Followers of Srila Prabhupada accept the pastimes of Lord Krishna, and His incarnations such as Lord Rama, as narrated in the scriptures such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Ramayana, as being literally true historical events, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His Divine incarnations actually appeared and walked the earth, enacting Their transcendental pastimes. This is in marked contrast to other belief systems which claim that the pastimes and Godhead status of such personalities are merely fables and legends - that is, fictional, figurative and allegorical stories, told specifically for the purpose of conveying moral messages.
Promoting Lord Krishna as fiction
A multi-million dollar animated cartoon series about Lord Krishna and His pastimes, called Little Krishna (“LK”), has been produced in the form of thirteen 23 minute episodes, with a DVD version which re-packages those 13 episodes into 3 larger segments. To ensure that the audience are left in no doubt that what they are about to see is fictional, at the beginning of every single episode or DVD segment of LK, the following special notice is broadcast:
“The stories and the treatment expressed herein are well and thoroughly researched and are based on 5000 years old fables from India’s rich cultural heritage. The Serial is presented here in good faith for viewers enjoyment and entertainment”.
We are specifically told in advance that the material which follows is based on fables, rather than reality, presented for the purposes of entertainment. Additionally, the mythological nature of Krishna and His pastimes is reinforced by continually emphasising Krishna’s status as a legend throughout the entire series:
a) The title of one of the 3 DVD segments is: “The Legendary warrior”.
b) A narration is added throughout the series to remind us that Krishna is legendary, e.g.
Narrator: “Kamsa, the arrogant cruel King of Mathura was petrified of his end at the hands of his angel of death, Little Krishna, the legendary warrior of Vrindavana” (“Fire and Fury”, episode 5, (“The Legendary Warrior” in the DVD version) )
Narrator: “And so, Little Krishna, the legendary warrior saved His beloved Vrindavana ...” (“Assault of the Lethal Bird”, episode 9, (“The Legendary Warrior” in the DVD version) )
Srila Prabhupada on fables
Srila Prabhupada states that fables are the allegorical and figurative alternative to the reality of Krishna’s literal pastimes:
David Lawrence: “Where, is it the demoness Putana takes Krsna and Krsna sucks her breast?”Syamasundara: “Should it be taken literally or allegorically?”Prabhupada: “No, literally, literally.”David Lawrence: “Yeah, literally as a physical fact.”Prabhupada: “Oh yes, oh yes.”David Lawrence: “Now, having said that then, if one goes on logically...”Prabhupada: “You’ll find so many demons like Putana even at the present moment.”David Lawrence: “So one could leap from behind a tree, putting it tritely if you like.”Prabhupada: “The, the Bhagavatam, there is nothing... well, there are some figurative use. Just like we speak the story of Aesop’s fables. That is for instruction. Just like jackal is talking with a lion. You see? So, there are stories like that.”David Lawrence: “Yes, there are figurative stories.”Prabhupada: “Yes.” (Morning walk, 30/8/1973)
“Factually the path of bhakti- yoga is the path of hearing directly about the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (sravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23]), but those who are not interested in hearing directly about the activities of the Lord, or who cannot understand them, can very effectively hear such stories and fables as this one narrated by Narada Muni. (The allegory of King Puranjana).” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.28.65, purport)
“original face, original person, is Krsna. If you decorate Krsna very nicely, then you will be also seen very much decorated. If you... Practically we see. There is no fable. We are offering Krsna nice foodstuff, so we are eating this nice prasadam which we never conceived or dreamed, dreamt in our life.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 18/2/1976)
Srila Prabhupada on Krishna as legend
Similarly, Srila Prabhupada makes it clear that those who do not accept Krishna’s activities as real, deride them as being legendary:
“Lifting a mountain at the age of seven years and marrying sixteen thousand wives in the prime of His youth are some of the examples of His infinite energy, but the mudhas, after seeing them or hearing about them, decry them as legendary and take the Lord as one of them.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.10.10, purport)
“When they are challenged by Krsna’s pastimes, these rascals say, “It is all fiction; it is all legend. [...] So, God sometimes displays Himself as God and sometimes as a human being, but the rascal impersonalists dismiss His pastimes as legend or mythology.” (A Second Chance)
“When God displays Himself as God, the rascals take it as legend. Just see. They do not believe in the sastras. [...] Krsna’s lifting the Govardhana Hill, what, how they interpret it? I know, the Mayavadis, they do not accept. Or “Krsna is ordinary human being.” The Aryasamajis and others, they take it as legend. But the acaryas, they do not take it as legend. Therefore we have to follow the acaryas.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 13/12/1970)
ISKCON promotes Little Krishna fiction
The producers and promoters of LK are as follows:
1) Executive Producer: Madhu Pandit Dasa Story Research, Concept & Design: Chanchalapati Dasa “In addition to all these, we have spent Rs.21 crores ($5 million US Dollars) in producing a world class animation project on Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan. (Little Krishna, a 13 episode series is being currently broadcast on Nick channel. This is a co-production with Big Animation).” (An address by Madhu Pandit Dasa, 28/7/2009, press conference)
Madhu Pandit Dasa and Chanchalapati Dasa are the President and Vice President of ISKCON Bangalore. (“Big Animation” is a commercial company that partnered on the production).
2) ISKCON temples all over the world, including in North America and Europe, distribute LK.
3) GBC member, Hari Vilasa Das, is a particularly enthusiastic supporter of LK who has organised special “Saturday Movie Nights” with “pizza and popcorn” at his ISKCON Seattle temple, to broadcast LK.
