Tag Archives: Krishna

Dealings among Devotees, Krishna’s Involvement

Question: How shall I deal with a situation when a person in the position of an authority is acting inappropriately? As I consider you an authority in spiritual literature, Vedic spiritual history and so on, perhaps you can give me some new aspects or views. 

Answer: If it does not concern you directly, and if you do not have a good relationship with the person in authority, then the best action is no action. My experience is that people do not take advice from others, especially if they are senior to them, or in a position of authority.

You will get into debates and arguments and the end result will be bitterness and spoiled relations. The general principle is: Do not speak unless asked – nāpṛṣṭam brūyāt kaścana.

Giving advice to an authority will only create trouble for you because somebody who is senior to you will not accept your advice. Unless you are looking for trouble, just be indifferent.

People in general are averse to taking instruction from others. If you really want to bring a change in their thinking, then you have to be very diplomatic about it. You may need to allude to it and not speak directly of it; tell a story or give an example of someone else. This way the person will not feel offended and may get the hint. This is a principle of pedagogy. 

This is what Kṛṣṇa has done in the Gītā. He is teaching Arjuna but He actually wants to teach us. Arjuna does not really need His instructions. He is Kṛṣṇa’s dear friend and already knows.

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Question: I understood that Kṛṣṇa manages our karma in such a way so we can  come close to Him, but on other hand I also heard that Kṛṣṇa Himself doesn’t interfere with the material word at all as He is located in Goloka Vṛndāvana and is busy with other things.

Answer: This means what you understood about Kṛṣṇa managing karma is either not right or He does manage karma and is not just busy in Goloka Vṛndāvana. The answer is that Kṛṣṇa does not interfere with the karma of non-devotees. However, He does interfere with the karma of His devotees. He says in Bhagavad Gītā 9.29,

samo ‘haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu   na me dveṣyo ‘sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā   mayi te teṣu cāpy aham

“I am equal to all beings. There is no one hateful or dear to Me, but they who worship Me with devotion are in Me and I am also in them.”

When He says He is equal to all, it means to non-devotees. He Himself says later that He takes care of His devotees. Therefore devotees cannot be included in what He calls “all.”

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Question: My relatives and I  have noticed that whenever we start chanting more rounds, then some unexpected and bad thing ALWAYS happens,  so we are scared to even chant.

Answer: Your experience proves that chanting works. What you experience is expected because this is the process of bhakti. While describing the progression on the path of bhakti, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī writes, ādau śraddhā tatah sādhu saṅgo’tha bhajana-kriyā tato’nartha-nvṛttiḥ syāt? “One begins bhakti when one has acquired śraddhā. Śraddhā impels one to seek the association of sādhus, which results in the performance of devotional service. When one engages in devotional service, one’s anarthas are dispelled.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.15-16)

When you do bhajana, which in your case is chanting more rounds, then the anarthas start coming out. Just like, when you want clean a pot, you pour water into it and scrub it. Then all the dirt that was sticking to the bottom comes up. The same thing happens in the beginning stage of bhakti. What you are calling  “unexpected and bad” is actually expected and good. If you continue with faith, gradually these anarthas or “unexpected and bad” things will start disappearing. But if you do not have faith, you will becomes scared and stop these devotional activities. Faith is very important to transcend the anarthas and progress in bhakti. 

Hearing and Singing about Kṛṣṇa Is Supreme

Bhagavān has innumerable names, which all have inherent potency in them. Yet not all names have equal potency. The Name of Kṛṣṇa is supreme. Therefore, hearing and singing Kṛṣṇa’s names is most beneficial and effective, and thus constitutes one of the most important parts of bhakti in Gaudīya sampradāya. Moreover, hearing from the mouth of a great devotee is most powerful. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains this in Anuccheda 262 of Bhakti Sandarbha. He also stresses the importance of hearing Śrimad Bhagavata Purāṇa. Below I render the original text and my comments on it.

