Thoughts on Sri Krishna’s Revelation of Universal Form

Sri_Krishna_Vision

Let us leave aside the assumption around Krishna’s identity..you could choose whatever works for you..whether as a King, manipulative schemer, beloved of gopis, as Avatar or anything else. The Vishwaroopam, the vision of the Infinite and Immanent Godhead is infinitely more interesting.

Let us remind ourselves of the context again. The hero of that age, Arjuna, has this crisis of conscience. The stark reality of war is in front of him. All the ills that befell him, his family and clan are forgotten. The brutality of what is going to begin makes his moral being shrink in repulsion. He is not afraid, this is his moral being shrinking from the carnage that is about to begin.

In response to this shrinking, Sri Krishna has expounded the larger basis of action, of morality, of spirituality, of how individual action and living can be perfected, of how laws of conduct can be gradually widened in scope to make every thought and action align with standards of living that transcend time bound social contracts into a veritable prayer. To make the individual see his role in the larger context of the Divine Lila, in the play of the Cosmos.

Sri Krishna has expounded the approaches to the Divine, of the ways of conduct that would assure ones entry into the borders of Heaven, to escape the cycle of Samsara and Maya. He has shared his view of the Sankhya path, the Purusha – Prakriti dance that makes up common life, ethical conduct, how individual Dharma coexists with Universal Dharma, how motive of action has more relevance than the action itself, of the role of ritualism, on how ritualism can be transmuted into an inner sacrifice to the Immanent Divine rather than the offering of material things. He has reiterated the various Yogas by which one can attain the Divine, he has reconciled and synthesized these approaches into one that is wide, all-encompassing and complete.

The human disciple who has received this knowledge is already familiar with the hundred roads using which one can approach the Divine. His mind sees how this tangle has been unified into a complex harmony. He realizes the one in front, his Charioteer in this field of battle, is someone not entirely known to him. Sri Krishna senses in his dear friend a mind at relative ease, but not the heart. Knowledge has been imparted but not the experience.

The unity of all existence, the play of Maya are all but theoretical constructs as yet. Arjuna is no trained Yogi, there is yet a patina of doubt that lives when knowledge has not yet become experience.

“Now”, Sri Krishna declares, “I shall show you my universal form, the one to which even the best Yogis aspire to. Because you are dear to me, I shall give you the Yogic sight, by which you shall see my energy in all its forms and manifestations.”

There is nothing symbolic in this. This is an experience. One that can be had by you and I too. The vision of the Universal Godhead. All its diverse manifestations, all its complex inter dependencies. One vision, one perspective too, of this all pervading Godhead and Power removes the illusion of separation. It destroys doubt, it is the certitude of the Godhead, the confirmation of our bright intuitions. We see ourselves surrounded, not with our eyes but an inner perception. We find ourselves as a speck, surrounded on every direction and dimension at the same time. All dimensions open up. We see that there is a Love, a Power than transcends our mind and being. There is a Beloved who watches and broods over us. That experience is the fruit for which we toil over many lives. All our perambulations through time has led us to this moment. And now we see we have looked in vain for the thing that is within us, and that is us too. All that exists is the Brahman. All is That. Nothing exists apart from It.

This is a qualitatively similar experience that Sri Ramakrishna Parahamsa imparts to a doubting Narendra, our later Swami Vivekananda about the nature of Time and Cosmos. The experience that Fritjof Capra has, as recounted in his preface to Tao of Physics, of seeing all reality as a dance of atoms, of the fact that everything is woven from a single fabric is similar to this. The experience of Sri Aurobindo, when imprisoned by the British, where he saw the jail walls, the jailer, the prisoners..even the bars that were holding him in as Vasudeva is similar to this.

There is nothing symbolic in this. Aspiration and/or the grace of a Guru can give this experience. Doubts vanish to one who has had this experience of the Universal form of the Divine. The unassailable poise of the Buddha, the acceptance of calamity with surrender, the ecstatic poetry of Annamayya, Chaitanya, Meera, Andal..all come from this experience in any of its infinite varieties.

Note: This was my answer to a question on Quora. Have posted it here after some editing.

Vedas, Upanishads and Us

Vedas and Creation rescued by Varaha

Our retelling of an episode from the Kenopanishad, raised a query on why we dipped into so remote a past of the Hindu tradition, what these works are and what we aim to accomplish by it.

Vedas

The Vedas constitute the bedrock of Hindu thought, culture and living. Every small and mighty edifice of this ancient race is infused through and through with the roar of victory voiced by Rishis more ancient than known history. Vedas were man’s first and perhaps the most profound attempt at Immortality. As with works of posterity whose origins and motivations are a mystery to the brief memory of men, there is a great cloud of ignorance that surrounds popular perception of the Veda. Like the proverbial blind trying to cognize an Elephant, each brings the limitations of his perception to interpreting and understanding the Veda. Add to it people whose goal in life was to show up the Hindu race as uncultured, because Hindus do not follow their particular strain of barbarism and you have a perfect storm of ignorance that makes any objective understanding of the Veda impossible.

