Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
Your interests (Optional)
This will help us make recommendations and send discounts and sale information at times.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
Sign In  |  Sign up
Your Cart (0)
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend

Did Krishna Follow Dharma? Doubts and Resolutions

Article of the Month - July 2013
Viewed 14493 times since 15th Jul, 2013

While undoubtedly Krishna is the supreme God, nevertheless many of His actions, during His avatar on earth, are difficult to reconcile with the fact that the avowed purpose of His incarnation was the protection of Dharma. The most common doubt regarding Lord Krishna is framed as follows:

Arjuna Kills Jayadratha (From the Mahabharata)

Doubt: There are serious reservations about Lord Krishna’s actions in the Mahabharata war. Before even the war had begun Arjuna expressed the noble sentiment of disgust for war and desired to become a sannayasi. Shri Krishna had at that moment the perfect chance of preventing war and the consequent massive bloodshed. Instead, He chose to dissuade Arjuna and advised him to go to war. Not only that, at many places Krishna advises Arjuna and his brothers to kill their enemies unethically. All the major warriors in the opposite army, be it Bhishma, Drona, Karna or Duryodhana, were killed by immoral tricks on His advice. How are we to view these actions?


Draupadi Chira-harana Answer: This is an appropriate question, and the answer begins with an analysis of the circumstances which led to the Mahabharata war. Duryodhana had not only usurped the kingdom of the Pandavas (Arjuna and his four brothers), but also ill-treated them in the most ignoble ways. In the basest of actions, he did what is unacceptable to Indian society at any level – tried to disrobe queen Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, in his huge assembly.


There were many veterans sitting in the assembly while the above ignominy was taking place. They all kept mum. Indeed people like Bhishma and Drona in the assembly were no doubt, very noble and were also fully aware of the heinous crimes of Duryodhana. They had the capacity to check him also but they did not. The reason for their inaction was that they were living off his food (as he was their king). So they even fought for him in the war. Gratitude to the one who feeds us is, of course, a great virtue. But it does not mean that he should be supported even in his Adharma. All of this gives us an indication of the depths to which the society had degraded under Duryodhana’s rule. If there were misconceptions about Dharma even in great people like Bhishma etc., it was no surprise that things were much worse with others. This is Adharma at its climax – a situation unacceptable to Lord Krishna.


Arjuna Blowing His Conch on the Battlefield of Kurukshtra

Let us now return to Arjuna on the battlefield. Given such a situation in Duryodhana’s rule, it is absurdly wrong for anyone to adopt an attitude of negligence or a fear complex, more so for a Kshatriya who himself is a victim like Arjuna. His Dharma is towards the greater good, and in the context before him, it was to root out Adharma even if it necessitated a full-scale war.


Gita Upadesha

Therefore, the mental state of Arjuna just before the war cannot at all be described as noble; at the best it was muddled. Bhagavan Krishna educated him about the purpose of life as a whole and then prompted him to fulfil it by waging the war.



Next is the question of the relative military merits of the forces of Dharma and Adharma – i.e. of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (family to which Duryodhana belonged). The latter’s army was very superior to that of the Pandavas – both quantitatively and qualitatively. In fact, the Kauravas’ army was one and half times bigger. The mighty Bhishma had the boon of choosing his own time of death; Drona was the teacher of Pandavas, who were only his pupils. Karna and Duryodhana were superior in valour to Arjuna and Bhima respectively. So how were they to be faced by the Pandavas? It was the fight of Dharma against Adharma. So, ethics, - though important by itself, becomes secondary in comparison to what is to be achieved.


Foundations of Dharma

Consider an example: A criminal is speeding away in a car after committing heinous crimes. The policeman on his trail breaks all traffic rules while chasing him. Normally it his duty to book one who violates traffic rules. But now? Only a simpleton would say that he has to be booked for violating the traffic rules. Similarly in war or in life in general, there are levels of values and one will have to sacrifice a lower value for the sake of a higher one, if the two happen to be in conflict. This is exactly what Shri Krishna has done. So, we should never commit the blunder of finding faults in either Rama or Krishna or the scriptures in general. It is very difficult for common people like us to understand the subtleties and nuances of Dharma. Therefore, Rama and Krishna were born for the specific purpose of educating us about it.


