Why did Krishna allow the desecration of Deities by foreign invaders in medieval times?
Transcribed and edited by– Nayanasundari Devi Dasi
Question– We see in the history of India, that the Muslims destroyed a lot of temples and we see a lot of devastation of dharma. Even deities had to be taken from one place to another, and sometimes they desecrated the deities also, so why does Krishna allow all this to happen?
- Every manifestation has a purpose and we have to appreciate that manifestation in the light of that purpose.
- Krishna is manifested in the deity form, not to exhibit His omnipotence, but to give us an opportunity to serve.
- Krishna’s omnipotence can be seen in this way that He will protect our souls if we act for the cause of dharma.
- If the deities are desecrated, we should see it more as a failure of the human beings who had promised to serve God, not the failure of God. It is our responsibility that we try to create systems for management, protection & organization.
There are 3 distinct things that need to be explained to answer this question:
- Deities’ purpose and potency
- Krishna’s potency – how He is omnipotent
- Human responsibility in all this.
Deities are Krishna manifesting in this world for a particular purpose.
What is that purpose? That purpose is to reciprocate with devotees by giving them an opportunity to serve. If we expect the deities to manifest Krishna’s omnipotence, then from the material point of view, the deities don’t manifest any potency. They can’t even eat themselves, they can’t even dress themselves. They just stay fixed at one place. It is important to understand that every manifestation has a particular purpose and we have to appreciate that manifestation in the light of that purpose.
For example, few fanatic followers of some religion may say that our sacred book is divine. But even when the divine manifests itself in this world as a book then that book can be burned by people. And is it that the divinity of the book will be demonstrated by the fact that you put it on fire and it will not burn? It’s not like that. Whenever the divine manifests in this world, the divinity of that manifestation is appreciated through a particular approach and attitude. So we have to read sacred books in a mood of reverence and our intelligence will be illumined with divinity by that. If we try to take the fire test of the scripture, it’s not going to work. It’s going to act like ordinary paper for us.
When someone tries to desecrate the deities, at that time Krishna can simply decide to become un-manifest from there. If there is no opportunity for service, Krishna is not bound to stay in that form. Krishna is manifested in the deity form, not to exhibit His omnipotence, but to give us an opportunity to serve. We can’t test the deities’ divinity by expecting them to do something miraculous to oppose or stop the desecration. Sometimes the deities might do that. But that is not what is to be expected.
If the deities are desecrated, we should see this more as a failure of the human beings who had promised to serve God, not the failure of God; because we had invited God to manifest over here and promised to serve Him. Kshatriyas have to take the responsibility of protecting the deities. There has to be a whole system of ‘dharma’ in this world.
This world is a material world and we have to have material principles of management applied. If my hand is fractured, do I expect that by chanting “Hare Krishna” my fracture will go away? We can say that Krishna can do anything but that’s not what chanting “Hare Krishna” is meant for. We will naturally go to a doctor. There is a whole system of Ayurveda which is meant for this purpose.
The Bhagawad Gita was spoken by Krishna Himself and it has sublime & supreme knowledge. After hearing the Bhagawad Gita, Arjuna fought the Kurukshetra war. He won the Kurukshetra war by the knowledge of archery that he had, not by the knowledge of the Bhagawad Gita alone. Knowledge of the Bhagawad Gita gave him inspiration & direction. But he fought and he was an expert fighter because of the knowledge of archery that he had cultivated throughout his life. So the spiritual is not the substitute for the material. Spiritual is the director of the material. Arjuna fought using his skills of expertise which he had learnt from his martial teacher. But how to use that skill, with what consciousness to use, that’s what he learnt from the Bhagawad Gita. This whole expectation that the spiritual will act as a substitute for material comes from a philosophical misunderstanding.
