If this be correct we should be able to explain the idea of the incarnation of Hindu deities in different Ages of Time. For instance, Rama, the son of Dasaratha, is said to be an incarnation of Vishnu, made manifest in the Treta Age; while Krshna, his complete incarnation, takes birth in Dvapara Age. What do these incarnations signify? And what is the connection of the ages of Time with them?
Idea of Incarnation: It has already been pointed out that an incarnation is but a personification of an energy of creation of the Universe. In the Bhagavad Gita we are told as follows:
"Whenever, O Bharata, there is a decay of Dharma (righteousness) and exaltation of Adharma (unrighteousness), I myself come forth. For the protection of the good, and the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of Dharma (righteousness), I am born from age to age".
Thus the principle idea of "incarnation" is the establishment of righteousness and Truth (Dharma) and the destruction of unrighteousness and falsehood (Adharma); and Truth and falsehood are so comprehensive that it is difficult to define them. In the opinion of the present writer they refer principally to true and false ideas concerning the Supreme Purusha himself; and if we agree that all evil action arises from evil thought, and there can be no greater evil thought than false ideas regarding the Supreme Creator of life, the establishment of Truth in connection with the Supreme means the establishment of Righteousness in every direction. Accordingly, the fundamental idea of incarnation in sacred Hindu literature refers to the correct knowledge or Truth regarding him and this is but another way of saying that incarnation is a personification of an energy of creation.
Ten Incarnations of Vishnu: In this connection it will be interesting to understand the idea of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. They are (1) Fish, (2) Tortoise, (3) Varaha or Boar, (4) Ksa or Narasimha or Man-Lion, (5) Vamanah or Dwarf, (6) Rama, the son of Jamadagni, also known as Parasu Rama, (7) Rama, the son of Dasaratha. (8) Krshna, (9) Buddha, (10) Kalki. Of these the Fish, Tortoise, and Ksa (meaning Lightning of the Heart), have already been explained and when we understand the character of the Sanskrt language and the method of its interpretation, we shall see that Varaha is to be analyzed into Var (Water), a (leading to), and ha (Buddhi), signifying the relation of Buddhi to Water as Prakrti. Similarly Vamanah would be analyzed into Va (Water), a (leading to), and manah or manas (Mind), signifying the relation of Mind to Prakrti as Water.
Rama and Treta Age: The two Ramas are said to have had their birth in the Treta Age. We have said that this Age is associated with Mind-energy and Rajas Guna; and these are related to the Yoga system of philosophy and the Mahadeva system of religion. We have further remarked that the Yoga system may be considered in the light of Mind-energy, in relation to (1) Buddhi, and (2) Ether and the senses, corresponding to which we have two aspects of the Mahadeva religion. The former is personified by the first Rama, the son of Jamadagni and the latter by Rama, the son of Dasaratha; and it is in the light of this that we have to understand the story of Ramayana. We shall find, on close examination, that the second Rama represents the Mind-energy of Vishnu, the Supreme Purusha seated in the Heart of the universe; and he has to establish the superiority of this Mind-idea to Ether and the senses; and this is the implication of his conflict with Ravana whose ten heads represent the ten senses arising simultaneously in Ether.
Krshna and Dvapara Age: Krshna is the next complete incarnation of Vishnu, made manifest in the Dvapara age; and the latter is associated with Purushic Ether, which again, as has been pointed out, is related to one aspect of the Sankhya system, according to which if there is a Supreme Purusha he is but a mere onlooker and spectator of the work of Prakrti, who alone creates. It is with this idea that Krshna has to combat. As a complete incarnation of Vishnu, he has to prove that the Supreme Purusha is not a mere spectator but the sole creator of life; and it is in the light of this that we have to understand the "story" of the Bhagavat Purana and the Mahabharata. The conflict is primarily between the Vedanta and Sankhya systems; but inasmuch as this aspect of the Sankhya is connected with one of the Yoga system, the final "battle" of Kurukshetra is fought between the system of Vedanta on the one hand, and the systems of Yoga and Sankhya on the other. This has already been explained.
