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Meditating on the Damodarashtakam: Verse 3 & 4

By: for on Nov. 20, 2015

Verse 3: When sweetness supersedes greatness, love conquers the beloved

From the third verse, the song shifts from narration to exposition, dwelling on the significance of what has just happened. By such pastimes, Krishna inundates his devotees in a lake of bliss (ananda-kunda) and educates those attracted toward his majestic form that he is conquered only by intimate devotion.

God is both great and sweet. Awareness of his greatness evokes submission, and awareness of his sweetness evokes affection. Devotee-seekers need to be aware of both features, for submission and affection symbiotically reinforce devotion. But for exalted devotees such as Yashoda, their awareness of Krishna’s greatness is almost entirely eclipsed by their absorption in his sweetness. Yashoda is concerned not about how great Krishna is, but about how greatly he depends on her. If she doesn’t feed him, he will become weak and may even die. If she doesn’t invoke auspiciousness for him by her prayers, evil may befall him. If she doesn’t discipline him, he will become spoilt. Such intense love that is oblivious to his greatness is supremely endearing to Krishna – it enables him to relish the full gamut of reciprocal relationships. When his devotees are too aware of his greatness, that awareness inhibits their expression of love for him, thus limiting the range of possible loving reciprocations.

In this pastime, Krishna lets himself be tied, conveying that he is conquered by pure love. Thus, he encourages all devotees to rise in their God consciousness towards the level of unfettered love.

Meditating on Krishna’s loving nature, the poet Satyavrata Muni becomes overwhelmed by love and offers obeisance – not once, but hundreds of times. 

Verse 4 – Love desires nothing other than the beloved

The song now addresses a theme common to most prayers – an appeal for benedictions. Satyavrata Muni acknowledges the Lord’s capacity to give benedictions by addressing him with two pertinent names: varam-deva (the giver of benedictions) and varesha (the Lord of benedictions). But he follows that acknowledgment by immediately refusing the benediction of liberation.

To appreciate the magnitude of this refusal, we need to understand the underlying worldview. People in general are materialistic and their materialism carries into their religion. So, when they approach God, they pray for various material things. The Vedas encourage such pious materialism as a stepping-stone towards pure spiritual love. The Vedic worldview is based on a tri-level cosmology with the earth occupying an intermediate level between the upper heavenly realms and the lower hellish realms. In the Vedic worldview, ascent to heavens is often considered the highest benediction. But Satyavrata Muni’s devotion is so exalted that the heavens are not even mentioned – even for the sake of rejection. In this context, any reference to heavens may be compared to the assertion, “Not even wrong!” used to discount an answer that is so far out of the ballpark as to be not worth dignifying by being called wrong.

The Upanishads go beyond the pious materialism of the Vedas to a world-rejecting transcendence. In the Upanishadic worldview, liberation is often considered the ultimate attainment. Satyavrata Muni’s rejection of liberation suggests that he aspires for something higher. Does he aspire for God’s personal abode, Vaikuntha? No, for he also rejects the benediction higher than liberation, which Sanatana Goswami explains is the attainment of Vaikuntha. Then the sage refuses any other benediction that might be considered worthwhile. All this negation is the buildup to the climactic expression of his cherished aspiration: constant meditation on the Lord who has manifested in the form of a cowherd boy.

This aspiration is a riveting testimony to the purity of his love. In pure love, we desire our beloved more than anything else and turn away from anything that turns us away from the beloved. Here meditation on this love-filled Damodara pastime has triggered such a rapture of devotional ecstasy in the sage that nothing else holds any appeal. Thus, he desires to forever meditate on this supremely relishable pastime. Reiterating his aspiration, he concludes by asking rhetorically: What other benediction is desirable?

[ damodara ] [ damodarashtaka ] [ kartik ]