Did Krishna Follow Dharma? Doubts and Resolutions


While undoubtedly Krishna is God, nevertheless many of His actions, during His avatar on earth, are difficult to reconcile with the fact that the avowed purpose of His incarnation was the protection of Dharma.

The most common doubt regarding Lord Krishna is framed as follows:

Doubt: There are serious reservations about Lord Krishna’s actions in the Mahabharata war. Before even the war had begun Arjuna expressed the noble sentiment of disgust for war and desired to become a sannayasi. Shri Krishna had at that moment the perfect chance of preventing war and the consequent massive bloodshed. Instead, He chose to dissuade Arjuna and advised him to go to war. Not only that, at many places Krishna advises Arjuna and his brothers to kill their enemies unethically. All the major warriors in the opposite army, be it Bhishma, Drona, Karna or Duryodhana, were killed by immoral tricks on His advice. How are we to view these actions?

Virat roop of krishnaAnswer: This is an appropriate question, and the answer begins with an analysis of the circumstances which led to the Mahabharata war. Duryodhana had not only usurped the kingdom of the Pandavas (Arjuna and his four brothers), but also ill-treated them in the most ignoble ways. In the basest of actions, he did what is unacceptable to Indian society at any level – tried to disrobe queen Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, in his huge assembly.

There were many veterans sitting in the assembly while the above ignominy was taking place. They all kept mum. Indeed people like Bhishma and Drona in the assembly were no doubt, very noble and were also fully aware of the heinous crimes of Duryodhana. They had the capacity to check him also but they did not. The reason for their inaction was that they were living off his food (as he was their king). So they even fought for him in the war. Gratitude to the one who feeds us is, of course, a great virtue. But it does not mean that he should be supported even in his Adharma. All of this gives us an indication of the depths to which the society had degraded under Duryodhana’s rule. If there were misconceptions about Dharma even in great people like Bhishma etc., it was no surprise that things were much worse with others. This is Adharma at its climax – a situation unacceptable to Lord Krishna.

Let us now return to Arjuna on the battlefield. Given such a situation in Duryodhana’s rule, it is absurdly wrong for anyone to adopt an attitude of negligence or a fear complex, more so for a Kshatriya who himself is a victim like Arjuna. His Dharma is towards the greater good, and in the context before him, it was to root out Adharma even if it necessitated a full-scale war.

Therefore, the mental state of Arjuna just before the war cannot at all be described as noble; at the best it was muddled. Bhagavan Krishna educated him about the purpose of life as a whole and then prompted him to fulfil it by waging the war.

Next is the question of the relative military merits of the forces of Dharma and Adharma – i.e. of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (family to which Duryodhana belonged). The latter’s army was very superior to that of the Pandavas – both quantitatively and qualitatively. In fact, the Kauravas’ army was one and half times bigger. The mighty Bhishma had the boon of choosing his own time of death; Drona was the teacher of Pandavas, who were only his pupils. Karna and Duryodhana were superior in valour to Arjuna and Bhima respectively. So how were they to be faced by the Pandavas? It was the fight of Dharma against Adharma. So, ethics, – though important by itself, becomes secondary in comparison to what is to be achieved.

Next is the question of the relative military merits of the forces of Dharma and Adharma – i.e. of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (family to which Duryodhana belonged). The latter’s army was very superior to that of the Pandavas – both quantitatively and qualitatively. In fact, the Kauravas’ army was one and half times bigger. The mighty Bhishma had the boon of choosing his own time of death; Drona was the teacher of Pandavas, who were only his pupils. Karna and Duryodhana were superior in valour to Arjuna and Bhima respectively. So how were they to be faced by the Pandavas? It was the fight of Dharma against Adharma. So, ethics, – though important by itself, becomes secondary in comparison to what is to be achieved.

Further Doubt: The same scriptures you swear by, also make it mandatory that conjugal pleasures be restricted to one’s own wife; how then did Lord Krishna indulge in amorous sports with the gopis of Vrindavana who were married to someone else?

Resolution: This is a gross misconception in vogue about Lord Krishna. Its clarification begins with a brief summary of the Rasa Lila as described in the great scripture Srimad Bhagavatam. It was in the dead of night that Krishna set forth the tune from his flute in the forest. The gopis who heard it became intensely attracted to it and ran to the forest, leaving aside anything they were doing then and there instantly. Some stopped cooking, some stopped feeding, some stopped eating, some stopped washing clothes, etc. and ran away.

radha-krishnaThe moment the gopis reached the forest, Krishna asked: ‘What brings you here? What help do you need?’ They bent their heads without answering Him. Then He said: ‘Is it not wrong for noble ladies like you to meet anyone othet than your husbands at this odd hour?’ They cried and said: ‘Krishna! We have come with great difficulty to join you here. You should not reject us like this’. Then He condescended to play Rasa with them among bloomed lotuses.