Buddha: The next incarnation is Buddha, and we have seen that his religion is founded on the Sankhya system of philosophy, and follows in general Kapila's line of thought in regard to the fundamental problems of life. The date of his incarnation is not so clearly defined as that of Rama or Krshna; but we would not be far wrong if we assign it to the conclusion of the Dvapara Age, for in the Matsya Purana we are told that Vyasa Dvaipayana, the celebrated author of the Mahabharata, was the officiating priest at the time of his birth. As the former was a contemporary of Krshna, Buddha may be said to have taken birth at the conclusion of Dvapara, and lived at the commencement of the Kali Age. Buddha, therefore, would personify the relation of Purushic Ether to Prakrtic Ether; and came to show that it is not possible to deny, if we may not easily affirm, the existence of the Supreme Purusha as creator.
Kalki: Kalki is to be the last incarnation of Vishnu, and would take his birth at the end of Kali Age. Accordingly, he is to be considered in the light of Prakrtic Ether and its denial of the Supreme Purusha. When the world comes to believe that the Supreme Purusha does not exist and all creation results from Prakrti alone, he will come to destroy, all creatures (that is, assign them to Prakrti in which they believe, for that is the literal idea of "killing"), and establish the great fundamental Truth of life, viz., that the Supreme Purusha is the creator of the universe; and with the tenth incarnation the whole cycle of life will come to an end.
Thus we see that the incarnations of Vishnu are but different ways of considering the manifestation of life energy, and are intended to show how ideas of the Supreme Purusha came to be established in the world. The first two, Fish and Tortoise, represent the form of the supreme creative energy of life; the following three, Ksa or Manlion, Varaha, and Vamanah refer to the Lightning of the Heart, Buddhi, and the Mind as its supreme manifestation; while the last five represent the conflict of different systems of thought in regard to the fundamental source, whether Purusha, Prakrti, or else the union together of the two; for Parasu-Rama refers to Mind in relation to Buddhi; Rama the son of Dasaratha, to the conflict of Yoga and Sankhya; Krshna to that of Vedanta and the Sankhya; Buddha to the two aspects of the Sankhya, related to agnoticism and atheism; and Kalki to theism and atheism.
Further Evidence: If any further evidence in regard to the idea of the incarnations of Vishnu, as here outlined, were necessary, we should find it in the Hindu sacred days and festivals associated with their birth up to the present day; for we have observed that each system of philosophy has its counterpart in a system of religion to illustrate it; and if this be correct, it should apply to these incarnations too.
According to Puranic authority the birth of the Fish Incarnation and Rama, the son of Dasaratha, is celebrated in Caitra or the first lunar month; of Tortoise, Narasimha or Man-lion, and Parasu-Rama in Vaisakha or the second; of Kalki in the bright and Krshna in the dark half of Sravana or the fifth; of Varaha and Vamana in Bhadra or the sixth; and of Buddha in Asvina or the seventh; and, with the exception of Krshna, all are said to have been born in the bright half of the month of their birth. Has this any connection with the idea already explained?
In this connection we have to remember that the Hindus follow the lunar system in their calendar; hence all their ideas of philosophy in relation to time are to be interpreted in the light of the Moon or the Mind energy. Further, we might notice that there, is no incarnation of Vishnu in the Sattya Age and the explanation of this is clear enough; for as that age corresponds to Buddhi, which is characterised by the single idea of the oneness of the Supreme Purusha, the question of a conflict of opinion does not arise. Hence it is only in the last three ages, which correspond to Mind-energy and Ether, characterised by duality, that we have room for difference of opinion.
Now we have observed that the energy of the Sun and Moon makes itself manifest in Ether and that the Moon is specially associated with that element, having its energy immediately transformed into it. Again, it has been pointed out that Time makes itself manifest in Prakrtic Ether.
Taking these facts into consideration, we may say that the Mind, which consists of six energies, itself and the five elements, is further associated with ten more (corresponding to the ten senses), when we consider it in the light of Prakrtic Ether in which Time makes itself manifest. Thus Mind is represented by the number six when we consider it in relation to Ether and the five elements in general; ,and by sixteen when we examine it in relation to Prakrtic Ether or Time. But we have only twelve lunar months in the year to calculate Time: it follows, therefore, that sixteen energies are measured by twelve months, and so each energy is represented by three quarters of a lunar month. Thus Mind, which consists of six energies, is represented by the first four months and a half, beginning with Caitra and ending with the bright half of Sravana, the fifth; Purushic Ether, with its five energies, by the next three months and three quarters, beginning with the dark half of Sravana and ending with the first bright quarter of Margasirsa, the ninth; while Prakrtic Ether is represented by the remaining months, ending with Phalguna the twelfth and last.
