Exploring the finer features of an Avatar is tricky, though interesting. In such a venture one is able to get into the higher realms of understanding of the Divine. Catherine Murray had such an exploration and the topic was the ecstasy filled hair of the Lord walking on two feet…What entails in her observations on the hallowed hair of this God in human frame? Read on an article published in the April ’77 issue of Sanathana Sarathi…
It is difficult to adjust to the idea of the Infinite in Space to be able to see, to hear, and, luckily, to touch Him. We can never know God in His Allness, but we have been given a gift of grace to meditate on His physical Presence. I invite you to ponder with me on one small feature of our Beloved Bhagawan—His hair.
Why did Bhagawan choose this type of hair?
The first clue came with a random reading of Mac Donnell's SANSKRIT DICTIONARY of the word root HRISH to which Hrishya is given as "bristle, stand erect", then I looked down the column at Hrishikesa where the meaning is given "having his hair erect, especially of Vishnu Krishna.”
Bhagavan writes in the Gita Vahini that "Krishna as Hrishikesa is the Presiding Deity of all the senses." I thought that I had missed the Devanagari script and there were two different words. Swami Sivananda renders the word in his translation of the Bhagavad-Gita as "Lord of the Senses" as does Swami Prabhupada. It was in checking Eknath Easwaran's THE BHAGAVAD-GITA FOR DAILY LIVING that everything began to fall into place. He writes:
"One of the glorious names for Sri Krishna, used here and elsewhere through the Gita to remind us of the complete unending joy lying within us, is Hrishikesha, "He, whose hair stands on end with joy!" How perfect for Bhagawan! What a beautiful description of His hair!
Swami Chinmayananda in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita has this to say:
"Hrishikesa is the name of the Lord and it has often been described as meaning the 'Lord of the Senses'. But this is according to an old derivation Hriska + Isa = 'Lord of the Senses'. But the word, Hriska is an obscure one Kesha = 'Having strong upright hair'. This may not fit in with the orthodox description of Krishna on the charioteer's seat, but it need not be understood that Krishna had a close crop for the war; it maybe interpreted that due to the heavy breeze on the open plains of Kurukshetra the flowing hairs of the Lord got blown up and furled.”
Would it not be sensible to think of it in terms of Bhagawan's hair?
We must consider that Bhagavan Himself uses the term, "Presiding Deity of all the senses" for Hrishikesa. He is not wrong; he cannot err; He is Truth Absolute. In fact, He is so True that whatever He says can be considered from any viewpoint and still be completely true. Therefore, we may consider this meaning but at the same time prepare ourselves to accept more whenever He divulges these meanings to us. To understand the appropriateness of this meaning, it is necessary to know that it was first used in the Gita in Chapter I, stanza 15. It was not until Chapter XI, stanzas 41 42 that Arjuna says:
Whatever I have presumptuously said from carelessness or love, addressing Thee as O Krishna, O Yadava, O Friend, regarding Thee merely as a friend, unknowing of Thy greatness.
In whatever way I may have insulted Thee for the sake of fun, while at play, reposing, sitting or at meals, when alone (with Thee), O Achyuta, or in company—that I implore Thee, immeasurable one, to forgive.”
In other words, at the beginning of the Gita we may assume that Arjuna was still thinking of Krishna more as a friend and relative rather than his Lord. Therefore, I think it would not be presumptuous to think that Arjuna probably was leaning more to the word describing His hair rather than calling Him "Lord of the Senses".
Rama also had hair like Bhagawan's. In reading the SRI RAMACHARITAMANASA (because Sai Baba of Shirdi had recommended it), I found Rama's hair described like a "swarm of bees". Tulsidas, a great poet, had come upon the perfect simile to describe Bhagawan’s hair.
Our greatly beloved Elsie Cowan relates a story about Bhagawan telling some young men that they would have to cut their hair. They protested because Bhagawan did not cut His. He handed them some scissors and told them to cut His hair, but they were unable to get close to His head. It was as though His hair was a source of power. Another time, Elsie told me, someone remarked that His hair was turning gray (you will find pictures where His hair has considerable gray). He gently patted His hair and said, "No more gray.” And it had turned back to its original dark brown.
In thinking back over His hair (and He tells us to meditate and ponder the physical characteristics of the Avatar), I feel that He has always had this type hair no matter which body He takes. There is no proof for this except the facts as given here. As for me, I am filled with gratitude for the beautiful thoughts I have had when being allowed to gather these flowers of thought into this small garland. I bow to You, O! Lord of Ecstasy-filled Hair.