(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)
Religious Gatheka Number 23
The life of Krishna is an ideal which gives the picture of the life of a perfect man. The real meaning of the word Krishna is God, and the man who was identified with that name was the God-conscious one who fulfilled his Message in the period he was destined to give his Message.
The story of Krishna, apart from its historical value and interest, is of great importance to the seeker after truth. No one knows of the father and mother of Krishna. Some say he was of royal birth. It means of kingly origin, from that King Who is the King of all. Then he was given in the care of Yashoda, who brought him up as his guardian-mother. This is symbolical of the earthly parents, who are the guardians, the real father and mother being God. In the childhood of Krishna, it is said, he was fond of butter, and he learned, as a child, to steal butter from everywhere. And the meaning is, that wisdom is the butter of the whole life. When life is churned through a wheel, then out of that comes butter – wisdom is gained by it. He was stealing it, which means, wherever he found wisdom he learned it, from everybody's experience he benefited – that is stealing.
Plainly speaking, there are two ways of learning wisdom. The one way of learning wisdom is that a person goes and drinks to excess, and then falls down in the mud, and then the police takes him to the police station, and when he recovers from his drunkenness he cannot find his clothes and he is horrified at his own appearance. This makes him realize what he has done. This is one way of learning, and it is possible that he does not learn. The other way of learning is that a young man is going in the street, he sees a drunken man and sees how terrible it is to be in this position; he learns from that. That is stealing the butter.
But then the latter part of Krishna's life has two very important aspects. One aspect teaches us that life is a continual battle, and the earth is the battlefield where every soul has to struggle, and the one who will own the kingdom of the earth must know very well the law of warfare. The secret of the offensive, the mystery of defense, how to hold our position, how to retreat how to advance, how to change position, how to protect and control all that has been won, how to let go what must be given up, the manner of sending and ultimatum, the way of making an armistice the method by which peace is made, all this is to be learned in this life's battle. Man's position is most difficult, for he has to fight on two fronts at the same time; one is himself, and the other is another. If he is successful on one front, and on the other front he proves to have failed, then his success is not complete.
And the battle of each individual has a different character. The battle depends upon man's particular grade of evolution. Therefore every person's battle in life is different, of a peculiar character. And no person in the world is free from that battle; only one is more prepared for it, the other, perhaps, is ignorant of the law of warfare. And in the success of this battle there is the fulfillment of life. The Bhagavad-Gita, the Song Celestial, from the beginning to the end is a teaching on the law of life's warfare.
The other outlook of Krishna on life is that every soul is striving to attain God, but God, not as a judge or a king – as a beloved. And every soul seeks God, the God of love, in the form it is capable of imagining. And in this way the story of Krishna and the gopies signifies God and the various souls seeking perfection.
The life and teaching of Krishna has helped the people of India very much in broadening the thought of the pious. The religious man, full of dogmas, is often apt to make dogmas too rigid, and expects the godly, or the God-conscious, to fit in with the standard of goodness. If they do not fit in with his particular idea of piety he is ready to criticize them. But the thought and life of Krishna was used by the artist and the poet and the musician and out of it was made a new religion, a religion of recognizing the divine in natural human life; and that idea of considering a spiritual person exclusive, remote, stone-like and lifeless ceased to exist. The people of India became much more tolerant toward all different aspects of life, looking at the whole life at the same time as an immanence of God.