In the story of Krishna the Butter Thief, the precocious child god disobeys his foster mother, steals butter from the crocks, then lies about it. He does eventually admit to the crime (by helping Yasoda tie him up) but simultaneously raises this question “Mother tell me this, if this is our house and we own everything in it, then how can I be stealing the butter?”
Our ideas about property and theft depend on our assumptions about how the world is divided up. Wasn't the butter Krishna's after all? Further, how important, or real, is the butter? Krishna is also drawing attention to our attachment to matter and forms that are impermanent and changing. We want a certain kind of order but Krishna offers another variety. As the god of love, Krishna is also known as the thief of hearts. In other stories about him, he teases and seduces the gopis, the milkmaids. In leaving them longing and brokenhearted, Krishna reminds us that even our heart is not our own, but the property of the god.
Behind Krishna's stealing there is a tremendous appetite. But Krishna isn't hungry because he's poor, he's got plenty. So why steal and lie? Because the abundance that Krishna symbolizes is the abundance of the timeless, invisible world that supports and constantly replenishes the visible. Everything, he reminds us,is arising and falling, arising and falling, from this unseen realm.This is one of the lessons of the Trickster, who makes our world.
More on Trickster and our human realm to come... Happy Valentine's Day:).