Monday, April 20, 2015

The Hidden Kindness of Parashurama

"In that fearful darkness (i.e. during solar eclipse) the army looking as though it was covered with ashes, king Dasaratha beheld the repressor of kings, the descendent of Bhrugu and son of Jamadagni who was dreadful and wearing a crown of matted hair. He was inaccessible like Kailasa mountain and difficult to endure like the fire at the time of dissolution. Common people were incapable of gazing at his blazing energy. Hanging his axe on his shoulder and holding a bow in his hand resembling a group of lightenings and a principal arrow, he looked like Shiva at the time of slaying of Tripura." (Ramayana)

It was told about one of the seven immortal (chiranjivi) human and the sixth avatar of Vishnu - the epic hero Parashurama. Mysterious and even strange mythological stories are connected with him. But it is superficial strangeness because sometimes we are incapable to understand the hidden meaning of all these stories. We know that Vedas and Puranas are coded so that only the worthy and those who have a thirst to learn the true knowledge can decode them. Hence the verses have a superficial literal meaning as well as a deeper meaning. Many times we think there has to be a universal meaning to every story or myth but myths are not designed outside the ambit of certain cultural backdrop. It is necessary to know and, besides, during the different period of our journey we can understand them differently but right now we can try to define some high lights points.
In his human life, Parashurama was the great grandson of Bhrigu Rishi, who was one of the many prajapatis created by Brahma and who has supported the yagna of Daksha without an offering for Shiva, what was asking for a catastrophe for everyone present there. Parashurama has rectified this family error because he was a very betrayed and avid devotee of Lord Shiva. His extreme devotion, intense desire and unmoved and perpetual meditation have been rewarded. As blessing, he was granted the parashu of Shiva, after which he was known as Parashurama, or "Rama with axe". Thus, Vishnu, as the Saguna Brahma, in his role of the preserver, obtains the axe of annihilation from Shiva, who has the role of the transformer. Act of preservation needs weeding out certain impure elements from every creation. That is, here we see the deep connection of Shiva's and Vishnu's functions which are indiscernible in the higher sense.
One mysterious legend is disturbing story of Parashurama's matricide. It seems clear to me that Parashurama's mother, Renuka, is a Hindu goddess herself and Shakti's embodiment. But She needed to die physically and to be cleared of all karma for to show her divine essence. And her own son has helped it because it was himself an embodiment of the higher Self. This story shows her immortal nature. This is represented when she comes back alive and unharmed.
Probably, I interpret this story too optimistically but, after all, any event in the sacred text (even frightening) always leads us to the Highest.
Another mythological episode is about the mass murder of kshatrias. Yes, it is very bloody story. Parashurama filled five lakes with their blood and offered that as offerings to his departed ancestors. The literal meaning is an act of vengeance or simply vendetta. But in fact, he took it upon himself to rid the earth of corrupt rulers. King Arjuna Kartavirya, which is the originator of this story, seems to combine traits of criminal and fervent devotee (similar to Ravana  and, knowingly, these two are faced in a duel earlier). He got his second name, Sahasrarjun, after doing strenuous tapas to obtain 1000 (!) arms, but becomes haughty after he gets the power. These hands or his 500 wives are symbolic representation of some power. They can represent material desires and, consequently, he wanted also to have the magical cow granting any desire. Also, the kshatriya caste here can be the symbolic representation of individual consciousness which is ruled by rajas. The individual who is rooted in rajasic mode has to be reordered and the destruction of the kshatriya clan signifies this act.
But if we interpret these qualities incorrectly because it is obscured for us? It is possible to assume that Kartavirya Arjuna searched to reach the Supreme condition. He is now pursued by the Supreme Brahman and is killed by the Supreme Brahman. And the filling of five lakes with kshatriya's blood can mean sacrifice of five senses when we realize the Supreme Being. Besides, this story constantly repeats very symbolical number 21. There are many explanations. For example, it can be explained through eradication of the imbalances in the three gunas in the seven levels of the human being (7x3=21).
In general, Parashurama's conquering of the entire earth is the reordering of the entire creation with the right distribution of the attributes which restores balance and stillness in the merging of the human and the divine.

There can be a lot of such stories and such explanations but all of them are to show what the great hero did not make any "illegal" actions actually. Parashurama, the perfect human, symbolises One Who is pure primal consciousness or the Paramatma. God's love is not diminished when He brings punishment on people. God is able to bring judgment on an evil group of people in order to spare those who are devoted to Him. Pain and suffering that produce a greater good sometimes can be brought about by no other means.

According to legend, he was the first to introduce powerful weapons on this planet in ancient days, when the planet needed protection from catastrophes caused by the greed and pride of the ruling powers. And in the future, he will be the spiritual guide of Kalki, the future destroyer of darkness.
So, let us all participate in this process through the wielding of the axe of Parashurama in restoring the right balance in our individual consciousness.

OM jAmadagnyAya vidmahe
mahAvIrAya dhImahi
tannaH parashurAmaH prachodayAt

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