“Your mind has been perturbed upon seeing this horrible feature of Mine. Now let it be finished. My devotee, be free from all disturbance. With a peaceful mind you can now see the form you desire.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.49)Download this episode (right click and save)
There is a saying that when Krishna wants to kill someone, nothing can be done to protect that person. And when Krishna wants to protect someone, nothing can be done to harm that person. Aside from representing the truth, the saying is there as a way to urge a person to seek the Divine shelter. The material world can provide only so much protection, even when you get the favor of its superintendent.
Durga Devi holds a trident in her hand, symbolizing the three sources of misery. If you get her favor, then the miseries coming from the heavens, other living entities, and within lessen to an extent. Still, there is danger at every step. With the Supreme Lord, who is the all-powerful, there is protection for His devotees. A great example is with Arjuna, the famous bow warrior who is one of the main characters of the Mahabharata. His hesitation prior to a great war sets the stage for the Bhagavad-gita.
1. He acts as Arjuna’s charioteer
Arjuna’s side was known as the Pandavas, and there was a kingdom that was unlawfully taken from them. Laws don’t mean anything unless they are enforced. It can be illegal to go into a store and take things without paying, but unless police are there to prevent the action the theft will continue. Moreover, if there is no prosecution of the criminals after the fact, the same will happen.
The punishment for the Kauravas, the party that had wronged the Pandavas, was set to arrive in a great war. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was on earth in His original form at the time. He didn’t openly take sides nor did He take part in the conflict. Still, the Pandavas were very dear to Him. They were devotees, so they were automatically considered friends.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
Krishna was particularly close to Arjuna, and so for the great war He agreed to be the charioteer. This is a subordinate position, and Krishna’s acceptance of it can be studied and glorified for an entire life. He became known as Partha-sarathi as a result. Though He took direction from Arjuna, Krishna was actually protecting Arjuna through this role. He made sure that He was always there for His friend and cousin, as war is unpredictable.
2. He immediately reveals the immortality of the individual
The setting of the Bhagavad-gita is Arjuna’s reluctance to fight. The warrior is worried about what will happen through victory. Conscious of the cost, he does not want to win. Arjuna knows that dear friends and loved ones will perish on the other side, and he’d rather not be responsible for that.
Krishna, protecting Arjuna, immediately reveals the immortal nature of the individual. The common understanding of immortality is living forever in the present body. But actually that body is already changing. There is no way to get back the body we had as a child, so in that sense our understanding of immortality is invalid.
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
Krishna explains to Arjuna that all the people fighting will continue to live. Actually, there was never a time when they didn’t exist. This is the most comforting news to hear for someone who is concerned with death. The concern doesn’t have to be limited to the personal sphere. Seeing horrible tragedies on the news, one can’t help but wonder what is the purpose to life if everyone just dies. Krishna offers protection from that doubt by revealing the truth, that the individual is spirit soul and that soul is eternal.
3. He is not afraid to change the role from friend to teacher
Up to the point of the Bharata War, Krishna had an enjoyable relationship with Arjuna. They were friends, so Arjuna was in the devotional mellow known as sakhya-rasa. There are two sides to that interaction. There is the enjoyment in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, by the party that is not God. On the other side, the Supreme Lord enjoys as well.
Yet when Arjuna was in trouble, Krishna did not hesitate to change roles. He was asked to remove the doubts, and He obliged. He gave Arjuna great protection in the form of sound words of advice. The wisdom was like a sword to slash away the thick knot of ignorance. Only a true well-wisher would be willing to risk the well-established and safe relationship in order to help their friend.
4. He shows Arjuna the future
Krishna essentially says to Arjuna, “So, you’re worried about these kings? You’re afraid of what might happen as a result of winning? You think that by laying down your weapons you will protect and preserve the lives of these people who aren’t thinking twice about entering conflict with you and taking away the land that belongs to you and your brothers? Well, take a look at this.”
“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)
Krishna shows Arjuna the universal form, the virata-rupa. This is the complete aggregate. Of what? Everything. People, planets, trees, bodies of water - anything you can think of is in that universal form. Only God can put on such an exhibition. In addition to everything manifest, there are the time periods as well. Arjuna got a glimpse into the future. All the kings were already dead. Arjuna’s role was to simply act as an instrument, to get the credit for something that was destined to happen.
5. He returns to the two-handed form
The virata-rupa, while helpful, was a little too much for Arjuna to take. He became fearful looking at it. Krishna protected Arjuna by revealing the future, and immediately after He returned to His two-handed form. This is Arjuna’s ishta-deva, or worshipable form of choice. To have your ishta-deva always with you is a great blessing. It is one that Arjuna has since He is always protected by Krishna, who goes the extra mile to look after those who never stop thinking of Him.
To think of Him never to stop,
So attention to their welfare He’s got.
Like with Arjuna on chariot to stay,
Sound words when mind to stray.
By Him universal form was shown,
Future fate of rival kings to be known.
Arjuna to Supreme Lord so dear,
As Partha-sarathi that love made clear.