BHAKTA-VASYATA: BOUND BY LOVE
By Gauranga Darshan Das
“The Supreme Controller loves to be controlled by the love of His great devotees.”
God is defined as the Supreme Being and understood to be the source, master, and controller of everything that be. Thus many people worship Him in reverence and depend on Him for protection. However, even God also sometimes desires to be controlled by someone else. Such a controller can only be His pure devotee, who conquers Him by the power of his or her loving devotional service. Various devotees and poets like Srila Sukadeva Gosvami describe this quality of the Supreme Godhead Krsna by words like – bhakta-vasyata (controlled by devotees), bhrtya-vasyata (controlled by servitors), bhaktair-jitatvam (conquered by devotees), bhakti-baddham (bound by loving devotion), bhakta-paradhina (dependent on devotees) and so on.
Controlled by Devotees
The entire universe, with its great, exalted demigods like Lord Siva, Lord Brahma and Lord Indra, is under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Yet He has one transcendental attribute: He comes under the control of His devotees (bhrtya-vasyata). Krsna reveals this quality of being controlled by His devotees vividly in His various dealings with the Vrajavasis, who consider Him as their life and soul, and who dedicate their bodies, minds and words for His pleasure alone. Krsna takes great pleasure in being bound by their loving service through mellows like friendship, parental affection and conjugal love.
The Supreme Proprietor Steals
Lord Krsna is the supreme unrivalled proprietor and master of all the material and spiritual worlds and He is served by thousands of goddesses of fortune. Nonetheless, He steals butter in the houses of the vraja-gopis, as if He were poverty-stricken. Knowing that Krsna steals butter in their houses, the gopis invent various means to hide the butter from Him by hanging the butter pots from the ceiling or keeping them in dark rooms and so on. But Krsna cleverly reaches them by inventing newer methods of stealing (steya-yogaih). The gopis relish these activities of Krsna, but externally they chastise Him. These simple gopis are very much appreciative of Yasoda’s fortune of being Krsna’s mother. However, they think that she must be bereft of the pleasure of witnessing Krsna’s stealing pastimes for He wouldn’t steal butter in her house.
Complaints of Love
To give the same pleasure to Yasoda, the gopis go to her house to narrate Krsna’s stealing acts in the form of criticism and complaints against Him. Krsna’s pastimes are very enchanting, but when His pure devotees like the gopis (or Sukadeva Gosvami in the Bhagavatam, suka-mukhad amrta-drava-samyutam) narrate them, they appear more nectarean, being mixed with the love of the devotee. Thus, Mother Yasoda experienced a greater pleasure upon hearing about Krsna’s stealing activities from the gopis than the gopis did themselves by directly witnessing them. The gopis’ apparent angry complaints are nothing but expressions of their loving affection for Krsna.
The Absolute Truth Lies
When the gopis complain, Krsna often doesn’t admit His naughty activities. Instead, He speaks so many lies against them and claims innocence in front of Mother Yasoda. Krsna is the Supreme Absolute Truth (satyam param), whose eternal existence is beyond the creation, maintenance and dissolution of this material cosmos, of which He is the ultimate cause. Yet, He often lies to the gopis, cheats them, tricks them, bewilders them, and in this way captivates their hearts. Krsna steals butter and performs so much mischief in Yasoda’s house, but when questioned by her, He cleverly makes false statements that fascinatingly have deeper and more truthful meanings! For instance, when Yasoda asked Krsna, “Who distributed butter to the monkeys?” Krsna cleverly replied, “The one who created them!”
Cause Behind Contradictions
The falsehood of the Absolute Truth is a special ornament of His character that charms His devotees. By acting in many contradictory ways, Krsna actually relishes the love of His devotees and also expresses His love for them. To manifest this quality of “bhakta-vasyata,” Krsna sometimes relinquishes His other opulences and attributes, and proudly declares to everyone the glories of His devotees who have full control over Him (darsayams tad-vidam loka atmano bhakta-vasyatam, SB 10.11.9). Damodara-lila is an unparalleled example in which Krsna behaves in such contradictory ways to exhibit His quality of “bhakta-vasyata.”
