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Continued from the previous issue)

By Prof. G. Venkataraman


Dear Readers, for 40 previous issues – from October 2004 to February 2008 - we brought you a spiritual feast in the form of the "Gita for Children" in a serialized form. Prior to that, we had started our first series entitled "Shirdi Sai – Parthi Sai" which is continuing till date. The "Gita for Children" series was taken from the book "Krishna - Arjuna Dialogue" authored by Prof. Venkataraman. As we concluded the final segment of this book in February 2008 issue, from March 2008, we started a new series on "Avatars" or Divine Incarnations. The articles in this series are actually adaptations of talks delivered recently on Radio Sai by Prof. G. Venkataraman, and are based on the book "Message of the Lord" authored by him a few years earlier. We hope H2H readers will relish the spiritual insights this series offers.

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The Story of Krishna (continued)

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. We resume this journey through the Avatars, by continuing from where I left last time. If you recall, I was telling you about the early years of the Krishna Avatar.

Lord Krishna Despatches Several Demons

Years rolled by and Krishna grew into adulthood. Numerous were His experiences, but His encounters with the evil ones did not cease. One of those with whom He had frequent brushes was Jarasanda, the father-in-law of Kamsa. Enraged that Krishna had made his two daughters who were married to Kamsa into widows, Jarasanda repeatedly attacked Mathura where Krishna had established Himself. As many as eighteen invasions were attempted, and this led Krishna to create far away on the western coast, a new city called Dwaraka.

Once Dwaraka was ready, Krishna instantly transported all His people from Mathura to Dwaraka by the use of His Yogic powers. Eventually, Krishna used Bhima as His instrument for killing Jarasanda. By the way, the Dwaraka of today is a town created later in history; the Dwaraka of Krishna is supposed to have gone under the sea a long time ago. Recently, underwater explorations off the sea coast of Gujarat revealed what seemed like ruins of an ancient town. Maybe those are the remains of the Dwaraka of Krishna; however, more work is needed to confirm that.

Jarasanda meets his end

A parenthetical remark here about the mysterious ways of the Lord is also in order. You might legitimately wonder why, if Krishna was indeed the Lord of the Universe, did He put up with eighteen invasions of Mathura by Jarasanda? Why did He, who used His Yogic powers to transport all the people of Mathura to Dwaraka in an instant, have to use Bhima to get rid of Jarasanda? We will never know! As Swami says, God's actions can never be understood; He moves in mysterious ways and performs His wonders - that is all! Indeed, this is true of the current Avatar as well.

One day, after the Pandavas had established themselves at Indraprastha (that story will come later), Yudhishtira decided that the most auspicious Rajasuya Yajna should be performed. Invitations were sent to all leading kings, princes and chieftains, and there was an overwhelming response. At the conclusion of the rites, homage had to be paid to the foremost among the guests gathered and the question was who should be so honoured?

The name of Krishna came up and Yudhishtira jumped at the idea. However, the idea did not find favour with many and Sishupala, until recently the commander-in-chief of Jarasanda’s forces, rose not only to make his objection but also hurl abuse at Krishna. The latter did not react but merely kept on smiling because He had given His word to Sishupala's mother that He would put up with insults - up to a point that is. Seeing Krishna smile made Sishupala even more furious and the abuse now poured out in a torrent.

Eventually Krishna decided that Sishupala had exceeded all decent limits (including in the number of abuses hurled) and that He was no longer bound by the pledge given to the misguided one's mother. Calmly He beheaded Sishupala. (Tradition has it that Krishna launched His Divine Chakra or discus, but Swami has clarified that Krishna merely flung a plate He was holding and that acting like a spinning wheel, cut Sishupala's head off). And lo and behold! A glow left Sishupala's body, flew towards Krishna and merged with His Feet.

Krishna beheads Sishpala

Yudhishtira, who was a witness, was both amazed as well as dismayed. How could such an evil one obtain merger? Seeing his confusion, Narada who was among those present, drew Yudhishtira aside and quickly narrated the entire history of Jayan and Vijayan and their indiscretion. He added, "This Sishupala is none other than Jayan reborn. No doubt he hated Krishna but he was always thinking of Him. Curiously and strange as it might sound, one who constantly hates the Lord is also a Yogi. Obviously, practice of this kind of Yoga is very rare; and it is the practice of that Yoga that gave Sishupala his liberation; needless to say, this type of Yoga is not recommended!”

