Friday, May 02, 2008

Yuga dharma.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Post or two on the Ramayana - Done.
Post or two on the Mahabharatha - Done.
No more Mahakavyas. What next?

Realise a lack of more in terms of what are itihasa kavyas (historic epics) which are elevated to the level of the two mentioned above. Ulysses? No. Better stick to what I know.



Yes! A post digging for scraps from the both!
So, here goes.

Rama (the hero of the Ramayana) is one among the avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu. Krishna (the hero of the Mahabharatha) too is one among the avatars of Vishnu. Both incarnations occurred at different epochs. Ramas incarnation is set in the Treta yuga and Krishnas incarnation is towards the end of the Dwapara yuga. These epochs or yugas are huge periods of time and the intrinsic nature of these yugas give us an insight into the peoples and their psyches, their inner and outer troubles, the environment, their 'state', etc as a collective. And believe me, they are certainly varied times. Rama walked this earth in a human form somewhat (quite somewhat) earlier than Krishna and observing the parallels in the lives of these two individuals, who really are the same person, who lived in different times is a wonderful exercise. Not only does it provide the contextual difference in terms of their respective characters or their respective message to the world at large, it also gives us the influence of the actual yuga dharma or the nature of the flow of things in the different yugas.

As with everything, it is easy to look at the obvious differences than the not so obvious ' oneness'. A look at the differences then-

Rama is renowned for being the eka patni vratan or the one who is married only once and remains loyal to that one wife. Legends associated with Rama glorify this aspect of his character. Krishna on the other hand had more wives than there are days in peoples lives! Some legends hold that Krishna had 16,108 wives (this number has an esoteric significance which is not the intent of this post to hover on) and even if we ignore that view for the time being, he still had more wives than one. Krishna was married to Rukmini, Sathyabhama, Jambhavathi, Kalindi and Mitrabinda (these are all detailed in the many stories of Krishna, his life and exploits!). Even still Krishna is always associated with Radha primarily - who was his lover(oh, the taboo) and not one he married! Legends associated with Krishna glorify this aspect of his as the playboy who stole the hearts of many.

The adharma in the times of Rama is personified as the demon king Ravana who out of his lust and desire for Sita forcibly abducts her from the hermitage in the forest to his kingdom. It is this act of Ravana that served to be the catalyst for Rama to invade and attack Lanka the kingdom of Ravana. In the times of Krishna though things look different. Krishna encouraged (aided and abetted) his friend and devotee Arjuna to come to Dwaraka to seduce and steal his sister Shubadra!! Not only that, Arjuna did this job of seducing the princess Shubadra by living in Dwaraka in the guise of an ochre clad sanyasi.

The warfare in the days of Rama was governed by the rules pertaining to warfare and there was not much of the back hand and adharmic fights fought then. Rama's decision to fight with Ravana was justified and Rama did not use his sly cunning to win the war. The war was won by dharma and truth. In Krishna's time, the stories of the Mahabharatha make it evident; warfare was altogether a different affair. Most of the opponents (great heroes each one) that were defeated or slain by the Pandavas were felled by unfair means. In the slaying of Jayadratha Krishna played an important part in the unfair fight by covering the sun temporarily. Radheya (Karna), Drona, Duryodhana were all killed in unfair fights. One of the chapters of the epic also records this transition from dharma to adharma by makeing a note of the fact that the first ten days of the war (when the Kauravas fought under the leadership of the great Bheeshma) were ones of dharma. Then with the fall of Bheeshma and with the captaincy of Drona things took a turn for the wicked. Since then all the duels and the general war was dominated by adharma and underhand fighting. Krishna at the end of the war comments that the Kaurava greats could never have been defeated in a fair fight, never mind being killed, and that it was the nature of the yuga (the transition from dwapara to kali) that is seen from the sudden departure from the accepted code of warfare and dharma.

Rama spent his whole life trying to play down the fact that he was God - really! He was the personification of humility and the paragon of the virtues of the good Hindu. Always respectful towards his elders, sensitive to the needs of his subjects, aware of his duties as a son, king, husband etc. Even when the great Vasishtha began to preach the liberating wisdom to Rama in the end (yoga vashishta) it is remarkably clear that Rama is portrayed as human. Krishna on the other hand lived out his entire life (complete with all its glorious mischief making) to convey that he was God. Right from torturing his poor mother (Yasodha) by his pranks to stealing the hearts (and possibly more) of the gopikas, from the killing of Kamsa to orchestrating the whole great war, from providing yards and yards of saree material for the honour of Draupadi to revelling in his revelation of the cosmic form, Krishna's life story is a celebration of his being God.

