Sree Krishna Slays the Washerman of King Kamsa

As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj


WE find the following in the Bhagavatam. "While proceeding to the arena of the Bow-sacrifice, to which They had been invited by King Kamsa, Rama and Krishna chanced to come across the washerman of King Kamsa, who was carrying the excellent washed robes of the King to the Palace. The Two Brothers accosted the washerman on the road and demanded the clothing for their Own use, saying that They were the proper Objects to whom those rich clothing were fit to be given for no consideration in return. They also assured the washerman that the highest good would result to himself for making a free gift of all those clothing to Themselves. The servant of King Kamsa proved to be as ill-advised as his master. Although he was prayed to by the All-Comprehending Divinity Himself, the washerman was filled with great anger and began to use abusive language against the Lord. He said that they were most unmannerly being born and bred in the hills and forests and their impudence was the outcome of Their utter barbarism. Were they ever accustomed to wear such apparel as those which They wanted to have for Their use? Why were they so ambitious to have those excellent clothes that were only fit to be worn by Kings? The washerman warned Them to desist from such strange behaviour and to flee from the spot and never again to be guilty of such conduct if They has any care for Their lives, because the royal officers always punish all arrogant persons guilty of such unlawful conduct with bondage, death and confiscation of all their properties. On this the Supreme Lord Sree Krishna, in his wrath, with one stroke of the fore-part of His Hand, severed the head of the vain washerman from his trunk. The attendants of that washerman scattered in a fright in all directions, abandoning the boxes in which they were carrying the royal robes. Thereupon Sree Krishna accepted all those clothes. Sree Krishna and Baladeva now put on the finest of those clothes and gave many of them to the cow-herds and threw some on the way side as They proceeded on Their way."

The above episode deserves the careful consideration of all persons and specially of those who are accustomed to put more value on worldly conduct than it can bear. The claim of absolute validity for the mundane ethical conduct is a contradiction in terms. The science of empiric Ethics does useful work so long as it confines itself within the strict limits of mundane affairs without forgetting the essentially tentative nature of its hypothesis in keeping with the ever changing environment to which they are meant to apply.

If mundane ethical conduct pretends to forget its limitations, it is liable to be punished with as little ceremony as if it chooses to go against any of the laws of Physical Nature. The conduct of the washerman was in strict conformity with the purely worldly code of political ethics. But in as much that code itself was being used by King Kamsa against Godhead Himself, it could save neither Kamsa nor his followers from the punishment that was their due. The onus is never on Godhead to appear before the offender with testimonials of His Identity. The offender can never recognise Godhead even when He chooses to appear before him. But the ignorance of the offender is no extenuation of his offence if he conducts himself towards Him by the prescriptions of the mundane ethical code. Fire burns even the finger of the child who is quite ignorant of the properties of the same. There is no injustice in such occurrence. The individual is never relieved from the responsibility of the crime of disobedience to the laws of Godhead out of deference to any mundane circumstances whatever.

The ordinary Smarta attitude towards the injunctions of the Scriptures is to cling to the convenient and literal interpretations of the texts. This does not absolve the mechanical performers of fruitive rituals from the dire consequence of such suicidal folly in the name of Religion. Unless the rational faculty is deliberately made to shut its eyes to the self evident consequences of its own activities such gross blunder is impossible to be indulged in for any length of time without being detected.

The grand principle is that all rational conduct is summarily punishable for its misdirection to anything less than the Absolute. The pretence of ignorance or the misinterpretation of the Scriptural injunction is ultimately traceable to the wilful abuse of the rational judgement. It is incumbent on every individual to seek to know the Absolute and to abstain from all conduct that is not meant for the exclusive service of Godhead. No plea will save a person from punishment for neglecting to use his rational judgement in the proper way in the minutest details of his activities. Unawareness is the greatest of all crimes against the Absolute. The priest-ridden community of the Smartas cannot avoid sharing the punishment that is due to the priests who misled their flock. The rank and file are equally punished with the leaders of atheistical living by the just regulations of the All-wise Providence.

