Until you have found the error in your argument it seems logical. So there is always a doubt about it. Therefore it is said tarka apratistha, reason is without foundation. You think you have found the foundation, somebody else finds a flaw in your argument; the bottom drops out. Intellect is always subject to this difficulty, but spiritual experience is not; so you have to study with someone who is himself an embodiment of spiritual truth. Well, during the many, many centuries in which these rsis lived, they impregnated the country with the consciousness of the spiritual truths they had realized. And India has never been able to get away from them cannot get away from them.
The prophets of the second group are, of course, historical, although there is a good deal of legend mixed in. Their lives are vivid to us, and they had this extraordinariness: most of them are considered to have been Incarnations of God. We do not know how or when the doctrine of Divine Incarnation arose in India, but certainly it arose before Christianity. It is now historically proved that Sri Krishna was worshipped as an Incarnation of God long before Christ was born. It is known that the Bhagavad-Gita. was composed before Buddha lived, and it is generally recognized although there are some differences of opinion that the religion represented in the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bhagavata religion or devotional religion, arose at least at the time Buddha was bom. It is known that it coexisted with Jainism and Buddhism. Some say that it arose much earlier, at the time of the Kurukshetra war, which is mentioned in the beginning of the Gita. In any event, Indian historians are agreed that the Kurukshetra war took place about fifteen hundred years before Christ. We would not be wrong in saying, therefore, that Sri Krishna, the first of the second group, lived in the fifteenth century B.C.
He was an extraordinary person. Of course, many stories that are told about him cannot be historically proved, and many of the acts ascribed to him seem purely legendary, because they cannot be considered natural. Other things, however, he unquestionably did: First of all, he brought together all the teachings of Vedanta into a form that became very appealing to the people. You find this teaching embodied in the Bhagavad-Gita, which he is supposed to have uttered on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to his friend and devotee, Arjuna. Whether Sri Krishna said all the things that are contained in that discourse is doubtful. It seems unnatural that at the very beginning of a battle he would have had an opportunity of giving such a long talk; the other party probably would not have permitted it; they would certainly have wondered what he was doing, giving a three-hour-long discourse. It is doubtful that the teaching was actually given at the time in such elaborate form. But considering his life as it is represented in the old books such as the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, and so on, it seems right to think that the Bhagavad-Gita is representative of his teachings. The person who is said to have composed this book is, again, Veda Vyasa, who is also supposed to have composed the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is a part. What do we find in the Gita? It is said, sarvopanisado gavah4 M\ the Upanishads are, as it were, cows, and Sri Krishna is the milkman; the Gita was the milk, and Arjuna was the calf. The idea is that the Gita represents the very essence of all the Upanishadic teachings. That is the general view, and I think it is more or less correct. But in the Gita Sri Krishna gave a slightly different emphasis to these teachings; he stressed the karma-kanda or action portion of the Vedas, and so karma yoga, action as a path to God-realization, is an important part of the teachings of the Gita.
Secondly, Sri Krishna introduced the teaching of Divine Incarnation. As I said, we do not know how that doctrine originated. In the days of the early Vedas there was an acceptance of the idea that when a person realizes God he becomes God. I mentioned to you a young woman who, having realized her identity with God, began to think that it was she who had become everything, the gods functioned at her command, the world was created and destroyed at her will; she began to feel herself to be the universal Being. There are other mentions of such experiences in those old books. Well, the doctrine of Divine Incarnation is similar to these ideas, except in the Gita it is said that God Himself becomes born as a man, not that man, having attained to perfection, becomes God. These are two different ideas; certainly they have different emphasis, and both are current in India.