Krishna's pastimes

Childhood Pastimes

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of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

The seemingly ordinary activities of Lord Chaitanya as a child are entirely transcendental. Who would have thought that a child at play could topple the bastions of monism and pantheism?

One day shortly after He learned to walk Lord Chaitanya was playing with other small neighborhood children when His mother, Srimati Sacidevi, brought Him a dish filled with rice and sweets. After asking her child to sit down and eat, mother Saci went about her household duties. But as soon as she left, Lord Chaitanya began to eat dirt instead of the lovingly prepared food. Upon returning, mother Saci was greatly surprised. “What is this!” she exclaimed.

This was one of Lord Chaitanya’s childhood pastimes when He appeared on earth five hundred years ago. Yet at first hearing, it hardly seems to confirm Lord Chaitanya as the same Supreme Personality of Godhead described in the ancient Vedic literature. The Bhagavad-gita does assert that to establish universal religious principles the Supreme Lord regularly appears within the material creation, playing the part of a human being. Thus, although He is the oldest of all, He exhibits many uncommon pastimes as a child.

But what’s so uncommon or divine about eating dirt? Every one-year-old tends to think that anything visible is also edible. How is Lord Chaitanya’s dirt-eating any different? And how does it serve to establish universal religious principles? Let’s return to the scene of the Lord’s childhood misdemeanor and find out.

Upon being asked by mother Saci to account for His behavior, the Lord replied in a surprisingly philosophical way. “Why are you angry?” He said. “You gave Me dirt, so how am I to blame? Rice and sweets, or anything edible, is all but a transformation of dirt. You gave Me dirt—and I ate dirt. Why do you object?” Lord Chaitanya argued that since all food comes originally from the earth, it is but a transformation of dirt. So eating sweets or eating dirt, what’s the difference?

Lord Chaitanya’s childish reply parodies the philosophy of monism espoused by the Mayavada philosophers, who hold that the one and only reality is all-pervading, eternal, undifferentiated spiritual existence, or Brahman. Thus, as the popular Mayavada slogan goes, “All is one.” In other words, despite appearances, you and I are not separate individuals, but we are one in all respects with the impersonal Brahman. Or, to get right down to it, each of us is God-if we could only realize it. And this material universe—with all its variety—is, they say, false, an illusion.

In eating dirt Lord Chaitanya was taking the “All is one” philosophy to its logical conclusion. “Dirt is illusion, and sweets are illusion,” He was implying. “So what’s the difference between eating dirt and eating sweets?”

Mother Saci was no pundit, yet her stern reply to Lord Chaitanya shatters the foolish subterfuge of Mayavada scholars. “Who taught You this philosophy that justifies eating dirt?” she asked. “If everything is one, why do people in general eat not dirt but the food grains produced from the dirt?”

Thus mother Saci exposed the impracticality of Mayavada philosophy and showed the commonsense Vaishnava viewpoint. (A Vaishnava is a devotee of Lord Vishnu, or Krishna.) “My dear boy,” she said, “if we eat dirt transformed into grains, our body is nourished, and it becomes strong. But if we eat dirt in its crude state, the body becomes diseased instead of nourished, and thus it unfortunately is soon destroyed.

“In a waterpot, which is a transformation of dirt, I can bring water very easily. But if I poured water on a lump of dirt, the lump would soak up the water, and my labor would be useless.”

Unlike the Mayavadis, Vaishnavas, as mother Saci explained, have a very practical, workable realization of spiritual truth. They accept that all is one, but only in the sense that everything is the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This material world, being His inferior energy, is one with Him. But the varieties within that energy, although temporary, are not illusion. And as for ourselves, we are eternal, individual manifestations of the Lord’s superior, spiritual energy. Thus we are one with God in quality. But to argue, as the Mayavadis do, that we are all God would be a gross oversimplification.

The Vaishnava knows material varieties have practical value in devotional service to the Supreme Person. With a waterpot we can bring water to wash the Lord’s temple, church, or mosque (or in mother Saci’s case, to bathe the Lord Himself). And with rice and other foods we can prepare varieties of dishes, offer them to the Lord, and use the spiritualized remnants of those offerings to nourish our bodies and thus strengthen them for engaging in the unlimited variety of pure devotional activities.

