Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #30 – The Glory of God Not Knowing Everything

July 29th, 2019

I remember when I first got the Krishna Book. My college roommate, who had since left to join the temple, returned to school to visit me and gave me a copy of the book. Instead of going to a party that evening, I stayed back in my apartment and began reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I had already become a devotee of sorts, but not to the point of full commitment, so I was only somewhat familiar with the subject. I remember getting to Chapter Two, “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krishna in the Womb”, where Krishna’s supremacy is first described. I had already heard stories about His loving and seemingly human exchanges with His parents, friends, and the gopīs, but now I was hearing of His omnipotence. At the time I was majoring in philosophy, and from one of my classes the definition of God was still fresh in my mind: “That being of which no greater can be conceived.” I had an epiphany.

 

“I can’t think of anything greater than this, an omnipotent, omniscient being who is not devoid of very sweet familial and romantic affairs. This is certainly greater than just an amorphous impersonal energy that can’t talk or love. Yes. Krishna must be God, that being of which no greater can be conceived.”

 

Through my years in studying Krishna consciousness, this philosophical concept became fascinating to me — that Krishna’s attributes, such as His apparent human-like activities or His form seemingly confined within space, rather than limiting His Absolute authority were in fact an opulence. I remember reading a quote a few years back in one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports that especially struck me by the way it confirmed this fact in such simple terms:

 

“Krishna doesn’t have the defect of impersonality.”[1]

 

What I particularly liked about this sentence is the way the word “impersonality” is used. The word “impersonal” (impersonality) has two meanings. It can have a philosophical meaning describing God as without attributes, which in today’s world appears laudatory, for, in a sense, it describes God as transcendent. In other words, if God is impersonal one cannot attribute to His nature the dualities of this world. Śrīla Prabhupāda, however, by a play on the word “impersonality” is actually referring to the second definition, meaning cold or not concerned with another’s individual needs. By doing so, Śrīla Prabhupāda is describing God’s impersonality as a defect, for if God is impersonal, He is not only all-pervading and without duality, but also cold and void of the ability to lovingly reciprocate. Is it not somewhat absurd to describe the source of everything as lacking the ability to properly relate with others?

 

As I continued to study the teachings of bhakti, especially Krishna’s pastimes, I read how Krishna not only has human-like qualities, but qualities that even seem humanly limited. For example, Krishna is described as forgetful or unaware (mugdhatta). Again, what appears to be a diminishment of His supremacy is in fact an attribute of His divinity, for without experiencing surprise and drama (being unaware), how could God experience the full range of rasa (heightened love), and if He doesn’t then how can He be God? I think a story here will help make this point clearer:

 

Krishna’s friends are caught in the midst of a forest fire and are saved by Krishna, who swallows the fire. Afterwards, following a long trek in the forest, they finally reach the shore of the Yamuna River. Impelled by dire thirst, they quench it without thinking carefully about the condition of the water that had been poisoned by the Kālīya serpent. They immediately die. Overwhelmed by grief, Krishna begins to cry deeply out of separation from His friends. His tears of compassion revive His friends back to life. If Krishna was only all-knowing, He would lack the experience of drama and consequent feelings of compassion that such pastimes bring. Even the ordinary soul sometimes has their joy heightened by the drama of being unaware, a surprise party for example. How then can one deny the experience of drama in the source of all?

 

Conclusion: O, glory to the God who does not know everything, for I can’t conceive anything greater than a being that is all-powerful and all-knowing, but who still has the capacity to be surprised!

 

 

 


[1] It is one of my favorite quotes, but I can’t find the reference at this time.

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