O Krishna, Lord of Hindustan, I sorrowed by the lonely Jumna river bank, where Thy flute-notes thrilled the air and led the lost calves to their homes. O Lotus of Love, musing on the sad absence of Thy delusion-dispelling eyes, I saw Thine invisible Spirit take form, frozen by my devotion’s frost.

— Paramhansa Yogananda (from Whispers from Eternity)

Many people on the yogic path often refer to some of India’s most well-known deities. In this post I share basic information on Krishna. In Hindu mythology, Krishna is said to have been an avatar, or incarnation of God, who lived sometime near the end of Descending Dwapara Yuga.

It is said that Krishna was born in a prison cell, where the evil king Kamsa put his parents. But soon after Krishna was born, the door miraculously opened, and Krishna’s father escaped with him and gave him to some cow herders who were staying nearby. Krishna grew up to slay the evil king and become a great and wise leader.

In his childhood, the stories say, he was a playful and mischevious cowherd boy with blue skin. Many of the stories about Krishna revolve around him playing with the gopis and gopas (cowherd girls and boys) who were actually great yogis. He is also known for being a beautiful flute player. The complete story of Krishna’s life can be found in a scripture called the Srimad Bhagavatam.

One story from Krishna’s childhood is from when he was a toddler. His adopted mother, Yashoda, was making butter, and Krishna, well-known for his love of butter, kept trying to eat it. After a while Yashoda decided to keep him from it by tying a rope around a post and the other end around his waist, but it was just a little too short.

She kept tying on more and more rope to the original one, but it was always just a couple of inches too short. Finally she realized what was happening and said to Krishna, “I realize now what I’ve done. You are an incarnation of God and nothing can bind you.”

She set the rope down and looked dejected. Krishna, though, feeling sorry for her, encouraged her to try again. That time it worked. The moral of this story is that God can only be found (caught) by a devotee’s love.

Another story is when Krishna was a young man and went for a walk with Radha, his main devotee among the gopis. As they walked, she started to feel proud that he was with her and preferred her above the others. She started to feel as if he belonged to her.

Suddenly he disappeared! She ran around sobbing and yelling for him, panicked that she could not find him. She fell to the ground and begged for him to return, saying that she realizes now that he belongs to everyone and loves all creation equally. Seeing that she had learned her lesson, Krishna reappears.

The most well known scripture on Krishna is the Bhagavad Gita, sometimes referred to as the “Hindu Bible.” The Gita takes place just as Krishna and his friend Arjuna are about to fight in a terrible war against many of Arjuna’s relatives.

Arjuna at first refuses to fight, since they are his family, but Krishna convinces him that it is his dharma to fight, meaning that in this case, it is the right thing. Most of the Gita is Krishna’s description of the different paths of yoga and how to follow them correctly.

Often Westerners wonder, “Is Krishna real? But he has blue skin and does impossible things, etc. etc.” At Ananda we view these stories as mainly metaphorical, although our guru Paramhansa Yogananda said that Krishna really is a historical figure and he was a great king. The childhood stories, however, are probably not historicly accurate.

As far as the devotee is concerned, this isn’t important. God is every form and no form, so He appears to us in whatever way we worship Him (or Her), and if we worship God as the child Krishna, that is how He will appear to us. Loving God in this form will also help us to develop the qualities of Krishna such as love for all, childlike innocence, and playfulness.

Try This

Next time you meditate, pray to Krishna, and ask him to instill his loving qualities in you. When you go about the rest of your day, imagine him there as a friend guiding you to do the right thing in every situation.

If Krishna does not appeal to you, think of someone who does. It is very difficult to love God as formless since we have forms ourselves and cannot identify with formlessness until we are very spiritually advanced.

Further Study

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Kriyananda
Sri Krishna Lila by Vanamali Devi
Blue God by Ramesh Menon — This was the first book I ever read about Krishna. Although it does not have the spiritual depth of the two above, it makes Krishna feel very approachable and blends stories of his life with the Bhagavad Gita.

 

10 Comments

  1. Radika- Thank you for the insightful wisdom and artfully creative story telling. It inspired me to reflect on my own life and the challenges that I face. I asked God…where in my own life am I being prideful or unwilling to see the larger picture. It is very easy for any one of us to get caught in our human reactions to another persons or our own behavior, attitude, habits, impressions and a long list of barriers to our divine nature. Most of us on the spiritual path have trouble with our own imperfections and often attempt to hide them instead of being as open and responsive to the divine prompt to step up to higher ground as you shared in your great story telling. The opportunities for humility are endless on this path to Self Realization and I really appreciate that you shared your wisdom with us. Aum Guru, Prakriti

  2. Awesomely written krishna May come in my dream I will b happy

  3. Awesomely written krishna May come in my dream I will b happy.My grand Maa and grand papa devotee Shree nath g darshan made to them in temple as Gopal

  4. Thank you for this inspiring reflection, especially as we approach Sri Krishna Janmastami (the celebration of Krishna’s Birthday.) I love how you reminded us of Gurudeva’s devotion to Krishna, as you wove his words through your reflection. Hare Krishna.

  5. “At Ananda we view these stories as mainly metaphorical”
    Oh ye of little faith!
    I am surprised an article is written about Krishna but writer does not have full faith in Him.

    1. Does it really matter if the stories about Krishna are historically accurate or metaphorical? If they accurately describe the character of Krishna and teach a spiritual truth they are enlightening. The important thing is that the sages who wrote about him were in tune with his spirit.

      1. Of course it matters. Does it matter that your name is Donald or Dick?
        The moment this flake Radhika, wrote ‘Hindu Mythology’, I did not read anything further. Why cant she write Hindu itihas?

        I

  6. Let me switch your statements around for the sake of argument – “In Christan mythology, Jesus is said to have been Son of God, who lived sometime in 4 B.C…. We at Anand view Stories of Jesus as mainly metaphorical…

    Why not say as it really is? – Much like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhasyas, Darshanas, etc… Sanatana Dharma scriptures have a corpus on Itihas (History)… Mahabharat that has Bhagavat Gita embedded in it falls under Itihas category. Itihas is basically history not mythology – Thats it. Thats the narrative. Somehow Ananda has the authority to “change/modify” that narrative? That too when Yoganand himself believed in Itihas? Dont drop so low and steep to appease the west and seel your products.

    Secondly… “Hindu Bible”? Really?? Then bible must “Jesus Gita”? Does Jesus Gita make sense? Bhagvat Gita literally means “The Song of God” and it is written down in a complex poetic format with sophisticated meters that has nothing do with how the Bible is written. So could we simply call it Bhagavat Gita (Literal meaning The Song of God) and just leave it at that. What’s with these analogies really?

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