With the sudden disappearance of the cowherd boys and calves, Lord Krsna made sure no one—not even their parents—would know they were missing.
Lord Balarama asked His brother Krsna why the cows and cowherd men bad. become so unusually affectionate toward their offspring.
Fifty centuries ago Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth in the village of Vrndavana, in northern India, and displayed His transcendental pastimes as a cowherd boy.
One day Lord Krsna brought His friends to the Yamuna River and said, “Just see how this riverbank is extremely beautiful because of its pleasing atmosphere. And just see how the blooming lotuses are attracting bees and birds by their aroma. The humming and chirping of the bees and birds is echoing throughout the beautiful trees in the forest. Also, here the sands are clean and soft. Therefore, this must be considered the best place for our sporting and pastimes.”
This description of Vrndavana forest was spoken by Krsna five thousand years ago, and the same sounds and atmosphere still prevail. Vrndavana forest is always filled with the chirping and cooing of birds like cuckoos, ducks, cranes, and peacocks, and everyone who visits there is pleased to hear these sounds.
Krsna then said, “I think we should take our lunch here, since we are already hungry because the time is very late. Here the calves may drink water and go slowly here and there and eat the grass.”
Accepting Lord Krsna’s proposal, the cowherd boys allowed the calves to drink water from the river and then tied them to trees where there was green, tender grass. Then the boys opened their baskets of food and began eating with Krsna in great transcendental pleasure.
Like the whorl of a lotus flower surrounded by petals and leaves, Krsna sat in the center, encircled by His friends, who all looked very beautiful. Every one of them was trying to look toward Krsna, thinking that Krsna might look toward him. In this way they all enjoyed their lunch in the forest. If we, too, can keep Krsna in the center, all our activities will automatically become beautiful and blissful.
Among the cowherd boys, some placed their lunch on flowers; some on leaves, fruits, or bunches of leaves, some actually in their baskets; some on the bark of trees; and some on rocks.
Sometimes one friend would say, “Krsna, see how relishable my food is,” and Krsna would take some and laugh. In this way the friends very jubilantly began to eat.
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is yajna-bhuk—thatis, He eats only offerings of yajna (sacrifice)—but to exhibit His childhood pastimes, He now sat with His flute tucked between His waist and His tight cloth on His right side and with His horn bugle and cow-driving stick on His left. Holding in His hand a very nice preparation of yogurt and rice, with pieces of suitable fruit between His fingers, He sat like the whorl of a lotus flower, looking forward toward all His friends, personally joking with them, and creating jubilant laughter among them as He ate. The inhabitants of the higher planets were astonished at how the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who eats only when yajna is offered, was now eating like an ordinary child with His friends in the forest.
While the cowherd boys, who knew nothing within the core of their hearts but Krsna, were thus engaged in eating their lunch, the calves went far away, deep into the forest, being allured by green grass.
When Krsna saw that His friends the cowherd boys were frightened, He (the fierce controller of fear itself) said, just to mitigate their fear, “My dear friends, do not stop eating. I shall bring your calves back to this spot by personally going after them Myself.”
In the presence of Krsna’s friendship, a devotee cannot have any fear. Krsna is the supreme controller, the controller even of death, which is supposed to be the ultimate fear in this material world. Therefore, everyone should take shelter of the Supreme Person, who is the source of fearlessness, and thus be secure.
“Let Me go and search for the calves,” Krsna said. “Don’t disturb your enjoyment.” Then, carrying His yogurt and rice in His hand, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, immediately went out to search for the calves. To please His friends, He began searching through all the mountains, mountain caves, bushes, and narrow passages.
The Vedas assert that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has nothing to do personally, because He is doing everything—creating, maintaining, and destroying millions of universes—through His energies and potencies. Nonetheless, here we see that He took personal care to find the calves of His friends. This was Krsna’s causeless mercy.
All this time the great demigod Brahma, the appointed supervisor of this particular universe, had been watching Krsna. Brahma decided to show some of his own power and test the power of Krsna, who was engaged in His childhood pastimes. Therefore, in Krsna’s absence Brahma took all the boys and calves to another place. Thus he became entangled, for in the very near future he would see how powerful Krsna was. Even the demigods cannot understand Krsna. Everyone, from Brahma down to the small insect, must take lessons from Krsna.
