It is interesting to factor in the two apparently contradictory viewpoints in scriptures on the understanding of the Supreme Lord. On the one hand, it is claimed that the Paramatma cannot be known by humans, constrained and limited by time, space and form. He cannot be known by Pravachana, knowledge, or hearing about Him. But on the other, the Upanishads proclaim that by perseverance and meditation, aided by constant sravana, manana and nidhidyasa, He could be revealed.

In a discourse, Sri L. Sampathkumar explained that the two tangential views have one underlying implication: human effort to know Him will be fruitful only when He chooses to reveal Himself to the sincere devotee. An anecdote in the Ramayana illustrates this explanation.

When Hanuman goes in search of Sita, he sees Mandodari with all the marks of superior breeding, resplendent in jewellery and presumes it is Sita. After a moment of jubilation and elation at his successful quest, he realises his folly and becomes despondent. He goes into a mood of self-reproach on his inability to locate Sita and grieving at the possibility of bringing ignominy to Sugriva and causing hurt and sorrow to Rama. But a flash of realisation in his consciousness makes him see the folly of priding himself on his own effort.

Hanuman realises that only with God’s grace he can accomplish his task, and fervently prays to Rama and Sita.

His sincere prayers are immediately answered, and he is led to perceive the sublime and divine figure of Sita in the Asoka vana. Humility and devotion remove confusion over Sita’s whereabouts.

When Krishna discloses the truth of His incarnations to Arjuna, it is clear that besides reinstating dharma and upholding world order, they provide the jivatmas with opportunities to seek the Lord in human form. The Infinite comes in finite form and lives among human beings, sharing their trials and tribulations. This leads to the revelation of the mystery in the soul of the man. The Lord declares to Arjuna that by understanding His divine incarnations and contemplating on His all-encompassing compassion, a Jivatma can attain Him and be freed from further births.

More In: Faith | Friday Review