Mar 5: Purpose of Avataras – Katha Shravanam

5 Mar

The satsang lecture was delivered by Sri Narayananji from Boston.

In Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna gives a beautiful verse citing the reason for his incarnation in this world. He says,

“Parithranaya sadhunaam  vinashaya cha dushkruthaam dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavami yugae yugae”

Hey Bharatha I will incarnate in this world whenever the dharma is at stake.

“yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glannir bhavathi bharatha” The Lord says.
“abyuthaanam adharmasya thathatmanam chuchamyaham”

‘I will incarnate whenever there is a collapse of dharma so that I destroy the evil forces that were the cause for the destruction of Dharma.. Whenever the dharma is at a stake, the first people to be affected are the one following the path of Dharma. They are none other than Sadhus.  So to reinstate Dharma again in this world, I will re-incarnate’, the Lord says.

Our Mahans, Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures gives a lucid and beautiful explanation for the reasons for incarnation of the Lord.

The simple reason for his incarnation that one could find in Srimad Bhagavatam and the Vedas is because he wanted to re-incarnate. It was verily because he wanted to play [leelas] in this universe.

Generally all scriptures talk about the ten incarnations of the Lord that he took. But Srimad Bhagavatam talks about the twenty four incarnations and it also says that even we talk about the twenty four avatars of the Lord, but the Lord has infinite avatars.

If we ponder on the Lord’s incarnations, it is very beautiful to see how he taken every incarnation in order to establish dharma in this world. The first avatar that he took after the dissolution of the universe [ pralaya]  was Matsya Avatar. Followed by this, he took the Varaha [a boar] avatar. Boar is a very detestable animal and it is always found in the drains and it always looks dirty. The Lord decided to take this form to make this form divine. He took the form of a boar to establish dharma in order to make sure that the Vedas are protected. Even before making sure on the Vedas, there should be an eEarth on which the Vedas can sustain. If not for the Lord, the earth would not exist. So the Lord, in the form of Varaha Avatar first did an uddharana of this earth and took earth on his nose and protected the earth and he is known as the “Yagnya Varaha Moorthy”. Why is he called so?  He is the master for all the sacrifices. In Srimad Bhagavatam, it is said that the Varaha Moorthy is verily the form of all sacrifices [yagnas]. His four limbs are the four people [adhvaryu, hotaa] who perform the sacrifices. His mouth is the place which serves the ghee for the sacrifice.  Why should the sacrifices be of so much importance? But for the sacrifices, the whole world would be a Bogha Boomi. He wanted to make the earth a Yoga Bhoomi and Karma Bhoomi since he wanted the Vedas to flourish and prevail. That is the very reason he incarnated as Varaha Avatar. He protected the Vedas and through the Vedas, the dharma could be established.

We then see the avatar of the Lord’s Koorma Avatar. It is indeed an interesting avatar since it had the longest lifespan and the reason it was because it had the ability to safe-guard against any extraneous danger, by pulling all the limbs and the head into its own shell. How do we interpret this in a philosophical sense? When one controls the five senses [the four limbs and the head] one attains the Amruthatva. Since the path of the Vedas was established by the Lord, when one chants the Vedas without following the stringent norms required by a person to chant the Vedas then it is not going to reap any fruit.

Narayananji very lucidly explained the term “Brahmacharya”. Brahmacharya is not refraining from marriage and it is just not a gender issue. Brahmacharya refers to all the five senses. It is about what the five senses are supposed to do. For example, one should not see something, which he is not supposed to see. So controlling the five senses is very beautifully depicted by the Lord in the form of a tortoise in Koorma Avatar. If the Vedas have to flourish, the Dharma has to be established in this earth, and then it has to be chanted and be preserved by strictly adhering to Brahmacharya in order to preserve the Dharma.

The next beautiful form of the Lord is Narasimha Avatar.  The term “Hiranya” in Sanskrit connotes gold. In a philosophical term, the term Hiranya means mind [ manas].  The term Hiranyaksha, where aksha means eye and Hiranya refers to the mind.  So it means the eyes of the mind which refers to the five sense organs [indriyas].  There are definitions of the terms Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakahipu. Hiranyakashipu refers to the ego [ahankara and the mamakara] and Hiranyaksha is called the mind and the five sense organs Hirankashipu. So the Lord advocates a beautiful path to control the mind and the sense organs. Hiranyakashipu denotes all the five sense organs. What is required to control the senses? We need Vairagya [determination] and Viveka [discrimination] to control them.  One without the other will not help. The combination of Vairagya and Viveka is what one needs to adopt to control the senses. This is beautifully shown in the form of Narasimha Avatar. The incarnation of Lord Narasimha is a beautiful combination of a human and a lion. The living being that has the strong will-power and determination [parakrama] is lion and the living being that has a strong discrimination [viveka] is human-being. So the Lord incarnated as a mix of a lion and human depicting Vairagya and Viveka and showed the path of attaining the Lord by the control of the five senses. The Narasimha Avatar shows the path to attain the Lord by destroying the senses with the help of Lord Prahalada, Vairagya and Viveka. Lord Prahalada is the epitome of Bhakti.