The empiric ethical codes also grossly misled by omitting all reference to the Absolute in framing its so-called ideals of human conduct. Superstition is the complementary aspect of empiric pedantry in regard to matters spiritual. Both want to secure a safe berth on board the vessel of undiluted worldliness by means of their own mother-wits and both are landed into the state of immorality and ignorance in consequence of their self-elected follies for which they have to thank only themselves.

The Biblical dictum, viz., "That which is Caesar is to be given to Caesar and that which is God's is to be given to God" avoids the real issue by settling nothing in the only rational way. According to the Biblical dictum the washerman was justified in rendering to Kamsa what the empiric judgement may easily construe as belonging properly to the King. But such a vain conclusion, which seeks to share the domination of the world with Krishna, was rudely dissipated by the only method that is really intelligible to political power, viz., the mere exercise of summary compelling force to sweep away all such claims on the part of the secular code.

The real thing need not be confounded with any concocted figment of the human imagination. There is really such a thing as the actual appearance of the Absolute on the scene of this limited world. On the appearance of the Absolute the sanction of all mundane authority automatically reverts to the Ultimate Source of all authority. Krishna dismisses His executive officialdom without caring to let them know what He does. It is the look out of the parties to make themselves acquainted with the Doings of the Autocrat Who is under no manner of obligation, pseudo moral or otherwise, to anybody for His unrestrained absolutely wholesome Activities.

No ethical code is worth a moment's consideration unless it duly provides for the full operation of the omnipotence of Sree Krishna. The washerman and his equally foolish master did not know this. They were guilty of rebellion against the Authority of the Absolute by reason of their habitual negligence of the unforeseen contingency which they had fondly supposed to be an utter impossibility. But it is exactly when we are most stubbornly atheistical that Krishna chooses to make His Appearance to us, as He did to Kamsa and his bewildered followers.

The Appearance of Sree Gaursundar is similarly regarded by the puerile senility of mundane realism as an occurrence for which much more is claimed than is His due. There are also preachers who are disposed to be tender to sophists and to allow them an opportunity of realising their gross errors. But all such tenderness is wholly undeserved by each and every shade and condition of atheism. The Supreme Lord went on His Knees from door to door to persuade the people of this Age to pay a little of their serious attention to Krishna. He and His associates met with the most decided refusal from the confirmed worldlings and specially from the camp of the Smartas, for Their endeavours to rescue fallen humanity. The fate of the washerman places in a much more intelligible form the utter rottenness of worldly organised hypocrisy which passes under the name of empiric philosophy in order to spite the Source of all real good.

The self-satisfied vanity of utterly immoral worldly people cannot hide from even the greatest fools the inevitable terrible consequences of all worldly conduct that is so loudly recommended from pulpits and platforms under cover of seemingly wise jargon. You can find no grain if you take the actual trouble of shifting the hollow chaff that is so lavishly offered for the consumption of the unfortunate people of this world by their self-elected benefactors. We are not prepared to believe that no amount of skill in the manipulation of worldly knowledge can do any real good to our souls who imperatively require to be saved from the terrible plight of this abnormal and hypocritical existence.

For us it is necessary to become acquainted with the true meaning of the Pastimes of Sree Krishna. One Moiety of the Absolute Reality is offered by the Career of Sree Krishna; the other Moiety is supplied by the Deeds of the Supreme Lord Sree Krishna-Chaitanya. The One is absolutely unintelligible without a pre-knowledge of the Other. Sree Krishna is nobody's servant. Sree Krishna Chaitanya is the Servant of all the servants of Sree Krishna. Sree Krishna Chaitanya is identical with Sree Krishna. These Two Faces of the Divinity are Eternally Distinct and Identical. Let Neither of Them be ignored in the sterile vanity of worldly wisdom.

The story of Kamsa's washerman is familiar to little children through the length and breadth of this country. But how many persons have seriously pondered over the meaning of this apparently commonplace frolic of the Youthful Son of Nanda? Let all self-righteous persons take the lesson to heart and make a genuine attempt, before it is too late, to avoid the punishment that was meted to the washerman of king Kamsa by the Divine Cow-Boys.


If you are interested with the subject matter of this site and would like more information concerning related works by Chris Butler, please write to the Secretary of the Science of Identity Foundation.

Read More