The world operates by material principles and material is also under Krishna (upadrastanumanta ca, BG13.23). That’s true. But even when Krishna descends, He uses people of this world. So to act in this world, agents of this world are required. And if the agents of this world are not there, then dharma may go away. So if we invite deities it’s our responsibility to take care of the deities. If we are not doing so, and someone desecrates the deities we can see it as our negligence not that Krishna’s deity is lacking in potency.
This brings us to the broader principle of Krishna’s omnipotence in this world. This world is a place where adharma occurs, and sometimes adharma can predominate also. If we look at the Ramayana, there is a place, Ramtek, where there was whole pile of bones, that’s where Lord Ram took a wow that, “I will rid the world of the rakshasas”. Why did He do that? Because those bones were the bones of the sages, who had renounced the world and they were meditating, doing penance and the rakshasas would come and devour them. Devouring people who have devoted their life to God and God does nothing – this may seem appalling. The rakshasas were cannibals. They did a lot of atrocities.
One extreme is to expect the spiritual to replace the material and the other extreme is to think the material to be the final. That means if we expect Krishna’s protection at the material level all the time, and when it doesn’t come, we become frustrated and lose our faith. At the material level, the sages were killed. It must have been a brutal death to have been eaten by rakshasas. But then they had dedicated their life to God, they would have remembered God and they would have been elevated because of that. The mode of death is not as important as the purpose for which they were living. That’s what Vyasadeva also tells Yudhishthira when Abhimanyu is killed. He says, “Actually this world is a place of temptation and anyone may fall prey to temptation. Abhimanyu, although he was young, he has now gone to an abode which is beyond temptation. By devoting his life to the cause of dharma, he has attained a safe destination. We are still at an unsafe place and that’s why it’s we who are actually in a lamentable situation, not him.”
We have to have the spiritual vision and Krishna’s omnipotence can be seen in this way that He will protect our souls. If by acting for the cause of dharma, our bodies are somehow damaged or destroyed, the soul itself is benefited; it is purified, elevated & even liberated. Because this is Kaliyuga, sometimes the scale of atrocities, or the duration of the atrocities, may also be long. At the material level, the stress will come but at the spiritual level the relief can come by absorption in Krishna. This does not mean that we simply work at spiritual level only. It is our responsibility that we work at the material level the best we can, to try to create systems for protection & organization.
With the passage of time, the knowledge appears to be lost and the darkness will come (sa kaleneha mahata, BG 4.2). If we look at the broad perspective of both: Vedic history and Vedic philosophy, what happened is definitely heart wrenching but still it’s not unprecedented. Something that bad or worse has also happened. Krishna’s omnipotence is not demonstrated in this world because the soul here wants to imagine that, “I can become God”. God grants freedom to everyone to act on their plans. And based on one’s past karmas, we all are given a certain “kshetra”, a certain sphere of influence. People who were able to be aggressors and desecrate, they must have surely done some good karma in the past because of which they were destined to have power and control. They could have used that power and control for a good purpose. But they chose to use it for a bad purpose. Hitler, by his past karma, had the speaking ability, charisma and capacity to command, influence and control people. But he used it for a terrible purpose.
So if an individual, by past good karma has been given influence and he uses it for a bad purpose then he can do so within his/her own “kshetra” or sphere of influence. For the victims of such atrocities, from this life’s perspective it definitely is a great injustice to them. We shouldn’t be heartless and if we have the power we should do our best to try to help them. But from the multi lifetime perspective, we understand that those victims had to go through such injustice because of some past karma. But if they suffered for the cause of dharma, they will be elevated by that.
In this way we can see everything in the philosophical light at the same time also acknowledge the practical reality. In today’s world, there is a danger for dharma, and we have to work in our best capacity to protect dharma. If we are primarily scriptural teachers, then we work as Brahmans in creating spiritual, philosophical awareness among people. If by Krishna’s arrangement, we have the inclination or the capacity for engaging in other ways, like influencing the government, influencing a broader society, then we can do that. Our principal is to serve and the service has to be at a practical level but how that practical level is achieved, that can vary from person to person.