The Cowherd Boy
Dhirasanta Das Goswami: Once there was a little boy called Gopal who lived in a rural area with his mother, who was a widow. When he was five years old his mother sent him to school.
The road to the village school passed through a forest and seemed very long; at first the little boy thought he had lost his way. He walked on and on, until he saw the other village boys going to school and at once joined them on the path and finally reached the school.
Gopal spent his time very happily at school. When lessons were over he played games with the other boys. It was almost dark when he finally set out for home and a long way back through the forest. It got darker and darker, Gopal became very afraid and did not know what to do, so he began to run very fast and did not rest until he was in his mother’s arms.
The next morning Gopal told his mother that he did not want to go to school. “But,” said his mother, “You had such a happy time at school yesterday, and learnt many wonderful things! You said you loved your lessons, why do you not wish to go to school today?”
“I love school and my lessons, mother,” Gopal replied, “but I am afraid to go alone through the woods, they are thick and dark.”
Gopal’s mother stood for a minute, thinking about what to say, she was too poor to pay anyone to accompany her son to school. At once the name of Lord Krishna came to her mind, so she said to Gopal, “You don’t know it my child, but there lives in these woods another son of mine who is always there nearby on the path. Whenever you are afraid, call out to Him, ‘O Cowherd brother, come with me to school!’ He will come at once and take care of you, and then you will not be afraid.”“
Gopal said, “Is it really true, mother, that my brother, the cowherd, will come to take care of me on my way to school?”
“Yes, it is true,” said his mother, “He loves you as a brother does and will never fail to come to help when you call out to Him.”
So Gopal set out the next morning bravely, but he had not gone far when he began to feel afraid, so he called out, “O brother cowherd, brother cowherd come and play with me!”
A boy then appeared from between the trees and taking the child’s hand, led him to school. When they came near to the school he parted from him, saying, “Call me again on your way back home.”
Every day Gopal would call the cowherd boy while going to and coming back from school. They would play together all the way, the cowherd boy was so kind and good that Gopal came to love him as he had never loved anyone before.
Day after day Gopal told his mother all about the cowherd boy, she was not in the least surprised for she knew it was Lord Krishna who came to her son’s help every day.
So time passed by, then one day the school master said, “ Tomorrow I want to give a feast – all of you, my boys, must bring presents.”
That night Gopal said to his mother, “Mother, our noble teacher is going to give a feast tomorrow – what should I take to him?”
The child’s words made the mother sad, for she knew they were very poor and so she could not give anything to her little boy for his teacher, but at the same time she did not wish her son to go without a present to give to his school master.
So she said to him, “My son, I am too poor to give you anything for your teacher, but on your way to school in the morning ask your brother to give you something.” She knew that Lord Krishna would help them.
So, in the morning when Gopal met the cowherd boy he said, “O brother, my teacher is going to give a feast today, all the other boys will bring presents, it will look so bad if I have no present to give… but I am much too poor to give anything – can you give me something for my school master?”
“What can I give you, O brother? What am I but a cowherd? But here is a little bowl of milk, that’s all I can give you, Gopal – It is only a cowherd’s present, but you must give it to your teacher”, said the cowherd boy.
Gopal went to his school master’s house with the present, he stood behind a crowd of boys who were handing over the gifts they had brought. Gopal waited a long time, but nobody noticed him. The poor boy became very sad, but then the teacher happened to look at him and accepted the small bowl of milk from Gopal’s hands and went to empty it into a big pan. But, to his amazement, the little bowl filled up again… he tried to empty it and again the little bowl was full. And so he went on emptying it again and again, and each time the little bowl was full.
All those present there wondered what it meant, Gopal also wondered, but he now understood for the first time that his cowherd brother was none other than Lord Krishna Himself.
The teacher asked him, “From where did you get this milk, Gopal?” The boy replied, “From my brother, a cowherd boy who lives in the woods.”
“Who is he?” asked the teacher.
“One who comes to walk with me and play with me on the way to school,” replied Gopal.
“Could you take me to him?”
“Yes, if you come along with me, Sir.”
So that evening the teacher and Gopal went out together into the forest. When they got there, Gopal called out, “Cowherd brother! Brother! Won’t you come?” but no cowherd appeared. Gopal did not know what to do, he called and called, but there was no answer.
At last the boy, full of grief, cried, “O brother cowherd, if you do not appear, they will think I do not tell the truth.”
Then from a far-off place deep in the forest they heard a voice calling to them which said, “No, my little brother, I cannot show my face, the teacher has long to wait. But tell him that he shall see me some day when he needs me as did you, my little Gopal.”
With a humble heart we have to take shelter of Krishna’s words and with a humble heart we have to cry for the shelter of Krishna’s holy names. Shelter comes when the Lord is pleased with our intention and spirit of service.