“Lord Krishna saw 16,100 young princesses, who had been kidnapped and held captive there. When the princesses saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, enter the palace, they immediately became captivated by the beauty of the Lord and prayed for His causeless mercy. Within their minds, they decided to accept Lord Krishna as their husband without any hesitation.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 4)Download this episode (right click and save)
A quick way to get the upper hand in an argument is to point out the opposing side’s flaws. If there are any egregious mistakes that the other side doesn’t want discussed, bring them up. Sort of like rubbing salt in the wound, there is no reason to not take advantage of a perceived weakness. These arguments take place in spiritual life as well, and one of the common weaknesses pointed to in the Supreme Lord Krishna is actually not a weakness at all.
Perhaps you have come across the following criticism:
“How can you worship such a debauchee as Krishna? He is known for having intimate dealings with young girls in the town of Vraja. You people don’t even deny that. Then in adulthood He had over sixteen thousand wives. How can God be so lusty? Do you not see the contradiction in the person you deem to be Divine?”
Though relying on mere sentiment when trying to support their own religion, these arguments are unleashed without any qualms. But they are a great insult to the Supreme Lord, in whichever way a person supposedly understands Him. There are reasons why Shri Krishna has more than sixteen thousand wives.
1. Having the most opulence means something
Instead of relying on dogmatic insistence or support based on personal preference, the Vedas provide a scientific understanding to spirituality. As God is the objective in genuine spiritual life, there is a way to understand Him, at least partially, through frames of reference with which we are familiar. The Sanskrit word Bhagavan says that God has full opulence in six different areas: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation.
This is easy to accept in theory, but what does it actually mean? What is the meaning of full beauty? For starters, so many people are attracted to Him. Indeed, everyone is attracted to God in some way; hence the name Krishna being an appropriate form of address. The atheists are attracted to His illusory energy known as maya. The yogis are attracted to His expansion of the Supersoul residing within the heart. The devotees are attracted to His personal feature. In Vraja, the attraction is so strong that the people forget all other relations and attachments. Their first and foremost love is the darling child of Nanda and Yashoda.
2. God is not restricted by anything
In a civilized society, there are guardrails. Man cannot act however he wishes, at all times. He is governed by boundaries. Even the people in power who egregiously abuse their lofty position must at least lie and cover up their illegal behavior. In this way we see that everyone is restricted. If you are looking for God, the person you find must be free of all restrictions. Nothing should be able to hold Him back. He should be unbound.
This description is appropriate for Shri Krishna, as He is not held back by even dharma, which is virtue. Dharma is a system put in place to help the conditioned souls advance towards the perfection that is steady consciousness of God. Krishna is the object of dharma; therefore He is never bound by it. One way to know if someone is bound by dharma is to see what happens to them when they break the established codes of conduct.
Shri Krishna enjoys with the gopis in Vraja and with His many wives in Dvaraka because that is His position. He is always in sweet enjoyment, or madhurya. If He were subordinate to dharma, then the rules themselves would be supreme.
3. He is the savior of the distressed
Narakasura, also known as Bhaumasura, was a bad guy living on earth during the time of Krishna’s advent. Naraka means “hell” and asura means “demon.” The literal definition to asura is “one who is against God.” The demon’s name of Bhaumasura references his relation as son to the earth goddess, Bhumi.
Through his reign of terror, Narakasura had kidnapped sixteen thousand and one hundred women as bounty. He held them prisoner in his kingdom. After hearing the complaints of Indra, Krishna went to this demon’s city and emerged victorious in a battle. The question then was what to do for the women. They could not go back into society, as since they were already forced to live in another man’s house, nobody would accept them for marriage. More importantly, they desired to have Krishna as their husband.
The Supreme Lord is the savior of the distressed. This is not some empty title applied in praise, meant to be taken only symbolically. He literally saves anyone who genuinely desires His association. He accepts whatever criticism might come His way as a result. The women had no other place to go, and so Krishna brought them to Dvaraka and happily married each one of them.
Krishna has eight principal wives, so the total during His earthly pastimes is 16,108. If Krishna were to deny the new queens, if he were to not give them any chance of His association going forward, then He wouldn’t be God. The very fact that He married so many automatically qualifies Him to be acknowledged as Supreme.
4. He is the perfect husband to each
Krishna’s pastimes are described in detail towards the latter portion of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Everything leading up to it describes how Krishna is God. You get an explanation of the origin of the creation, the elements within that creation, and what are the major pitfalls towards advancement for the countless living entities populating that creation.
By the time you reach the pastimes, you have an understanding that Krishna is unlimited. Only He can support over sixteen thousand wives. He expanded Himself in Dvaraka and lived with each queen separately. They all thought He was only with them. This is the Supreme Lord’s magic and also His mercy. Though His influence is spread throughout the creation, He is not divided. He does not lose anything by supporting more and more devotees.
5. He can have millions of wives if He so chooses
The number 16,108 seems like a lot to us, but compared to the infinite it is nothing. Shri Krishna can have millions of wives if He wants. He can support each and every one of them flawlessly. He already travels with every living entity by residing in the heart as the Supersoul.
With over sixteen thousand wives to be,
How Supreme Lord Krishna is He?
God one who by nothing is bound,
In whom full freedom and enjoyment is found.
In madhurya, Krishna with flute to carry,
If wanting millions of wives can marry.
Surrendered souls He abandoning never,
Rescued queens accepting Him forever.