Mayavadis, on the other hand, consider devotional service to be an occupation only for the ignorant. “Why serve God?” they say. “You are God.” To them water, earth, food, our physical bodies, and all other material manifestations are illusion and therefore of no practical value. Since they see all form and personality as illusion, they consider the Supreme Lord Himself to be illusion. Everything is illusion, they claim, except their own idiot philosophy.

In the simple childish act of eating dirt—and defending it—Lord Chaitanya parodied, and allowed His mother to defeat, a philosophical doctrine of monism that poses a serious threat to anyone of any religious faith who aspires for a loving relationship with God. Mayavada philosophy, Lord Chaitanya would later teach, is worse than atheism, because in the guise of a spiritual teaching it denies the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the eternal value of devotion to Him.

All of Lord Chaitanya’s childhood pastimes have similar deep imports. When He was a little older, He would go to the nearby bank of the Ganges and tease the young girls assembled there. According to Vedic custom, girls ten to twelve years old worship Lord Siva, praying that in the future they’ll have good husbands. Lord Siva is the powerful demigod in charge of the ultimate dissolution of the universe, yet he is also a peaceful devotee of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. So the girls on the bank of the Ganges were praying to Lord Siva for a husband who was, like him, both peaceful and powerful.

Lord Chaitanya would sit down with the girls and interrupt their worship, snatching up the flower garlands, sandalwood pulp, fruits, and sweets they were offering to Lord Siva. “Worship Me,” He demanded, “and I will give you good husbands and other benedictions. Lord Siva and his wife, the goddess Durga, are My menial servants.”

In His youthful playfulness Lord Chaitanya was making an important point. There is a misconception among some students of Eastern religions that the Vedic tradition is polytheistic and therefore that followers of the Krishna consciousness movement worship many gods. But this is not a fact. According to the Vedic literature, everyone is a servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Within the universe, some of the Lord’s most elevated servants have been empowered to look after the universal administration, and these powerful living entities are known as demigods. Lord Siva, as we have already mentioned, is in charge of destruction, Lord Brahma directs the creation, and millions of other demigods manage such universal resources as sunlight, water, fire, wind, and rain. The demigods are all great devotees of the Lord, working under His supervision. They are controllers, just as we are all to some degree, but they aren’t equal to the supreme controller.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna asserts that those who worship the demigods have lost their intelligence. Although it is a fact that the demigods can award material benedictions to their worshipers—Lord Siva, for example, can be worshiped for a good husband—these benedictions must ultimately be sanctioned by Krishna Himself. So why not worship Krishna directly? That is the intelligent thing to do. That is what the Vedic literatures direct us to do, and that is what the Supreme Lord Himself was demanding, not only of the young girls on the bank of the Ganges, but of all of us.

All living entities, including the demigods, are part and parcel of Krishna, and therefore it is our constitutional position to serve and worship Him. By doing so, we gradually attain eternal, blissful life in Krishna’s transcendental abode. That is a benediction even the demigods aspire for, and one they cannot award their own worshipers.

In comparison to the demigods, who control important aspects of the cosmic manifestation, human beings are insignificant and powerless, and therefore it is in one sense natural for men to worship demigods. We worship powerful and wealthy personalities even on this planet, so why not the demigods? But in comparison to Lord Krishna, even great demigods like Lord Siva are insignificant, since they derive all their power from Him. If you have only one dollar, a thousand dollars seems like a lot of money, but to a multimillionaire a thousand dollars is small change. Similarly, in comparison to Lord Krishna, the demigods, what to speak of powerful men on this planet, are small change.

So yes, followers of the Krishna consciousness movement believe in the demigods. and they offer the demigods due respect. In fact, they offer respect to all living beings, seeing them all as servants of Lord Krishna. But they worship and love only the Supreme Person, following His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita to give up all varieties of worship and just surrender to Him.