Thereafter, when Krsna was unable to find the calves, He returned to the bank of the river, but there He was also unable to see the cowherd boys. Krsna could immediately understand that Brahma had taken away both the calves and the boys, but as an innocent child He searched here and there, so that Brahma could not understand His mind. This was all a dramatic performance. A player knows everything, but still he plays on the stage in such a way that others do not understand him. Brahma was already bewildered by Krsna’s activities as an innocent child, and now he would be further bewildered. This pastime is thus called brahma-vimohana, the bewilderment of Brahma.
Thereafter, just to create pleasure both for Brahma and for the mothers of the calves and cowherd boys, Krsna, the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation, expanded Himself as calves and boys. Thus Krsna reestablished the lunch pastimes in the forest, replacing all the calves and boys just as they had appeared before. According to the Vedas, the Personality of Godhead can become many, many millions upon millions of calves and cowherd boys, as He did to bewilder Brahma more and more.
At once Krsna expanded Himself into the exact number of missing cowherd boys and calves, with their exact bodily features, their particular types of hands, legs and other limbs, their sticks, bugles and flutes, their lunch bags, their particular types of dress and ornaments placed in various ways, their names, ages and forms, and their special activities and qualities. By expanding Himself in this way, beautiful Krsna proved the statement samagra jagat visnu-maya, “Lord Visnu is all-pervading.”
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the beginning of everything. He is the ever-youthful original person. He can expand Himself in more forms than one can imagine, yet He does not fall down from His original form as Krsna. Krsna thus proved that He is everything, that He can become everything, but that still He is personally different from everything. This is explained by different Krsna conscious spiritual masters (acaryas). Therefore one must learn about Krsna from the acaryas. Acaryavan puruso veda: one who follows the path of the acaryas knows things as they are. Such a person can know Krsna as He is, at least to some extent, and as soon as one understands Krsna, one is liberated from material bondage.
Now expanding Himself so as to appear as all the calves and cowherd boys, all of them as they were, and at the same time appearing as their leader, Krsna entered the land of Vrndavana, just as He usually did. He was ordering His friends to do this and that, and He was controlling the calves and going into the forest to search for them when they went astray, allured by new grass. But these calves and boys were He Himself. This was Krsna’s inconceivable potency.
Krsna, who had divided Himself as different calves and also as different cowherd boys, entered different cow sheds as the calves and then different homes as different boys. Krsna had many friends, of whom Sridama, Sudama, and Subala were prominent. Thus Krsna Himself became Sridama, Sudama, and Subala and entered their respective houses with their respective calves.
The mothers of the boys, upon hearing the sounds of the flutes and bugles being played by their sons, immediately rose from their household tasks, lifted their boys onto their laps, embraced them with both arms, and began to feed them with their breast milk, which flowed forth because of extreme love specifically for Krsna. Although the elderly cowherd women (gopis) knew that Krsna was the son of mother Yasoda, they still desired, “If Krsna had become my son, I would also have taken care of Him like mother Yasoda.” This was their inner ambition. Now, in order to please them, Krsna personally took the role of their sons and fulfilled their desire. They enhanced their special love for Krsna by embracing Him and feeding Him, and Krsna tasted their breast milk to be just like a nectarean beverage. While thus bewildering Brahma, He enjoyed the special transcendental pleasure created between all the mothers and Himself. The mothers took care of the boys by massaging them with oil, bathing them, smearing their bodies with sandalwood pulp, decorating them with ornaments, chanting protective mantras, and giving them food. In this way, the mothers enjoyed serving Krsna personally.
Thereafter, all the cows entered their different sheds and began mooing loudly, calling for their respective calves. When the calves arrived, the mothers began licking the calves’ bodies again and again and profusely feeding them with the milk flowing from their milk bags. All the dealings between the calves and their respective mothers taking care of them were enacted by Krsna Himself.
Although the inhabitants of Vrndavana, the cowherd men and cowherd women, previously had more affection for Krsna than for their own children, now, for one year, their affection for their own sons continuously increased, for Krsna had now become their sons. Every day they found new inspiration for loving their children as much as they loved Krsna. In this way Lord Sri Krsna, having Himself become the cowherd boys and groups of calves, maintained Himself by Himself. Thus He continued His pastimes, both in Vrndavana and in the forest, for one year.
