Lessons from The Stories of God’s Avatars -IX  - O. P. Vidyakar

The Krishna Avatar

Part III

In the last issue, we saw how Lord Krishna through Rasa Leela, Damodara Leela and Govardhanadhara Leela demonstrated the full spectrum of the potentials and powers of the divine, pervading the most mundane and human as well as the most spiritual planes in this universe right from his childhood. But life is not all sweetness, beauty and wonder: It is also bitter, ugly, and terrorising. This is brought home to us in the later part of Lord Krishna’s life.
In the Gita (Chap: 4 Verse 8) the Lord defines the purpose of the Avatar as (i) to protect fully the good people (ii) to destroy the evil ones, and (iii) the establishment of the principles of Right Action on a firm foundation. Indeed in the very acts of protecting the good people and destroying the evil ones, the Lord practically demonstrates the principles of Right Action especially in trying and exceptional circumstances, as we will presently see: These are only a few examples and not the full account of all His deeds.
Protection of the good people from the machinations of the evil ones:
Good people often suffer due to the egocentric, narrow-minded actions of their own relatives. For example, Rukmini a, paragon of virtue, was also the sister of Rukmi, who developed a blind superstitious hatred for Lord Krishna. But ever since Rukmini came to know of the endearing qualities of the Lord from a good scholarly Brahmin devotee, she fell in love with Him and resolved to marry Him alone. So, she sent a letter to Krishna to somehow arrange to marry her. Perhaps it was one of the first (if not the first) love letters, sent by a maiden to her lover! And Krishna abducted her and married her.

On the surface of it, abduction and eloping are not exemplary activities to be emulated by a common man in normal circumstances. But in exceptional circumstances, the ends justify the means: This is the constant refrain in all the episodes of the latter part of Krishna’s life.

The second case also involves a woman in distress. It is Droupadi, whose husband, who otherwise was an exceptionally good man, in a moment of fateful indiscrimination and gullibility yielded to the temptation of declaring his own wife as a bet in a game of dice with a very cunning man. He lost the game and the opponent claimed his wife not to own and enjoy her but to desecrate and demean her in the eyes of all by trying to undress her in public. He saw her as his property or slave who can be used and treated according to his whims and fancies. The unfortunate thing is that the husband also thought so! It is a very sad commentary on the status of women in the society of those days! So, the husband and his brothers (her co-husbands) hung their heads in shame bound by the rules of Right action! So Droupadi appeals to the Lord the supreme exponent of Right action and is saved by Him from ignominy through a miracle - the more her upper garment is pulled out, the more it grows until the perpetrator gives up his heinous act!
The third instance also involves a miracle and Droupadi herself once again. She and her husbands are exiled in the forest. Making the best use of their stay in the forest, they spend their time in worship, in empowering austerities and enjoying the company and counsels of renunciates and sages living there. This is not tolerated by the enemy who is envious of their happiness and contentment even in the midst of the wild environs. So, he sends a great but highly temperamental sage Durvasa with his retinue of disciples to seek the hospitality of Droupadi just when they had finished their dinner (provided by a divinely gifted vessel once a day, every day miraculously). The idea was to make Droupadi turn the sage away without any food and thus invite his wrath and curse on herself and her husbands. Again, Krishna’s help is sought by her. Once again a miracle takes place and the sage and his disciples suddenly feel so well-fed and their stomachs feel filled upto the throats that they go away!

Actually Krishna demands the offer of just a particle of food sticking inside the divine vessel and on eating it, validates his claim that if He is satisfied every living being is satisfied indeed. Incidentally this miraculous intervention requires at least a token of effort on the part of Droupadi through the offer of a food particle: The Devotee must take one step before the Lord takes ten towards him in response!

But there are times when the Lord allows a strong fate to have its way. Thus Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna was killed in the battle by foul means by a pack of great warriors who threw all the rules of war to the winds. In spite of the fact that Abhimanyu was the son of the most beloved devotee Arjuna to whom the Bhagavad Gita was taught and to whom Krishna’s sister was married, this was allowed to happen because good people also have to suffer and sustain losses and yet prove their goodness even then. And bad people are also allowed to win and gain sometimes, often betraying their evil propensities. Abhimanyu died but lives ever covered with glory in the minds of the readers of the Mahabharata epic. Derision fills their minds when they remember the dastardly deeds of his murderers. As a true and great warrior and the heir to Arjuna, Abhimanyu’s end was the most desirable in the eyes of the Lord who knows best our innermost needs.

