Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brilliant in Defense

Lord Krishna “The Shrimad-Bhagavatam states that the Sudarshana chakra penetrated the darkness just as an arrow released from the Sharnga bow of Lord Ramachandra penetrated the army of Ravana. Su means very nice, and darshana means observation; by the grace of Lord Krishna's disc, Sudarshana, everything can be seen very nicely, and nothing can remain in darkness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)

Every personal aspect of the Lord is brilliant, even His weapons. Whether playing as a child in the courtyard of Maharaja Dasharatha or acting as a spiritual master and ever well-wishing friend to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Bhagavan, the original form of Godhead who possesses every beneficial attribute imaginable to the fullest degree and at the same time, is ever brilliant. Where there is Krishna, there cannot be darkness. Even if light is absent, Krishna, through His personal body or one of His direct paraphernalia, can illuminate any area. Even His weapon of choice, the powerful disc known as the sudarshana-chakra, which is not typically equated with kindness, peace, wisdom and illumination, is beautiful in every respect.

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)

Krishna and ArjunaIs there a difference between those objects directly relating to the Lord and things which are considered to have an indirect relation to Him? Due to Krishna’s passive presence within the realm, the material world is considered a place dominated by darkness, or ignorance. The direct presence of an entity brings about personal interaction and contact. If the boss decides to walk through the factory or office doors on a given day, his influence at that moment is considered personal. Yet on another day, when the vital functions of the business operate through the labor of the chief’s deputies, the management and worker staff, the influence of the proprietor is still present, but in an impersonal way. Though the workers may be thinking of the boss, the direct perception of the ruling individual is still absent. When there is contemplation of a specific object or entity within the mind, the resulting method of worship, or concentration of thought, is deemed to be focused on an unmanifested form, or one that is impersonal. This isn’t to say that the object of interest itself is impersonal. For example, if we visualize enjoying ice cream in the near future, the true manifested form of the object still remains far away. Mind, intelligence and false ego are subtle material elements after all, so their presence can’t be directly perceived; we must go off outward symptoms to recognize their influence and activity. At the same time, ice cream itself has a form, so even if we are thinking about it, and thus creating an unmanifested form of the dessert within the mind, the object of interest still retains its tangible properties.

The Supreme Lord, whose original body is described as eternal, transcendental and full of bliss, or sach-chid-ananda, forever retains a form, even in a realm where His influence isn’t directly perceived. The material world is considered a place of darkness because only the unmanifested, or impersonal, aspect of the Lord is visible to the conditioned eye. Yet Bhagavan Himself is never unmanifested. Indeed, Krishna, in any of His forms, while performing any activity, forever remains brilliant. In the material world, the conditioned living entities, those pure souls placed in enclosures consisting of various material elements, are unable to accurately decipher either the unmanifested or manifested forms of the Lord. Yet due to His causeless mercy, Bhagavan is still kind enough to accompany the purified soul in its descent to the world of darkness by voluntarily residing within the heart of the resulting life form. God actually lives inside of us, but we are unable to perceive His influence and conceptualize His actual form.

Lord KrishnaGod is God after all, so His position is always fixed. He is today, was in the past, and will continue to remain in the future the central object of worship for all forms of life, even if they don’t realize it. Within the inherent makeup of individual spirit is a fervent desire to love Supreme Spirit. The activities that result from this natural inclination form an occupational duty, or dharma. Dharma can be considered sublime service, the only system of right and wrong worth adhering to due to the superior results that come about. When in a purified condition, the soul realizes its natural dharma and thus the resulting activities adopted are considered constitutional. If a particular object or entity abides by their nature, they are deemed to be efficient and successful. For example, if a star basketball player, one whose bodily attributes and skills are naturally suited towards playing basketball, takes to playing baseball or some other sport they are not naturally inclined towards, there will be great difficulty. The desire to stray in such a way stems from an ignorant mindset, one where knowledge of the natural qualities is forgotten. When intelligence returns, the individual again takes to their constitutional makeup formed off of their natural abilities.

Transcendental to all variations in body types, every form of life is meant to be engaged in the service of Supreme Spirit. Yet, in the conditioned state, out of ignorance the natural propensity to serve God is misdirected towards worldly objects. After ignorance is destroyed, the original position is again assumed. While the infinitesimally small spiritual sparks toggle between conditioned and constitutional consciousnesses, Bhagavan’s position remains unchanged throughout, as He is always worthy of the highest affection. The service offered to the Serviceable is most sublime when performed voluntarily; otherwise the resulting emotions will not be pure. If we are forced to perform an activity against our desires, especially when the engagement involves loving service, there will be little to no enjoyment derived. On the other hand, if we are burning with a passion to serve the object of our interest, even an activity which is normally deemed uninteresting and dull becomes highly coveted.

Lord KrishnaThe key to convincing ourselves of the worthiness of adopting constitutional activities is to become aware of the Supreme Lord’s blissful nature and fixed position. In His impersonal form, the one not directly perceptible to the impure angle of vision, Bhagavan is difficult to understand and thus even more difficult to love. Due to His causeless mercy, the original form of Godhead, the most loveable object in all the universes, personally descends to earth in a visible dress, one capable of evoking loving emotions and service. A foolhardy person may be tempted to think that Bhagavan first assumes a material dress similar to those on loan to the conditioned living entities and then descends to the earth. Since God, whose original form is known as Krishna, never changes His position, He is not capable of succumbing to or associating with material elements. Rather, He is always blissful, knowledgeable and eternal within any form that He displays. The Supersoul, the expansion of Krishna residing within the heart, is not different from the incarnation, the manifested aspect appearing in the material world. There is only a difference in the angle of vision applied by the observer; hence the use of the Vedic terms nirguna and saguna. Nirguna worship is the service offered to the Lord within the mind or to the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth. It is described as such because the form of the Lord within the heart is not perceptible; it doesn’t have visible attributes. Saguna worship is the service offered to the deity representation, the incarnation, or even the original form of Godhead. These forms are described as “with attributes” because they appear in a qualified form to the individuals offering the service.

