The exercise of comparing one philosophy to another is a difficult intellectual task, but there are many precedents for it. This book attempts something perhaps unprecedented – comparing a philosophy to a personality. Here in Namámi Krśńasundaram (“Salutations to Krśńa the Beautiful”), Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti has compared not just one philosophy, but at least ten, to the life and personality of Lord Krśńa.
The author sets out here the two distinct facets of Lord Krśńa’s personality: Vraja Krśńa, the lord of devotion, and Párthasárathi Krśńa, the lord of karma yoga, ceaselessly engaged in the battle against injustice. Taken together, the two aspects of Krśńa’s life symbolize the dharma of all humanity: spiritual realization fused with selfless service and the fight for justice.
Though Krśńa did not during His lifetime attempt to create a formal system of philosophy, the author’s basic premise is that the deepest understanding of Krśńa must implicitly bring with it a correct and sublime philosophy; and that the essence of that philosophy will be advaetadvaetádvaetaváda – non-dualistic dualistic non-dualism.
So the author herein presents, if not a system of philosophy as such, then a system of philosophy as embodied in the personality of Lord Krśńa; and in order to fully elaborate that philosophy, the author has compared Krśńa the historical personality, Krśńa the Sadguru of His age, Krśńa the human being, to most of the important philosophical trends of India. For an outline of these trends, please see the “Indian philosophies” entry in the glossary.
Namámi Krśńasundaram is a collection of twenty-seven Sunday discourses given in Calcutta between August 1980 and April 1981, together with a brief appendix. The discourses were given in Bengali, and all of them were recorded on tape. Translation into English started before the series of discourses was completed, and the Bengali and the English books were both published by Ánanda Púrńimá (the full-moon day of the Bengali month of Vaeshákha), 1981.
Footnotes by the editors have all been signed “–Eds.” Unsigned footnotes are those of the author.
Square brackets [ ] in the text are used to indicate translations by the editors or other editorial insertions. Round brackets ( ) indicate a word or words originally given by the author.
The author used a certain shorthand for explaining the etymologies of words. Under this system, a minus sign (–) follows a prefix, and a plus sign (+) precedes a suffix. Thus ava – tr + ghaiṋ = avatára can be read, “the root tr prefixed by ava and suffixed by ghaiṋ becomes avatára.”
Vraja Krśńa and Párthasárathi Krśńa – 1 (Discourse 1)
Lord Krśńa’s role is divided into two main parts – one is Shrii Krśńa, Vraja Krśńa; and the other is Krśńa the king of Mathura. The natures and jurisdictions of the duties of the two aspects were different, hence the roles also were different. People in general could not become as easily intimate or familiar with the king Krśńa – Párthasárathi Krśńa – as they could be with Krśńa of Vrindavana. Vraja Krśńa was a sweet personality, and that sweetness was mixed with spirituality; whereas Krśńa the king was a tough personality, but that toughness was also mixed with spirituality. In both roles Krśńa set a unique example before the Indian people as well as the entire world, and the necessity to hold that example up before others is not yet over. Although the first part of Krśńa’s life was that of Vraja Krśńa, instead of first discussing Vraja Krśńa, I wish to discuss first Krśńa the king – Párthasárathi Krśńa.
I have already said many things about Krśńa. I gave a series of discourses on the Mahábhárata(1) in Ranchi stretching over a long period. But the main theme there was the Mahábhárata, and not Krśńa. In this series of discourses, however, I propose to focus more upon Krśńa as the central figure. The context of the Mahábhárata will come up only incidentally, because it does not cover the whole life of Krśńa. The Mahábhárata cannot stand if we remove Krśńa from it; while if we wish to remove the Mahábhárata and retain Krśńa, Krśńa will stand a bit diminished, though He will stand.
After the author of the present book had spoken in Ranchi in 1968 on the two topics (the campaign and the epic), those speeches were collected in the book Discourses on the Mahábhárata. –Eds.
Let us come first to the context of Krśńa the king. He came to Mathura after leaving Gokula and Vrindavana.(2) Although valour, intrepidity and all such virtues had been much evident in Krśńa during His early career in Gokula and Vrindavana, the element of sweetness was the most predominant quality in Him. To attract and draw people closer to Him by playing sweet and melodious tunes on His flute, to establish sweet relations of love and affection with all, and, in case of necessity, to take up arms in the interests of His favourite friends and followers – these were the deeds He used to do. Krśńa’s devotees felt that He was their own. They would say, “He is one of us. Of course, He is a great hero, far superior to us in all respects, but still He is ours.” But that same Vraja Krśńa who did so much for His devotees, remaining so close to them in prosperity and adversity, found that that role did not permit Him to render maximum service to the human society that was being unbearably persecuted, humiliated and neglected. Therefore He gave up that role and assumed the role of a king. And that role started with the annihilation of Kansa.(3)
What is the meaning of the term kaḿsa? It means “an entity that endangers the existence of others, that impedes their all-round progress and welfare”. Krśńa, on the other hand, means “an entity who leads others towards fulfilment”. So the Entity who leads others towards perfect attainment, who cannot tolerate destructive ideas or destructive elements, was destined to annihilate Kansa and remove the thorns of sin from the physical, psychic and spiritual planes. This is dharma.
