For some reason, we often seem to encounter ardent Krishna worshippers online who are very keen to denigrate the idea of positively engaging with any other Deities.
They have their reasons for pushing that perspective, of course – and if you’re really interested in hearing more about them, then you may go ask them yourselves.
Yet when we actually begin to parse the grand, sweeping spans of the Smriti Canon, a rather different picture emerges.
Namely, one wherein even though it might be a work significantly hailed as a Krishnaite one … we nevertheless also have the vital propitiation of other Gods.
And, as fate would have it, with this being mandated by Krishna Himself.
I’ve written previously upon one rather excellent occurrence of this – wherein Krishna urges Arjuna to call upon Devi Durga in order to be granted Victory in the upcoming fight.
Yet what draws my eye today is another episode from the same Epic (that being the Mahabharata) – featuring, again upon Krishna’s urged recommendation (indeed, with Krishna’s active participation in the ritual observance in question), Arjuna offering due homage to Lord Shiva. In this particular case, in order to obtain / attain a most powerful weapon for the upcoming combat.
Now, there are several points of interest to this encounter. One is the actual mode of engagement involved. I shall quote from the Ganguli translation:
“Hearing these words of Krishna, Dhananjaya, having touched water, sat on the earth with concentrated mind and thought of the God Bhava. After he had thus sat with rapt mind at that hour called Brahma of auspicious indications, Arjuna saw himself journeying through the sky with Kesava. And Partha, possessed of the speed of the mind, seemed to reach, with Kesava, the sacred foot of Himavat and the Manimat mountain abounding in many brilliant gems and frequented by Siddhas and Charanas. And the lord Kesava seemed to have caught hold of his left arm. And he seemed to see many wonderful sights as he reached (those place). And Arjuna of righteous soul then seemed to arrive at the White mountain on the north.”
To ‘translate’ that further – what has effectively happened here is that Arjuna, having undertaken a small ritual purification (the touching of the water), and at a particular phase of the day noted to be useful for such things: utilizes the focus of his mind and spirit upon the God to be engaged with – and ably assisted by Krishna, Arjuna undertakes what we might today perhaps term ‘Astral Projection’ (‘Lucid Dreaming’, whilst also rather accurate as this is all taking place while Arjuna is asleep, doesn’t quite have the same transmigratory ‘heft’). So, in other words, whereas usually in the course of Hindu piety we are ‘invoking’ or Calling the God(s) to come to us and be treated as the Honoured Guest – here, it is a situation of the truly favoured Devotee being able to send his psyche out up to the borders of the Divine Realm itself to plead a case more directly. Something (mostly) only accomplishable with the patronage, one presumes, of a powerful being such as Lord Krishna – and the acceptance of the Devotee by the God in question.
Now the next part is additionally interesting for an array of reasons:
“Beholding Him, Vasudeva of righteous soul, with Partha, touched the earth with His head, uttering the eternal words of the Veda. And Krishna adored, with speech, mind, understanding, and acts, that God [i.e. Rudra]”.
I do not quote the above simply because it has Krishna Himself bowing before Lord Rudra – but more because those essential elements of piety: ‘Adoring with Speech, Mind, Understanding, and Acts’ , are a most apt set of precepts to keep in mind for even an ordinary human devotee still down here upon this globe of ours.
The subsequent component to the text has Krishna & Arjuna both performing a particular hymnal. In essence, it is an extended eulogy to Lord Shiva listing various of His qualities – although, of course, it acquires additional force due to what it resonates with. Which, per the Matsya Purana’s rendition of the Destruction of the Three Demonic Cities/Forts, is supposed to be the very same hymnal with which the Gods invoked Rudra to do that particular perceived-impossible deed. Something that we can tell, in part, by simply comparing the texts side by side (the Matsya Purana’s account of the Gods’ calling upon Rudra handily produces the text of the invocation said to have been uttered by Them to this purpose); yet also due to the nature of the object(ive) sought by Krishna & Arjuna here.
For they are after the Pashupatastra – the Weapon (Astra) of Pashupati (the Lord of Beasts / Cattle); that being the device utilized by Lord Shiva in the course of His obliteration of those three demonic strongholds aforementioned – and so-called, as He was granted the totemic epithet of Pasupati as His ‘fee’ for carrying out the war-act in question upon the Divine’s behalf.
In the course of my recent ‘Astra – The Star Weapon Of Orion, Ardra, Rudra’, I sought to connect this ‘Three-Arrow’ (Trikanda) to the Trishula so familiar to us from contemporary Shaivite iconography. It is also, effectively, presented within the ritual corpus as being a set of ritual enactments utilized to produce the weaponized outcome sought after. Three sacrificial fires, one for each ‘component’ to the Weapon – and not at all coincidentally, therefore one for each of the three demonic targets.
Effectively, therefore, what we have is a case of Eternal Return / Mythic Resonance – wherein petitioners are undertaking an act that is a replication of a previous mythic occurrence in order to be granted a similar outcome. And, as the relevant Hymnal presented there has also become ‘extracted’ for devotional use by Devotees in this world of ours, we therefore have a multi-layer mythic resonancy. We re-enact the deeds of two mythic protagonists (i.e. Arjun & Krishna) Who are Themselves re-enacting the deeds of The Gods. I should go so far as to suggest that there is actually an indelible increase in the power and potency of the undertaking as a precise result of that fact. It is ‘links in a chain’, or ‘additional strands to a rope’. Multiple resonancies not just in the standard sense of the same occurrence being retold many, many times (as we have detailed elsewhere for an array of archaic Indo-European mythology) and thereby acquiring greater currency … but instead, a conscious invoking of the fact that the Myth is being invoked as it and its foundational antecessor are being invoked. “We know this works, because it’s worked before – not merely as a template … but as a template that’s been invoked – and we’re drawing from that invoking of template as template, as well as the original ‘template’ itself.”.
The situation then ensconces another ‘knot’ (‘Yantra’ may almost be more aptly appropriate here) with what occurs next. For instead of simply directly granting Krishna & Arjuna this mighty unstoppable weapon, Lord Shiva sends Them to a particular body of water (or, more correctly, (The) Waters) where this invincible weapon (and also Amrit) is to be found. This, as long-term readers (or those deeply engaged with the relevant Vedic scriptures) will instantly recognize, recalls the archaic presentations in the Hymnals and Rites of the Vedas for such immensely potent divine weaponry being ‘housed’ beyond the ‘liminal sphere’ that is the edge of The Waters in cosmological terms – and having to be brought into this universe of ours by an intermediary such as Shiva-Rudra-Agni in Raptor form (Shyena – the Falcon / Hawk), and also ‘Unlocked’ by the Goddess. But more upon all of that some other time.
At this body of water, Arjuna & Krishna must engage in another deeply symbolic act – a ‘confrontation’ with two immense dragons in the water, and one carried out not through force of arms as we might be expecting … but rather via pious invocation of the SataRudriya Hymnal from the Vedas. In other words, once more hailing Lord Shiva – and doing so in a manner that has both mythic and direct ritual precedency. Thus inducing the two Serpents to be turned into the Bow and Arrow that had been sought after (which, as an aside, similarly resonates with the purpose of the SataRudriya rite – to turn something that looks (and, indeed, actually is).most incredibly dangerous … into something ‘on your side’ and only likely to cause the death of others who are the enemy. It’s just that instead of two immense dragons, the rite in question is endeavouring to placate Rudra as Manyu – in terms, as a brief point of interest, directly correlate with the evident ritual understanding for the Birth of Athena / Minerva, as we have covered at greater length elsewhere)
Lord Shiva then emanates a figure Who takes up these instruments of world(s)ly destruction, Who demonstrates Their use to Arjuna … and also fires and throws these back into the body of water from whence They had came. This leads to Arjuna mentally ‘accepting’ the teaching (assumedly, not only the instructions as to use and the Mantras for the weapon’s congealment – but also pointedly including that such an omni-potent weapon is not for protracted possession by any man, and must be returned once / as fired rather than clutched in illusory dominion by any lesser figure than Lord Shiva Himself) – as the text puts it: “[He] mentally entertained the desire, ‘Let all this become productive of fruit!'”, a ritual phrasing for, in effect, ‘initiating’ the process of the thought-seeds (im)planted within the mind here breaking the surface and blossoming into sidereal reality.
Again we have the scenario of the multi-layered mythic recurrence / Eternal Return transpiring within the course of the mythic text itself. A particular ‘myth’ is presented via the Emanation of Shiva that carries out the archery instruction etc. – showing how the weapon is brought into existence via particular sacral conduct, how it is then deployed, and other vitally important understandings to its use; with the incipient understanding that Arjuna is to re-immanentize this Myth into his own reality when He requires it upon the field of war ‘midst the then-impending near future. And, just as there are implicit ‘guides for action’ for a conventional devotee in the earlier Hymnal to Rudra that Krishna & Arjuna sing being presented there in the text … so, too, do we find a less straightforward and more demanding Myth to be engaged with by rather more advanced devotees out here in the (mostly) sidereal realm.