The Self-Satisfied Becomes Hungry
One early Dipavali morning, engaging her maidservants in various activities, Mother Yasoda personally started churning butter for Krsna. She engaged her body in churning, her mind in thinking of her beloved son, and her words in singing about His activities. In this way her complete absorption attracted Krsna who is all-attractive and self-satisfied in all respects (atmarama). Krsna got up from sleep and came to her eagerly, hungry for her milk (stanya-kama). Krsna climbed on her lap, His own property, and she started to breast-feed Him. A transcendental competition between Yasoda’s love in the form of her milk and Krsna’s hunger for it started. Both knew no bounds, yet the milk sometimes overflowed from His mouth, forming small rivulets of milk. This feeding went on for a good while, losing all sense of time!
Peace Personified Becomes Angry
Suddenly, the special milk of the Padma-gandha cows boiling in the kitchen started overflowing, and to save it, Yasoda immediately kept Krsna aside and ran there. Upon being deprived of His mother’s milk, greedy Krsna became very dissatisfied. Krsna is known as visuddha-sattva vigraha, or one in pure goodness devoid of any tinges of passion and ignorance. Yet He shed tears and now manifested anger, breaking a pot of yogurt and stealing butter. He started distributing the butter to monkeys, restlessly looking around, anxious that His mother might come and punish Him at any time.
Time Personified Flees in Fear
As it is common for a thief to leave some clue, Krsna left a clue for Mother Yasoda to catch Him – His butter footprints. Following them, Yasoda, desiring to teach a lesson to her naughty child Krsna, the all-knowledgeable, reached there calmly, with a stick in her hand. Krsna was shocked! Although fear personified and even Yamaraja fears Krsna, He was now fearful of Yasoda’s stick. Krsna ran towards the main gate, hoping that Yasoda wouldn’t punish Him in public.
The Fastest Becomes Caught
Despite her fatigue Mother Yasoda chased Krsna with great determination, but Krsna looked behind often and always kept Himself at a safe distance, at least a hand’s length away from Her. At times she almost caught Him, but just missed. The yogis cannot capture Krsna within their hearts and the Upanisads declare that He can run faster than the mind, but now a simple gopi of Vrndavana, Yasoda, finally captured Him, although He wanted to avoid being arrested by her. This is the greatness of her pure love.
The Condensed Bliss Cries
Although she did not intend to beat Him, Yasoda then threatened Krsna by raising her stick. Krsna became more afraid and cried, His genuine tears mixing with the black ointment around His eyes. Usually when Krsna cries, Yasoda would wipe His tears wit her cloth, but now He Himself rubbed His eyes with His own hands, and thus smeared the ointment all over His face. He trembled in fear and breathed heavily as He cried. Although His soothing smile dries up the ocean of tears created by the lamentation of the conditioned souls, He was now crying in fear of His mother. And although the breathing of His expansion, Maha-Visnu, generates millions of brahmandas, He was Himself now breathing heavily in anxiety.
The Object of Prayers Gets Scolded
Yasoda scolded Krsna for all His offenses of breaking pot, stealing butter, distributing it to the monkeys and fleeing away, while making her run behind Him. Considering Him as her son, out of her intense maternal affection, she became eager to discipline Him and train Him as a good human being. She chastised Him by calling Him a restless, greedy, hot-tempered boy, a monkey-lover and a house-plunderer. She threatened Him, saying that she wouldn’t feed Him milk products or give Him toys or allow Him to play with His playmates.
The Supreme Judge Awaits Judgement
Krsna was guilty! His fate was completely in His mother’s hands. She might punish Him, bind Him or release Him at her will. Krsna bent His head low in front of Yasoda and promised her that He wouldn’t do such mischief anymore and anxiously pleaded for her to drop the stick. Due to her intense affection, Yasoda became worried to see His distress and suspected that He might run away due to fear, anger and fickleness. Unaware of His prowess, she thought it wise to bind Him and keep Him home, while she was busy with her household chores. Thus, she ordered her servants to get some soft ropes.
An Attempt to Bind the All-Pervading
The Supreme Lord Krsna is all-pervading in time and space. He has no beginning or end, no exterior or interior, no front or rear and is beyond sense perception (adhoksaja). Mother Yasoda, considering Him her own child, tried to bind Him to the wooden mortar with a rope. She tried to tie up with her cords of strong prema the all-pervading Lord of all, who binds up with the ropes of maya everyone from Brahma to the blade of grass.
