Párthasárathi Krśńa and Sáḿkhya Philosophy by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti


In analysing Vraja Krśńa, we see that, being the embodiment of Parama Puruśa or Táraka Brahma, He is beyond the reach of philosophy. It is said:

Yato váco nivarttante aprápya manasá saha;
Ánandaḿ Brahmańo vidván má vibheti kutashcana.

[Brahma is the One from whom words and mind return disappointed, after failing to fathom Its depths. But one who has known the blissful nature of Brahma is not afraid of anything.]

“Words fail miserably to reach Him, and the mind is obliged to return after meeting the same fate.” Parama Puruśa is beyond the eloquence and fluency of language, so how can philosophy fathom His greatness?

Sáḿkhya philosophy contains the highest expression of intellect, but intellect, after all, is not everything. To reach the Supreme Entity, one must go beyond intellect and enter the realm of intuition.

Some people may say that Vraja Krśńa was comparatively easy to attain, for He mixed freely with the common people. Thus it may have been possible for Sáḿkhya philosophy to say something about Vraja Krśńa, but even then it could not. That shows that Parama Puruśa, though established in the human mind, cannot be grasped by the human prajiṋá [intellect].

This applies even more in the case of Párthasárathi Krśńa. Being a king, He did not have much contact with the masses, but was confined to the circle of kings and vassals. Judged in that perspective, it is even more difficult for philosophy to reach Párthasárathi than to reach Vraja Krśńa. It should be added that although Párthasárathi was a king, and thus beyond the reach of the common masses, mentally He was always with the people.

The word sárathi comes not only from Rathena saha, but also from the suffix i [imparting the sense of “offspring”]. That is, a sárathi is one who treats the chariot as his own child and thus takes constant precautions to ensure that it is not harmed in any way. One does not qualify as a sárathi merely by being able to drive a chariot.

Now, ratha does not only mean a horse-drawn chariot. What is its actual meaning?

Átmánaḿ rathinaḿ viddhi shariiraḿ rathameva tu;
Buddhintu sárathiḿ viddhi manah pragrahameva ca.

He is Párthasárathi because He encompasses the human intellect. [Buddhintu sárathiḿ: “the intellect is the sárathi.”] He supplies the human intellect with His intellect.

Human beings are not concerned only about their physical existence. Behind the struggle for the minimum necessities of life (food, clothes, education, medical treatment and shelter) works the mind, which, in its turn, draws inspiration from the átman. People in today’s world become fatigued by their wants and needs, attractions and aspirations, pleasures and pains, and weaknesses and imperfections. The One (as their charioteer) who leads them from the depths of darkness to the realm of brilliant light and strengthens them with divine inspiration, is Párthasárathi. Only He has the might to shoulder such an immense responsibility, only He has the requisite vital force and intellectual acumen. So how can philosophy describe His greatness?

Now, let us compare Párthasárathi Krśńa with Sáḿkhya philosophy. Sáḿkhya philosophy says that there are many puruśas and one Janya Iishvara. Now what relationship can one [special] puruśa have with jiivas [microcosms], with the world, and with Iishvara? From the microcosmic point of view, Párthasárathi is a mighty, vigorously active puruśa, who brings about radical changes in the lifestyles of human beings and imparts benevolent guidance to them. Sáḿkhya does not mention anything about such a Puruśa. According to Sáḿkhya, there are many puruśas – a separate puruśa in each jiiva. But Párthasárathi is not like that. Nor is He like the Janya Iishvara of Sáḿkhya philosophy, whose presence is [only] a necessity for the creation of the world. He is a superhuman personality as mighty as a meteor.

Párthasárathi is a great personality reflected in every word, in every direction, and in every divine expression of His Macrocosmic imagination. He is great because He is turning the vast chariot wheel of the Cosmos, He is guiding all things, all sentimental living entities. He is Táraka Brahma. He absorbs everything within His mind and guides humanity. What is the need for Him to guide and advise individual entities? Being Táraka Brahma, whatever He imagines mentally will take place accordingly in the outer world. He whose thoughts take the form of actions is called Cintámań(1) in the scriptures. Krśńa is Cintámańi. What was the need for Him to advise the Pandavas, to advise the Kaoravas, and to teach the Pandavas war strategy? Should He be considered like the unit puruśa as described by Sáḿkhya? No, certainly not, for it is impossible for the unit puruśa to think such grand thoughts, to make such powerful thought-projections. So since He is not Janya Puruśa, He is Cosmic Consciousness personified, why should He take the trouble to work in a planned way, advising people, teaching people lessons on the value of system? Why? Simply by thinking He could have materialized His goals. Why did He go out of the way to create a drama? The battle of Kurukśetra was a big drama. Why was it necessary? He could have thought, “Well, the Kaoravas are finished,” and the work would have been done. In fact, that is how things happened in the end, but only after staging a huge drama.

At the end of the war, Kurukśetra was turned into a burial ground. Gandhari, Dhritarastra and their one hundred widowed daughters-in-law came there to have a last look at the dead bodies of their nearest relatives. All wept profusely. Krśńa, Kunti, Draupadi and the Pandava brothers arrived on the other side of the battlefield for the same purpose. They too were weeping. It was indeed a heart-rending sight. While everyone was crying in deep sorrow Krśńa addressed Gandhari. “Mother, I beseech you not to weep,” He said. “Sometimes tragic calamities like this befall humanity; so lament not, O Mother.”

