Krishna (Sanskrit: black) is the eighth avatar of Vishnu in Hindu mythology and religion.

Oops. All in the name of God… right?

A certain Krishna, with no reference to any kind of divinity, is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Later, in the Chandogya Upanisad, Krishna is depicted as a scholar.

But it’s not until the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita, that Krishna is fully outlined as a divine being. He is also traditionally regarded as the author of the Bhagavad Gita, which translates into The Song of the Lord or The Song of God.

Following this, the Bhagavata Purana details the somewhat mischievous exploits of Krishna’s youth.

When studying comparative religion in India I took a double credit graduate studies course specifically on the Gita. It impressed me so much that I mentioned the presiding professor in the opening pages of my PhD (which last I checked is still online…).

Krishna as Arjuna’s Charioteer – via Google Images

For a while, I bought into the message of the Gita but these days I am somewhat critical. Essentially, the Gita is about killing in a detached way—supposedly killing for God instead of killing for selfish gain. Some Hindus will say or insinuate that non-Hindus do not fully appreciate the ‘subtlety’ of the concept of dharma (sacred duty). But the way I see it, killing is killing is killing, no matter how much you dress it up with abstract, philosophical or religious justifications.

Rabindranath Tagore via

I found a similar kind of arrogance with regard to Eastern vs. Western aesthetics once from a non-Indian woman who was studying in India. The small folk band* that I participated in had just performed a Hank Williams tune at a gathering that was supposed to be about multiculturalism. The university founded by Rabindranath Tagore is all about that.

Later on, I inadvertently overheard the woman implying in jest (while I was returning something to her partner’s place) how crass our performance was compared to the ‘incredibly subtle’ classical Indian music that immediately followed.

So much for intercultural appreciation. And you should have seen the startled, conflicted look on her face when she answered the door to see me standing there! (sound traveled easily in the student complex).

Today, I would take Hank Williams Sr. any day over Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar Khan. For me, the one is clear and from straight from the hip. The others take me to a lower numinous plane that I no longer find comfortable nor desirable.

For more on how I have looked at the issue of Krishna’s bellicose teaching from several perspectives, and for a comparison to the teachings of Christ as related in the New Testament, see:

* “Singing Waterfall” was one of the songs our folk trio performed in India, along with several other American classics. We had a Japanese man on guitar, a Belgian guy on banjo and myself on guitar. Most of the Indian students loved it! Shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaduuuu! they cried after our performances, which I guess is the Bengali equivalent of Bravo!

Related » Buddhism, Hinduism, Jnana yoga, Radha