12. Triumph and Death

Having taught his students on Mount Meru, Krishna accompanied them along the banks of the Jamaina and Ganges in order to convert the people. One evening on the outskirts of a city, the crowd gathered around him. What he preached to the people above all was charity toward one's neighbor. "The evils with which we torment our neighbor," he said, "follow us, just as our shadow follows our body. Works which have love for one's fellow man as a basis are those which must be pursued by the righteous, for they are those which will weigh most on the heavenly scale. If you go only among the good, your example will be useless; do not be afraid to live among the wicked in order to lead them back to the good! The virtuous man is similar to the huge banyan tree whose beneficent shade gives freshness of life to the plants surrounding it!" Sometimes Krishna, whose soul now overflowed with a perfume of love, spoke of abnegation and sacrifice in a gentle voice and with appealing illustrations. "Just as earth supports those who tread upon her with their feet and tear up her womb while tilling the soil, so we must return good for evil. -- The good man must fall under the blow of the wicked as the sandalwood tree scents the hatchet which strikes it when it is hewn down." When the demi-savants, infidels and arrogant asked him to explain the nature of God, he answered in sentences like these: "Man's knowledge is but vanity; all his good actions are illusion when he does not know how to relate them to God. One who is humble in heart and spirit is beloved of God; he does not need anything else. Infinity and space alone can understand infinity; only God can understand God."

These were not the only new things in his teaching. He captivated and won people with what he said about the living God, about Vishnu. He taught that the Master of the Universe had incarnated more than once among men. He had appeared successively in the Seven Rishis, in Vyasa and in Vasichta. He would appear again. But Vishnu, according to Krishna, liked to speak sometimes through the mouths of the humble, through a beggar, a repentant woman, a little child. He told the people the parable of Durga, the poor fisherman, who had found a little child dying of hunger under a tamarind tree. The good Durga, although crippled by pain and burdened with a large family which he did not know how he could feed, was moved with pity for the little child and took him home. Now the sun had set, the moon was rising over the Ganges, the family had said the evening prayer and the little child murmured in a low voice, "The fruit of the cataca purifies water; thus good deeds purify the soul. Take your nets, Durga. Your boat is floating on the Ganges." Durga lowered his nets and they were weighed down by the great number of fish. The child had disappeared. "Thus," said Krishna, "when man forgets his own misery for another's, Vishnu reveals himself and makes him happy in his heart!" By such stories Krishna preached the cult of Vishnu. Each man was amazed to find God so near his heart, when the son of Devaki spoke.

The reputation of the prophet of Mount Meru spread over India. The shepherds who had seen him grow up and had witnessed his first exploits, could not believe that this holy man was the impetuous hero they had known. Old Nanda was dead, but his two daughters, Sarasvati and Nichdali, whom Krishna loved, were still alive. Their destinies had been very different. Sarasvati, annoyed at Krishna's departure, had sought forgetfulness in marriage. She had become the wife of a man of noble caste, who had married her for her beauty, but later he had repudiated her and sold her to a vaysia, or merchant. Sarasvati had left this man out of contempt, to become a woman of low repute. Then one day, desolate in heart, heavy with remorse and displeasure, she returned to her country and went secretly to find her sister, Nichdali. The latter, forever thinking of Krishna as if he were present, had not married at all and lived as a servant with her brother. When Sarasvati told her of her misfortunes and shame, Nichdali answered, "My poor sister! I forgive you, but my brother will not. Krishna alone can save you!"

A flame shone in Sarasvati's lifeless eyes. "Krishna!" she exclaimed. "What has he become?"

"A saint, a great prophet. He preaches on the banks of the Ganges."

"Let us find him!" cried Sarasvati. And the two sisters set out, the one stained with passion, the other perfumed with innocence. Yet both were consumed by the same love.

Krishna was teaching his doctrine to the warriors or Kshatryas, for he alternately taught the Brahmans, the men of military caste, and the people. To the Brahmans he explained with the calm of mature years the deep truths of divine knowledge; before the rajahs he extolled with the fire of youth the virtues of warriors; to the people he spoke with the simplicity of childhood, of charity, resignation and hope.

Krishna was seated at a feast in the home of a famous leader when two women asked to be presented to the prophet. They were allowed to enter because of their penitents' dress. Sarasvati and Nichdali knelt at Krishna's feet. Sarasvati cried out, shedding a flood of tears, "Since you left us, I have spent my life in wrongdoing and in sin; but if you will, Krishna, you can save me!"

Nichdali added, "O Krishna, when I saw you before, I knew I would love you forever; now that I find you again in all your glory I know that you are the son of Mahadeva!" And both of them kissed his feet.

