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( Photo Credit: iskcondesiretree.com )

According to the Gita, the Avatar is a manifestation of the Absolute Unmanifest (Brahman) arriving periodically on the material plane to redress and reform His atrophying creation. The Hindu concept of God is not just of an omnipotent, omniscient, heavenly being, rather it is that of an intimate and familiar even friendly and companionable personage, not merely a father figure but a friend and even a beloved, indeed even the essence of ones being, the Soul within. It is interesting that while one Avatar (Krishna) was a cowherd another (Christ) is spoken of as a shepard.

Q  U  O  T  E  S

”I am the father of this world, the mother, the sustainer and the grandsire;….I am the goal, the supporter, the Lord, the witness, the abode, the shelter, the friend, the origin, the dissolution, the foundation, the treasure-house and the seed imperishable.”

”Though I am unborn, imperishable, and the Lord of beings, yet subjugating my Prakriti (Nature), I take birth by my own Maya (power of illusion).”

”Whenever there is decay of virtue and the rise of lawlessness, then I embody myself, O Bharata ( Arjun).”

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of Dharma (righteousness) I am born from age to age.”

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Credit ISKCON

Credit ISKCON

The popular saying goes, to see is to believe. We all want and need to have a vision, be it at the cinema, the TV, a photograph, or best, in real just looking around at the beautiful world and its beautiful inhabitants. Like, if the subatomic world is a reality, I must look at it through the microscope to satisfy myself that it is. It is through the telescope that we get a vision of what the galaxy and the solar system and beyond may be like.

When all the discourses were done, knowledge imparted of the here and beyond, Gita’s  hero Arjun turned to his dear friend Krishna and expressed a simple but fundamental wish. The abundant information, wisdom and insights remained somewhat academic to him. All the metaphysical, philosophical and poetic explanations failed to satisfy the urge to experience the truth by being afforded a grand vision of that reality –  we cannot blame him for his childlike desire to see it. In such a circumstance we would too.

Arjun here is being real cute and careful in his pleadings. first with a hint of flattery, he expresses his profound gratitude for the discourses. He acknowledges this lovingly, by calling Krishna ‘lotus eyed’ , then summoning courage he blurts out: ‘yet I desire to see your sovereign form’. then he is afraid he may have asked too much and qualifies it by adding: ‘ if you O lord think it possible for me to see it, then do… show me your eternal form.’

”But you cannot see me with these eyes of yours” replies Krishna.

Here I am reminded of ‘The Black Cloud’, a Science Fiction novel by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle about a mysterious cloud that arrives above the Earth. Scientists struggle to decipher its message and finally receive from it the technology to communicate with it. They set up the apparatus as instructed. It wishes to communicate knowledge about itself and the mysterious universe to any representative. A volunteer is seated before the instrument panel and he is connected to it. As the information comes in, the volunteer’s brain cannot handle the complexity and overload, resulting in his brain short circuiting into insanity.

Likewise, limited by our mental capabilities, one can only absorb so much of reality and make sense of it. Scientists are familiar with the mysteries of Quantum Physics but can they truly comprehend it to make sense of it for us in our daily lives? Astronomers can conceptualize Black Holes and Supernovas but can they comprehend them in their totality? When a concept goes beyond our understanding we seek to symbolize it mathematically as a convenient way of simplifying the ultra-complex. A simple equation, E=MC square, makes us feel we have understood the inconceivable.We need giant telescopes to look at distant cosmic phenomena, electronic microscopes to look at the subatomic world, computers to engage in complicated math to understand Quantum facts.

No wonder Krishna realizes the severe limitations not only of human vision but of the human mind as well. He alone ‘knows Himself by Himself’ as Arjun puts it. But Arjun is a dear disciple and friend and his request has to be honoured. Therefore through his generosity and magical Yogic powers (Yoga Kshemum), Krishna confers divine sight on him – celestial eyes (Divyam Chakshuhu).

