Párthasárathi Krśńa and Pariprashna (Discourse 24)
22 March 1981, Calcutta
Pariprashna. Pari is a Sanskrit prefix. It means “well”, or “in a nice way”. Hence pariprashna means those questions which when answered can lead to the all-round welfare of human beings. And one should bear in mind that the first and foremost factor for all-round welfare is spiritual elevation. If a person is spiritually elevated, not only does that individual benefit, but the whole society derives benefit from that spiritually-evolved person.
If we want to analyse Párthasárathi from the viewpoint of pariprashna, then two main questions arise. The first is, “Is Párthasárathi Bhagaván [God]?” And the second is, “If He is Bhagaván, then what is His actual status?”
Is Párthasárathi Bhagaván?
Let us analyse the scriptural interpretation of the term bhagaván. The word bhaga plus the Sanskrit suffix matup becomes bhagavata, and bhagaván when declined in the first case, singular number. From the spiritual point of view, the word bhaga has two meanings – the first “spiritual effulgence” and the second, a combination of six qualities.
The bha of bhagaván signifies bheti bhásayate lokán – “one who illumines all the lokas by one’s own aura” – by the excellence of infinite vitality, wisdom and greatness. Bha represents all these superhuman qualities. Bha is an acoustic root having immense attribution. Human beings owe their radiance to Him alone. The earth receives its light from the sun, the sun receives its light from the stars, and the stars receive their light from Parama Puruśa alone. Tasya bhásá sarvamidaḿ vibháti – “Everyone is radiant with His light.” Where does human intellect originate from? It emanates from Him. People learn by reading books or by hearing and understanding discourses. These faculties of hearing, reading and understanding are not human creations. They are the gentle rise and fall of the waves flowing in the vast body of Parama Puruśa. Jiivas have nothing of their own. Everything they receive is from Him alone. They get food from Him and they get air from Him. Everything is a gift from Him. Thus bha is an adequate description of His immense attribution.
Next is ga. Ityágacchatyajasraḿ gacchati yasmin imá prajá ágacchati yasmát – “the Entity to whom all microcosms return”. Gacchati means “goes”, yasmin means “to whom” and ágacchati yasmát means “from whom all jiivas originate”. Countless are the creations which issue forth from Him and return back to Him. So bha and ga together make the word bhaga.
Bhaga has another interpretation. It means a combination of six superhuman qualities. They are:
Aeshvaryaiṋca samagraiṋca viiryaiṋca yashasah shriyah;
Jiṋána vaerágyayoshca tu śańńáḿ bhaga iti smrtam.
[Bhága is a collection of six attributes: aeshvarya, viirya, yasha, shrii, jiṋána and vaerágya.]
Aeshvarya: While discussing the topic of Párthasárathi in the light of bhaktitattva the other day, I said that all eight aeshvaryas were found combined in Párthasárathi – ánimá, mahimá, laghimá, prápti, iishitva, vashitva, prakámya and antaryámitva. One possessing all eight occult powers is known as Iishvara. The Latin equivalent of aeshvarya is “occult power”. “Occult” means “that which comes as a result of cult”.
Viirya: Viirya means “valour”. One whose very presence strikes fear into the hearts of his or her enemies, who is a competent administrator, who can successfully command others to action and who can assume an awesome countenance at will [has viirya].
Yasha: Yasha means “fame”. When people loudly and wildly acclaim a person for his or her sterling qualities, this acclaim is known as yasha. And how do we explain yashasah, meaning “all kinds of name and fame”? It is because when Parama Puruśa brings about social welfare by speaking truthfully and unambiguously and performing many good deeds, good people, common people, derive the benefit and speak highly of His deeds. They are full of praise for Him. They love Him and they revere Him.
Tomari geche pálcha snehe Tumi-i dhanya dhanya he,
Ámári prán Tomári dán, Tumi-i dhanya dhanya he.
[You are taking affectionate care of people in Your sweet home; You are really blessed; victory unto You. My very life is Your gift, You are really blessed, victory unto You.]
Then there is another category of people whose vested interests are adversely affected by His words and deeds. When their hard-wrought empire falls to pieces at His touch, they become filled with rage at Him. They go to any length to slander and malign Him. One section of the people – those who have suffered under the thumb of these vested interests – sing His praises, while His adversaries spit venom at Him.
Much time has passed since Krśńa left the earth, but still today thousands of people praise Him, and at the same time many people continue to slander Him. I will not call them wicked; let the people pronounce judgement. Thus yashasah implies both yasha [fame] and apayasha [infamy]. Positive and negative go hand in hand. Interestingly, a clear polarization emerges in the minds of people. Two unmistakable lines are drawn; two opposing camps are formed – the Kaoravas and the Pandavas. This is yasha.
Shrii: Sha is the acoustic root of rajoguńa [the mutative principle] and the ra of energy. When people plunge headlong into the field of action with all the rajas [mutative force] at their disposal, and backed by this stored-up energy take to karma yoga, that is, when they take up the challenge with all the inherent force and vigour of their personality, we say that sha and ra are well-blended in them. So sha + ra = shra. The word is in the feminine gender, so it becomes shrii when suffixed by uniiś. Shrii means the power of attraction – a unique combination of mutative lustre and inner vitality. All human beings covet this rare quality, shrii, so even those who are devoid of shrii like to prefix their names with shrii. This is a very old custom in India. One may not have shrii, but one wants it, so that person adds it to his name.
Jiṋánam: Here jiṋánam means spiritual knowledge. Suppose there are four sub-divisions in the Hooghly District [in West Bengal, India]. This is knowledge. It is not altogether useless. Such knowledge is called aparájiṋána [worldly or ordinary knowledge]. It may be of some help in the physical sphere, but in the higher psychic planes it becomes useless. In the psycho-spiritual sphere, as well as the spiritual sphere, it is useless. This is aparájiṋána. It comes from its terrestrial source and is thrown back once again. It is like banana skins which someone picks up from the road and throws in the dustbin. But jiṋána as a bhaga does not imply aparájiṋána at all, for aparájiṋána cannot elevate human beings to higher spheres. Here jiṋána means parájiṋána [self-knowledge], because parájiṋána, when associated with social service, can associate with aparájiṋána, but aparájiṋána cannot under any circumstances associate with parajiṋána if it wants to maintain its separate identity. Aparájiṋána as mere aparájiṋána remains confined to the mundane sphere, whereas parájiṋána elevates human beings to the spiritual sphere and at the same time serves as an invaluable aid to aparájiṋána. Here jiṋána means átmajiṋána, that is, spiritual jiṋána, which is actually parájiṋána. One who has acquired parájiṋána will automatically develop aparájiṋána. He or she need not take the trouble to read voluminous books.
Átmajiṋánaḿ vidurjiṋánaḿ jiṋánányanyáni yánitu;
Táni jiṋánávabhásáni sárasyanaeva bodhanát.
“Self-knowledge is true knowledge, while all other branches of knowledge are mere reflections of knowledge. They are the umbra and the penumbra of knowledge.” Táni jiṋánávabhásáni – “This is not knowledge but the reflection of knowledge.” Sárasyanaeva bodhanát – “One will never arrive at the truth through it.”
Átmajiṋánamidaḿ Devii paraḿ mokśaekasádhanam;
Sukrtaermánavo bhútvá jiṋániicenmokśamápnuyát.
[Self-knowledge, Párvatii, is the greatest means to attain salvation. People are born as human beings due to their past good saḿskáras, but to attain non-qualified liberation they will have to attain self-knowledge.]
Párvatii asked Shiva, “When do people attain salvation?” Shiva replied, “People attain salvation the moment they acquire self-knowledge. When people succeed in attaining self-knowledge after intense sádhaná, intense tapasyá [penance], for many lives, through tremendous conflict and clash, they attain their mokśa [salvation].”
Vaerágya: The word vaerágya [renunciation] is derived from the prefix vi, the root verb rainj and the suffix ghaiṋ. Last Phálguńii Púrńimá [full moon of February-March] I told you(1) that every physical object, every thought-wave, has its own colour, and the underlying significance of Dola Yátrá, or Dola Liilá [Spring Festival], lies in surrendering that mental colour to Parama Puruśa. So here the verb rainj implies freeing the mind from all colours. All longings and aspirations, thoughts of the present and dreams of the future, and all sorts of colourful thoughts flow from the mind like water from a spring. That is why Buddha said:
Yassa pure ca paccha ca majjhe ca natthi kincanaḿ;
Akincanaḿ anádánaḿ tamahaḿ vrúmi Bráhmańaḿ.
