What’s the first answer that comes to your head when you are asked about Krishna lila? What is it?
I bet everyone and his dog would start talking about Vrindavan and gopis and cows and rasa dance and Srimati Radharani. But is it?
I suspect Krishna appeared on this Earth for a different purpose, you know the eighth incarnation in dasa avatara, had different ideas about what He should do here.
Sure, growing up in Vrindavan gave us a glimpse of what Krishna does in His own abode but Vrindavan is not part of this Earth, is it? When Krishna was growing up in Vrindavan He wasn’t really on Earth, doing His avatara duties, He was just being Himself.
I’d posit that Krishna lila was everything before and after the Vrindavan period, and it was for the benefit of all conditioned souls, not just Krishna’s own pleasure.
To support this idea I’d point out that no one had any idea of Vrindavan pastimes for a long, long time, until Srila Vyasadev included them in Srimad Bhagavatam. Out of Vrindavan lila, on the other hand, was very well known even from Mahabharata. Furthermore, until Lord Chaitanya and six gosvamis revealed the glory of Vrindavan no one even knew where it was.
Vrindavan pastimes were a very well kept secret, only the highest of all devotees in the entire universe were in on it, nobody else, and even many of those who knew didn’t think it was a very big deal.
Thanks to Lord Chaitanya here, He really put the priorities in order and clearly established ultimate supremacy of Vrindavan and Krishna’s pastimes there for the entire human race, but, however important, it was only a small part of Krishna’s advent, the one that He, understandably, didn’t really want to advertise Himself.
Krishna’s official agenda was to relieve the Earth from the burden of excess of warriors and kshatriyas. That was the goal, the main purpose, in the context of earthly history, and sidetracking into cow tending and sneaking out with girls kind of takes away the focus.
From that point of view, I don’t think it’s very wise to ignore many of the wonderful pastimes Krishna displayed in pursuing this main goal of His incarnation. Everybody knows we have that tendency and some of us take it a little bit too far.
There’s nothing wrong with submerging oneself in Vrindavana katha but if it comes at the expense of the rest of Krishna’s adventures it is kind of ungrateful, I would say. Krishna spent over a hundred years fixing our problems and we go “pff, not important”.
I won’t mention certain trend in certain circles to concentrate on “higher” knowledge, on “post graduate” vaishnava education, but even within our ISKCON when we talk about translating more books into English it’s usually about works of the six gosvamis, not Mahabharata, for example.
I know it would be technically impossible for us to translate the entire Mahabharata at this point but bringing to the general devotee population stories directly connected with Krishna would serve so much good to our community.
It would also be less risky than publishing esoteric writings of the gosvamis, let’s face it – most of us are not qualified to dabble in most of that stuff.
On second thought, perhaps we are not ready for many of Krishna’s tricks from post Vrindavan pastimes, too.
I mean Krishna really redefined what dharma is. I wouldn’t recommend it as a reading in grade school where we are supposed to teach children about the importance of honesty, for example. Not many people can easily tie up those old school lessons with what Krishna did during the Battle of Kurukshetra.
At one point Krishna Himself admitted that they couldn’t have won the battle without cheating. It should be mentioned that the rule book was thrown out somewhere midway through the battle by Kauravas, they dropped it first, yet in our schools we teach children that cheating is never acceptable, even if the other side does it. We teach our children that justice will be eventually served anyway.
That’s an interesting point – everywhere in our popular culture justice ultimately prevails without breaking rules. The hero always overcomes serial killers and criminals without stooping to their level and every horror flick ends in the morning with massive police presence finally establishing their authority.
There are deviations, like the 24 series or Dr House and Nurse Jackie but rule bending heroes in those stories are presented as deeply troubled characters having a great difficulty reconciling the necessity with the moral values.
Krishna didn’t have those difficulties. He ordered Maharaja Yudhishthira to go and lie instead of doing it Himself, because, you know, no one would believe Krishna but Yudhishthira never told a lie in his life. Krishna advised Bhima to hit Duryodhana below the waist, too.
If it was Karate Kid movies Krishna would be the obnoxious dojo owner, not Mister Miyata.
So yeah, explaining these things away, and marrying sixteen thousands times, too, is not going to be easy. I don’t think we have a bullet proof explanation ourselves. We have a very thin thread that we have to follow precisely and if one really wants to confuse us with questions there it’s gonna be super easy.
Krishna appears to establish principles of dharma but much of what He was doing was kind of exactly the opposite. Lord Ramachandra had one wife, that was a perfect couple and a perfect example for everyone to follow. Can’t say the same for Krishna, can we? Certainly not in the marriage category.
I don’t think Lord Ramachandra has ever deviated from the path of dharma as the world knew it. His great strength was in surviving through all adversities and not flinching even a bit. Lord Lakshmana was, like, “Oh, come on, forget the rules, let’s go and bash their heads in or something” but Lord Rama had always stopped Him. “Not a good example” was His main argument.
Krishna Himself said that whatever an important person does, others naturally follow. Yet in quite a few cases we are warned not to imitate His own behavior.
Perhaps I could reconcile it as follows – the greatest dharma ever, the best among all other religious principles, is doing whatever Krishna wants. Not widely accepted ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
Perhaps the world is not ready to accept this highest religious principle of all but that is because we want to live by our own rules, and they have to be fair to every aspiring little god here. In a sense it’s “when someone’s playing God don’t spoil his game by doing things you don’t want to be done to yourself when it’s your turn to pretend.”
We live in a democracy here – everybody gets the same shot at being God, so we have to be accommodating to each other. No such problem with Krishna. He IS God, He doesn’t need to accommodate anyone else.
Giving Him whatever He wants is the highest, and the only religious duty of every other living being. There’s no question of “but will others think”, the others are supposed to help each other satisfy Krishna. Whoever can give the most is assisted by everybody else and if we don’t get enough resources to give we don’t take them from others, either.
I think we should investigate deeper how sixteen thousand wives could share one husband, I bet we can learn a lot from that accomplishment.