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By Prof. G. Venkataraman
(Continued from the previous issue)
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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 "The 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.

The last episode described the opening scene of the great Kurukshetra War, and also how Karna, at the very last minute, learnt that he was really the elder brother of the Pandavas. It was painful for him to have to fight against his very own brothers, but that was the choice he made. This month we begin with a few remarks on Karna and then lead to the war itself and what followed.

Loving Sai Ram and greeting from Prashanti Nilayam. If you recall, in the last issue, I ended with a reference to a conversation between Kunti and her eldest son Karna, and the very different ways in which Karna and Kunti looked at life and death.

The Tragic Hero Karna

Karna is perhaps the most tragic of all the characters that appear in the Mahabharata. On occasions, Swami has praised Karna but has also pointed out that for all his noble qualities, Karna committed one fatal blunder. He surrendered himself totally to Duryodhana because he felt that Duryodhana saved his honour in an hour of crisis. It was this loyalty that compelled Karna to refuse even his mother's request to desist from fighting. Swami says that total surrender must only be to God and not to man, whoever that may be; any pledge given to another human must be restricted and conditional when the issue of God becoming a priority arises.

Sanjaya is Blessed to ‘See’ the Battle from Afar

With war about to break out, Dhritarashtra began to panic, for he knew well what the outcome would be. He cursed his sons for not being reasonable, and he cursed himself too for not exercising parental authority with sufficient force.

Sai Avatars

Sage Vyasa blesses Sanjaya with visions of the battle


At that juncture, Sage Vyasa came to Dhritarashtra and consoled him by saying, "The past is past and there is no use in crying over spilt milk. Prepare yourself to accept the outcome bravely, whatever it may be. If you wish, I can bless you with a vision so that you can see what is going on in the battlefield."

Dhritarashtra declined the offer but still wanted some means of obtaining news from the battlefront. Vyasa then blessed Dhritarashtra's companion, Sanjaya, with the capacity to see the happenings on the battlefield and offer reports to his king. Thus, it was that Sanjaya became not only the world's first war correspondent but TV commentator as well!

The Bhagavad Gita, which we all think of as the lessons taught by the Lord to Arjuna and humanity as well, actually begins and ends as a conversation between Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya, with the dialogue on the battlefield between Krishna and Arjuna tucked in between. Sanjaya is not only blessed with remote vision but remote hearing as well; and when Krishna reveals to Arjuna His Cosmic Form, Sanjaya is able to see that too.

The conversation between the blind king and his constant companion begins with Dhritarashtra asking Sanjaya to describe the scene at the battlefront just before the fighting was due to commence. And that is when Sanjaya describes Arjuna asking Krishna to drive the chariot to a central location between the two armies when, seeing the line up of revered elders on the other side, Arjuna's heart sinks yielding to doubt and misery. Krishna waits patiently for the disturbed Arjuna to pour out his heart, and then instructs him in Divine Knowledge. This clears the cobwebs in Arjuna's mind and gone is the confusion. He gets up as instructed and fights with vigour, dedicating his actions to Krishna and seeking no reward. Swami adds:

Sai Avatars
Lord Krishna - the eternal One

“Krishna's exposition benefited Arjuna, Sanjaya, Vyasa [who wrote the Mahabharata] and Hanuman [who as the symbol in the flag of Arjuna's chariot, also heard it]. The same Gita fell on the deaf ears of Dhritarashtra too.”

This last remark is most significant. These days, there are many who make it a point to read all the seven hundred verses of the Gita every day. Some even take the trouble of memorising all the verses. All this is fine and desirable no doubt, but only up to a point. As Swami has often remarked, what is the use of all this memorising, if one does not put into practice the teachings of even one verse, or at least half a verse?

If one merely chants but does not follow the teachings in real life, then one is no better than a tape recorder! That’s the warning from Swami and I suggest that we should periodically remind ourselves of that warning when we try to cleanse ourselves merely by routine reading or chanting.

