he all-powerful Supreme Lord shows that He can be
conquered by the power of His devotees' pure love.
The Vedic scriptures describe how Krsna, the Supreme Lord, enjoys eternal pastimes with His devotees, both in the spiritual world and in this world when He periodically descends. Because Krsna wants the deepest loving exchanges, in the intimacy of love for Him some of His purest devotees forget that He is God and relate to Him as superiors. During the Vedic month of Kartika (October-November), we especially honor an episode from Krsna's life that exemplifies this principle. In one of His most endearing pastimes, He is chased and then bound by His mother, Yasoda, for stealing butter and yogurt. The information in this article (adapted by Tattvavit Dasa from a lecture) comes from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter 9, and from commentaries by Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and other Vaisnava acaryas.
When mother Yasoda started getting many complaints from the gopis (cowherd women) about Krsna stealing their butter and breaking their butter pots, she wondered why her son was stealing from the houses of others.
Yasoda thought, "Maybe Krsna doesn't like the butter in my house. Maybe the yogurt that we start with is not good, or the butter is not coming out perfectly. Why else would Krsna go to other houses for what is readily available at home? Today, I'll make the butter myself."
Yasoda did not realize that Krsna went to other homes because of the love the other gopis had for Him.
So mother Yasoda churned the yogurt herself, although, being a queen, it was inappropriate work for her. Still, Yasoda churned, and she gave her maidservants other household duties. The maidservants actually made tasty butter, but she took it upon herself to make the butter to stop Krsna from stealing and to keep Him happy at home.
While churning the yogurt, Yasoda sang the glories of Krsna's childhood pastimes. She sang about whatever Krsna had done. From this we can learn a lesson: If we cannot find much time to sing the glories of the Lord, then at least we can sing and chant while doing physical work.
As Yasoda pulled the churning ropes, her gold bangles shook and made a melodious sound: jhhan jhhan jhhan jhhan. They were joined by the sounds of her earrings, ankles bells, and gold belt. The sound of her ornaments resembled the sound of expert cymbal players. As she churned, the rod in the yogurt pot went gharad gharad gharad gharad, sounding just like a drum. Thus mother Yasoda had full musical accompaniment as she sang Krsna's glories.
In the transcendental world, even the ornaments and household utensils are conscious, so they sounded out of joy, to congratulate Yasoda as she performed this service. Our hands do not become beautiful simply by being adorned with gold jewelry; they are beautiful only if we engage them in the service of the Supreme. Yasodas earrings thought that they were fortunate to be on ears engaged in hearing the glories of Krsna. Being a devotee does not mean sitting back; it means working and sweating for Krsna. Bhakti is defined as engaging the senses in the service of the giver of all our senses. Krsna has given us these senses, and their best engagement is His service.
Mother Yasoda was fully prepared to perform this service, with no sign of laziness. It was very early in the morning. The sun had not yet risen when Yasoda began working hard.
She was thinking, "Before Krsna wakes up, let me extract butter from the yogurt, so that I can feed Him when He gets up." She became so engrossed that her forehead perspired, which made her look even more beautiful.
In this way, as she churned the yogurt, her tongue recited the glorious pastimes of Krsna, her ears heard them, her mind meditated on how she would make the butter to feed Krsna, and her hands and body produced the butter. This is the state of a perfect devotee: Mind, body, and intelligence fully engaged in devotional service for Krsna.
Krsna Wakes Up
Hearing Yasodas melodious singing and the rhythmic sounds of the churning, Krsna woke up earlier than usual. When He woke, He wanted to drink her breast milk.
He looked for his mother and wondered, "Why is she not with Me in bed today? She's not worried about Me at all. Why has she left Me?"
Children are good at getting attention, and when they don't get it, they become mischievous. Krsna started falsely crying and walked to the room where His mother was singing. He got close to her and looked at her intently, but Yasoda did not notice him. There is a lesson here for us. When will Krsna come to us? He will come when we are so absorbed in devotional service that we will not notice if He comes. Krsna will not come to us if we are just sitting around waiting.
Krsna caught hold of the churning rod to get His mother's attention, and He held it firmly with both hands, as if applying brakes on a moving bicycle. He was telling his mother: "Stop! I need attention. Feed me now."
