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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Personality Analysis of Sri Krishna

The concept of personality has been something that has been studied and researched for decades now. There have been numerous definitions of personality given by several psychologists which more or less convey the same thing. Personality refers to the enduring configuration of characteristics and behaviour that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns (APA Dictionary of Psychology, n.d.-e). It is known to entail both – physical and psychological characteristics, it is rather unique to an individual, and is dynamic in nature in the sense that some internal characteristics may change over time.

Typically seen, the Mahabharat may be understood as a family feud with cousins robbing each other off, elders not succeeding in intervening and a war of mass destruction as a result. The primary reason for opting for Sri Krishna is my adoration for Him. This has developed over years after reading the various versions of the Mahabharat and listening to the Bhagvad Gita. Krishna is undefinable, unexplainable and cannot be summarised by mere words.

Those who may be spiritually inclined may understand that when one starts meditating on Krishna, there is an attraction or a spiritual pull that one may feel. Therefore, I felt it would be a good combination to try and analyse a spiritual telling on the basis of psychology. Most of the information contained in this article is taken from widely held beliefs and religiosity-based websites. Additionally, I shall try and limit my personality analysis of Krishna to the Mahabharat and His roles in the same.

Krishna is seen in various across the span of the Mahabharat. Originally the son of Vasudev and Devki, Krishna was raised by foster parents Nandalal and Yashoda due to the threat to His life from His maternal uncle Kansa. He is only related by birth to the Pandavs as their mother Kunti was the biological sister of Vasudev.

Arjun asks Krishna to describe Himself, he says:

Yes, I will tell you of My splendorous manifestations, but only of those which are prominent, O Arjuna, for My opulence is limitless.” (Bhagvad Gita – 10.19)

Initiating the discussion with appearance, I shall limit it to His physical form seen and presumed by most humans rather than the divine form. He is commonly placed to have a dark skin tone (in terms of dark blue, which is essentially the meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘Krishn’). Apart from that, nothing is known for sure and most of it may be attributed to conjecture stemming from mythology.

I shall now elaborate on the various ways he was involved in the story of the Mahabharat. I shall cite instances for the epic tale and then describe the personality traits associated with the same.

The Ruler of Dwarka

There are numerous scriptures that explain Krishna’s role as Dwarkadhish. Despite being God manifesting as a human, Krishna chooses to rule over Dwarka, the reasons for which are not delved into in this article. It is said that he enjoyed battles, but His primary objective always remained the establishment of dharma. He was known to be dutiful and understandingly diplomatic. It has been mentioned that He always attended to the matters of His state and was always ready to hear and help His subjects.

The Peacemaker of the Mahabharat

There have been numerous instances where Krishna has acted as a channel to facilitate discussion, and/or negotiation but ultimately peace. Apart from continually guiding and mentoring the Pandavs, He was always an advocate for peace. He was the one who acted as a messenger and went to the Kauravs and humbly requested them to return Indraprastha (the kingdom originally owned by the Pandavs). Although events ultimately did lead up to the Kurukshetra war, it is evident that He was a patron of harmony and wanted to deal with difficult situations amicably.

The ‘Sakha’ of Draupadi

In most narrations of the Mahabharat, it is said that Krishna is first mentioned in the story during Draupadi’s swayamvar. He acts as a witness and may be said to begin as a passive character. There are numerous interpretations of their relationship ranging from the fact that Draupadi was madly in love with Him to them having a platonic friendship. Their relationship is strong; so much so that Draupadi is often referred to as His ‘Sakhi’.

One of the most notable events of the tale was her disrobing that took place in the darbar of the Kaurava court. Here, she appeals for Krishna to appear, and He does so, and saves her honour by providing unending reams of cloth to her. This shows that Krishna acted as a loyal friend who came to Draupadi’s rescue when she needed Him. Further, it is also widely believed that the latter sought His advice whenever she was going through a moral dilemma.

This leads one to understand that He is a wise person who acts as a guide and mentor to those in need. The primary reason was His calmness and intuitive nature. He was the one who tended to her problems and listened to them; thereby allowing her to feel better and then guiding her to her dharma. He was thus compassionate and kind and was seen adopting a problem-solving approach.