 

The Hierarchy of Importance in regard to Hearing

Regarding hearing, the following [hierarchy of importance] should be considered: To hear about the names, forms, qualities, līlās, and associates of Bhagavān to any extent is supremely beneficial. Superior to this is to hear the sacred works brought forth (āvirbhāvita) by mahat devotees. When these compositions are then sung by a realized devotee (mahat-kīrtyamānam), the benefit is greater still. To hear Śrīmad Bhāgavata is superior even to this, and better yet when sung by a mahat devotee.

In addition, the prescription to hear repeatedly is to be enacted specifically in regard to the names, forms, qualities, and līlās of one’s own cherished form of Bhagavān (nījābhīṣṭa), as indicated in this verse: “One should worship the Supreme Puruṣa [Bhagavān] in the form that is according to one’s longing” (SB 11.3.48). Furthermore, such hearing should be received from the mouth of a greatly realized devotee (mahānubhāva) who shares the same internal devotional predilection (savāsanā).

To hear specifically about the names, forms, qualities, and līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, out of all the various manifestations of Bhagavān, occurs only by supreme fortune because He is Bhagavān in His most original complete essential being. The same conclusion applies in regard to other sādhanas of bhakti, such as singing and remembering. Among the narrations of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whichever ones a practitioner personally sings at present should be sung as mahat devotees, such as Śrī Śukadeva, previously did, by adopting the manner and devotional mood established by them.

We have thus explained the practice of hearing (śravaṇam). This precedes the practices of singing and remembering because without first hearing, one cannot have knowledge of these other practices. In particular, if the fortune to hear directly the narrations sung by a mahat devotee has not yet presented itself, then only should one personally sing them on one’s own (pṛthak), because hearing [the names and so on of Śrī Kṛṣṇa] is the primary process. Consequently, the following statement and comment are relevant in this regard:

tad-vāg-visargo janatāgha-viplavo yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api
nāmāny anantasya yaśo’ṅkitāni yat śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ

[On the other hand,] that linguistic composition, in which each verse, even though grammatically or poetically defective, contains the names that are imprinted with the glory of the limitless One [Bhagavān], destroys the sins of humanity, since these are the names that saintly devotees hear, recite, and sing. (SB 1.5.11)

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The pronoun yat, ‘which,’means ‘which names’ (yāni nāmāni). If a speaker is present, the sādhus will hear the names of Bhagavān uttered by him; if an audience is present, they will recite these names for the benefit of the listeners; and if neither speaker nor audience is present, they will sing by themselves.”

 

Kīrtanam Is the Best Form of Atonement

We will now discuss the practice of kīrtana, or singing the glories of Bhagavān. In this regard, the order in which the names, forms, and so on are to be sung is understood to be the same as previously delineated in the case of hearing [i.e. name, form, qualities and pastimes]. An example of singing the names of Bhagavān is found in this statement of the Viṣṇudūtas to the Yamadūtas:

sarveṣām apy aghavatām idam eva suniṣkṛtam
nāma-vyāharaṇaṁ viṣṇor yatas tad-viṣayā matiḥ

For sinners of all types, uttering the name of Bhagavān Viṣṇu is indeed the only perfect means of atonement, because Viṣṇu’s attention (mati) is thereby drawn toward the utterer. (SB 6.2.10)

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The words idam eva suniṣkṛtam mean ‘this alone [i.e., the utterance of the name] is the best form of atonement’ (śreṣṭhaṁ prāyaścitam). The reason for this is that when a person utters Viṣṇu’s name, Viṣṇu’s attention (mati) is drawn toward him (tad-viṣayā), the utterer of the name (nāmoccāraka-puruṣa), and Viṣṇu thinks, ‘This person is My very own (madīya), and as such, he is to be protected by Me in every way.’”

Therefore, because Bhagavān’s name belongs to His constitutional nature (svarūpa), it is naturally the cause of absorption in Him (tadīya-āveṣa). As such, hearing even a single part [or syllable] of Bhagavān’s name induces love (prīti) in the foremost devotees of Bhagavān (parama-bhāgavatas), as confirmed by Śrī Śiva in the Rāmāṣṭottara-śata-nāma-stotra from the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa:

rakārādīni nāmāni śṛṇvato devi jāyate
prītir me manaso nityaṁ rāma-nāma-viśaṅkyā

O Goddess [Pārvatī], whenever I hear any name beginning with the letter ‘r’, love is awakened in my heart every single time, because I suspect that it may be the name of Rāma. (PP 6.254.21)

Such being the case, to characterize the name merely as something that destroys sins does not at all touch its true significance.