Moving on, Swami has also made a few other remarkable revelations concerning the Kurukshetra War. First is the fact that the war was fought in 3141 BC, when Krishna was 86 years old (Krishna, Swami says, was born on July 20, 3227 BC).

The war started on a New Moon day (Amavasya) but Sanjaya started his narration ten days later. He adds: “Some consider this day as the 'Gitajayanti' or the day on which Krishna vouchsafed the message of the Gita to Arjuna. But, this was the day on which Sanjaya narrated the story of the battle to Dhritarashtra. The Gita was actually given by Krishna to Arjuna on the ‘Karthika Bahula Amavasya’ day.”

By the way, some of you might recall that not only has Radio Sai broadcast the entire text of the Gita in Sanskrit with concurrent translation in English, but has also brought out the essence in the form of a simple dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. In addition, I have sometime ago broadcast an extended series of talks on the essence of the Gita as highlighted by Swami. In view of all this, I shall not, on this present occasion, spend any more time on the Gita.

The Kurukshetra War lasted eighteen days in which initially, fortune seemed to favour the Kauravas, causing much despondency in the Pandava camp. But eventually the tide turned and the Pandavas won, the last act in the Great War being a keenly fought one-to-one mace combat between Bhima and Duryodhana. Bhima finally killed Duryodhana, and it was all over.

Were Lord Krishna’s Actions Fair?

Krishna's role in the war has been the subject of much comment, the feeling in some quarters being that though Krishna did not wield any weapon, He, using questionable tactics, skilfully manipulated many a situation so as to give the Pandavas a tactical advantage.

(In the Rama Avatar, too, scholars have debated endlessly on the correctness of Rama slaying Vali from behind; however, Swami has put to rest all such controversies by giving a deep insight into the Divine purpose and intentions). In fact, in his dying moments, Duryodhana himself levelled such charges of foul play and severely castigated Krishna. Balarama too was chagrined by Krishna's role in the final destruction of Duryodhana. And so the question has often been raised whether some of Krishna's actions were above board or fair? This is an important point and merits some attention.

Sai Avatars
Krishna reveals His Divine powers by turning the tide of the
battle in favour of the Pandavas

There are basically two ways of looking at Krishna's so-called "questionable" tactics. The first is by regarding Krishna as a mere human and the second is by taking into account the fact that Krishna was an Avatar (Divine Incarnation), a Poorna Avatar at that. If Krishna was a mere mortal, then the charges levelled against Him might perhaps have a basis, but if we remember that He was, in fact, God incarnate, then His actions fall totally outside the purview of limited human analysis.

Man is bound by space and time and views things, people and events circumscribed by this limitation, whereas the Blessed Lord is completely beyond the finite boundaries that apply to us ordinary mortals. Thus, His actions can be understood only by Him and not by us, and we simply have no business whatsoever, judging Him by our yardsticks; it is totally meaningless and absolutely stupid.

Indeed this is always the mistake one makes with Avatars. Did not Shirdi Sai frequently baffle his contemporaries as does our own beloved Swami? As the late Mr. Kasturi once remarked, not only every discourse, but even a "casual" remark or for that matter, even a "mere" gesture of Swami has unfathomable meaning. It is pointless either to try and analyse, interpret or understand the actions of the Avatar. Humble and meek acceptance, as Gandhi recommends, is the only way open to us. In this context, it is sobering to remember that even Balarama, an aspect of Narayana, could not understand Krishna's earthly actions.

Post War Carnage

Returning to the story of the war, the casualties were truly staggering. All the Kauravas were killed; and so also all the leading lights on the Kaurava side, including Karna, Drona, etc. Bhishma was felled but he held on to his life as he had been blessed with the boon to shed his mortal coil at a time of his choice.

