Author: Govinda Das
“Why worship Krishna?” As an aspiring Krishna devotee, I find myself answering this question many times to young and old alike. In reflection, people essentially worship based on their specific inclinations and the traits they admire. Some adore cricket stars, while others may fawn over football players; sportsmen are adored for their phenomenal feats on the field. Buddha and Gandhi are revered for their stand on peace and nonviolence. Similarly, Jesus is worshiped because of his extraordinary level of compassion, while Mahavir is glorified for his power of tapas. Likewise, Socrates was idolized by philosophers for his idealistic wisdom. Warriors like Arjuna are honored for their valour. Similarly, Shiva is worshipped for his destroying capabilities and deep meditational powers. Furthermore, many worship kings and Devatas for special favours. And commonly, youngsters are attracted to and serve each other for romantic desires.
What does Sri Krishna have? He does not pledge any one prominent quality; Krishna does not display a specific trait permanently. In fact, Sri Krishna’s greatness is that he is not limited by any positive or negative qualities. Veritably, if overemphasized, even “good” qualities can be a source of pain and violence - thus becoming a weakness. To illustrate, a nonviolent propagator can easily be exploited by an opposing party that is not bound by that principle. Additionally, those set in a certain “superior” virtue, often unfairly and abusively impose it on others, causing much suffering and resentment. Hence, all qualities - including the “good” kind - have a flip side. Therefore, Sri Krishna is Nirguna or without qualities; precisely, he is not confined to particular characteristics, yet He can abundantly manifest any attribute when needed for the upkeep of Dharma. For example, Sri Krishna is kind and affectionate towards his friends, yet he is cruelty personified towards Kamsa. Can Krishna be thus characterized as cruel? Similarly, he is joyful when joking and frolicking with his gopas and gopis, yet Krishna is not only known for merrymaking. He also spoke the very sobering, illuminating and immortal Gita, but He is not delineated as a deep philosopher. Krishna also expertly strategized the elimination of so many demoniac Kurus and their allies; however, he is not honored solely on the basis of his military expertise. Which one of these above mentioned qualities can justly and fully define Sri Krishna?
Tangibly, He is like an expert mother of many, who delivers when and what is exactly needed for His individual children to progress and grow. Krishna is “mother supreme” and has every quality needed to elevate all of His children. He is a reservoir of all talents, yet confined by none. Thus, Krishna is never redundant and is increasingly relevant over time. As his name describes, Sri Krishna, is forever attractive regardless of the time factor which reduces everything and everyone to a mere historical event. If Krishna can sway the time factor, then what grandeur can anything else hold in front of Him? Therefore, we adore Him, worship Him and learn life lessons from Him. And ultimately, Krishna teaches us the best lesson of freedom – mukti. Interestingly, God is defined in various ways. Descriptions may stem from the vivid imaginations of some, the intellectual vigour of others, the innovative creativity of a few and more commonly, imposed legacies rooting from generations of yore. But what is God really? Which definitions are actually substantial? Firstly, it would be useful to present some of the common (mis)conceptions of God that originate from the above mentioned sources. Generally, God is seen as powerful; the supreme autocrat. He is also accepted as a jealous being that desires undivided attention and exclusive adoration; intolerant of the worship of any other personality. Additionally, He may be identified as a formless force, a mass of energy without a figure. They describe Him as nameless, colorless and loveless; considering it blasphemous to visualize a form of God. Many accept Him as love, or time, or death or even destruction. Others may perceive God as the creation itself, much beyond the realm of superior beings competing for control and power. Fundamentally, most of these beliefs conceptualize God as the supreme dominator who cannot be conquered by anyone or anything – not even love.
In contrast, Dharma defines God uniquely through the writings of various sages. Vedic tradition depicts God as diverse, yet uniform; He is localised as a person, and also all-pervading through His being one with His energies. God is the ultimate powerful dominator, yet is easily subjugable by love. Additionally, He is outside the realm of sensory experience, but graciously allows us to experience Him in the tactual world through our senses. Furthermore, Dharmic culture commends seeing God everywhere; in the sky, the mountains, rivers and even in extraordinary human feats. God Himself, extols this as perfection in the Gita, “One who sees me in everything and everything in me is never lost to me and I am never lost to them”. (BG 6.30) The supreme father is not resentful if someone does not worship Him directly; He is willing to step aside to avoid any inconvenience to His children, so long they encourage, and engage in progressive activities. He accepts any good action as a service to Himself. Moreover, He is not disturbed if one worships any other form of His energies such the Devatas, Devis or Shaktis. Afterall, all the Devas are His own limbs so He does not feel jealousy of His extensions. God will not spite such worshipers, nor spit fire on them and He will definitely not send any deadly storms! He is infinitely compassionate and does not condemn any individual to eternal hell or any one species of life. In fact, the “punishment” from our perspective is loving reformation from His view. If you fail in a certain lifetime, His creation, an independent functioning operator, provides many opportunities in various species of life. As He is sensitive to our needs, through the process of destiny, God fulfills our requirements through different lifetimes. Sri Krishna is certainly eager for us to have Him in our lives, yet not at the cost of our freedom; as freedom is the only venue through which we can make an autonomous choice to love.
Moreover, God is portrayed abstractly in the Upanishads; His attributes are described without a name. Though seemingly contradictory to the specific personal explanations from the Puranas, the Upanishads and Puranas beautifully complement each other. Although, He is found in the heart of every living entity as Paramatma, the Puranas further portray the Lord’s detailed names, fame and pastimes in incarnations such as Sri Krishna, Sri Rama, and Narsimha. They illustrate how God, the Supreme Being, is playing and merrymaking with ordinary folks, and so we can assuredly access Him, see Him, feel Him, and eventually deeply love and conquer Him with that affection. Moreover, He happily reciprocates in the relationship we choose to have with Him, be it that of a dominating beloved, caring mother or father, or even defeating Him in wrestling matches while boasting of our own strength and feeling a friendly superiority towards Him! This wonderful and alluring concept of God is not only a contribution of the Vedas, but also a factual experience of sages and Gurus. Fortunately, joining this amazing legacy requires no membership; the only prerequisite is a willingness to walk that beautiful journey. The choice is completely ours - and that is His greatest gift.