 Then, before him, now looking through the divine protective facility of celestial eyes, Arjun sees his friend and companion the charming Avatar Krishna begin to metamorphose into a cosmic colossus with hundreds of thousands of shapes glowing with a myriad colours. He sees the whole universe and everything else there is to see integrated within the form. One of the most beautiful passages of the Gita follows:

” If the splendour of a thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that would be like the splendour of that mighty being. There in the body of the God of Gods he then saw the whole universe with its many divisions drawn together into one” (Ch. XI- 12/13)

 Even the one sun in our world is so brilliant that were we to stare at it we would be blinded, though we like to bask in its light and warmth. The radiance of a thousand suns shining at once is beyond conception – it would be death to look upon such brilliance. Therefore Arjun was fortunate to have the filter of divine sight to sustain the experience and enjoy such mind-blowing brilliance of the Super Conscious Essence.

 The form adopted to show Arjun the universal vision was necessarily anthropomorphic, with eyes, mouths, heads, hands and legs, the multiple colossi stretching all ways. Doubtless to safeguard against jolting him into insanity like the one suffered by our Science fiction volunteer with the mysterious cloud. But in fact a form was not relevant to the content which conveyed the substance of the message of divine reality. Arjun remarks that he sees an infinity of forms on all sides without a beginning a middle or an end. We cannot then think in terms of one form only. He sees the ‘sun and the moon in the eyes’, in other words the planetary systems and the physical universe. He sees beings flowing into him in the fires of dissolution and beings flowing out in the catharsis of creation.

 Arjun is overwhelmed and fearful and his hair stands on end (Romanchit). Trembling, he confesses that looking upon this awesome reality he is bewildered and fearful. Yet he is courageous enough to ask:

”Who are you, I know not your purpose and desire to know you”. The vision has not sated his curiosity, rather he now dares to ask that cosmic colossi ‘without beginning or middle or end’ and planetary systems orbiting in what must be His eyes, who He is! Like a courageous soldier he demands to know Him. For that mighty eternal colossus the impertinence of the puny but brave soul must have been endearing.

From that radiating cosmic vision comes a deep sonorous reply:

”I am the mighty world destroying time”

 He doesn’t say much more. In the Gita, rather than the universal form speaking of His infinite greatness, it is Arjun who overawed, begins to describe Him. Wide eyed he calls out: ” You are the primal cause, abode of the universe, the imperishable, the being and the non-being, the primal god, the ancient one, the one who pervades the universe, the adorable, the greatest Guru and implores his forgiveness for his inadvertent transgressions and presumptuous behavior as a friend, asking the Lord to be compassionate ”as a father to a son, a friend to a friend and as a lover to his beloved”( not overawed enough to give up friendship and love).

 He admits that while he ”rejoices” at having seen what has never been seen before he is confounded with fear at what he is witnessing and can no longer bear to look upon such immense glory and fearful splendour and pleads that he would once again like to see his mortal friend. How very touching the melodramatic scene must have been.

 Thereupon the Great Lord, as it were, collapses in a moment the ‘Virat’ form with the brightness of a thousand suns resuming his mortal form of the Avatar, the gentle Krishna, touchingly consoling and comforting the terrified Arjun. The wonderful Arjun, quite like a Greek hero, courageous and righteous, rejoices on seeing his own familiar gentle friend Krishna once again.

The cosmic vision may appear weird to those not brought up in Hindu culture, but we must remember that it was explained in an indian scripture for an Indian audience over 2000 years ago. The vision would have been different, say like Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, painted at the Sistine Abbey, if a disciple of Christ had asked him the same question. In the Gita Krishna clarifies this in a simple verse:

‘In whatever way men seek me, in the same way do I carry out their desires, men pursue my path O Arjun, in many ways.

‘Whatever divine form any devotee with faith wishes to worship, the same faith in him I make unwavering.’

‘Endowed with that faith, he engages in the worship of that form and from it obtains his desires, which are actually ordained by Me.’

