Puranas and Puranic Gods have been objects of ridicule and criticism all these years. And especially charges leveled against Lord Krishna are many and varied. (Some typical questions asked by students are answered here by Swami Chinmayananda.)
Puranic literature is never to be read as a history or biography. It is written in the style of the Vedas— Mystic style. Though it explains the story of the Mahabharata, it is at once a Song of the Soul’s Adventure to rediscover itself.
Veda Vyasa a Vedic Teacher, a master mind, a man of full realization^-when he took the pen, in his maturity, he did not do so only for writing a love story or a novel. Krishna is painted through-out the Mahabharata as Sri Krishna Paramatman.
Story by story, incident by incident, the canvas of Mahabharata reveals a word-picture of the science of self-mastery; the spiritual self development—both in theory and practice.
Now to your questions:
(a) He indulged in petty thefts in his childhood.
Ans.: Krishna stole like a thief. Thefts of what and from whom? If a doctor cuts open a carbuncle and draws its contents out and allows the bad blood to drain off, we don’t call it a crime, in a* much as the doctor has done it, in his better knowledge and efficiency, upon the patient who thereafter would feel happy. Krishna looted the material possessiveness and the vanity of possession from the hearts of his devotees and chastened them. The “childhood of Krishna” means only the early “awakening of the spiritual urge” in a seeker. When one has taken to the Path of God, one finds one’s thoughts have no more that negative ‘vasana-giving-sting1 in them—they become purer and purer in his bosom as one constantly contemplates upon the Self, Lord Krishna.
(b) He was very fond of running about with women.
Ans.: In Sanskrit, thought is feminine and the Copies of the Yamuna banks are all the dancing thoughts that live their individual pursuits of “churning experiences and gathering the butter of new impressions”. Krishna is the Central Self, the Pure Awareness in us.
(c) He Married 16008 Wives.
Ans.: The entire human thought possibilities fall under 16008 families. In each family is an indefinite number of specimens. All of them are coupled with conscious¬ness or else they have no existence. Krishna is married to 16008 wives! Each thought is his consort. This means that each thought in the life of man is borrowing its entire existence and fulfillment in life from the Atman. After releasing them from the prison house of ego and egocentric desires, He married them!
(d) He played the fool, stole clothes and asked the Gopis to approach Him naked with their hands upraised away from the Yamuna waters.
Ans.: Unless you go naked unto Him He is not revealed. The Self clothed in matter is the ego, and the ego cannot realize the Self unless it becomes naked again. The ego is the Gopi. She undresses on the Yamuna banks and enters the water to cleanse herself. Dropping our nega¬tivities and animalisms for the time being we enter the pooja-room or out the Guru’s presence or the temple, to revel in the joyous atmosphere of contemplation of the divine. After the bath the Gopis used to come and wear their old clothes; ordinary seekers after their religi¬ous moods take back upon themselves the good old animalistic personalities.
When this is continued for some time the Light of Con¬sciousness emerges out of its hiding place and steals forward to loot away the dirty bundle of false values of egoism and selfishness. When the practice of taking regular dips in the Shastra-study is under-taken by the ‘lovers of the Lord’, they soon, one day, discover that their old clothes have disappeared. They learn to approach truth without their ego-dress, without their matter enve¬lopments! And the naked Self, re-discovers its own identity with the Paramatman. After this inward experi¬ence, the matter vestures are given back to them. The Jeevan Muktas—the liberated ones—live within the garb of flesh, and yet are ever-free, after their Sri Krishna-darshan.
A literature is to be read in its appropriate spirit Srimad Bhagavat was read in the past only by students who knew the entire Science of the Self. They could read in the picture the true import. “Madonna and the Child” is a picture of blissful ecstasy for allovers of painting;* the same picture is a self-debasing, self-insulting lusty picture for the low, volup¬tuous sensualists. We often see the outer world through a film of what we have already in us.
Those steeped in the philosophy of the flesh, when they enter this haven of joyous mystic symbolism, can enjoy only the superficial meaning. They get really con¬fused. They rave at it. And we, a generation who had to reach miserably our own culture in the leaky boats of the British, and read our own culture through books published by them, we, who are taught from our childhood in the missionary high schools and colleges—we, poor victims of a villainous treachery against the greatest culture of the world—believed them.
Let us try to unlearn, the unhealthy ideas that have been taught to us by a foreign imperialist hand-maiden. Read independently the pages of our sacred Bhagavat. You will see clearly a new meaning and a healthy message in every line.
Remember Lord Krishna was 8 years old when He was in Brindavan. “He married 16008 girls” and danced with them in the moonlit-nights on the banks of Yamuna— are the complaint of the sadistic non-Hindus. But why blame them? How many Hindus know the real import of the Bhagavat? Suppose your son of 8 years old is in the midst of 160080061 women, unless you are not in your own senses, you will not say that the boy is seducing them all!
• Bhagavat—a famous purana.