Bala Krishna: child archetype as unity

A bronze sculpture of Krishna as child holding a ball of butter from Odisha, circa 1800. Photo by Andreas Praefcke. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
A bronze sculpture of Krishna as child holding a ball of butter from Odisha, circa 1800. Photo by Andreas Praefcke. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above we see Bala Krishna offering a butter ball. Bala Krishna (Bālakṛṣṇa) is often translated as ‘Divine Child Krishna’.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Kristhna reveals himself as “the supreme Self, the eternal Lord, who enters into the entire cosmos and supports it from within.” The Bhagavad Gita (4th century in written form), Adi Shankara (8th Century) and Carl Jung (20th Century) all understood that the deity is an image of the cosmic Self or supreme Self.

As an image of the child archetype, Bala Krishna is an image of unity. In terms of such unity, Jung says: “we are dealing with an unconscious and provisionally complete synthesis of the personality.” In spiritual terms this synthesis is a unification of the individual self (or soul) and supreme Self (or deity).  This synthesis expresses an (unconscious) potentiality available to all beings, as Self-realization or enlightenment.

Being such the stories of Bala Krishna express the psycho-spiritual dynamics of enlightenment. In the Krsnakarnamrta, there is a story of Bala Krishna, in which he steals butter. Here is the story:

“Who are you boy?
“What are you doing here?
“I mistook this for my house.
“Tell me this: Why have you put your hand into the butter pot?

Bala Krishna answers,

“Kind lady, to find a certain calf. Don’t for a moment be upset.

In another version Bala Krishna answers,

“I am getting the ants out.”

In a story from the Bhagavata Purana, Krishna grasps the churn and prevents his mother from doing her work. Whatever version of the story, one things is consistent, the relation between Bala Krishna and butter.

Butter is made by churning milk. Milk is an archetypal image of the nourishment of the Mother, expressing the fruitfulness of Mother Nature herself. The cow is holy in Hinduism. The cow expresses this fruitfulness. The cow takes nothing but water, grass and grain, yet gives forth milk. Milk is the essence of nourishment. When milk is churned, butter arises and floats to the top, just as our spiritual awareness arises from our labors.

This is reminiscent of the Hindu story Samudra Manthan, the churning the ocean of milk. It is through the churning that the nectar of immorality is made. In the image above, Bala Krishna offers a butter ball, round like a mandala, as an image of the Self. Through this offering we are reminded of the spiritual labor required for our Self-realization.

Reference:

  1. Wilson, Frances Ann LilaSuka. Krishna -karnamrita
  2. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, The deeper meaning of Janamashtami
  3. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)
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