Now we notice that, according to this calculation, the Fish, the two Ramas. Tortoise, Narasimha and Kalki (born in the bright half of the first, second and fifth months respectively), are associated with Mind-energy; while Krshna Varaha, Vamana and Buddha (born in the dark half of the fifth, and bright half of the sixth and seventh months respectively), with Purushic Ether. But, inasmuch as the number six also represents Mind-energy, Varaha and Vamana may be said to be associated with it too. It will be seen that this is in general agreement with our own explanation; and the only difference arises in connection with the birth of Kalki, who should be associated with Prakrtic Ether, and so take his birth in one of the last four months of the year; but Sravana is the fifth month; and as we associate the number six with Mind-energy in explaining the birth of Varaha and Vamana. The number five may easily be related to Ether, Purushic or Prakrtic, when considered solely in itself, and without relation to any other energy; in which case Kalki would as correctly be assigned to the latter. The association of Mind-energy with Kalki is significant, pointing out that he would disprove the sole Prakrti theory of life in the light of Mind (or Heart) energy.
An Objection Answered: Here a question might be asked; Are these incarnations of Vishnu mere ideas and personifications, without any basis in the facts of life? Did not Rama, the son of Dasaratha, or Krshna, or Buddha take real, physical birth below, guide, inspire and enlighten millions of men, and direct the destinies of nations and kingdoms? If they are mere personifications of ideas and theories of life, how can we explain historical associations and names of cities and kingdoms after them Ayodhya, Mathura, and Pataliputra? Surely, Buddha is a historical person, if not Rama or Krshna?
Whatever the force of this argument, it does not militate against our theory of incarnation. As the manifest is but a modification of the unmanifest, as matter of mind, ideas came to be regarded as entities and were given a real, living form as persons and things. For the same reason, as will be shown, the whole country, India or Bharatavarsa, was conceived as a picture of the manifest universe; and if we can imagine it as having existed as one great political unit for some length of time in the ancient past, we can easily understand how, under the influence of great ideas and by common consent, new names came to be given to different places to explain and illustrate the "story" of the birth of each divine incarnation. Even in the case of Buddha an "account" of his life, as at present understood, was written more than a hundred years after him; and it is not difficult to imagine how each system of thought may have centred round a great personality who, in after years, came to be deified. The correctness or error of this theory of incarnation must be judged not by any "historical" or quasi historical accounts or names of places and men, but in the light of the sacred works of the Hindus, Puranas or the Epics associated with heroes and gods; and of these the Mahabharata, the greatest and the last and containing the essence of all, will be examined in due course; and if that bears out this idea, it cannot but be accepted as correct throughout.
Four Kinds of Creatures: We may now pass on to another set of ideas in connection with the manifestation of life. We have understood the connection of the Solar system with the Golden Egg, and there remains the idea of the four orders of creatures, (1) the Viviparous, or those born from the womb, (2) the Oviparous, or those born from an egg, (3) Trees or the vegetable kingdom, or those born from the element Fire, and (4) Germs or those born from filth, excreta, or the element "Earth".
Four Purushic Entities: It has already been observed that there are two categories of energies, Purushic and Prakrtic; and that Buddhi, Ether, Fire, and the element "Earth" belong to the former, while to the latter belong Mind, Air, and Water.
It is obvious that the four Purushic energies are conceived as the parent source of the four orders of creatures as understood by the ancient Hindus. The viviparous have Buddhi for their creative energy; the oviparous Ether; trees or the vegetable kingdom, Fire; and germs, the element "Earth". From this it is still more clear that they were of opinion that the primary cause of life is a Purushic and not a Prakrtic energy.
Form of the Viviparous: We can now understand the form of life of each of the four orders of creatures. It has been observed that all manifestation takes place through four stages; accordingly, as the viviparous have Buddhi for their first energy of creation, they are made manifest in Prakrtic Ether; and so they assume the following form; it will be noticed that the figure corresponds to that of a child (a mammal) in embryo.
