“This nava-yauvana, or pre-youth, is the eternal transcendental form of Krishna. Krishna never grows older than nava-yauvana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.384 Purport)
Friend1: Let me ask you this.
Friend2: I love that. I know I have to be alert whenever you start a sentence with those words.
Friend1: Yes, you love the challenges I present to you. Anyway, here’s what I was wondering about. When you were younger, when you first began thinking about God, what did you think He looked like?
Friend2: That’s a good question. You know, I don’t think I ever thought about that. I never considered what He looked like.
Friend1: Right, me neither. But I’m sure you’ve since seen Him depicted as an old man.
Friend2: Yes. I’ve watched those specials on the History Channel about the Bible and such things.
Friend1: They have paintings too. He’s old with a gray beard. He’s looking down on the citizens disapprovingly.
Friend2: And He sends locusts and famine whenever He is unhappy. Paints a pretty bleak picture, if you ask me.
Friend1: It’s interesting that you say that. So that’s exactly what I’ve been contemplating lately. If this is what God looks like to you, why on earth would you follow religion?
Friend2: Elaborate further, please.
Friend1: Well, what is the fundamental claim of all religions?
Friend2: That you’ll be better off in the future.
Friend1: Right, but more specifically that by following such and such religion you’ll reach a better destination in the afterlife. You’re going to go somewhere that is different from where you are right now.
Friend2: That’s true. I mean, that should be obvious based on the fact that we’re all going to die. But yeah, I would agree with that characterization. Religion promises a specific place that you will reach if you follow what you’re told.
Friend1: So think about it. If God is old and mean, and following religion will bring you to Him, why would you follow religion?
Friend2: Are you trying to tell me that you hate old people [smiling]?
Friend1: No, silly. I understand old people have a lot to offer. They have years of experience that generates wisdom that they can pass on to us.
Friend2: That’s known as the descending process of knowledge gathering. Rather than try to experience everything for yourself, and thus waste a lot of time in the process, you take knowledge from higher authorities. In fact, that is the only way to truly know God. The ascending process will never get you there.
Friend1: Okay, okay, we’ll get to that later, but hear me out first. In this world there are boundless opportunities to experience things that are fresh and new.
Friend2: I would agree with that. At least that’s how they look on the surface.
Friend1: You get a new car, a new phone, a new spouse even. If your dog dies, after a few days you go out and get a new one. You don’t have to be stuck with old things.
Friend2: Yeah, they come out with a new smartphone each year. Just when you get used to all the features, how to check your email and send texts, they change everything up on you. I hate that.
Friend1: You’re in this world where everything seems to be fresh and new, so why would you want to go to an old man? I would think you would want to avoid that.
Friend2: You know, I never thought of it like that, but you make a good point.
Friend1: Yeah, it’s just my daily speculation. You and I both know that old age is a product of a material existence. It brings you one step closer to the dreaded event known as death.
Friend2: And if God becomes old, it means that He is on the verge of death. But that can’t be true, since if He is God, He should never die.
Friend1: Exactly. That’s why the Vedic understanding makes more sense to me. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form is not the product of anyone’s speculation or imagination, is always the same age.
Friend2: Nava yauvanam; that’s the way He’s described in Sanskrit. He’s always newly in adolescence. This means that He’s not on the way towards transforming into anything else. In the Ananda Vrindavana Champu, it says that the infant and childhood forms of Krishna only manifest in this world. In the spiritual world, He’s always a teenager. One could then argue that His coming to this earth is more important than His staying in the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana. Anyway, that’s a different topic.
Friend1: It’s amazing that He’s always young. I’m sure you know that on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, He was like a great-grandfather or something. 125 years elapsed since He appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, and still He was not old. He did not have any gray hair. He was not walking with a cane.
Friend2: Another point to mention relates to what you were saying about this world. It seems like it is always changing. It seems like a better place to stay, especially when juxtaposed with the alternative of going to an old and vindictive man in the sky. Prahlada Maharaja says that we’re actually chewing the chewed here.
Friend1: Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that.
Friend2: [punah punash charvita-charvananam, SB 7.5.30] We think we’re switching to new and better things, but since it’s all in material life, devoid of God consciousness, we’re actually just doing the same thing.
Friend1: All the more reason to take up bhakti-yoga, where the destination is the ever-fresh Supreme Lord, who brings the devotee so much happiness day after day.
Angry and vengeful we’re told,
Supreme Lord man in the sky old.
If that being the case,
Why that destination to chase?
Krishna aging from youth never,
In fresh and new form remaining forever.
That the right destination to be,
His all-attractiveness always to see.