12 November 2005

The Mystery of the 16,000 PART ONE

I was recently challenged by an SB adherent to post quotes from Sai Baba showing the latter's mention of 16,000 gopikas in order to prove that SB has actually referred to them. Incidentally, this is the very same adherent mentioned in previous blogs who prefers poorly-informed online magazine articles by SB devotees over and above SB's own words, never mind the verdict of the Vedic scriptures which mention all of these things.

Why I should even have to engage myself in such meaningless research is beyond me, since it would be natural to assume that a devotee would be interested in researching his or her guru's words. However, I quickly grasped the fact that this could be a useful issue to reference in the future. Add to that Sai Baba's love of attaching higher meanings and inner significances to a large number of scriptural stories, I thought that this subject would be interesting to peruse as I will show how even this concept of 16,000 is not free from SB's eagerness for symbolism! We must also remember that we are dealing with pastimes that occurred in Krishna's youth, where He dallied with the gopis of Vrindavana, and we will show Sai Baba's mistakes on this matter in due course.

I distinctly remember SB stating this figure in a discourse given on or before 1994 as I also recall telling this to a fellow group member in Whitefield while I was there. I'll have to check the back issues of Sanathana Sarathi (SB's ashram magazine) to be sure, but I'm sure that quotes on this subject that were obtained courtesy of Google will suffice for now.

1 - "Gopikas are cowherdesses only in physical form. In the human head, there is Lotus with thousand petals. Each of these petals has sixteen Kalas (aspects) As the Lord of Sahasrara (thousand-petalled Lotus), He presides over the 16000 Kalas, which are present in Lotus. The Lord is described as the embodiment of 16 Kalas . The Kundalini Shakthi (Serpent Power) which starts at the bottom of spinal column (Mooladhara) rises and merges with the 16000 entities in the Sahasrara. Thus, it is stated that Krishna was wedded to 16000 gopikas."

Excusing the obvious problems relating to the presence of a thousand-petalled lotus in the human head which has escaped the attention of esteemed neurosurgeons, we can see that Sai Baba is trying to draw a comparison between Krishna's dalliances and Kundalini-yoga. I wont go into this much here as Sai Baba explains himself more fully in following quotes, except to note that Kundalini-yoga, just like any other kind of yoga, is a way and means for aspirants to shake off material shackles and attain nearness (or "union") with God. It would then naturally follow that a person who succeeds in the sadhana of Kundalini-yoga attains perfection when his Kundalini-shakti rises and permanently 'merges' with the Sahasrara-chakra, which is believed to be located in the medulla oblongata area of the brain.

Thus, when this is an issue for us ordinary souls, why does Sai Baba draw a comparison with Krishna's supposed marriages to 16,000 gopis? Is Sai Baba comparing the ordinary soul to Krishna, or vice versa?

2 - "This is the inner secret of how the Divine works. In the life of Krishna, there are many incidents which have an esoteric meaning, but which have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by scholars and commentators. Such misunderstandings have been caused by stories that Krishna had eight wives and that He dallied with 16,000 gopikas. In the spinal column, there are six chakras, of which two are important- the Sahasraaara chakra in the brain and the the Hridayachakra in the middle of the spinal column. The Hridayachakra is a flower-like chakra with eight petals. The eight petals are symbols of the eight parts of the earth, whose master is the Lord Himself ... God is the Lord of this thousand-petalled Sahasraara. The inner significance of the reference to 16,000 gopikas should be understood in this manner. Few attempt to understand the spiritual significance of many episodes in the Bhagavatham. Young men may easily be misled by references to Krishna's 16,000 gopikas. The real meaning is that each one should awaken the sixteen thousand potencies within him."

Apart from the rather elaborate description of Kundalini philosophy, it is not known if this incident from Krishna's life is truly compatible with the same. Why then, does Sai Baba insist that we should see it in that way?