Vaisnava commentators have given another reason why Krsna stopped the churning: After fully "churning" the scriptures, one gets Krsna, because He is the conclusion of everything. But Yasoda already had Krsna, so what was the need for her to keep churning?
Yasoda looked at Krsna and waited to see what He would do next. Krsna grabbed her arm with both hands, put one foot on the rim of the yogurt pot, pulled Himself into her lap, and started drinking her milk. Yasoda proudly and pleasurably fed her son.
Krsna also became proud, thinking, "How smart I am. I stopped Mother from her work and claimed My right."
Thinking this, He smiled cheekily. As He drank the milk, a competition between Yasodas milk and Krsna began. Krsna would not become satisfied, and Mother Yasodas milk would not stop flowing because of her intense affection. She kept feeding him for quite some time.
Then something happened to distract Yasodas attention. Some milk she had placed on the nearby stove was boiling over. Yasoda put Krsna down and ran to save the milk. This milk was from the special Padmagandha cows, especially for Krsna.
This transcendental milk was thinking, "Why am I tolerating this heat if Krsna is going to become fully satisfied by drinking mother Yasodas breast milk; it is better for me to commit suicide by jumping into the fire."
Thinking this, the milk boiled over. Mother Yasoda took the milk off the fire, but in the mean time, what happened to Krsna?
Little Krsna became angry.
"How dare she put me down while I'm still drinking, just to save a little milk! I'm still hungry."
He who is the purest of pure, untainted by any of the modes of material nature, became angry. His lips swelled and became red as He bit them with His teeth.
"Who does she think she is? I'll show her. She'll be sorry. I'll break something in the house."
He looked around and saw a small stone used for grinding spices. With this stone He hit the churning pot in a strategic spot at the bottom so that there would be no sound to alarm Yasoda. Yogurt was everywhere. Krsna started for another room. As he went out, He walked all over the spilled yogurt chub, chub, chub but quietly, so that His mother would not hear Him. In the form of Vamanadeva, Krsna had covered the whole universe with just three of His steps, and now He was walking through the yogurt. Krsna did not think, "Perhaps I should go around the yogurt." He just walked through it, leaving pretty footprints showing exactly where He has going.
Krsna went to another room and turned over a wooden grinding mortar. He climbed on it and then took a pot of butter from the rafters. He fed the butter to monkeys who appeared there. The monkeys ate with great pleasure.
After rescuing the milk from the stove, Yasoda returned and saw the broken pot. If Krsna had stayed there, then she might have thought that the pot had broken accidentally, but because Krsna was not there, she knew He was guilty and had run away to hide.
Yasoda was not angry about the broken pot.
She smiled and thought, "How clever my Krsna is! He broke this pot in such a way that I didn't hear a sound."
But she decided that she had to punish Him to teach Him a lesson. So she followed His footprints. Hiding behind a wall, she looked around a corner at Him.
Krsna Fears His Mother
Krsna was looking all around, expecting to get caught at any minute. His eyes were fearful. He knew that Yasoda would come after Him to punish Him. She approached very slowly from behind, sneaking up on Him. But Krsna saw her coming. Seeing the look on her face and the stick in her hand, He quickly got down from the grinding mortar and fled.
He thought, "If I'm quick, she won't catch me, and I'll be spared a beating."
Yasoda didn't let Him run away. She was determined to catch Him. She chased Him with the stick in her hand.
Sukadeva Gosvami says, "Even yogis whose minds have become purified by austerities cannot catch Krsna through meditation, but on this day mother Yasoda was running after that same Krsna with a stick in her hand."
At first Krsna ran from room to room. Then He left the house and ran into the streets of Gokula.
Mother Yasoda thought, "Today He is not going to get away from me. Where can He go? I'll catch Him."
She followed Him everywhere. All the Vrajavasis (local residents) looked in amazement at the scene.
"What has happened today? Normally there is so much affection between Krsna and Yasoda."
Yasoda was not used to running and became covered with perspiration. Finally, she caught Krsna by His right hand. With His left hand He wiped tears from His eyes.
