“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
Shri Krishna advents Himself millennium after millennium. We know this based on both the testimony of people who personally witnessed His appearance and activities and the word of Krishna Himself, which is found in the sacred Bhagavad-gita.
One of the activities He typically performs is ridding the world of one or many asuras. An asura is a person who is against God. If you took a good person, a sura, and flipped their tendencies from pious to impious, you would get the asura. The asuras are always trouble to the world, but when they rise to real prominence and start thwarting the efforts of the pious, the Supreme Lord descends.
In Vedic philosophy we learn that death is guaranteed. As soon as there is birth, death must come. Nothing can be done to reverse this; despite the best efforts made. Even the onset of old age can’t be prevented, then what to speak of death itself.
Bearing this in mind, why would the Supreme Personality of Godhead ever need to descend to the earthly realm? Why not leave the job up to the material nature, which works in concert with kala, or time?
1. To protect the pious
If you’re on the path of dharma, or righteousness, you expect some level of protection. After all, you’re doing good. In industrialized nations there is the perpetual problem of the homeless. What should be done with them? How to get them back on their feet? Missing from the discussion is the cause of the destitution. Often times the homeless person ended up that way through addiction to drugs and alcohol.
The pious person understands that bad behavior leads to problems. But if they are following dharma, which is timeless and without beginning, they shouldn’t have trouble. At least that is the expectation. The Supreme Lord gives confidence to the truth seekers by assuring them that even a little effort made along the righteous path gives protection from the greatest fear.
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt
“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)
That protection from the Divine comes in many ways. Sometimes the representative is sent, such as in the case of Shri Hanuman going to Lanka with life-rescuing news for Sita Devi. Sometimes the aforementioned time and material nature take care of the problem. In special cases, Krishna Himself arrives. He gives the best protection, as He is strength personified. Sometimes the pious are even harassed by other pious souls who temporarily fall from their position, such as in the case of Indra inundating the sacred land of Vraja with a flood.
2. To annihilate the miscreants
The asura does not believe in God. They may worship divine figures to get special abilities, but this is more a business transaction. It is not indicative of humility or genuine respect for higher authorities. Rather, the asura is looking to usurp all authority, to become the most powerful person in the world.
Thus it is most wonderful when the Supreme Lord knocks down such people. He takes the most powerful of the asuras and brings them back to reality. He annihilates them in such a way that they finally understand God. They have always known Him as death, and Krishna shows them the ultimate personification of that death.
3. In Vaikuntha there is no such thing as conflict
The spiritual realm is known as Vaikuntha. This Sanskrit word means “a place free of anxieties.” Everyone is a worshiper of the Supreme Lord in that land. They don’t fight with Him. They don’t look to overtake Him as the Supreme. They are interested only in His pleasure.
For conflict, Krishna must descend to the realm of birth and death. He does not become subject to that realm’s laws, but He lives among others who may be against Him. When they are really against Him, He fights with them. This conflict is a type of sport for Him, and it cannot be found in Vaikuntha due to the nature of that realm.
4. To stop sinful activities
When an asura perishes at the hands of the Supreme Lord, they immediately get liberation. This is their reward for acting as sparring partner to the greatest fighter the mind can imagine. Liberation is rescue from the cycle of birth and death. The asuras killed by God are actually associates of His in the spiritual world. They technically don’t even fall; they fulfill roles in a great drama produced by the most artistic mind of the Supreme Lord.
Liberation in such cases is also release from further sinful behavior. A sin is doing something the wrong way; something that carries a negative consequence. The asuras do horrible things like kill priests and babies. Anyone who is a threat to their way of life is considered an enemy. From this sinful behavior, the asuras reserve for themselves unthinkable punishment in the afterlife.
By coming to earth and stopping such behavior, Krishna gives release from that punishment. From this behavior He shows that no situation is permanent. A person can be good and still fall down. A bad person can eventually redeem themselves. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
5. To liberate them
As already mentioned, the demons who die at the hands of Krishna get liberation. This is a special mercy bestowed upon them. It proves that one who thinks of God at the time of death attains His nature. They become free from birth and death, just like Him. The demons think of Him with an inimical attitude, so their next destination is not exactly one where they get to practice devotion in a positive way.
The bhaktas, those who are on the path of the highest dharma known as bhagavata, are already liberated, even before death. The truly advanced souls are known as jivan-mukta; liberated while still living. As they think of Krishna all the time, they are assured of also thinking of Him at the time of quitting the body.
In Vaikuntha bliss of happiness to be,
So in that realm no fighting to see.
For sport to material world to descend,
Cutting down asuras’ playing God pretend.
Wrath of devastation to them sending,
Krishna their sinful ways ending.
Though inimical, liberation to them giving,
Superior are devotees who the same while living.
Categories: the five