“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
Friend-One: I’ve figured out the key to good parenting.
Friend-Two: Sitting them in front of the television?
F1: [laughs] No.
F2: Giving them an iPad to keep them occupied?
F1: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have employed these techniques on occasion.
F2: Sometimes you have no choice.
F1: But I’m talking about a general philosophy. It’s a way to get through the tougher times, like when they ask you a question that you really don’t want them knowing the answer to.
F2: Oh, or like when they come up with logic against something you’ve asked them to do?
F1: That too. It puts me in a bind. My first instinct is to explain. Become a sort of preacher of the truth, sit them down and try to get them to understand the purpose behind the thing I’m asking them to do.
F2: I’d have a tougher time answering the questions. Such as “why does so and so yell at their friends?” Or the famous “where do babies come from?”
F1: So I’ve realized that the best way to get out of these jams is to lie. At first I felt bad about it, but now I don’t.
F2: Listen, as a parent you’re fighting a losing battle against time. Eventually the kids will become wise enough to understand that they don’t have to listen to you. Might as well take advantage of their ignorance while you can.
F1: Exactly! I have no problem bending the truth here and there to get them to drop their opposition. I have no problem making false threats, either. If the threats are effective in pushing them along the right path, I have no regrets.
F2: My favorite is the “if you don’t improve your grades, I’ll send you to military school.”
F1: [laughing] I’ve definitely used a variation of that. I feel a little bad, because obviously I’m not going to send them to some school far away if they fail to do their homework. I know that they’ll live if they don’t eat their vegetables. I understand, also, that doing bad things from time to time isn’t going to ruin their lives permanently. Still, I think I know better, so whatever way I can get them to follow the straight and narrow path, I’m going to use.
F2: Trust me, everyone does this. It’s a wise decision, especially if you’re looking out for their interests. One day your kids will either figure out the truth on their own or you’ll tell them. And more often than not, they’ll appreciate you for having lied to them.
F1: Yeah. I know my parents lied a bunch. So anyway, I was wondering about something. Do you think Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, lies to us, His children? Do you think He bends the truth?
F2: Hmm. I’d say that technically He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t tell us everything for sure. He doesn’t sit us down and tell us the story of our millions of previous births. If He did that, the present birth would go to waste. It would be like sitting down to read every newspaper that has ever been published.
F1: That would take forever to go through, and I’m not sure what good it would do.
F2: So Krishna certainly filters information. He knows, also, that the three modes of material nature dictate that not everyone will have the same capacity for understanding.
F1: What do you mean?
F2: The animals are His children too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is spirit inside animating the chicken, the dog, the cat, and the ant. If the spiritual force was lacking, no one would ever form an attachment to these animals, especially the bonds that arise at first sight. People write books about their dogs, for crying out loud.
F1: I think I see where you’re going with this. The dogs can’t understand topics like the supreme controller, the individual soul, the material nature and karma. Even if Krishna wanted to divulge this information to the animals, they would have no idea what He was saying.
F2: And think of the different kinds of human beings. The individual is as much a spirit soul during childhood as they are during adulthood. The body simply changes; the soul does not [Bg. 2.20]. You and other parents admit to using discrimination in speaking with your children. Krishna can speak to the same people too, and He uses the same discrimination.
F1: And we’re all His children, in fact. Even when we mature into adulthood, compared to Him we are like helpless kids.
F1: So you think He doesn’t lie to us? If He filters, what information does He hide?
F2: It’s not necessarily lying. There’s only so much we can understand. Take time for example. We understand it in terms of the rising and setting of the sun. This is how we mark off the days, which form the basis for the larger measurement of an entire lifetime.
F2: So Krishna explains that real day and night refer to the time according to Lord Brahma, who is the creator. One cycle of existence, known as a maha-yuga, is millions of years. Take that cycle and multiply it by one thousand and you get one day of Brahma. The same amount of time is Brahma’s night, making his full day. Brahma then lives for one hundred years calculated in these full days. Therefore real time is practically impossible to conceptualize.
F1: Krishna is still honest enough to tell us about it, though.
F2: He is, but time and space are infinite. We can’t understand infinity; it is beyond the scope of the human mind. This means that Krishna can’t speak to us on an equal level; it is impossible.
F1: What about the bending of the truth to encourage good behavior? Does He do that?
F2: Yes, that is certainly more applicable with the son of Yashoda. You’ll see that in spiritual traditions the majority of the worshipers focus on asking for things. They pray, they worship, they do rituals, all in the hopes of getting something they want. Most of these practices weren’t invented; they are legitimate. They were passed down through authority
F1: So you’re saying there is a higher purpose to them?
F2: Yeah, the best comparison is to rewarding a child with candy or something similar when they take their medicine. The candy is insignificant; the medicine is what matters. Still, the medicine is bitter, so there has to be some short term incentive to induce the proper behavior.
F1: So Krishna gives rewards for certain rituals, all the while knowing that the rewards aren’t that important.
F2: They can’t be important when considering the day and night of Brahma. How is getting rich going to help me five thousand years from now? How is good health going to help me when I have to take birth again? Yet He gives these rewards, across different religious systems, so that people will become cultured and gradually progress in knowledge. Believing in God is difficult enough, and knowing that the purpose of an existence is to serve Him with love is even more rarely attained.
F1: So He picks and chooses what to tell in order to help the progression?
F2: Either He does this Himself or He sends one of His representatives. The bona fide guru is so important for this reason; they know what works at what time and at what place. Fortunately Lord Chaitanya, who is Krishna Himself, came in this age and provided the remedy for everyone, regardless of where they live, what language they speak and what religion they inherited at the time of birth. That way is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The names are Krishna Himself; they do not hide anything. The person who chants in devotion gradually comes to realize this.
To keep them behaved to try,
To my kids occasionally to lie.
Does Krishna to us do the same?
Lying for our sinful tendencies to tame?
Not exactly, so much information ready to give,
But how the mind with such to live?
Like with Brahma’s day time example,
But actually infinite, representing only a sample.
For teaching the masses the representative recruited,
Giving education to time and circumstance suited.