 

Commentary by Satytanarayana Dasa

Hearing Bhāgavata Purāṇa from the mouth of a great devotee is supremely beneficial. This is confirmed by the Bhāgavata-mahātmya from the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa (chapters 193-198). There, the story is told of a ghost who was released from his spectral body after hearing the Purāṇa for seven days. At the end of the week’s recitation, Kṛṣṇa appeared and carried the Purāṇa’s reciter to His abode along with the entire audience. A materialistic individual is comparable to a person possessed by the ghost of material desires, kāma. The verses of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa act like a magical incantation to exorcise this ghost and lead the person to the healthy life of prema.

The names of Bhagavān are innumerable. The practitioner should regularly hear and sing the specific name of his or her own cherished form of Bhagavān (nījābhīṣṭa). Of all the names of Bhagavān, “Kṛṣṇa” is the most potent, because He is Bhagavān in His most original and complete form. Kṛṣṇa Himself proclaims, “O Arjuna, of all My names, ‘Kṛṣṇa’ is preeminent” (Prabhāsa Purāṇa, cited in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha 82). And as Kṛṣṇa includes and contains all other forms of Bhagavān within His essential being, so too does His name embody the power of all other names of Bhagavān. This is implied in the following statement from Brahmāṇda Purāṇa:

The benefit awarded by thrice reciting the divine thousand names of Viṣṇu is attained simply by uttering Kṛṣṇa’s name just once. (Brahmāṇda Purāṇa 236.19)

As in the case of hearing (śravaṇa), the sequence to be followed in the practice of kīrtana is to first sing Bhagavān’s name, followed in order by His form, qualities, associates, and līlās. Furthermore, it is recommended that kīrtana should be of those devotional songs or verses that were composed and sung by mahat devotees. At present, there are many devotional songs written by professional poets and singers. Listening to them or singing them is not recommended, because the sentiments they contain are tainted with the poet’s own subjective projections.

Of all the names of Bhagavān, kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa’s name is supremely beneficial. And kīrtana of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra is most highly esteemed because it was chanted by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and His mahat devotees. If the opportunity to hear from a great devotee has not yet presented itself, one should perform kīrtana on one’s own. In this case, the practice should be undertaken with the awareness that kīrtana of these names was enacted in the past by great devotees. One should perform kīrtana as a follower of one’s guru-paramparā and not independently.

If one is in love with a boy or girl and sees another person on the street who resembles them in gait, hairstyle, or other physical features, then at once, one becomes naturally absorbed in thoughts of the beloved. Accordingly, if one hears someone calling another person whose name begins with the same letters as one’s lover’s name, one would be reminded of her or him. Great devotees such as Śiva become absorbed in contemplation of Bhagavān even if they hear just the first syllable of His name. Indeed, Bhagavān’s attention is also drawn to the utterer of His name, even if it is sounded incidentally.

A glaring example of the power of the name is found in the story of Draupadī from Mahābhārata. When Duḥśāsana tried to strip her naked by pulling off her sārī, she pleaded to Bhīṣma and other leaders of the Kauravas to put an end to this grave injustice. But nobody came to her rescue. Finally, in desperation, she called out the name of Kṛṣṇa, who immediately appeared there in the form of an inexhaustible garment to keep her covered and foil Duḥśāsana’s evil attempt. Later on, Kṛṣṇa said:

govinda iti cukrośa kṛṣṇā māṁ dūravāsinam
ṛṇam etata pravṛddhaṁ me hṛdayāṇ nāpasarpati

While I was far away in Dvārakā, Draupadī cried My name, “O Govinda.” I am thereby deeply indebted to her, who never strays from My heart. (Mahābhārata)

Such is the power of the name. If you come across a famous person but do not recognize him, you would not even take notice of him. But if someone tells you his name or who he is, you would immediately become attentive. This means that the name is more influential than the person himself.

