Friday, July 4, 2014

Reading Guide: 4H. Narayana. Secret of God's Son.

See the Reading Overview for Pradyumna and Secret of God's Son. This is the Reading Guide for Week 4-H, beginning the second volume of the series. This sequel picks up where the first book leaves off, but it begins with a recap of the Mahabharata War. Pradyumna did not fight in that war, but he will be very involved in the war's aftermath:


The story begins with the birth of Dhrishtadyumna and his sister Draupadi who both emerge from the sacrificial fire of King Drupada‘Draupadi will be the most beautiful woman on earth,’ declared a heavenly voice. ‘And she will bring doom to the arrogant warrior clans.’

The goddess Chandika, avatar of Durga, watches over Draupadi, who becomes the wife of the five Pandava brothers, enemies of the Kauravas.  When Yudhishthira loses Draupadi in a dice game to the Kauravas, Draupadi calls down a curse upon them, and the goddess Chandika watches and rejoices.

One of the Kaurava brothers, Vikarna, tries to defend Draupadi, but Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, refuses to listen, and his friend Karna (who does not know he is really half-brother to the Pandavas) also taunts Draupadi.

Krishna restrains Chandika from beginning the war then and there, and he also protects Draupadi when the Kauravas try to strip off her clothes.

[Krishna is not physically present at the assembly — this is Krishna acting in his divine form. He addresses Chandika as his sister because the goddess Shakti in her form as Yogmaya was born as Krishna's sister.]

Meanwhile, as things reach a crisis point in the assembly hall, Dhritarashtra has a horrifying vision of what is to come, so he begs Draupadi to lift her curse and spare his sons. The Pandavas go free, but it is clear that war will come: They watched in dread as Draupadi led her husbands from the court, her head held high and her lips chanting verses to the dark goddess.

1. Beyond the Curse

The scene now shifts to the end of the war. Duryodhana and his brothers are dead. Draupadi and the Pandavas are alive, but their sons are all dead. The son of Krishna, Pradyumna, did not fight in the war, but he has joined his father on the battlefield now that the fighting is done.

Krishna uses his divine powers to grant Pradyumna a vision of what happened in the war, including how Bhima, strongest of the Pandavas, killed Vikarna.

Pradyumna thus learns how Queen Gandhari cursed Krishna: ‘Your men will die covered in shame after a drunken brawl,’ she had said to Krishna. ‘You too will die alone like an animal, at the hands of a common hunter. The seas will devour your radiant Dwaraka. And the world will perish in sin as people forget you and your glorious Gita.’

The visions ends, and the celestial sage Narada arrives; he is "a trikaala jnani who knew the past, present and future." Pradyumna wants to avert Gandhari's curse; in particular, he wants to save the Gita. He goes to her on the battlefield; she is still crazed with grief.

2. A Simmering Volcano

Gandhari blames herself for Duryodhana's death; she had tried to use the power of her tapasya to make him invincible in battle, but Krishna thwarted her plan.

Pradyumna begs her to soften her curse on Krishna and the Gita. Gandhari names her price: Pradyumna must bring back her son Vikarna from Yamaloka, the kingdom of death.

Pradyumna goes to his wife Maya (Mayavati) for advice; she is an incarnation of Rati just as Pradyumna is an incarnation of Kama. She consoles him with these words: ‘Yes,’ Maya nodded. ‘We must accept the truth—no one can stop the wheel of Time. We are bound by our destiny, living out our lives inside a circle formed by a snake holding its tail in its mouth. Only Krishna stands beyond this circle and shows us the way to safeguard the universe and preserve his wisdom.’


3. Sporting with Death

Pradyumna and Maya go to find Krishna, and he reveals himself in his cosmic form: Dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge [Gita 4.8: reestablishing Dharma, I appear, age after age].

You can read more about Karma, Dharma, Kala, and Lila at Wikiepdia, and you can find the saying Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah at Wikiquote.

Krishna explains that he cannot help simply bring Vikarna back from the dead, and he discusses with Pradyumna who stood for and against Dharma in the war.

