By Annie Wood Besant
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Additional resources for Avatâras: Four Lectures Delivered at the 24th Anniversary Meeting of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Madras, Dec, 1899
The Gopîs were Rishis, and the Lord, the Supreme, as a babe is teaching them a lesson. But there is more than that; there is a profound occult lesson below the story—a story repeated over and over again in different forms—and it is this: that when the soul is approaching the supreme Lord at one great stage of initiation, it has to pass through a great ordeal; stripped of everything on which it has hitherto relied, stripped of everything that is not of its inner Self, deprived of all external aid, of all external protection, of all external covering, the soul itself, in its own inherent life, must stand naked and alone with nothing to rely on, save the life of the Self within it.
And so in tenderness and not in anger, in wisest love and not with a desire to mislead, the Lord of Love tries the hearts of His beloved, so that any evil that is in them may be wrung out by the grip that He places on them. Two or three occasions of it I remember. I may mention perhaps a couple of them to show you the method of the trial. The battle of Kurukshetra had been raging many a day; thousands and tens of thousands of the dead lay scattered on that terrible field, and every day when the sun rose Bhîshma came forth, generalissimo of the army of the Kurus, carrying before him everything, save where Arjuna barred his way; but Arjuna could not be everywhere; he was called away, with the horses guided by the Charioteer Shrî Krishna sweeping across the field like a whirlwind, carrying victory in their course; and where the Charioteer and Arjuna were not there Bhîshma had his way.
Nothing was left for Bali to give save himself; nothing to make his gift complete—and his word might not be broken—save his own body. So, recognising the Lord of all, he threw himself before Him, and the third step, planted on his body, fulfilled the promise of the king and made him the ruler of the lower regions, of Pâtâla. Such the story. How full of significance. This inner man —so small at that stage but really so mighty, who was to rule alike the earth and heaven —could for his third step find no place to put his foot upon save his own lower nature; he was to go forward and forward ever; that is hinted in the third step that was taken.