Yasoda addressed Krsna: "Are the monkeys Your relatives? Is that why You feed them so freely? You broke the yogurt pot. Till this day I didn't believe the other gopis, but now I've caught You red-handed. Today I'll punish You. I'll beat You."
Waving the stick at Him, Yasoda made Krsna shake in fear. He wiped away tears, and the black ointment on His eyes smeared all over His face, making Him look more beautiful.
Krsna said, "Ma, please let me go. I promise never to do this again."
Mother Yasoda saw Krsna's fear and threw her stick away. Krsna sighed with relief.
He thought, "At least she won't beat Me with a stick. Maybe she'll give Me a little slap in the face and then let Me go."
Among all of Krsna's pastimes as an avatar, this was the first time that He stood as the guilty party, awaiting His sentence and punishment. Krsna's fate was totally in the hands of mother Yasoda. This is the parental mood of Vraja, Krsna's eternal abode.
Krsna Gets Tied Up
Yasoda decided to tie Him up. She reasoned that He was angry and if He were to run away to the bank of the Yamuna River or elsewhere, He might hurt Himself.
"Let me tie Him up for a little while," she thought. "I can churn some more, and in a little while I can appease Him."
So she started to bind Him. How did she tie Him? Without knowledge of His position as the supremely powerful Personality of Godhead. Mother Yasoda simply thought of Krsna as her son, so she wanted to tie Him up. But the Personality of Godhead has no beginning, no end, no inside, no outside. He is all-pervading. How can someone with this nature be tied? It is impossible.
Krsna is not under the influence of time. For Him, there is no difference between past, present, and future. He is in His transcendental form at all times. Being absolute, beyond relativity, He is free from the distinctions between cause and effect, though He is the cause and effect of everything. That person, beyond the perception of the senses, had appeared as a humanlike child, and mother Yasoda, considering Him her ordinary son, began binding Him to the wooden mortar with a rope.
At first she used the string from her hair. When that was too short, she sent for ropes from her house. Amazingly, whenever she tried to tie Krsna's waist, the ropes were always two fingers short, even when joined together. All of Krsna's energies had united and come to His defense: "We won't let Krsna be tied." Yasoda became perplexed, unable to understand this. But still she was determined.
Krsna was testing Yasodas determination will she give up or keep trying? Because her effort was incom-plete, Krsna's mercy was also incomplete. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), ye yatha mam prapadyante: "As one surrenders unto Me, I reward him accordingly." Krsna waits for us to give our all before giving us His mercy.
After using all the ropes from her house, Yasoda sent for more rope from the other gopis' houses. Meanwhile the gopis who had gathered asked Yasoda to let Krsna go.
"He is not destined to be tied," they said. "Why are you being so stubborn?"
But Yasoda refused to give up. The gopis and Yasoda were laughing, because she could not understand what was happening.
When Krsna grew up and later went to Duryodhana's court as a messenger, Duryodhana wanted to tie up Krsna and jail Him, so that He would not be able to assist the Pandavas in the great battle about to take place. Duryodhana ordered his guards to bind Krsna. But at that time Krsna showed His immense universal form, as if to say, "OK, tie me up. Do you have a rope long enough? Where will you start?" Seeing this amazing form, the guards were dumbfounded and fainted. So Duryodhana was unable to bind Krsna, but mother Yasoda was determined to succeeded. Why? Because she believed Him to be her son.
In the end, seeing His mother's relentless determination and total exhaustion, Krsna showed her His mercy and agreed to be tied. Krsna had to accept defeat.
Can Krsna really be tied up in this way?
Sukadeva Gosvami says, "Yes, Krsna can be bound by His devotee, out of His mercy. Krsna's mercy prevailed and subdued all of His other energies."
In this way Krsna demonstrates that He is obliged to His devotees.
"The whole universe, including Brahma and Siva are under My control, but I can be controlled by My devotee."
This is Krsna's eternal nature.
His Holiness Radha Govinda Goswami met Srila Prabhupada in Varanasi, India, in 1971. He at once accepted Srila Prabhupada as his spiritual master, and was initiated by him in 1975. Since 1974 he has been based at the Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana. On the order of Srila Prabhupada, he teaches Krsna consciousness all over the world. He is well-known in ISKCON for his scholarly, devotional discourses on Srimad-Bhagavatam.