At the end of the narration of this episode by sage Shukadeva, the listener Parikshit expressed the same doubt that has been expressed above. To which Shukadeva Ji replied: ‘Tejiyasam Na Doshaya – No fault in this for Tejiyans’, and concluded that indeed, the next morning their husbands saw the gopis just sleeping by their sides.

So the clarification hinges on the word Tejiyans and its meaning should be internally consistent with the description of Rasa. Notice that nobody will be washing clothes or doing cooking etc in the dead of night. Also the next morning their husbands saw the gopis just sleeping by their side. This gives us a clue that the Rasa was a dream. This is confirmed as follows:

Tejiyan means ‘more lustrous’ according to Panini’s grammar. Who is more lustrous than whom? The Upanishads call the wakeful Jiva as Vishwa and the dreaming Jiva as Taijasa. This Taijasa is more lustrous (tejiyan) than Vishwa. Therefore, Shukadeva’s reply means that there is no fault in the activities of the dreaming gopis. This is exactly what the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says. For that matter, we all know it ourselves. Nobody deprecates anyone for the faults committed by him in his dreams. Why? The external world keeps our mind under leash when we are awake; but the mind becomes totally free during dreams and mixes the experiences of the real world with its imaginations creating the dream, where the little boy Krishna can behave like an adult, and lotuses can bloom in the night. Nevertheless, He has to first admonish the gopis for their conduct!

This article is based almost entirely on the teachings of Param Pujya Swami Paramanand Bharati Ji. However, any errors are entirely the author’s own.

By Nitin Kumar


References & Further Reading:

  • Bharati, Swami Paramananda. Foundations of Dharma: Bangalore, 2008.
  • Pande, Shri Pandit Ramtej (ed.). Shridhar Swami’s Commentary on the Bhagvatam: Delhi, 2003.
  • Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda (tr). Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (2 Volumes): Gorakhpur, 2004


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  • Even though I consider that there was no wrong done by Krishna or Gopis but I don’t accept the explaination because the act was done in dreami. Dreaming sex with other women who are married is as bad as having sex with them actually

    • I know very little about Bhagwat Purana. But this is totally new for me as you said Krishna had sex with gopis. I never heard of it. Could you please provide that authentic source from where you got the shloka/story?

  • Yes but then Queen Gandari cursed Khrisna and his kingdom to end in misery. Should we regard this as the Khrisna’s consequences of being cheat during Baratayudha War?

  • The character of Lord Krishna since his childhood is controversial . It is very difficult to reason it. The last incident of killing of Duryodhana and subsequent visit of Pandavas along with Krishna to the injured Duryodhana lying on the battle field and Pandava’s low comments and the reply of Duryodhana made Krisna lower his head and go away. .In spite of all this when man’s efforts to stop the wicked fail, he who can do it is only god. Today we are helpless to stop the Rakshsas in human form and one who can do it is God. Ways and means are of no consequence. Mahabharatha is most beautiful epic to study basic human nature.
    But after all this Vyasa and Bhishma when accept him as God incarnate he is GOD.

  • “Hare Krishna”!!!!!!
    As one needs to know the Alphabet to study the literature of a particular language, one needs to know the basic difference, or the principal cause of a dead body and the alive to study the activities of Lord Krishna, the SUPREME PERSONALITY, Who Himself is the Source and as well as the Cause of everything, manifested and unmanifested. In other words, one needs to know the difference between spirit and matter before he asks any question about GOD, KRISHNA.

  • There are two divisions. One is having faith in SRIIMAN NARAYANAN and the other having no faith. Those who have no faith, it is not advisable to educate them. In other words, the impressive final decision of Almighty Krishna has to be admired only and the final teaching that Dharma only will win, is great indeed. Our saranagathi on His Lotus Feet.
    I love all.

  • Shakuni’s war was against bheeshma. He wanted to destroy his descendants. It was because bheeshma had the guts to ask gandhari for a blind man just because he was assured of winning gandhara if king subhala refused. Didn’t that action prick bheeshma’s conscience? Wasn’t that adharma? You can’t say it is rajdharm or rajneethi. Even if gandhari accepted dhrtharashtra it was sacrifice for her nation isn’t it? And did krshna follow dharma when he lied to dronacharya that his son was dead (chiranjeevi) just to behead him? # sanskriti. Please reply.