Those forces, those demoniacal forces which are the main obstacles on the path of social progress, must be removed. Mercy or compassion may intervene, requesting, “No, don’t do that,” but the circumstances compel it; and for this, an element of toughness is indispensable. This was not possible in the sweet and loving atmosphere of Vraja; the environment of Kurukśetra was the proper place for that purpose.(4)
Regarding the main role of Krśńa, I have already mentioned that although the Mahábhárata does not cover all aspects of Krśńa’s life and personality, it is nevertheless a fact that Krśńa’s main role [i.e., that which the Mahábhárata does cover] was that of Párthasárathi.
First I shall analyse the origin of the word “Pártha”. “Pártha” is derived from “Prthá” or “Prthu”. Prthá is the name of a particular kingdom, a kingdom where the princess Kunti lived. The word “Pártha” is derived “Prthá” + suffix śńa (imparting the sense of “progeny”, or “offspring”). That is, “Pártha” means a son of Kunti (as does also “Kaonteya”).
In ancient India, before the arrival of the Aryans, the matriarchal system of inheritance as well as the matrilineal order of society was in vogue among the Austric and Dravidian communities. The people of those prehistoric times used to identify themselves in terms of their mother’s lineage, and as such used to take on the name of their mother, grandmother or great-grandmother. If one was asked, “Who are you?” one would have to give one’s mother’s, grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s name. Along with this matrilineal order, the matriarchal system of social inheritance, whereby the daughters would inherit the property from their mothers, was also in vogue. Two thousand years ago, the mother’s name was considered the most important factor in naming a child. For instance, Lord Buddha’s two main disciples were Sáriputta and Mahámaggallan Arhan. “Sáriputta” means “the son of Sári”. His mother’s full name (these people were all from Magadha, incidentally) was Rúpasári; and thus the son’s name became “Sáriputra” in old Sanskrit. In Prákrta, it was changed to “Sáriputta”, just as the Sanskrit word “Rájaputra” became changed to “Rájaputta” in Prákrta (and “Rajput” or “Rout” [common surnames] in modern languages). And in the second case, the mother’s name was Mahámaodgalii in Sanskrit, which became “Mahámaggali” in Pali. Her son was thus known as “Mahámaggallan” Arhan.
Here is another example: Once a merchant promised, as per the direction of Buddha, that he would build the new capital city of Magadha near the confluence of the Ganges and the Sone Rivers. The name of that merchant was Pát́aliputra,(5) because his mother’s name was Pát́ali. This demonstrates that ancient Indian society followed the matrilineal order.
Thus Arjuna(6) was popularly known as Pártha [“the son of Prthá”]; he was also called Kaonteya [“the son of Kunti”].
And what was the role of Krśńa? The role of a sárathi. Now let me explain what sárathi means. Sárathi means one who looks upon a chariot as one’s own child. You may have come across some car drivers who take meticulous care of their motor cars. “Hey, don’t touch the paint job… don’t jump in like that… don’t sit down so hard… my car will be damaged… Hey, no, my car can’t carry six or seven people, it will be damaged…” They go to great lengths to ensure that their cars are not scratched or damaged in any way. In fact, they treat them as if they were their own children. One who similarly looks upon a ratha [chariot] as one’s own child is called a sárathi. Rathena saha saratha [“The one associated with a chariot is a charioteer”]. Saratha + i suffix (imparting the sense of “child”) = sárathi.
The sárathi of the chariot of Pártha (i.e., of Arjuna) was none other than Krśńa Himself [hence “Párthasárathi Krśńa”].
So Krśńa assumed the role of sárathi. The shástras [scriptures] say that the sárathi plays a very significant role in physical fight, in spiritual fight, in all-round fight. It is said in the Yajurveda:
Átmánaḿ rathinaḿ viddhi shariiraḿ rathameva tu;
Buddhintu sárathiḿ viddhi manah pragrahameva ca.
[Know the átman, the soul, as the occupant of the chariot; the human body as the chariot; the buddhi, or intellect, as the charioteer; and the mind as the reins.]
Átmánaḿ rathinaḿ viddhi. There is a chariot. The átmá [self] is likened to the person seated in the chariot. That person is the master.
