How Superman’s history helps us understand Krishna’s intimate divinity

Superman was among the first in the galaxy of super-heroes that populates the DC universe. The history of Superman’s evolution points to an important truth about divinity as manifested in the bhakti tradition. Since the 1940’s, as Superman caught the public imagination, his creators started making him more and more powerful till he could blow up satellites just by raising his hand. Paradoxically, as his power increased, his popularity decreased. Why?

Because the closer he came to omnipotence, the more his adventures became unadventurous — when he could effortlessly win over any adversary, the suspense in his stories decreased. And people started losing interest Consequently, the creators introduced Kryptonite as Superman’s vulnerability, a weakness that his enemies exploited. How he survived and succeeded despite his vulnerability became a suspense thread in his stories. And his popularity rose again.

Gita wisdom explains philosophically how Krishna as God is omnipotent. Yet the bhakti tradition reveals Krishna not as a divinity presiding in solitary majesty above everyone else, but as a divinity eminently personal and personable who manifests a finite-seeming form, even a child-like form. Though Krishna is always omnipotent, he doesn’t always manifest his omnipotence. He conceals his divinity to make his pastimes more exciting and fascinating. Thus, when demons attack him, they sometimes gain the upper hand, even if temporarily. Through their apparent ability to threaten and endanger him, he captures the attention of those who hear his pastimes and enables endless absorption, filled with a panorama of emotions, for those devoted to him.

When we understand the extraordinary nature of Krishna’s pastimes, we get irresistibly captivated by him and attain his eternal abode for a life of endless love (Bhagavad-gita 04.09).

One-sentence summary:

When Krishna manifests in finite-seeming form, that doesn’t decrease his powers; it increases the excitement of his pastimes.

Think  it over:

  • Why did Superman’s popularity decrease with the increase in his powers?
  • Why does Krishna not always act omnipotently?
  • Which pastime of Krishna attracts you the most? How does it blend vulnerability and omnipotence?

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04.09: One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

 

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