As with His pastime of eating dirt, Lord Chaitanya, by teasing the young girls, established a religious principle that applies to everyone who desires to please the Supreme Lord and develop a loving relationship with Him. Lord Chaitanya did not favor one religion over another; rather, He taught the eternal nonsectarian science of God realization. As the study of ordinary sciences is open to any person, regardless of his or her nationality or religious upbringing, so the science of Krishna consciousness taught by Lord Chaitanya and His followers is open to anyone. And it can work for anyone. Two plus two equals four, no matter what your geographical, philosophical, or religious background.

Lord Chaitanya is not, therefore, a sectarian figure. He is, as the Vedic literatures indicate, the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing the part of His own devotee, to teach us love of God. He is like the elementary-school teacher, who, to instruct new students, sits down with them and pretends to be learning to write the letters of the alphabet.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the nonsectarian nature of Lord Chaitanya’s teachings is to examine His primary teaching, that the most effective way to worship God in this age of confusion and quarrel is to chant His holy names. Lord Chaitanya especially chanted the Hare Krishna mantra, but He taught that all of the Lord’s names mentioned in the world’s great scriptures will have the same purifying and liberating effect on the sincere chanter. Who could object to such a sublime, nonsectarian instruction? Persons of any religious faith, even while executing their ordinary house-hold or business responsibilities, can perfect their human lives by constantly and steadfastly singing or chanting in devotion the particular names of God with which they are familiar.

As a child, Lord Chaitanya managed to teach this foremost principle to His family and neighbors, even before He could crawl or walk. Like all children, He would cry and have to be given constant attention. The attention the Lord demanded, however, was a little unusual. No matter what His mother or the other ladies of the neighborhood did to appease Him, He would continue to cry—until He heard the chanting of Krishna’s names. As soon as the ladies chanted, He would quiet down and look upon them pleasingly with His beautiful eyes. Taking this clue, the ladies were constantly chanting and clapping their hands, making the Lord’s house and the entire neighborhood the site of an ongoing festival of transcendental sounds like Lord Chaitanya’s neighbors, we can all take up the chanting of God’s holy names and relish the Lord’s pleasing glance upon us.

Damodarastakam

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Damodara

This song describes Krishna's early childhood pastime of running from His mother when she tried to punish Him for stealing butter from the gopis, the cowherd women of Vrindavan.

For this special month of Karttika, devotees around the world sing these prayers every day. Each verse describes various exceptional qualities or features of Krishna. Sing along with the lyrics below, which include the English translations.

This year, Karttika starts on October 29th and ends on November 28th.

More information on Karttika

Included here is an audio recording of the late Aindra dasa singing Damodarastakam during Karttika at the Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrindavan, India.

(1)

namāmīśvaram sac-cid-ānanda-rūpam
lasat-kuṇḍalam gokule bhrājamanam
yaśodā-bhiyolūkhalād dhāvamānam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā

To the supreme controller, who possesses an eternal form of blissful knowledge, whose glistening earrings swing to and fro, who manifested Himself in Gokula, who stole the butter that the gopis kept hanging from the rafters of their storerooms and who then quickly jumped up and ran in retreat in fear of Mother Yasoda but was ultimately caught - to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.

(2)

rudantam muhur netra-yugmam mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha-
sthita-graivam dāmodaram bhakti-baddham

Upon seeing His mother's whipping stick, He cried and rubbed His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes were fearful and His breathing quick, and as Mother Yasoda bound His belly with ropes, He shivered in fright and His pearl necklace shook. To this Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.

(3)

itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣam nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvam
punaḥ prematas tam śatāvṛtti vande

Those superexcellent pastimes of Lord Krishna's babyhood drowned the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. To the devotees who are attracted only to His majestic aspect of Narayana in Vaikuntha, the Lord herein reveals: “I am conquered and overwhelmed by pure loving devotion.” To the Supreme Lord, Damodara, my obeisances hundreds and hundreds of times.

(4)

varam deva mokṣam na mokṣāvadhim vā
na canyam vṛṇe ‘ham vareṣād apīha
idam te vapur nātha gopāla-bālam
sadā me manasy āvirāstām kim anyaiḥ

O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon. My only prayer is that Your childhood pastimes may constantly appear in my mind. O Lord, I do not even want to know your feature of Paramatma. I simply wish that Your childhood pastimes may ever be enacted in my heart.