[A person who has nothing before him, behind him, or in the middle, who neither gives anything nor takes anything, I call a Brahman.]
I will call that person a Brahman whose mind does not run after any colour, who is neither obsessed by colour-laden thoughts of the past nor influenced by such thoughts of the present. One who remains unassailed by the colour of any object is said to be established in vaerágya. To attain this vaerágya one need not flee to the Himalayas or smear the body with holy ashes. One must free the mind from the influence of all colours.
At the time of Mahaprabhu, there was one very rich zamindar in Bengal. He was held in high esteem by the people as a wealthy man. Mahaprabhu sent one man to see just how far this gentleman was established in vaerágya. Upon returning, the emissary reported to Mahaprabhu: “Well, I went and saw that that man was enjoying life, eating sumptuous food.” In his view, this gentleman was far from being established in vaerágya. Then Mahaprabhu sent another man to verify this. The second man reported to Mahaprabhu that the person had acquired deep self-knowledge and the spirit of true renunciation. Then Mahaprabhu said, “Tell him to come, for he has come all the way from Chittagong to see me.” He was a great devotee even though he enjoyed his physical wealth. Devotion is something internal.
Antare niśt́há kara, báhya lokavyavahára;
Avashyai Prabhu tomáy kariben uddhár.
[Have reverential attachment in your heart, and externally deal with things as you come across them. The Lord will surely uplift you.]
So these are the qualities. The collective name of these six qualities is bhaga, and one who has fully imbibed these six qualities is bhagaván.
Any great person can be called bhagaván in this sense, but my Párthasárathi is not such a one. What is He? Krśńastu Bhagaván svayam – that is, “He is God incarnate.” He is Púrńa Brahma, Púrńa Bhagaván. We can illustrate this point with a story from the Mahabhárata.
You know what happened at the time of Jayadratha’s death. Arjuna, as per his vow, was supposed to go to the funeral pyre immediately after sunset in order to keep his promise.(2) Suddenly people observed that the sun was no longer in the sky and that it had become dark all around. Everyone thought that the sun had already set. Those who were devotees, not philosophers, commented that Lord Krśńa had covered the sun with His Sudarshana Cakra [His special discus]. Now you can imagine that it is impossible to cover the sun with a discus. Is it possible to cover the sun with a dinner plate? When you observe a dinner plate close up, it seems to be about this large. But if you could see the sun close up, how big it would appear! If the dinner plate were placed near the sun, it would be a mere speck. No, the discus could never cover the sun! Though the devotees claim that it did, I take this as a mere story. But then the question arises how the sun was in fact covered. The answer is that Lord Krśńa willed it so. He had mastery over prakámya siddhi, one of the eight occult powers. He willed the sun to be covered by clouds, and so it happened. The sun was covered by clouds, and people thought that the sun had gone down. Soon Arjuna was able to keep his promise and kill Jayadratha. To perform such a miraculous feat by going against the natural order cannot be accomplished by even a first-grade bhagaván, not to speak of a second- or third-grade one. Only Parama Puruśa can do this. This is only one story. Dozens of similar stories can be found in the Mahábhárata.
What is Krśńa’s Status?
Next comes the question, what is the status of Lord Krśńa? Krśńastu Bhagaván svayaḿ. What does it really signify? Together with this [preceding it] Maharshi Garga has also said, Tulá vá upamá Krśńasya násti [“Krśńa has no parallel or equal”]. While adoring a baby we say, “How lovely is this child! It’s as lovely as the moon.” But Krśńa’s beauty far exceeds that of the moon. Again we say, “How lustrous is the baby! There is nothing as beautiful as this little baby.” Or we may say, “How intelligent this man is! He is like Veda Vyasa [the sage who compiled the Vedas].” By comparison, Krśńa was by far the most intelligent personality in existence. He had no parallel in intellect or wisdom. Thus if we analyse each and every limb of His body we find Him incomparable, unparalleled.
