Sri Krishna is an Avatara. He has accepted in human form the law of man’s body and mind and spirit and has played his game, Lila, accordingly. If we can grasp the obvious and the occult meaning of that play, we shall be able to grasp the meaning, the aim and the method of this world game. The main feature of this great game was action impelled by total knowledge. What was the knowledge underlying that action and that play has been revealed in the Gita.
Sri Krishna of the Mahabharata is a hero of action, a great yogin, a great man of the world, a founder of empire, statesman and warrior, a knower of brahman in the body of a Kshatriya. In his life we see an incomparable manifestation and mysterious play of the Supreme Power, mahashakti. Of that mystery, the Gita is an explanation.
Sri Krishna is Lord of the worlds, universal Vasudeva; and yet, by shrouding His greatness he has entered into play by establishing with men relations like those of father and son, brother and husband, intimate associate and friend and enemy. In His life is implied the supreme secret of the Aryan knowledge and the highest meaning of the way of devotion. ….
In the age of the Mahabharata the earth was groaning under the load of titanic power. Neither before nor after, was there in India such an outbreak of strong and powerful and violent Kshatriya power, but there was little chance of that terrible power being turned to good purpose. Those who were the vehicles of this power were all of them of an asuric nature, vanity and pride, selfishness and self-will were in their very bones. If Sri Krishna had not established the rule of law by destroying this power, then one or the other of the three types of results described above would certainly have happened. India would have fallen prematurely into the hands of the barbarian. It should be remembered, that the Kurukshetra war took place five thousand years ago, it was after two thousand five hundred years had elapsed that the first successful invasion of barbarians could reach up to the other side of the Indus. The rule of law founded by Arjuna was therefore able to protect the country under the influence of a Kshatriya power inspired by that of the Brahmin. Even at that time there was in the country such an accumulation of Kshatriya power that a fraction of itself has kept the country alive for two thousand years. On the strength of that Kshatriya power great men like Chandragupta, Pushyamitra, Samudragupta, Vikrama, Sangramasingha, Pratap, Rajasingha, Pratapaditya and Sivaji fought against the country’s misfortunes. Only the other day in the battle of Gujarat and on the funeral pyre of Lakshmibai was the last spark of that power extinguished; with that ended the good fruit and the virtue of Sri Krishna’s political work, there came necessity of another full Incarnation for the saving of India and the world. That Incarnation has rekindled the vanished power of the Brahmin, that power will create the Kshatriya power. [Sri Aurobindo: Bengali Writings Translated into English, pp. 94, 148-149]
Sri Aurobindo speaks here of the work of Sri Krishna and then passingly hints about the present Avatar who would be the Divine Representative upon earth and provide continuity to the progressive march of humanity through the Divine intervention leading to a turn towards the divine future of humanity. He hints that ‘another full incarnation’ is already there. This after all is the real purpose of the Divine descents, to release the hidden Divine Consciousness hidden in the depths of matter so that a progressive divine manifestation can take place. The chosen place for this progressive divine manifestation is the earth with India as the spiritual epicentre at least for the present cycle. The process through which it takes place is what we outwardly observe as successive evolutionary transformations leading to the emergence of newer possibilities. The goal of this manifestation is to express the fullness of Divine Perfection hidden in our depths in our outer individual and collective life. It is due to this hidden seed of divine perfection within us that we intuitively seek it outside and around us through the conceptions, ideas and idealisms, dreams and efforts towards making our life a song of perfect beauty and bliss. Each Avatar restores this aspiration, gives it a new and proper direction, safeguards and secures it against various inner and outer, subtle and occult challenges that arise in the journey to thwart, divert and distort the Divine Plan. The history of human spiritual evolution bears testimony to the Divine Advents which restores the equilibrium by a twofold process. On the one hand he breaks down the forces of downward gravitation that is blocking the future. By doing so he releases the divine seed from its entanglement with the weeds that emerge as the offshoots and by-products of the evolutionary adventure. The past memories and ways of life buried in the subconscient parts of the earth sometimes emerge with a great force and velocity trying to retard and even drag back the forward march towards the promised land and the kingdom of God. It is during these moments of crisis that the Avatar returns in a new body not only to stop this downward pull but also to give a forward push, a twist and a turn towards the Light and the Right by his lone Might using human instruments for fulfilling his grand design. Even if none recognised him yet does he accomplish the work of taking creation as much forward as is assigned to him and, having dared and done the seemingly impossible steps back to let the unfolding happen through the agency of Time.
Sri Aurobindo reminds us in his Essays on the Gita:
It is, we might say, to exemplify the possibility of the Divine manifest in the human being, so that man may see what that is and take courage to grow into it. It is also to leave the influence of that manifestation vibrating in the earth-nature and the soul of that manifestation presiding over its upward endeavour. It is to give a spiritual mould of divine manhood into which the seeking soul of the human being can cast itself. It is to give a dharma, a religion, — not a mere creed, but a method of inner and outer living, — a way, a rule and law of self-moulding by which he can grow towards divinity. It is too, since this growth, this ascent is no mere isolated and individual phenomenon, but like all in the divine world-activities a collective business, a work and the work for the race, to assist the human march, to hold it together in its great crises, to break the forces of the downward gravitation when they grow too insistent, to uphold or restore the great dharma of the Godward law in man’s nature, to prepare even, however far off, the kingdom of God, the victory of the seekers of light and perfection, sadhunam, and the overthrow of those who fight for the continuance of the evil and the darkness. All these are recognised objects of the descent of the Avatar, and it is usually by his work that the mass of men seek to distinguish him and for that that they are ready to worship him. It is only the spiritual who see that this external Avatarhood is a sign, in the symbol of a human life, of the eternal inner Godhead making himself manifest in the field of their own human mentality and corporeality so that they can grow into unity with that and be possessed by it. The divine manifestation of a Christ, Krishna, Buddha in external humanity has for its inner truth the same manifestation of the eternal Avatar within in our own inner humanity. That which has been done in the outer human life of earth, may be repeated in the inner life of all human beings. [CWSA 19:159-160]
This is what we see happening in Sri Aurobindo’s life. His coming in contact with the divine and human personality of Sri Krishna, not just the Krishna of Vrindavan whom many have worshipped but the Sri Krishna of the Kurukshetra where we see him fully in his Avataric role are a prelude to his own destined work as the Avatar of the Future. Even a passing glimpse of Sri Aurobindo’s life is enough to see the Avatar who comes to carry the work of Sri Krishna towards its grand logical culmination. That work is, as described in the Gita itself, of a fourfold nature. It is to break the forces of downward gravitation, to open the doors to the future for those who are ready, to restore the dharma or the Divine Law upon earth consistent with the new aspiration in humanity planted by the Avatar under the changed conditions and finally to give to mankind the guide through the written or spoken Word to navigate towards the future.