GEMS FROM THE
VISION AND PRACTICE
BEACH 10: HINDUISM FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
Wave 6: Krishnavatara, the Miraculous
Janmashtami is celebrated all over
Those who remember
It was a major world war, again around 5000 years ago, in which
every king of
On the fateful first day of the War, everything was almost set for the
beginning, the first arrows were going to be shot – and right at that time,
Arjuna collapsed in total frustration at the sight of his having to fight his
own kith and kin, elders and masters. He threw down his bow and arrow and sat
down, refusing to take any step further – in fact wanting to retire to the
forest as a sannyAsi.
Arjuna asks several questions, including the million dollar question: If you extol the quality of Detachment and Renunciation so much why are you prodding me to kill? Then comes an elaborate explanation from the Lord on what Karma Yoga means, how actions fulfilled in total desireless attitude do not bind the person, how Karma Yoga is the only resort of mankind since man cannot but keep acting.
And Krishna adds: I have taught this long ago to the Sun-God, who taught it to Manu, who taught it to the first king Ikshvaku and from whom it has come down from generation to generation.
Arjuna suddenly wakes up from his frustrated state of helplessness, becomes his own dynamic self of courage, intelligence and inquisitiveness and asks: You were born just a few years before me. How can it be true, that you taught it to the Sun-God and all that? How is it possible? Arjuna behaves at this point like any intelligent rational human being. Till now for the earlier two chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita, the preacher and his disciple had been talking just like any other teacher and student, just on the academic plane. Arjuna’s question shakes off the self-imposed humility, as it were, from the Lord and He replies, in a few of the most inspired shlokas of the Gita (IV – 5, 6, 7 and 8):
bahUni me vyatItAni janmAni tava cArjuna /
tAnyahaM veda sarvANi na tvaM vetha param-tapa//
ajo’pi san-navyayAtmA bhUtAnAm-Ishvaro’pi san /
prakRtiM svAm-adhishhTAya sambhavAmy-Atma-mAyayA //
yadA yadA hi dharmasya glAnir-bhavati bhArata /
abhyuthAnam-adharmasya tadAtmAnaM sRjAmyahaM //
paritrANAya sAdhUnAM vinAshAya ca dushhkRtAM /
dharma-samsthApanArthAya sambhavAmi yuge yuge //
Note that till now, the Gita reads as if it
were just an academic thesis on the truths of Hinduism. But at this point the Gita starts its
character as a religious work. In the western world, religion and philosophy
are considered to be two isolated independent facets of human activity. But not so in the eastern world of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Here the daily living of a religious life is based on a philosophical
understanding of Man’s innate nature. That is why it is very difficult to
separate religion from philosophy in the understanding of ancient Hindu
traditions. In these shlokas,
I have gone through many lives and so have you. I know them all, you don’t know a thing. Though I am ever unborn, and my Self is imperishable and though I am Master of all beings, ruling over My own Nature, out of my own Free Will, I manifest myself as a visible Being. Whenever there is a decline of Dharma and whenever there is a rise of Adharma, I incarnate myself for the protection of the Good, and for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of Dharma, I create myself, again and again, yuga after yuga.
These shlokas constitute the Avatara rahasya, the secret of the concept of Avatar, in the Gita and it has not come forth so majestically an so powerfully in any other portion of Hindu religious literature. When Arjuna asked the question as to how it is possible that Krishna, who was sitting before him in flesh and blood and who was just under forty years of age, could have taught the Sun-God ages ago, Arjuna was naturally referring to that birth of Krishna about which his mother Kunti had told him several times.
Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy Aug.15, 2006