Because the name has such potency to draw the attention of great devotees and even of Bhagavān Himself, then to describe the name merely as that which removes the sins of a chanter does not at all do justice to its glory. Removal of sins can be accomplished even by a mere semblance of the name, nāmābhāsa, as is known from the story of Ajāmila (SB 6.2.14, 18).

Bhagavan’s Presence in the Murti

Question: Sometimes I don`t experience the presence of Bhagavān in the mūrti, and think that the mūrti is material. At other times, when I am out of my house, it seems that the spiritual is everywhere. Is this normal? 

Answer: No, this is not normal. It is normal to feel the presence of Bhagavān in the mūrti, and one may or may not feel His presence outside. To feel Him in the mūrti and to also feel His presence outside is certainly best. But it is strange that you feel Him everywhere except in the mūrti. If you feel Him everywhere, you should be also able to feel Him in the mūrti.

When you feel Him everywhere, you should take advantage of that feeling in that moment. Use your rational mind and think that if He is everywhere, then He must be in the deity also.

Question: I feel Him in the mūrti but I think that the mūrti is limited.

Answer: That feeling comes because of our material concept that anything which has a form is limited. For example, your computer has a form and thus it is an object. It exists only in the space that it occupies in front of you and not everywhere else. So this is our experience in material life. We see objects around us having form and we know that they are limited in space and time. When we see the mūrti, we also think in the same way—that the mūrti has a form, and therefore is limited.  

Question: Sometimes in meditation, I think: “What are you doing? This mūrti is limited.”  How can I approach the mūrti form of Bhagavān with the proper mood?

Answer: As I said, this feeling is only because of our material experience. We haven’t yet had a spiritual experience. Therefore in the beginning, we depend upon śraddhā. Although Bhagavān has a form, His form has characteristics which defy material laws. He remains unlimited even while having form. And this is what Kṛṣṇa demonstrated in His Dāmodara līlā, when Mother Yaśodā was trying to bind Him. Every rope was too short to tie the little boy, who was standing in fear in front of her. So although He had a seemingly limited form, it was not limited.

The qualities of Bhagavān are beyond logic; they defy all material laws which we experience in our lives. To inform us of this, the Upaniṣads make statements such as tad ejati tan naijati, “He walks and at the same time He does not walk.” Because He has a form, He can walk. But how can He walk if He is all-pervading? Walking involves moving from point A to point B, which implies that you are not at B when you start from A. But if you are at A, also at B, and also at C, and indeed everywhere in space, then how will you walk? So the Upaniṣads say, tad ejati tan naijati tad dūre tad vantike, “He is very far and He is the closest.” He is so far that you can go on searching for Him, but not find Him anywhere. And yet He is the closest to you because He is inside your heart. Even the dearest friend, girlfriend or boyfriend, or husband or wife cannot be inside the heart. They remain outside. Poetically, you may say that someone is in your heart, but physically they are outside.

Bhagavān is simultaneously very far and very close; He walks and He does not walk; He has a form but He is limitless. He creates but He also destroys. Bhagavān is beyond duality. He is the source of everything, yet He Himself has no source. Both good and evil come from Him. It is not that evil comes from elsewhere else and only good comes from Him. For Him, there is no difference between good and evil.

Good and evil are relative terms. At the level of the Absolute, everything is absolute. We impose our material experience on God; therefore, His mūrti appears limited to us. To understand God, we have to depend upon śāstra. And to understand śāstra, we have to have śraddhā. Śraddhā means to trust in the meaning of the words of scripture.

We may not have had the experience that God, who has form and is limitless, but we believe in the words of scripture. We have śraddhā in the words of scripture. Śāstra also gives us the process—how to experience Bhagavān. By following the process described in śāstra, many people have had this experience. We may also have this spiritual experience by following the process.