Ambition Deficit

Part of the blame would have to lie with Hindus themselves, who due to ignorance, lack of courage and no great ambition kept the Veda on so high a pedestal as to keep it out of reach to the common man. The understanding of the Veda does not have to be via 2nd and 3rd hand translations, transcriptions, commentary and so on. We could reach out to the Veda indirectly via a simple Google search or go the direct route by aspiring to the immanent Divine. Both can act as catalysts to churn our consciousness and give birth to powers and potentialities that are unmistakably part of us, yet add immeasurably more than what we can imagine. This process of churning takes a moment or many lifetimes, depending on the intensity and purity of purpose we bring with our aspiration.

Upanishads

What about the Upanishads then? Well, the Upanishads constitute a later development that built upon the Veda. While the Veda is a mass of intuitions, a collective roadmap to immortality as discovered by the ancient Rishis. In contrast the Upanishads were the intuitions chopped and packed into neat parcels of logic that the reasoning mind would understand. The Veda was poetry of the spirit, the Vedic Rishis travelled as the Gods on their cars of intuition, while the Upanishadic Rishis chose reason as their vehicle to explore trails of consciousness.

Rishis and Seers

We know little of the Vedic & Upanishadic Rishis, apart from what was built around their names in the Puranas and Itihasas. The actual names have come down to us though- Angiras, Bharadwaj, Kanva, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Grtsamada, Agastya, Bharata. At times, when the passions of our trivial lives are quelled we hear these names echoing through our being. Each name marking an emperor of the spirit. Each name an adventure of the soul into immortal realms. Each name the reminder of a victory won through the luminous heavens of our being. Each Rishi a guide and preceptor to the aspiring soul of us.

Authorship

The Rishis did not consider themselves authors of the mantras they wrote, they were merely agents, transcribers who had the inner realizations and sang of it in verse. As such they are the undiluted essence of a particular experience. Hence the Veda is called Shruti, that which is heard. It was Sri Aurobindo who in modern times recovered and relived the essence of the Veda, as did the Varaha avatar to save earth from destruction by Hiranyaksha.

How to read Vedas and Upanishads

One has but to read these works. Not with the modern infantile mind that expects all to be given on a platter. The Veda and Upanishad demand a certain discipline of the being. After all if you were a scientist building a cyclotron, you would expect every machinery to be precise to the thousandth of a milli-meter. So it is with understanding of the Veda and Upanishads. Some would even say the mere act of reading the thoughts of a Rishi is an Yagna. No need for detailed paraphernalia, the instruments of external ritual. What the Veda wants is that inner engineering to be in order.

Aim of Kali’s Brood

The goal of Kali’s Brood is to re-acquaint Hindus to the living heart of their tradition. We will do this by providing snippets from the Vedas, Upanishads and other key works. We will get to the heart of its spirit and inner experience. This body of knowledge is not restricted to Hindus alone, it waits for all those who will open themselves to its vast synthesis of man, life and his immortal destiny.

Sri Aurobindo Speaks of Scriptures actually Relevant for Future

Sri Aurobindo speaks about which religion, philosophy will be relevant, survive and actually help the spiritual path.

Only those Scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind. The rest remain as monuments of the past, but have no actual force or vital impulse for the future.

The recent episode where priests refused entry to a so-called low-caste in Orissa. I f**cking rage in fury when I hear the term low-caste. What the f**k is low caste anyway?! Don’t the idiotic priests in Orissa know “Sarvam Kalvidham Brahmam”, “All that exists is the Divine”? Every thing, every damn thing is the Divine..to discriminate against fellow men in the name of caste is effin horrible. Of course, I don’t want you to let the marauding barbarian who wants your wealth, land and women inside your house. Discriminate men on the basis of their intent and deal with them, but bloody caste..destroy that crap.

Hinduism is said to live in its traditions and some would argue that this untouchability thing is a tradition. But honestly how many of thousands understand what a tradition is? How many have realized any truths within themselves? Traditions handed down by posterity is immediately treated with veneration..without once questioning what the truth is, whether the truth has come to us undiluted, or whether we actually realized the truth of a tradition ourselves. Bottom line test and know for yourself before accepting a tradition.

Of course Hinduism is infinitely better than other major religious systems, you know which, because it enables an infinite variety of form and practice. But for a few hundred years, the so called upper caste priests have lost the plot. A Brahmin was supposed to be a man of knowledge, a knower of Brahman. We all know the majority are no longer knowers of Brahman. Which means they cannot be arbiters of tradition, as in the Orissa temple case, nor should we give them the veneration deserving to a knower of Brahman. Conversely we should also not pour spite on them as the Christian Missionaries, Marxists and Pseudo-Atheists like the Tamil Nadu, India based politicians do.