In his other incarnations, he decided to come down in human form. In the Vamana Avatar he teaches beautiful precepts. He says “If you want to attain the holy feet of the Lord, don’t surrender the possessions and other material wealth but instead surrender ourselves, the possessor”. The Lord tells King Bali that if you don’t surrender unto me, then you will lose all your wealth. When King Bali surrendered all his wealth to the Lord, he was not very happy. But when he surrendered himself, the Lord was immensely pleased and Himself became King Bali’s servant.

Following Vamana Avatar, The Lord took two important incarnations [avartars] which are end to end avatars, from their birth to the last disappearance. One of the Azhwars in Thiruvazhmozhi says –

“Karpar Ramabiranai allal matrum karparo.”

The reason for Lord Rama’s incarnation is that one should learn the actions of Lord Rama and in turn adhere that in our daily lives.

“Marthyaavathaarastviha marthya sikshanam…” (Bhagavatam canto 5)

The above Sloka means that “Marthyavathara” means human and so it conveys the meaning that the Lord incarnated as human in order to teach the humans “Marthya Sikshanam”.  The Lord incarnates as Lord Rama in order to teach us the way of the life. Only an ideal man can teach us the ways to lead a life.

Srimad Ramayana begins by –

“Tapasvadhyaya nritham tapsvi vaak vithambaram
Naradam pariprapracha valmiki munipungavam
kon asmin saampratham lokae gunavan sathya veeryavaan”

Sage Valmiki asked Sage Narada. “ Oh! Sage Narada! You are one of the greatest Gurus who possess all the great qualities like Tapaha, Svadyaya etc. Is there someone who exists in this Earth with all these sixteen qualities? So Sage Narada in reply to Sage Valmiki’s question began to expound on Srimad Ramayana.

If we delve into Lord Krishna Avatar, the Azhwar sings –

“Kaetpargal kesavan kirthi allal matrum kaetparo”

The very reason of Lord Krishna’s incarnation is to verily listen and thoroughly enjoy the stories [leelas] of the Lord. He lucidly uses the plural “kaetpargal”. This clearly signifies the need for a stasang. It is just not enough for a person to listen to the other person who is talking but need many people to listen to the speaker. Hence that becomes a satsang.

If we deliberate on the incarnations of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, the former avatar was to show the ways that one has to adhere to in his/her life and the latter is to enjoy his glories.  But in this fast-paced life, how many of us can really lead the life that Lord Rama has shown? The incarnation of Lord Rama is also to show the path of Katha Shravana [listening to the stories of the Lord] akin to Lord Krishna’s avatar.  It can be clearly shown that everyone living in the life of Ramayana, listened to Ramayana themselves. It is the medicine for everyone contemporary with Ramayana.

“Yatra Yatra Raghunatha Keerthanam Thatra Thatra Krutha Mastaka anjalim”

Where ever one sings and extols Raghunatha’s kritans, Hanumanji is right there and prostrates at the feet of the person discoursing on Srimad Ramayana. In Mahabharatha, Bheema and the other Panadvas visit a beautiful place in Himalayas. Bheema went a step ahead and met his brother Hanumanji. Mahabharatha happened many ages [Yugas] after the episode of Ramayana. Once Bheema recognized Hanumanji, he enquired as to what he was doing in Himalayas. Hanumanji replied that Sita Maata had blessed him with Ramayana in that forest and also many people frequent the place to discourse on Ramayana. He said that he was merrily spending his time listening to Ramayana.