Narada continued, “With Jayan gone, Krishna would now have to tackle Vijayan, that is Dantavakra, and that day was not far off. Meanwhile, do you realise, O Yudhishtira, that this Krishna with whom you and your brothers move so freely and casually is none other than Narayana Himself and that this sort of privilege is not available even to those who have spent long periods in Tapas (penance)?” That in brief is what Sage Narada told Yudhishtira.

Shortly after the extermination of Sishupala, Dantavakra, the incarnation of Vijayan, also met his end at the hands of Krishna, precisely as Narada had foretold Yudhishtira. One would have thought that with “mission accomplished” Narayana would have returned to His base; no, He did not. For, there was a much greater job awaiting Him, namely the proclamation of His Divine and Eternal Message.

Krishna now became increasingly involved with the Pandavas and their affairs, and I shall be describing that in detail soon. For the moment it suffices to say that after the great Kurukshetra war, Krishna ruled for many years in Dwaraka.

Lord Krishna’s Sneha Bhava (divine friendship) for Sudhama

Once during this period, there came one day to the court of Krishna, a Brahmin named Sudhama (also known as Kuchela). Sudhama and Krishna had studied together in the Gurukulam (school) of Sandipani but later their ways parted; while Krishna became a ruler, Sudhama lived in poverty. One day his wife persuaded Sudhama to go to Dwaraka, call on Krishna and seek some help. For a variety of reasons, Sudhama was most reluctant to do so, but finally had to yield to the pressure of his wife.

Hesitantly he started his journey to Dwaraka, but just before he set out he told himself: “I don't know if Krishna would recognise me; after all, He is a big ruler whereas I am only a poor Brahmin. But anyway, if He is still like He once used to be, then I should take for Him some puffed rice for He used to love it so much in those days. True, it is a trivial gift to offer to a King but then I am poor, and in fact I am going there precisely for begging!” Thus excusing himself, Sudhama took with him a small bundle of puffed rice to be given as a humble offering.

Krishna and Sudhama fondly rekindle past memories

Sudhama slowly trudged to Dwaraka and, after successfully negotiating various royal guards, eventually made it to Krishna's presence. This was the moment of trial - would the great Krishna recognise him or throw him out? What actually happened was something that Sudhama was totally unprepared for. Krishna not only rushed to welcome Sudhama and fold him in a tight embrace, but he extended all the traditional honours due to a guest, including the washing of the feet! And then came the fond reminiscences – “O Sudhama, do you remember” “O Krishna, do you remember” – that sort of thing that happens when old friends meet after a very long time.

This went on for a while and Sudhama cleanly forgot about the "gift" he had brought; but would the compassionate Lord let a slip like that happen? So suddenly, Krishna took hold of the bundle containing the puffed rice and said, “O Sudhama, how could you have forgotten to give Me the loving gift sent by My sister (Sudhama's wife)?!” So saying, He took the puffed rice and not only ate it by the handful, but shared it also with His consort Rukmini. Sudhama was thoroughly overwhelmed and choked with emotion.

Soon it was time to say goodbye, and after a tender leave-taking, Sudhama left for his village. Only much later did he realise with a start that he had completely forgotten to ask Krishna for help. Now what on earth was he going to tell his wife? She would be hopping mad for having blown away the opportunity of a lifetime. Wondering how he would negotiate the storm waiting for him at home, he returned feeling sad. But when he approached his house, a strange sight greeted him. In the place where his pathetic hut once stood, there now was a great mansion; and as he entered, his wife greeted him with huge smiles, draped in jewellery and the costliest of clothes.

Sai Avatars
Krishna knows of our wants even if we do not speak of them

Sudhama quietly reflected: "Krishna certainly knew about my wants. He gave me an opportunity to give expression to them but I, swept by Him in all respects, spent my time in adoration totally forgetting my wants. That, I suppose is what Bhakti or devotion is all about; and of course, Krishna cares only for Bhakti; even the most insignificant offering of a Bhakta or devotee is to Him a great thing! For Him, a Bhakta comes above everything else and once a Bhakta wins a place in His heart, he does not even have to ask; every need of his is taken care of, as if automatically."

Realising the profound significance of the fortune that had befallen him, Sudhama advised his wife not to be swept by the worldly aspect of Krishna 's largesse but pay more attention to the Divine Grace received. Thus, Sudhama and his family, though now affluent, spent all their time thinking of Krishna.

And his story became an eternal example of how the Lord cares not for the material value of what is offered to Him, but for the feeling with which the offering is made. (It is pertinent in this context, to mention in passing an incident recounted in one edition of the Sanathana Sarathi, about a young boy who gave a small contribution to the hospital fund from the money he had saved, and how Swami declared that contribution to be more valuable than a million dollars!)

