Why not Krishna?
While I was chanting my Hare Krishna mantra japa [on beads] early this morning before our beautiful Deities, this topic came to me. I am having a number of online conversations about Krishna and whether he is really God, or if there even is a God, or if there is really anything beyond this life. I have to admit to not being very expert in “proving” the existence of Krishna, or at least giving good arguments why God exists. Perhaps it is because I have rarely had a problem with this.
I don't mean to imply that my path on the road of Krishna consciousness has been lined with roses--far from it. I have had my intense difficulties, tests, challenges, and doubts, and times when I had to reexamine what I really believed. I think I could compare those times to an insect or snake shedding its old skin. Through the years I have had to really make Krishna consciousness my own, and not just do things on automatic pilot. It is healthy for all of us to reevaluate our faith, and renew our vows--lest we become stagnated, and not vital which tends to make us external ritualists or fanatics.
Observing myself, I have an easy and simple faith in Krishna which comes quite naturally for me. Though I have struggled as a devotee with the usually material desires, psychological “issues”, distractions, and lust for the flesh, at the same time, my conditioned nature is very favorable for devotional service—like many devotees it is a mixed assorted “bag” of sometimes conflicting tendencies. However, in all honesty, serving the Deities and wanting to help devotees is second nature. I guess after 40 years in this life of engaging in Bhakti or devotional service one would hope so, yet the background of whatever spiritual advancement I have made is what I have carried over from previous lives.
I have an article in the current Back to Godhead magazine (Sept-Oct 2009) in which I describe how someone like me, who externally had no background in spiritual or even material religious life, could apparently all of a sudden take to Krishna consciousness enthusiastically as a brahmacari and then householder. This can best be understood from the Gita’s 6th chapter which describes how spiritual life or yoga is carried over lifetime after lifetime, until success is achieved. How much one struggles in Krishna consciousness has a lot to do with the spiritual assets we one has—or doesn’t have—from our previous life.
We can understand a lot about our previous life by examining our current body, mind, family, inclinations, desires, life circumstances, and what we are struggling with, etc. When you look in the mirror or see anyone’s body, you are looking at consequences from previous lives. Thus, my online acquaintances who are struggling with even accepting the reality of Krishna have much less stock of spiritual assets then those who can take up and remain on the path of Bhakti. I don’t mean to put myself forward here, but to try to make sense of all our struggles, or why someone would have more than someone else.
The Bhagavad-gita and other Bhakti scriptures like Shrimad Bhagavatam propound a spiritual vision of life and the Universe, with Krishna as the fountainhead, and the engagement of service to him, and attainment of love for him as life’s true goals. At the same time, they are broad enough to give recommendations to those who may not be able to accept this.
For instance, in the Gita’s 9th chapter, Krishna first describes the real mahatma. They are under the protection of his divine energy, have fully taken shelter of his service in complete knowledge of him, and as a result are always chanting his glories, and determinedly offering respects and devotedly serving him. Then Krishna mentions others who are serving him indirectly and without knowledge of his personal nature through impersonal knowledge (jnana) of his effulgence (Brahman) and by worshipping the Universe as supreme. Although they are not spoken of as “mahatmas” they are considered to still be worshipping God since Brahman is also an aspect of Krishna, and the Universe is also a form of God. I bring this up as a way for those who may not be able to completely accept Krishna as supreme, to be able to accept a view of Krishna which may be easier, and which can also purify them to be able to accept Krishna some day.
To bring people to God is the whole design of the different Vedic scriptures, and diverse seemly contradictory recommendations. Krishna says that the purpose of the Vedas is to understand him, so with this lens we can make sense of the different followers of various scriptures—whether fruitive workers, impersonal philosophers, worshippers of the demigods, or the universe, etc. Krishna teaches us this in the second chapter, verse 46: “All purposes served by a small well can at once be served by a great reservoir of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.”
So back to the title of this blog: “Why not Krishna?” If you have no better conception of God, then why not accept Krishna, or research the logic Krishna and his devotees give for his existence, and the claims Krishna makes about himself as being the supreme source of everything, the sustainer and life of all that lives, etc.
Sometimes I would meet Christians on the street, and after some discussion, they sometimes concluded, that I believe in God, but—pointing to a picture of Krishna—that is not him. The only reason they could give, is that Krishna wasn’t mentioned in the Bible. It is certainly good that they believe in God, but their disqualification is their fanatical assertions that their way is the only way. Of course fanaticism in not the monopoly of any one group, it seems to be very wide spread throughout religious or non-religious groups. Fanaticism whether religious, nationalistic, ethnic, racial, gender based—you name the group or ideology—is the real enemy of the world.
Another strategy to adopt is to consider how important understanding of your place in the universe, and about God is to you. If it is an arm chair interest, it is not likely it will ever go beyond that. Krishna tells us that according to our desire to know him, he reciprocates proportionally. So if you really want to know yourself, God and life’s deep understanding, you have to ask for this with sincerity and intensity--in other words, it is a gracious grant from above. This means putting your hands together and praying to understand. Many devotees as they were taking up Krishna consciousness, prayed with such intensity, being willing to put their whole life on the line in the pursuit of truth. Some combination of, “If there is a God, please help me to know you, and show me the way” was there in many future devotee’s hearts. Radhanatha Swami’s new autobiography--The Journey Home, published by Mandala—is one of the most amazing testimonies to this.
In the introduction to Prabhupada’s Gita’s As It Is, he recommends that get the most out of the book, one should at least theoretically accept that Krishna is God. This is like saying, ok maybe Krishna is God, or what if Krishna was God. This attitude opens one’s heart, compared to being purely skeptical. In psychology it is understood, that our preconceived ideas color our perception, or what we give energy to expands or increases. So if we are going to understand Krishna we have to study those who have been successful in bhakti, like Arjuna.
Arjuna was acknowledged by Krishna to be the proper person to understand him since he wasn’t envious of Krishna and was his friend. So although we may not be that qualified, at least we can try to adopt a receptive attitude and pray for understanding and openheartedness. The science of Krishna is reasonable, yet transrational. Ultimately the qualification to comprehend the reality of Krishna is love, or prema. Prema is there within everyone and merely needs to be brought out through bhakti or devotional service.
Wherever you are spiritually or materially make the attempt to understand yourself and Krishna—or God, or your higher power, or Universal Laws. Begin where you are, and do your best to explore the path of bhakti and spirituality. So--Why not Krishna?—well you may have a whole bunch of questions about this, and I am trying to be of service to you to answer it, as imperfect as I am.
Although the Vedas refer to the Absolute Truth as “unknown and unknowable” it can be know if the Absolute chooses to revel himself to us. Prayer is powerful, so that is our best strategy for understanding that which is inconceivable and beyond our intellect and sensual purview—though Krishna give us hints on how to see him even with our current senses, as in saying he is the taste in water, the light of sun and moon, the ability of man etc.
The Gita teaches us that materially we are our faith and our attachments. That determines in what arenas we are active in--secular, religious, spiritual or what have you. So my humble advise for those evaluating Krishna consciousness is: Be real. Be sincere. Examine your heart. Give more energy to faith, while exploring your doubts with the faith that they can be answered. Otherwise you will just remain a doubting person, with faith in your doubts.
Anything we want in this world takes dedication, determination, commitment, desire, and a lot of time and energy. Should we believe that understanding God or Krishna should be any different? Should we be surprised that there are obstacles on this path—as there are on any path—or that those who come to Krishna, come with their conditioned imperfections? The way out is through. May what appear to be stumbling blocks, stepping stones!