In Bhagavad Gītā, Śrī Kr̥ṣṇa says, “As you approach Me, I reciprocate with you in the same way” (ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham,  Gītā 4.11.) So if we approach God with a material concept, then He will appear to us as material. If you think that God has no form, then He will not manifest His form to you. Indeed, if you believe that there is no God, then God will not impose Himself onto you; nor will He force you to believe in Him. In fact, He will present Himself to you in a such way that you won’t have to believe in Him at all. Therefore, nonbelievers have their own logic and belief that there is no God. God creates situations and gives experiences to them so that their disbelief is confirmed. Similarly, for those who accept from śāstra that God has a form, He can manifest Himself to them. If you think that Bhagavān has a limited form, then He will make your belief firm.

The mūrti is a form of God but if we do not believe in it, then it will only appear material to us. There is a story to illustrate this effect. There was a king who had four sons. He became old and wanted to relinquish his duties to one of his four sons. But he wanted to give his position to someone who was devoted and obedient to him and who respected him. Only such a person would take care of the citizens as the king desired. To discover who actually had love for him, the king devised a plan. One day, he acted as if he had fallen sick. All of his sons came to take care of him. Then the king pretended to have fallen into a coma, to see how the sons would react in this situation. He heard three of the four sons talking to each other very happily, planning how to enjoy the kingdom after his death. As they discussed among themselves, they assumed that the king could not hear them. The fourth son, however, was taking care of the father. This son was only worried about how he could bring the king back to consciousness. He called for doctors and was massaging the body of the king himself. The other three were hoping that the king would die but to their surprise, after some time, the king opened his eyes. The three sons panicked at his unexpected revival. Thus, the father understood which son was actually qualified to be the king.

This is also what God is doing. He comes in the form of the mūrti and stands as if He were paralyzed, yet He is observing everything. He wants to see how you treat Him and what your mood is toward Him. He reciprocates accordingly.

Different Kinds of Bhakti and Karma

Question: Could you specify the difference between āropa-siddhā-bhakti and karma-miśrā-bhakti as defined by Srīla Jīva Gosvami in Bhakti Sandarbha?

Answer: Āropa-siddhā-bhakti consists of activities that are not devotional in themselves but become part of devotion because of their contact with bhakti. Primarily it includes offering your actions to Kṛṣṇa, karmārpaṇam. These actions themselves are not devotional but by offering them to Kṛṣṇa, they become part of bhakti.  

Karma-miśra-bhakti is when you perform bhakti activities along with karma, or prescribed duties, while desiring the result of the karma. In other words, you mix the two. You perform agnihotra because you are a dvija, and you also engage in bhakti. In āropa-siddhā there is no bhakti activity except the offering of results.

Question: Also what is the difference between dharma, vaidika-karma and laukika-karma?

Answer: Dharma is one’s prescribed duties, e.g., the dharma of a student is to study and serve the guru. Vaidika-karma are of three types: nitya-karma such as agnihotra, kāmya-karma—done for a specific desire such as putreṣti yajña to get a son, and naimittika-karma, those done on special occasions such as birth of a child or death of a relative. Vaidika karmas are dharma. Thers is no difference between them.

Laukika-karma comprises of secular activities like taking bath etc.  

Question: Thank you for your answer Babaji, but could you clarify the following: In karma-miśra-bhakti, the word karma indicates dharma (i.e. āśrama dharma and varṇa dharma) but Srīla Jīva Gosvami also defines karma in the same section as “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ” (which seems to be dravya-yajña, a nitya-karma). So how to reconcile these two definitions of karma?

Answer: This is no contradiction. Karma also means dharma, and dharma according to Mīmāṁsā means doing yajña, which is “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ.

Question: And does it also mean that gṛhasthas always have to engage in karma-miśra-bhakti? 

Answer: No.

Question: Because they have to perform varṇa-dharma to maintain their families and as devotees they would like to offer those activities to the Lord?

Answer: If they take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, then their performance of varṇāśrama duties are done only out of social convention and not to get some gain. So they are not mixing karma with bhakti. They do not perform varṇāśrama duties out of obligation to dharma.