Credit: artist Vishnudas – his link – http://www.krishnaland.com/the-art#!__divine-all-attractive-couple

Among the cowgirls (Gopis) of the glade of Vrindavan, there was one really special -Radha, Krishna’s beloved. Their love affair is now part of Indian legend and mythology, inspiring poetry, song, literature and even devotional hymns and prayer. Krishna went away to become a king leaving all the village maidens, especially Radha love-lorn. Krishna never married Radha, yet their love was so special that in all temples where there are statues of Krishna, they are invariably with Radha beside him. She is considered the embodiment of female energy (Shakti) and love and prayers offered to Krishna alone are considered inauspicious. One is only blessed when they are worshipped together. On the astrological day deemed to be the birth day of Krishna, at the celebrations at temples devotees open the chanting with fervent calls to Radha to grace the occasion before the chanting of Krishna’s name.-the worshippers tribute to her eternal love.

My poem is an abstraction of the primal Krishna in his traditional yellow garb, across the expansive universe:

          

                       T R I B U T E    TO    K R I S H N A 

 

Blue hued

Like a peacock feather,

Phosphorescent primordial dawn.

 

A ray of light

Before the sun,

Spun yellow worn.

 

In the cosmic night

Alone,

A smile

Adorns.

 

Flute song

At the edge of time.

Original sound

His lips upon.

 

 In his primal mind

A rare companion

Playmate

Born.

 

Standing together

Now grown

In the temple

Into stone.

radha krishna statue

krishna arjun xxx

Krishna & Arjun
Credit: International Society For Krishna consciousness – ISKCON

 

In a few beautiful verses in the Gita, the Avatar Krishna tells Arjun his disciple and friend, who among poeple are dearest to Him. I read out the translation from the Sanskrit once to a friend from Australia, a ‘Lady’ of national standing whose husband was also a scholar, philosopher and mystic. She then asked me if she could quote the verses in her New Year’s greetings to her friends. I received her card with the following verses to my delight.

 

He who hates no being,

Who is friendly and compassionate to all,

Who is free from the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’,

Even minded in pain and pleasure

And forgiving, ever content, steady in meditation,

With mind and intellect fixed on Me,

He My devotee, is dear to Me.

He by whom the world is not afflicted

And whom the world cannot afflict,

He who is not overwhelmed by joy,

Free of anger, fear and anxiety,

He is dear to Me.

He who has no wants, who is pure

Skillful, impartial, untroubled

And who is selfless in all his undertakings,

He who is thus devoted to Me, is dear to Me.

He who neither rejoices nor hates nor grieves

Nor desires, who renounces alike fair or foul,

Full of devotion, he is dear to Me.

He who is the same to friend and foe

And also in honour and dishonour,

who is the same in cold and heat,

In pleasure and pain,

Who is free from attachment

Who is neither moved by censure nor praise,

Who is silent, content with whatever comes his way,

Detached from home, steady minded

Full of devotion, that man is dearest to Me.

Krishna enlightens ArjunCredit: International Society For Krishna consciousness - ISKCON

Krishna enlightens Arjun
Credit: International Society For Krishna consciousness – ISKCON

The Krishna of the Hindu epic the Mahabharat is no longer the adolescent, mischievous  romantic who stole the hearts of the village maidens and companions. The Avatar has now assumed kingship and matured into an astute diplomat. He is here engaged in playing the role of mediator between estranged cousins, each representing on the one hand the forces of clarity and on the other ignorance and darkness. When his mediation fails he joins the ranks of clarity and good against those of injustice, arrogance, hauteur, deceit, subterfuge, atrocity, brutality, rape, intemperance, intolerance, wrath and perverted wisdom.

On the battlefield he is the charioteer of the hero Arjun, the embodiment of righteousness and virtue. The image of Arjun, the upright and humble warrior on his chariot with his divine charioteer holding the reins, is etched indelibly in the popular Hindu psyche, with allegorical connotations: Arjun is the individual Soul(Atma). the chariot is his body, the horses are his senses, the charioteer is his conscience, the Universal Essence, the Super-soul (Paramatma), incarnated as the Avatar Krishna. The forces of good and evil are arraigned against each other on the battlefield of earthly existence.

It is in such a setting that Arjun is suddenly overcome by remorse, doubt and confusion ( as we all do from time to time) over the ethics of confronting his cousins in warfare and refuses to fight when the bugles (conches) have already sounded. He begins the dialogue by questioning the Avatar. Through the dialogue emerge Krishna’s seminal discourses on numerous themes, including the myth of creation, the nature of the soul, the attributes of the Universal Essence, reincarnation, the theory of karma, the role of Nature,  righteous action, the purpose of life and the path to liberation and enlightenment.

Below are only presented those verses which explain the nature of the Universal Essence (Brahma), the so called Godhead (Ishwara) and its counterpart the individual Soul (Atma). When Arjun asks his ‘friend’ and mentor the Avatar, time and again in the course of the dialogue, who He may indeed be, Krishna tells him all. The Gita (Song) is composed in exquisite verse in Sanskrit.

                                THE  BHAGAVAD  GITA

                              (THE  SONG  CELESTIAL)

                                          – excerpts –

Arjun, the world is made up of the perishable and the imperishable,

Perishable are living creatures, the imperishable is the Self,

I am beyond both, the Supreme Self 

Pervading the worlds as God.

 

The whole universe of the moving and the unmoving

Are joined together in Me,

The whole universe undivided, yet appearing divided

In its manifold diversity,

Are drawn together as one in Me.

I am therefore the same in all beings,

The imperishable  in the perishable,

He who sees me everywhere and sees all in Me,

He is never lost.

 

I am the same towards all beings, 

For me there are none hateful none dear,

But those who worship Me, I am with them,

And they are with Me.

 

 The one who applies the same measure for all,

For pleasure and for pain, as he applies to himself,

That one is the best of men.

 

I am the origin of all, from me all things evolve.

After an age, all beings return to my nature

And issue forth again with another age.

I animate my Nature and creation occurs under her laws,

Nature produces the moving and the unmoving

Thus the worlds revolve.

 

I am Time, mighty and world consuming.

the supreme Universal Essence,

Neither Being nor Non-Being.

If the light of a thousand suns,

Should suddenly shine in the heavens

It would be like the light of my Being.

 

I am the father of the world, the mother,

The grand-sire, and the friend,

I am the goal, the supporter, the witness, the sanctuary, 

The origin, the dissolution, the foundation

And the seed imperishable.

 

I am the taste in water, the radiance of the sun and the moon,

Manhood in man, the life force,

I am sweet fragrance in the earth, the brilliance of fire,

Austerity of the ascetics, intelligence of the intelligent,

Splendour of the splendid, might of the mighty.

Of secrets I am silence,  I am wisdom of the wise,

Of sciences the science of the Self,

I am glory, fortune, memory and patience,

Of meters I am the beat of the universe,

Of seasons the season of spring, I am victory I am resolution,

I am the goodness of the good.

Of waters I am the ocean, of mountains the Himalayas,

The seed of all existence am I.

 

Whenever there is decay of virtue

And rise of anarchy, I embody Myself.

For the protection of the good,

 Destruction of the wicked

and the establishment of righteousness,

I am born from age to age.

 

I am the Self seated in the hearts of all beings.

An eternal portion of Myself becomes

The eternal souls in the living world

Drawing to itself  Nature’s five senses and the mind.

The soul is neither born nor does it die,

Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient.

When the Soul leaves the body,

It takes along the acquired qualities of a lifetime.

As a man casting off worn out garments, puts on new ones,

So the embodied one, casting off worn out bodies,

enters others that are new.

The Soul is  stable, immovable, everlasting

It is not manifest, is unthinkable,and immutable, a marvel.

 

When the disciplined mind is fixed on the Soul,

Free from distraction of objects and desires,

Like a lamp which does not flicker in a windless place,

Attaining stillness, it beholds the Self

And is filled with joy.

Thus constantly holding the spirit in harmony,

It eventually senses the infinite Universal Essence

And with contact attains bliss.

