Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The word Kala usually refers to the extent by which the moon waxes (or wanes) in one day. So by this understanding, the Moon possesses 16 different Kalas (different phases of the Moon). You can observe this from one Amavasya (No-moon day) to the next Purnima (Full moon day).
So if you count the number of days from one Amavasya to the next Purnima, it turns out to be 16. And the transition from No-Moon to the Full Moon also symbolizes moving from Zero (nothingness) to Fullness.
On the no-moon day you don’t see the moon at all, and on the full moon day you see the complete moon. This does not mean that the Moon is not there on the day of Amavasya. No, it is still there. So by this understanding, these are called the Solah Kalas. On the day of solar eclipse, for example, the Moon is there but it cannot be seen, that’s all.
So the word Kala is a unit of measure of one’s power, or by what degree one has blossomed or progressed. So, someone may be like a half-moon, someone else may have reached to three quarters of the moon and so on. This was a means of measurement in the ancient days.
In those days, it was said that the life or Prana in a stone is equal to one Kala, the water element is said to have two Kalas. Fire has three Kalas, Vayu (Air element) has four, and the Space or Akash has five. Plants and trees are said to have six Kalas. Animals have seven Kalas. Human beings have eight Kalas.
If it is an extraordinary human being then he is said to have nine Kalas. It is said that Lord Parashurama (one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu) had nine Kalas. They say Lord Rama has 12 Kalas. Lord Hanuman is greater than Him in this regard and is said to have 14 Kalas. That is why he could help Lord Rama. Only a person who is stronger than us can help us.
The Devi (Mother Divine) is called Shodashakala (The One with all 16 Divine qualities or attributes). It means that she possess all divine and noble qualities, and lacks nothing.
Lord Krishna too is said to have all 16 Kalas, which is why He is called as the Solah Kala sampurna or the Purna Avataar.
To have all 16 Kalas means to possess all the 16 qualities or signs attributed to the total blossoming and manifestation of Divinity.
If you see the Devi, on one side she is so beautiful and full of love and grace, but on the other side, she is also Maa Kali (one of her more terrifying and violent manifestations).
She is graceful and serene, but at the same time she also has a terrifying and violent aspect to Her as. Goddess Durga is very terrifying and awe-inspiring, while Goddess Lakshmi is very calm and graceful.
You can see all the opposite aspects of Divinity coming together in the Devi.
The all-bestowing Goddess Lakshmi rides the harmless owl (the mount), and the vanquisher of evil and ignorance, Goddess Durga rides the fierce lion. Just imagine, where would you see both the owl, and the lion!
In the same way Lord Krishna is also said to have possessed all the Solah Kalas. Why is this so? In Lord Krishna, you see the complete and total manifestation of Divinity in every way. He is so complete.
He is the King of thieves. He does not steal small things, he steals away your very mind. That is why He is called as Chita-Chora (the beautiful One who completely captures and steals away the mind).
He is also called as Ranchhodrai (meaning the cowardly one who flees the battlefield) in Gujarat. They say that He ran away from the battlefield in the middle of the war. But on the other side He lifted up the Sudarshan Chakra (the Lord’s divine discus) to defeat Bhishma pitamaha (the grandsire of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the Mahabharata) . So He is very brave and valiant too.
So, on one side he is very brave and on the other side he is like a coward. One cannot even imagine how complete he is. He is obedient as well, but He is also the one who breaks the rules.
In the Bhagawat, it is mentioned at many places that Lord Krishna is perfect and complete in every possible aspect. That is why it is said that one should not emulate Lord Krishna (Laughter). Follow the path of Lord Rama and listen to Lord Krishna. Don’t walk in the way that Lord Krishna did. If you go and steal the clothes of a lady, you will be in big trouble (jokingly referring to one of the pastimes of the Lord where He steals the clothes of some ladies bathing in the river and hides them on a tree).