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.

A Story by Sri Ramakrishna On Aspiration

In response to a query from a devotee, Sri Ramakrishna tells a story on how we should aspire to the Divine. This is my retelling of that story, in response to question on why I had said that the Sadhana we perform is paltry.

There was once a widow with a young son. With no earning member the family, they had to subsist on the generosity of villagers.

The boy was soon of school going age. There was an operational hassle, the school had to be reached by going through a forest. Those who could afford had their bullock carts or other helpers to ferry the kids to school and back. Our little boy had none of these, so naturally he was scared and reluctant.

The mother then does what every soul with no recourse amongst the living does, she kneels and holds him close to her and says, “Do not fear my dearest, you have a brother, Krishna is his name. Call him when you are afraid”.

For the mother, her child is all that makes life worth living. The love she bestows upon him sustains her. She fears as every mother that something would befall him. But what else could she do? She who would gladly give her life to let her child grow, gives him up at the feet of Sri Krishna.

The boy takes his mother’s word to heart and starts his trek to school. The unfamiliar always evokes fear. A barefoot, barely clothed 6-7 year old is no different. It is soon dark in the dense jungle and the path barely visible. The first tendrils of fear clutch him. Every play of shadow and rustling of trees are promises of horrors that would soon fall on him.

The Fates slay heroes, a child is no match and he is soon broken.

Crying and knowing his mother would not hear even if he called, he remembers what she told about a brother. He does not know this brother, never seen him and sees none around. But the fear soon overwhelms and he cries out, “Krishnaaa, Krishnaaa”.

No answer.

Was his mother wrong, does he really have a brother? But he knew his mother never lied.

So he cries out again, fear choking him, cowering amidst the forest clearing, “Krishnaaa..O Krishnaaa”.

And suddenly, from behind a tree comes out a stranger, a young lad of 9 or 10 years, clothed like a shepherd, a peacock feather stuck in his head. Smiling, he walks to the boy and says, “You called”.

Sri Krishna in Forest

I have found a lot of times that is all there is. That cry, that single cry of the entire being. And the answering grace from the friend of man and the goal of our journeys. The prayers we offer, the sadhana we perform is paltry. We cover ourselves in rituals, mantras and prayers, all of which are ineffective without that cry. Sri Krishna can indeed walk in front wherever you are reading this. What is needed is the cry, everything else is pittance.

Every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace

Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse’s book of the same name, arrives at Jetavana hoping to catch a glimpse of the Budhha, the Enlightened One. Not having seen him before, Siddhartha waits, almost wondering how to identify the Awakened One from the river of ochre colored robes that seemed to flow through the Jetavana grove. And then it happens, read how Hesse describes this sequence.

Siddhartha saw him, and he instantly recognised him, as if a god had pointed him out to him. He saw him, a simple man in a yellow robe, bearing the alms-dish in his hand, walking silently.

“Look here!” Siddhartha said quietly to Govinda. “This one is the Buddha.”

Attentively, Govinda looked at the monk in the yellow robe, who seemed to be in no way different from the hundreds of other monks. And soon, Govinda also realized: This is the one. And they followed him and observed him.

The Buddha went on his way, modestly and deep in his thoughts, his calm face was neither happy nor sad, it seemed to smile quietly and inwardly. With a hidden smile, quiet, calm, somewhat resembling a healthy child, the Buddha walked, wore the robe and placed his feet just as all of his monks did, according to a precise rule. But his face and his walk, his quietly lowered glance, his quietly dangling hand and even every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace, expressed perfection, did not search, did not imitate, breathed softly in an unwhithering calm, in an unwhithering light, an untouchable peace. – Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

The sentence “..every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace..” has stayed with me ever since I read it almost a decade back. A peace that fills the entire being is perhaps alien to most in practice. But that is the payoff for a soul that has consented to take the difficult journey to the Divine.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna in Samadhi

That phrase and idea also reminds me of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s picture above. Check the posture when he entered into a state of Samadhi. Notice the inward drawn countenance and specifically those fingers, all indicating complete absorption in the immanent Divine.

This peace and union with the Divine is attainable through systematic practice of Yoga or any spiritual practise. This possibility is open to everyone regardless of their station of birth, race, caste and other human taxonomies society thinks of to classify itself. The old world notions of a specific caste or race or tribe having exclusive access to the Divine, or the condition that one has to follow a specific Messenger or Prophet, sometimes under the not so gentle nudge of sword or money, is a perversion of all that can be considered Divine.

Any universal principle or power would not stoop down to laying criteria for embracing humanity and all of life. Anything that insists on human criteria can safely be assumed to be less than Divine or a Divine impulse misused for lesser purposes by men. What matters is adherence to Dharma, inner Yoga and renunciation of all human hypocrisy.