He then sees himself, the same in all,

 Sees me everywhere and all in Me.

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolvedCredit ISKCON

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolved
Credit ISKCON

                                                             

Krishna and GopisCredit International Society for Krishna conciousness - ISKCON

Krishna and Gopis
Credit International Society for Krishna conciousness – ISKCON

The Avatar ( Reincarnation of the Universal Essence) Krishna, is dark, blue as the thunder clouds, slender and mischievous, the one who has stolen the hearts(souls) of all the cowgirls (Gopis), climbing the trees to secretly cast pebbles at the earthen pithcers balanced on their heads as they troop to the pond to fetch water, clambering down to steal their clothes (their egos) as they bathe, then playing on his flute a bewitching melody ( the song of creation) drawing every being, man/woman, animal, bird or beast, to where he may be. Meera, like the Gopis now pines for him (soul for the Supersoul) and with these images Meera composes her song:

I SEARCH FOR YOU DEAR LORD

(KUNJAN BAN CHHADI RE MADHO)

In groves and forest

I searched for you O Lord

Where should I look now?

If I were a fish in the river

Where you were bathing,

I would swim down

And touch your feet,

If I was a cuckoo in the forest,

Where you would come

Grazing your cows,

I would call out in song,

If I was an oyster’s pearl,

I would be strung on  your neck,

Resting on your bosom,

Alas, now where should I go,

For you I long,

If you want us to meet,

Meera’s thundercloud dark lord,

If you want our union, come

For without your fulfilling vision,

I am inconsolable, desolate,

then how can I sing my song?

Krishna & Gopis Bathing in Eternal MoonlightCredit: ISKCON

Krishna & Gopis Bathing in Eternal Moonlight
Credit: ISKCON

painted by:Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons

Meera Bai and her Lord Krishna
painted by:Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons

One of the most extraordinary personalities of the age of devotional worship in 16th century India was princess Meera Bai. Born in the royal house of Merta in 1498 and married into the exalted principality of Udaipur to the heir apparent, she was destined to be a queen. But she was the spirit of the age of devotion and had only one love, her god – the Supreme Essence incarnated as the blue Avatar, Krishna, the voice of the Gita. This obsession earned the displeasure of her in-laws. After her husband’s premature death, her growing association with seers and saints in public places, particularly the mystic cobbler Raidas, who became her mentor, aroused their unmitigated wrath. After several unsuccessful attempts to dissuade her and later to kill her with poisons and cobras, she eventually left the confines of the palace to become a wandering mendicant, singing songs of love for her beloved Lord from hamlet to hamlet across the land. Finally she disappeared without trace at a temple, according to legend merging with the god she adored.

Her poems are all love songs; looking over the ramparts of the castle for the caravan of her beloved; telling her mother that she dreamt that she had married her Lord; speaking of the cup of poison which she cheerfully drank, turning into nectar; hearing the footfalls of her Lord in the rain.

Worship through love was now the new language of the mystical experience raging across the land. The ultimate path for communion between the physical self and the spirit within.

While superficially giving the impression of being sensuous, Meera’smeera-bai 1 songs are allegorical. Pining for the lover was spiritual yearning to turn inwards to find the divinity within. Spiritual communion took place when the final gate of the ego stood ajar and the third eye of conscience opened, to show God standing resplendent before you as your innermost essence. Thus when she says, ‘come to my house’ she means, reveal yourself from within.

COME TO MY HOUSE DEAR BELOVED

( Mhare Ghar Aao Preetam Pyara )

Come to my house

Dear beloved,

Mind, body and wealth

All I shall offer you

And hymns of praise will I sing of you.

You are perfection incarnate

While I am worthless

Full of faults

But I know, in your presence

All my failings will dissolve.

Meera asks, when will you meet me

For without you my heart aches,

So come fill my house

Dear beloved

With your glorious presence

And I promise,

My mind, body and wealth

Will all be yours.                                                             

meera statue nagaur

Meera commemorative statue Nagaur

Meera museum merta

Meera Museum Merta

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