Sorry, back to tradition. Some people talk of tradition as if it has been forever. But that is not the case, every tradition..the most hallowed and mundane tradition had been seen within by a Seer/Rishi and shared with common people. Remember, every damned tradition was founded that way. What mattered was the spiritual realization of the person who founded the tradition. Remember no committee sat and discussed what followers will read from then on, no council of descendants argued stuff..just one guy had the realization and shared with followers. If it worked for the followers, the tradition got handed down or else it died naturally. Nothing could be more beautiful or ideal than this arrangement. But we have not had major realized souls like Swami Vivekananda or Chaitanya or Meera lately to drive home truths with the force of their realizations. Now we have media savvy folks, semi-realized folks and so on. Infinitely better than the Abrahamic systems of course, but not good enough for Hinduism.

So what am I getting at? Nothing, just that spiritual realization alone matters. Tradition if it helps us get there sooner then fine, else create a new tradition. We Hindus are not fanatics, we have no perverse need to convert people compulsively like the missionaries do to barely known spiritual truths. Or to enforce semi-moral strictures with the sword. We are descendants of Rishi Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Valmiki and the numberless realized souls of Sanatana Dharma. Let us live and act that way. Hare Krishna!

Whatever Difficulties and Perplexities Arise…

SriKrishna-Arjuna

Sri Krishna assures Arjuna

All this personal effort and self-discipline will not in the end be needed, all following and limitation of rule and dharma can at last be thrown away as hampering encumbrances if thou canst make a complete surrender to Me, depend alone on the Spirit and Godhead within thee and all things and trust to his sole guidance.

Turn all thy mind to me and fill it with the thought of me and my presence. Turn all thy heart to me, make thy every action, whatever it be, a sacrifice and offering to me. That done, leave me to do my will with thy life and soul and action; do not be grieved or perplexed by my dealings with thy mind and heart and life and works or troubled because they do not seem to follow the laws and dharmas man imposes on himself to guide his limited will and intelligence. My ways are the ways of a perfect wisdom and power and love that knows all things and combines all its movements in view of a perfect eventual result; for it is refining and weaving together the many threads of an integral perfection.

I am here with thee in thy chariot of battle revealed as the Master of Existence within and without thee and I repeat the absolute assurance, the infallible promise that I will lead thee to myself through and beyond all sorrow and evil. Whatever difficulties and perplexities arise, be sure of this that I am leading thee to a complete divine life in the universal and an immortal existence in the transcendent Spirit.

In many ways the life of a Sanyassin[5. One who has renounced material life in pursuit of the Divine] is easy, he is a lone warrior armed with aspiration and wages inner battles to storm heaven. For an aspiring Grihastha,[1. Householder] locked in the baffling maze of Samsara, the problem is severe. To the inner battles and an unyielding Divine is added the almost fatal calamity of family, work and society. It is in this position we find ourselves, much like Arjuna[6. One of the Pandavas, hero, friend of Sri Krishna] on the fields of battle in Kurukshetra.[2. Scene of battle in Mahabharatha] Dire circumstances, a feeble will and a confused buddhi[3. Buddhi is the intellect, used in the modern sense. Check here for subtle distinctions according to Indian psychology] fogs every idea and ideal, and tinges our actions with uncertainty. It is to this human soul caught in the web of existence that Sri Krishna[4. Incarnate Divine, manifest on earth to uphold Dharma] addresses this message, this “infallible promise”, that He would lead the aspiring soul to Himself “through and beyond all sorrow and evil”.

Bande Mataram – Mother, To Thee I bow

I have thought long and hard about articulating what Kali’s Brood is/will be about. This translation of Bande Mataram/Vande Mataram, translated by Sri Aurobindo, captures everything I could not articulate.

Mother, I bow to thee!

Rich with thy hurrying streams,

Bright with thy orchard gleams,

Cool with thy winds of delight,

Dark fields waving, Mother of might,

Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams

Over thy branches and lordly streams,

Clad in thy blossoming trees,

Mother, giver of ease,

Laughing low and sweet!

Mother, I kiss thy feet,

Speaker sweet and low!

Mother, to thee I bow.

Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands,

When the swords flash out in twice seventy million hands

And seventy millions voices roar

Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?

With many strengths who art mighty and stored,

To thee I call, Mother and Lord!

Thou who savest, arise and save!

To her I cry who ever her foemen drave

Back from plain and sea

And shook herself free.

Thou art wisdom, thou art law,

Thou our heart, our soul, our breath,

Thou the love divine, the awe

In our hearts that conquers death.

Thine the strength that nerves the arm,

Thine the beauty, thine the charm.

Every image made divine

In our temples is but thine.

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,

With her hands that strike and her swords of sheen,

Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,

Pure and perfect without peer,

Mother, lend thine ear.

Rich with thy hurrying streams,

Bright with thy orchard gleams,

Dark of hue, O candid-fair

In thy soul, with jewelled hair

And thy glorious smile divine,

Loveliest of all earthly lands,

Showering wealth from well-stored hands!

Mother, mother mine!

Mother sweet, I bow to thee,

Mother great and free.

And watch this for a rendition of the actual Bande Mataram poem and the photographs.