Lord Krishna, as a child.
Sadhguru: Krishna as a man, the mission that he took up in his life, the frailty of being a human being living such an active life and at the same time, the divine element – all these aspects form a complex web. It is not right to see him just as this or that. He would come out as a totally distorted figure if you were looking at just one aspect of his life. He is so multi-dimensional that unless you at least touch a little bit of all of him, it would be total injustice to him.
The Place Where Krishna Was Born
Geographically, his birth took place in Mathura, in the present state of Uttar Pradesh. There was a prominent chief of the Yadava community named Ugrasena. Ugrasena was becoming old and his very ambitious son, Kamsa, who had no qualms about how to become powerful could not wait for his father to die. He imprisoned his own father and took over the leadership. He also aligned himself with an absolutely ruthless emperor from the East whose name was Jarasandha. Jarasandha’s dream was to conquer the whole known world. Through absolute brutal force, his power was growing at great pace. Kamsa aligned with him because that was the only way to get powerful at that time.
Why Kamsa Wanted To Kill Krishna
Kamsa’s sister Devaki got married to Vasudeva, another Yadava chief. Just after the wedding, when Kamsa himself was driving the newlywed couple in his chariot, an astral voice made a prophecy. This voice said from the sky, “Oh Kamsa, very happily you are driving your sister after her wedding. The eighth child born to this sister of yours will slay you. That will be your end.”
Immediately, Kamsa got violent. “Oh, her eighth child is going to come and kill me? I am going to kill her right now. Let’s see how she will have her eighth child.” He took out his sword and right there, wanted to behead his own sister. Vasudeva the groom, begged of Kamsa, “Please spare her life. How can you do this? She is your sister and we are just married. How can you just slaughter her right here?” “Her eighth child is going to kill me. I am not going to let anything like that happen.” So Vasudeva offered a pact, “I will give all our newborn children to you. You can kill them. But please spare my wife right now.”
But Kamsa, overly concerned about his life and security, kept his sister and his brother-in-law under a kind of house imprisonment so that they were constantly watched. The first child was born and the guards informed Kamsa. When he came, Devaki and Vasudeva wept and begged, “It is only the eighth child which is going to kill you. Spare this one.” Kamsa said, “I don’t want to take any chances.” He picked up the child, held him by the legs and smashed him on a rock. This continued. Every time a child was born, the parents begged Kamsa in many ways, but he wouldn’t spare a single one. Six new-born children were slaughtered like this.
Vasudeva carries Krishna across the river Yamuna
How Balarama Reached Gokul
Devaki and Vasudeva were very frustrated with Kamsa’s ways. The subjects in the kingdom were very fearful of Kamsa. Over time, they also got frustrated with the absolutely cruel ways of the king, constantly at battle with someone and then, killing these children. Slowly, dissension was beginning to happen within the palace. So when the seventh child came, Vasudeva managed to smuggle it out and replace it with a stillborn child that they found elsewhere. This child was smuggled across the Yamuna River to Gokula and gave it to Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva.
The name of this child was Balarama. As he grew up, he became like a giant and there are any number of stories about his strength and the feats that he performed.
Vasudev Taking Krishna to Gokul
When the eighth child was due, Kamsa got really nervy. All these days, they had been under house arrest, but now he shackled Vasudeva and put Devaki in a proper prison. The child was born on the eighth day into the dark half of the month, and it was pouring rain and thunder. Kamsa would not allow anybody to enter the prison because something may happen. He put his trusted aide, a lady who was related to him whose name was Puthana, as a midwife. She was supposed to watch. The plan was that the moment the child is born, she would hand it over to Kamsa who would kill the child.
The labor pains came and went, came and went. Puthana waited and waited. It didn’t happen. During the night, she went out to visit her home for a few minutes and come back. But when she arrived at her home, suddenly a very heavy rain set in and the streets were flooded. In this situation, Puthana was unable to go back to the prison.
That was when the child was born and a miracle happened. The doors of the prison opened up by themselves – all the guards fell asleep – the shackles broke. Immediately, Vasudeva saw that this was a divine intervention. He picked up the child and as if by intuitive guidance, he walked to the river Yamuna. Though the whole place was flooding, he found to his surprise that the ford which crossed the river was sticking out and he could clearly walk. He walked across and went to the house of Nanda and his wife Yashodha. Yashodha had just delivered a girl child. She had had a difficult labor and was unconscious. Vasudeva replaced the girl child with Krishna, took the girl child and came back to the prison.
