Christ and Krishna: aspiration and grace

Christ and Krishna are archetype figures in the spiritual conceptions from the West and the East (India); their teachings have molded the spiritual thinking of both worlds.

Both figures emphasize the role of love, and both are considered to be manifestations of divine love. Jesus teachings speak of love as the highest value, and Krishna is considered to be a divine incarnation that personifies the Divinity’s love and charm. We get to Jesus’ Father, God, through love, and Krishna can only be tied down with the ribbon of the devotee’s love.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, (Matthew 22.36-37).

Give me your mind and your heart, dedicate all your offerings to me and worship me; if you do this, I promise that you will come to me and will be one with me, as I love you truly, (Bhagavad Gita XVIII.65).

In the life of Christ we see the devotee giving himself to God; through his teachings and his example we see the effort in that surrender. Jesus’ death in the cross represents the sacrifice of the own ego when it surrenders to the Divine.

In Krishna’s life we see, mainly, the Divinity giving itself to the devotee. In the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam, God, incarnated as Krishna, speaks in the first person. It is difficult to find such a direct declaration of God himself in humanity’s religious literature. Krishna, speaking from the point of view of the Absolute, the “Father God” of Jesus, explains how he acts in relation to the universe, to live beings and to devotees.

Through his words we see that the motivation in God's actions, when he intervenes in his Creation, is to help his devotee. In the Hindu approach, God does not reward or punish, because those are jobs for karma, and one receives what one gives, be it good or bad.

Krishna declares that he has nothing to gain from the whole universe, but continues to act without expecting anything, and he is with those that are with him, without neglecting any of his devotees. The Divinity will, in its love for them, even break the laws of karma, absorbing whatever consequences there might be. The Divinity’s grace, when love is involved, is unpredictable, beyond any human logic.

Through this two different approaches we can see that in the West, religion emphasizes the individual’s effort to be better and more perfect, whilst in the East it is more important the grace of God and us opening up to it.

Which of these two postures would be more appropriate? Both of them, obviously: adequate personal effort can take us to the Divine grace, can make us receptive to it and even work with it.

The six point star, formed by the combination of a triangle facing upwards and another one facing downwards, is a significant symbol of the Indian Sidha’s tradition. It represents the union with the Divinity, the union between opposites, Shiva and Shakti (consciousness and energy, masculine and feminine) or the union of the devotee with the Divinity. The triangle facing upwards also represents the devotee’s efforts to attain divine grace, his aspiration for divinity. The triangle facing downwards represents the divine grace descending toward him.


The good shepherd’s call

There are more parallelisms between the lives of Christ and Krishna. When he was Young, Krishna was a cows herder; “Gopala”, one of the many names of Krishna, means “protector of the cows”. Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd”:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, (John 10.11).

Krishna is represented playing the flute. On hearing the sound, all creatures, animals, men and women would stop what they were doing and would be overcome by ecstasy, forgetting everything, even themselves: “They look at Krishna, they listen to Krishna, and they do not think of anything but Krishna" (Srimad Bhagavatam).

Krishna also represents that side of God which is seductive and alluring, a side not recognized in the Western culture, except in the poems about divine love written by mystics such as St John of the Cross or the holy Sufis. The sound of Krishna’s flute represents the Divine One’s call, which takes us away from our fascination for the world and fills us with nostalgia for the divine, with longing to return home. The same as Krishna would hide in the forest from the devout shepherdesses, God hides in his own creation to give his devotees the eternal joy of reencountering their Beloved.

It is also said that, in the same way that the flute's tune guided the cows back to the barn, the internal call of the aspiration must guide our thoughts to our destination.

Teachers like Jesus and Krishna know their flock, they would go to those destined to be their disciples. There is a relationship between an spiritual aspirant and his teacher that goes beyond time and beyond their lives, that the aspirant can recognize from the bottom of his heart, that goes beyond reason, like the sound of the good shepherd’s flute. The teacher appears (or rather, “makes himself visible”) as soon as the disciple is ready to listen to this internal call. This is what “being pure of heart" means: when someone is able to hear and follow the voice of his own heart, because he has freed himself from external mental conditionings, from ways of reasoning and interests that are purely egotistic:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God, (Matthew 5.8).

Those who can hear the voice of their hearts will be able to recognize the Divine One when it walks next to them, whether it looks like Jesus, Krishna, Rama, or a tramp. Perhaps this is the divine game, to hide under the most unlikely guise. We can all recognize Jesus now, but when he met his apostles he was but a neighbor from a nearby village, Nazareth, who could cause "nothing more than grief."

‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked, (John 1.46).

Could Jesus’ followers recognize him now if he came to us looking different? Would they leave everything behind to follow this stranger? A funny chapter of the Srimad Bhagatavam narrates how the gopis, the shepherdesses of the priests, the brahmines, left them to their religious rituals to meet Krishna in secret, to meet the Divine One. The Pharisees and pontiffs from the temple, who presumably where close worshippers of God (and the order they themselves had established), were the ones to cause the death of Jesus.

The gopis, those who have a pure heart, can hear the divine call, and even bind the elusive Krishna with the ribbons of their aspiration. This is the difference between following an established religious pattern or following your own heart. But God does not accept rituals, dogmas or theologies, he only accepts hearts. How did Jesus laugh at the pontiffs, the alleged keepers of sanctity, socially recognized (and also holders of influence and power):

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you, (Mateo21.31).

God is like a gold merchant, he acquires melted images of different representations of the Divinity. He does not mind whose image he buys, the only think he looks at is the quality of the gold, if it is pure or of low quality. In the same way, the Divine gives his grace to the devotee, not because of the better or worse image or concept the devotee has of Him, but because of the quality of the gold of his aspiration and devotion.