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To know Krishna full well is more than knowing the entire universe. It is an idea in the Bhagavad Gita. "I exist, supporting this whole world by one part of myself." [Bhagavad Gita 10:42]" Given that premise and some others, going for knowing your Self is good. Juan Mascaró writes:

Brahman in the Universe, God in his transcendence and immanence is also the Spirit of man, the Self in every one and in all, Atman. Thus the momentous statement is made in the Upanishads that God must not be sought as something far away, separate from us, but rather as the very inmost of us, as the higher Self in us above the limitations of our little self. In rising to the best in us we rise to the Self in us, to Brahman, to God himself. Thus when the sage of the Upanishads is pressed fora definition of God, he remains silent, meaning that God is silence. When asked again to express God in words, he says: 'Neti, neti', 'Not this, not this'; but when pressed for a positive explanation he utters the sublimely simple words: 'TAT TVAM ASI', 'You are That'.

According to the Upanishads, the reality of God can only be apprehended in a consciousness of joy that is beyond ordinary consciousness. (Mascaró 1965, p. 12)

If you don't know your Self, you don't know Krishna all the way through. And how is your Self? The First Shankaracharia, Adi Shankara, tells:

Study of the scriptures is fruitless as long as Brahman [God] has not been experienced. And when Brahman has been experienced, it is useless to read the scriptures. [Shankara]

When the Great Reality is not known, the study of the scriptures is fruitless. When the Great Reality is known, the study of the scriptures is also fruitless. [The same, in another translation]

Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati says succinctly: "Spiritual teachings . . . cannot throw light on the inner Self, for the Self is Light."

The gist of it: You don't get it before you reach it. After you experience it, you are free to describe it by allegories or metaphors too, but the main thing to bear in mind is that words will not suffice.

A word to the wise will suffice: "Sit down, keep on." For:

Out of many thousands of men hardly one endeavours for the perfection of self-realization, and of those so endeavouring hardly one has achieved the perfection of self-realization and of those hardly one knows me in truth. - Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 7:3

Krishna Sources

What is held to be Krishna's old capital Dwarka (Dvaraka) was found under water in the early 1980s. It gave rise to

marine archaeological investigations conducted by the Marine Archaeology Unit of the National Institute of Oceanography and the Government of Gujarat. The final inference of these marine under water investigations is that "there was really a city which got submerged in Dwarka in 1500 BC and that the "architectural evidence and antiquities such as a seal and inscriptions go to indicate that it was the city of Mahabharata age". [WP, "Dwarka"]

The submerged city has something in common with the Troy of the Iliad by Homer in that was supposed to belong to tales and not be there.

There is also a many-sided artistic "Krishna production" in the world. There are good teachings in some of the tales and teachings.

The basic sources of Krishna's mythology are the epic Mahabharata and its appendix from the 400s, the Harivamsa; and the Puranas, particularly Books 10 and the Uddhava Gita (Book 11) of the Bhagavata-Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam). The Mahabharata with the Bhagavad Gita in it is another source.

  1. The Mahabharata, a very long epic poem, tells stories of Krishna and others in an entertaining way in the splendid translation/condensation of Kamala Subramaniam [Aha]. In the Mahabharata, Krishna is a hero king who manipulates events. Krishna refused to bear arms in the great war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas but offered his personal attendance to one side and his army to the other. The Pandavas chose him, and Krishna thus served as charioteer for Arjuna. Otherwise, the whole Mahabharata poem has been translated by Kisari Mohan Galguli in twelve volumes. [Mmw]. His translation is ◦online too, at Gutenberg.

