It’s half way through the year until the next month of Damodara lila but I’ve just came across a verse from Bhagavatam that made me look at it in a new way, and I think I know why – Srila Prabhupada gave it a slightly different translation when it appeared in Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya 19.205)
Although Kṛṣṇa is beyond sense perception and is unmanifest to human beings, he takes up the guise of a human being with a material body. Thus mother Yaśodā thought Him to be her son, and she bound Lord Kṛṣṇa with rope to a wooden mortar, as if He were an ordinary child.
Compare this to the Bhagavatam translation (SB 10.9.13-14) that takes two verses together:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no beginning and no end, no exterior and no interior, no front and no rear. In other words, He is all-pervading. Because He is not under the influence of the element of time, for Him there is no difference between past, present and future; He exists in His own transcendental form at all times. Being absolute, beyond relativity, He is free from distinctions between cause and effect, although He is the cause and effect of everything. That unmanifested person, who is beyond the perception of the senses, had now appeared as a human child, and mother Yaśodā, considering Him her own ordinary child, bound Him to the wooden mortar with a rope.
The effect on me was strikingly different even if two versions say basically the same thing.
Krishna “takes up the guise of a human being with a material body”. Is that a body of bliss? Does it look like body of bliss?
We are always taught that His body is transcendental. When we remember this pastime we talk how Mother Yashoda couldn’t tie Him and her rope was always two fingers short. We also remember how she once looked into His mouth and saw the entire universe inside.
All through the Krishna book Srila Prabhupada convinces us about Krishna’s unique powers. How He could kill all those demons, how He could mess with Brahma by taking forms of all His cowherd friends and so on.
Elsewhere we are also constantly taught about transcendental nature of Krishna’s body. How His every limb cab perform functions of any other. How He can taste our offerings with His eyes and so on.
As a result I’ve come to think of Krishna’s body only as a fountain of magic and bliss and nothing less than that.
What Mother Yashoda saw, however, was a little naughty boy with sweat on his face, his maskara smeared all over by his tears, his feet were dirty and there was probably dirt under his toenails, too. I’m also sure his head smelled like that of an ordinary boy who played several hours in the sun (not of milk and cookies). I bet there was snot running down from his nose, too, and if it wasn’t “my” boy I wouldn’t have touched him with a pole.
There’s nothing transcendental or blissful about Krishna when His intimate devotees look at Him. This “transcendence” is only to impress devotees either on material platform or in shanta and dasya rasas on Vaikunthas. There’s no “transcendence” in Vrindavana.
Somehow universe in Krishna’s mouth didn’t register with Mother Yashoda and His friends weren’t very impressed with Krishna holding Govardhana on His little finger for a week.
It didn’t look transcendental to them, nothing out of the ordinary.
So, is this what we are all striving for – stop seeing the Lord as having an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-blissful body? Looks so.
What has it got to do with us, however?
Deities, I think.
When we serve Deities with love and devotion we should stop thinking of Deity’s transcendence and magical awesomeness but accept that for His servants the Lord appears as doll of metal, just as He appears as a human child to Mother Yashoda.
That is not to say we should deviate from the mood of worship Srila Prabhupada had taught us but to realize that “awesome transcendeness” is not something we can’t see but should revere nevertheless. That faulty approach leads to thinking of Deity’s arms as mere symbols of Lord’s actual arms, ie we treat the Deity as an idol.
We can’t think of Deity’s arms as being material either. What to do?
Maybe we should reconsider what matter and spirit means. We assume that matter is something we can touch and spirit is something invisible and beyond our senses, but Deity is here, we can touch it if we are authorized and trained to do so, yet it’s not material.
And we should probably reconsider what “body of bliss” means, too. The Lord is blissful and when we serve Him we also feel bliss, yet this bliss doesn’t register on our skin when we touch the Deity, it’s felt inside our hearts, if we are pure enough.
That means that if we ever manifest external symptoms of bhava they won’t come from seeing or touching the Deity or the feet of our guru, it would come from inside our hearts. They won’t start in the tips of our fingers and spread from there.
What I’m getting to is that it’s not the bliss we can feel with our material senses so the word has no meaning to us on our current platform, so it’s better not to worry about it for now.
It’s going to be awesome and very different, that’s all, and it shouldn’t be our motivation for service. Mother Yashoda does not roll on the ground in ecstasy and that shouldn’t be our goal, too.