(5)

idam te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtam kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitam bimba-raktādharam me
manasy āvirāstām alam lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

O Lord, the cheeks of Your blackish lotus face, which is encircled by locks of curling hair, have become reddened like bimba fruits due to Mother Yasoda's kisses. What more can I describe than this? Millions of opulences are of no use to me, but may this vision constantly remain in my mind.

(6)

namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnam batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

O unlimited Vishnu! O master! O Lord! Be pleased upon me! I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and am almost like a dead man. Please shower the rain of mercy on me; uplift me and protect me with Your nectarean vision.

(7)

kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat
tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktim svakām me prayaccha
na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha

O Lord Damodara, in Your form as a baby Mother Yasoda bound You to a grinding stone with a rope for tying cows. You then freed the sons of Kuvera, Manigriva and Nalakuvara, who were cursed to stand as trees and You gave them the chance to become Your devotees. Please bless me in this same way. I have no desire for liberation into Your effulgence.

(8)

namas te 'stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo 'nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

O Lord, the entire universe was created by Lord Brahma, who was born from Your abdomen, which was bound with a rope by Mother Yasoda. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer my obeisances to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani and to Your unlimited pastimes.

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From Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.11.16-17, Purport, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:

"Baladeva [Balarama]: He is the divine son of Vasudeva by his wife Rohini. He is also known as Rohini-nandana, the beloved son of Rohini. He was also entrusted to Nanda Maharaja along with His mother, Rohini, when Vasudeva embraced imprisonment by mutual agreement with Kamsa. So Nanda Maharaja is also the foster father of Baladeva along with Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna and Lord Baladeva were constant companions from Their very childhood, although They were stepbrothers. He is the plenary manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore He is as good and powerful as Lord Krishna. He belongs to the vishnu-tattva (the principle of Godhead). He attended the svayamvara (selection of her bridegroom) ceremony of Draupadi along with Sri Krishna.

When Subhadra was kidnapped by Arjuna by the organized plan of Sri Krishna, Baladeva was very angry with Arjuna and wanted to kill him at once. Sri Krishna, for the sake of His dear friend, fell at the feet of Lord Baladeva and implored Him not to be so angry. Sri Baladeva was thus satisfied. Similarly, He was once very angry with the Kauravas, and He wanted to throw their whole city into the depths of the Yamuna. But the Kauravas satisfied Him by surrendering unto His divine lotus feet.

He was actually the seventh son of Devaki prior to the birth of Lord Krishna, but by the will of the Lord He was transferred to the womb of Rohini to escape the wrath of Kamsa. His other name is therefore Sankarsana, who is also the plenary portion of Sri Baladeva. Because He is as powerful as Lord Krishna and can bestow spiritual power to the devotees, He is therefore known as Baladeva.

In the Vedas also it is enjoined that no one can know the Supreme Lord without being favored by Baladeva. Bala means spiritual strength, not physical. Some less intelligent persons interpret bala as the strength of the body. But no one can have spiritual realization by physical strength. Physical strength ends with the end of the physical body, but spiritual strength follows the spirit soul to the next transmigration, and therefore the strength obtained by Baladeva is never wasted. The strength is eternal, and thus Baladeva is the original spiritual master of all devotees.


Sri Baladeva was also a class friend of Lord Sri Krishna as a student of Sandipani Muni. In His childhood He killed many asuras along with Sri Krishna, and specifically He killed the Dhenukasura at Talavana.

During the Kurukshetra battle, He remained neutral, and He tried His best not to bring about the fight. He was in favor of Duryodhana, but still He remained neutral. When there was a club-fight between Duryodhana and Bhimasena, He was present on the spot. He was angry at Bhimasena when the latter struck Duryodhana on the thigh or below the belt, and He wanted to retaliate the unfair action. Lord Sri Krishna saved Bhima from His wrath. But He left the place at once, being disgusted at Bhimasena, and after His departure Duryodhana fell to the ground to meet his death.

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