Pradyumna brings up the example of how Savitri rescued her husband from the dead, while Maya recalls how Krishna rescued the son of Sandipani from death. Krishna urges Pradyumna to follow swa-dharma, his own dharma: You too must follow your chosen path if you wish to become my weapon against adharma.

Pradyumna has a vision of the cosmic Sudarshana chakra and does reverence to the god: Om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya.

He then declares that he will embark on the quest: As your son, I must fight to preserve your name and your Gita. I will fight the curse and, if need be, the Kali demon himself. Bless me, O Para Brahman, O Supreme God! [Don't confuse the goddess Kālī with the demon Kali.]

Krishna urges Pradyumna to go to Shiva and ask for his trident, Trishula. He encourages Pradyumna by telling him how he as Vishnu went to Mount Kailash and offered Shiva his own eye, in return for which Shiva granted him two sons: Samba and Pradyumna.

4. Besieged

As Pradyumna and Maya leave Krishna, they encounter Samba, Pradyumna's half-brother, drunk. He declares his hatred for both Pradyumna and for their father Krishna.

During the night, Pradyumna has visions of the war.

Garuda then appears, and Pradyumna is transported to a mysterious garden where there is a talking peepal tree.

The next day, sages prepare Pradyumna for his journey to see Shiva. Samba again confronts and insults him, and then vows to kill both Pradyumna and Krishna.

5. Shiva’s Trident

Narada arrives and encourages Pradyumna, reminding him that Shiva is Ashutosha, "easily pleased," and that he once saved the world by drinking the poisonous halahala. Narada also tells him the story of how Shiva rescued Markandeya from death, and how he taught people the Mahamrityunjaya mantra to remove the fear of death.

And now Pradyumna must hurry: once Vikarna's soul crosses the Vaitarani rvier, it will be too late, so he flies on Garuda to Mount Kailash.

There the lotus Indivar speaks to him, and Pradyumna hears a voice from heaven, Surrender to me. For I will set you free. Pradyumna silently pronounces the word of surrender: saranaagati. As Pradyumna then rises, the lotus warns him to beware of brothers like Karna (who was a foe to his own half-brothers in the Mahabharata War).

Shiva now appears, but he refuses Pradyumna's request for the trident. He tells Pradyumna the story of how he humbled Vishnu's Sudarshana chakra, and he also tells the story of the Nila chakra of the Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Pradyumna denies that he is acting out of pride: I am here in order to serve my people, O Shiva,’ he tried again. ‘I seek sudarshana for all of humankind—true vision that will help them distinguish virtue from evil. And to attain this, they need the light of the Gita and the glory of Krishna’s name.

6. Yamaloka

The scene now shifts: the Yamadutas are dragging the dead Vikarna off to Yamaloka.

Back to Kailash: Shiva strikes Pradyumna, and then he hears the sound of Shiva's drum; he regains consciousness in the cremation grounds and thinks that he too is about to die.

Back to Vikarna: he reaches the cave where the dead stand in judgment before Yama, with Chitragupta reciting their crimes. Vikarna wonders to which of the narakas he will be condemned.

7. Crossing Swords

Back to Pradyumna: he boldly faces Shiva, insisting on the righteousness of his quest: You seek to protect your devotees from sin by awakening wisdom in their hearts. I wish to do the same by preserving the Gita that lights their path to moksha.

Back to Vikarna: he boldly faces Yama and says, Salutations to the lord of dharma before whom everyone—fool and scholar, beggar and aristocrat—is equal.

Yama condemns Vikarna to be thrown into the Vaitarani river for his role in the war.

Now Pradyumna is transported to Yamaloka: he gives one of his two swords to Vikarna and together they face Yama and his minions. Pradyumna still has hope that he will be able to summon Shiva's trident by speaking the Shiva mantra.

The trident comes flying to Pradyumna, and Yama surrenders; he sends Pradyumna and Vikarna back to the land of the living. As they leave Yama's kingdom, though, Pradyumna realizes that he and Vikarna are not alone. . .  read on to find out who has joined them!

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