  2. The influential teachings poem Bhagavad Gita [Bvg], is a dialogue between Arjuana and Krishna the charioteer on the brink of war somewhere not very far from where modern Delhi lies. The Gita is contained in the Mahabharata epos, and contains instructions in how to live, as ascribed to Krishna. The Gita is a slender portion of the Mahabharata. I have included a thorough translation of it too, by Swami Sivananda. The text is in both Sanskrit and English. The one by Nikhilananda is fine too [Wa]. For those who want to inspect words and phrases even more, there is the Bhagavad Gita As It Is by Prabhupada [an online texts exists], and a Bhagavad Gita version translated by Swami Chidbhavananda, called The Bhagavad Gita (Tirupparaitturai: Ramakrishna Math, 25th impression, 2012).

  3. There are also many tales about Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam (The Bhagavata Purana or simply Bhagavatam) [Sh], and teachings too. An extensive ◦online translation [Srm] is furnished by The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.

In the old Upanishads, there are only a few slender lines about Krishna. Poets and others later made a lot about him, as the Bhagavatam lays bare. Here is a briefing based on Dimmitt and Buitenen [Clh 101-5]: As a child, Krishna is beguiling and naughty, steals milk and butter, overturns wagons, and kills his wicked nurse maid by sucking her.

After puberty he gets noted for great charm and amorous adventures. The youth sings and plays seductive and irresistible music on his flute to lure the cowherd women out of their beds at night to come and dance with him, lost in love, each getting their desires gratified. His love-play and the act of love with his favourite partner among them, Radha, is described in affectionate detail.

Then he leaves her and all the others to go and kill his evil uncle. With his brother Balarama he sets off on his heroic duty, working wonders such as straightening out a hunchback girl on his way. After killing his uncle, Krishna kidnaps a wife, Rukmini, for himself, and then 16,000 or 18,000 more apsara wives [sources differ], and becomes the father of a horde of sons. But he allows the members of his own family and clan by to kill each other towards the end of his life. Soon after he gets accidentally shot in the foot by a hunter in his one vulnerable spot, the heel, and dies. Last of all the ocean floods and submerges his city Dvaraka at the end of the story.

The exploits of Krishna in the Bhagavatam look different from those of Krishna the king in the Mahabharata, but, "If they have anything in common, it is a tendency to trickery and deceit," writes Dimmitt and Buitenen. The trickster and lover conceals his purposes through charm, and may ignore rules. [Clh 102, 105].

Further, after the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam is the most authoritative of the Hindu scriptures. The teachings poem Uddhava Gita is found there (in Book 11). The Wisdom of God [Sl] by Prabhavananda contains interesting portions of the Bhagavatam in paraphrase, but also the whole Uddhava Gita, which consists of teachings of Krishna to his disciple Uddhava. Aldous Huxley has said, "The Bhagavatam . . its Eleventh Book . . . expresses the essence of Indian religion almost as forcefully as does the Bhagavad Gita . . . [Sl BC]"

Krishna related lore Now there are many other translations and abbreviated versions of these three books also.

To what degree is Sri Krishna a product of art which is laden with symbolism? It is difficult to tell:

  • HISTORICALLY: Ancient Sanskrit Upanishad lines tell of what could be a historical Krishna. The epic poem Mahabharata also tells of Krishna, among others.

    Remains of a well-fortified township claimed to be Krishna's capital Dwarka (also called Kathiawad and Dwaraka) were found in 1981 under water on the coast of Gujarat in western India. The findings conform with Mahabharata descriptions. Some think the findings along with the epic descriptions are valid proof that Krishna existed. The findings are of immense cultural and religious importance to India. The archeological evidence of the site is also found compatible with the Mahabharata tradition when it comes to dating. [Links: ◦A, ◦B, ◦C, and ◦D.]

  • OUTPUT-WISE: It is pointed out by such as Professor Poul Tuxen [Wy] that sayings of the poem Bhagavad Gita - not all of them - are put in his mouth through centuries of formation or gestation.