That being not only the ‘astral jaunt’ ability required to even get an audience with The Auspicious One in such a manner – but also the fact that it is only through the provision of those understandings and mantras that the actual weapon is to be granted. And the only way those can be obtained is via demonstrating one’s self worthy both through the actual skill and knowledge required to even find the ‘Test’ in the first place as well as then passing it (viz. the recognition of the true nature of the perils encountered – those Dragons – followed by the employment of the prominent Vedic liturgy to Rudra in order to gain His blessing to actually unlock the weapons in conceptual terms).
What this effectively means is that while anybody who bothers to read the scripture may indeed become aware of both the Hymnal it contains and what one might conceivably seek to do with it … the fact that the actual active components required to make use of the weapon (or, indeed, to be able to acquire it at all) aren’t in the text, but can only be provided through direct engagement on the Astral with facings of Shiva Himself – is quite the ‘safety lock’.
Indeed, given that the mechanism in question is a weapon of the mind, a mental munition (‘MantraMukta’) – this would render such a terrifyingly powerful armament rather difficult to steal, indeed. A physical location can be assailed, infiltrated, looted with impunity (its omni-potent defender, in this case, notwithstanding); a metaphysical location, a mythic location, can still be broken into – hence in part why we find the essential components to such devices safely harboured outside the universe in/beyond The Waters (which can therefore make actually getting these back into the universe where and when necessary a rather involved process). But a man’s mind and memory? Much more difficult to reliably ransack – particularly if he has a sufficient degree of mental (self-)control with which to frustrate endeavours to accomplish just exactly that.
Now there are several additional elements which should probably be considered here. One of which being that the entire episode takes place in no small part due to Arjuna having self-imposed a dread oath – wherein the prince pledges to kill an enemy princeling by the name of Jayadratha afore the next Sunset, in revenge for the latter’s killing of the former’s beloved son. Should Arjuna have failed to do that, he was honour-bound to live up to the terms of his swearing and throw himself onto a funerary pyre. The situation of Arjuna undertaking to slay Jayadratha, particularly given the hero’s heightened emotive state when pledging thus and especially the dire consequences (for him) should he fail – would plausibly render the oath something akin to a Sankalpa, the ‘statement of intent’ and ‘objective’, ‘aim’, that precedes various forms of Hindu rite as uttered by the Devotee. Hence, perhaps, the situation of Shiva being stated to grant the “accomplishment of his vow” to Arjuna as part of this encounter – this is, after all, the natural result of the Pasupatastra being given unto him.
Another is that, as noted above but briefly, this entire episode is taking place within Arjuna’s dream-state. That doesn’t make it less ‘real’, of course – as we have no reason to presume that the Krishna showing up in Arjuna’s dreams is merely a figment of the hero’s imagination rather than the very real and very alive (and, for that matter, ‘awake’) Krishna; the One Who had pledged to do whatever it took to help save His Friend upon hearing of the champion’s oath to suicide by pyre should he not succeed. However, through the utilization of certain mantras, Arjuna is able to access just such a rare state of ‘waking sleep’ which enables his psyche to go where his body in the sidereal (for the moment, at least) cannot – and, correspondingly, for something similarly so real it’s Capital R Real in comparison to his surrounds to be attained via his immanentizing mind’s eye rather than his hand’s immediate reaching grasp.
As a certain police officer once told me in … interesting circumstances – “Well, you know what they say – sometimes dreams really do come true”.
Following another bow before the Great God in thanks and recognition, Arjuna and Krishna are sent back by Lord Shiva to their army’s encampment. And, as we should perhaps be unsurprised to note, the concluding line to the section is a direct ‘resonancy’ with earlier Hindu text – “And permitted by Bhava both Arjuna and Kesava, those two heroes, almost immediately came back to their own camp, filled with transports of delight. Indeed, their joy was as great as that of Indra and Vishnu when those two gods, desirous of slaying Jambha, obtained the permission of Bhava that slayer of great Asuras.'”
Why does this matter? Because, once again, we are so often used to people seeming to incipiently claim that the later Puranas, the later Epics [Itihasas] are some sort of almost ‘foreign’ tradition imposed in complete displacement of the more archaic Vedic schemas.
This is patently false. Instead, what we actually tend to see is the continued ‘growth’ of the tree. Archaic formulae, Gods, circumstances, actions, invocations – updated in the language and presentation (‘expression’), yet still containing that same ancient ‘essence’ for all to see. If you know how to look. And by “know how to look”, I occasionally merely mean actually reading the texts that have come down to us rather than simply going by what some misinformed person with an agenda says online.
In any case, there are further points we almost certainly could make upon much of this – including the intriguing situation of Lord Shiva in relation to this Dream-jaunt, in light of Zeus being similarly presiding over dreams and Their Sending in The Iliad of Homer. But for now, I think that it is enough.
A remarkable occurrence of ‘Dream Yoga’ it is !
ॐ नमः शिवाय