“Krishna-katha means narrations about Krishna. There are two Krishna-kathas: narrations spoken by Krishna and narrations spoken about Krishna. Bhagavad-gita is the narration or the philosophy or the science of God, spoken by Krishna Himself. Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the narration about the activities and transcendental pastimes of Krishna. Both are Krishna-katha.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Introduction)
1. Words spoken by Krishna
This is a huge boon to humanity. That troubling time the parent spent in teaching the young children how to read. The diligence in sitting the child down, if not for twenty minutes a day, to learn the alphabet and introduce phonetic sounds, through letter combinations. The hope that the child would become literate enough to flourish in adolescence and adulthood, to be able to reach rational conclusions through consulting knowledge from both sides of contentious issues.
The added benefit is to be able to access and study the words directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. While the context might be a conversation directed to a specific person from thousands of years ago, the wisdom included is timeless. Arjuna had a similar doubt when hearing from Krishna, but he soon learned the origin of that king of education, raja-vidya.
अपरं भवतो जन्म
परं जन्म विवस्वतः
कथम् एतद् विजानीयां
त्वम् आदौ प्रोक्तवान् इति
aparaṁ bhavato janma
paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ
katham etad vijānīyāṁ
tvam ādau proktavān iti
“Arjuna said: The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.4)
Instead of trying to unlock various secrets of nature on my own, I have the words of Arjuna’s teacher to rely on. He instructs that the individual is spirit soul and that the changes we witness are merely the shifts of the material elements combining together to form what is known as a deha, or body.
While the body continues to change, the individual inside is the same. I was no different a person while in my mother’s womb. I looked different and perhaps I lacked development of certain organs necessary for deeper interaction with the outside world, but there can be no doubt as to my qualification as a living person.
In the same way, after death the life continues. The perception for others changes; they can no longer speak to me and they are not entirely sure to where I went. Yet just as the soul miraculously appeared in the past, it will so emerge again in some other place and time.
2. Words spoken about Krishna
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives the example of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Bhagavad-gita and other works have Bhagavan’s direct teachings. The end of Shrimad Bhagavatam also features a similar dialogue, this time with the disciple named Uddhava. The distinction is that this lengthy work is more about Krishna and His position, as described by others.
We sometimes see the less intelligent person criticize Krishna for dancing with young girls. The gopis of Vrindavana were intimate associates; they preferred to rendezvous with Yashoda’s son in the middle of the night. The Supreme Lord did not deny their requests; He can facilitate unlimited enjoyment, if need be.
Yet the same critics would have to acknowledge that they heard the information from Shrimad Bhagavatam. That is the principal source of the content upon which they base their criticism. Any rational person would acknowledge that. Upon such an admission, the same critic would have to intentionally overlook the voluminous content describing Krishna’s position within the universe; intentional negligence. That is to say Shrimad Bhagavatam first establishes the position of God, especially with respect to our subordinate standing as individual, conditioned soul. Krishna is the Supreme Soul, and we are a sample of Him, but not the same in terms of potency.
If Shrimad Bhagavatam describes how Krishna is the origin of everything, how He creates the twenty-four elements of nature, how He effects change through the force known as time, how the individual is imperishable, and so forth, then where is the problem in dancing with the gopis? If God is truly unlimited, He can keep an unlimited number of paramours, if He so chooses.
Either hearing directly from Krishna or consuming content that describes Him, the effect is the same. Both cases qualify as Krishna-katha, and it is this kind of discourse which is most pleasing to the soul. Every other topic of discussion has the defects borne of the realm of duality, but the Supreme Lord is above such designations. Krishna-katha is both timeless and inexhaustible.
Both timeless and inexhaustible,
Words and descriptions imperishable.
Since focus on God surrounding,
Sacred those shlokas sounding.
Some directly from Him hearing,
Like with Arjuna’s confusion clearing.
Others describing His form and His place,
How beautiful and lotus-like face.
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