in Yoga

Killing of Krishna

Krishna, "hitched to his rig" in mahayoga

Krishna, “hitched to great rig” (mahayoga)

Krishna is one of the most widely revered and most popular of all Indian divinities, worshipped as the eighth incarnation (avatar) of the Hindu god Vishnu and also as a supreme god in his own right. Krishna became the focus of numerous bhakti (devotional) cults, which over the centuries have produced a wealth of religious poetry, music, and painting1. His words, recorded in the Bhagavad-Gita, are considered by modern yogis to be one of the most important “classic” yoga treatises2.

In the epic Hindu poem ‘Mahabharata‘ (400 CE) Krishna helps the Pandavas wage war against the Kauravas, two related but feuding families. In the poem, he is depicted as divine and reveals his ‘Bhagavad-Gita‘ (“Song of the Adorable One”). His “Gita” (song) is delivered to the troubled Warrior-Hero Arjuna, as his charioteer, on the eve of the decisive battle of Kurukshetra. This speech persuaded Arjuna that it was right to wage war and kill his kinsmen. After billions3 of warriors are killed during the 18 day battle, Krishna retired to the woods to meditate.

Krishna, depicted in Balinese shadow puppet

Krishna, depicted in Balinese shadow puppet

“That mighty one [Krishna] reflected on the destruction of the Andhakas and the Vrsnis, and of the demise of the Kaurava family [that he helped kill in the war of Kurukshetra]. He thought that the time for transference (samkramana), [of stepping out of his body] [had come]. Thereupon, he forced together his senses, speech, and mind; and Krishna whose senses, speech, and mind were [thus] forced together (samniruddha), reached the “great rig” (mahayoga) and lay down. At that time, a terrible hunter [named] Jara (“Old Age”) passed nearby, seeking to slay a deer. He saw Keshava [Krishna] lying there, hitched to his rig (yogayukta). Assuming Krishna to be a deer, Jara the hunter shot him in the sole of the foot with an arrow, and then swiftly drew near, intending to lay hold of him. The hunter then saw a man [Krishna] with many arms and clad in yellow, hitched to his rig (yogayukta)”. –Mahabharata 16:5:18-20


Krishna, yogacharya, ascends to heaven

Jara then sees Krishna going upward (gacchannurdhavam) into the sky, passing through ever more exalted realms, until “that teacher of yoga (yogacharya) filling the heavens with his splendor, arrived at his own place”4.

Questions for readers: What other gods or divine incarnations helped kill more than 1,660,020,000 people? (See Note 3 below). Who and in what scripture verses?


1. Encyclopedia Britannica, Krishna

2. The other foremost “classic” yoga treatise, acclaimed by modern yogis, is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. See my post Origins of Modern Yoga.

3. Persons Krishna helped kill: ‘One billion 660 million and 20,000 men have fallen in this battle. Of the heroes that have escaped, the number is 240,165’ during the 18 day battle of Kurukshetra.– Mahabharata 11:26:7-11

4. See chap 2 p70 of Sinister Yogis by David Gordon White, University of Chicago Press, 2009

Leave a Reply

  1. See my post “Divine Slaughter” – similar point about the Mahabharata.
    It seems the Iron Age way of teaching morality include violent themes – as I illustrate in this Panchatantra: Morality via Death post.
    But heck, look at popular TV shows today.

    Question to Writer: Why did you write this post? To tell about the killing of Krishna, or Krishna’s Killings. And then why?

  2. Sabio: Good posts– those two. Yes, the Killing of Krishna- by him and of him. And, of his Jesus “christ-like” ascent to heaven. Krishna’s “Gita” (song) is sacred canon for modern yogis. Many yogis say how wonderful the Gita is, but forget this “Song” of the Lord was really to encourage the killing of billions of warriors in the Mahabharata.


  3. I’ve read somewhere that being killed by Krishna is supposed to be a good thing for karmic reasons.

  4. Hi David R: That sounds familiar. Do you remember where you read that?
    In Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age, “karma” is often used to blame the victim–to rationalize murder, rape, or horrible misfortunes–as sanctioned by “divine will” or even a blessing. I used to believe karma was real, but these concepts seem cruel to me now.

    What do you think? Any merit to karma?


  5. karma is a word that practically means the same thing as GOD. It is not known, it is not perceived with the senses, and has some kind of mysterious quality to it. LIke the origin of life or the universe. So long as it persists as being unknown to humans, will be have discussions and debates and arguments about karma or God and what it means.

    That’s just my 2 cents. or 3.

    As to Gods sanctioning murder, in personal religious forms over the ages, I don’t happen to put my stock in them. They are, after all, products of less evolved humans. And in any case, if God does exist, and I will die and so will everybody else eventually, the cruelty seems beyond comprehension, but it is nevertheless a known thing. So the end point seems to forever be: God exists, but you aren’t too important in comparison.

    My brain is not capable of computing a replacement for God in the form of an atheist that will forever be remembered in the absence of memory as in drugs, dementia, or alziemers, and old age wreaking havoc on the short and long term memory of the brain. So I choose to remain open minded until such a God Atheist will show up. Which probably won’t ever happen.

  6. @David R: I’m not sure I follow you. Also, saying “God Atheist” is an oxymoron. Atheism is the absence of belief that a god or gods exist. I’m not sure you really understand what atheism is and how one comes to that conclusion. Anyway…

    Let me see if below I can summarize your proposition about what karma is:

      1) Karma is the same, or similar, as god.
      2) God is mysterious.
      3) Karma is also mysterious, and we can never know why a god would allow murder or death.
      4) Humans don’t seem important: compared to a god.
      5) We can’t understand the mysteries of god or karma, using our limited human knowledge, brains, and senses.
      6) Therefore, god and karma exists because we don’t have a better explanation.

    Is this what you are saying? Or, please help me understand what you mean? I’m interested in trying to understand your proposition about karma. Thanks