“Some of Lord Krishna’s pastimes are mentioned in the Mahabharata as maushala-lila. These include the stories of the destruction of the Yadu dynasty, Krishna’s disappearance, His being pierced by a hunter’s arrow, the story of Krishna’s being an incarnation of a piece of hair (kesha-avatara) as well as mahishi-harana, the kidnapping of Krishna’s queens. Actually these are not factual but are related for the bewilderment of the asuras who want to prove that Krishna is an ordinary human being. They are false in the sense that these pastimes are not eternal, nor are they transcendental or spiritual.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya Lila, 23.117-118 Purport)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is so kind. He does not force the bhakti way of life upon anyone, even though that is the original and constitutional position. It is what matches the dharma of the soul, i.e. its essential characteristic.
In fact, every other behavior is a derivative of this spirit. Even the atheists are worshiping, in a sense. They pay homage to the illusory energy known as maya. As all energies emanate from Bhagavan, strong denial of the Divine side of living is an indirect form of worship.
Even when the Supreme Lord appears as Himself from time to time, He offers just enough material for the atheists to continue to justify their way of life. With the advent of Shri Krishna, there is the well-known incident of His disappearance, i.e. His return to the spiritual world.
Though the Mahabharata clearly describes Krishna returning to the spiritual land of Vaikuntha, where He resides in His four-handed manifestation of Vishnu, there appear to be external causes which trigger the event.
1. Shooting Vali in a previous avatara
The story comes from the Ramayana of Valmiki. In this avatara the Supreme Lord is an excellent bow-warrior named Rama. As is the nature of God, He is friendly towards those who are devoted to Him, though the regular disposition is neutrality.
समो ऽहं सर्व-भूतेषु
न मे द्वेष्यो ऽस्ति न प्रियः
ये भजन्ति तु मां भक्त्या
मयि ते तेषु चाप्य् अहम्
samo ‘haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo ‘sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
The friendship is limited neither to the higher classes in society nor to the human society. Rama made friends with forest-dwelling creatures known as Vanaras, whose leader was Sugriva. The leader was in exile, similar to Rama’s situation. Sugriva was hiding out on Mount Rishyamukha, afraid to go back to his home due to the unfortunate rivalry with the powerful brother named Vali.
Rama fixed the situation by shooting Vali in the back. Not in a fair fight. Not in direct combat. The arrow was released while Vali was engaged in conflict with Sugriva. This specific attack was planned. The act goes against the standards of dharma, as it is commonly understood. For a warrior this was sinful, but piety and sin do not apply to the Supreme Lord.
There is a class of mental speculators who believe that karma is everything. They consider action and reaction to be an insurmountable force, one that takes control of any being seen on this earth. Bhagavan encourages their faulty assumption through this pastime, by somehow delivering Himself payback from a previous lifetime. Shri Krishna gets shot in the foot by a hunter as supposed retribution for having killed Vali before.
2. Misapplying the frumenty paste
To err is human. Man is fallible. God is supposed to be the opposite, Achyuta. He is infallible, which means that He never falls down or makes mistakes. To those who wish to classify Krishna as an ordinary man, the Supreme Lord provides the incident of the visit from Durvasa Muni.
As many lessons are taught through a single exchange, Krishna and His chief queen, Rukmini Devi, show the lengths to which a host should be accommodating to their guest. Durvasa intentionally demands this thing and that. He is the worst kind of guest you can imagine, and yet the hosts never lose their cool. They agree to everything.
At one point Durvasa asks the couple to smear frumenty paste all over their bodies. He later explains that the places covered by the paste will provide protection from death. The muni notices that Krishna missed a spot on the sole of His foot, which is taken to be an unfortunate mistake.
Sure enough, the hunter’s arrow later strikes Krishna in that very spot, somehow showing that the error in following the guru’s instructions is what causes the Supreme Lord’s demise. The incident also gives hope to the atheists that they may one day find a similar substance to bring immortality.
3. The curse of Gandhari
With the triple threat, it is a wonder that Krishna managed to survive at all in the material world. After the destruction of the Kauravas due to the Bharata War, the grieving mother of the losing side cursed Krishna to leave this world after a certain number of years. Though with the misfortune of being the mother of the wicked Duryodhana, Gandhari herself was famous for her chastity and good character. Krishna happily accepted her curse.
The real cause for the return to the spiritual world is the desire of the Supreme Lord. He appears and disappears at His will, and just as the individual soul can never be killed, the Supersoul is always around. Nothing would exist without the presence of this feature of the Divine.
For atheists just enough giving,
So that in continued ignorance living.
Such as with hunter’s arrow piercing the sole,
Vali’s vengeful spirit to unfold.
From frumenty mistake this world renouncing,
Also from Gandhari’s curse pronouncing.
If ignorance desired then in it to stay,
But the wise knowing maya at play.
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