THIS FAMOUS childlike form of Lord Krsna always holds a laddu, a buttery sweetball. Gopala means "protector of cows."

Krsna is the son of a cowherd, and His sweet childhood is adored and revered in India, where devotional shops sell palm-sized statues of Laddu-Gopala for home altars. Nowadays, however, Indian artisans rarely cast Laddu-Gopala in as fine a form as this curly, curvy bronze, done in Orissa around 1775. It rests in the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, where I obtained this postcard.

This work of art was inspired by Laddu-Gopala's babyhood, but when Krsna is a few years older, He eats with His friends and enacts more pastimes with laddus. Krsna's friend Madhumangala, a humorous son of a priest (brahmana), jokes with his friends by acting greedy. Sometimes he eats with the cowherd boys, and he eats more than anyone else, especially laddus, his favorite candy.

Once, after eating more laddus than anyone else, Madhumangala told Krsna, "If You give me one more laddu, I will give You my blessings so that Your girlfriend Radharani will be very much pleased with You."

The brahmanas are supposed to give blessings to the farmers and merchants, so the brahmana boy was right in giving blessings to Krsna. Pleased by His friend's blessings, Krsna supplied him with more and more laddus. Madhumangala's joking with Krsna in pure friendship is an example of fraternal devotion, whereas Laddu-Gopala's babyhood inspires parental love.

Laddu-Gopala is not a mythic figure or merely a cultural icon, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Knowing this in truth awakens our spiritual consciousness. Scriptures recommend we chant and hear Krsna's transcendental names and pastimes to awaken our love for Him. Then, when our bodies are finished, our spiritual enjoyment will continue. Our spiritual selves are like Lord Krsna's: eternal forms of bliss and knowledge. And if we reach Krsna's way, one day we may receive a laddu from His hand.