The Hero and the Godhead

The strong and charismatic leader, the brilliant intellect, the pre-eminent in any field have always held the fascination of people throughout the world. As with any truth, it is important to recognize both the right place and the correct balance for looking to the leaders among humankind without turning this into a worship of naked power or domination that oppresses more than it leads. History tends to fixate on these powerful leaders, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, but also Krishna and Rama, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Moses, Beethoven, and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. We certainly can see that blind obedience or worship of the great leaders of history can bring about many issues, and modern-day humanity is rightly skeptical of this type of hero-worship if it has devolved into a focus on the human leader rather than the truth that the Gita has tried to bring out, the reality of the manifestation of the Godhead through these powerful forms and beings to break out of the limitations and advance our progress to the next evolutionary level.

The Gita’s view, which is a confirmation of the meaning of the Vibhuti, is explained by Sri Aurobindo: “It must be based on the recognition of the divine self in all men and all creatures; it must be consistent with an equal heart to the great and the small, the eminent and the obscure manifestation. God must be seen and loved in the ignorant, the humble, the weak, the vile, the outcast. In the Vibhuti himself it is not, except as a symbol, the outward individual that is to be thus recognised and set high, but the one Godhead who displays himself in the power.”

“Each great being, each great achievement is a sign of her power of self-exceeding and a promise of the final, the supreme exceeding. Man himself is a superior degree of natural manifestation to the beast and reptile, though in both there is the one equal Brahman. But man has not reached his own highest heights of self-exceeding and meanwhile every hint of a great power of the Will-to-be in him must be recognised as a promise and an indication. Respect for the divinity in man, in all men, is not diminished, but heightened and given a richer significance by lifting our eyes to the trail of the great Pioneers who lead or point him by whatever step of attainment towards supermanhood.”

This is a vastly different vision than the Nietzschean “superman” that, through his will-to-power has the right to control, dominate and even oppress. It puts before us the guidance, the leadership, the possibility and even the certainty of a greater future for all humanity.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pp. 360-361