Arjuna stood in the chariot and gazed out over the valley. Thousands of warriors had gathered here at Kurukshetra, alliances of Kings bound together into two great forces. Spearmen, archers, chariots and elephants filled Arjuna’s sight. The larger force was on the other side of the valley, lead by Arjuna’s cousin. This was a family war, Arjuna and the other Pandavas against their cousins the Kauravas. The Kauravas had taken the Kingdom from Arjuna’s brother who was the rightful King. Now, after many years in exile, the Pandavas had returned to take what was theirs. Arjuna maneuvered his chariot to the front of his battle group and looked into the faces of the enemy.
There he saw his cousins, and his uncles. Friends from childhood and his mentors stood across the field waiting to deliver death to Arjuna and his brothers. Arjuna knew his skill with the bow was great and knew he would kill many people today. The thought turned his stomach, and a sadness bore down upon him. The warrior turned to his charioteer, the noble Krishna, a godling who was friend to both sides of the conflict.
“Krishna, we are about to do something hateful. How can I lead my men into battle against my family, against my friends? Look, there is Drona who taught me how to use my bow and arrow when I was so young. Am I truly to kill him? How can this be my dharma?”
Krishna the godling replied, “Oh Arjuna, do not worry about this coming battle. There will be death on both sides, indeed few will survive this glorious battle at the end of this glorious age. All you must do is perform your sacred duty as a warrior. Do not expect and anticipate the result, just be the best you can, act without attachment and know that it will only be the bodies that you kill, their souls will go on forever.”
Arjuna listened to Krishna’s wisdom and steeled himself for the fight. “Very well, I shall do as you ask. You show much wisdom as always. I never quite understood how you could know so much of the way of things.”
“Oh Arjuna, have I been with you so long and yet still you do not recognise me? I am no mere descendant of the gods as you are, I am the one, the only, that which is greatest made manifest in human form.”
Arjuna felt a shiver along his spine. Could this be? Was Krishna an avatar not merely of a god, but of the eternal? “Show me. If I am to die in this battle then so be it, it is my karma, but before I fight I must see with my own eyes, show me your glory! If I can ask but one more thing of you my friend, let it be this!”
Krishna smiled and the air stilled. All was silent, no bird was singing, no horse neighing. The armies were frozen in time, only Arjuna and Krishna moved. Krishna touched Arjuna on the forehead, his finger opening a divine sight within the warrior. And then Arjuna saw.
He saw infinite eyes and mouths. He saw a body that went on forever, unbounded, unchained, eternal. Were a thousand suns to rise at once they could not outshine the magnificence Arjuna saw. The lotus flower floated beneath the being that Arjuna’s mind struggled to comprehend. All the gods were contained within it, all of creation was encompassed by it. Arjuna then saw his cousins and the enemy forces running headlong into the mouths of the glorious one, all being devoured and absorbed.
“What are you?”
“I am Time, and I am Death, destroyer of all worlds. Those who you fight will die with or without you. You have to decide to do what is right. Follow your dharma.”
Arjuna trembled with dread, the numinous shaking him to the bone. The forms swayed, they drifted away from Arjuna and his divine sight too was lost. Arjuna opened his mortal eyes and gazed upon the human form of Krishna once again. His lips trembled, his arms still shook. The banner of Hanuman that he wore on his shirt was dark with sweat and tears.
Krishna smiled. “You have glimpsed understanding, but that is all that you can ever achieve. But even a glimpse is better than living in the dark. Do you understand now the oneness of the universe?”
Arjuna nodded. “Yes, I see now. I understand. I know what must be done. All is one. And I must fight this war.”
The horns blew and the battle commenced. Arjuna drew his bow and he killed and he killed and he killed.