India’s Ancient Culture
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: Quandaries in the Ramayana and Mahabharata

The epics play a significant role in the cultural values of people. This speciality of the epic literature in the world is not in any way less profound than the basic scriptures of the religions of mankind as a whole.

With special reference to the cultural foundations of India we highlighted the inner contents of the Vedas, or the Srutis, as they are called, and the Smritis which, in their wide gamut of comprehension, brought together into a focus all that can be regarded as valuable in life – namely, the universal element, the objective element, as well as the subjective element; or, to put it more plainly, we can say God, world and soul. The universal element is God, the objective element is the world, and the subjective element is your own soul, yourself, the individual. The whole of existence is comprehended in this classification of God, world and soul. Everything that follows as a matter of life in any of its departments has its roots in the concept of this threefold visualisation of reality: God, world and soul.

While the Upanishads, the Vedas, the Srutis, the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, and the Aranyakas centred themselves primarily on the concept of God, world and individual, the Smritis took upon themselves the task of the social side of human existence also, which is not an essential concern of the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads.

I mentioned to you the primary principles of existence which are comprehended in the concepts of God, world and soul, but where is such a thing called society? What do we mean by society? It is the arrangement of the individuals themselves into a group or pattern of living for the purpose of a notion of a systematised convenience. Geographically, ethically, historically or traditionally will the reason behind this classification take a form.

The social classification of human society into the system of cooperative existence, which took care of the welfare of society as well as the political administration, was the subject of the Smritis – the development of society as a horizontal expansion of human individuality and a vertical concern of the personal education of the individual through the stages of life, on which we bestowed sufficient thought. It is the concept of the purusharthas – dharma, artha, kama, moksha – and the varna ashrama dharma, as it is known in terms of social classification of function of people, and the internal educational process of vertical ascent of consciousness. This is something like the foundation of India’s culture: the Srutis and the Smritis. Dharma Shastra is another name for Smriti; Sruti is another name for Veda.

I mentioned yesterday that the emotional side of human nature requires to be attended from the point of view of the correct practice of religion because the rationality on which the Srutis and the Smritis are founded has to be supplemented by the total upsurge of the human personality, which has various psychological aspects. The mind of the human being is capable of classification into intellect, feeling, will, and memory. The aspect of will determines our activities, our projects, our decisions and our occupations in life. The feeling aspect is at the back of even our activities in life, and we do not generally do whatever we do not feel like doing. Compulsions there are, of course, many a time imposed upon us by the rules of the government or traditions of society, which may sometimes be in harmony with our own requirements and feelings, but also may sometimes not be in harmony with our own personal feelings. Anyway, the feeling plays an important role, which subject is taken up by the authors of the epics, especially the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in India, to which we made reference yesterday.

Human society is the subject of the Ramayana: how society involves itself in various aspects of its internal culture and struggles to slowly integrate itself into a cohesive, cooperative fabric of internal stability, rising gradually from the potentials of the disintegration of society that also may be there inherent in the beginning. The story of the Ramayana is something known to you all, and I am not going to tell the story. I also mentioned to you that for your edification you may read the brief presentations exquisitely done by Sri Rajagopalachari in his abridgement of the story of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata because merely listening to the story will not do you much good. The story as a novel, for instance, moves, carrying us forward along the lines of our feelings, which touches our heart and brings up to the surface of our consciousness that which is buried in our feelings. Many a time our intellect and rationality take an upper hand in our life, and in the hurry and bustle of their intense activity very little time is allowed for the emotions to also come and take part in our intellectual activity. Our feelings and our reason should go together in order that our perceptions may be integrated. It is not that we feel something which is against understanding and rationality, or we are forced to logically come to a decision which is not compatible with our instinctive feelings.

The logicality of life and the instinctive nature of personal existence are both taken into a harmonious state of consideration in the epics. How this exquisite work has been executed by the poets of the epics can be appreciated only if you read the epics yourself, if possible in their original, or in a very able prose or abridgement.

The mystical interpretation of the epics, the spiritual connotation that seems to be there at the back of the story, makes out that the story of Rama and Sita and their encounter with Ravana have a reference to our own personal life. The soul is bereaved when it is dissociated from its harmonious contact with the mind, which is Sita. Rama is in search of Sita, the soul is in search of the mind in the wilderness of existence where the sense organs roam about in the forest of ignorance. That is one analogy that is brought out. The other analogy is that the ten-headed Ravana is the monstrous mind with its ten senses. The five senses of knowledge and the five organs of action are the ten heads of the mind, which is eager to take advantage of the first opportunity to grab objects; and, as we know, the sense organs have no other work than to attempt at grabbing things that are outside in the world.

