Complaints of Love
by Gauranga Darshan Das
Krishna’s pastimes are most enchanting, but when His devotees narrate them, they taste even more nectarean, being mixed with their love.
Isn’t it ironic to see a rich man steal like a petty thief? Isn’t it even more astonishing to see him steal food, as if he were a hungry, poverty-stricken man?! What if God acts like this?
Lord Krishna is the supreme proprietor of all the material and spiritual worlds and is the husband of the goddess of fortune. He is the son of the king of Vrndavana, Nanda Maharaja, and is lovingly raised by queen Yasoda. Yet He is accustomed to stealing in the houses of vraja-gopis, the ladies of Vrndavana. And what does He steal? Not gold or wealth, but some milk, curd, and butter!
Krishna’s naughty pranks know no bounds. Although the gopis relish them, they rebuked Him externally. They went to mother Yasoda and lodged complaints against Krishna. And at times Yasoda defended her darling Krishna, who acts innocently. The following is just a sample verse from the Bhagavatam (10.8.29) that the gopis spoke to Yasoda, describing the stealing activities of naughty Krishna.
vatsan muncan kvacid asamaye krosa-sanjata-hasah
steyam svadv atty atha dadhi-payah kalpitaih steya-yogaih
markan bhoksyan vibhajati sa cen natti bhandam bhinnatti
dravyalabhe sagrha-kupito yaty upakrosya tokan
Releases calves at odd times (vatsan muncan kvacid asamaye)
The gopis said in agitation, “Krishna comes to our houses and releases the calves (vatsan muncan).”
Yasoda said, “What is Krishna’s fault in this? He cares for the calves.”
The gopis, “But He does it when it is not milking time (kvacid asamaye). The calves naturally drink all the milk, and when we go for milking the cows, we don’t get any milk!”
Yasoda, “Krishna is just a child. He has done this out of ignorance. There are many people in the house. Can they not prevent it?”
The gopis, “No, this boy comes when they are busy in various household engagements, and then releases our calves.”
Yasoda, “Why don’t you frighten Him?”
Mellows down anger with a smile (krosa-sanjata-hasah)
The gopis, “When we become angry (krosa-sanjata) at Him and shout, ‘Beat Him, tie Him up…’ He merely smiles (hasah). Smitten by His intoxicating smile, we just helplessly watch Him do His dirty work.”
Yasoda asked, “But, why does He release the calves at all?”
Eats milk products by stealing (steyam svadv atty atha dadhi-payah)
Laughing, the gopis imitate Krishna’s answer, “‘I want to drink milk!’” They described, “Krishna releases the calves to make people run here and there. And then He enters our houses, steals whatever He likes and eats (steyam atty atha) our tasty (svadv) milk and curd (dadhi-payah). Yet, we are unable to do anything, while He drinks the milk and curd even as He relishes the spoils of His thievery right in front of our eyes! He just sits there and eating, not even posturing to running away, while we stand there watching His antics bewildered by His smile.”
Yasoda said, “Oh you are so unkind! Why didn’t you just give Him some milk before He takes it by Himself? The boy must be hungry. Why don’t you just let Him eat till His belly’s full?”
With smiling brows, the gopis said, “His belly is always full, since He is always being fed by you. It is not a question of hunger. He has a taste for stealing! He wants stolen milk only, not the milk which we give Him. If we give Him milk, He will not drink it.”
Yasoda said, “Fine! But what is the loss if He takes little milk from your storehouse?”
The gopis replied, “He takes the tastiest milk (svadv) that we set aside for our husbands.”
Yasoda defended Krishna, “It is not possible for an untaught, innocent child to steal from you, for you are very clever.”
Invents ways of stealing (kalpitaih steya-yogaih)
The gopis described Krishna’s expertise in stealing, “Innocent! Your son is uncannily intelligent. He has invented (kalpitaih) innovative methods of stealing (steya-yogaih) unseen or unheard of. He is so skillful that He releases our calves even whilst we are directly watching, mystifying us with His smile.”
Yasoda said, “This is the result of piety of your ancestors that Krishna is enjoying at your homes what is not given by you misers. Why don’t you accept this joyfully?”
Distributes butter to monkeys (markan bhoksyan vibhajati)
The gopis said, “We are happy if He eats our butter, even with His friends. But before He eats it, He divides it (vibhajati) and gives it to the monkeys to eat (markan bhoksyan). But the monkeys had overeaten already and their bellies were already full.”
Breaks pots (sa cen natti bhandam bhinnatti)
The gopis continued, “So they don’t eat. Even if one monkey does not eat the butter (sa cen na atti), Krishna also does not eat it! He would say, ‘Without you, what is the use of My eating? I will not eat.’” Then, in distress, He simply breaks the pots (bhandam bhinnatti). And sometimes, since He has eaten already, He does not eat the stolen food but still breaks the pots and blames others.”
Yasoda said, “If you know all this, why don’t you hide the pots? By not doing so, you are making my playful child agitated.”
Becomes angry (dravyalabhe sagrha-kupito)
The gopis replied, “We tried hiding our pots. But if Krishna can’t find the eatables (dravya alabhe), He (sa) becomes angry at the residents of the house (grha-kupito). He becomes furious when the gopis do not follow His order to give butter to the monkeys that have come to the door. He would say, ‘Stay there, and I will come tomorrow morning with a flaming coal in my hand. If you don’t give Me yogurt, I will burn your house down along with the elders and children.’”
Pinches babies (yaty upakrosya tokan)
The gopis continued, “Then He would pinch and irritate the babies (upakrosya tokan) or scratch them with His nails, and run away (yaty).”
In this way, there was no end to the complaints of the gopis about Krishna. Sometimes, as the gopis spoke, Krishna would be present there, but displayed very gentle behavior, as if He were so innocent and the gopis’ complaints were all lies. Sometimes mother Yasoda defended Krishna in front of the gopis, but sometimes she also chastised Krishna to discipline Him and teach Him good conduct. That was her absorption in her eternal mood as the mother of Krishna, the Supreme Godhead, acting as the Supreme Thief. By stealing butter, however, Krishna was actually stealing the butter-like hearts of the gopis. He was not hungry for milk, but was hungry for the milk of their motherly love.
It was actually the greatest pleasure of the gopis to see Krishna stealing from their homes. In fact, they prepared all kinds of milk products in anticipation that Krishna would come and steal them. Although the gopis relished the stealing activities of Krishna, they rebuked Him externally. These simple gopis were very much appreciative of Yasoda’s fortune in being Krishna’s mother. But they thought she must be bereft of the pleasure of witnessing Krishna’s stealing pastimes, for He wouldn’t steal butter in her house. To give the same pleasure to Yasoda, the gopis went to her house to narrate Krishna’s pastimes of stealing in the garb of criticizing and complaining against Him.
Krishna’s pastimes are most enchanting, but when His pure devotees like the gopis or Sukadeva Gosvami in the Bhagavatam narrate them, they taste even more nectarean, being mixed with the love of these devotees. Thus, Mother Yasoda experienced a greater pleasure upon hearing about Krishna’s stealing pastimes from the gopis than the gopis did by witnessing them firsthand. The gopis’ apparent angry complaints were nothing but expressions of their loving affection for Krishna, the Supreme butter thief (makhana-cora) who steals everyone’s pure heart.
This article is based on the commentaries of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Jiva Gosvami on Srimad Bhagavatam 10.8.29.