1. Buddhi. 2. Mind. 3. Purushic Ether. 4. Prakrtic Ether.
The Oviparous: Two Kinds: After the viviparous we get the oviparous, or those born from an egg; and an egg, it has been pointed out, is associated with Ether. The oviparous, therefore, have Ether for their creative energy of life; and Ether has a twofold character, Purushic and Prakrtic. Both these aspects of Ether are creative or really Purushic, and it is only for convenience sake that we have called the one Purushic and the other Prakrtic: only one is more Purushic than the other. Corresponding to them we should have two kinds of the egg-born ones.
All creature pass through four stages to become manifest; and these four stages in the case of the first kind of the oviparous are (1) Purushic Ether, (2) Prakrtic Ether, (3) Air, and (4) Fire; while those in the case of the second kind would be (1) Prakrtic Ether, (2) Air, (3) Fire, and (4) Water.
Form of the Oviparous: The form of the oviparous in embryo is, accordingly, as follows; it will be noticed that it corresponds to the figure of an egg.
|(Oviparous First Kind)||(Oviparous Second Kind)|
|1. Purushic Ether||1. Prakrtic Ether|
|2. Prakrtic Ether||2. Air.|
|3. Air.||3. Fire.|
|4. Fire.||4. Water.|
The energy of life starts from the Heart, as in the case of the viviparous; but, while that of the latter returns from Prakrtic Ether to the Heart again, the energy of the oviparous continues on from Ether (Purushic or Prakrtic) to Fire or Water, as the case may be, and returns to Ether again, its second source, assuming the form of an ellipse or egg in each case, as shown in the figure.
Trees, Born from Fire: The third order is of Trees or the Vegetable kingdom, born from Fire. In this connection it is necessary to remember that there are seven divisions of life, Buddhi, Mind, and the five elements, the last being the element "Earth". When life reaches the last stage of manifestation, viz., the element "Earth", it at once becomes manifest, even if it passes through its normal four stages or not. Accordingly Trees consist of only three elements, Fire, Water, and "Earth"; and when they reach the last stage, they assume their embryonic or Seed form.
It is not to be assumed, however, that the Vegetable kingdom is devoid of the higher energies of life; for, like the viviparous and oviparous, Trees also have the Heart for their original source. But their secondary source is the element Fire, in which they complete their cycle of life after reaching the element "Earth".
Form of the Tree in Embryo or Seed: The form of the Vegetable kingdom in embryo, or the Seed is, accordingly, as follows:
1. Fire. 2. Water. 3. "Earth".
Germs, Born of Filth or the Element "Earth": The fourth order of life is the Germ, said to be born of filth or excreta, identified with the element "Earth". As has been pointed out in the case of Trees, all forms of life become manifest when they reach the last division, viz., the element "Earth". Accordingly the Germ, which has Heart-energy for its first source, starts from the element "Earth" as its second source of life, and completes its cycle also in the "Earth". Thus it is like a point, and may be identified with the "Earth".
Form of the Germ in Embryo: The form of the Germ in embryo is accordingly as follows:
Observations on Orders of Creatures: The following points of interest may be noted in connection with the four orders of creatures:
- All creatures have their ultimate source of life in the unmanifest energy of the Heart, and possess all the energies emanating from it. But the manifest origin of the Viviparous is Buddhi, of the Oviparous Ether, of Trees Fire, and of Germs the element "Earth".
- Each order starts from its place of manifest origin, Buddhi, Ether, Fire, or the element "Earth", and completes its cycle of life again in the same.
- The sense of physical sight is the Eye, related to the element Fire. Accordingly all substances become visible when they reach the Fire stage in their process of manifestation. As the cycle of the Viviparous in embryo terminates in Prakrtic Ether, they are not visible to the physical eye in their embryonic condition. For the same reason, since the cycle of the Oviparous and Trees passes through Fire, the Egg and the Seed, their embryonic forms, are visible to the eye. Germs, again, do not pass through Fire in their embryonic state, and so are not visible to the eye.
- As the Viviparous in embryo do not pass through Air, they are not exposed to that element so also the Seed and the Germ in their embryonic state; but the Oviparous, passing through that element, are so exposed.
- Motion is related to the element Ether. As the Viviparous and Oviparous in embryo pass through this element, they can move; but the last two orders, the Seed and the Germ, cannot.
- Since the Germ in embryo is identified with the element "Earth", which has Smell for its property, Germs can be distinguished by means of smell.