The Bhagavadgita -S. Radhakrishnan
5. Krsna, the teacher
So far as the teaching of the Bhagavadgita is concerned, it is immaterial whether Krsna, the teacher, is a historical individual or not. The material point is the eternal incarnation of the Divine, the everlasting bringing forth of the perfect and divine life in the universe and the soul of man. There is, however, ample evidence in favour of the historicity of Krsna. The Chandogya Up. refers to Krsna, devakiputra, the son of Devaki, and speaks of him as the pupil of Ghora An.girasa who is a priest of the sun, according to Kausitaki Brdhrnana. After interpreting the meaning of sacrifice and making out that the true payment for the priests is in the practice of the virtues of austerity, charity, uprightness, non-violence and truthfulness, the Upanisad continues "When Ghora Angirasa explained this to Krsna, the son of Devaki, he also said, that, in the final hour, one should take refuge in these three thoughts. "Thou art the indestructible (aksita), thou art the immovable (acyuta), thou art the very essence of life (prana)."
There is a great similarity between the teaching of Ghora Angirasa in the Upanisad and that of Krsna in the Gita. Krsna plays an important part in the story of the M.B. where he is presented as the friend of Arjuna. Panini refers to Vasudeva and Arjuna as objects of worship. Krsna belonged to the ancient Vrsni or Satvata branch of the family of Yadu, whose home was perhaps in the neighbourhood of Mathura, a town with which Krsna's name has been associated in history, tradition and legend. Krsna was opposed to the sacerdotalism of the Vedic religion and preached the doctrines which he learnt from Ghora Azigirasa. His opposition to the Vedic cult comes out in passages where Indra when vanquished, humbled himself before Krsna. The Gita has references to those who complain about Krsna's teaching and express their lack of faith in him.M.B. has indications that the supremacy of Krsna was not accepted without challenge. In that epic Krsna is represented both as an historical individuals and as an incarnation (avatara). Krsna taught the Satvatas the worship of the Sun and the Satvatas perhaps identified the teacher with the Sun he taught them to worship. By the fourth century before Christ, the cult of Vasudeva was well established. In the Buddhist work, Niddesa (fourth century B.c.) included in the Pali Canon, the writer refers to the worshippers of Vasudeva and Baladeva among others.
References and Context
- III, 17, 6
- XXX, 6.
- tapo danam arjavam ahima satyavacanam. See B.G , XVI, r -3.
- Cp. B.G., VIII, 11-13. He possibly composed hymn 74 of the 8th mandala of I Rg. Veda as he is called in Kausitaki Brahmana, Krsna A,ngirasa. XXX, 9.
- IV, 3, 98.
- I am Indra of the devas but thou bast gamed Indra's power over the cows. As Govinda the people will ever praise thee," Harivarmsa, 4004 ff.
- III, 32 ; IX, II; XVIII, 67.
- The story of his early life with legends and fancies is found in the Bhagavata and the Harivam,ha.
- According to Bhagavata, the Satvatas worship the Supreme as Bhagavan and as Vasudeva. IX. 9, 5o. Yamunacarya in his Agamapramanya says that those who worship God in purity of spirit are called Bhagavata and Satvata : sattvad bhagavan bhajyate yaih parah puman te satvata bhagavata ity ucyante dvijottamaih