First of all the idea of Krishna having eight wives is an untruth, although to be fair to SB he is merely referring to "stories" that circulate. The layout of his presentation, though, exhibits an utterly fanciful view of Krishna's pastimes. Within the same breath he mentions Krishna's supposed marriage to eight wives and dalliances with 16,000 gopis! Anyone who is unfamiliar with these issues would doubtlessly receive the wrong impression, for which they cannot be blamed!

Sai Baba also appears to have made a mistake in regards to Kundalini philosophy. There are supposedly seven chakras in the body, not six.

3 - "The following day is Amavasya (New Moon Day). Krishna freed from prison 16,000 women and asked them to go back to their respective homes. But all the gopikas fell at Krishna's feet and pleaded that it would not be possible for them to live in dignity in their old homes after having been prisoners of Narakasura and they would prefer to end their lives at His feet rather than to go back. "You are the Protector of the Universe, can't you protect us?" they pleaded. Krishna agreed to protect them. Because of the pledge He gave to them that He would bear the responsibility for protecting them, He was called their Bhartha (Supporter). This has been wrongly interpreted as a meaning that He was their husband. It is a libel on Krishna to say that He married 16000 gopikas."

According to the previous quotes, Sai Baba has all along been arguing that the existence of th 16,000 'gopikas' is allegorical; their existence is esoteric, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and any attempt to interpret in another way is 'misled'. But here we see Sai Baba doing the very same thing, forwarding yet another explanation!

This time he reveals a more germane description of the incident, and this just happens to be the version that the scriptures tell. The above quote describes the story of how Narakasura kidnapped 16,000 damsels and who, upon the release by Krishna after the killing of Narakasura, appealed to Him to be their husband. This whole event is described in Section 10.59.33-45 of the Bhagavata Purana, with far too much detail for it to be considered strictly allegorical. In fact, a verse from the Vishnu Purana states that the number of damsels was 16,100.

In any case, even with a reasonable explanation, why does Sai Baba still insist that it is a "libel" on Krishna to suggest that he married those 16,000 gopikas? First of all they were not gopikas, they were kanyas. 'Kanya' is the term for 'virgin girl', although it can also be taken to refer to a young unmarried girl. A 'gopika' is a reference to a cowherd milkmaid, whereas Bhagavata Purana 10.59.33 clearly states 'bhaumAhRtAnAM vikramya rAjabhyo dadRze hariH', which basically means that Bhauma [Narakasura] had taken the damsels by force from a number of kings. The earlier portion of the verse mentions the term 'rAjanya-kanyAnAM', which refers to maidens of the royal order. This shows that the 16,000 damsels were virginal princesses who had been kidnapped from their kingly fathers, not gopis who by any account were village milkmaids. Considering this, we can see how Sai Baba constantly refers to them as 'gopikas' showing clearly that he has no idea what he is talking about.

Then, considering the fact that since they had no other shelter on account of their being tainted by the association of Narakasura, is it any wonder that they then surrendered unto Krishna? The concept of being 'tainted' in this manner occurs frequently in Vedic literature; the issue was broached in the Ramayana also, where Rama subjected His wife Sita to the test of fire in order to determine her "purity" on account of her kidnap by the demonic Ravana. Even in modern Indian culture, it is often the case that men might refuse to marry a girl on account of past associations with other males, even if no romantic or sexual activity had taken place.

Despite this, Sai Baba still insists that it is a "libel" to say that Krishna married all of the 16,000 princesses. It is a mystery as to why this could be, considering that this is stated as such in Bhagavata Purana 10.59.42:

atho muhUrta ekasmin
nAnAgAreSu tAH striyaH
yathopayeme bhagavAn
tAvad-rUpa-dharo 'vyayaH

Then the imperishable Bhagavan [Krishna], assuming a separate form for each bride, duly married all the princesses simultaneously, each in her own palace.

To be continued.

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  • Hi.. Thanks for this informative article. I really liked it. I also came across this similar site with nice articles and videos on vedic prinicples -

    By Blogger rk, at 03 September, 2009 07:25  

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