The idea of the death of Asvatthaman has now been explained. But it is said that Yudhisthira told a lie to Drona at the instance of Krshna, for Asvatthaman really lived. We have seen why Asvatthaman could not be slain; and yet what Yudhisthira said was perfectly true, when understood in the light of the context.
Krshna is the Supreme Purusha of Vedanta; and yet, as the Mahabharata is ordinarily understood, all the subterfuges and dishonourable suggestions in the course of this great battle emanate from him. It is at his suggestion that Arjuna screens himself behind Sikhandin; and when Bhishma, at the latter's sight, lays down his arms, shoots down the old grandsire. It is by means of his deceit that Jayadratha is slain; it is at his instance that Yudhisthira tells a lie to Drona about Asvatthaman's death; and it is by his direction that Bhima, contrary to the usual rules of the combat, strikes Duryodhana on the thigh and succeeds in slaying him. In the story of the Bhagavad Purana, where too he figures as a principal character, some of his actions are equally indefensible; and his stealing the clothes of the Gopis, the cowherd maidens so deeply devoted to him, and calling upon them to come out to him naked from the water, is deservedly condemned. But it is easy to show, in the light of the method of letter analysis that all this misunderstanding is due to a misinterpretation of the context which, in its original conception, is both simple and sublime.
We have explained why Bhishma could not fight with Sikhandin; and we have shown that Yudhisthira did not tell a lie. But if we examine the text, we shall find the idea to be very clearly defined. Krshna advises Yudhisthira not to fight according to Dharma, but to resort to Yoga; and the translator understands Dharma to mean Righteousness or Virtue, and Yoga to be a trick or a device. But Dharma is another name for Vaisesika; and Yoga refers to the philosophical system of that name; and what Krshna really advises is that Yudhisthira should cease arguing on the basis of Vaisesika, which is common to both himself and Drona, but to resort to the Yoga system, on which his true position rests. Similarly, he advises Bhishma not to fight according to Nyaya, but to resort to Maya; and once again the translator understands Nyaya to mean Justice, and Maya to imply illusion or deceit. But Nyaya refers to the Nyaya system of thought, and Maya is the creative energy of life according to Vedanta; and how the word came to signify deceit has been explained in these pages. What Krshna really does is to warn Bhishma not to play into the hands of Duryodhana, who represents the Nyaya system himself; but to resort to Vedanta. As the basis of his own point of view Krshna is the Supreme Purusha, seated in the Heart; and these are but suggestions and hints to Man, who acts according to his direction, to avoid error and hold on to Truth. How all this has been misunderstood can only be regarded as tragic.
His "trick" in respect of Jayadratha is to be understood in the same manner, the word in the text is Yoga, which refers to the Yoga system of philosophy; whereas the translator understands it to mean a trick and it is by means of the Yoga system of thought that Krshna leads Arjuna to defeat Jayadratha in the fight.
Krshna and Gopis: The idea of his playing with and stealing the clothes of Gopis has a similar interpretation. Krshna is the Supreme Purusha of Vedanta, made manifest in Action, holding that all life is created by Purusha alone. The Gopis are his devotees, who believe in Action, but have not yet shed their Nyaya propensities, and believe that Action is Prakrtic in character; for the very idea of Prakrti is derived from (kr) Action itself. They have made themselves naked, and are bathing in the river: and the idea of nakedness is the same as in the case of the attempt made in respect of Draupadi. The very same word, Vivastra, is used in both the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Purana in this connection; and, according to the method of letter analysis, it means that the senses of action are associated with Prakrti and not Purusha. Again, Water or a river, is symbolic of Prakrti; and a Woman is conceived as an instrument of creation in sacred literature; and a Woman is characterised by two energies creative, and life supporting. These Gopis, who claim to be devoted to Krshna, yet believe that all Action is to be ascribed to Prakrti; and so they have made themselves naked; and this is the meaning of "nakedness", as has been explained. Further, they hold that all creative and life supporting energy is to be referred to Prakrti; and so they have exposed their organs of creation as well as breasts, supporting life, to Water or Prakrti; and they are bathing naked in the river. This is very inconsistent with their love for Krshna; and this is really Krshna's complaint. If they are really Krshna's devotees, they must not become "vivastra" (naked) and stand in Water. But should they happen to do so by mistake, what must they do? They must in that case agree that all life-creative and life supporting energy is to be referred to Purusha alone; and so they must come out of Water (Prakrti), and expose both their life-creative and life supporting organs to Krshna, the Supreme Purusha of Vedanta. Then they must wear their clothes, believing that all the senses of action are to be ascribed to Purusha alone and not Prakrti. This is what the extraordinary story of Krshna and Gopis really signifies.