Ramayana was also a life-line for Sita Maata. In Ashokavana when Ravana had threatened to slay Sita Maata, the daemons were mocking at her. Trijada was a good hearted daemon and she silenced other demons by sharing a dream that she recently experienced in which Sita Maata would not be killed. Sita had lost all her hopes that Lord Sri Rama would come and rescue her from Ravana and the other daemons. She was so frustrated that she decided to hang herself under the Simsupa tree and that was the moment she started to listen to Srimad Ramayana discourse sung by Sri Hanumanji. That greatly alleviated her sorrows and greatly helped her revive her enthusiasm. The significance of Srimad Ramayana is also clearly depicted in Lord Rama’s life itself. It was only after listening to Srimad Ramayana from his own sons Lava and Kusha that Lord Rama himself got united with Sita Maata and his family lived happily ever after. So we can see how ‘katha shravana’ helped Lord Rama himself unite with his family.

Now let’s delve into Lord Krishna’s avatar. The stories of Lord Krishna are also the life-line for many different types of people. Kunti, Lord Krishna’s aunt beautifully elucidates the birth of Lord Krishna. –

  • In order to glorify the Pandavas and the Yadukula race
  • Devaki and Vasudeva had performed penance over three different births and hence in order to fulfill their boon, Lord Krishna was born to them.
  • Booma Devi was unable to bear the weight of the people and she confided that in Brahma who in turn went to the Lord and disclosed that to the Lord to palliate Booma Devi’s pain.

Above all, the prime reason for Lord Krishna’s birth was to give everyone the nectar of his stories so that we can all reminisce all his stories for ever and experience the divine bliss. The Devas say that the very moment Lord Krishna entered Devaki’s moment, she started to have a divine luster shining on her face. We also see that the DEvas come down to the earth showering flowers for every act of Lord Krishna’s.

Devas say – “

Shrunvan Grunan Sansmarayantha chintayan
Namani roopani cha mangalani thae
Kriyaschu yathyath charanara vindhayo
Aaavishta cheta nabhavaya kalpitae”

The reason the Devas hail the birth of Lord Krishna is because they can listen to his stories [shruvan] and keep reminiscing the stories [grunan]. Not only did the Devas enjoy the Lord’s stories but the Gopikas did too.

“Gopayh Krishnae vanam yathae tam anudhruta chaetasah
Krishna leelanu gayanthihi….”

The Gopis looked for Krishna everywhere. They would incessantly reminisce the Lords tales. Even when they were in Viraha, their lifeline was to listen to the glories of the Lord.

“Thava Kathamrutham thapta jivanam kavi piriditham kalmashapaham
Shravana mangalam shrimadadatham bhuvi grunandhiyae purithajana”

The Gopis enjoy every bit of the glories of the Lord and they would have suffered death if they were hindered from listening to the Lord’s stories.

Rukmini [Lakshmi Devi] came to know about the Lord through the Lord’s stories.

“Shrutva gunan bhuvana sundara shrunvataam te
nirvishya vivarihi haratonga thapam”

In a beautiful letter to the Lord, she says that she was listening to the stories of the Lord and that she had developed the love [prema]  for the Lord.

Listening to the stories of the Lord [Kathasravanam] is a beautiful path that leads to the Lord directly.

Lord Prahalada very beautifully mentioned the different ways to do sadhana bhakti in Srimad Bhagavatam.

“Sravanam Kirtanam Vishnoh smaranam pada sevanam archanam vandamam dasyam sakhyam and athma nivedanam” – Sravana ( is hearing about God’s Lilas , his virtues and stories).

The ears are the most sensitive. Ears are always open to hear his glories and virtues. Sage Suka advocated that everyone should keep listening as it is the easiest way to purify the heart akin to Ganges who cleanses anyone.

By listening to the stories of Lord Vasudeva, not only is the speaker purified but also the listener. “Vaktaram Prichakam shrotrun”

The medicine is generally very bitter. But the stories of Lord Krishna is the medicine to alleviate one from smasara [bhava].

“Nivritha darshaih upageeyamanath bhava oushadhath sotra manobiramath”

Everytime we listen to the Lord’s glories there springs a new experience in all of us. Our hearts gets cleansed and the Lord comes and sits in our hearts.

If this is true for normal mortals, then what to talk about great Mahans. Why should they listen to the glories of the Lord? When the SOunakadi Mahrishis put forth this question to Suta, he replied saying-

“Atma Ramascha munayah nirgranthat api urukrame
Kurvanti ahaitukeem bhakti ittam bootha guno harih”

The beauty of the glories of the Lord is that it attracts even the greatest of the Jnanis [atmaramah]. The Lord’s glories are also relished by people who have relinquished samsara.

Prahalada says that an ardent devotee of the Lord starts to dance, cry and jump by listening to the stories of the Lord.

“Kuvachith rudatih vaikunto chintaas Chapala chetasah”

Such is the greatness and importance of Katah shravana.

The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.

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