Further Doubt: The same scriptures you swear by, also make it mandatory that conjugal pleasures be restricted to one’s own wife; how then did Lord Krishna indulge in amorous sports with the gopis of Vrindavana who were married to someone else?

Resolution: This is a gross misconception in vogue about Lord Krishna. Its clarification begins with a brief summary of the Rasa Lila as described in the great scripture Srimad Bhagavatam. It was in the dead of night that Krishna set forth the tune from his flute in the forest. The gopis who heard it became intensely attracted to it and ran to the forest, leaving aside anything they were doing then and there instantly. Some stopped cooking, some stopped feeding, some stopped eating, some stopped washing clothes, etc. and ran away.



The moment the gopis reached the forest, Krishna asked: ‘What brings you here? What help do you need?’ They bent their heads without answering Him. Then He said: ‘Is it not wrong for noble ladies like you to meet anyone othet than your husbands at this odd hour?’ They cried and said: ‘Krishna! We have come with great difficulty to join you here. You should not reject us like this’. Then He condescended to play Rasa with them among bloomed lotuses.


Mahamuni Shukadeva Narrating Bhagavata Purana to Raja Parikshata

At the end of the narration of this episode by sage Shukadeva, the listener Parikshit expressed the same doubt that has been expressed above. To which Shukadeva Ji replied: ‘Tejiyasam Na Doshaya – No fault in this for Tejiyans’, and concluded that indeed, the next morning their husbands saw the gopis just sleeping by their sides.


So the clarification hinges on the word Tejiyans and its meaning should be internally consistent with the description of Rasa. Notice that nobody will be washing clothes or doing cooking etc in the dead of night. Also the next morning their husbands saw the gopis just sleeping by their side. This gives us a clue that the Rasa was a dream. This is confirmed as follows:

Tejiyan means ‘more lustrous’ according to Panini’s grammar. Who is more lustrous than whom? The Upanishads call the wakeful Jiva as Vishwa and the dreaming Jiva as Taijasa. This Taijasa is more lustrous (tejiyan) than Vishwa. Therefore, Shukadeva’s reply means that there is no fault in the activities of the dreaming gopis. This is exactly what the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says. For that matter, we all know it ourselves. Nobody deprecates anyone for the faults committed by him in his dreams. Why? The external world keeps our mind under leash when we are awake; but the mind becomes totally free during dreams and mixes the experiences of the real world with its imaginations creating the dream, where the little boy Krishna can behave like an adult, and lotuses can bloom in the night. Nevertheless, He has to first admonish the gopis for their conduct!


This article is based almost entirely on the teachings of Param Pujya Swami Paramanand Bharati Ji. However, any errors are entirely the author's own.


References & Further Reading:

Post a Comment
Post Review
  • Thanks for another great article. May Lord Krishna bless you for your sevice to His devotees ..
    Jaya Sri Radhe ..!
    by dr. jaya on 19th Jul 2013
  • Regarding the question raised about Krishna, whether he followed dharma: my experience with questions like this is that the questioner doesn't really care about the issue one way or another; they don't really believe any of it to begin with; they just want to cause trouble by trying to make themselves look intelligent, when in actuality they're jerks. Better to let them wallow in their own sense of self-deception and ignore them.
    by Thomas on 17th Jul 2013
Excellent e-commerce website with the most exceptional, rare and sought after authentic India items. Thank you!
Cabot, USA
Excellent service and fast shipping. An excellent supplier of Indian philosophical texts
Libero, Italy.
I am your old customer. You have got a wonderful collection of all products, books etc.... I am very happy to shop from you.
Usha, UK
I appreciate the books offered by your website, dealing with Shiva sutra theme.
Antonio, Brazil
I love Exotic India!
Jai, USA
Superzoom delivery and beautiful packaging! Thanks! Very impressed.
Great service. Keep on helping the people
Armando, Australia
I bought DVs supposed to receive 55 in the set instead got 48 and was in bad condition appears used and dusty. I contacted the seller to return the product and the gave 100% credit with apologies. I am very grateful because I had bought and will continue to buy products here and have never received defective product until now. I bought paintings saris..etc and always pleased with my purchase until now. But I want to say a public thank you to whom it may concern for giving me the credit. Thank you. Navieta.
Navieta N Bhudu
I have no words to thank you and your company. I received the Saundarananda Maha Kavya that I have ordered from you few weeks ago. I hope to order any more books, if I will have a need. Thank you
Ven. Bopeththe, Sri Lanka
Thank you so much just received my order. Very very happy with the blouse and fast delivery also bindi was so pretty. I will sure order from you again.
Aneeta, Canada
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Related Links
"One uniqueness of our Vedic religion is that it allows for salvation not only through renunciation (nivritti) but also through the path of material happiness (pravritti).... If dharma makes it mandatory that conjugal pleasure be restricted to the life partner, how is it that Krishna indulged in the amorous sport of Rasa with others' wives?.... Some stopped cooking, some stopped feeding, some stopped eating, some stopped washing clothes etc. and ran away.... Upanishads call the jiva in waking state as Vishwa and the dreaming jiva as Taijasa (Mandukya Upanishad Mantras 3-4)."
Krishna's Rasa Lila: The Vedantic Perspective
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"Only a certain fraction of this karma is chosen by God in order to form the blueprint of our next birth…. The fruit that one experiences in this birth is due to prarabdha and a portion of the present agami…. Similarly, a fish in the Ganga does not accrue punya because of always living in Ganga…. A good karma can be annulled by a bad karma and a bad one by a good one…. Sometimes we also hear that prarabdha cannot be got rid of. It has to be spent through…. Bhagawan Vyasa says that for the full result of the karma to manifest, three things are necessary…. Then how to understand the statement that prarabdha should unavoidably be experienced?"
Theory and Practice of Karma: Some Salient Features
"Her epithet in the Devi-Mahatmya is Mahalakshmi. She is the wrathful four-armed goddess of battlefield represented holding in them various weapons…. A form of Lakshmi seated over a lotus laid over a golden seat and a pair of white elephants…. Except in some classical forms in Lakshmi-Narayana imagery Lakshmi is ordinarily two-armed…. Incarnation theory is the crux of Vaishnavism. Vishnu incarnates alone but Lakshmi also incarnates in simultaneity…. Though very rare some enthused artists have conceived on Ardhanarishvara line also Vishnu’s Ardhanarishvara images."
Iconography of Vaishnava Deities: Goddess Lakshmi
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"Contrarily metaphysicians and theologians perceived his form as it manifested in the Upanishads and Puranas….The ‘Advaita’ philosophy also contends that the entire Creation is just the extension of One…. Dance illustrates one of the ever-first cosmic acts with which Shiva seems to have tamed violent motion and separated from it rhythm, moves that communicated emotions and states of mind – human mind and the cosmic, and disciplined and defined pace…. Unlike Vishnu who resorted to dance for accomplishing a contemplated objective, Shiva has been conceived more or less as a regular dancer performing for accomplishing an objective as also for pure aesthetic delight…. Unfurling locks of hair and his snakes floating into space portray the dynamics of the act."
Shiva, the Nataraja
"There is Rama, the son of Ayodhya's king Dasharatha in his human birth, and there is Rama's divinity, his divine aura that overwhelms the Tulasi's entire Ramacharit-manas, one manifest - with attributes, and the other, unmanifest - without attributes. With main emphasis on his majesty in South Indian tradition this crown is taller than usual. His 'khadgasana' images are usually in three modes; one with his right foot moved forward represents him in a commander's disposition ready to rush for protecting a devotee in crisis or redeem him from some calamity. Harihara, a form in which he shares with Shiva half of the body. Basically a bird Garuda is seen for ages as Vishnu's ardent devotee, a learned human being and an auspicious presence, and in iconographic tradition often conceived with a man's face, anatomy, ornaments and ensemble. The Puranas are replete with tales of Garuda's divine exploits."
Iconography of Vaishnava Images: Vishnu
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary…. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances…. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently…. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas…. There is no instant transition to moksha…. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life."
Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"Bhishma undoubtedly is one of the central figures of the Mahabharata.…. One should not venture out too early in the morning…. But one should not go to sleep with wet feet….A person who desires to live long should never irritate the following three…. One must shun company of people who criticize the Vedas…. If we are traveling, one must find shelter inside a house…."
Living the Full Life: 50 Instructions from the Mahabharata
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
Show More
All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 © Exotic India