The Charioteer of Arjun

Perhaps, the person most associated with Krishna is His disciple and closest friend Arjun. Their bond is so strong that they have been referred to as NarNarayan. He is privileged enough to be the recipient of Krishna’s spiritual wisdom. One of Krishna’s most important roles is as Arjun’s rath-sarthi or charioteer. When Duryodhan (the eldest Kaurav) and Arjun visit Him to seek His help for the war, He mentions that only one of them could have His army or the Narayani Sena.

He said that the other party could choose Him, however, He vowed not to pick up any weapon during the war. Arjun was not hesitant to pick His friend because he knew that Krishna would guide him to do the right thing. Through the war, Krishna once again fulfilled all the duties of a friend by helping Arjun understand why the war was deemed necessary. It is essential and symbolic to understand that as his charioteer, Krishna provided direction to Arjun – both literally (by helping him fight the war) and metaphorically (by helping him make the right decisions in life).

The Writer of the Gita/The Spiritual Advisor

Krishna is known for his several roles – from being a mischievous boy who stole maakhan to the boy who playfully spent time with the gopis, the person who played raas to the ruler of Dwarka, to name a few. However, one role of his that never goes amiss is the portrayal of Him providing Arjun with spiritual knowledge at the battlefield before the Kurukshetra war begins. He is thus best described as the spiritual advisor. It is here and now that He helps Arjun in realizing the ultimate truth and the reality of the world. He also showcases His viratswarup and explains his reasons of fighting the war. He advocates for dharma over anything else and this is when He recites the famous shlok,

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य, ग्लानीं भवति भरत

अभ्युत्थानम् अधर्मस्य, तदात्मनम् श्रीजाम्यहम्

This roughly translates to the fact that “whenever there is a prevalence of unrighteousness on this Earth, I shall take birth and manifest myself”. This extends to proving His determination in the tasks that He has undertaken and remain undeterred in the face of tough circumstances.

So far, I have discussed various personality traits of Krishna in correspondence to various events outlined in the Mahabharat. I shall now try and elaborate using a few personality theories of psychology.

According to the Five Factor Theory of Personality, Krishna’s traits can be explained in terms of neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Beginning with neuroticism; this domain entails components such as instability, insecurity, anxiety and so on. It is very apparent based on the above analysis that these traits were rather dormant. A major reason for this is Krishna was highly spiritually inclined and served as a spiritual advisor for many. As Abraham Maslow would say, he was self-actualized. When analyzed, He may be found to be beyond that as many consider Him to be a manifest form of God. This is the reason traits like pessimism and doubt are never shown to arise in Him.

Secondly, extraversion – this includes being energetic and talkative and harboring social confidence. To understand this better, instances from His childhood can be cited. Although a mischievous and naughty child by nature, Krishna was very adorable and charismatic. He had numerous loyal friends throughout His life and to this date is portrayed to be outgoing, cheerful, and bubbly.

Openness to experience is the third domain of this theory. This refers to the fact that an individual is perceptive in nature and is curious and driven by intellect. This is very apparent in Krishna because He is highly empathetic as seen in His friendships with Draupadi and Arjun. He is also known to share a great bond with one of Arjun’s sons named Abhimanyu. People who are high on this domain are also said to have a variety of interests and this is in line with Krishna’s inclinations. He enjoyed playing the flute, herding the cows and took a deep interest in philosophy and politics.

Agreeableness entails aspects such as politeness, humbleness, selflessness among others. Such individuals are usually altruistic and trustworthy in nature. This is in corroboration with the information mentioned previously. Krishna is always shown to be helpful to those treading the path of dharma. He has always acted as a counsellor for Arjun and taught him the virtues of consideration and patience.

Lastly, conscientiousness includes traits such as self-discipline and persistence. Krishna was always dedicated to following the path of dharma and that is what He propagated. He was ambitious and adept in planning and hence proved to be resourceful during the Kurukshetra war. Individuals high on conscientiousness portray these traits in abundance.

Adding to the above explanations, the Triguna theory in Indian Psychology can also be used to explain the personality of Krishna. There is a predominance of sattvik gun/sattvagun in Him. He is seen to be pure and free of all material desires and someone who prioritizes dharma. He is kind and compassionate and full of empathy. He is peace-loving and promotes harmony. Although traces of rajas gun/rajogun are also present when He urges Arjun to fight the waged war despite the destruction it may carry. He is a king and hence a politically inclined and diplomatic individual as well.

-By Harshini Pandya (student pursuing BSc in Clinical Psychology who is extremely passionate about Hindu Dharma)

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