Destruction of the Evil ones:

The Avatar comes only because there is a proliferation of evil on earth. So it is not surprising that a large number of evil ones thrived in Krishna’s time. Kamsa was his own uncle who had sought to kill him because on oracle predicted his end by the Avatar’s hands. Kamsa was a despot and his subjects suffered a lot due to his greed. He was killed by Krishna himself in a one-to-one combat. Sisupala was a relative of Krishna and yet became his enemy because of jealousy and inability to understand his divinity. The spiritually meaningful but apparently immoral acts of Krishna such as stealing the butter, playing with cowherd maids etc. deluded him and made him regard Krishna as a fraud who exploited the innocence of villagers and passed off tricks as miracles. So he took every opportunity to defame Krishna. But his mother had prayed to the Lord that her son must be pardoned hundred times for his denigrating speeches and acts. So Krishna waits until Sisupala commits the sin hundred times and then, the next time is the last time he is allowed to do wrong - his head is cut off with the divine disc! 

Jarasandha’s end is brought about through Bheema, the strongest of the five Pandava brothers exiled into the forest by evil design. Jarasandha invades the kingdom of Krishna with a huge army and after decimating that army Krishna allows him to escape! This happens seventeen times! The strategy was to exhaust and exterminate the military strength and potential of Jarasandha and his royal supporters and allies. Ultimately he is killed in a wrestling bout by Bheema with a secret counsel from Krishna who alone knew the weak-point of Jarasandha! Why could not Krishna himself kill him? The Lord does not want to dominate the stage all the while denying any role to others! Indeed he uses as many good devotees as possible as His instruments.

In the case of Narakasura, Krishna made Sathyabhama (who was Narakasura’s mother in her last birth and who had then obtained a promise from the Lord that without her acquiescence her son should not be killed) his accomplice in bringing the demon’s life to an end!

In the case of Jayadratha who was most responsible for the death of Abhimanyu and whom Arjuna had vowed to kill in battle by the next day before sunset, Krishna played a trick! Using his divine disc, he hid the evening sun and made the enemies believe it was sunset time. Jayadratha who was extremely well protected by his friends till then decided to come out of his hiding since the sun had set and the terrible vow had failed. Suddenly the disc was removed, the sun was still shining in the sky and the enemy was quite visible! Arjuna killed him.

Some people cry hoarse and blame Krishna for resorting to such ‘tricks’. When the evil ones use all the foul means and exploit all the loopholes in moral laws, how can they demand adherence to the letter and spirit of the laws? As one American judge said "the constitution is not a suicide pact." Similarly the letter of moral laws should not be misused to prevent a good action - especially in special circumstances. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi the modern prophet of non-violence could not bear the pain undergone by an animal for days due to some incurable disease and advised the doctors to end its life. But a very high and proven moral calibre is required before such exceptional deviations from normal standards are resorted to.

Indeed Karna, another great warrior but in the company of evil ones, was also killed only with the help of Krishna’s strategies which deprived him of his specially protective armours. If such strategies had not been employed, Evil would have been victorious over Good! The Satan should not quote the Bible!

That Krishna was extremely fair in his actions with only the ultimate aim of protecting the good and destroying the bad is proved beyond doubt by the fact that he allowed his own relatives, the Yadava clan to fight with themselves and be totally destroyed, since they had grown arrogant due to their being related to Krishna.

It is however very difficult to understand or judge Lord Krishna’s actions from the narrow viewpoint of the present, without taking into account the past actions and future destinies of persons punished or protected by him. He alone is omniscient and so he alone knows what is just and right. As the originator of this life and as the Director of the play called worldly life, He alone decides the course and rules of the play. Our role is to obey Him and enjoy the play as spectators after we have played our roles on the stage as set by Him. This is the purport of the advice especially the last words of the Lord in the Bhagavad Gita, commanding us to discard all other codes of conduct and subordinate them all to the supreme code namely complete surrender to the will of the supreme Divine. By doing this alone we will be freed from all sins and enjoy all the felicities of the ultimate union with Him as promised by Him in the Gita (18:65 & 66).

May this brief outline of some of the lessons from God’s Avatars help us to achieve that surrender and the bliss of spiritual union with God. May it also help to understand the present Avatar of God, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba better in the proper perspective and to follow His teachings and achieve peace and prosperity in this life and the bliss of Self-Realisation and liberation from false concepts of self in course of time.         l