Deep in the Bengal forest, Gopala and his mother lived in a small mud hut on the outskirts of a peaceful village. Since his father had died when he was just an infant, Gopala and his mother lived all alone. They were provided for by the villagers, who planted the widow’s seeds in the communal plot, and harvested her food with their own. The villagers were happy to do this, because they greatly respected Gopala’s father and mother, who patterned their lives after the ancient spiritual ideals set forth in the holy scriptures.
Now it was time for Gopala to attend school. Though his mother was grieved by the thought of not having her son by her side all day, she was determined to provide Gopala with the education his father had wanted for him. Choosing an auspicious day, she dressed the boy in a clean dhoti cloth and wistfully bade him goodby. Standing in the doorway of the humble dwelling, she watched until he disappeared down the path through the forest.
It was not long, however, before Gopala came running back as fast as his little legs could carry him. “Mother,” he cried, “I’m afraid! The forest is dark, and there are many strange sounds. I cannot go to school!”
Poor Gopala! He was ashamed to admit this to his mother, but even so, he could not bring himself to face alone the eerie shadows and the frightening noises of the dark forest. His mother was at a loss; the poor widow could not possibly afford to pay a companion to take her child to school. But suddenly the answer came to her. The Lord Krishna would surely help! As a devotee of the Lord in His aspect as the Divine Child, she constantly visualized herself serving Him and loving Him in the form of her own little one, to whom she had given the Lord’s name.
She took Gopala on her knee, and told him: “No need to be frightened. I know someone who will take you through the forest to your lessons. I have another son, who tends the cows in the woods and fields. He looks after his herd not far from the path that leads to your school. He would be happy to take you there; if you ask him to. Call to him: ‘Brother cowherd, come take care of me!’ He will surely hear you and accompany you along the path. Then you will be glad to go to school, won’t you?”
Gopala stopped crying. “Is this true, Mother? Will my brother really come to take me through the forest?” “O yes, my son, it is as true as it is that our loving Lord watches over you every minute.”
“Then I am glad to go to school,” said the boy, and gaily set out through the forest.
He had not gone far, however, when he began to feel very uncertain. No one was in sight on the road, and the forest was silent, except for the rustling of the trees and the unseen (but not unheard!) wild animals. Gopala’s heart began to beat faster. The shadows behind each tree seemed to be alive, and, to Gopala’s wary eye, resembled all too closely the form of some dreaded beast of the woods. He turned quickly to go back to his mother.
Then he remembered her advice, her reassuring tone, when she told him of his brother the cowherd.
“O my brother!” he cried. “O brother cowherd! come with me to school, for I am afraid of the forest!”
He heard footsteps rustling in the leaves. The bushes parted, and a beautiful young boy poked his head through the branches. He wore a golden crown with peacock feather in it. The boy smiled at Gopala in a most friendly way, and then jumped out from behind the bushes and took Gopala by the hand.
All the way to school they danced and played. Gopala had never met anyone like this boy, so .full of beauty and grace, so lighthearted and kind. He had such an air of strength, and was yet so gentle, that at once Gopala forgot all his fears; in fact, he forgot everything but the joy of being with his new companion.
From that day on, Gopala eagerly looked forward to calling his brother cowherd at the beginning of his forest trek. And daily the wonderful companion joined the child. He played his flute, and together they danced, laughed, and had the most wonderful times all the way through the woods. Gopala often felt that the trip was too short, and wished his cowherd brother would stay with him longer; but the older boy had to return to watch his herd.
Of course, Gopala’s mother was overwhelmed with gratitude when she heard about her child’s wonderful friend. Silently she thanked the Lord Krishna, It seemed perfectly natural to her that he should take care of her son, just like an elder brother.
One day the schoolmaster told his pupils that he was preparing a wedding feast. Each student went home and told his parents, who felt honoured to contribute a gift—food, clothing, sweetmeats, or silks for the bride and groom to wear. When Gopala asked his mother, “What can I bring to my revered teacher?” she was saddened. She had nothing suitable to give. But soon a smile appeared on her face as she re-membered the constant help of the child Krishna; he would certainly help them now as always.
“Tomorrow, on your way to school, ask your brother in the forest. He knows that a poor widow has nothing to offer for such a feast, and he will no doubt have a beautiful gift for you to take to the schoolmaster.”
