Saturday, 5 August 2017

Lord’s Avatar

Gita essays – 5 

In the second and third chapters Lord Krishna has spoken on Karma yoga and Jnana yoga. At the beginning of fourth chapter Lord wanted to impress on Arjuna that these teachings were nothing new crafted to induce Arjuna to do his duty in the battlefield but these two form part of Vedas themselves as Karma-kanda and Jnana-kanda and so the teaching is only ancient wisdom now served afresh to resolve Arjuna’s dilemma. So Lord told Arjuna that these yogas were taught by Him to Vivaswan and has come down the lineage through Manu, Ishvaku etc. and later as it fell into disuse, only Rajarishis had known it.  This valued and well-treasured knowledge, the Lord said, was imparted to Arjuna especially as he is Lord’s beloved friend turned esteemed disciple.  But Arjuna reacts to this revelation in a sceptical manner.  He wonders how the Lord who is his contemporary could have taught to Vivaswan who was of a much much earlier time. To remove his doubt Lord explains the secret of His Avatar starting from verse 4-5.

While one’s individual karma and the law of karma is responsible for the birth of Jiva, Lord’s birth is of His own free will.  While a Jiva is under the control of Maya,  Lord as Ishwara is the controller of Maya and His power of omniscience is not subject to Maya’s veiling power.   Further Iswara is birthless and deathless and Lord of all beings.  Yet He has come down of His own free will and so His birth is called Avathar.  Being Omniscient, He is in the complete knowledge of His Avathars.  But Jivas who are under the spell of Maya cannot remember even their previous birth much less remote past births.  Lord further explains his birth as (4-6) “प्रकृतिं स्वामधिष्ठाय संभवाम्यात्ममायया (Prakritim swaam adhishthaaya sambhavaami athmamaayayaa)meaning “I take birth through My own Maya, by controlling My Prakriti”   So His sariram is directly produced from Maya and is called Mayikam; while jiva’s sariram is produced from pancha bhuthas, that had their origin in Maya, and is called bouthikam.

The difference is not only of the nature of birth and body but also of the purpose of birth.  All living beings are born to exhaust their karma, both punya and papa, and in that process they generate more karma due to their actions not knowing their higher nature and continue in the cycle of birth and death.  Iswara has no karma to exhaust and also no ajjnanam and He voluntarily takes upon Himself  a nobler mission to execute, coming down as Avathar.  This He explains in verses 7 & 8 thus:

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत। (Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bhaarata)
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदाऽऽत्मानं सृजाम्यहम्।। (Abhyutthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham)

Oh Arjuna! Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and increase of unrighteousness, then I manifest Myself. (4-7)

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय दुष्कृताम्। (Paritraanaaya saadhoonaam vinaashaaya cha dushkritaam)
संभवामि युगे युगे।। (Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge)

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of dharma, I manifest Myself in every age (4-8)

Iswara being sristi-sthithi-laya  kartha of the universe is responsible for the maintenance of the created universe as well.  Maintenance of created universe involves ensuring the preservation of dharmic way of life in the universe. For this purpose He comes down as Avathar, whenever adharma flourishes and dharmic way of life is getting extinct for

1)    the protection of the dharmic and righteous  people who lead a life of truth and righteousness,  devoting  their life to  divine contemplation and propagation of dharma.

2)    the destruction of wrong doers  who lead an adharmic, unrighteous life, breaking the laws of dharma and persecuting the righteous and dharmic people and 

3)    for the re-establishment of dharmic order  and the spiritual regeneration of society suffering under the unrighteous, wicked rulers through protection of good and virtuous and punishment of wicked and sinful.

After explaining the nature of His birth and purpose underlying His birth, Lord goes on to discuss His nature and how Jivas can become one with Him.  Lord Krishna declares that he, who knows the great truth that the Lord though apparently born is ever beyond birth and death, though apparently active in the cause of righteousness, is ever beyond all action, i.e. never a karta or a bhoktha, becomes illumined with Self-knowledge, and transcends birth and death and attains the Lord, Brahman.  He then points out that many people have also managed to become one with the Lord by freeing their minds from attachment, hatred and fear, by becoming fully devoted to the Lord, taking absolute refuge in Him and by purifying themselves with the fire of Self-knowledge.  He then goes on to make an important statement that brings out the catholicity of Vedic religion (4-11)

ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम्। (Ye yathaa maam prapadyante taamstathaiva bhajaamyaham)
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः।। (Mama vartmaanuvartante manushyaah paartha sarvashah)

In whatever way people approach Me, I favour them in that very manner. O Arjuna, human beings follow My path in all ways.

This verse brings out the catholicity of the Vedic religion. In whatever form a person worships the Lord, the Lord appears to that person in that form. The various deities and cosmic forces, the angels, the prophets, the incarnations, are only different manifestations of the Lord Himself.  It is to Him alone that people offer worship under different names and forms, through different symbols and rites.  And from Him alone comes the fulfillment of all desires, whether they are secular or spiritual.  It is this statement that makes Dr, Radhakrishnan observe “The spiritually immature are unwilling to recognize other Gods than their own. Their attachment to their creed makes them blind to the larger unity of Godhead. This is the result of egotism in the religious ideas.  The Gita on the other hand affirms though beliefs and practices may be many and varied, spiritual realization to which these are the means is one”.  But not all people are interested in Self-knowledge or liberation but are only interested in reaping worldly benefits from their activities.  When such people worship other Gods and Devatas for quick pleasurable results and get them, it is only from Him, the Lord  affirms in the next verse (4-12).

Before concluding His explanation on Iswara’s Avatar he reiterates the main points thus.  Vedas have only come from Him and so all the systems given in Vedas are created by Him only.  For example the Varnasrama Dharma is authored by Him only.  He has created the Varnas based on the functions and dominant Guna of the individuals for the orderly working of society (which has this day degenerated to a system based on birth).  Even though He has worked for order in the Universe He has created, He is above all action and no action binds Him.  Anyone who knows his own true Self to be the Lord only, who is unattached to action and its result, is not bound by action and is no more affected by his actions in the outer world.  In His concluding remarks He again emphasises that Arjuna must act to perform his duty in the same way as ancient seekers of Liberation like Janaka have done, without ego, without getting attached to either action or its fruits and for the welfare of the world at large. 

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