Fist-Sized Waist Not Bound by Meters of Rope
Krsna didn’t want to be bound! He desired to do His daily duties of stealing yogurt and playing with His friends. So, His satya sankalpa-sakti (power to fulfill His every desire) inspired His vibhuti-sakti (power of showing His opulence) to manifest in His body. Thus, the rope of Mother Yasoda became two fingers too short in binding Him. She got more and more ropes and tied them together, but the rope was always two fingers too short.
Divinity’s Desire Vs. Devotee’s Determination
Yasoda’s determination didn’t slacken despite her failure. So, Krsna had to transform His desire. Seeing her loving endeavor (parisrama), Krsna became merciful (krpa). Krsna’s krpa-sakti which reigns as the king of all His potencies and illuminates all others, melts the heart of the Lord and turns it into butter. It made His satya sankalpa and vibhuti saktis immediately disappear. The distance of two fingers was filled by the devotee’s endeavor and the Lord’s causeless mercy. The bhakta-nistha, or the firm faith of the devotee seen in his or her tireless endeavors to serve and worship Krsna, and the sva-nistha or the steady quality in Krsna, which brings forth His mercy upon seeing the devotee’s efforts, causes Krsna to be bound. In the absence of these two, the rope will remain two fingers too short.
sva-matuh svinna-gatraya visrasta-kabara-srajah
drstva parisramam krsnah krpayasit sva-bandhane
The Liberator in Bondage
Thus, Krsna, who can liberate everyone from material bondage, is Himself bound by the love of His devotee. The rope with which Yasoda bound Him is the rope of her pure love. In this Damodara-lila, Krsna shows Yasoda and the whole world that only love can bind Him. And even in that bound up state, He retains His quality of liberating others. Therefore He was able to liberate the sons of Kuvera by pulling down the Yamalarjuna trees. In His liberating them, He again exhibited His quality of being controlled by His devotee, because it was His devotee Narada who desired that the sons of Kuvera be liberated by Krsna.
The Possessor of All Qualities and Their Opposites
To show this quality of being controlled by His devotees, Krsna acts against some of His innate qualities. There is no contradiction in this, because Krsna possesses all the qualities and all their opposites too. He is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest. He is within everything and apart from everything. His quality of being merciful to His devotees, being controlled by their loving devotional service, stands as the epitome of all His attributes. Thus the process of bhakti is glorified in Damodara-lila.
nayam sukhapo bhagavan dehinam gopika-sutah
jnaninam catma-bhutanam yatha bhaktimatam iha
Lord Krsna, the son of Mother Yasoda, is easily accessible to devotees engaged in spontaneous loving service, but not to mental speculators, aspirants of self-realization, or those in bodily identification. (SB 10.9.21)
The Devotee Becomes Greater than God
Krsna is asamordhva – no one is equal to Him or greater than Him. Some philosophers may want to become one with God, but in Vaisnava philosophy the devotee becomes so much more powerful than God that he or she can control God. The Supreme Godhead Krsna elevates His devotee beyond His own position, just as Arjuna became the hero at Kuruksetra while Krsna was simply his chariot driver. Mother Yasoda is the epitome of vatsalya-rasa. The word “yasoda” means “giver of fame.” By binding Krsna with her ropes of love, Yasoda gave Krsna the fame of being controlled by His devotees. The glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are studied through the three Vedas, the Upanisads, the literature of Sankhya-yoga, and other Vaisnava literature, yet Mother Yasoda considered that Supreme Person her ordinary child out of Her intense affection for Him (trayya copanisadbhis ca… SB 10.8.45). Sukadeva Gosvami glorifies her, saying that neither Lord Brahma, nor Lord Siva, nor even the goddess of fortune, who is always the better half of the Supreme Lord, can obtain from the Supreme Lord, the deliverer from this material world, such mercy as received by Mother Yasoda. (nemam virinco na bhavo… SB 10.9.20).
To love and be loved is the need and innate nature of every person, not to speak of the Supreme Person Krsna. Krsna loves every individual soul who is His part and parcel and He desires that they also love Him. However only His unalloyed devotees completely realize their relationship with Krsna and love Him unconditionally. Love also constitutes being controlled and dominated by the beloved and thus presenting oneself as a subordinate to such love. Thus Krsna finds great pleasure in being controlled by His unalloyed devotees and is practically sold out by their love. This quality of Krsna’s is celebrated as bhakta-vasyata.