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The most famous verse of the Gita
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
16 min
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यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भव- ति भारत ।

अभ्युत्थान- मधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम्- ॥४-७॥

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata

abhyuttanam adharmasya tadaatmanaam srujamyaham

परित्राणाय- साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम्- ।

धर्मसंस्था- पनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥४-८॥

Paritranaya sadhoonaam vinashayacha dushkritaam

dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavaami yuge yuge

Whenever, O descendant of Bharata, there is decline of Dharma, and rise of Adharma, then I body Myself forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of Dharma I come into being in every age.

~ Chapter 4, Verse 7, 8

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न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः।

न चैव न भविष्यामः सर्वे वयमतः परम्।।2.12।।

“It is not that I did not exist at any time, nor you, nor these rulers of men, and surely it is not that we all shall cease to exist after this.”

~ Chapter 2, Verse 12

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Questioner (Q): In chapter 4, verse 7, Shri Krishna says that he will come forth whenever righteousness is on the decline. However, in chapter 2, verse 12, it is mentioned that Shri Krishna is always present.

How should one interpret the coming forth of Krishna when righteousness is on decline? Does this statement have any significance at an individual level, or is it said in the social context?

Also, in Christianity it is believed that Jesus will come again on the judgement day. Please help me understand what all this means.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Krishna is always present as the very source of existence. Or you could say, within men as the centre of mind. That’s how Krishna is always present. Just as irrespective of what is happening within a circle, the circle will nevertheless always have a centre. The circle might be black, the circle might be painted blue or yellow. The centre remains present and the centre remains untouched and uncoloured. Greatly virtuous deeds are taking place within the circle. Those greatly virtuous deeds have nothing to do with the centre; the centre remains as it is. Evil acts are taking place within the circle; the centre remains untouched.

In some sense, the centre does not even exist. The moment you try to point at the centre, you have pointed at something tangible and the centre of the circle is not tangible at all. Even though it is the centre of the circle, yet it is in another dimension compared to the circle. The circle can be drawn, seen, filled up, and the centre is absolutely untouchable. A circle has dimensions, and the centre is dimensionless.

So, even though the centre is related to the circle, the centre is very much the centre of the circle, yet the centre does not really belong to the same dimension as the circle. Getting it?

So, in that sense, in a very abstract and passive and indetectible way, Krishna is always present. Doesn’t matter what is happening in the mind. Whatsoever is happening in the mind is for the sake of a final culmination. That culmination is nowhere evident in the mind, but without the presence of that ultimate culmination, the finality, that target, that objective for which everything happens in the mind, nothing would’ve happened in the mind.

Now, mind is movement, right? Why does the mind move at all? The mind wants to reach somewhere. Where does the mind want to reach? Is that place within the mind? The mind wants to reach somewhere. Every thought, every action, every motivation, every emotion rides on a desire, is directed, is targeted towards something. What does the mind want? Surely not something that is within the mind; surely not something that can be within the mind.

So, the very presence of the mind and its activities is an indication that something beyond the mind certainly exists. Else why would the mind have so ceaselessly kept wandering and moving and searching and asking and desiring? And every single creature in the world is asking, moving, desiring. When you look closely at that desire, you come to see that the mind is in search of something beyond itself, that the very existence of the mind is proof of the existence of something beyond the mind. Had the mind been self-contained, had the mind been self-sufficient, then we would have led very satisfied lives. But are we leading satisfied lives? We’re not leading satisfied lives. And that itself shows that the mind is gripped by a strong and very certain feeling of incompleteness, insufficiency. The mind is absolutely certain that it lacks something. That something that the mind lacks, that something that the mind is so compulsorily drawn towards is called the Ultimate, is called the Truth, is called the ending, it is called the pinnacle. It is also called as Krishna. Getting it?

So, Krishna is always present in that way. And that is an abstract way. That is an immaterial way. Why is that way immaterial? Because all material ways are within the mind. And here we are talking of Krishna as the one beyond the mind, the one enticing the mind. That enticement is very central to Krishna. The very word ‘Krishna’ comes from movement, traction, coercion. From that comes the word ‘Krishna’. When that movement is in the direction of sublimation, then you call it ‘Utkarsh’. That ‘karsha’ is Krishnatva. When that movement is away from Krishna, then you call it ‘Apkarsh’, a movement away from Krishnatva. Ap-karsh.

So, mind moves, and these are the only two ways in which the mind can move. If the mind is moving towards Krishna, then it is the Utkarsh of mind, an elevation of mind. Whereas if the mind is drifting away from Krishna, then it is a fall, then it is a debasement to be called as Apkarsh.

So, that’s how we explain when Krishna says that I have always been there.

But then, why does he say that “yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata, abhyuttanam adharmasya tadaatmanaam srujamyaham”?

In this verse, he makes it appear as if he comes over only sporadically, as if his appearance is merely episodic. This too has to be understood.

The questioner has said, “How does one interpret the coming forth of Krishna when righteousness is on decline?”

You see, what does it mean to say that “righteousness is on decline”? Mind is moving away from Krishna. Mind is moving away from Krishna. Krishna is the centre of the mind. Right? Krishna is the centre of mind. As soon as the mind moves away from the Krishna, the centre applies a spring like force on the mind. Remember simple harmonic motion? What is the relation of the force on the particle exhibiting simple harmonic motion with the distance from the centre of the motion?

Q: It increases.

AP: We use to say F = -kX. So, force is directly proportional to the distance from the centre. And the minus sign indicates that the force is in the opposite direction compared to the direction of the motion. So if the mind is moving away from the centre, the force will be towards the centre. Right? If the mind is moving away from the centre, then the force will be towards the centre. And the force towards the centre will be greatest when the mind is...?

Q: Farthest.

AP: Farthest from the centre. This is what Krishna means when he says that “when evil has risen to the highest, then I come over”. Are you getting it? The pull towards Krishnatva, the pull towards Peace, the pull towards the Ultimate is the highest when you are farthest from the Ultimate. Does that mean that the centre has suddenly come into existence? The centre was always there. The centre was always there, but the centre was not making its force felt. If the particle is at the centre itself, then would the particle experience any force? Tell me.

Q: No.

AP: If the particle is at the centre itself, does the particle experience any force? So, the centre does not make its presence felt if everything is alright. The particle is centred, all is hunky-dory, the centre remains silent. The centre, you must remember, in spite of being the all-doer, is still the non-doer. So, the centre is not at all obsessed with doing. The centre says, “If the world is running in a nice way, everything’s smooth, all cool, why should I trouble myself? Fine, good, good!”

But then, it’s a world of duality. And what does duality mean? That the world keeps swinging. This way, to that way, that way to this way. Right? Just as we have mood swings. Mind swings. There are crests and troughs. You look at most of the periodically occurring events and you find that they are cyclical. Don’t you find that cyclicality? Be it the stock market, be it politics, be it even solar radiation. What we find is that the curve moves like this: ups, downs, ups, downs, ups, downs.

AP: Yeah. Krishna is saying, “When the maxima is achieved, when the things are the darkest, that is when my manifestation is the brightest, the strongest.” Not that Krishna does not manifest himself at other times or other places, but his manifestation will be the strongest when things are at their darkest, when Adharma is at its peak. Then the manifestation of Krishna will be the strongest, most apparent, most visible. To whom? To the ones who are experiencing Adharma.

You must remember this. When Krishna says, “I appear, sambhabami yuge yuge, I appear,” to whom does he appear? Does he appear to himself? To himself he’s omnipresent. To whom does he periodically appear?

Q: Who is the farthest.

AP: He appears periodically only to those who experience those periods, who experience those swings, those oscillations. So, when you are at your worst, it is then that the probability of change striking you is the highest. It’s just that change will not strike you as per your desire. Krishna struck Duryodhana as well. Duryodhana was very much a recipient of Krishna, was he not? But then, Krishna didn’t quite strike Duryodhana the way he would’ve fancied. So it is indeed a great way to receive Krishna or to call Krishna to yourself, by being...?

Q: The darkest.

AP: The most wretched creature you can be. Become an epitome of evil and it is quite likely that you’ll attract Krishna to yourself. But then, he will not come to you with the Gita; he will come to you with the Sudarshana Chakra. “Paritranaya sadhoonaam vinashayacha dushkritaam.” He will not come to redeem you. He will come to destroy you. “Vinashayacha dushkritaam.” Are you getting it?

Now, the question comes: “So, does Krishna appear only sometimes?” Well, it depends on you. Depends on you, because the appearance of Krishna is not an objective phenomenon. Krishna is omnipresent and omnipotent. To you, he may appear at one place, at one time. To him, he may appear at another place, another time. It’s his job to be present wherever Dharma is at its weakest. He does not come in one fixed shape or size, or with one particular name. He comes in myriad names. He’s parallelly present at thousands of places. We’re not talking of some human character here, I hope we are clear about that, right? We’re talking of not Krishna, but Krishnatva, the essence of Krishna. We’re talking of Truth itself.

So, it’s not that we’re talking here of one particular prince called Krishna, who historically surfaced around the 10th or 11th century BC. No. We’re not talking here of history. We’re not talking here of persons or personalities. At best we may say that we are talking of a principle, though it is not even a principle. It’s more subtle than that. Getting it?

So, when situations take you away from peace, or to put it more honestly, when your own decisions or indiscretions or ignorance take you away from peace, then you cry out. And that is an invitation for your inner Krishna to come and redeem you. “Paritranaya Sadhoonam.”

That inner Krishna might manifest himself in the form of your own energy. You find that your intentions change. You find that your own desires take a turn and motivate you to live differently. That is the appearance of Krishna within you. Or Krishna could appear in the form of an event, place or person outside of you. But irrespective of whether you get charged with Krishnatva within or you experience a particular instance of Krishnatva outside of you, the event will take place only when you want it to take place. Only when...? You want it to take place. Otherwise, if it has to take place irrespective of your desire, then it will take place in the same way as it happened to a Duryodhana. Duryodhana didn’t quite want Krishna; Krishna happened to him. But then Krishna doesn’t illuminate you; Krishna strikes you like lightning, like a thunderbolt. Are you getting it?

If you have paid attention to all this, you would’ve also now known what is the whole concept of ‘Avatar’. We know of a few incarnations. The fact is that incarnations are always happening and happening everywhere. Albeit, not to everyone. Always and everywhere, but not to everyone. They happen only to those…?

AP: Who are ready for them. On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, is Krishna really an avatar for a Duryodhana or a Dussasana? So, Krishna is there. But he’s not there at all for the many thousands of soldiers and warriors. They are looking at Krishna like one looks at an ordinary mortal. “Oh, here he is… Arjuna’s charioteer.” So, Krishna is there, but not for everyone.

Similarly, do not ask whether Krishna will come in this age or when Krishna will come or when is the day of judgement when Christ will be reborn. Such speculations make no sense. A better question is, am I ready for a Krishna or a Christ? Am I prepared to receive Krishnatva? And if you are ready, then the avatar will be right there in front of you. Or maybe within you. An avatar will be right in front of you, and right in front of only you. To your left side is your brother, to your right side is your sister, and neither of them will acknowledge the avatar. They will say, “Some person, some man…”

Further, it is not necessary that the avatar be necessarily human. Let alone a man. Depending on who you are, depending on what your mental configurations are, the avatar could be a cat. Now you know why Indian mythology talks of Varaha Avatar, Matsya Avatar. What is all this? Any form, any shape can be taken. The avatar could be in front of you as a book. As a wall! As the open sky, as a bird, a river. Anything. It depends on your readiness and receptivity. When you are ready, you’ll find him. And he will not come demonstrating or declaring loudly that he is the avatar. You need to have the eyes. You need to have the love. You need to be Arjuna-like. Are you getting it?

So, the matter is subtle. It is not as if sometimes God is in the mood to dispatch his favourite son to earth, and only sometimes. Once in twenty centuries he sends him over, “Now go and turn around the organization. It’s been a victim of neglect since twenty centuries! I have been busy with my own samadhi you see…” And so, the young scion of the family comes over and says, “Right, this is my father’s fiefdom. This is my family business you see. And I’ll not turn it around, I’m Jesus.” It’s another matter that the workers union has other ideas and they take him and… (laughter) These are childish stories, obviously. Getting it?

The essence of Christ is the same as the essence of Krishna. In fact, the myth associated with them as superhuman beings representing the highest, is again very much in agreement with each other. Is this clear? The avatar is not an objective happening outside of you. The avatar is an expression of your own readiness to receive godliness. When you are ready, the avatar happens to you. Either you have to be like Arjuna to receive Krishna, or you have to be like...?

Q: Duryodhana.

AP: Duryodhana. It is with respect to Duryodhana that Krishna says, “Vinashayacha dushkritaam.” It is with respect to Arjuna that Krishna says, “Paritranaya sadhoonaam.” Clear?

We miss Krishna because we think Krishna as the one who happened to Arjuna. Get rid of the concept of the person called Krishna, and it’s quite likely that you will receive the energy, the Truth, called Krishnatva. There is no age, no place, no space where Krishna is not present.

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