Question: In Sārārtha Darśinī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Chakravartī talks about vaidika, laukika and daihika karma. Could you define them by giving pramānas?

Answer: Vaidika means action injuncted by the Vedas, such as ahar ahar sandhyam upāsīta—one should do sandhyā-vandanam every day.

Laukika means activities such as farming or cow protection by a vaiśya, or giving protection to people by a kṣatriya. Manu-smṛti describes such duties.

Daihika means action to take care of one’s body, such as bathing, eating and sleeping.

The State of Atma while Dreaming

Question: Srila Prabhupada said many times in his books that while dreaming the soul in his subtle body “goes places”. At least that is what I understood from what he said.

Mystical writers in the West also maintained at all times that the soul – when hovering in the subtle body (in dreams or in the so-called “OBE” – (“out-of-body experience) is connected to the gross body via a subtle (ethereal) chord, (and when it breaks, death occurs.) The same seems to be indicated in the famous “silver chord” mentioned in the famous Bible verse “Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
(Ecclesiastes 12:6 – 7)

Would you know of any scriptural evidence explaining what is going on, when we dream? Or in the so-called OBE, out of body experience? Whether the soul stays within the gross body while we dream or whether he travels actually in the subtle body (while at the same time somehow being connected to the gross body)?

Answer: The only reference I can think of is Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad  4.3.9 onwards.

It talks about dreams. This subject is also discussed in Vedanta Sutra 3.2.1 onwards. Maybe you can look up these references. My personal understanding is that atma does not leave the body, otherwise it would amount to death. Now the question arises, what happens in dreams? Does it go places? It depends how you want to see things. Actually at the subtle level things happen in a different manner, just as at the quantum level reality is different than at the classical level. Atma is not a material thing and is thus not fixed in xyz coordinates. It exists by sankalpa. XYZ coordinates lose their meaning at the level of atma. So one way of seeing it is that atma leaves the body and goes places, as is described by many people. The other is that it does not go anywhere as Krishna says in Gita (2nd chapter), that it is acala (immovable). The subtle body can move around, expand and contract. Thus it is possible to have OBE.

I hope this sheds some light on your question.

God’s Personal and Impersonal Features – Part 2

Continuation of a discussion following a seminar in Terre de Ciel:

Every morning, Krishna’s mother Yashoda used to make butter from milk. She heated the milk and added some yogurt to it. She let the mixture sit overnight and by the next morning, it had become yogurt. Yashoda then churned the yogurt with a wooden stick and churning rope and after some time it became liquid and fresh butter floated on the surface. Yashoda removed the tasty butter and placed it in a clay pot.

So one day when Yashoda was churning the yogurt, Krishna climbed on her lap and started to drink milk from her breast. In the other room, Yashoda had cow milk for Krishna heating on the clay stove. When she heard the sound of milk boiling over, she immediately removed Krishna from her lap and ran to remove the milk from the heat. Krishna became very upset, thinking “What is this? I am drinking milk and she is running there! The great yogis are meditating on Me to have My darshan, and here I am drinking milk from Yashoda and she throws Me from her lap.” So He took a stone from the ground and hit the clay pot, breaking it. When the yogurt spilled all over, He quickly ran away, afraid of being punished.

When Yashoda came back and saw the yogurt on the floor, she understood it was Krishna’s game. She was thinking, “This boy is too naughty. I have to chastise him!” She found Krishna in another room, breaking the pots with butter in them and feeding it to the monkeys. When Krishna saw Yashoda approaching Him with the stick in her hand, He started running away. Yashoda chased after Him.

Damodarara Lila
Damodarara Lila

After a little struggle Yashoda caught Krishna and wanted to punish Him. At first, she twisted His ears and said, “Why did you do this?” Of course Krishna didn’t have any answer. She said, “You have become a very unruly boy. I am going to teach you a lesson. I will tie you with a rope and put you in the corner!” So she got some rope and tried to tie Krishna around the waist and the other end to a heavy stone in order to keep Him in one place for some time. But when she took the rope and put it around His waist, although it was long and Krishna was only a baby, the ends didn’t meet. The rope was too short by two fingers. Then she thought of adding another rope. Since Krishna’s parents were cowherd people, they had many ropes around to tie the cows. So Yashoda attached another rope to the previous one, but again the rope was too short by two fingers. She was very surprised. How is this possible? Krishna’s waist still remained the same size. He didn’t expand His belly by some mystic power. He was just standing there like a small boy. Determined to tie Krishna, Yashoda got another rope and tried again. Finally, seeing that His mother was very determined and working very hard to tie Him, Krishna allowed her to do so. So Yashoda was able to tie Krishna only because he agreed and decided to be tied by her.