    Bhagavadgita is a religious-philosophical teaching poem incorporated in the Mahabharata of 100 000 couplets - the most voluminous work of its kind - a storehouse of brahmanic knowledge and thought. [Wy 8]

    Among the historical sources that refers to Krishna, the grammarian Panini (4:3,98), dated no later than the fourth century BC, refers to a worship that involves Krishna as the God. [Wy 10]

    In many cases in the text it is evident that there was later additions; and it is very possible that large parts originally belonged to some other context, just as some verses are fetched from Upanishadic literate. [Wy 12]

  • SYMBOLICALLY: There is also the a symbolic Krishna, a figure that yogis put meanings into by interpreting symbolic features and gestations related to the Bhagavan (person-god). The inner sound of a flute is spoken of as hearing Krishna's flute, for example in Kundalini Tantra. [Spo]

  • FROM ANCIENT TALES AND ART: Much that is handed over about Sri Krishna reflects a many-sided artistic production over time. There can also be good lessons inherent in some old tales, perhaps also accurate historical references.

Worth noting

Professors Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen assess that many stories of the Hindu tradition may be difficult to understand for the non-specialist. [Clh xi, 3-11 ff, passim].

To find out what is true, or at least best, eat mangoes, says Ramakrishna:

PASUPATI: "What do you think of the solar plane, the lunar plane, the stellar plane?"

MASTER [i.e. RAMAKRISHNA]: "My dear sir, I don't know about these things. Why bother about them so much? You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. . . . What is the use of your calculating how many mango-trees there are, how many millions of branches, how many billions of leaves? I have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Let me enjoy them.

"Once a man's inner spirit is awakened, once he succeeds in knowing God, he doesn't feel the desire even to know about all this rubbish." [Mahendranath Gupta. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Chap. 43, "Nature of "I"]

Self-Realization cues
Some can see and listen to it a lot also.

Collection

Sri Krishna, Krsna, Bhagavan Krishna, Hare Krishna, Sri Krisna, Literature  

Aha: Subramaniam, Kamala, tr. Mahabharata. Bombay: Bharatiya Book University, 1982.

Bvg: Sivananda, Swami, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Trust Society, 2003. [2 Bhagavad Gita versions online]].

Clh: Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. Classical Hindu Mythology. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1978.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2014 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2013.

Hrv: Dutt, Manmatha Nath. A Prose English Translation of Harivamsha. Calcutta: M. N. Dutt, 1897. ——— The first book of Harivamsa Parva describes the creation of the cosmos and the legendary history of the kings of the Solar and Lunar dynasties leading up to the birth of Krishna. Vishnu Parva recounts the history of Krishna up to the events prior to the Mahabharata. Bhavishya Parva, the third book, includes two alternate creation theories . . . and provides a description of Kaliyuga. While the Harivamsha has been regarded as an important source of information on the origin of Visnu's incarnation Krishna, there has been speculation as to whether this text was derived from an earlier text and what its relationship is to the Brahma Purana, another text that deals with the origins of Krishna. [WP, "Harivamsa"]

Kas: Bryant, Edwin F., ed. Krishna: A Sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Mmw: Ganguli, K., tr. The Mahabharata, Vols 1-12. 4th ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1981.

Rap: Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Tr. Swami Nikhilananda. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942. Online.

Sf: Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. 3rd ed. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 2007.

Sh: Raghunathan, N., tr. Srimad Bhagavatam, Vols 1-2. Madras: Vighneswara, 1976.

Sl: Prabhavananda, swami, tr. The Wisdom of God. New York: Capricorn/Putnam, 1968.

Spo: Avalon, Arthur (Sir John Woodroffe). The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. 7th ed. New York: Dover, 1974.

Srm: Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Srimad-Bhagavatam. 18-Volume Set. Alachua, Fl: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1974.

Tas: Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.

Tog: Woodroffe, Sir John, tr. Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra). New York: Dover, 1972.

Tu: Juan Mascaró, tr. The Upanishads: Translations from the Sanskrit. London: Penguin, 1965.

Wa: Nikhilananda, swami, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.

Wy: Tuxen, Poul, tr. Bhagavadgita. Herrens Ord. København: Gyldendal, 1962.

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