One day, five or six nights before the completion of the year, Krsna, tending the calves, entered the forest along with His brother Balarama. Up to this time even Balarama was captivated by the bewilderment that covered Brahma. Even Balarama did not know that all the calves and cowherd boys were expansions of Krsna or that He Himself was also an expansion of Krsna.
While pasturing atop Govardhana Hill, the cows looked down to find some green grass and saw their calves pasturing near Vrndavana, not very far away. Generally, the calves and cows are pastured separately. The elderly men take care of the cows, and the small children see to the calves. This time, however, the cows immediately forgot their position as soon as they saw the calves below Govardhana Hill, and they ran with great force, their tails erect and their front and hind legs joined, until they reached their calves.
The cows had given birth to new calves, but while coming down from Govardhana Hill, the cows, because of increased affection for their older calves, allowed the older calves to drink milk from their milk bags and then began licking the calves’ bodies in anxiety, as if wanting to swallow them.
The cowherd men, having been unable to check the cows from going to their older calves, felt simultaneously ashamed and angry. They crossed the rough road with great difficulty, but when they came down and saw their own sons, they were overwhelmed by great affection. Their anger completely disappearing, they lifted their sons and embraced them in their arms. Because the boys were actually Krsna’s expansions, the cowherd men were especially attracted to them. Thereafter, the elderly cowherd men, having obtained great feeling from embracing their sons, gradually and with great difficulty and reluctance ceased embracing them and returned to the forest. But as the men remembered their sons, tears began to roll down from their eyes.
These surprising events were taking place by the manipulation of Krsna’s spiritual energy, yogamaya. There are two mayas, or energies, working under the direction of Krsna—mahamaya, the energy of the material world, and yogamaya, the energy of the spiritual world. These uncommon events were taking place because of the influence of yogamaya. From the very day on which Brahma stole the calves and boys, yogamaya acted in such a way that the residents of Vrndavana, including even Lord Balarama, could not understand how yogamaya was working and causing such uncommon things to happen. But as yogamaya gradually acted, Balarama in particular was able to understand what was happening, and therefore He began to consider as follows.
“What is this wonderful phenomenon? The affection of all the inhabitants of Vraja, including Me, toward these boys and calves is now increasing as never before, just like our affection for Lord Krsna, the Supersoul of all living entities.”
Balarama was astonished to see all the residents of Vrndavana so affectionate for their own children, exactly as they had been for Krsna. Similarly, the cows had grown affectionate for their calvesas much as for Krsna. Balarama was surprised to see the actions of yogamaya. Therefore He inquired from Krsna, “What is happening here? What is this mystery?”
Balarama was surprised. This extraordinary show of affection, He thought, was something mystical, performed either by the demigods or by some wonderful man. Otherwise, how could this wonderful change take place? “This maya might be some raksasi-maya [illusory energy of a demoness],” He thought, “but how can raksasi-maya have any influence upon Me? This is not possible. [Lord Balarama is as powerful as Lord Krsna.] Therefore it must be the maya of Krsna.” Thus Balarama understood that all these boys and calves were only expansions of Krsna.
Thinking in this way, Lord Balarama was able to see, with the eye of transcendental knowledge, that all these calves and Krsna’s friends were expansions of the form of Sri Krsna. In daily life we see that every individual is different. There are even differences between twin brothers. Yet when Krsna expanded Himself as the boys and calves, each boy and each calf appeared in his own original feature, with the same individual way of acting, the same tendencies, the same color, the same dress, and so on, for Krsna manifested Himself with all these differences. This was Krsna’s opulence.
Inquiring from Krsna about the actual situation, Lord Balarama said, “My dear Krsna, in the beginning I thought that all these cows, calves, and cowherd boys were either great sages and saintly persons or demigods, but at the present it appears that they are actually Your expansions. They are all You; You Yourself are playing as the calves and cows and boys. What is the mystery of this situation? Where have those other calves and cows and boys gone? And why are You expanding Yourself as the cows, calves, and boys? Will You kindly tell Me what is the cause?”
At the request of Balarama, Krsna briefly explained the whole situation: how the calves and boys were stolen by Brahma and how He was concealing the incident by expanding Himself so that people would not know that the original cows, calves, and boys were missing. Balarama understood, therefore, that this was not maya but Krsna’s opulence. Krsna has all opulences, and this was but another opulence of Krsna. According to the Vedic version, eko bahu syama: Krsna can expand Himself into many thousands and millions but still remain one.
To Be Continued Next Issue
[Adapted from the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]