I cannot just not write about Holi. I did so last year, I think maybe as many as three posts all Holi and Holika Dahan considered. But as far as Holi, I only wrote about Nrsimha, and Prahlada. As someone who leans significantly toward Vaisnav-oriented practice/devotion, etc., that is my favorite of all of the “reasons for the season.” But there are others. In fact one is directly related to Krishna. It may surprise you that the Krishna story is not the one I gravitated toward. But I have never been much for Gaudiya Vaisnavism as a personal practice. It is a funny story though if admittedly a little perplexing to me as a reason for celebration, though it does explain why we throw colors on Holi. It seems that Krishna was jealous about Radha’s lighter complexion and he vocalized as much to his mother, who advised him to do something about it. So he conspired and carried out a plan to smear her with color next time he saw her. It is cute and it is another one of the episodes in the childhood of the naughty Govinda which have multiple interpretations.
I won’t write about the others or try to give interpretations because that can be found in various places online, since that is where you found me anyway. But I do want to talk about Nrsimha from a different angle. See, a friend and guru of mine has recently written a post in which he explains very nicely how the “punishment” we feel in rough times is not doled out by God, just as the joys of happy times are not necessarily gifts from God. All is due to our personal samskaras, the grooves that we repeatedly carve deeper and deeper into our path with make them more and more likely to be repeatedly followed down roads to “goodness” or “badness” whichever the case may be.
As long as that is true how can it possibly be that Nrsimha and various other Avatars of God, Vishnu, came into the world to destroy various bounders and miscreants against dharma? I have long agreed with my friend that God doesn’t punish, doesn’t go out of His way to take out an individual in return for that individual’s actions. Karma, or rather the samskaras that individuals create for themselves eventually do that for them. God doesn’t take things so personally. So how is my ishta-devata Vishnu the “protector” then? Karma takes care of all villains, or as John Lennon said “Time wounds all heels.” From Krishna’s Kamsa to Rama’s Ravana to Nrsimha’s Hiranyakasipu. It was their own dastardly deeds that brought them their downfall.
I’ve always said that God creates the conditions under which our karma comes to us. So why would God need to Avatarify in order to get the job done? Why not just create the conditions, as I called it, whereby these villains met their end? That is what is happening when all of us at any time come face to face with our karma.
I have a hard time imagining that an entity matching the physical appearance of Nrsimha (Man-Lion) actually walked the Earth. So my questions to you to ponder this Holi are “Aren’t we all avatars?” and “Don’t we all incarnate in order to uphold dharma?” and “While figures such as Krishna, Rama and Parasurama certainly may have walked the Earth, are their stories, and the story of Nrsimha, and all of the other members of the Dashavatar just examples of this duty?” They are obviously, especially in the case of Nrsimha’s not to be taken literally. And we certainly aren’t to go about our lives feeling as though it is our responsibility to bring the result of people’s karmas upon them. But I’d much rather think of the avatars as demonstrations of karma than demonstrations of a punishing/rewarding God.
Om Nrsimhaye vidmahe vajranakhaya dhimahi tan no simhah prachodayat!
Jai Hari Aum.