Chapter 52 — Story of Vishnu’s Dual Incarnations as Krishna and Arjuna

1 Vasishta said:—

Rama, know that this world is like a dream that is common to all living beings. It is filled with many agreeable scenes that form the daily romance of lives. The world is neither true nor entirely false. Because the living souls of men do not always sleep, their waking state is also considered dreaming. Life is a longer dream than the short ones in our sleep. Intelligent Rama, know that it is as untrue as it is unsubstantial and airy in its nature.

The living souls of the living world continually pass from dream to dream. It is their nature to view the unrealities of the world as positive realities. 5 They ascribe solidity to the subtle and subtlety to what is solid. They see the unreal as real and in their ignorance, they think the dead are the living. They think the revolution of all worlds is confined within the solar system. They wander about like dream-walkers or fluttering bees about the living soul, which they distinguish from the Supreme. They consider and meditate upon the living soul as a separate reality owing to its omnipresence and immortality and as the source of their own lives.

Listen as I share the best lesson of detachment, the one which lotus-eyed Lord Krishna taught to Arjuna and whereby that sagely prince became liberated in his lifetime. Thus Arjuna, the son of Pandu, will happily pass his life. I hope you will imitate his example if you want to pass your days without grief or sorrow.

10 Rama said, “Tell me sage, when will this Arjuna, the son of Pandu, come to be born on earth? Who is this Hari (Vishnu) who will deliver this lesson to him about indifference to the world?”

11 Vasishta replied:—

There is only the one Soul to whom a name is applied only by fiction. He remains in himself from time without beginning or end, just as the sky is situated in emptiness. 12 We behold in him the optical illusion of this extended world, just as we see the different ornaments in gold and many waves in the sea. 13 The fourteen kinds of created beings display themselves in him. In him is the network of this universe in which all worlds are suspended, like birds hanging in the net in which they are caught. 14 In him live the gods Indra and Yama and the sun and moon who are renowned and hallowed in the scriptures. In him abide the five elements of creation and those who have become rulers.

15 That one thing is virtue and therefore expedient, and another is vice and therefore improper, are both placed in him as his laws which men in their freedom may accept or reject as good or evil. 16 It is obedience to divine law that employs the gods in their fixed duties with steady minds.

17 Lord Yama, the god of death, is accustomed to make his penance at the end of every four yugas on account of his greatness destroying God’s creatures. 18 Sometimes he sat in penance for eight years, at others for a dozen years. Often he sat in penance for five or seven years, and many times for a full sixteen years. 19 On one occasion, as Yama sat observing his austerity, indifferent to his duties, death ceased to hunt living beings in all the worlds. 20 Hence a multitude of living beings filled the surface of the earth and made the ground pathless and impassable by others. They multiplied like filth-born gnats in rainy weather that obstruct the passage of elephants. 21 Then the gods sat together in council. After various deliberations they decided upon exterminating all living beings to relieve the over burdened earth. 22 In this way many ages have passed away and many changes have taken place in the customs of people. Unnumbered living beings have come and gone with the revolutions of the worlds.

23 Now it will come to pass that this Yama, the son of the sun god Surya and the lord of the regions of the dead, will again perform his penance after the expiration of many ages to come. 24 He will again resume his penance for a dozen years to atone for his sin of destroying the living. Then he will abstain from his habitual conduct of destroying the lives of human beings. 25 At that time, the earth will be filled with deathless mortals. This wretched earth will be covered and overburdened with people like trees in a dense forest. 26 The earth, groaning under her burden and oppressed by tyranny and lawlessness, will have recourse to Hari (Vishnu) for her redress, just as a virtuous wife seeks the protection of her husband from the aggression of tribals.

27 For this reason, Hari will be incarnate in two bodies joined with the powers of all the gods. He will appear on earth in two persons of Nara and Narayana, the one a man and the other Lord Hari himself. 28 With one body Hari will become the son of Vasudeva and therefore will be called Vasudeva (i.e., Lord Krishna). With the other he will be the son of Pandu and therefore will be named Pandava Arjuna, Arjuna the Pandava. 29 Pandu will have another son named Yudhisthira who will adopt the title of Son of Righteousness (dharma). Acquainted with politics, he will rule over the earth to its utmost limits of the oceans. 30 His rival will be Duryodhana, his cousin by his paternal uncle. There will be a dreadful war between them, like the struggle between a snake and a weasel. 31 The belligerent princes will wage a furious war for the possession of the earth, armies of eighteen legions on both sides. 32 The god Vishnu will cause Arjuna to slay them all with his great bow Gandiva, thereby relieving the earth of her burden of riotous peoples.

33 The incarnation of Vishnu in the form of Arjuna will comprise all the qualities incident to humanity. He will be filled with feelings of joy and vengeance which naturally co-exist with mankind. 34 Seeing the armies on both sides arrayed against each other, friends and kinsmen ready to meet their fate, pity and grief will seize Arjuna’s heart and he will not want to participate in the war.

35 Then Hari, in his intelligent form of Krishna, will persuade his ignorant person in the form of Arjuna to perform his part as hero and crown his valor with success. 36 Krishna will teach Arjuna about the immortality of the soul by telling him that the soul is never born, nor does it die at anytime. The soul has had no prior birth nor will it be born again on earth. It is unborn and ever lasting, indestructible with the destruction of the body. 37 He who thinks the soul kills or is killed by anybody is ignorant of its nature. The soul neither kills nor is ever killed by anybody. 38 It is immortal and uniform with itself, more rare and subtle than air and emptiness. The soul is the form of the great God himself. It is never and in no way destroyed by anybody.

39 O Rama who is conscious of yourself, know your soul is immortal and unknown, without beginning, middle or end. It is of the form of consciousness and clear without any stain. By thinking yourself as such, you become the unborn, eternal and un-decaying soul yourself.