Sadhguru tells us the story of how Krishna rode Hastin, the raging bull, and won him over with his flute.
Sadhguru: At Vrindavan, there were many situations and incidents which established Krishna as a natural leader of the community, even though he was still a boy. This was because he showed extraordinary prowess and wisdom in handling situations. Over time, people exaggerated these miracles, but if you look at his life, certain incidents show he had a level head and a very sensible way of handling situations. One thing that happened when he was between 14 and 15 was an incident with a stud bull in Vrindavan. These bulls are naturally aggressive and violent. This particular bull’s name was Hastin, that means he’s like an elephant. He was so big and strong, simply arrogant and always looking for a fight. People kept him because he was the source of a whole breed of cows in Vrindavan but he was so violent and dangerous that no one dared to go near him.
Krishna’s elder brother Balarama, was much stronger than anyone of his age. He grew like a giant. It was established in many situations all through his life how he was so much bigger than a normal man. Balarama always wanted to do something. You know people who have muscle want to do something! Constantly he was exercising and eating huge amounts of food. He wanted to become stronger and stronger. One day, in his madness he said, “I want to be that strong, that with a single punch, I must be able to kill Hastin.”
Krishna smiled and said, “You want to knock him down with a single punch? Anyway you cannot do it. But even if you do it, it’s no good to do such things. I will ride Hastin.” People just laughed. All the kids said, “This is just tall talk. Nobody can ride Hastin. He’s too violent.” Krishna insisted, “I’m going to ride him.”
This was on the evening of a full moon. They had danced themselves to exhaustion, and now they were sitting and bragging. So Krishna said, “By the next full moon day, I’m going to ride Hastin.” Such talks happen but you know, people excuse them for just talks and life goes on. Days were passing, and it was just a couple more days till the next full moon or Pournami. Balarama picked the matter up again and said to Krishna, “You said by Pournami you will ride Hastin. How? I’m sure you can’t.” Krishna said, “I’m going to ride Hastin by Pournami.” So Balarama said, “Because you made this tall talk and now you’re scared that you can’t do it, you even disappeared all these days. Every evening we are meeting here. Where have you been? You just want to escape and I’m sure when the full moon day comes, you won’t be around too.” Krishna said with total determination, “I will ride Hastin.” All the other boys got really terrified. This had become serious now. Earlier they had thought it was just a joke.
What Krishna had been doing in this one month was, he went to the place where Hastin was tied up to a tree. Only two people who had been with him right from his childhood could tend to the bull. Hastin allowed only those two people to go near him. When anyone else came, he got violent. So Krishna went to these two people and he said, “I want to be with Hastin.” They said, “No way. Your father will not like it if he comes to know, and if something happens to you…” Krishna said, “No, I want to be there.” He just went there and sat a little away.
Hastin was putting his foot down and digging the earth, showing his anger. Any new person meant he wanted to get him. He had the same thing about “with one knock I want to knock out everybody” – like Balarama’s dream. He was a macho guy too. Krishna just sat there, took out his flute and played. Every day, he went there. For hours, he played his flute. That was the reason why he was not with his friends. And slowly, the bull became a little more docile. Krishna mixed the straw with jaggery and gave the bull sweet things to eat, from a distance. Slowly, he got closer and closer, and one day, he played the flute and touched the bull. And in a month’s time, he got friendly with the bull. He was working on it every day. Nobody knew about that.
When the Pournami came, Krishna said, “I’m going to ride him.” A few friends along with Balarama were there, and they said, “No, we will withdraw the bet. Don’t worry, you don’t have to ride him because we don’t want you dead.” He said, “I’m going to ride him. You come.” His cousin brother and dear friend, Udhava, got terrified. He thought Krishna was going to be killed in this mad adventure. He wanted to somehow stop it. He went and told Radhe, “Krishna is going to do this mad adventure. He is going to kill himself.” So she came running, all emotional, and she said to Krishna, “No way you’re going to ride Hastin.” Krishna said, “I am going to ride Hastin and that’s all.” She said, “No way. If you are going to ride Hastin and get killed, I am also going to ride Hastin and get killed. I’ll not let you do it alone.”
Whatever he did, she wouldn’t let him go. She physically hung onto him. Then Krishna said, “Okay, you wait. Let me first get close to him.” With these few friends, he went closer. The moment Hastin saw a few extra people, he got fully charged with violence within himself. Krishna asked them to stay away, went closer, played his flute, and gave sweet things to the bull. Gradually, he approached him. Then he indicated to Radhe to come, and he said, “Just stand the way I’m standing, your legs right behind my legs, your body right behind my body, so that Hastin doesn’t see you.” Hunters always do this. Usually, the animal recognizes how many people are there by looking at the number of legs.
Initially, Hastin got excited. Slowly, he cooled down and when he was docile enough, Krishna just leapt onto him and pulled Radhe also up. The moment Krishna got on, Hastin got totally violent and he ran and ran. But Krishna hung onto the bull’s hump, Radhe hung onto Krishna, and they rode through the town into the forest. Hastin ran for a long time, spent all his energy and then relaxed and started grazing. People saw this incredible site of Radhe and Krishna riding this violent bull and now meekly, he was grazing in the forest because he had worked out his energy. It became a huge miracle. Over time, this miracle was blown out of proportion and exaggerated in a million different ways. But this boy was made like this – if he wanted to do something, he would do it the way it had to be done. No matter what anybody said, he knew what to do.
Such incidents were many in his life, which made him a natural leader in the community. By the time he was 15 or 16, even the older folk in the community started asking for his advice, because this boy established himself as a new force, a new level of intelligence, a new level of clarity in the society.
Editor’s Note: Sadhguru explores the life and path of Krishna. Watch the Leela series, available as a free webstream – one part every week.