This story is very interesting in that Krishna showed both His personal and impersonal features simultaneously. This is the key point. He remained a person standing in one place and Yashoda could see Him, but at the same time He manifested His impersonal feature as the power that did not allow Yashoda to bind Him. We can’t tie anything impersonal.

So God has both features: personal and impersonal, and both exist simultaneously. He has a form, but it is not material. Our body is made of matter and therefore is limited, but God’s body is made of spirit. Similarly, the soul (atman) is also made of spirit and is therefore not limited. Although it is very small and cannot be seen inside the body, it spreads its consciousness throughout the body. Basically, the impersonal aspect is a feature of the personal God. The Sun planet, which has a form and is situated in one place, has light that spreads all over the universe. In the same way, God has His personal form and by His energy, He is everywhere. He can remain in one place and yet He can be everywhere.

Krishna – A Warmonger?

By Satyanarayana Dasa

 

While traveling in the West and lecturing on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most common questions asked by peace loving Western students is, “Why is Krishna preaching and almost forcing Arjuna to take up weapons against his own kinsmen while Arjuna shows no interest in it and argues against the ghastly warfare and its irreligious and immoral outcome?”

They assume Krishna to be a warmonger and Arjuna a champion of peace—a compassionate and kind-hearted dude. Indeed, anyone who gives a cursory reading to the first chapter of the Gita sympathizes with Arjuna and is puzzled with Krishna’s preaching to Arjuna to stand up and fight. Even Mahatma Gandhi, an ardent lover of the Gita, could not digest Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna to fight, and thus commented that the whole plot of the Bhagavad Gita is allegorical. Truth, however, is more mysterious than it appears.

Surfacing of Material Attachments

As is understood from the preceding chapters of the Mahabharata, Krishna had no personal gain in engaging Arjuna in the battle. He himself vowed not to take to weapons although approached by Arjuna to support their side. Indeed, He even volunteered to meet the opposite side for a truce to avoid the family feud. But the opponents, who were illegally occupying the kingdom of Arjuna’s brother, refused to part with even an inch of land, and challenged Arjuna and his party that if they had the power and grit, they could snatch away their share of the kingdom by force.

Arjuna and his brothers were ksatriyas, royal soldiers, and had no choice but to take up the challenge and save their kingdom or country from the clutches of the opponents.

Arjuna came well prepared to Kurukshetra, where the battle was about to take place, and was full of enthusiasm. He was the greatest war hero of his time, acknowledged even by his enemies. But after seeing his relatives face to face his material attachment surfaced and subdued his sense of duty. He became confused about the righteousness of war against his own irreligious and immoral cousins. Krishna was his chariot driver. He followed Arjuna’s instructions to move the chariot. But when confused, Arjuna requested Krishna to clear his doubt regarding his duty in this complex situation. Krishna advised in the best interest of Arjuna.

Responsibility to Protect

Since Arjuna was a warrior, Krishna advised him to perform his duty without self-interest. If a soldier does not want to engage in war but wants to be a mendicant instead, as proposed by Arjuna, then he should not join the army. It is paradoxical to join the army and then refuse to fight when the need arises. The army has the responsibility to protect a nation from its enemies. By engaging in warfare when necessary, the army grants a peaceful life to the civilians. The duty of a policeman, a soldier or a king, is to be impartial for the sake of the nation, even if they have to stand up against their own teachers or relatives.