Gandhari was a noble lady of firm principles. A woman of integrity is called a satii. (In Sanskrit, the term sat means a virtuous man, whereas satii is used to describe a woman of integrity and pure character.) Both a maiden and a widow can be called satii nárii. Gandhari was a noble lady of high integrity. She was virtuosity par excellence. She was a princess of Gándhára, or Kandahar, a province of Afghanistan. When she was told that she would be married to Dhritarastra, who was born blind, she immediately blindfolded her eyes with a piece of cloth. Her contention was that as her husband was blind, she too should be blind. She removed the blindfold from her eyes only twice in her lifetime. The first time was on the eve of the Kurukśetra war when Dhritarastra instructed his one hundred insolent sons to go to her and ask for her blessing. “Go, my sons, to your mother. She is a lady of uncommon virtue,” he said. “Go to her and ask for her blessing.” They did according to their father’s bidding.

Now, one cannot bless others with closed eyes. Dhritarastra thought that Gandhari would surely take off her blindfold while blessing her sons, and that she being a satii nárii, blessing with her eyes open, the blessing would certainly be effective. Dhritarastra reminded his son Duryodhana that his arch-enemy was Bhima. He advised him, “My son, your mother being a satii nárii, if she casts a benevolent glance on your body, it will become as hard as a thunderbolt.” At that time Duryodhana was already a fully grown man, so he went to his mother wearing a loincloth, not completely undressed. The story goes that when Gandhari blessed him, his body grew as hard as a thunderbolt, except that portion covered by the cloth, which remained as soft as before. Krśńa alone knew this fact. At the end of the war, when Bhima was trying in vain to strike Duryodhana down, Krśńa signalled to Bhima to indicate the soft point on Duryodhana’s body where Bhima could deal a mortal blow with his mace. Bhima struck Duryodhana on that soft point and he died.

So Gandhari first removed her blindfold when blessing her sons. (As she was firmly committed to dharma, she did not say, “May you be victorious,” but proclaimed, Yato dharma tato Krśńah, yato Krśńah tato jayah – “Where there is dharma, there is Krśńa; where there is Krśńa, there is victory”. It was against her principles to pray for the victory of the impious. However, it is not our intention to analyse the character of Gandhari here, for I have already done that in Discourses on the Mahábhárata.)

And she removed the blindfold for the second time when the battlefield of Kurukśetra had become a burial ground. After Krśńa had spoken some words of consolation to Gandhari, she said, “O Krśńa, I know and admit that You are Táraka Brahma, that You are Parama Puruśa. If You had only wished something to happen, it would have certainly taken place accordingly. What then was the necessity of enacting such a bloody drama? It was totally unnecessary. You played the role of an ordinary man. You wrote the drama to serve as a lesson and inspire the common people. Yet you played the role of an ordinary man. Being Táraka Brahma, whatever You mentally imagine will take place accordingly. But no, You unnecessarily killed my sons and made my one hundred daughters-in-law widows. Had You only wished the victory of dharma, dharma would have been victorious.”

In Sáḿkhya philosophy this same question comes up. Since He was the vast Puruśottama, whatever He wished would have come to pass. Krśńa replied, “It is true that Parama Puruśa could do everything by mere wish. He could do everything without creating this world, without this Cosmos. But the drama of the Kurukśetra war was enacted to teach the common people that ultimately dharma always triumphs over adharma [injustice, unrighteousness]. It was meant for popular education. If Parama Puruśa were to accomplish everything by mere thought-projection, that would be hidden from people’s sight, and people would not learn anything from it. But when people see these events with their own eyes, they learn what should be done and what should not be done. Hence, the battle of Kurukśetra had to be conceived and dramatized. You, being an intelligent lady, certainly understand this.”

The bereaved Gandhari understood, but she threw back one more question. “I understand that You conceived of such a drama to educate the masses. But was it necessary to give my sons the roles of the adhármikas? You could have given the Pandavas the roles of the adhármikas, and my sons the roles of the dhármikas.”

The argument was irrefutable. Krśńa had no choice but to keep silent. Then Gandhari said, “Krśńa, I shall pronounce a curse on You. Accord me Your permission.” Before cursing Parama Puruśa, one should first take His permission. Krśńa said, “So be it.” Gandhari then uttered the curse, “Just as the Kuru princes perished before my very eyes, let the Yadava princes die in Your presence.” Krśńa said, Tathástu [“Let it be so”]. This very utterance, Tathástu, proves that Krśńa was not an ordinary puruśa.

There is a world of difference between the unit puruśa of Sáḿkhya philosophy and Táraka Brahma, Puruśottama, Párthasárathi. Whatever the latter did was to teach an important lesson to the common people for infinite time: that if one behaves like this, the results will be like that.

Mátulo yasya Govindah pitá yasya Dhanaiṋjayah;
Patito sah rańe viiro daevaḿ hi balavattaram.

[Even the great hero whose maternal uncle is Govinda (Lord Krśńa) and whose father is Dhanaiṋjaya (Arjuna) is killed in battle, because the decree of providence is mightier than anything.]

Nobody was spared, not even Abhimanyu, Krśńa’s nephew and Arjuna’s son, for in war between virtue and vice the sparks of fire fly out on all sides. Abhimanyu also had to sacrifice his life, because the drama was not designed to be one-sided. If an evil man falls on the battleground, the virtuous will also have to face some blows. It would not be natural for the virtuous to return from the battleground completely unscathed. Such an intricate plot and vast drama can only originate from a gigantic Puruśa – it is beyond the capacity of an ordinary puruśa. Thus Krśńa remains beyond the reach of Sáḿkhya philosophy.

One final point should be mentioned about Párthasárathi. It is a fact that although He mixed with kings, He thought more for the interests of the common people. The suffering of the masses, their plight and their struggles, were the object of His attention and consideration. Labouring hard, extending His personal influence, He made immense progress in advancing their welfare. He left us some 3500 years back, but He is still dearly loved and will continue to be loved by oppressed, suffering and struggling men and women.