Truth on the Playa

mango of truthThe mango also appears in an episode in the Oriya  poet Sarala’s rendition of the Mahabaratha where, the now mature and more worldly, Lord Krishna performs a miracle with the fruit. He materializes a ripe mango from a seed, while the fruit is out of season and then, turns it to ashes, thereby revealing both the illusory nature of reality (maya) and the complexities that underlie the idea of truth (satyam) itself.

As it is written in the Mahabaratha … Nine years pass after the Pandavas go into the forest having lost their kingdom in a game of dice. Duryodhana the leader of the Kauravas sends Gouramukha to locate  the Pandavas. Gouramukha would find them by posing as a sage and asking for the gift of a ripe mango out of season. Only the Pandavas, aided by their ally Lord Krishna, could produce such a miraculous mango. When Yudhisthir, the lead Pandava, came upon Gouramukha in the forest disguised as a sage, he asked with great humility what food he would accept as an offering. The false sage said he would accept only a ripe mango. As expected, the  needy Yudistihira asked Krishna for help. Krishna was, of course, able to oblige but an out of season mango was a ‘mango of truth’ and that it could only be produced if each of the Pandava brothers and their common wife Draupadi spoke their innermost truth.

Krishna called for a dry mango seed and breathed the potential of life into it. One after another the Pandavas each spoke their truth – Yudhisthira said he was a man of integrity and that he intended to fight to get back his kingdom … a shoot emerged from the seed; Bhima said he was a man of greed and he would kill anyone who insulted his mace … the plant grew into a tree; Arjuna said that he was brave and pure and that he was unbeatable in battle as long as he held his divine bow … the tree blossomed gloriously; Nakula said he was a man of conscience and that he was loyal to Yudhisthira  … small unripe fruits appeared;  Sahadeva said that he had the knowledge of the past, the present and the future but that he would not volunteer unsolicited advice to anyone … the mangoes grew to full size. Finally it was Draupadi ’s turn and she said that although the five Pandavas equal as her husbands, she had the greatest affection for Arjuna. The other brothers were hurt and angered but the mangoes were ripened by this truth.

Gauramukha swiftly departed to give Duryodhana the news that the Pandavas were indeed alive in the forest but Krishna intervened disguised as a Brahmin. Pretending to be surprised at the sight of a ripe mango in autumn, he suggests that it can not be ‘a real mango’ as a mango ripening in autumn was an anathema to the nature of things. ‘Truth’ could not produce such a mango. When Gouramukha protested, Krishna said that he would like to utter some truths as a test of this mango of truth. He said he had seen that a stone was floating on water, and a lotus was blooming on a mountaintop. The moon rose in the day and the sun arose at night. He continued in this manner and in no time the mango was burnt to ashes.

By Krishna’s ‘lies’ the falsehood of the ‘mango of truth’ ripened out of season was revealed and it was destroyed. Krishna symbolically destroys the very possibility of absolute truths in the relativistic flux of maya (our everyday reality), which is sustained by ambiguity. All things that one takes to be true are mere illusion – false mangoes of truth that reveal their falsehood beside Krishna’s apparent lies, which are at a deeper level, Krishna’s truths.

Love on the Playa

fruitseller​In the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller, an old hawker woman selflessly satisfies the god child’s desire for her ripe and aromatic produce, even though he seems to offer her practically nothing in return. In folk representations of this allegory of desire (kama) and devotion (bakthi), such as the terracotta icon described above, the sublime mango often stands, metonymically, for the cornucopia of fruit in the old woman’s basket, which in turn represents the desires and delectations of the material life.

This kama is redolent, or indeed ripe, with soteriological promise in that it can be transmuted into the bakthi of a selfless offering to the Lord. To return to the story … One day a fruit seller came to Vrindavan, the village that is young Krishna’s abode. She was a simple woman, old and poor. Little Krishna heard her call and he ran out to her with a handful of grains to trade for his favorite mango. As he was running, the grains fell out between his little fingers and as he made his offer to the fruit seller, there were hardly any left in his hands.

The poor old lady was, however, so charmed by Krishna’s  beauty that she freely gave him all the fruits he desired. On the way home she noticed the basket was heavy and when she arrived she found that the lord had filled it up with celestial jewels. Thus it is shown how love (bakthi) of the greater self (Brahman), recognized metonymically in the more tangible beauty of the young Lord Krishna has great soteriological effect. It is this salvation by selfless giving  that is both the theme and the message of the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller.