Young Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth

One of my favorite stories from Hinduism comes from the Bhagavata Purana, on the childhood of Krishna:

….One day when Rama and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Krishna has eaten dirt.” Yasoda took Krishna by the hand and scolded him, for his own good, and she said to him, seeing that his eyes were bewildered with fear, “Naughty boy, why have you secretly eaten dirt?” Krishna said, “Mother, I have not eaten. They are all lying. If you think they speak the truth, look at my mouth yourself” “If that is the case, then open your mouth,” she said to the Lord Hari [Vishnu], the God of unchallenged sovereignty who had in sport taken the form of a human child, and He opened his mouth.

She then saw in his mouth the whole eternal universe, and heaven, and the regions of the sky, and the orbit of the earth with its mountains, islands, and oceans; she saw the wind, and lightning, and the moon and stars, and the zodiac; and water and fire and air and space itself; she saw the vacillating senses, the mind, the elements, and the three strands of matter. She saw within the body of her son, in his gaping mouth, the whole universe in all its variety, with all the forms of life and time and nature and action and hopes, and her own village, and herself. Then she became afraid and confused, thinking, “Is this a dream, or an illusion wrought by a god? Or is it a delusion of my own perception? Or is it some portent of the natural powers of this little boy, my son? I bow down to the feet of the god, whose nature cannot be imagined or grasped by mind, heart, acts, or speech; he in whom all of this universe is inherent, impossible to fathom. The god is my refuge, he through whose power of delusion there arise in me such false beliefs as “I”, “This is my husband”, “This is my son”, “I am the wife of the village chieftain and all his wealth is mine, including these cow-herds and their wives and their wealth of cattle.”

When the cow-herd’s wife had come to understand the true essence in this way, the lord spread his magic illusion in the form of maternal affection. Instantly the cow-herd’s wife lost her memory of what had occurred and took her son on her lap.

Translator Wendy Doniger also notes that this story “is a motif based upon a much earlier myth from the Mahabarata [3.183-190, and the Matsya 167]: the sage Markandeya was floating in the cosmic ocean after the dissolution of the universe, when he came upon a young boy sleeping under a banyan tree. He entered the mouth of the boy—who was Vishnu—and saw within him the entire universe, whereupon he came back out of Vishnu’s mouth.”


15 replies »

  1. Excellent!!

    On Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 8:12 AM, word and silence wrote:

    > Tim Miller posted: “One of my favorite stories from Hinduism comes from > the Bhagavata Purana, on the childhood of Krishna: ….One day when Rama and > the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his > mother, “Krishna has eaten dirt.” Yasoda took Krishna ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post was beautiful 🙂

    however I would request one correction…
    it was Balaram, Krishna’s elder step brother who reported to Yashoda (krishna’s mother) about him eating dirt…

    Rama is yet another character (and God) in Hinduism, whose wife was Sita.. and their story is of an entirely different era from that of Krishna.

    Though both Krishna and Rama, are avatars of Vishnu. i.e birth of Lord Vishnu in human form…

    Just a little thing.. hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this…. I just checked the translation I quote from, p.220 of Doniger’s Hindu Myths, and she does use Rama and not Balaram. There must be a handful of different versions of this that use one name or the other. Hinduism’s texts, more than others sometimes, seem to be palimpsests of different eras all atop each other, as your comment makes clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oh yes, there are many versions of names of the same character in Hindu Myths. As Balaram is often abrreviated as Ram… i have come across them too…

    But I’m just being a little precise (I happen to be an Indian, and Hindu.. and it’s just that, I’ve grown up with these stories.. 🙂 )

    I really appreciate your blog.. there’s no end to what one explores in Mythology and your blog is a beautiful specimen!
    I believe I might indulge in your writing for a while… thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lord krishna also showed his universal form to Arjuna and it is mentioed in Bhagwad Geeta. The lord said to Arjun “here at one place, see the whole universe. Whatever you desire to see, you can see here. See the whole universe in my body and he displayed his universal form”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for the nice rendition. There’s something about these stories from our mythology. We just don’t get tired of them even when we have read them so many times. The ‘n’th time is as interesting as the first! Is the magic sauce in the story or inside us?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Being a Hindu in India, you grow up with stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. My father used to tell these stories at bedtime, and now I do the same with my daughter. You have done a beautiful job telling this story. Ramayana and Mahabharatha are mythology, but they have deep lying wisdom. It is said that the whole gist of Mahabharatha was Bhagvad Gita, and because people don’t like advice, a story was concocted around it that is Mahabharatha.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pretty much the same thing I was trying for in this poem.

    The Constancy of Change

    (Copyright, 2002

    Maybe it is the bulb itself that needs to be replaced.
    Or, maybe it needs a new starter.
    Whatever the cause,
    It is flickering again,
    That kitchen cylinder of Noble Gas.
    And, my wife — she much prefers
    Not to have the light at all.
    The on-again, off-again
    Bothers her that much.
    In truth, visitors are the same,
    Commenting with a wince:
    “Did you notice there’s something wrong with your light?”

    Well, I kind of like some variability in this indoor world,
    This universe of manufactured items,
    Rolled off the assembly line
    Somewhere — I don’t know where,
    Bronxville, Brussels, or Bombay,
    Who can tell?

    Is something so wrong with a light
    That glows with a twilight dimness
    Humming, droning, for lazy minutes,
    Then flashes white hot brilliance — and
    Then finds contentment yet again with a dull orange glow?

    Yes, I suppose it shall have to be replaced.
    Ending its life in a landfill somewhere far from home
    Or maybe in my own back yard.
    But meanwhile, I wonder why no-one but me
    Ever seems to wonder why it brightens now?
    What causes it to flicker so?
    Cosmic rays? Voltage fluctuations?
    And, in either case, isn’t this sparkly tiny tube
    Quite a rather remarkable little instrument indeed?
    Registering either:

    The Big Bang that began it all


    Summarizing the million little habits of my fellow citizens
    As they turn on and off their electric shavers, hair dryers, and stovetops?

    It shall have to be replaced, of course, but meanwhile:
    One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

    Liked by 1 person

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