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.
“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
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 http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m11/m11025.htm
4. See chap 2 p70 of Sinister Yogis by David Gordon White, University of Chicago Press, 2009