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spacer Sai Avatars
Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna,
fought bravely at the battle
Bhisma lies on a bed of arrows and waits for the right moment to shed his mortal coil

Bhishma lay on a bed of arrows arranged by Arjuna, and waited for the Sun to come from the southern to the northern sky, as that was a more auspicious time to give up the body.

On the Pandava side too the toll was heavy. Though the Pandavas themselves escaped death, all their offspring were totally annihilated, and the slender hope of the continuance of their lineage rested entirely on the boy growing in the womb of Uttara, the wife of Abhimanyu, who was the son of Arjuna. Later, this boy became King Parikshit, and, facing a death sentence due to a curse, he spent the last seven days listening to a narration of Srimad Bhagavatham which describes the glory, and the incarnations of Narayana (up to that time of course), and the lessons taught by Him on various occasions.

Sai Avatars
Yudhistra refuses to accept kingship at the end of the war,
but relents once Bhisma advises him

Back to the main story. Seeing the carnage, Yudhishtra was completely shaken. The despondency that overtook Arjuna at the start, now made Yudhishtra its target, and overcome with grief, he refused to pick up the reins of kingship that was now his. Sense had to be knocked into his head, just as was required in the case of Arjuna earlier! This time, Krishna gave the job to Bhishma who, for a number of reasons, was reluctant, not the least of which was the fact that there was Krishna right there, who was certainly more qualified than anyone else to advise him. But Krishna insisted and Bhishma yielded.

Bhishma Gives His Profound Teachings

Thus came into existence the Santi Parva, the body of knowledge communicated to Yudhishtra by the venerable Bhishma on diverse matters, both secular and spiritual. It is an unparalleled manual of practical wisdom, especially for those involved with governance. In the course of the dialogue, Yudhishtra asks, "Which is the best dharma of all?" To which Bhishma replies that the best one is the ceaseless contemplation and worship of Lord Narayana. Having said this, Bhishma composed on the spot a flowery hymn in praise of Narayana, containing over a thousand different descriptions of the Lord - this is the famous Vishnu Sahasranamam (which Shirdi Baba asked many to recite daily). The incredible aspect of it is that the first time it was recited was in the physical presence of Narayana Himself!

The Joy of Being the Lord’s Instrument

In passing I might throw in a nice little story concerning our beloved Swami. This happened many years ago in Trayee Brindavan, and I was a witness to it. It was evening, and the post Bhajan period when boys gather around Swami’s jhoola (swing) inside Trayee, waiting for yet another of those memorable sessions to start. As usual, after Swami entered and was seated, there was small talk for sometime, after which Swami said, “Narasimhan, say something to the boys.” The remark was addressed to late Mr. V. K. Narasimhan, a distinguished journalist and for long the editor of Sanathana Sarathi, after Kasturi could no longer handle that job.

Sai Avatars
“Narsimhan, you know, sometimes man listens better to man than to God!” - Swami

Narasimhan, who was widely read and could speak on practically anything, replied, “Swami, when You are there, what business do I have to speak? It is You who know everything and it is You who should speak. In any case, the boys are waiting for You to speak, not me!”

Swami smiled and said, “No Narasimhan, you go ahead and speak.” When Narasimhan persisted with his prayer adding that it is God who should speak to man and give advice, not man to man, Swami said, “Narsimhan, you know, sometimes man listens better to man than to God!”

Narasimhan was shocked and said, “Swami, how can that ever be?” Swami then said, “Narasimhan, don’t you remember? When Bhishma told Krishna that He should advise Yudhishtra, Krishna insisted that it was Bhishma who should speak and not He! And it worked, did it not?”

Narasimhan smiled and accepted that he had been vanquished in argument and went on to give yet another scintillating talk! Unfortunately, I don’t remember a word of it, though I remember every word that preceded that talk! In any case, that incident is what is important to Sai Bhagavatham! Sometimes, God uses man as His instrument, even though He could do it all Himself!