Shariiraḿ rathameva tu. The physical body is likened to a chariot (and is sometimes also compared to a temple). A chariot has to be kept neat and clean and fit to move. A temple is also to be kept neat and clean, jhakjhake taktake [clean and shiny], because it is the nucleus of all activities. And with a chariot as nucleus, one can move. Hence Shariiram dharmamandiram [“The human body is the temple of God”]. The human body has to be kept neat and clean. Cleanliness is a fundamental principle of every sádhaka [spiritual aspirant].
How should you maintain your body? In Bengali it is said, jhakjhake taktake. In Sanskrit tak means “sparkling white, dazzlingly clean”; hence the word taktake in Bengali.
There is a fruit which, when eaten, removes all diseases from the body. Hr + nini = hari, “that which steals”, and taki means “that which cleans and enhances the glow of the skin”: hence the fruit is called haritaki [myrobalan].
Haritakih manuśyánáḿ máteva hitakárińii;
Kadácit kupyate mátá nodarsthá haritakih.
[Myrobalan is benevolent like a mother. A mother sometimes gets angry, but not myrobalan when it is eaten.]
Both a chariot and a human body have to be kept neat and clean. Buddhintu sárathiḿ viddhi. The buddhi that leads humanity, the pinnacled intellect that brings spiritual aspirants in close contact with Parama Puruśa [Supreme Consciousness], is compared to the sárathi.
Manah pragrahameva ca. While driving a chariot, the charioteer needs a rein (lágám in popular Bengali). The mana [mind] is likened to the rein.
Human existence is a composite of four factors: the unit self, the body, the intellect (which exercises control over your mind) and finally Parama Puruśa – the Supreme Controller of your unit existence. You must advance while developing each of the four – you cannot afford to loosen your hold on or neglect any one of the four. If one deviates a little from the right path, one may earn a lot of wealth, but one will surely invite one’s ruination as the occupant of the chariot-like body. Your chariot-like physical frame will be shattered, your rein-like mind will be loosened and snapped beyond repair, and your sárathi(7) will be virúpa [temporarily angry with you] and vimukha [turn His back on you]. One can bear it if He becomes virúpa, but not if He becomes vimukha.
There is a clear distinction between virúpa [displeased] and vimukha [permanently angry]. Let me illustrate. Suppose someone asks me a question that irritates me and I am displeased with that questioner. I may burst out, “You stupid fool. I won’t answer your silly question.” This is an example of virúpatá. After some time I may cool down, and will of course regain my usual composure. Then supposing the person says, “Bábá, please forgive me, who will help me if you don’t?” I may say, “Tell me what you want.” The previous displeasure is gone.
But vimukhatá is different: “Bábá, let me say just one word to you – just one word, Bábá.” “No, no talk. I won’t listen to you at all,” I may say. It means I have turned my face away.
Similarly, if your Charioteer is ever displeased with you for your mistakes, He will guide you back to the right path (after all, you are only human); but if He is permanently angry it will be highly painful, unbearably painful. You may happen to make your sárathi, Parama Puruśa, displeased due to your inadvertence, but you must never make Him permanently angry with you.
24 August 1980, Kalikata
(1) Mahábhárata literally means “Great India”. Hence Mahábhárata became the name both for the campaign led by Krśńa to unify India, and for the epic composition about that campaign. Both the campaign and the narration of the epic begin at a point when Krśńa is already a king – Párthasárathi.
(2) Mathura was at that time the capital of the kingdom of Shurasena, and Gokula and Vrindavana were villages within the kingdom. Mathura was and still is an important city. The Gokula and Vrindavana of that time fall within what is now the larger town of Vrindavana. All lie in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. –Eds.
(3) The cousin of Krśńa. He imprisoned King Ugrasena (Krśńa’s grandfather), usurped the throne, and, out of fear arising from a prophecy, imprisoned his cousin Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, killing each of their children as they were born. Two of the children, Krśńa and his brother Balarama, escaped destruction. Kansa spent years trying to find and assassinate the young Krśńa. –Eds.
(4) “Vraja” was a term for Gokula and Vrindavana (for further discussion of the term, see p. 47). Kurukśetra was the battlefield of the Mahábhárata war. –Eds.
(5) The city that the merchant built was also named Pataliputra, and is now a well-known part of modern-day Patna, capital of the Indian state of Bihar. –Eds.
(6) Arjuna was the greatest warrior of that era and the closest friend and disciple of Lord Krśńa. During the war of the Mahábhárata, Krśńa agreed to be Arjuna’s charioteer. –Eds.
(7) Buddhintu sárathiḿ viddhi. In the shloka the sárathi represents the buddhi, the discriminating faculty, or pinnacled intellect. But since it is the buddhi that brings spiritual aspirants in close contact with Parama Puruśa, the sárathi ultimately comes to represent Parama Puruśa. –Eds.