  • Shri Krishna was 8 when he played with Gopis. Today also children of this age of both genders play with each other. But lust minded people have found this way out to criticize Lord.

  • Can Somebody explain why the name Duryodhana ? i think the meaning is who misuses money.Dritarashtra loved his sons and wanted them to win …but why did he name his son like this or is he having another name ……or Mahabahrata is just a story and this is a negetive character like Gabbar.

    • He was probably named “Suyodhan” but due to his arrogance and adharmic behavior became known as duryodhan. Though I cannot authenticate.

  • Thanks a lot for your clarifications sir… Also, can you please clarify me why Krishna is married to multiple women whereas Bagavad

  • Namaste,

    This article is good, but you need to elaborate little more on both the questions. It is good that you have taken some reference from Swami Parmanand Bharati ji but it would better if you take references of 2-3 books of Mahabharat war as well. For example Pandavas had 7 अक्षौहिणी सेना whereas Kauravas had 11 अक्षौहिणी सेना. But this does not give right to pandavas to do wrong, there are some more reasons to that. After the war Vasudev Sri Krushan went to Gandhari, she started accusing Sri Krushna for war. Vasudev heard everything silently. The He started showing virtues of Duryodhan, that part is very necessary how much Duryodhan was bad. For Gopis and Radha ji, they are non other then manifestation of Sri Krushna, and under stand this love we need to have on little high spiritual level. Everything falls off when Bliss comes. That love goes beyond the body.

  • I feel when we are looking at the krishna as another incarnation of Vishnu, this was stating the context of society.

    When Rama Resurrected the dharma on this earth, slowly people who started following dharma became more and more knowledgeable and finally there was lot of warriors, – with lto of knowledge which is limting the life of common man.

    So there was lot of chaos prevailing on the earth which is to be cleared, in the whole mahabharath vyasa has not opined about anybody but has sequenced the happenings and leaving it for us to judge which ever way we want.

    Victor is always the just. everybody questions Bhisma and drona could stop the acts of duryodhana. It is to be noted at the first instance why did Yudhitar who knows all the dharma pledge his wife in a game of dice (GAMBLING word is not used because – it is a game played by two kings) Here the symbolical aspect of Bharatiya ithihas comes out.

  • You people are doing great job..
    I wish to join your work of research and putting ahead the true and enriched face of our religion.
    May be sometimes in future or when HE decides.