Krsna is instructing Arjuna on the battlefield

Krishna is not propagating violence. Rather, he is imploring Arjuna to vanquish the enemies, i.e. his cousins, who plotted to kill him and his brother surreptitiously by poisoning their food, setting fire to their residence and other such hideous means. A soldier protects citizens and prevents violence.

In modern times, terrorists attack innocent civilians and inflict pain and suffering on them for an ultimately selfish purpose like enjoying heaven or materially benefitting their family members and kinsmen because it relates to the material body. The job of the police and army is to face such terrorists and protect the civilians.

A soldier is brave and a terrorist, who is motivated by hatred, is a coward. While causing fear, he himself is full of fear. He remains hidden, while a soldier faces the situation with bravery. A terrorist is not an object of compassion for a soldier.

An Antidote to Unjust Violence

Arjuna was confusing his material attachment with compassion, which resulted in cowardly behavior. If a serial killer or a terrorist enters the house of a civilian who has a gun and can use it to protect himself and his family members, should he bravely face the intruder or become a compassionate peace loving saint and allow his family to be murdered? If someone, like a police officer, advises him to take the gun and face the intruder, is such an advisor to be branded a violent nut?

Deliberate on this and see if Krishna was wrong in advising Arjuna to fight with the criminals who stripped his wife, a queen, in front of his own eyes, and in the presence of the very people who were now standing against him with weapons in hand. These very kinsmen had sat speechless, and some even mocked the hapless, innocent queen of high moral character and her husband and did not oppose the stripping.

Krishna is not preaching to Arjuna to be violent against innocent civilians like a terrorist. He is asking him to be brave in the face of the imminent situation. A coward runs away after his act of violence. Arjuna also wanted to run away, albeit from the war. Lord Krishna advised him not to be a coward and do his duty as a soldier. So, it is an antidote to unjust violence.

Bodily Attachment as the Real Cause

If Arjuna had run away from his duty as a soldier, he would have become instrumental in allowing unjust violence. Moreover, being a celebrity and a great hero he would have set a bad precedent for other soldiers. His opponents, who respected his bravery and chivalry, would have ridiculed him. They would have thought that Arjuna became fearful and ran away after seeing his opponents on the battlefield (which included great warriors like Bhisma and Drona), on the pretense of being compassionate toward them.

The real cause behind Arjuna’s confusion is his attachment to his physical body. The misidentification with the physical body is bringing a sense of fear and loss, manifesting as compassion. Krishna saw through this and advised Arjuna to not be bogged down by this ignorance.

Krishna is not preaching unjust violence in the name of religion. Unjust violence is deeply rooted in selfishness. Krishna teaches to rise above hatred and attachment, be equipoised in all situations, and do one’s duty, which happens to be fighting in Arjuna’s case. His advice is not specific to Arjuna only, but applicable to all human beings. He propounds action without hatred and attachment.

Equanimity and Performance of Duty

Sri Krishna and Arjuna

Bhagavad Gita was spoken more than 5000 years ago. It is one of the most popular Hindu scriptures. In this long history, there is not a single instance where someone became a terrorist after reading the Gita. But there are thousands of people who became peace loving by following the instructions of Krishna. Indeed, the Gita was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement. He even wrote commentaries on it.

Therefore, to think that Krishna incited Arjuna to unnecessary violence is a complete misunderstanding. Krishna teaches equanimity in life and performance of one’s designated duty. He does not encourage everyone to take to weapons and fight in the name of God. But a soldier has to take his weapon to bring security to the civilians. Otherwise, why join the army?

A terrorist inflicts pain on others whereas a soldier sacrifices his own life to bring security and peace to people. They both may take the gun but their intentions are poles apart. A surgeon inflicts pain by moving his knife into the body of a patient, and a mugger may also attack someone with a knife. We laud the surgeon and punish the mugger. We need to study the intention behind an action to know if it is an act of violence or peace.

Violence can be motivated by selfishness or to maintain peace and order (dharma). If Krishna was propagating violence, then all the world’s military organizations would be nothing but havens for breeding violence at the expense of taxpayers’ money. Defensive violence is necessary for maintaining peace. Otherwise one may face the same fate as a peace-lover like Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Gandhi.