Myth and Reality in ‘Myth and Reality’ – Bhagavad-Gita and Krishna

Kosambi launches into a polemic against Krishna, considering him as a real person, forgetting that he himself had cast doubts on the existence of Krishna in the first place. Kosambi spews venom against the acharya of the Gita (emphasis is mine):

“...Krsna as he appears in the Mbh is singularly ill-suited to propound any really moral doctrine. The most venerable character of the epic, Bhisma, takes up the greatest of Mbh parvans (Santi) with preaching morality on three important questions: King-craft (raja-dharma), conduct in distress (apad-dharma), and emancipation (moksha-dharma). As regent, he had administered the kingdom to which he had freely surrendered his own right. He had shown irresistible prowess and incomparable knightly honour throughout a long life of unquestioned integrity... Bhisma seems eminently fitted to teach rectitude. But Krsna? At every single crisis of the war, his advice wins the day by the crookedest of means which could never have occurred to the others. To kill Bhisma, Sikhandin was used as a living shield against whom that perfect knight would not raise a weapon, because of doubtful sex. Drona was polished off while stunned by the deliberate false report of his son's death. Karna was shot down against all rules of chivalry when dismounted and unarmed; Duryodhana was bludgeoned to death after a foul mace blow that shattered his thigh... When taxed with these transgressions, Krsna replies bluntly at the end of the Salya-parvan that the man could not have been killed in any other way, that victory could never have been won otherwise.
(M&R, pp.22-23)

Krishna lived and taught dharma, which encompasses morality but is far greater than it. Every word of advice that Krishna utters on the battlefield has been practiced by him in his own life, which is also possibly why he rattles out the highest truths in a casual battlefield conversation with a friend.

Kosambi is eager to lionize Bhishma, but what is Bhishma’s view on Krishna? At every step, he is deeply reverential towards Krishna. When Yudhisthira wishes to perform the rajasuya yajna, Bhishma says that it is Krishna who should be given the first respects. During the war, on the ninth day, when Krishna is upset with Bhishma (for using divine weapons to kill ordinary soldiers) and rushes to kill him, Bhishma says, “Please kill me. What greater boon can I have than to die at your hands?” After the war, during his long lectures to Yudhisthira about rajadharma, Bhishma says that Krishna is a living example for it. And Bhishma doesn’t have the tic of false modesty. He knows what he is capable of. Just to give an example – On the eve of the tenth day of battle, the Pandavas and Krishna visit Bhishma to ask him how he is to be conquered on the battlefield. After explaining the details, he says, “I do not see anyone in the three worlds who can kill me otherwise.” In light of this, Bhishma’s reverence for Krishna is meaningful. In fact, at one point Bhishma laments that he couldn’t listen to the wisdom of the Gita!

Further, Krishna followed the most practical credo: “Treat people the way they deserve to be treated.” If Krishna employed several seemingly unscrupulous methods to win the ‘war,’ the Kauravas had a huge share of misdeeds that were done outside of a war environment, in daily civilized life – be it the attempted assassination of Bhima, the ploy in the house of wax, or the fraudulent game of dice with the fourteen years of exile. At any rate, even if the Pandavas had decided not to fight the war, the Kauravas would have pursued them and tried to get them killed. The war had to be fought for the sake of self-preservation and it had to be won for the sake of preserving dharma.

Author(s)

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...