Years went rolling by and up in Vaikuntam, everyone was beginning to feel the prolonged absence of Narayana (rather like what the inhabitants of Puttaparthi feel when Swami is away for an extended period as He sometimes is). On behalf of the pining celestial denizens, Brahma came down along with the Devas to make a plea to Krishna. He said, "O Lord, You incarnated to destroy the human forms of Jayan and Vijayan. That was accomplished a long time ago. You then stayed on to give Arjuna (and humanity) Your priceless jewel, the Bhagavad Gita. Is it not time now for You to return to Vaikuntam? Please do so immediately, for without You we are so lonely."

Krishna smiled and replied, "True, I have done all that you have said but there is still one more massive task left. My own clansmen, the Yadavas, have, over the years, become lustful, conceited and arrogant. Right now I am exercising control over them, which is why they have not wrought as much havoc as they are capable of. Once I depart, they would go on the rampage, which is unacceptable. So I have to take care of the Yadava problem before I return. But be not anxious for soon I would be back."

Uddhava Elicits Lord Krishna’s Final Glorious Teaching

Krishna is Love personified, and it was His Love for Arjuna (and humanity as a whole) that made Him give the glorious and timeless message. Understandably, the Gita is truly famous but Arjuna was not the only one to be favoured with direct Divine teaching; there was another equally fortunate, namely Uddhava.

Uddhava was one of the Yadavas who was deeply devoted to Krishna. Shortly before the curtain was to be rung down, Krishna acknowledged Uddhava's devotion or Bhakti by favouring him with special advice, sometimes referred to as the Uddhava Gita. Unlike the dialogue with Arjuna that was severely curtailed by the impending battle, Krishna's conversation with Uddhava was more relaxed. Uddhava wanted to know many things and Krishna patiently obliged.

The Lord said, “Uddhava, I am pleased with your spiritual thirst. Let Me quench it with some advice. First, I shall briefly recall what Dattatreya told my ancestor Yadu. In his wanderings, Yadu came across Dattatreya, around whom there was the aura or glow of inner peace. When asked about the secret, Dattatreya replied,

“O King, Nature is the best teacher. My teachers have been the earth, the sky, water, the Moon, the Sun, a pigeon, a python, the ocean, a moth, the honey-bee, the keeper of a beehive, an elephant, a deer, a fish, a woman named Pingala, a squirrel-like animal called Kurari, a child, a young girl, an archer, a snake, a spider and a wasp.”

The wise man studies Nature to become Divine

Seeing the puzzled look on Yadu's face, Dattatreya continued, “I shall explain myself with a few examples.

  • I saw that the earth bears all loads silently. This taught me forbearance and the need for being firm like a mountain.

  • Next the sky. When the sky is overcast, we think it is covered with clouds; but that is not true because there is no contact between the clouds and the sky. From this I learnt that though the Atma is enclosed in a body which is made up of the five elements, it (the Atma) is not involved with the body; in other words, the Brahman is always apart from His manifestation.

  • The water of a river is pure and sweet and it purifies those who come to it. In the same manner, good men serve to purify humanity with their presence (Darshan), their touch (Sparshan) and words (Sambhashan).

  • What about the python? As you know, the python never goes out of its way to obtain food; it is content to eat whatever comes its way, be it big or small. Sometimes it even starves for days together but it always waits patiently. This taught me that man should accept with fortitude whatever life offers, be it favourable or otherwise.

  • The moth, as you know, is attracted by flame to which it later falls a prey. It is a victim of the sense of sight which beguiles it. From this, I learnt that unless a person controlled his senses, he runs the danger of being destroyed.

  • Turning to the bee, I noticed that it does not hurt the flower it sucks nectar from. Also, it does not take more than just a small amount. Even so, a renunciate or Sannyasi must accept from a householder just so much and no more.

  • Next the Kurari. Once it had a piece of meat. Large birds then surrounded the Kurari and attacked it fiercely. The Kurari suffered much and could not ward off the attackers. Finally, it let go the piece of meat and instantly the attack stopped. To me this was a lesson that renunciation leads to peace.

  • The snake avoids company and lives by itself in a hole in the ground. Likewise, a renunciate or Sannyasi should shun company and live by himself in a secluded cave or hermitage.

  • The spider taught me the final lesson. One day I was watching this spider sitting on a branch. Suddenly he spat saliva and began to weave threads, which he made into a nice web. Later he ate the threads and soon nothing was left of the web. Even so, at the beginning of an aeon or Kalpa, Paramatma or the Supreme Lord manifests Himself as the phenomenal Universe which, later at the end of the Kalpa, He withdraws into Himself.”