  • I think my explanations will answer many of the above questions that you have.
    Lord Kirshna was no doubt followed Dharma and he executed the war perfectly based on people deeds(karma) and we have also got the Bhagavatgita along with Mahabharata epic to teach righteousness to the next generations.
    First I would like to tell the reason for Mahabharatha war.
    There were many bad kings were growing at that time and Adharma is growing at peak level
    bcoz. of the bad kings and people were finally suffering.
    Pandu wanted to have son of Yama Dharamaraj to have such a son who is righteous always
    and would like to rule this world righteously for the welfare of people.
    You might ask how Yudistara was righteous when he pledged his wife and brothers in the game of dice.
    Actually its not Yudhistara who did with consciousness. Its just happened like in Ramayana when kaikeyi influenced by her slave Manthara to use her boons to ask for, given by Dasaratha earlier.
    And Dasaratha asked Rama to exile for 14 years. Who’s fault is this? Nobody’s fault. This situation should happen bcoz. The reason Rama took human life is to kill Ravana. He should go to forest. The situation should be plotted. Even there are stories like its not Kaikeyi who has asked to exile Rama rather its Godess Saraswati who sits on her tongue to plot the situation. Like that its Shani(Saturn) who influenced Yudhistara to pledge his brothers and wife. When Yudhistara was ruling Indraprasta, his father Pandu being in the heaven told to Naradha about his desire that Yudhistara is the one who is righteous of all kings and wanted his son to do Rajasuya Yaga to become an Emperor. When Naradha conveyed his fathers desire to Yudhistara he almost battled with bad kings and conquered (some good kings,kins and kiths declared him as an Emperor) in the four directions with the help of his four brothers. But still there were many bad kings left which were troubling people.
    But Yudhistara always couldnot battle with every king. This is the reason why he was influenced and plotted the situation for a mighty war. Later Duryodhana gathered all the bad kings and become the cause of their death along with him.
    Bheesmas Faulty: Bheesma kept scilent not bcoz. of Drutharastra was his king but bcoz. he had promised him earlier that he always be on his side. Being silent when you have responsibility and power(he is the most powerful after Krishna at that time, he could have stopped it) to stop when crime is happening is much worse than committing a crime. He was invincible and with out his death its impossible for pandavas to win.
    Its Bheesma’s karma only for his unethical cause of death but not Krishna, Krisha just executed based on Bheesma’s karma and to make the righteousness(Yudhistara) to win to rule the people.
    And Bheesma was still alive for almost 6 months on the bed of arrows suffering with pain with out having even food to die in an auspiscous day as he had boon to die whenever he wants. When he asked Krishna is this pain I am suffering bcoz. of my
    previous life karma. Krishna replied, no its not your previous life karma its the karma that you did in this life being kept silent when people were doing heinous crimes.
    Dhrona: He was a Brahmin and a guru but not a king. His duty was teaching not fighting in war alongside Duryodhana. Morover he was obsessed with his son Aswathama. And Aswathama was always like to be along with Duryodhana, so was Drona but not for food as said in this article.
    That’s obsessness towards his son becomes the cause of his death, Krishna had just executed this
    because it was Dronas karma who was also invincible and the war will go never ending if he didn’t die.
    Like this way Karna and Duryodhana deeds were the causes for their deaths but not Krishna.
    Gandhari: When Gandhari questioned and cursed why you didn’t stop the war rather than executing. Krishna accepted her curse bcoz. rule is rule for everybody(his kins also become proud of their strength and were fighting each other between two clans in Yadhu vamsam) and bcoz. of her curse his avatar will also come to end. He said tadaastu(your curse is a wish to me to bring my life to an end).
    Then replaid to Gandhari, I never involves in everybody actions and everybody do their own actions
    but finally everybody have to face their Karma. Its not bcoz. of my actions rather it is their deeds(karma) is the cause of their deaths. Its not Krishnas actions its Dhrutarashtra and Gandharis deeds are also the cause of their sons. Dhrutarashtra not only physically he was also mentally blind. He never had vision why Sakhuni staying in Hastinapur and instilling poison in their minds. Gandhari was a pious woman but to follow her husband she also become blind. When parents bcom. blind ignoring their children crimes what was the use of having 100 sons.
    That’s why people says if Mahabharata happened really its a wonder, if it is a story its the wonders of the wonder bcoz. see the characters created parents both were blind not monitoring properly their children.
    Why Krishna has multiple wives:
    Some puranas says 16000 wives were those women who worshipped Lord Rama and got the boon from Lord Shiva wanted to marry Rama. But Lord Rama cant accept other than sita, so they have got boons to marry him in his next avatar as Krishna. Even there are stories that Surpanaka also made tapas to marry Rama and got boon from
    Shiva to marry him in next life(Hench Back woman) with Krishna. In dwaparyug there was a Raksas called Tarakasura who kidnapped 16000 young and unmarried gopikas. Krishna fought with him and saved gopikas. Gopikas requested that no body will marry us bcoz. we were kidnapped and as you saved us you please marry us. All those gopikas were the woman who wanted and made tapas to become wife of Lord SriRama.
    And all other 8 wives Rukmini, Satyabhama etc were the incarnations of Godess Lakshmi only.
    Radha was just manifestation of Krishna only and he was 8 years old which he could not

  • The word meaning of Duryodhana : “Yuddhena yoddhum na shakyaha”.He can’t be defeated in a just war.Hitting below the belt was considered wrong even in those days.No weapon could kill him,when hit above the belt (It was after Ghosha yatra, when duryodhana wanted to commit prayopavesa,unable to withstand humiliation,He was taken to Patalaloka, where the rakshasas wanted him to lead them to victory in the war, telling him that his body above the belt is made of steel and no weapon can kill him).
    This is the reason as to why Bheema hit him on his thighs,after being prompted by Krishna and killed him.
    Personally I do not consider Mahabharatha a story.It is History.It is called Ithihas.

  • This is crap. Krishna was the most unfair God as there ever could be. He cheated to defeat kauravs and still we respect the chappy geeta that he uttered. I agree that kauravs were unfair in declothing draupadi but was it very holy for 5 brothers to marry the same girl?? This ramayan, mahabharat, geeta etc. are all shit, designed by selfish religions for their own means…..

  • Even Lord Krishna had teaches us to behave tit for tat we are not teaching lesson in there language , and BJP also not paying back to congress in the same quine.

  • Mahabharata was supposed to be a Dharmayudh. However Kauravas changed it into an unethical war with the massacre of Prince Abhimanyu. Post that, it was no longer a Dharmayudh. So in essence Lord Krishna adapted appropriate techniques to follow the same techniques.

  • It’s always gopis who reacted to Krishna,s music.Why men folk were not attracted by It? Is this a comparison for ida nadi getting attracted to Pingala.