Shri Krishna came to earth as Lord Ramachandra during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Not only is Lord Rama loved and adored for His peaceful nature and dedication to chivalry, but also for His defense of the innocent and the pious. Good and bad, peace and violence, happiness and sadness, etc. are created by the Supreme Lord. When lacking God consciousness, these polar opposites bring temporary feelings of joy and dejection, but since Krishna is transcendental, any activity He engages in is considered all-good, including His violent behavior. Shri Rama, as the most capable bow warrior the world has ever seen, brought the hurt to the greatest miscreant of all-time, the ten-headed Rakshasa king of Lanka, Ravana.

Lord RamaRama’s bow known as Sharnga has a splendor that is unmatched. An arrow released from this celestial bow not only destroys the hopes and dreams of the enemies of the Lord, those who desire to remove His influence from the world, but it also illuminates the surrounding areas. The Rakshasas of the Treta Yuga lived in darkness, or ignorance. They spent all their time drinking wine, eating meat, enjoying illicit sex and terrorizing the innocent. Shri Rama, as the beacon of light, brought relief from the unwanted influence of the demons by using His transcendental arrows. Not only is Rama’s body beautiful and illustrious, but so are His instructions. His sublime teachings are found in the Ramayana and other important Vedic texts. Knowledge emanating from Krishna destroys the ignorance that envelops the mind, and the arrows shot from the Lord’s bow removes the darkness pervading the outside world. The arrows that penetrated Ravana’s Rakshasa army illuminated the sky and dispelled all the illusions created by the ogres. Thus Ramachandra’s side, the force for good, was easily able to obtain victory in their fight against evil.

Some five thousand years ago, Shri Krishna, in His original form, descended to earth to similarly enact pastimes, provide transcendental instructions and destroy miscreants. On one occasion, Krishna’s dear cousin and friend, Arjuna, was caught in a troublesome situation. Arjuna had promised a brahmana that none of his future sons, as had previously unfortunately happened, would die prematurely. Sure enough, the brahmana’s next child was taken away from the visible world without anyone, including Arjuna, offering protection. Feeling as though he had violated his vow, Arjuna was ready to commit suicide, but Krishna stepped in to save him. Mounting the divine chariot, Krishna and Arjuna travelled to the spiritual world via the aerial path. But prior to entering the eternal land, they had to first penetrate the dark covering located at the outskirts of the material world. When the Lord’s chariot reached this outer shell, which is similar to an atmospheric covering, the horses stopped due to the darkness. They couldn’t see anything in the distance, so they didn’t know where to go. Faced with this impediment, Krishna, taking His weapon of choice, the sudarshana-chakra, placed it in front of the chariot to provide tremendous light. Thus the chariot’s chartered course was able to continue, eventually making its way towards the realm of Lord Vishnu, God’s four-armed expansion. Vishnu had taken the brahmana’s children to facilitate a meeting with Krishna and Arjuna. With Vishnu’s purpose fulfilled, everything would end well, as Krishna and Arjuna would safely return to Dvaraka with the brahmana’s children.

Krishna holding sudarshana chakraThe sudarshana-chakra, the disc with the most auspicious appearance, is not only used to illuminate darkness, but also to kill enemies. Indeed, the functions are the same in either case. The miscreants, or the nefarious non-devotees of the world, serve to further intensify the influences of the dark covering that pervades nature. The miscreant is actually a devotee at heart, so they are meant to serve the Lord through and through. Due to their contracting an extreme case of the skin-disease brought on by material contact, the demons take to criticizing Krishna, sometimes calling Him an ordinary human being, sometimes saying He doesn’t have a form, and other times saying that He is not even a divine figure. For the most special demons, those who are so grossly ignorant that they ignite the fire of wrath in the Supreme Lord, Krishna comes to personally kill them. Though an act of violence, the punishing forces of the sudarshana-chakra and other divine weapons actually only bring benefits. When there is violence, there is typically sadness felt by the side being punished. Yet in the case of the sudarshana-chakra, the enemies are granted liberation, an end to the cycle of birth and death. Their souls take a spot in the blissful effulgence that separates the material and spiritual worlds. Though there is no retention of identity in this beam of spiritual light, the condition is still considered superior to a life of association with matter.

Lord Rama with His bow When the miscreants are eliminated, the innocent gain relief from attack; thus revealing another way that the sudarshana-chakra brings favorable results. The sublime workings of the divine weapons belonging to Krishna are also recorded in written and verbal form to be passed down to future generations. We only know of the Sharnga bow and sudarshana-chakra because of the authorized information passed down to us by Valmiki Muni, Vyasadeva, and countless other generations of fixed transcendentalists, great devotees who took the forms of poets, parents, teachers, gurus and acharyas. In this sense, the sudarshana-chakra and other weapons serve to bring light to the pages of books which contain descriptions of their functions and activities. May we always keep the vision of the most auspicious disc and its controller, the ever-blissful Shri Krishna, who is also known as Shyamasundara, at the forefront of our consciousness. Such a fixed vision will always keep our minds illuminated and immune from the effects of nescience. Remaining in a perpetual and blissful state of complete knowledge, we can remain fixed in the path of devotional service, the only engagement worthy of our dedication.