Getting back to the bits and pieces of the remaining part of the story, accepting Bhishma's advice, Yudhishtra assumed the rulership of Hastinapura and ruled for many years as a wise king who never deviated from the path of Dharma. Mindful of his responsibilities, he gave shelter to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari though this was not quite liked by some of his younger brothers. And in due course, the Pandavas one by one shed their mortal coils, their mission on earth having been completed.

The story of the Pandavas is an inspiring saga of courage and determination. It also illustrates that having the Lord on one's side does not automatically provide exemption from troubles or difficulties. However, the Lord does help in bearing the difficulties with courage and fortitude.

And finally, referring to the allegorical significance of the great epic, the Mahabharatha, Swami says:

“The Mahabharatha is basically the story of the five Vital Airs (the Pancha Praanas) overcoming a hundred obstacles in the path of progress.”

Sai, the World’s Third Poorna Avatar

When God descends on earth, He comes as an incarnation or an Avatar. Thus far in human history, He has come only three times in human form with His full compliment of Divine Powers i.e., as a Poorna Avatar. The Rama and the Krishna Avatars were Poorna Avatars. The current Sai Avatar is also a Poorna Avatar. Blessed are we therefore to be born and living at the same time as the Avatar, and even more blessed are we to have His Darshan as also to experience directly His limitless Divine Love.

Sai Avatars

Rama bore arms and physically destroyed enemies. Krishna too used destructive force when needed, but quite sparingly. The current Avatar, however, has come without any weapons whatsoever. Why? Has not Krishna declared that the wicked would be destroyed when the Avatar descends?

In Rama's time, the enemy, i.e., Ravana, was outside. In Krishna's time, the forces of evil and good were to be found within the same family. But in the present day world, the forces of evil and good are both within the same person. No longer are there pure "good guys" and patently "bad guys".

Thus it is that our Lord Sai has chosen to use Love or Prema as His "weapon". This weapon destroys the wickedness in man, transforms him and raises him to the level of Divinity. As Swami Himself has declared:

“In this Kali Age, the wicked have to be reformed and reconstructed through Love and compassion. That is why the Avatar has come unarmed. It has come with the Message of Love.”

In one of His Divine Discourses, Swami declared in ringing tones that His mission was unique in that He was involved in making each and every person realise that he or she is God.

Times change, habits change, fashions change but one thing remains constant and that is “God is Love and Love is God”. In addition, man too is God; which means, he too must breathe Love and not hate. This is our Dear Lord Sai's constant reminder.

I would like to add one point about the Krishna Avatar. Krishna is worshipped as (a form of) God which is correct, but in the process one tends to lose sight of the human that He was. The Discourses given by Bhagavan Baba during the summer of 1976 (Summer Roses On The Blue Mountain, 1976) are worth reading in this context, for Swami then repeatedly emphasised the human aspect of Krishna. Those discourses are most illuminating to read for they open our eyes to the human aspect of both Shirdi Sai and the current Sai Avatar as well.

Well, this brings to an end my original project to tell you something about the Rama and the Krishna Avatars. As I mentioned right in the beginning, my aim was not to present a scholarly discourse but to make you get acquainted with the essential aspects of these two Avatars, hoping that this would stimulate a deeper study of the earlier Avatars on your part. Having come this far, I perhaps ought to include a few more talks dealing with the current Sri Sathya Sai Avatar. Unfortunately, right now, I have too many deadlines to meet; so I shall reserve for later, the pleasant task of speaking about the incarnation of our own Beloved Swami!

Meanwhile, thanks for being with me during the present series, and I do hope it was of some use to you. As for me, it certainly uplifted me a lot in countless ways.

God be with you all. Hopefully, I shall be back soon, with narrations about the wonderful Sri Sathya Sai Avatar, who is here not only to save humanity but also to fill us with Bliss in so many different ways!

Samasthaa Loka Sukhino Bhavantu. Jai Sai Ram.

(To be Continued...)

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Vol 6 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2008
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