri-rajo-’bhiṣekam
yaj-jīvitaṁ tu nikhilaṁ bhagavān mukundas
tv adyāpi yat-pada-rajaḥ śruti-mṛgyam eva
Just as Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā are eternally perfected personal associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, so too is their vātsalya–prema eternally existent. Thus, the question may arise that if vātsalya-prema cannot be achieved by the performance of austerities, then are the spiritual practices and the worship performed by those sādhakas who desire vātsalya–bhāva also worthless? No, it is not like this. One will definitely achieve vātsalya–bhāva in service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa if one worships under the guidance of Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā, but no one can become either Śrī Nanda or Yaśodā.
While discussing this subject it is also worth mentioning that Śrī Nanda had five brothers, Upānanda being the eldest. His father Parjanya wanted to make Upānanda king, but Upānanda told his father, “I am neither qualified nor able to become king. You will only find such qualification in my younger brother Nanda.” Hearing this Parjanya became very happy and announced that Nanda would be the king of Vraja. All the people welcomed Parjanya’s declaration.
On the other hand, Nanda was completely renounced, and furthermore, he had no son, but as soon as Śrī Kṛṣṇa took birth in his home, all of his detachment was transformed into attachment. His house, kingdom, and every object contained in them were all for the enjoyment of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Both husband and wife performed their endeavors so that there would be no shortcomings in the rearing of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Both became absorbed in feeding their son fresh butter, placing Him on their laps and caressing Him. They chastised Him lovingly and Yaśodā bound Him to a grinding mortar.
Nanda and Yaśodā learned that the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, Rādhā, had obtained from Durvāsā Muni a benediction, that whoever would eat the prasāda cooked by Her lotus hands would always enjoy good health and long life. Upon hearing this, with great respect they invited Rādhā to their palace so that Kṛṣṇa would eat the prasāda prepared by Her hand. Even when Rādhā was married, Mother Yaśodā would patiently tolerate the curses and complaints of Śrī Rādhā’s mother-in-law, Jaṭilā, to whom she would continue to humbly send gifts and requests to send Rādhā to cook for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Nanda and Yaśodā loved Rādhā as much as they loved Kṛṣṇa. Herein lies the great specialty of Nanda Bābā and Mother Yaśodā’s parental affection. We find testimony to this in Padyāvalī (126):
śrutim apare smṛtim itare
bhāratam anye bhajantu bhava-bhītāḥ
aham iha nandaṁ vande
yasyālinde param brahma
“In a world frightened by birth and death, some people take shelter of the Śrutis, some of the Smṛtis, and some of the Mahābhārata. But I pay my homage to Śrī Nandarāya, in whose courtyard Parabrahma is playing as a child.”
By this and other prayers, all ṛṣis, munis, and Śrī Nārada himself have glorified Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā. Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed so many pastimes, but nowhere else was He ever bound. When He became an envoy of peace and went to Hastināpura, Duryodhana attempted to bind Him with ropes, but Śrī Kṛṣṇa showed His universal form and everyone in the whole assembly, including Duryodhana, became fearful. We cannot find it described anywhere that Bhagavān was bound by Mother Devakī or Kauśalyā; but He was bound by the hand of Mother Yaśodā. Nanda-Yaśodā’s human-like dealings (laukika sad-bandhuvat) with Śrī Kṛṣṇa are not found anywhere else.
The source of all expansions, the unlimitedly opulent Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, being controlled by the fully ripened vātsalya–prema of Śrī Yaśoda, allowed Himself to be bound, and by accepting this He experienced supreme happiness. Indeed, He was extremely anxious to taste this vātsalya–rasa. In this way, Yaśodā, who is so proud of feeling that she is Kṛṣṇa’s mother, became even more fortunate in this līlā, which combines both aiśvarya and mādhurya.
It is not possible to describe Nanda and Yaśodā’s pain of separation from Kṛṣṇa when He was going to Mathurā. At that time Yaśodā became just like a piece of dry wood. Śrī Nanda Bābā quit speaking with others and stopped coming outside of the palace. Remembering his son he simply would continuously call for Him and weep. Immersed in the bottomless ocean of vātsalya–prema, he remained searching for his son. Every second he would turn his face towards Mathurā, waiting expectantly: “Now He will come, now He will come.”
When Uddhava came and tried to pacify Nanda Bābā, it only increased his feelings of separation one hundred times over. Uddhava said, “O Nanda Mahārāja, come and wander outside for a bit. Your mind may find some distraction.” Nanda Baba replied, “Please tell me, Uddhava, where should I go? Wherever I go, I remember Kanhaiyā and become even more distressed. Every object I see reminds me of Kṛṣṇa and pierces me like a spike. My misery and suffering simply increase, but my life does not leave me.”
Uddhava said, “O Nanda! Your son is directly Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord.” Hearing this Nanda Baba exclaimed, “Uddhava, I was thinking that you were extremely intelligent, but this is not so. Uddhava, you do not know the symptoms of Bhagavān. Does Bhagavān ever become hungry? Come on, if Kṛṣṇa’s mother is just a little bit late in bringing a ball of butter, He breaks all the pots in the house. Does Bhagavān ever go house to house stealing? Our boy wanders everywhere in Vraja, stealing.
“O my son Uddhava, if ever there were a real father, then that was Mahārāja Daśaratha. After Śrī Rāma went to the forest, he could not wait even one second – immediately his life left him. But see, Uddhava, I do not wish to die like Daśaratha Mahārāja. Before leaving, Kanhaiyā said, ‘I will definitely return,’ so surely He will come back to Vraja. If I were to die before His return, then, not seeing me, He will ask His mother after me, and when His mother answers, ‘My son, Your father has died,’ He will be so unhappy. Wherever I may go, if He is unhappy, my unhappiness will only increase. I will tolerate my own unhappiness, but Uddhava, I never want to see any unhappiness in my son.”
The greatly learned sage Uddhava became dumbstruck; the parental affection of Śrī Nanda and Yaśodā was beyond his understanding. From the day that Kṛṣṇa went to Mathurā, food had not been prepared, even once. For whom would they cook? All the pots were kept upside-down and the stove was covered with cobwebs.
What sweet and charming pastimes are found in vātsalya–rasa! Just seeing Yaśodā’s upraised stick, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s opulence and position as Bhagavān ran away. When Mother Yaśodā looked into Kṛṣṇa’s mouth after He ate dirt, she saw all of the moving and non-moving entities in the universe. Thinking this to be the work of some witch, she continued to caress her son, as her affection for Him simply swelled higher. Even today the personified Vedas are searching for the foot dust of these Vrajavāsīs.