The rajahs said, "Holy Rishi, why do you allow these common women to insult you with their foolish words?"

Krishna answered, "Let them pour out their hearts. They are worth more than you, for this one has faith, and that one, love. Sarasvati, the sinner, is saved as of now because she believed in me, and Nichdali, in her silence has loved truth more than you with your shouting. Be it known that my radiant mother who lives in Mahadeva's sun will teach Nichdali the mysteries of eternal Love when all of you will be plunged in the darkness of lower lives!"

From that day on, Sarasvati and Nichdali became closely attached to Krishna and followed him with his disciples. Inspired by him, they taught other women.

Kansa still reigned in Madura. Since the murder of old Vasichta, the king had not found peace on his throne. The prophecy of the anchorites had come true. Devaki's son was alive! The king had seen him, and at his gaze he had felt his power and royalty disappear. Like a dry leaf he trembled for his life, and often, in spite of his guards, he would turn around suddenly, expecting to see the young hero, terrible and radiant, standing at his door. For her part, Nysumba, tossing on her couch in her apartments, dreamed of her lost powers. When she learned that Krishna, now a prophet, was preaching on the banks of the Ganges, she persuaded the king to send a troop of soldiers to bring him back captive.

When Krishna saw the soldiers he smiled and said, "I know who you are and why you come. I am ready to follow you to your king, but first, let me tell you about the King of Heaven who is mine!" And he began to speak about Mahadeva, his splendor and his revelations. When he had finished, the soldiers presented their arms to Krishna, saying, "We shall not take you as a prisoner to our king, but we shall follow you." And they remained with him.

When he learned this, Kansa was very frightened. Nysumba said to him, "Send the finest soldiers in the kingdom!"

This was done, and they came to the city where Krishna was teaching. They had promised not to listen to him, but when they saw the radiance of his countenance, the majesty of his carriage and the respect the crowd showed him, they could not help hearing him. Krishna spoke to them of the inner servitude of those who do evil, and the heavenly freedom of those who do good. The Kshatryas were filled with joy and surprise, for they felt relieved of a tremendous burden. "Truly you are a great magician," they said, "for we had sworn to lead you to the king in chains, but it is impossible for us to do this since you have freed us from ours."

They returned to Kansa and said to him, "We cannot bring this man to you! He is a great prophet and you have nothing to fear from him."

The king, seeing that all was useless, had his guard increased and iron chains put on all the gates of his palace. Nevertheless, one day he heard a great noise in the city and shouts of joy and triumph. The guards came and exclaimed, "It is Krishna entering Madura! The people are forcing the gates; he is breaking the iron chains!" Kansa wanted to flee, but the guards themselves compelled him to remain on his throne.

Followed by his students and a great number of anchorites, Krishna was making his entry into Madura. The city was decked with flags and in the midst of a turbulent host of people who resembled a sea disturbed by the wind, Krishna entered the city beneath a shower of garlands and flowers. Everyone acclaimed him. The Brahmans stood grouped under the sacred banana trees before the temples in order to greet Devaki's son, the conqueror of the serpent; the hero of Mount Meru, but above all, the prophet of Vishnu. Followed by a brilliant procession, hailed as liberator by the people and the kshatryas, Krishna appeared before the king and queen.

"You have reigned only with violence and evil," said Krishna to Kansa, "and you deserve a thousand deaths because you killed the holy elder, Vasichta. Nevertheless, you will not die yet. I want to prove to the world that it is not in killing that one triumphs over one's conquered enemies, but in forgiving them!"

"Evil magician," said Kansa, "you have stolen my crown and my kingdom! Kill me!"

"You speak like a madman," said Krishna, "for if you died in your present state of irrationality, hardness and crime, you would be lost irrevocably in the other life. If, on the other hand, you begin to understand your folly and repent in this one, your punishment will be less in the other, and through the intercession of pure spirits, one day Mahadeva will save you."

Nysumba whispered into the king's ear, "Fool! Take advantage of his pride! While one is alive, the hope for vengeance remains!"

Krishna understood what she had said without having heard it. He looked at her severely, but with great pity. "O wretched one, always your poison! Corrupter, black magician, you have nothing in your heart but the venom of serpents! Extirpate it, or one day I shall be forced to crush your head! --  And now you will go with the king to a place of penitence to expiate your crimes under the supervision of the Brahmans."

After these events, with the consent of the noblemen and people of the kingdom, Krishna consecrated Arjuna, his disciple, the most illustrious descendant of the solar race, as king of Madura. He gave supreme authority to the Brahmans, who became the king's advisors. He himself remained leader of the anchorites, who formed the superior council of Brahmans. In order to remove this council from attacks, he had a fortified city built for them and himself in the mountains. It was protected by a high wall, and was called Dvarka. In the center of this city was placed the temple of the initiates, the most important part of which was hidden underground.19

But when the kings of the lunar cult learned that a king of the solar cult had again ascended the throne of Madura and that through him the Brahmans were to become masters of India, they formed a powerful league among themselves in order to overthrow him. Arjuna gathered around him all the kings of the solar cult, of the white Aryan, Vedic tradition. From the heart of the temple of Dvarka, Krishna observed and guided them. The two armies found themselves face to face, and the decisive battle was imminent. But Arjuna, his master no longer near him, was troubled and his courage weakened. One morning at daybreak Krishna appeared in the tent of the king, his disciple. "Why," asked the master severely, "have you not begun the battle, which is to decide whether the sons of the sun or the sons of the moon will reign on earth?"

"Without you I cannot do it," answered Arjuna. "Look at these two great armies, these multitudes who are about to kill each other!"

From the height where they stood, the lord of spirits and the king of Madura looked upon the two great armies drawn up opposite each other. The leaders' gilded coats of mail shone in the sun; thousands of cavalrymen, horses and elephants awaited the battle signal. At that moment the leader of the enemy army, the oldest of the Kuravas, blew his great shell, whose sound resembled the roaring of a lion. At once on the vast battlefield was heard the neighing of horses, the confused noise of arms, drums and trumpets. There was a great uproar. Arjuna had only to mount his chariot, drawn by white horses, and to blow his sea shell of celestial blue, in order to give the battle signal to the sons of the sun. But here was the king, overcome by pity and discouragement. "Upon seeing this multitude about to attack each other, I feel my limbs weaken, my mouth is parched, my body trembles, my hair stands on end, my skin burns, my head swims. I see evil signs! No good can come from this massacre! What shall we do with kingdoms, pleasures and even with life? Those very men for whom we want kingdoms, pleasures and joys are standing there ready to fight each other, forgetting their lives and their possessions. Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, grandsons, relatives are going to slaughter one another. I do not wish to kill them in order to reign over this earth! What pleasure can I find in killing my enemies? Once the traitors are dead, evil will fall upon us!"

"How," asked Krishna, "has this plague of fear gripped you? It is unworthy of a sage; it is the source of infamy, alienating us from heaven! Do not be a weakling! Stand on your feet!"

But Arjuna, overcome with discouragement, sat in silence. Finally he said, "I shall not fight."

Then Krishna, ruler of spirits, continued with a slight smile, "O Arjuna, I called you king of sleep so that your spirit might always watch, but your spirit has fallen asleep and your body has conquered your soul! You weep over those for whom one should not mourn, and your words lack wisdom. Wise men weep neither for the living nor for the dead. You and I and those leaders of men have always existed, and we shall never cease to exist in the future. Just as the soul experiences childhood, youth and old age in this body, so will it experience it in other bodies. A man of discernment is not disturbed about it. Son of Bharat, bear pain and pleasure with the same spirit! Those whom they no longer affect deserve immortality. Those who see the real essence see the eternal, everlasting truth, which is above soul and body. Truth lives through everything, is above destruction. No one can destroy the indestructible. All these bodies will not last, and you know it. But seers know also that the incarnate soul is everlasting, indestructible and infinite. Therefore you must fight, descendant of Bharat!

"Those who believe that the soul can kill or that it is killed, are equally mistaken. The soul does not kill, neither is it killed. It is not born, it does not die and cannot lose this being which it always has had. Just as an individual throws away old clothing to put on new, so the incarnate soul casts off one body to take on others. Sword does not cut it, nor does fire burn it, water wet it, nor air wither it. It is waterproof, incombustible, durable, strong, eternal. The soul passes through everything unharmed. Therefore you should worry neither about death nor about life, O Arjuna! For one who is born, death is certain; for one who dies, birth is sure. Face your duty without flinching; for a kshatrya nothing is better than a fair fight. Happy are the warriors who find battle an open door to heaven! But if you do not wish to fight this just battle, you will sink into sin, giving up your duty and reputation. All beings will speak of your everlasting infamy, and infamy is worse than death for one who has been honored!"

At these words of the master, Arjuna was seized with shame, feeling his royal blood surge up, along with his courage. He leaped into his chariot and gave the battle signal. Then Krishna said farewell to his followers and left the battlefield, for he was certain of the victory of the sons of the sun.

However, Krishna had perceived that in order to cause the defeated ones to accept his religion, it was necessary to win their souls. This would be a more difficult victory than that with arms. Just as the holy Vasichta had died, pierced by an arrow in order to reveal supreme truth to Krishna, so Krishna had to die voluntarily from the arrows of his moral enemy in order to plant in the heart of his adversary the faith he had preached to his students and to the world. He knew that the former king of Madura, far from doing penance, had taken refuge with his father-in-law, Kalayeni, king of the serpents. Kansa's hatred, constantly aroused by Nysumba, caused Krishna to be followed by spies, seeking the appropriate moment to strike him. But Krishna felt that his mission was ended and only required the supreme seal of sacrifice in order for it to be fulfilled. Therefore he stopped evading and paralyzing his enemy with the power of his will. He knew that if he ceased to protect himself with this hidden power, the long awaited blow would strike him in the darkness. But the son of Devaki wished to die far from men, in the solitude of Himavat. There he would feel nearer his radiant mother, the sublime old man and the sun of Mahadeva.

Therefore Krishna went to a retreat which was hidden in a lonely place at the foot of the lofty summits of the Himavat. None of his students had fathomed his plan. Only Sarasvati and Nichdali read it in their teacher's eyes by means of the divination which exists in woman and in love. When Sarasvati understood that Krishna wished to die, she threw herself at his feet, kissed them passionately and cried, "Master, do not leave us!"

Nichdali looked at him and said quietly, "I know where you are going. Since we love you, let us follow you!"

Krishna said, "In my heaven, love can be refused nothing. Come!"

After a long journey the prophet and the holy women reached the huts grouped about the tall, bare cedar, on a snowcapped rocky mountain. On one side, arose the immense domes of the Himavat; on the other, in the depths, were a maze of lower mountains; in the distance stretched the plain of India, lost in a dream-like, golden mist. In this retreat lived several penitents, dressed in bark clothing, their hair uncut and twisted in a knot, their beards long, bodies dirty and dusty, their limbs withered by the wind and the hot sun. Some were little more than dried skin on a dry skeleton. Upon seeing this sad place Sarasvati cried, "Earth is far away, and heaven is silent. Lord, why have you brought us to this spot, forsaken by God and men?"

"Pray," replied Krishna, "if you want earth to come near and heaven to speak to you."

"With you, heaven is always present," said Nichdali, "but why does heaven wish to leave us?"

"It is necessary," answered Krishna, "that the son of Mahadeva die, pierced by an arrow, in order that the world may believe his word."

"Explain this mystery to us!"

"You will understand it after my death. Let us pray."

For seven days they engaged in prayer and ablutions. Often Krishna's face became transfigured and was shining. On the seventh day, toward sunset, the two women saw archers coming up to the retreat.

"Here are Kansa's archers who are looking for you," said Sarasvati. "Master, defend yourself!"

Krishna, kneeling near the cedar tree, did not cease praying. The archers came and looked at the women and the penitents. They were rough soldiers with yellow and black skins. Seeing the ecstatic form of the saint, they were speechless. At first they tried to draw him out of his ecstasy by throwing stones at him, but nothing could make him abandon his immobility. Then the soldiers seized him and tied him to the trunk of the cedar tree. Krishna let this be done as if he were in a dream. The archers took their positions at a distance and began to shoot at him. When the first arrow pierced him, Krishna cried out, "Vasichta, the sons of the sun are victorious!" When the second arrow quivered in his flesh, he said, "My radiant mother, let those who love me enter with me into your glory!" At the third, he simply said, "Mahadeva!" And then with the name of Brahma, he gave up his spirit.

Krishna's body was burned by his followers in the holy city of Dvarka. Sarasvati and Nichdali threw themselves into the fire so they could join their teacher. The crowd thought they saw Mahadeva arise out of the flames in a body of light.

After these events became known, a great part of India embraced the cult of Vishnu, which reconciled the solar and lunar cults in the religion of Brahma.


Notes for this chapter:

19. The Vishnu-Purana, Book V, Chapters 22 and 30 speaks of this city in rather clear terms: "Krishna resolved therefore to build a citadel where the tribe of Yadu would find a safe refuge, and which would be such that even women could defend it. The city of Dvarka was protected by raised ramparts, beautified by gardens and fish ponds, and was as splendid as Amarasvati, Indra's city. In this city he planted the Paryata tree, whose sweet scent perfumes the earth afar off. All those who approached it found themselves able to recall their previous lives."

This tree is evidently the symbol of divine knowledge and initiation. We find the same tree in Chaldean tradition. From there it passed to the Hebraic Genesis. After Krishna's death the city is submerged, the tree returns to heaven, but the temple remains. If all this has an historic significance, for one who knows the ultra-symbolic and discrete language of the Hindus, it means that some tyrant or other had the city completely destroyed and initiation became more and more secret.


13. Radiance of the Solar World

The Great Initiates