What Happened to Yashoda's Daughter?
Kamsa tries to kill the eighth child
Then the girl child cried. The guards went and reported to Kamsa. By then, Puthana had returned. Kamsa came and saw that it was a girl. He knew something fishy had happened, so he asked Puthana, “Are you sure? Were you here when the child was born?” Puthana, fearing for her life said, “I was here. I saw it with my own eyes. This child was born to Devaki.” To add authenticity, she said, “This child was born right here in front of my eyes.” Devaki and Vasudeva begged, “See, it is just a girl. This girl cannot kill you. If it was a boy, he would have been your slayer. But this is a girl. Spare this girl.” But Kamsa said, “No, I don’t want to take any chances.” So once again, he picked up the child by her legs and wanted to crash her on the floor. As he was about to do this, this child slipped out of his hands, flew out the window, laughed at him and said, “Your slayer is elsewhere.”
Now Kamsa really got suspicious. He interrogated everyone who was there. The guards had slept, Puthana had gone out. Nobody was willing to admit anything because all of them valued their heads. When you run situations by threat, initially you think it’s an advantage. “If you don’t do this, you’re dead” – so things will happen the way you want them. But after some time, this becomes a big problem. People know that if something doesn’t happen the way you want it, it will cost their life. So they will create a whole make-believe situation all around you. When you run things by fear, this is the consequence that you will have to face.
Meanwhile, Krishna was placed into the community of Gokula. In spite of being the son of a chief, he grew up in an ordinary cow-herding community. There are any number of miracles and adventures that happened around him during that phase of his life.
Butter Pranks - Krishna in Gokula
Sadhguru: If you want to have a taste of Gokula, the land of Krishna’s childhood, we need all of you insane. The very essence of the early part of Krishna’s life is, with his very enchanting looks, his supposedly inimitable smiles, his flute, and the dance in his step, he just drove people into a new kind of frenzy that they had never known before. He turned a whole community totally insane; very blissfully insane. They just went mad about him.Why Krishna is such a huge factor in the cultural ethos of this country is, this was a man who romped through his life, no matter what was happening.
Krishna very joyfully and proudly used to say, “I stole butter. If I didn’t steal butter, there would be no zest and excitement in the village.” Krishna and his friends opened the tiles on the roofs of other people’s homes and slipped in. The pots would be hung high so that the children could not reach them. So they climbed on each others’ shoulders and got them. When the pots were too high to reach, they took a stone and hit them. If the stone made a small hole in the pot, the curd and butter just poured out and they drank with their open mouths. Or sometimes it cracked and the whole pot crashed down, so they gobbled the content from the floor. They shared it among their friends, and always there was excess because there were just a few brave boys who would do this. So they called the monkeys and fed them.
All this sounds very romantic but it is like your refrigerator had been raided by your neighbor’s kids. So some women were angry, some were heartbroken, but they were not as paranoid as people are today. They got angry – the butter and curd were their livelihood. So they complained about Krishna constantly. When they came home to his mother to complain about what he had done, he very proudly said, “I would hide behind my mother and make loving eyes at them, so they would smile.” Even when they were angry, these Gopi women were wonderful.
Much culture, song, music and dance evolved around these simple pranks of Krishna and his friends. There were other aspects of his life, but one very basic thing why this happened is, he was irresistibly beautiful. So much has been said and sung about his physical beauty. Even as a child, people were just drawn to his physical self. In the northern part of the country where generally people were fair, he was dark complexioned. He was so attractive as a child that people were willing to overlook all the quite terrible pranks that he played.
Joyful and loving 24 hours a day
Today it is an unfortunate reality that there are any number of people in the world who have never even walked joyfully for 10 minutes by themselves. There are any number of people in the world who have not for one moment in their whole life sat in front of somebody really loving that person. Their whole life goes without even a moment of these things happening. For such people, there is no entry into Gokula. Gokula is a place where people romped about joyfully, even while doing their work. They sang, they danced, they loved.
Not knowing moments of joy is a crime against humanity. Being joyful, being loving 24 hours a day is not out of reach for a human being. Why Krishna is such a huge factor in the cultural ethos of this country is, this was a man who romped through his life, no matter what was happening. Right from his childhood, he went through many extreme situations. From the day he was born, people were trying to kill him.
