“I’ve been working here since God was a boy,” I heard someone say recently. Amusing as the expression is in its own right, for devotees of Krishna it has an extra twist: we know that God is still a boy.
The saying assumes, of course, that God has been around so long He must be an old man by now. That image is deeply imbedded in the mind of many people, especially in the West. Even if they understand that the image is inaccurate, the suggestion that the juvenile Krishna is God may not feel right to them.
Srila Prabhupada used to tell the story of a man waiting to see William Gladstone, prime minister under Queen Victoria during the heyday of the British Empire. After quite some time had passed, the man grew impatient and opened the door to Mr. Gladstone’s chambers, only to find that one of the world’s most powerful men was playing as a horse for his grandchildren to ride.
These days, it might be hard for us to understand how disconcerting this moment must have been for the guest. Our over-exposure to the foibles of today’s leaders destroys any sense of awe toward them. But we can guess that this man was completely unprepared to find the prime minister, in the middle of the workday, enjoying a domestic interlude rather than conducting the business of the empire.
I suspect that a similar confusion strikes when people see depictions of God as a charming, ever-youthful cowherd named Krishna. That’s just not the image of God they’ve had in mind their whole life.
For people who accept that God has a form (unfortunately, maybe a diminishing group), the image of Him as an old man makes sense. After all, He’s the original patriarch. How could He look young?
This logic is a good illustration of the limits of guesswork, or speculation. When applied to theology, it can provide seemingly reasonable ideas about God, but will always be inconclusive. The simple reason: He’s a person, and we can never truly know anyone by guessing based on our observations. Intimate knowledge of people comes when they reveal themselves to us.
The Vedic scriptures abound in God’s revelations about His unique personality, and those who know Him best confirm His words by relating their direct experiences.
One significant thing we learn about God in books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam is that His work of creating, maintaining, and destroying the material world is secondary to His domestic life. In His original form as Krishna, He simply enjoys with His friends and family. This picture of God is eminently reasonable. After getting over the initial shock of learning that God’s an eternal teenager, anyone can understand that it makes sense for God, who can do whatever He likes, to spend His time in leisurely pursuits of His own choosing. And because He’s omnipotent, everything about His life in the beautiful setting of His eternal rural home is perfect.
Conditioned as we are by our existence in the material world, we might object, “Wouldn’t God get bored? I like my job! I get bored during vacations.”
A few points: Unlike us, Krishna can have fun at home and do all His “work” at the same time by duplicating and expanding Himself unlimitedly; everything He does is called lila, or “pleasurable pastime”; He never gets bored.
And neither will we when we finally reenter His world of unending happiness.