He promised that He would free sinners from sins, so the future of humanity is unmistakably bright. No one should worry about the past. It is useless to waste mental energy on sin and its atonement. If people constantly think of their Iśt́a with undivided attention and repeat their Iśt́a mantra with conceptual understanding, their future is certainly glorious. They will never have any cause to lament or cry in sorrow. Only Parama Puruśa can state this so emphatically. Krśńa’s assertion shows that He is not a god, but God Himself. That is, He is the highest expression of spirituality.
It has been mentioned in the scriptures that Púrńa Brahma exists on the highest plane, and that through the partial manifestation of His power, khańd́ávatára or aḿshávatára or kalávatára is born. This khańd́ávatára or aḿshávatára or kalávatára can be the controller of this universe. They may also be bhagaván if they possess the six qualities, but they are not the Supreme Entity. Tulá vá upamá Krśńasya násti. Any mahápuruśa who possesses the six qualities can be called bhagaván. If we call Párthasárathi bhagaván, it will bring Him down to the level of a mahápuruśa. This cannot be for we cannot compare any other entity with Krśńa. He is beyond comparison. Krśńa said in the Giitá, as well as elsewhere, that all must follow the path shown by Him. Mama vartmánu varttante manuśyáh Pártha sarvashah – “If people resort to the path that I show they are sure to attain salvation in the end.” And again, Sarvadharmán parityajya Mámekaḿ sharańaḿ vraja – “Casting aside all other mental preoccupations accept the One alone as your last refuge. This will lead to your emancipation. I will liberate you.”
He assures us once again:
Paritráńáya sádhúnáḿ vinásháya ca duśkrtám;
Dharmasaḿsthápanártháya sambhavámi yuge yuge.
“I incarnate Myself in this world from age to age for the annihilation of the wicked and the protection of the virtuous.”
He calls upon people to follow in His footsteps. He gives a clear assurance:
Api cet sudurácáro bhajate mámananyabhák;
So’pi pápavinirmuktah mucyate bhavabandhanát.
[If even the most wicked persons worship Me with a concentrated mind, I will liberate them from worldly bondages.]
Various scriptures have laid down different injunctions for the atonement of different sins. Some say that for such-and-such sin you must atone in such-and-such way. Others say you must go to hell for this or that sin. These interpretations vary from scripture to scripture. About these Krśńa says, “I have only one word to say. If you walk down a road you are bound to get dirty. Those who have abandoned all their previous sins and come to Me, accepting Me as their final refuge, I will free from the bondage of sin. Their future is certainly glorious. No one need worry about their past. It is senseless to worry about atonement for past misdeeds. If one is able to think of his or her Iśt́a to the exclusion of everything else and repeat his or her Iśt́a mantra with proper understanding of its meaning, his or her future is bright. He or she will have no cause to weep.” Only Parama Puruśa can assure jiivas so unequivocally. This goes to show beyond any shadow of a doubt that He is not bhagaván in the philosophical sense, but the veritable manifestation of divinity. He cannot be compared to either khańdávatára, aḿshávatára or kalávatára. They may be bhagaván due to their possession of the six qualities, but none among them is the Supreme Entity. “I will forgive your sins. I will free you from all sins, I will take away your sins.” No one but Krśńa, the Supreme Entity, has the right to say this. No one has ever said this in the past, nor will anyone say it in the future. If anyone claims this, it would be only the highest audacity on his or her part. But my Párthasárathi has proclaimed it loudly and openly: Ahaḿ tváḿ sarvapápebhyo mokśayiśyámi máshucah – “I will liberate you from all sins. You have no cause to worry.”
Is this not the final answer to the two pariprashnas? After all this can anyone claim that Krśńa has any parallel? No, no one can claim this. All will have to fold their hands and say unto Him,
Tulá vá upamá Krśńasya násti;
Krśńastu Bhagaván svayam.
[Krśńa has no parallel or equal. Krśńa is Parama Puruśa Himself.]
(1) “On the Colour Festival” in A Few Problems Solved Part 5, 1981. –Eds.
(2) Arjuna had taken a vow to kill Jayadratha before sundown. Jayadratha had successfully hidden from Arjuna all day, but when it became dark, Jayadratha came out into the open. –Eds.
22 March 1981, Calcutta