Questioner: What are the distinguishing virtues of Krishna that make him relevant to our time? What is his significance for us? Please explain.
Krishna is utterly incomparable, he is so unique. Firstly, his uniqueness lies in the fact that although Krishna happened in the ancient past he belongs to the future, is really of the future. Man has yet to grow to that height where he can be a contemporary of Krishna’s. He is still beyond man’s understanding; he continues to puzzle and battle us. Only in some future time will we be able to understand him and appreciate his virtues. And there are good reasons for it.
The most important reason is that Krishna is the sole great man in our whole history who reached the absolute height and depth of religion, and yet he is not at all serious and sad, not in tears. By and large, the chief characteristic of a religious person has been that he is somber, serious and sad-looking – like one vanquished in the battle of life, like a renegade from life. In the long line of such sages it is Krishna alone who comes dancing, singing and laughing.
Religions of the past were all life-denying and masochistic, extolling sorrow and suffering as great virtues. If you set aside Krishna’s vision of religion, then every religion of the past presented a sad and sorrowful face. A laughing religion, a religion that accepts life in its totality is yet to be born. And it is good that the old religions are dead, along with them, that the old God, the God of our old concepts is dead too.
It is said of Jesus that he never laughed. It was perhaps his sad look and the picture of his physical form on the cross that became the focal point of at traction for people, most of whom are themselves unhappy and miserable. In a deep sense Mahavira and Buddha are against life too. They are in favor of some other life in some other world; they support a kind of liberation from this life.
Every religion, up to now, has divided life into two parts, and while they accept one part they deny the other, Krishna alone accepts the whole of life. Acceptance of life in its totality has attained full fruition in Krishna. That is why India held him to be a perfect incarnation of God, while all other incarnations were assessed as imperfect and incomplete. Even Rama is described as an incomplete incarnation of God. But Krishna is the whole of God.
And there is a reason for saying so. The reason is that Krishna has accepted and absorbed everything that life is.
Albert Schweitzer made a significant remark in criticism of the Indian religion. He said that the religion of this country is life negative. This remark is correct to a large extent, if Krishna is left out. But it is utterly wrong in the context of Krishna. If Schweitzer had tried to understand Krishna he would never have said so.