“This, O King”, Dattatreya concluded, “should give you some idea of how to learn from Nature, shape your life and derive inner peace.”

Krishna then said to Uddhava, “See Uddhava, everywhere there are lessons to learn from. These lessons would become apparent only if you train yourself to look beneath the surface and search for a meaning. Creation is beautiful but don't be dazzled by it for that is what Maya (illusion) is all about. Look beyond and you will see the Creator who is much grander!

[Speaking in a similar vein during His Divine Discourse delivered on February 13, 1997, during the first-ever celebration of the Chinese New Year at Prasanthi Nilayam, Bhagavan Baba described the lessons one could learn from the cow, the snake, the donkey, the dog and the parrot.]

Sai Seva Orissa
Krishna shares with Uddhava His secrets

Starting thus, Krishna in essence repeated to Uddhava the teaching He had earlier imparted to Arjuna. Uddhava listened intently as Arjuna had done before, and asked many questions. Finally, he said, “Krishna, this Bhakti (devotion) seems to be most wonderful. Please tell me more about Bhakti and Your Bhaktas (devotees).” Smiling broadly Krishna said, “Uddhava, you certainly seem to know what I like best!” and then went on to expound the greatness of Bhakti as well as how He adores His devotees.

Uddhava then asked, “Krishna, can you please describe Your Bhakta?” Krishna replied, “Gladly. My Bhakta is easily recognised by his compassionate nature and the softness of his heart. He loves to talk about Me and sing My praise. He never eats or drinks anything without first offering it to Me. If other Bhaktas are talking about Me, he pricks up his ears. As he goes about his work, his body functions like a robot while his mind is totally absorbed in Me. For him, nothing else exists in the Universe except Me, and wherever he turns, he sees nothing other than Me.

Tears of joy come to his eyes when he thinks of Me, indeed even when he merely hears My name! A Bhakta is mad about Me, but believe Me Uddhava, God-madness is better than anything else you can think of. And let Me tell you one more thing. To Me, My Bhakta is more precious than anything in this world. I don't mind or care if people insult or abuse Me, but take it from Me that I shall not tolerate in the least bit any calculated injury to My dear devotee.”

Uddhava was the last one to receive the benefit of Krishna's Divine teachings. He was then sent by Krishna to Badri Ashram on the banks of the Ganges to meditate and spend the rest of his life. With Uddhava gone, Krishna could now attend to the remaining unfinished business, namely the elimination of the Yadava clan.

The Yadava Clan Attract a Terrible Curse

Being the masterly playwright that He is, the Lord had already scripted the destruction of the Yadavas and His own exit as well! Much earlier, Krishna once created an urge in some great sages to visit Him. Thus, it was that a group led by Sage Vishwamitra made a pilgrimage, which included a visit to Dwaraka. As they entered the palace gates at Dwaraka to pay their homage to Krishna, a group of Yadava boys decided to play a prank. They dressed a young lad as a girl and taking him before the sages asked, “O Wise Ones, this girl is with child. Will she give birth to a boy or a girl?”

Sai Avatars
Krishna and the Yadavas arrive in Prabhasa to offer sacrifice

The Rishis saw through the game and pronounced a curse, “An iron pestle would be born which later would be the cause of destruction of the entire Yadava community.” Intensely scared, the pranksters fled from the place. Later, when the female disguise was removed, an iron pestle was found in the garment. The elders who came to know of the incident were alarmed and ordered that the pestle be ground into fine powder and the dust thrown into the sea.

This was duly done but one sharp piece of the pestle remained which could not be powdered; however, that too was flung into the sea. The Yadavas now breathed easier, confident that they had circumvented the curse. It was not as if the Rishis had spontaneously pronounced the curse; rather, the Lord had willed that they do so as a part of His Master Plan. Could that be thwarted so easily?

The iron powder scattered into the sea was washed ashore where it sprouted as reeds which grew tall, waiting to play their role when the time came. And that came thirty-six years after the Kurukshetra war when one day Krishna summoned all the Yadavas and said, “Lately, many evil omens have been appearing. We must therefore pray, practice austerities and offer sacrifices. I suggest we all go out of Dwaraka for this purpose. The women and children may go to the nearby spot of Sangotra, whereas we might proceed further to Prabhasa on the sea coast.”

