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The stealing of the boys and calves by Brahma.
It is the nature of paramahansas, highly advanced devotees, to hear and talk about Krishna at every moment, as if such topics were newer and newer. They are attached to such topics just as materialists are attached to the topics of women and sex. What is very sweet for the materialist is regarded as poison by the spiritualist.
After killing Aghasura, Krishna brought the cowherd boys and calves to the banks of the Yamuna. Krishna then said, “My dear friends, just see the pleasing atmosphere here on the banks of the river. The blooming lotuses are attracting the bumblebees by their aroma, and the chirping of the birds is echoing throughout the beautiful trees in the forest. Here, the sand is so soft and clean. The shore of the Yamuna must be considered the best of all places for our pastimes of play. I think that we should have our lunch here. It is already late and we are very hungry. Let the calves drink the water, and there is plenty of grass for them nearby.”
Accepting Krishna’s proposal, the cowherd boys let the calves drink the water of the Yamuna, and then tied them to trees where there was fresh, green grass. The boys then opened their baskets of food and began eating with Krishna in a mood of transcendental happiness.
Just as petals surround the whorl of a lotus flower, Krishna sat in the middle, while all of His friends sat around Him in a circle. (The Krishna consciousness movement is also an attempt to keep Krishna in the center.) All of the cowherd boys looked at Krishna, and it appeared to all of them as if Krishna was facing them.
Some of the boys put their food on flowers, some on leaves, on bunches of leaves, on rocks, or on tree bark, while some of them just ate from their baskets. In this way, the children imagined different kinds of plates as they ate their lunch. The boys shared with their friends the food that they had brought from home, just to show off the varieties of tastes. While tasting one another’s preparations, the boys would laugh.
Krishna sat with His flute tucked into His cloth at His waist on His right side, with His buffalo horn and stick for controlling the calves on the left. In His left hand, Krishna held a piece of food made from yogurt, fruit and rice. Indeed, His hand was so delicate that the food could be clearly seen through His petal-like fingers.
While eating, every boy manifested his unique relationship with Krishna and enjoyed joking words with Him, and thus a very jovial atmosphere was created.
At this time, the demigods were watching, being very surprised to see how the Supreme Lord, who eats only food that is offered in sacrifice, was now having a picnic in the forest, along with His friends.
While Krishna and His friends were conversing, however, the calves wandered off deep into the forest, searching for newer and newer grass. Upon realizing this, the boys became very perturbed, and so just to mitigate their fear, Krishna said, “My dear friends, do not stop eating. I shall bring the calves back here Myself.”
Saying this, Krishna took His rice and yogurt and immediately went to search for the calves. Just to please His friends, Krishna looked everywhere- in the hills, through the forests, and in the groves of bushes.
After witnessing Krishna’s prowess in killing Aghasura, Brahma wanted to exhibit his own power, just to test whether the Krishna present before him was actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead or not. For this purpose, in Krishna’s absence, Brahma took away all of the boys and calves and put them in another place.
After all, Brahma is a materially created being, with the four defects- brahma (the tendency to commit mistakes), pramada (the tendency to be illusioned), vipralipsa (the tendency to cheat), and karanapatava (imperfect senses). Thus, Brahma became influenced by Krishna’s maya, and so this pastime is called brahma-vimohana-lila, the pastime of bewildering Brahma. Actually, Brahma did not steal Krishna’s friends and cows, but instead took some other boys and calves. Just as Ravana wanted to take away Sita, but instead took a maya-Sita, so Brahma took away boys and calves that were manifested by Krishna’s maya.
Thereafter, when Krishna was unable to find the calves anywhere, He returned to the banks of the Yamuna, where He was also unable to find the cowherd boys. Thus He began to search for both the calves and the boys, as if He could not understand what had happened. This was done just to fool Brahma further.
Finally, just to give pleasure to Brahma, as well as the mothers of the boys and calves, Krishna expanded Himself, by His Vasudeva feature, as duplicate boys and calves. While thinking, “How can I return to Vrindavana alone? All of the mothers will be aggrieved!” Krishna expanded into calves and boys having the exact bodily features, particular bodily limbs, and having all of their sticks, flutes, bugles and lunch bags as before. All the boys were dressed and decorated in their own particular way, and their names, ages, personalities, and behavior were identical with the boys they replaced. This is a practical demonstration of the statement that Lord Vishnu is all-pervading.