There you go now, some of the parallels observed in the two incarnations at the two different yugas. I am sure there be plenty more we can find on even a first glance. These help to determine the ethic and the morality of the general populace at these different times and also in seeing what the yuga dharma does to influence the progress and the evolution of the world and its peoples. Now, I would like to take leave of you with a few questions.....

In the treta yuga (Rama's period) dharma or righteousness has three legs (out of four) so all is hunky dory to the most part. In the dwapara yuga (the end of which is marked by Krishna's birth and the end of the great war) dharma had but two of its four legs and things are (as we can see) beginning to wobble. In kali yuga (the current period, our period) which began at the end of the great war dharma stands on only one leg. Dharma is officially crippled! This much is yuga dharma. If Krishna incarnated to rid the earth of its demons, if his incarnation was for the destruction of adharma and the upholding of dharma, and if this his purpose was achieved by the total and all out slaughter of (nearly) all of the sixteen akshouhinis of troops and the subsequent destruction of the clan of the vrishinis, then why is the immediate birth of the next yuga (kali) one where dharma stands on only one leg??

Were the good slain in battle? Did dharma actually win when the kings and their armies were butchered? If those wicked souls on the path of adharma were weeded out like it is made out in the epic, why then was dharma left with such a handicap immeadiately after? Does adharma to fight adharma (for the bigger stake of dharma) make sense or is that very fact even an indicator that perhaps the means are more important than the end? Or are the means verily ends themselves? Or finally is yuga dharma akin to the proverbial ragwort (a weed) that simply rises its head above the ground no matter how many times is chopped down to the very ground?

5 comments:

Confused Martian said...

Those questions towards the end are indeed extremely important questions. But I see the messiahs as people (yes, even Krishna) that are consistently trying to remind us of the accepted values and morals of that era. Now, it is common for every generation to believe that they are the ones living in the end of days. According to Hindu calendar, that end is still quite far off. My question is this:

Why are we gripped with the idea of Armageddon? Every religion has a version - Ragnorak, Pralayam... And they have their versions of the final Saviour - Kalki, Maithreya, the Second Coming... Is this merely an offshoot of our interest in good battling it out against the evil? Like a carefully constructed storybook, the events that we predict or anticipate or dread, are events that have happened millions of years ago? Is this a fictitious cycle, then?

mooligai sidhan said...

sri gurubhyo namaha.
@confused martian
Prophets and messiahs are one thing - the thing about Rama & Krishna is that they are incarnations (non different)of the principle called Vishnu. Vishnu as we well know is the energy responsible for the preservation/sustenace of the already manifest creation. And his incarnations (as is clear from the sloka yada yada hi dharmasya)are for the explicit purpose of redressing the balance in terms of good and evil - as in, good and evil have always and are and will be always there.It is when one (i.e.evil)overwhelms the other that the interference of Vishnu is needed in a manifest form.

Now to your question: even though the day of reckoning is quite a way away according to the hindu calender (another 42 more Brahma years to go where one human ayana (six month period)is equal to one half of the day of brahma and the other ayana equal to one night of brahma - one human year is one day and night of Brahma and he has another 42 years left before he attains liberation for this cycle), the fear about the end of time is a constant threat.

I think that this fear and the hope of the promise of the arrival of the liberator is essential to our continued existence here on this world.This is the corrective mechanism which is so needed as 'free will' beyond the reach of good and evil is the fundamental nature of life.

Though you are right in stating that the events we predict and anticipate or dread are events that have happened eons ago, the cycle of events is by no means fictitious.As there is a sun rise and a sun set every single day (and still each one is unique and not repeated)these mega cosmic events too are unique each and every time though oft repeated in a cosmic frame.

The issual of this universe from its potency (srishti krama)and its subsequent absorption into the same potency (samhara krama)is something that keeps happenning - on a personal level, on a global level, universal level and super cosmic level. This cycle is eternal.We (the actors)are eternal.And all this is the attribute of Maya - the supreme shakti who makes us imagine experiences and events which arent there.

As a final word, be sure the day of reckoning will come. Nothing can stop it (though its a long way away yet). And be as certain about the return of the world and all its inmates in the next showing of the play! See you around - certainly!Again and again and again.

shivadasi said...

in light of the puranic/mahakavyic? note that 71 chaturyugas- cycles of satya/krita, treta, dwapara, kali, -must pass in a manvantara and fourteen such manvantaras are required to make a kalpa,

if one thinks of yuga cycles as cosmic seasons, it makes sense that the winter of kali will have to pass before there is a summer of satya....or someone needs to dirty their hands and take out the trash , before the house gets clean....

Going by the opinion of some reputed scholars that dharma is not 'righteousness' but the natural flow of things, a measure of man's harmony with nature and the universe at large..

also by the very names of the Yugas that hint that the dharma of kali yuga is to be necessarily dharmically onefooted [treta-3; dwa=2; to stretch it a bit ..sat=1 (truth is one, AUM) ]i.e disharmonious, full of conflict. It looks like Krishna protected Dharma by ensuring that that there was a war, that those who did not belong in the next age were killed, because their dharma was to die before the dawn of Kali Yuga.


There also seems to be a connection to the four varnas, and their place in the Yugas. As by dharma, or the natural flow of things, Sudras are eventually said to gain precedence in Kali Yuga. [The depiction of Kali Purusha, the spirit of Kali yuga as a Shudra disguised as a kshatriya supports this]
Ramesh Menon's translation also clearly states that one among the reasons for Krishna's birth was to rid the earth of Kshatriya kind, for the had grown too strong. So it makes sense Krishna had to weed them out to ensure the onset of Shudra ascendancy. Or rather that was Krishna's dharma.
Coming to the questions
>>Did dharma actually win when the kings and their armies were butchered?
yes, since it was the dharma(natural order) of the age to end

>>If those wicked souls on the path of adharma were weeded out like it is made out in the epic, why then was dharma left with such a handicap immediately after?

again, maybe to set the stage for Kali Yuga, whose dharma is to be three fourths Adharmic.

>>Does adharma to fight adharma (for the bigger stake of dharma) make sense or is that very fact even an indicator that perhaps the means are more important than the end?

did you mean to say 'end is more important than the means'? i can't make sense of it the other way round

maybe universal dharma is more precious than personal adharma. Or maybe righteous souls like Yudhishtra falling from their virtues testifies to the moral degradation of Kali Yuga that is said to have started a coule of days into the war, although it came into full effect only after the Krishna died.


>>Or are the means verily ends themselves?
if not the law of karma, where todays means are tomorrow's ends wouldn't make any sense


i don't think i've expressed myself very clearly, but it was fun trying. thanks for the unusual questions....it kept me way past bedtime:).

mooligai sidhan said...

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
@shivadasi
Namaste!
First things first - I am pleased to meet yet another soul willing to swap their bed time to answer 'crucial'y untangible questions:)
Now, to your comment and the answers for the questions -
''Going by the opinion of some reputed scholars that dharma is not 'righteousness' but the natural flow of things, a measure of man's harmony with nature and the universe at large..''

I dont find anything wrong with the idea that at a 'higher' level dharma can be interpreted as the natural flow of things
and I can also appreciate the idea that it reflects as man's harmony with the universe at large.However, on the ground, the most clear indicator/reflection of this 'dharma' is in righteousness.As is the righteousness and notions of such is an indicator of the 'level' of dharma of any society/nation. This is because the core view of the sanatana thought is 'sarve janAh sukino bhavanti' (may all beings attain to happiness),'sarve bhadrAni pashyanti'(may good things flow to all beings)and thus anything that challenges the experience of happiness and good is adharmic in nature.This is why dharma is always connected to righteousness with moral filters added to it depending on the geography of society.
The yuga dharma as you indicate rightly implies the lack of dharmas strength (by virtue of the legs of dharma decreasing with each yuga)and this when seen from the above view indicate clearly that lack of dharma is really lack of harmony with the bigger universe. And when is so disconnected from the bigger universe, his/her actions stem only from their limited and narrow perspective and faculties - unrighteous to be simple.

I can understand what you want to say, so I imagine you have indeed expressed yourself quite clearly.

But Krishna when he says '' yada yada hi dharmasya....'' does not indicate He incarnates to set the stage for each yuga (i.e.leaving the necessary amount of adharma to start the kali yuga, etc). He incarnates to redress the adharma and eliminate such obstacles as which oppose the practise of dharma by the sadhus and wise people.
If you ask me personally, I dont think that the destruction of the kshatriyas was in anyway a primary objective of Krishnas incarnation. It is not to reduce the burden of mother earth. More than anything it is for the redressal of adharma(and everything that helps its rise and sustenance)and the upliftment of dharma (and everything that helps to sustain it).Thus His physical and manifest form is used to leave the greatest gift - that of helping each and every one on the earth (even those born 3000 or 4000 yrs after Krishna)by giving them a chance to attain to dharma by virtue of dhyana, upasana and worship of His manifest form and by singing His glories. When one thus spends his/her time you can see that they develop a sattvic charecter and become those on the path of dharma (by harmonising themselves with the greater universe, which is what worship is about).
I wont venture to answer your answers to the original questions that kept you past your bedtime here in the comments section. Perhaps that is fodder for another post!
I hope to keep you awake more regularly;)

Ramanjaneya sharma said...

Good explanation by sidhan..Dharma should be in harmony with the Universe..To establish Dharma,any people involved in activities against Dharma should be punished..Only the people of Dharma should be protected and survive on the planet Earth..Dharmo Raksathi Rakshitah: