Mind the cows, mind the horses

{xtypo_dropcap}O{/xtypo_dropcap}ne of the dhyaana slokas of Srimad Bhagavad Gita goes like this:

sarvopanishado gAvo dogdhA gopAlanandana: |

pArtho vatsa: sudhIr bhoktA dugdham gItAmrtam mahat ||

All the Upanishads are cows that are milked by Gopalanandana, the divine cowherd, as Partha the calf stands by. The milk thus made available is the great nectarine Gita, for the enjoyment of reader(s) having proper intelligence.

Mind the cows, mind the horses

Partha Desikan

One of the dhyaana slokas of Srimad Bhagavad Gita goes like this:

sarvopanishado gAvo dogdhA gopAlanandana: |

pArtho vatsa: sudhIr bhoktA dugdham gItAmrtam mahat ||

All the Upanishads are cows that are milked by Gopalanandana, the divine cowherd, as Partha the calf stands by. The milk thus made available is the great nectarine Gita, for the enjoyment of reader(s) having proper intelligence.

It should not be forgotten that this remarkable minder of cows is not in Gokula when the above milking takes place. He is in fact minding horses. He is Parthasarathi rather than Nandagopala, driving Arjuna’s chariot in the Kurukshetra battlefield. The battle has been arrested in movement. Arjuna has become weak in purpose, incapable of overcoming a sudden onset of guilt-feeling at the prospect of warring with and killing his own kinsmen.

It is not as if this war had suddenly been thrust on the Pandavas. Every avenue of avoiding it had been investigated by the sons of Pandu, with the help of Krishna to persuade the Kauravas to negotiate some kind of settlement. Duryodhana was not interested in accommodating his cousins even a little, the war was in place and in context and the armies were facing each other.

Arjuna’s capitulation to the sudden weakness proved to be Sri Krishna’s opportunity to teach all posterity the meaning of life and the role men had to play out in it. The Vedas had been revealed long ago and the Upanishads had followed to reach out to people the essence of the Vedas. But here was a brave and intelligent warrior who had studied the Vedas and the Dhanurveda, who had become week-kneed when faced incontrovertibly with his duty. Even the essence of Upanishads had to be further concentrated and administered to Arjuna to get him back on his feet and performing.

Krishna milked the Upanishads, therefore, ostensibly for the calf, Arjuna, but also for all good and wise men for ages to come, who would have the discretion and the intelligence to benefit from this nectarine flow of the milk of true knowledge.

Long before this ‘driver’ of Arjuna’s horse-drawn chariot was minding the horses for his cousin, his destiny and duty had called him away from an idyllic, pastoral life at Gokula, on to the tiresome responsibilities of being the heir to the crown of Mathura. During his joyful days in Gokula, danger haunted him almost continuously in the form and intent of demoniac messengers from his evil uncle, Kamsa. But the joy of being a flute playing, butter-guzzling handsome cowherd among the gopis would have been seen as compensation.

This cowboy’s era and his location would not have enabled an automatic training in riding or minding horses. He was not like his modern, American counterpart with hats running into gallons for volume. He gathered his flowing hair into a bun, on which was perched a small assembly of peacock plumes. He made music like his modern counterpart and was a favourite with the girls in the neighbourhood, also like the modern model. But he did not drive a horse around the pasture spaces of gokula’s woods, with the cattle ahead of him or behind. He walked the cattle as they grazed at leisure.

The avatar, who graduated from Gopala to Yadava king and allowed himself to drop to the level of a messenger and charioteer for his cousin-companions, was however a natural to mind horses of a different kind. He was Paramatma, functioning as an Acharya personifying Buddhi, acting as the sarathi for the Jivatma, which was occupying Arjuna’s body-chariot. Buddhi controls and reins in the indriya-horses through the mind. The kathopanishad visualizes the intellect of every human being as capable of acting as the charioteer for the body-chariot as the soul in it wends its way through life. What magic it was for Arjuna in his chariot, when a divine Buddhi with divine reins in its hands became available to him to orient and stabilize him in his path!

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