As the leader of these calves and boys, Krishna returned to Vrindavana, acting as He usually would, by enjoying their company. Krishna Himself then entered the various cowsheds as calves, and different homes as the cowherd boys.
Hearing the sound of flutes and bugles, the mothers immediately got up from their household duties and went to meet their sons. After taking them upon their laps, the mothers embraced their sons and began to feed them with their breast milk, which flowed because of intense love for Krishna.
Although Krishna was the son of Yashoda, all of the elderly gopis thought, “If Krishna had been my son, I would have taken care of Him just like mother Yashoda.” This was their inner ambition. Now, just to fulfill their desire, Krishna personally took the role of their sons, and because of this, the mothers’ affection for their sons increased. Previously, the mothers had more affection for Krishna than for their own sons, but now that distinction disappeared. Indeed, the mothers treated their own sons and the sons of all the other cowherd women equally.
The mothers took care of the boys by massaging them with oil, bathing them, smearing their bodies with sandalwood paste, decorating them with ornaments, chanting protective mantras, decorating their bodies with tilaka, and giving them food. In this way, the mothers were now able to serve Krishna personally.
Similarly, when the calves returned home, their mothers began licking their bodies and feeding them profusely with the milk that flowed from their udders.
In this way, life in Vrindavana continued for one full year.
One day, Krishna entered the forest along with Balarama, tending the cows. Thereafter, as the cows were grazing atop Govardhana hill, they looked down to the pasturing ground below, hoping to find some green grass. When the cows spotted their calves, they forgot themselves and their caretakers, due to great affection. Although the path was very rough, and even though their front and hind legs were tied together, the cows ran toward their calves in great anxiety. While milk flowed from their udders, and their tails were standing erect, they ran with great energy until they reached their calves.
Even though the cows had given birth to new calves, after coming down from Govardhana Hill, because of increased affection, they allowed the older calves to drink their milk, while licking their bodies as if to swallow them.
The cowherd men felt ashamed and angry for being unable to check the cows from going to their calves. They came down from Govardhana Hill with great difficulty, but when they saw their sons, they became overwhelmed with great affection so that their anger became pacified. By lifting up their sons and embracing them, while smelling their heads, the cowherd men enjoyed the highest pleasure. Indeed, it was only with great reluctance that the cowherd men put aside their sons and returned to performing their duties. Thereafter, while remembering their sons, tears would glide down from their eyes.
When Baladeva saw how the cows had such great attachment for the calves that had grown up and thus had stopped drinking milk, he could not understand the reason for this. Thus, He thought, “What wonderful thing is happening? The affection of all the residents of Vrindavana, even Me, towards these boys and calves is increasing as never before, so that it is on the same level as our affection for Krishna. Whose mystic power is causing this? Is she some rakshasi or some demigoddess? She must be the illusory energy of My master, Lord Krishna, for who else could bewilder Me?”
While thinking in this way, Lord Balarama came to see with the eye of transcendental knowledge, that all of the calves and cowherd boys were expansions of Krishna’s form.
Lord Baladeva said, “O supreme controller! These boys are not great demigods, as I previously thought. Nor are these calves great sages like Narada. Now I can see that You are manifesting Yourself as all of them. Please explain this to Me. Where have the other boys and calves gone? Why are You expanding Yourself in this way? Please tell Me, what is the cause for this?”
In reply, Krishna briefly explained the whole situation, and this was just five or six days before the expiry of one year from the time when the cowherd boys and calves had been stolen.
Lord Brahma then returned after just a moment of time had passed, according to his measurement. Brahma wanted to see the fun created by his stealing of the cowherd boys and calves, but at the same time, he was afraid that he was playing with fire. Because Krishna was his master, Brahma was very anxious, and so he had only stayed away for just a moment.
Brahma saw that Krishna was playing with the cowherd boys, while tending the calves, just as He had been doing one year ago. On the day when Lord Brahma had stolen the cows and boys, Balarama had not gone with Krishna, for it was His birthday and His mother had kept Him at home, so that He could have His ceremonial bath. Lord Brahma returned exactly one year later, and so once again Balarama was not present.
