With the words, ‘Yadã yadã hi dharmasya glãnirbhavati bhãrata, abhyut’thãnamadharmasya tadãtmãnam srujãmyaham. Paritrãnãya sãdhoonãm vinãshãya cha dushkrutãm, dharmasansthãpanãrthãya sambhavãmi yuge yuge’, the Gitã proclaimed the avatar principle. This we saw in the last article. Now, we will discuss some other aspects mentioned in the fourth adhyãy.
The problem of perceiving human traits in Paramãtmã (manushyabhãv) is associated with the avatar principle. When it is said that Paramãtmã assumes an avatar a number of questions arise in the mind, such as: Why did he take birth? Does him taking birth infer that he has worldly desires? Did he experience the pain of taking birth? As he has taken a human form, do human feelings and instincts of pleasure and pain, love and hatred, thirst and longing arise in him. The answer to all such questions is found in the precept given to Arjuna by Shri Krishna: divyabhãv.
जन्म कर्म दिव्यम् – Divinity of Birth and Actions
Shri Krishna Bhagwan says, ‘जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः। त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोर्जुन॥’ – ‘Janma karma cha me divyamevam yo vetti tattvataha, tyaktvã deham punarjanma naiti mãmeti sorjuna.’ – ‘O Arjuna, one who realizes that my birth and actions are completely divine does not attain another birth after departing from his body, but attains me’ (Gitã 4.9).
What does divine mean? Divine means possessing ultimate powers. Divine means ultimately liberating, giving ultimate happiness, above the influences of mãyã and free from any imperfections.
Divinity: A Fact
Divyabhãv is not a concocted psychological thought process. It is not just a means found to hide mistakes. It is not a trick to keep gullible devotees captivated. It is a reality, a fact, a true principle, and it is a doctrine. This is because Paramãtmã is truly divine. It is a weakness of the human mind that it cannot comprehend that which is beyond the senses and beyond this world. Its own conjectures prevent it from reaching the realities of unknown territories. In such circumstances, one who realizes one’s ignorance, surrenders to a capable guru and accepts what he says can experience the bliss of the true, beautiful and auspicious realms. Divyabhãv is indeed such a realm. Shri Krishna Bhagwan has shown Arjuna, his devoted disciple who has sought his refuge, the path to this realm.
The Purpose of Precepts on Divinity
To analyze others is a common human tendency. That analysis is based on one’s own experiences. One’s own experiences are deeply affected by one’s nature, feelings, biases, relationships and much more.
For example, if we see someone in misery, we also shudder, because we have experienced such pain. We judge the subject’s feelings based on our own feelings and experiences. We, as it were, put ourselves in the subject’s spot. This happens in many situations, both good and bad. Alongside our feelings, such judgements are skewed by our nature, biases, relationships, etc. Our weakness is that it is through this skewed perspective that, based on the events around us, we judge people and their intentions of our own accord. Based on these judgments we make categories that we fit people into. These categories sometimes even prove to be useful from a social perspective. Society even acknowledges those who make such categories, regarding them to be experienced and wise.
As long as we use the above method to understand people we come into contact with, it is not too big an issue. But if we use this method to understand avatars of Paramãtmã, i.e. satpurushes, then the outcome is detrimental. This is because they are not like us, they are different. We cannot judge them based on our feelings and nature. Our intellect, moulded on worldly experiences, is unequipped to fathom their life and work. Considering them, a different type of benchmark needs to be used. To understand worldly things, we use worldly benchmarks; to understand things beyond this world, we need to use benchmarks that are beyond this world. The required otherworldly benchmark is divyabhãv.
If one does not understand this benchmark, one will make mistakes in understanding Paramãtmã. Shri Krishna Bhagwan says, ‘अवजानन्ति मां मूढा मानुषीं तनुमाश्रितम्। परं भावमजानन्तो मम भूतमहेश्वरम्॥’ – ‘Avajãnanti mãm moodhã mãnusheem tanumãshritam, param bhãvamajãnanto mama bhootamaheshvaram.’ Meaning: ‘The foolish disregard me, thinking me to be a normal person who is born in a human body, because they do not know of my superiority as the controller of all living creatures’ (Gitã 9.11).
Not knowing superiority infers not knowing how to apply the benchmark of divya- bhãv. To overlook divinity is in itself ignorance. Referring to this shloka, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has called such ignorance as foolishness as well (Vachanãmrut Panchãlã 7).
For this very reason, upon proclaiming the avatar principle, by giving precepts on divyabhãv in this shloka, care has been taken to make sure that the divine acts of the avatars are not looked at from a mundane perspective.
जन्म दिव्यम् – Divine Birth
‘जन्म दिव्यम् – Janma divyam’ means that the birth of Paramãtmã is divine. To be born means to attain a human body. The manner in which Paramãtmã is born and the manner in which all other living beings are born is different. Generally, a jiva obtains a body due to its vãsanã. The bonds of mãyã have caused it to be born time and time again since time eternal. According to the fruits of a jiva’s karmas, Paramãtmã gives it new bodies. Thus, all other living beings are born due to their vãsanã bound by their karmas. That is not the case with Paramãtmã. Paramãtmã is born out of his own wish. If he so wishes, he can liberate countless jivas whilst remaining in his divine abode alone. Nevertheless, out of extreme compassion for the jivas that are wandering in creation, he takes birth to give them ultimate liberation. He takes birth to give them bliss by his association. He takes birth to give them the bliss of his form. He takes birth to fulfil the wishes of his devotees. He takes birth and becomes like one of us so that people can enjoy his bhakti and feel at ease with him. Karmas are under his control. In this manner, the birth of Paramãtmã is divine.
When a jiva is born in a body such as that of a human, it undergoes the misery of staying in the womb. But that is not the case for Paramãtmã. He indeed enters the mother’s womb, but he does not experience the misery of the womb. Whosoever’s womb he enters, he enters to give them his divine bliss. In this manner too, his birth is divine.
When a jiva is born from a womb, it forgets all previous experiences. That is not the case for Paramãtmã. Even as a human, he is all-knowing. He never loses his memory. Even before entering the womb, and thereafter, he always knows about the past, present and future. In this manner too, his birth is divine.
Moreover, when Paramãtmã is born, the whole of creation undergoes a change. Upon his coming, godly or pious jivas become extremely pleased and demonic jivas become perplexed. In this manner, too, his birth is divine.
Thus, so that we do not mistakenly assume Paramãtmã to be bound by karmas, have vãsanã, experience the misery of the womb, or lose his memory, etc., the Gitã explains the divinity of the birth of avatars.