In his childhood, any number of assassins came to execute him. Through various factors – sometimes through his super human capabilities – these attempts were warded off. But the most important factor is, he went through his life like a dance – joyfully, blissfully, lovingly. Wherever he was, whether he was in a battle or just about to behead his foe; whether he was in loving atmospheres, joyful atmospheres, or terrible atmospheres, there was a smile on his face. When it was necessary, he became stern. But the moment that necessity was over, in all kinds of extreme situations, he smiled and went through them. Unfortunately, people like to see this as a divine quality. A smile is a human quality. Human beings who have lost it are trying to export their joy to heaven.
As a child, Krishna exhibited various qualities of his own. Once, as an infant, when he was just about three months old, it happened to be one of the Pournami festivals. Full moon day was always a celebration in these pastoral cultures. Actually, every day was a celebration but the full moon day was a good excuse. So for the full moon day celebrations, in the afternoon itself, the families gathered at the riverside; they cooked, and in the evening, after eating, they danced. All the ladies were busy cooking, and the children were left here and there with somebody. Because it was sunny, the mother, Yashodha, left the three-month-old Krishna under a parked bullock cart for shade. He was sleeping for some time; then he woke up. Still he did not have the legs to move around and dance, but he wanted to be there. He saw that nobody was paying attention. So he just kicked the wheel of the cart and the whole cart crashed down.
That was the first display of his superhuman strength which he used whenever it was necessary. Otherwise, he lived as a normal human being, going through all the strife and struggle of any human being. But at certain moments, he exhibited qualities which were beyond what you call human.
Everybody was aghast that the cart crashed and they thought the child was crushed. But nothing had happened to the child. A few little boys who had seen this, said, “He kicked the cart; that’s why it fell down.” Nobody believed it, “What nonsense. A three-month-old child – how can he kick the cart?” All the adults dismissed it as wild imagination of these children. But he continued to exhibit such qualities again and again.
The Loveable Thief
Sadhguru: When Krishna grew a little older, at around five, six years of age, his butter thieving pranks got more organized, and people who were losing their butter got more and more distressed. Constantly, people were coming to his mother and complaining, “Your boy, please keep him at home!” So, mother Yashodha scolded him but he had his way with her. If she scolded him, he knew how to cry immediately. He would put his face down on the floor and just cry and bawl, waiting for her to attend. He even goes to the extent of saying, “I did get angry but not like other people. When other people got angry, for example my elder brother Balarama, he screamed, he stamped his foot, he paced up and down; I could see he was wasting a lot of his energy. Even my mother used to get angry. When she really got angry she wasted her energy knitting her brows, twitching her nose and throwing herself around. I did not get angry like that. I just got angry to the extent it was necessary.”
He continued to play all his tricks but one day he got a real scolding. Then he decided that these people who are constantly complaining about him would have to be taught a lesson. He began to plan what he would have to do. In the middle of the afternoon one day, he was walking near the river bank and he found all the gopis were having bath in the river. There were young women, old women, girls, all kinds. Krishna thought this would be a good opportunity to have some fun, and went and hid in the bushes. He saw where all the gopis had kept their clothes on the river bank before going into the river.
In those days, separate times of the day were fixed for men and women to bathe in the river. When it was time for the women to bathe, no one would come there so they had total freedom in the river. Krishna bundled up all their clothes, climbed up a tree and just quietly sat there. The women, busy playing in the water and having a bath, didn’t notice anything. When it was time to come out, they came out and saw to their horror that their clothes were missing. They screamed and yelled because they had no clothes now. Where were they to go? When they started screaming and howling, he started playing sweet notes on his flute. Then they screamed and abused him and said, “Come down you fool.” But Krishna just continued to play his flute, not bothered by what they were saying to him. Then from screaming and scolding they came down to pleading and begging and after much begging, he told them, “If you want your clothes, we will make a deal. You don’t go and complain to my mother again and again. You get that?” They were ready to agree to anything because they were naked and had no clothes.
Krishna took out the clothes and when everyone had their clothes, he got down and playing his flute, walked away. Among themselves the women said, “Oh, what a terrible boy! What a sweet boy! Aren’t we glad he’s only seven and not seventeen.”
Krishna is such a huge factor in the cultural ethos of this country because this is a man who romped through his life, no matter what was happening. Though Krishna stole butter from everyone’s homes and played tricks and all kinds of pranks on them, still, everyone loved him because he was in tune with them. He was in perfect tune with life around him. Only when you feel in tune with someone you will feel pleasantness. When you don’t feel in tune with someone, they don’t have to do anything wrong to you, if you just look at them – unpleasantness. When you are in tune, being loving, being joyful, being like a flower is very natural to you because that is how this being is made.