Lord Brahma thought, “I took all of the boys and calves of Vrindavana and kept them sleeping within a cave, by my mystic power. Has Krishna brought them back here.”
Quickly, however, Brahma could understand that the original boys and calves were still under the control of his mystic power. Therefore he thought, “The same number of boys and calves have been with Krishna for a whole year, but they are not the ones that I illusioned by my mystic potency. Who are they? Where did they come from? Have these boys and calves been created by Krishna, or did He create the ones that are lying asleep?”
While thinking in this way for a long time, Brahma tried to distinguish between the two sets of boys, to understand who was real and who was not. But, Brahma could not understand what was happening. He even wondered, “After I go to the cave and see that all of the boys and calves are asleep, does Krishna bring them here for me to see? Then, afterwards, does He put them back?”
Although Brahma wanted to mystify Krishna, it was he who became bewildered. In other words, Brahma was defeated by his own attempt. When a person tries to use his power against a superior person, the result is that he becomes greatly diminished.
Then, as Brahma looked on, all of the calves and boys suddenly appeared to have complexions the color of a dark rain cloud, and they were dressed in yellow silk garments. All of these personalities had four arms- holding a conch shell, disc, mace and lotus flower in Their hands. They wore helmets on Their heads, and on Their chests was the emblem of the goddess of fortune (a curl of fine yellow hair on the upper portion of the right side of Lord Vishnu’s chest). Fully decorated with earrings, armlets, the Kaustubha gem hanging around Their necks, marks of three lines like a conch shell on Their necks, bangles and anklets and sacred belts around Their waists- They all appeared very beautiful.
Although the residents of Vaikuntha have such forms, the Shrivatsa mark and the Kaustubha gem are special characteristics possessed only by the Supreme Lord.
Brahma could see that every part of these personalities, from Their feet to the top of Their heads, was fully decorated with tulasi buds that had been offered to Them by devotees. By Their smiling, and the sidelong glances of Their reddish eyes, these Vishnu forms created and protected the desires of Their devotees. All beings, from the four-headed Brahma down to the most insignificant straw, were seen worshiping these Vishnu-murtis according to their capacities, by dancing around Them to the accompaniment of music.
All of the Vishnu-murtis were surrounded by the opulences, by the mystic potencies, and by the twenty-four elements of creation. Lord Brahma then saw that kala (time), svabhava (one’s nature by association), sanskara (reformation), kama (desire), karma (fruitive activity), and the gunas (the three modes of material nature), had all taken forms and were worshiping the Vishnu-murtis.
By the influence of these Vishnu-murtis, Lord Brahma became stunned and silent, and at last, he became practically blind. Taking compassion upon Brahma, Krishna removed the curtain of His yogamaya. Brahma’s external consciousness was thus revived, and he stood up, just like a dead man coming back to life. After opening his eyes with great difficulty, Brahma saw the universe and himself just as before. Looking around, Brahma saw Vrindavana filled with trees that were very pleasing to see, and which were the means of livelihood for the inhabitants (and not factories).
Vrindavana is the transcendental abode of the Lord, where there is no hunger, anger or thirst. Though naturally inimical, human beings and fierce animals, even tigers and deer, live together in transcendental friendship.
Lord Brahma saw the Absolute Truth appearing as a child, standing alone, just as before, with a morsel of food in His hand, searching everywhere for the calves and His cowherd friends. Because Brahma had some false prestige, Krishna showed him his real position, so that now he could appreciate their eternal relationship.
Lord Brahma hastily got down from his swan carrier and fell like a golden rod (his complexion is golden), touching the lotus feet of Lord Krishna with the tips of the four crowns on his heads. While offering his obeisances, Brahma bathed Krishna’s lotus feet with the water of his tears of joy. Rising and falling again and again at the lotus feet of Krishna for a long time, Brahma remembered over and over the greatness of the Lord that he had seen. Finally, Brahma got up very slowly and wiped his eyes. Bowing his head low, with his mind concentrated and his body trembling, he very humbly began, with faltering words, to offer his prayers.