“O King, as I repeatedly recall this wondrous and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I take pleasure, being thrilled at every moment.” (Sanjaya, Bhagavad-gita, 18.76)
Friend1: Why is it important to hear about Krishna-lila?
Friend2: You tell me. Define the two terms.
Friend1: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Bhagavan, which means a person possessing all fortunes.
Friend2: And what is lila?
Friend1: Pastimes. Actions. Obviously, they must be performed by a person. A rock doesn’t have lila. Neither does a bright light.
Friend2: Charita is a similar Sanskrit word. It can mean “actions” or “deeds.” Since Bhagavan’s deeds are nectar-like, the word amrita is appended. That’s how you get books named Ramacharitamanasa and Chaitanya Charitamrita. The holy lake of Rama’s deeds. The nectar-like actions of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Friend1: I guess you’ve answered the question, then. To hear about the lila is to taste nectar. Is it simply about enjoyment?
Friend2: As opposed to gaining some higher benefit?
Friend2: Of course it brings the highest benefit. Amrita also means “immortal.” Hearing the lila is very important.
Friend1: What about the philosophical side?
Friend2: That prepares you to take the highest benefit from the lila, though hearing the pastimes is enough. We know of the story of the illiterate brahmana who tried to read the Bhagavad-gita every day. That work is more philosophical in nature, but still the talk itself is part of Krishna’s lila. The brahmana simply remembered Krishna taking the role of charioteer for His dear friend and cousin Arjuna. There was a thrill at every moment. Sanjaya felt a similar thrill whenever recalling that conversation.
Friend1: Got it, thanks. Let’s try a counterargument. I may have presented this to you before.
Friend2: Go for it.
Friend1: Immersing yourself in hearing these pastimes – it’s a form of escapism. That is one of the criticisms of people who jump into the devotional life, bhakti-yoga, fulltime.
Friend2: That they are escaping reality? They couldn’t take the pressures of normal life, so they abandoned everything to worship God, someone who the world is not really sure exists.
Friend1: Exactly. Escaping reality. Isn’t that what the devotees are doing?
Friend2: For a second let’s say that you are correct. Is no one else escaping?
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: There is the person who plays videogames nonstop. They play the same game for hours, skipping food and sleep. There are the people so into movies and comic books that they dress up like fictional characters and go to conventions.
Friend1: That’s true.
Friend2: Even the people that follow the news, they aren’t in reality. When I discuss with them the specifics on a piece of legislation, they are usually clueless. But if a politician said something controversial, everyone is aware. The thing that matters most, the law, i.e. reality, is of secondary importance.
Friend1: You’re saying everyone is already escaping reality.
Friend2: Absolutely. The highest reality for the human being is the knowledge of impending death. Who actually remains consciously aware of this? Why would you want to, anyway?
Friend1: Well, there is something you can do to stop the cycle of birth and death. The person who knows Krishna never has to take birth again.
“The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.51)
Friend2: And that’s the benefit of hearing Krishna-lila. You can say it’s a form of escapism, but look at the benefit. It automatically improves your character. If you hear about God’s pastimes on a regular basis, you will become a better person; I guarantee it. Not so with anything else. If you play videogames day and night, you’ll become anti-social. You’re travelling to a fantasy world in comic books precisely because you can’t stand society as it is constituted right now.
Friend1: You’re saying associating with God will make you like people more, even the bad characters?
Friend2: It’s called the spiritual vision. You will see the soul within every living thing. You will understand that God has expanded as the Supersoul to live within everything. How can that not make you a better person? Most importantly, you will remain Krishna conscious, which is the highest objective of living. Krishna is the only reality in this temporary, dreamlike world, full of duality.
Temporary, like living a dream,
Mistook snake for rope it is seen.
Already out of reality going,
Arrival of death not knowing.
So why not Krishna-lila hear?
Pastimes to heart most dear.
Then purify while progress making,
Consciousness from slumber awaking.