Though we can fully understand a commercial company producing a series like LK, given Srila Prabhupada’s teachings one would not expect any follower of Srila Prabhupada to be party to any depiction of Lord Krishna’s pastimes as fables and legends. However, as noted, the LK series is co-produced and promoted by ISKCON devotees and temples.
Srila Prabhupada’s warnings
Srila Prabhupada also gave the following warnings in relation to filming Krishna’s pastimes:
“You should know it that Krsna is not a plaything. These things should strictly not be done. (About trying to have karmis make a movie on Krsna Book). If you do this, then Krsna will become a fairy tale. Please drop this matter.” (Srila Prabhupada Letter, 20/7/1974)
“I appreciate your interest in making the Krishna book film but it is not important for now. [...] I do not care very much for these filmings because by presenting Krishna in this way it makes it something like fantasy. It is better to have people to read my Krishna books what I have written so that they can understand Krishna fully.” (Srila Prabhupada Letter, 20/8/1974)
“You are going to produce some film. Begin from the first chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Why you jump over the Tenth Canto? That is kept very confidential. Unless one understands [...] So Sukadeva Gosvami has arranged in such a way that one should understand what is Krsna by reading these nine cantos. Then he can enter into the Krsna’s lila and Krsna’s birth.” (Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, 22/1/77)
“The point is that these drawings should be realistic. Not that you make Krishna a cartoon character and therefore laughing stock.” (Srila Prabhupada Letter, 18/8/1971)
Srila Prabhupada has specifically warned against depicting Krishna’s pastimes via film and also depicting Krishna as a cartoon character, to prevent Lord Krishna coming across as unreal. Yet, here in LK, we have Krishna depicted both in film and as a cartoon character! And for good measure, LK has gone the additional step of specifically adding that it is unreal, by saying it is a fable and legend.
Not based on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings
As if all the above was not a deviation enough from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, LK also depicts many incidents which are not even from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Using Srila Prabhupada’s method that “you take one grain of rice” to check if “the whole rice is cooked” (Lecture, 12/5/1974), we present the following summary of one episode picked randomly from the middle of the series, which is episode 7, titled “The Deadly Donkey” (”The wonderous feats” in the DVD format):
Scene 1: Lord Indra plans to steal “Tal Nectar” from Kamsa’s private orchard, which is guarded by the demon, Dhenukasura.
Scene 2: Srimati Radharani and Her two friends, Lalita and Vishaka, are allured by the smell of the Tal fruit and decide to go in search of it, and arriving at the gates of Kamsa’s orchard, realise this is the place that Mother Yasoda warned them to stay far away from.
Scene 3: The cows in the care of Krishna and His friends also become seduced by the aroma of the Tal-fruit and go wandering towards it, prompting Krishna and His friends to go running after them, and arriving at Kamsa’s orchard, They also set off to secretly steal some fruit.
Scene 4: Krishna instructs a monkey called Dadiloba, to ‘”keep an eye on Dhenuka’”, so they can secretly steal the fruit, and Dadiloba fails to distract Dhenukasura after he is alerted to the presence of Krishna and His friends.
Scene 5: Krishna then has a battle with Dhenukasura in the sky, some of which Mother Yasoda witnesses, as she, Nanda Maharaja and other inhabitants of Vrindavana make their way towards Kamsa’s orchard, finally being reunited with Krishna there.
None of the above is mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, meaning the entire episode from start to finish contains incidents which are not from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Similarly, the whole series abounds with incidents never mentioned by Srila Prabhupada.
Making money from Krishna
The following statements detail the purpose behind the LK project:
“When we researched quite a few Indian properties that have done well over the period of last few years, it’s been one single character that has been known internationally, and beyond the people of Indian origin, was definitely Krishna.” (Ashish S.K., CEO, Big Animation, http://bit.ly/dxas10 , 2 mins 20 secs)
“Interesting stories of Krishna in his younger days allow the kids to form an immediate association with our legendary character” (Chanchalapati Das, http://bit.ly/9KJH7l)
“In fact, Krishna-lila has all the elements of intrigue, drama and and emotions which are very much essential to make an exciting animation which would be termed as successful in terms of entertaining as well as in terms of educating about the qualities and nature of this wonderful heritage character, Krishna.” (Madhu Pandit Das, http://bit.ly/9eIbj6, 3 mins 32 secs)
“Strong concept: The core of the concept is a never-failing combination of heritage and action, garnished and presented in top-class 3D animation style. Concept Neutrality: Krishna as a concept is widely diffused and is a heritage property with global salience Alternate channels: Concept lends itself to endless revenue manipulations. Egs – Video games, Comic Books, Mobisodes, Merchandise, Home entertainment etc The product truly offers a global landscape of consumption, revenue generation and branding possibilities." (http://bit.ly/c3JBMU)
The aim was to utilise Krishna’s “brand value” among consumers as a successful “Indian property” and“legendary heritage character”, leading to substantial “revenue generation” possibilities and “endless revenue manipulations”. Thus, the main thrust behind the project was commercial, rather than adherence to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, and consequently it is no suprise that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings were not adhered to.
We have already documented in previous issues how commercialisation has heavily influenced ISKCON, leading to Srila Prabhupada’s standards and teachings being sacrificed in the pursuit of profit. Now ISKCON devotees and temples have become party to producing and promoting a commercial, non-Prabhupada presentation of Krishna and His pastimes.
The spread of commercialism in ISKCON has now extended to Lord Krishna’s transcendental pastimes, and we can only wonder what ISKCON will do next.