Soon after, the male members, led by Krishna and Balarama reached Prabhasa for performing the various rites. One day, along with the meal, the Yadavas partook rather generously of wine. In no time at all they became intoxicated, and friendly arguments transformed into quarrels and later into physical fights. Looking for weapons to use, they saw the tall reeds that were as strong as iron rods. Everyone grabbed the reeds and soon the Yadavas were smashing each other to death.

It was a gory sight but standing quite aloof, Krishna watched it silently; after all, was it not a part of His play? Balarama too watched from a distance but unlike Krishna, he was totally disgusted. Silently he walked away to shed his mortal coil. In the end, the Yadavas were all dead and only Krishna was left. It was now His turn to go and He had scripted his own exit too! But before I get on to that, there is something I must mention.

Krishna reveals the Truth to Arjuna during the Kurukshetra war in the Bhagavad Gita

In my next talk, I shall tell you something about the Kurukshetra war at the commencement of which the Bhagavad Gita was given by the Lord to humanity. But here I would like to state the following: Soon after the Kurukshetra war, Krishna went to Hastinapura to console Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, the bereaved parents whose sons had all died in the war. The latter was fully aware that her sons were unadulterated evil but even so, as a mother who had lost all her sons, she would not be consoled. To Krishna she wailed, “O Krishna, You could easily have averted this tragedy but You did not do so. Just as my sons have been completely annihilated, I curse that your Yadava clan be similarly wiped out and You too along with them, thirty-six years from now.”

Krishna smiled and replied, “Venerable aunt, I know how you feel and gladly accept your curse. But you must concede that I did try My best to avert the conflict. I warned Duryodhana so many times but he would not pay heed. Anyway, the past is past and there is not much point in brooding over it. Console yourself with the thought that it was after all the Lord's will.” Krishna recalled that scene enacted over three decades ago. The Yadavas were now gone and one more scene remained to be enacted before the curtain could be rung down upon the DwaparaYuga, and that was His own exit.

The Elegiac End to Lord Krishna’s Earthly Life

Krishna now withdrew to a forest, selected a nice tree, sat under it and went into meditation; as usual, He was dressed in yellow silk. Some distance away, there was a hunter passing by. Seeing the yellow dress through leaves, he mistook Krishna to be a spotted deer and shot an arrow, which pierced Krishna's heel. Krishna uttered a cry and hearing it, the hunter rushed to the spot. Instead of a deer, he saw Krishna lying on the ground and bleeding profusely. Stunned and horrified, he fell at Krishna's feet and begged forgiveness. In reply Krishna said, “Don't cry or be sorry. I am not angry with you. It was not your fault at all; let us just say it was God's will and that you played your part admirably in the Cosmic Drama, for which heaven would be your reward. Be at peace.”

Krishna is mortally wounded by a hunter in His last Divine leela

Meanwhile, Daruka, the charioteer of Krishna was searching for his Master. He knew Krishna had walked away from the carnage by the sea-side towards the forest. Guided by the scent of the Tulsi leaves which Krishna wore as a garland, he eventually came to where Krishna was lying mortally wounded. Overwhelmed with deep anguish, he cried, “O Lord, how did this terrible thing happen?”

In a matter-of-fact tone, Krishna replied, “Daruka, there is no time now to discuss all that. Let Me quickly give you a few instructions. Firstly, you must return immediately to Dwaraka and gently break the news about Me and also the end of the Yadavas to My parents. They would no doubt be heartbroken, but you must console them. After My end, the waters of the sea would enter Dwaraka and the city would be submerged; so the women and children must not return to Dwaraka from Sangotra. Ask Arjuna to escort them to Hastinapura where they could live. And now if you please, pull this arrow out before you leave.”

Weeping like a child and with trembling hands, Daruka did as instructed. The arrow­head which Daruka extracted had been shaped from the piece of the iron pestle which could not be broken up earlier. While in the sea, the piece was swallowed by a fish. Later, the fish was caught and when it was cut open, there was the iron piece. The hunter used it to make an arrow-head and eventually by Divine design, that very arrow-head helped Krishna shed His mortal coil while respecting at the same time the curse laid upon Him!

The fatal arrow having been extracted from the foot, Krishna asked Daruka to hurry back. Tearfully Daruka went round Krishna three times and hastened to Dwaraka to carry out the assigned tasks. Mission over, Krishna smiled for the last time and then went into a Yogic trance. In that state He separated from the body which had served Him for over a century and returned to Vaikuntam, much to the great delight of all the celestial beings.

The Dwapara Yuga had ended, and mankind would have to wait five thousand and odd years before the Lord deigned to come down again as a Poorna Avatar.

(To be Continued...)

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