The next morning the cowherd came as usual; and he and Gopala played all the way to school. But as the cowherd turned to go back into the forest, Gopala suddenly remembered the wedding.
“O brother,” he exclaimed, “please help me. I must have something for the schoolmaster, for today he is having a wedding feast, and I will be the only one without gift for him. Won’t you give me something I can take?”
The little companion laughed merrily. “What have I to offer? I am only a wandering cowherd!
Gopala gazed entreatingly at him.
“Well, perhaps I do have something—maybe your teacher will accept it.” The young cowherd disappeared for a moment behind the trees. When he returned he was carrying a small bowl of fresh curd. “This is all I have, Gopala. Present it to your schoolmaster, saying that it is the best a poor boy can give.”
Gopala thanked his friend, and ran to the schoolhouse. The students had all gathered in front of their teacher, presenting the many gifts that their parents had carefully prepared. The little bowl of curd seemed so pitifully insignificant among the parcels of delicate fabric, savory foods, and great baskets of ripe fruit that no one even glanced at Gopala with his poor boy’s offering. Tears stole quietly down Gopala’s cheeks, for he thought it a beautiful gift, since it came from his beloved brother the cowherd.
The schoolmaster, who had a kind heart, noticed the weeping boy and beckoned him to approach. He took the bowl and with an expression of appreciation emptied the curd into a large pot, thinking to return the bowl to the poor widow, who, he reflected, had given in the best way she was able.
But as he smilingly handed the bowl to Gopala a strange thing happened. The empty bowl was suddenly filled again with curd. The startled schoolmaster hastened to empty the contents into his larger pot; but as fast as he poured the curd into his container, the cowherd’s small earthen bowl fi lled again from some inexhaustible supply.
The astonished schoolboys exclaimed, “Whose gift is this? Were did you get this wonderful bowl?” Gopala was equally amazed, and for the first time it dawned on him who his forest companion really was. With great awe he replied, “My brother the cowherd gave it to me.”
The schoolmaster stood up. “Who is this cowherd?”
“Oh, he comes each day when I call him and he walks through the forest with me. He wears a golden crown with a peacock feather in it, and charms me with the most delightful songs on his flute.”
“Take me to meet this cowherd.” The schoolmaster’s voice trembled with excitement, but the look on his face betrayed his conviction that the Lord who had remained distant from him despite so many years of scriptural study surely could not have been seen by this village urchin. The teacher and little Gopala set out across the clearing. Reaching the edge of the forest, the child called out in his usual way: “My brother! Come and play with me!”
The forest remained silent, and an arrogant expression of “I knew it” asserted itself on the schoolmaster’s face. Seeing this, Gopala cried again, with more insistence: “My brother cowherd, if you don’t come they will laugh and say I am a liar.”
The leaves rustled slightly, and a breath of wind brought a voice as from far away. “My little brother, I come quickly to those who call with childlike faith, but I cannot show my face to your skeptical schoolmaster. Let him look within his heart, and he will know why he does not see me with his own eyes.”
Do you know?
According to research, discussing a topic is a much better way to teach than simply sharing the information. If you want your child to understand properly, explain him the teachings in words that he can understand and discuss with him instead of preaching.
Paramahansa Yogananda said
On the mountain peaks of pride, the mercy rains of God cannot gather; but they readily collect in the valley of humbleness.
~ God Talks with Arjuna
When a man has faith, or a proper depth of determination, he can move mountains.
Fearlessness means faith in God: faith in His protection, His justice, His wisdom, His mercy, His love, His omnipresence.
~ God Talks with Arjuna
For the unenlightened, the best advice is caution along with courage–fearlessness in spirit without rashly exposing oneself to unnecessary risks or to conditions that may arouse apprehensions.
A poem by Paramahansa Yogananda
A humble magnet call,
A whisper by the brook,
On grassy altar small -
There I have My nook.
A crumbling temple shrine,
A little place unseen,
Is where I humbly rest and lean.
A sacred heart
Tear-washed and true
Doth draw Me with its rue.
I take no bribe -
Of strength or wealth,
Of cast or church or scribe,
Of fame or faith or festive breath -
But wail for truth.
An e’er the distant broken heart
Doth draw Me, e’en to heathen lands;
And My help in silence I impart.
~ Songs of the Soul
And at that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and has revealed them unto babes.