„Yes, I know these stories! Do you believe in all this? Oh, poor boy! Your God Krishna was stealing!“ With a smile on my face I replied: „Yes, Makan Cora, Krishna is known as the butter thief!“
„Yes, but not only butter…“ my friend continued: „ He was stealing the garments of the young girls who were bathing in the forest pond. He wanted to see their naked beauty! Yes, yes, I know these stories. This is the God you are worshiping?“
While visiting my hometown to see my mother, I met this old friend who I used to work with twenty-five years ago. He is originally from Sri Lanka, but has been living in Switzerland for many years and has converted to Christianity, as I realized that day. It was obvious that he wanted to point out. „How is it that you worship someone who behaves so immoral?“
But is Krishna immoral? Of course not! However, this is not so easy to understand for an ordinary man. Lila, the pastimes of Lord Krishna is one thing, but then there is also tattva, the deep philosophical truth behind the lila. Without tattva you cannot understand Lila properly.
Therefore Srila Prabhupada emphasized again and again how we should not jump directly to the intimate pastimes of the Lord with the Gopis without having understood the Lord's greatness in depth: „Maharaja Pariksit did not ask his spiritual master, Sukadeva Gosvami, to narrate Lord Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavana; he first wanted to hear about the creation of the Lord. (..) The time was very short, and naturally, Sukadeva Goswami could have gone directly to the Tenth Canto to make a shortcut of the whole thing (..). But neither the King nor the great speaker of Srimad-Bhagavatam jumped up like the organizers of week-long Bhagavatam readings. (..) Only when one knows Lord Krishna's greatness can one firmly put one's unflinching faith in Him; otherwise, like the common man, even the great leaders of men will mistake Lord Krishna for one of the many demigods, or a historical personality, or a myth only.“ 1
While people, in general, misunderstand Krishna to be a `God of Love or Erotic`, the devotees know that the Lord's pastimes have nothing to do with mundane lust, but are displays of the purest spiritual love. Therefore, Krishna cannot be called immoral because first of all, He is the ultimate enjoyer whereas we are meant to give enjoyment to Him. Krishna is also the supreme proprietor, which means that everything belongs to Him. A thief is someone who takes something that does not belong to him. Since Krishna owns everything, how can He be called a thief?
„Yes, yes, I know these stories, we have learned it at school. Your God Krishna, He is a thief..!“ I tried to explain him a little bit, but he was not convinced. In any case, even if we admit, that yes, our God is a thief —but His stealing is most wonderful, as expressed in this beautiful prayer:
„I offer my obeisances to that supreme thief, Lord Hari, who is the best of all thieves. He steals the butter from the houses of the damsels of Vrajabhumi. He steals all the garments of the damsels of Vrajabhumi. He is famous for His act of stealing. Such a great thief! He takes everything from those who take shelter of His Lotus feet. He even steals their mind. If one only hears His name He takes away all their sinful reactions. O, great thief! Stealing all of our assets, bank balance, money, land, property, prestige, fame, senses, mind, heart, and everything! Where are You running? I will catch hold of You! I will bind You with this rope of love! Where will you go now great thief, running away and taking everything? You are bound up with this very strong rope of love! You cannot run away!“ 2
Or as Srila Prabhupada stated: „So He is known as a thief, Ksira-cora. He is famous as a great thief. Still, people go to see Him, how nice this thief is. That is the difference between Krishna and ourself. When we are a thief, we are beaten by shoes. And when Krishna is a thief, He is worshiped by devotees.“ 3
Such a wonderful thief. He takes away all that is troublesome and if He once has stolen our hearts and minds we attain perfection. Yes, my God is a thief, but a very wonderful thief.
1 — Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.6 2 —From Sri Cauragraganya-purushastakam, ancient Song quoted in `Mathura Meets Vrindavana` by Gopaljiu Publications 2003 3 —Lecture by Srila Prabhupada on SB 4.14.14 —16/11/71 New Delhi