Questioner: Krishna’s life, particularly his childhood, is full of stories of his extraordinary heroism. He killed the tyrant king Kansa and destroyed demons like Kirti, Agha, Baka and Ghotaka; in a duel he defeated powerful wrestlers like Chanoor and Mustika. He subdued a very venomous snake known as Kalia, and put out a whole forest fire single-handed. Do you think these are true stories or mythical ones? And what do they suggest and symbolize?
In this context I would like to recall your words, “When Krishna says that he is here to destroy the wicked, he actually means to change them, to reform them.” But these stories clearly say he really destroyed them. Please explain.
In this connection it is necessary to understand one thing which has always puzzled people who wanted to understand Krishna. How is it that Krishna, in his teens, fights and defeats such powerful persons as those you mention? And people had only one way to solve this puzzle, and that was to accept Krishna as an incarnation of God – omnipotent, all powerful, capable of doing anything he wants to do. But in its depths it means the same thing, that the strong defeats the weak, that a great power wins over a small power. They say that though Krishna is young in age, he is so powerful that even demons are no match for him. But in my view such interpretations do scant justice to Krishna’s life. Basically these interpretations stem from confused and wrong thinking. They stem from the general belief that the strong wins over the weak.
I have something entirely different to say here, and it is necessary to understand it. In my view, he alone wins who does not desire to win, and he who wants to win loses. All these stories, as I understand them, say the same thing, one with no desire to win is going to win and one desiring to win is going to lose. In fact, defeat is hiding itself in the very desire to win, in the depths of this desire. And absence of this desire to win means the person concerned has already won, that he does not need it anymore.
You can understand it in a different way. If someone is desiring and striving to win in life, it means that deep down he is lacking something, that he is suffering from an inferiority complex. Deep down, such a person is aware of the inferiority he is trying to cover through winning. And if, on the other hand, someone is not out to win it means he is already established in his eminence, there is not even a shade of inferiority in him to disprove by resorting to winning.
It will be easy to understand if we look at it from the Taoist viewpoint.
One day Lao Tzu told his friends, “No one could defeat me all my life.”
One of his friends rose from his seat and said, “Please tell us the secret which made you invincible, because each one of us wants to win and no one wants to be defeated in life.”
Lao Tzu began to laugh, and he said, “Then you will not be able to understand the secret, because you don’t have the patience to hear the whole thing. You interrupted me when I had not completed my statement. Let me complete it. I say, no one could defeat me because I was already defeated. It was difficult to defeat me because I never wanted to win.” Then Lao Tzu told them they were mistaken if they thought they could understand his secret.