pavanaḥ pavatām asmi

The wind, among purifiers, is I

rāmaḥ śastra-bhṛtām aham

Rāma among warriors, is I

jhaṣāṇāḿ makaraś cāsmi

Among aquatics, the Makara is I

srotasām asmi jāhnavī

Of flowing waters, I am Jāhnavī  (the Ganges)

The Wind Among Purifiers

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.
Image via Wikipedia

The wind appears to purify more fully than the sunlight! The wind blows away foreign particles. Pure means to be free from foreign particles. Our soul is impure when it is caked over with foreign particles: material senses, and the material mind. The central “ion” of filth-particle which attracts all other filth to our soul is the ego which is illusioned. The sense of myself not being an atom of Kṛṣṇa’s internal energy is this core of filth which attracts all other filth.

When the Mrdanga is struck – the air moves due to the waves in the ether. This movement of air is the “wind” that purifies my soul. When a person who loves Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa speaks, the vibrations of those words is the wind that removes the foreign particles from my soul.

The supramundane vibration of “Kṛṣṇa” is not of this world – it causes a magnitude 11 quake in the material ether, generating a supernova of hurricane force wind that instantaneously blows all impurity off the soul.

The wind is “pavana” because it purifies common things. Kṛṣṇa-katha – sound waves related to Krsna – are patita-pavana because they purify the most uncommon thing: the soul itself.

Rāma among Warriors

Meeting of Rama and Parasurama
Image via Wikipedia

Warriors are those who bear weapons (śastra-bhṛtām). What is the right purpose of bearing weapons? It is to protect others. Protect others from what? From harm. Harm comes from where? From impure elements of society. Therefore warriors are another type of purifier.

Among all such warriors who fight to keep the pure citizens protected from the corrupted citizens – the greatest of all is Rāma. Who is Rāma?

In the current edition of Srila Prabhupāda’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is – the commentary does not mention anything about Rāma. Merely the translation says “Rāma” and no further information is given. In the original edition of Bhagavad Gita As It Is, the commentary is much longer! In it Prabhupāda says, “Lord Rāmacandra, of the Rāmāyaa, an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, is the mightest [sic] of warriors.”

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary states that the Rāma mentioned here refers to Paraśurāma.

Either one is a proper figure to refer to for the sake of remembering Kṛṣṇa by seeing Kṛṣṇa’s vibhuti. Since “vibhuti” – the topic of the chapter – refers to things in the Material world, we might favor the shatyavesha avatar Parashurama over the lila-avatara Rāma. But either one is fine. This part of the purport which identifies Rāma as Rāmacandra may have been removed from subsequent editions for this purpose.

Both Rāma’s weild weapons to purify the world of corrupt elements. Parashurama is very interesting because he was a scholar (brahmana) who decided to learn Martial Arts because he evaluated all the warriors of his time as being selfish and corrupt. When the persons who are supposed to protect from corruption themselves become corrupt, what is to be done? Extreme measures must be taken. This is why the scholar became a warrior. He became empowered by God to live immortally and weild weapons with the power of Godhead. It is said that he has performed his duty of annihilating entire generations of corrupt warriors/leaders 21 times.

 Makara Among Aquatics

A sketch of the goddess Ganga on her Vahana (m...
Image via Wikipedia

What is a “Makara”? An easy way to translate it is a “Shark” – and that is how Srila Prabhupāda translates it. A shark is the closest modern descendent commonly seen of the fabled Makara, and is therefore fit to be used as a translation.

However it is good to know the difference between a Makara and a shark. A Makara is a chimera creature (a conglomeration of other entities). It has the jaws of a crocodile, the tail of a dolphin, and the legs of a ram. In other words it is the most fearsome and intimidating of all creatures. It’s special quality is that it is amphibious, not limited to water like a shark, and not slow like a crocodile but fast due to the shark/dolphin tail fin. The Jaws of the Makara cannot be escaped.

The Makara appears in several important places.

  • In the tale of Gajendra the lord of elephants, a Makara (not a mere “crocodile”) bites him on the leg and will not let go. Gajendra only survives by keeping the Makara out of the water and by praying to Vishnu for salvation.
  • All gods and goddesses have animals upon whom they depend and travel. The goddess of the Ganges river rides upon a Makara.
  • The “shark-shaped” earrings Kṛṣṇa wears (and Shiva, who wears only one) are actually in the shape of Makara.
  • The year turns from deterioration to growth on Makara-sankranti – the day the Sun enters the Makara portion of the zodiac, equivalent to the winter solstice.
  • Makara is the 10th sign (rashi) of the zodiac. The western name is Capricorn. Srila Prabhupāda, Aindra Prabhu (and probably many other spiritual leaders in the recent Gaudiya Sampradaya) were born when this constellation – Makara – was rising.

The constellation of Makara belongs to Saturn. Saturn is the planet responsible for dealing with all the filth in our lives, all the grief and suffering, and enabling us to survive and detach from it all. The role of the Makara then, is to be the warrior of the waters, and to purify the world of weakness.

Ganges Among Rivers

Yogi meditating in the Ganges
Image by Spyros P via Flickr

Wind is not the only thing that purifies. Warriors, and warrior creatures also purify. The sunlight and fire/heat also purifies. Water also purifies. Especially water that flows is pure (flowing water is called srotasam). Rivers always flow and so they are more purifying than still water in ponds or lakes. Of all the rivers the Ganges is the most purifying because it not only purifies the body – it also purifies the mind, and also purifies the soul. This is because it washed the toe of Trivikrama (the incarnation of Vishnu).

The Yamuna is a special branch of the Ganges which is particularly purifying and special.

Conclusion

In this section of Bhagavad Gita, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is advising us how to practice meditation in the midst of living an ordinary life of contemplating ordinary sense object, and other objects that exist or have existed within this material world. In this text, he advises us to be reminded of him whenever we encounter things that are purifying. He gives four examples of purifying things – the wind, the moral warriors, the ferocious animals, and the river Ganges.

Kṛṣṇa himself is more pure than any of these things – but he is telling us that when we see these things, which are more pure than the other things in our experience, we should remember him and how wonderfully purifying he is.

What is the good of purification? Inherent in the soul is an atom of infinite bliss. When the soul is dirty that atom is eclipsed and covered by filth. To become purified would uncover that bliss and we would feel limitless joy eternally. Therefore purification is worth our full effort and endeavor. The highest purification comes by putting ourselves directly in touch with Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

How can we come in touch with Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be purified? Indirectly by appreciating the purifying things reflected into our material worlds. But more powerfully, we can directly touch the Deity of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, we can eat the foods offered to the deity, we can put the pure form of the deity into our EARS, and thus into our hearts by hearing the sound of the deity – which is the name of the Deity, “Hare Kṛṣṇa.”

Lord Caitanya -  ISKCON desire tree
Image by ISKCON desire tree via Flickr

Thus, coming together to announce and hear the glorious pure name of Kṛṣṇa is praised by Śrī Gaura-Hari: sarvaatma-snapanam (it is the purifying bath for the soul to bathe in!) param vijayate sri Krsna sankirtanam (topmost of all special exaltations to the congregational glorification of Śrī Kṛṣṇa!).