Ravana was a grabber. He vanquished all the ownership of people even up to the heavens, threw the gods out of their seats and took possession of all their worth and value and the property of everyone in heaven as well as on earth. A person who went to the extreme of greed and passion and took his ego to its apex, up to the breaking point, and lived the glory of utter selfishness, caring not for the welfare of anybody else – this principle is exemplified in the concept of Ravana.

Generally in the epic stories, these demons come in pairs. There are the demon brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in the Srimad Bhagavata. Ravana and Kumbhakarna were brothers. Shishupala and Dantavakra were brothers. The reason for this twin performance of demonical nature is the dual way in which ignorance acts upon us, covering the consciousness of reality and projecting the consciousness of unreality. Whenever a war takes place between the divine natures and the demonical natures, whether it is an encounter with Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kumbhakarna or Shishupala and Dantavakra, we will find the stronger one is encountered afterwards, the weaker one first. Kumbhakarna dies first, Ravana afterwards. Dantavakra goes first, Shishupala afterwards. Hiranyaksha dies first and Hiranyakashipu dies afterwards. This is to illustrate the manner of our extrication of consciousness from involvement in world perception. Firstly, the attempt is to be weaned from the compulsion to sensorily contact objects of the world; that is the younger brother. The elder brother causing this compulsion to perceive sense objects is ignorance. The cause is more difficult to face than the effect, so the effect has to be encountered first and we take care of the cause a little afterwards.

In spiritual practice we move from effect to cause, and not from cause to effect. Lesser involvements are to be taken into consideration first and they have to be handled effectively before the larger involvements are taken care of. It is something like knots in a rope tied up one over the other, wherein the outer knot is attempted to be untied first and the inner knots are removed afterwards because they are at the root and they are the support. In a similar manner in the treatment of illnesses, for instance, we take into consideration the acute form of a disease first and the chronic form afterwards. Likewise is the spiritual encounter in the world. The Ravana-Kumbhakarna episode, among many others of that kind, illustrates the spiritual activity of the human individual in withdrawing its concern from spiritual perception first and then trying to bring about a state of inner illumination afterwards.

The externality that is involved in human life is a subsequent phenomenon arisen after the creation of individuality itself. There cannot be society unless there are individuals. There cannot be perception of a thing outside unless there is a perceiver. So the movement is from the internal to the external. The internality involved in perception is, again, a consequence of a drop or a fall from universality. God, Vishnu, Narayana, who is the embodiment of universality, has to descend into human form as Rama, for instance, and then face the social consequences, all which are the whole story of the Ramayana.

The coming of God into the state of Incarnation is an epic illustration of the fall of man, the coming down of the Universal into the state of particularity, where the story does not end. The Universal does not take an Avatar or Incarnation and then keep quiet. It engages itself in active operational occupation, the purpose for which the Incarnation has taken place. In the case of ordinary individuals, the purpose of the coming down of the Universal into the state of the particular is to concern itself with the whole social atmosphere, which includes not merely human beings outside but everything that is visible to the eyes – all that is subhuman, including animals, plants, and even inanimate nature.

Our concern with this level below the human is the activity of the human individual that has come down as a particular, as a descent, as it were, from the Universal that originally individuality was. Avataras, Incarnations, are the subject of the Puranas. We say Vishnu has taken ten Avataras, among many others. The incarnation of God is the concretisation of the Universal in the particular. Now, there is a distinction between ordinary human beings and Avataras. In one sense we have all come from the Universal Being, but none of us can be regarded as an Incarnation, or an Avatara, for an important reason. The Avatara, or the Incarnation, is conscious of its relation with the Universal from where it has come, or of which it is a descendent, whereas ordinary human individuals like us are not aware that we have come from the Universal. Both have come from the same source. The one is aware of its link with the Universal from where it has come, of which it is an offshoot, and the other is totally unconcerned with the origin from where it has come. In one of the verses of the Bhagavadgita, Bhagavan Sri Krishna tells Arjuna, “Many births I have taken and you also have taken, but I am aware of all these linkages of incarnations through which I have passed, whereas you are not aware of it.”

