“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
Parampara is the disciplic succession. Something like tradition continuing within the family. For instance, one generation of a population takes to worshiping a hill they consider to be sacred. It is named Govardhana, as it is dear to the cows, who enjoy roaming on the area and eating the grass. That hill also has ties to the respected Shri Hanuman, one of the heroes from the Ramayana time period.
The people worship this hill with great joy and pomp; it is not a secret affair. The person leading the way, Shri Krishna, advises that the tradition should continue annually. Therefore, even to the present day there is the Govardhana Puja observed in the area known as Vrindavana.
A current resident has no experience of the original event. They may not even be sure as to the reason for the worship, but they follow nonetheless. Parampara has passed the tradition on, and in the same way many important aspects of an existence come to light through this connection.
1. Past lives
Who hasn’t speculated on this topic at some time?
“Have I lived before? If so, where? When? How many past lives, exactly? Was it always in a human form? In my dreams I am flying through the air. It feels natural to me; like I know how to do it. Does this mean that I was once a bird?”
Parampara in the Vedic tradition reveals the secret of an eternal existence. I have always lived. Choose any point in the vast timeline of creation. Know that I was around in some capacity. I can’t remember. It seems difficult to believe, as travelling infinitely into the past will make a person’s head spin.
For evidence, there are the exceptional cases of where memory does carry over. Narada Muni gives testimony of his previous birth. Bharata Maharaja is able to remember his time as a pious king and how he fell from the transcendental position due to attachment to a deer.
More importantly, there is the word of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He explains to Arjuna, the disciple on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, that both of them have existed before. The distinction is that Arjuna cannot remember the past lives. Krishna can, and His word is sufficient for establishing the truth.
2. Past great personalities
There is a common “ice-breaker” game played with team members newly formed. A way to get insight into how someone else thinks, ask them to answer the following question:
“If you could meet a single historical personality, who would it be? Choose anyone that we know or don’t know. You get to have dinner with them.”
The game is interesting because you can’t actually go back in time. You only know of someone based on the accounts passed on by others. With parampara we learn of amazing personalities like the Pandava brothers, Bhishmadeva, King Janaka, Shri Hanuman, and Prahlada Maharaja. The list is almost endless, and in many cases the association is through the direct words spoken. A lasting impression to save future generations from the sadness and despair of a material existence.
3. The end of creation
Krishna gives some hints in the Bhagavad-gita. At the end of Brahma’s life there is the total dissolution. He is the creator and he lives for one hundred years. But just one day of Brahma is equivalent to billions of years for us. There is a smaller dissolution that takes place at the end of one of those days.
This is something like the end of creation, Armageddon. Markandeya Rishi once got to witness this event. He saw that the only person remaining was a small boy, lying on a banyan leaf, without a care in the world. This was the same Krishna advising and protecting the Pandavas.
4. The creation itself
It is an endless cycle. Time is infinite in both directions. What goes up must come down. That which is destroyed gets created again. Modern science has their theories. Big bangs. Chemicals colliding. A single cell leading to the amazing variety and intelligence we see around us.
From parampara we get the concept of a cause of all causes. That is one way to understand God. Creation takes place through His influence alone. He does the work effortlessly. He then gives exalted personalities like Brahma the chance to build, to use the ingredients already available to make a kind of city of the universe. A master planner, but one requiring a superior coordinator.
This vision from shastra saves much valuable time. I no longer have to speculate. I get experience from the past, for events and people I did not personally witness; at least not in my memory. Through intelligence and further instruction I deduce that the same will occur moving forward.
What I can control is my destination. To where I will end up in the future, after this lifetime ends. To steer the ship to the best destination, I try to remain connected to Krishna and His parampara. I stay in the devotional mindset through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The creation itself seeing,
And fear of dissolution freeing.
From past heroes to hear,
Like sitting next to them near.
From parampara benefit getting,
Like feet in time travel setting.
Through them future also shown,
That best interest for Krishna alone.
Categories: the four