In my first post of the current series, a reader has asked about how Odisha fell from its high pedestals of fine arts, affluence, power and glory. The presence of large number of huge temples of architectural grandeur indicate to affluent times in the past and to be affluent the kings must have been powerful. The kings were in fact powerful. In fifteenth century the empire of King Kapilendra Deva spread from the Ganges in the north to the regions of Godavari in the south.
But Kapilendra Dev’s grandson Prataparudra Deva was made of different mettle. Under the influence of Chaitanya, Prataprudra Dev became more interested in bhajan kirtan than administering the kingdom. He became a Krishna devotee, but not the Krishna that prevented Arjuna from becoming a deserter. According to many historians this was the turning point in history that saw the gradual downfall of Odisha’s empire and glory.
But all the Hindu kings who were spiritual were not escapists. Even the earlier kings of Odisha were spiritual. But they did not neglect their duties. We have the example of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. His spiritual Guru Samarth Ramdas encouraged him to be a karmayogi like Arjuna. In addition to being a highly skilled warrior and military leader, Chhatrapati Shivaji maintained high ethical standards. The Mughal army butchered, looted and raped the conquered irrespective of who they were. But Shivaji took care to spare the non-warriors of the enemy territory.
Cut to twenty five years back. Travelling by train is a good way sometimes to strike friendship with alien characters. I was travelling from Lucknow to Bhubaneswar and as companion of my front seat I had a monk. I had never known a monk from close quarters. Of course, during my childhood days I myself wanted to be a monk.
When he learnt that I am from defense, he developed a strange affinity towards me. He opened up more when he learnt that I have some interest in yoga and spiritual matters. During our conversations I asked him a couple of times about how he became a monk. He avoided answering it till the last hour of our journey. He said that like me he wanted to join the defense. In fact he had joined one of the Defense Forces. But unfortunately, according to him, during training period there was an instructor who was very cruel to him. After tolerating it for months he could take it no more.
I said, “So you are a deserter.”
“No, no. This is how destiny works. I was destined to meet with my guru this way and understand the true essence of Krishna-tatwa. I feel so lucky.”
“No you are not”, I said. “First of all Krishna was too late in coming to your life and secondly when he came he gave you a wrong impression about himself.”
“What do you mean?”
“See, like you perhaps Arjuna also wanted to become a deserter. Of course he had different reasons. But luckily for him Krishna was available for him on time. He would not let Arjuna become a deserter. “
“I think you don’t understand Lord Krishna. To understand him you have to be his devotee. Look here”, he brought out a book from his bag and continued, “Look here. My guru has written this book on Bhagavad Gita. And this is the only original interpretation of Bhagavad Gita.”
Again I laughed and said, “Shall I tell you one thing. I have come across thousands of books on Gita. And at least two hundred of them claim to be original interpretations. So how do you know which is the original original interpretation. “
“Actually you should come and meet my Guru. It is not easy to meet with him. But I will make some arrangement. You should also see our Ashram.”
“Thank you. I would love to. Ashrams are beautiful places and one should spend a few days every year in an Ashram to rejuvenate in body and spirit. But now coming to the topic, even though there are thousand of contradicting interpretations of some of the messages of the Gita but there is no contradicting the fact of what happened to Arjuna after he listened to the Gita. Remember Arjuna got the Gita advices directly from Lord Krishna without the help of any translator or interpreter.”
“What do you mean?”
“Arjuna wanted to leave the war field, go to the jungle and live the life of a renunciate. After listening to the discourse of Lord Krishna what did Arjuna do? Did he pick up a pair of cymbals doing bhajan kirtan for the rest of his life or did he tighten his Gandiva to fight out the righteous war?”
My friend fell silent. He did not talk to me for the couple of hours left for us before we disembarked. Even while getting down he did not repeat his invitation to come his Asrham even though I would have liked to.
Cut to a couple of years back. A few crooks in our society were taking the society to ransom by their open mischief. When I raised voice, even though everyone was suffering, only a couple of them came forward to stand with me. There was this particular irritating elderly man whose refrain was, “Only Lord Krishna can now save our society. What else can we do?” Nevertheless the few of us continued our fight till things became normal.
Later on one day when I met with this elderly gentleman I said, “You are wrong about Lord Krishna. Now he is not going to come and save us. Maybe as a child, Krishna fought others’ battles. But when he grew up he refused to fight others’ battles. Rather he made others fight their own battles.”
PS : This is Q alphabet post of my April A to Z challenge 2020. My theme this year is ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ where in I explore various facets of India and also some places and events of India I have been closely associated with.
All posts of the AtoZChallenge can be accessed here.