In an Incarnation, the Universal is pressed into concentration and focused activity in some measure, in some percentage, in some degree, and the importance or the power of the Avatara or the Incarnation depends upon the percentage of universality that is pressed into action in an individual form, and so we have got Kala-avataras,   Amsa-avataras, or Purna-avataras, as they are called – that is, segmented Incarnations, lesser percentage of Incarnation, or complete Incarnation. If the entire sunlight is focused through a beam, it will be hot and radiant as the original sunlight is, which is something like a Purna-avatara of the sun, but if this light is diluted through an aperture which is also connected with a medium that lessens the intensity of the light, even distorts it in some way, the Avatara of the sun would be diminished to that extent and the power of the light will be less.

However, the Incarnation is a conscious descent of the Universal into the particular, and the birth of people like us is an unconscious coming from the Universal to the particular, though we are equally conscious; otherwise, something has hindered the manifestation of that consciousness in us due to karma. It is believed that Avataras have no karma and they do not come because of the pressure of some karma that they did in the past. It is a deliberate coming down. If we purposely do something, it is an Avatara, but if we are compelled to do something, it is karma acting. We are born by compulsion of our previous deeds, but Incarnations are a voluntary, deliberate, conscious coming of the Universal into the particular for a special purpose. So are the Avataras, of which Rama is one, and Krishna is another.

Rama Avatara is the subject of the Ramayana of Valmiki; Krishna Avatara is the subject of the Mahabharata. Yesterday I mentioned to you the literary beauty of Valmiki’s poem and the tumultuous style which the Mahabharata adopts in a more virile fashion. The whole purpose of the enactment of this drama that is portrayed in the epics is to describe human life itself as it moves through the process of evolution.

First of all, there is an incipient complacency of the human individual in childhood. Whether they are the Pandavas of the Mahabharata or Rama and his brothers in the Ramayana, everything seemed to be going on very well when they were little children. Princes they were. The children of the kings have no worry, botheration or any apprehension of future problems. But on account of the innocence born of an ignorance of events that are yet to take place, they are suddenly confronted with some realities of life which hold themselves in a manner which was never expected in their innocence of childhood. Mostly our innocence of childhood is attended with ignorance. It is not innocence born of wisdom, but innocence born of not knowing the facts of life.

So the marriage takes place, the wedding of Sita with Rama, all on a grand scale, only to be faced with a tremendous consequence which was very unexpected, which is the exile of Rama from the palace and the going to the wilderness of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata context. How happy the Pandavas were with their princely costumes and royal comforts! They were about to ascend the throne, and really Yudhisthira did ascend the throne, in a way, after he performed the great rajasuya sacrifice, but it was only an apparent joy.

Rama was to be installed on the throne. Glory was before him; everywhere was music and dance, everywhere deities, everywhere glorious preparation for the coming of the new king, and a little hunchback put down all the glory and the joy and the royal preparation and the power of Dasharatha and the expectations of Rama himself. A little thing like a small grain of sand sitting on the retina of our eye can disturb our entire perception, obstructing the vision of the whole sun itself. Earthly glory is very attractive. It is all milk and honey. There is nothing wrong with this world. We are going to be princes and emperors, rulers, ministers and presidents, and so on. Gold and silver, milk and honey, these are the stuff of life. This is what we are told earlier. But there is a thorn at the back of every beautiful rose flower, and when we touch it, it will prick us. From a distance it is beautiful; when we touch it, it has its own sting.

Both in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata we find an initial picture of the glory of human life, only to be contaminated by the vision of a poisonous sting that also is a part of human existence. Life is not always smooth going. It is not walking on a tarred road where we can drive blindly, as it were. There are zigzag movements, ups and downs, and everywhere we have to be conscious of what will be ahead of us. Every step is to be taken with great caution, and we cannot walk in this world with closed eyes.

So Rama, the great would-be emperor, and Yudhisthira, the would-be king, were both thrown out of their gears, and it appeared as if they had nothing to say in this matter, one for one reason, the other for another reason altogether. And both worked for dharma. The dharma of obedience to the word of the father was the cause of exile in one case; the dharma of sticking to the principle of royal justice was the cause of the other, in the case of the Mahabharata.

You will be surprised, actually, if you read the original Ramayana, that Dasharatha did not openly say, “Please go.” It was Kaikeyi who said, “He cannot speak until you leave this place. He is disturbed. You leave this place. He wants to say that you should leave this place and go to the forest. I am telling you his word.” She went on dinning this into the ears of Rama, but mum sat Dasharatha, wailing. Dasharatha did not open his mouth and say, “Go!” Kaikeyi took this task upon herself and said, “I am telling his royal word. Go! And as long as you are standing here, he will not wake up from this. He will die.”

What a shock! It is told us that Rama did not take it as a shock, but he did take it as a shock also, if you read Valmiki himself. It was a mix-up of honey and poison poured into his mouth at the same time, and he did not know what to say, what to feel. His feeling for his father and his feeling towards his queen Kaikeyi were a mix-up of earth and heaven put together, and this peculiar human tragic situation is exquisitely portrayed in the beautiful poetry of Valmiki. You should read Valmiki only, not the prose or the abridgement of the Ramayana, in order to know what actually was the feeling of people at that moment.

The Ayodhya Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana is a history of human emotion, comedy and tragedy mixed up together, the height of glory ahead of one, and hell also at the foot. However, there is a lot of comparison between the events that took place in the case of Rama in the Ramayana and in the case of Yudhisthira and the brothers in the Mahabharata. The movement of history is practically the same in all countries, though there are differences of minor detail.

Now, the going into the wilderness of life, living in the forest, is common to both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, though the causative factors behind the two were different. There is a lot of suffering. It was not that Rama was enjoying life in the forest, nor did the Pandava brothers live a happy life there. In the case of one it was fourteen years, in the case of the other it was thirteen years. It is practically the same. Great difficulty.

What happened to the power of Rama and the power of the Pandavas, which was there with them? Where did Rama’s power lie at that time when he was thrown out and asked to go to the forest? Actually, Lakshmana highlighted this aspect. When the news came that Rama had to go to the forest, Rama took everything calmly and quietly as the wish of the father, but Lakshmana was not like that. He rose up into action and told Rama, “Today Ayodhya shall cease to exist. There shall be no father, no mother. There should be nothing here. Lakshmana’s power will see that Ayodhya ceases to exist.” He took up his bow and arrows, became red in his eyes, rage incarnate, and he would have done something actually. Rama, the counterpart of this rage of Lakshmana, was like the ocean that was calm and quiet, away from the turmoil of raging rivers in the flood season. He calmed him down.

So is the case of the fate of the Pandava brothers. The atrocities that were committed in the court of the Kauravas were enough to raise the arms of the brothers of Yudhisthira. They would have taken immediate action. Fire was jetting forth from their eyes and power was manifesting itself from their arms. Bhima stood up. Arjuna looked at his bow and arrow. Yudhisthira, like Rama, with his power of calmness and understanding of the circumstances in which they were involved, just gazed at them with calmness.

Why should Rama tell Lakshmana to keep quiet when injustice was done to Rama? Why did Yudhisthira tell the other brothers to keep quiet when the uttermost disgrace was poured upon them? The time had not come, was the feeling of Yudhisthira, and that the father’s word cannot be disobeyed was the feeling of Rama. Whether it is necessary to obey the word of an unjust father, or one has to obey the word of any father, is a contradiction in this great predicament that is placed before us.

Commentators on the Ramayana have a hundred things to tell us, and each one says whatever he likes. Do you obey the word of someone just because he is a father, even if he is totally bereft of the sense of justice and righteousness? So was the answer of Lakshmana. “What kind of father is this who does not know what is proper?” But Rama’s retort was, “Father is father, and whatever be his wish, it has to be fulfilled.”

Here is a social contradiction before us. Obedience and conscience sometimes clash among ourselves. Society sometimes seems to be unjust to us. But the society sometimes feels the individuals are rebellious and they are to be put down by the force of law. The totalitarian governments consider that the state is the God that is manifest on earth, and individual freedom has to be sacrificed to the state, whereas individuals rebel and say that the state cannot be there unless individuals exist. What for is the state if individuals are not there? For whose sake is the government running if not for the welfare of people? And if the people are to be merged in the state, for whose sake is the state working? That is one point of view. But the other point of view is that obedience is primary, and rebellious moods cannot be for the welfare of even a single individual. So there is a kind of peculiar extreme in the contrast that political science takes many a time. It is an emphasis laid on state and individuals.

But people who are more sober in their minds and who are having greater insight into the problems of human existence and human psyche have come to the conclusion that neither of these points of view can be considered as solely correct. It is not true that the individual is totally independent of the state. It is also not true that the state is independent of the individual. There is a harmonious relation between the two aspects of the existence: the individual and the collective.

This question is brought before us poignantly both in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata: Who is right and who is wrong? When Duryodhana was made to feel that he had done a great wrong to the Pandavas in throwing them out of the kingdom and sending them to the forest, Duryodhana said, “What mistake have I committed? When Yudhisthira deliberately played dice and lost his own kingdom, in what way am I culpable?”

Sri Krishna raised this point in one context. “Did you not deliberately harm the Pandavas by trickery?”

“What mistake have I committed? It was a royal game. It is a give-and-take policy of actual dice playing, and as a king he deliberately, voluntarily took up this game of dice, and he lost. What is my mistake? Why are you finding fault with me?” retorted Duryodhana to Sri Krishna.

But Krishna said, “There was adharma at the back of this dice. The intention was wrong. Your intention was not to merely play dice; your intention was to destroy the Pandavas. A trick was played. A king has to play with a king, but who played with Yudhisthira? Shakuni played. Shakuni is not a king. Where is the justice? Unequals cannot play dice.” Yudhisthira ought to have known this, but some weakness of his mind did not permit him to know that he was playing a game of dice with an unequal.

Actually, Duryodhana ought to have played. He was a king. A king plays with a king. Duryodhana did not know the art of dice so he tricked Yudhisthira by putting forth Sakuni. Bewilderment caught hold of the mind of Yudhisthira, and he let himself into the quandary of playing with an unequal, which was a royal injustice done, which Krishna pointed out. “So don’t talk to me saying that he lost the kingdom of his own will. There is trickery at the back.”

Similar is Lakshmana’s retort to Rama. “Brother, you do not understand truth properly. There is injustice at the back of this. Cunning is played by Manthara on the one side and Kaikeyi on the other side, and Dasharatha, the old man sitting calm and quiet, who does not know what he is saying. He made a promise, yes, but who asked him to make a promise? Even when promises are made, one must be capable of knowing what are the consequences. Promises may be dangerous, especially when they are not rationally conceived. Emotionally projected promises do not generally yield results in an expected way, and the weakness of human nature always has something to say even at the moment of the part that is played by dharma, justice and law.

Does it not interfere even in judicature many a time? There is a justice in the court. The judge is a human being, the clients are human beings, and the advocates are human beings. Now, who is to judge whom? How could a judge, who is a human being like any other person, pass an impartial judgment on another person, who is also like himself? The idea behind justice is that a judge is not a human being at that time. He raises his perspective, his vision of things, into a larger dimension of comprehensiveness, wherein he lifts himself up above the personality concept of himself. He is not a man or a woman sitting there; he is a judiciary in the sense of a large justice or worthwhileness, which is the welfare of the whole nation. As a person he is physically like any other client, but the vision before him is not like the vision of the client. An impersonality is at the back of the vision of the judge, while a personality is at the back of the client, or even the advocates arguing the case.

Similarly, here we have the concept of dharma to be interpreted more from the universal point of view than from merely a particular point of view. Even after reading the Ramayana and the Mahabharata a hundred times, you will not find a good solution to these problems. Even today we have great difficulties. What justice was meted out to Rama? For no fault of his, he is thrown out because somebody says something? Though it is true that I have to obey the word of my father and I reap the consequences even if they are bitter, do I deserve it? Can you mete out undeserved punishment to a person in the name of law and justice or dharma, as the case may be? So it may be right on the part of Rama to obey the word of the father who is, of course, to be respected in every way, but he had undeserved punishment, which was the point of Lakshmana, to which Rama did not agree. So this disagreement between the viewpoints of Rama and Lakshmana also is a point of great social quandary to the interpreters of the Ramayana even today.

Secondly, we have got the encounter of Rama with Vali. I am not taking up that subject here. Anyhow, it is a question that is raised even today. Why did Rama kill Vali? Did Vali deserve that punishment? What mistake did he commit? Well, he had a little disagreement with his brother, of course, and there was a family feud between Vali and Sugriva, but what has Rama to do with this matter? Why did he interfere? If it was because of the fact that he had friendship with Sugriva for the sake of reclaiming Sita, Vali also could have done that work. Vali said, “If that is the reason, I would have done that work for you in one minute. Sita would be here. I would have bundled up Ravana and brought him here. For that sake you killed me, for no fault of mine. What dharma are you practising?” Rama had some answer, but what answer it is, God only knows.

And so many other questions arise. Of the dharmanishta Rama, the greatest of incarnations of dharma and justice, equal to whom nobody existed in this world, Valmiki says ramo vigrahavan dharmah: Dharma or justice incarnated itself, as it were, in the personality of Rama. Such a Rama asked Sita to be brought after the death of Ravana, and the jubilant Sita came. Her joy knew no bounds. But what did Rama tell her? “I have not come for you. You can go wherever you like. I have done my duty.” He told worse words than this. “You can marry Lakshmana or Hanuman, if you like.” What does this mean? A dharmanishta who is the incarnation of dharma speaks to Sita, who had no fault on her part. In public, before all people, he said, “Go. Marry Lakshmana or Hanuman.” Well, Sita’s heart broke, and what broke, God only knows. And then he banished her for no fault of hers.

These are quandaries not only in the story that Valmiki depicts before us, but a predicament in which every one of us will find ourselves one day or the other. The difficulty is that the world is a mix-up of values, empirical as well as transcendental. We are partly in heaven and partly in hell even today. That is to say, part of our nature is conditioned by transcendent aspirations. The soul in us is transcendentally asking for freedom in the Universal, whereas the body is pulling us down. We have society, we have hunger and thirst, and we have got our occupations whereby we earn our livelihood; we have got little conditions which are earthly, physical, social, material, economic, together with the soul asking for liberation from all this turmoil. The quandary of the human existence presenting in a poignant manner the conflict between the higher and the lower, the transcendent and the empirical, the Absolute and the relative, is here before us in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, where on the one hand a justice of the Universal speaks in its own language of universality, and on the other hand there is a weakness of human nature which is social, personal, political, economic, and so on.

The purpose of the epics is not to tell you to do this or not to do that; they are only to tell you what life is. Take it for what it is worth. Life is just what it is. I cannot tell you that this must be done or that should not be done, but I will tell you what life is. It is a conflict. The Mahabharata is a conflict, the Ramayana is a conflict, life is a conflict; it is a tension between the subjective side and the objective side, a conflict between the transcendental and the relative, God and man, Titan and the heavens. These clash between one another. This clash will continue as long as the world exists and creation continues.

The manner in which you have to free yourself from this predicament of conflict is the sadhana that you have to practice. The spiritual practice, the sadhana, the japa, the meditation, whatever you are engaging yourself in, is the intricate disentanglement process that you are undergoing for the purpose of the gradual relief from the relative entanglements for the purpose of a transcendental achievement. Finally, it is success.

It is in the Bhagavadgita that we have the final word as to the reason for success – the coming together of God and man: yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo yatra pārtho dhanurdharaḥ, tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama (B.G. 18.78). God will not plough the field for you, He will not cook your food, but He will see that you are provided with the facility to plough the field and also to cook your food. But without His help you cannot plough the field or cook your food. The individual and the Universal have to move in a harmonious manner, seated in a single chariot. Arjuna and Krishna were seated in a single chariot, and they have a common purpose in the movement of the chariot. If the purpose of God and the purpose of your mind are one, success shall be yours.

Yato dharmas tataḥ kṛṣṇo yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato jayaḥ (M.B. 6.41.55). “Where is success, grandfather?” asked Duryodhana to Bhishma, who replied, “Wherever there is dharma, there is Krishna; wherever there is Krishna, there is success.” The other way around he said, yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato dharmo yato dharma tato jayaḥ: “Wherever there is Krishna there is justice and righteousness, and wherever there is justice and righteousness, there is success.” That is to say, where God is present, all is well. Where He is not present, all is hell. Sa hanisthan maha chidhram sa ch antha jada moodatha, yan muhurtham kshanam vapi Vasudevam na chinthayeth (Pandava Gita 70). This is from the Pandava Gita: That moment is hell and the worst of things coming upon you when you forget the universal Vasudeva. Man’s glory, success, welfare and future depend entirely on the extent to which the individual, the man that he is, is in harmony with the great Krishna of the cosmos. The harmony that is there between Arjuna and Krishna in every little predicament of the war should be considered as the source of success. Krishna knew what was necessary for the welfare of Arjuna, and God knows your welfare, what it is that you need. Similarly, you should also know that He knows what is good for you. You should not interfere with His orders. Krishna said, “Do this.” Sometimes Arjuna could not understand what it is that was being told him, but he did what he was told. There is complete rapprochement between the human will and theUuniversal will, but before this rapprochement takes place, before this harmony is finally established, before you find yourself in a position to totally agree with God’s will, you will have to pass through hell, really speaking.

I read yesterday some little piece of poem from Aurobindo: Before you reach heaven, you have to pass through hell. Before you reach God, you have to pass through the world. Before you reach the Absolute, you have to pass through the relative, and before you drink honey, you have to have the sting of the bees.