Dear Divine Souls,
I hope that – by God’s grace – this finds you and all your loved ones in the best of health and happiness at this holy time of Janmasthami.
Krishna Janmasthami is the celebration of the day that Bhagwan Krishna incarnated in human form upon the Earth. It is celebrated at midnight on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadrapada (August-September).
The day is celebrated by worshipping Bhagwan Krishna, fasting and chanting devotional kirtan and bhajans until past midnight.
The Bhagavad Gita says that whenever there is darkness in the world, whenever strife and ignorance prevail, the Lord incarnates to shine His divine light on the darkness. He grabs hold of the faltering world, preventing it from drifting too far astray.
However, the Lord does not simply incarnate, give wisdom and depart. Rather, His divine light, His divine message and His divine grace continue to shine, on and on, upon all future generations. His wisdom is such that, once given, it is timeless and eternal, infinite and universal. Lord Krishna’s message in the Bhagavad Gita and the message of His entire life are not meant merely for those who lived 5000 years ago in the lands of Mathura, Vrindavan, Kurukshetra and Dwarka. Rather, the messages are as timeless as His presence and grace.
As we celebrate the divine anniversary of the date He came forth into this world in human form, we must ask ourselves, “Why did He incarnate?” What were the messages of Lord Krishna’s life? What darkness did He come to dispel? In what ocean of ignorance were we drowning, from which He came to save us?
Most Indians, and now many Westerners as well, are familiar with the Bhagavad Gita. We know that Lord Krishna’s verbal message to Arjun on the battlefield was “Stand up. Do your duty.”
However, there are many other important messages in the Gita and also invaluable lessons and divine teachings embedded in the very life He lived. At this holy time of Janmasthami, let us examine and take to heart these messages. We must remember that Bhagwan Krishna incarnated FOR US. He incarnated to remove our veil of ignorance and darkness. It is our duty to Him to take His message to heart and let it uplift, inspire and transform us.
Never Lose Your Song:
One of the most beautiful lessons of Bhagwan Krishna’s life is: never lose yourself due to external circumstances, never lose your smile, never lose your song… Bhagwan Krishna’s life was full of trials and tribulations, beginning on the day when He took birth in a locked jail cell and ending in the jungle shot by a hunter’s arrow. However, throughout it all – through the innumerable challenges wrought upon Him – He always maintained His divine smile. He always played His divine flute. Even after His physical flute was left with Radhaji, the song of Krishna’s flute was always on, wherever He went. The song emanated from His very being. He never once said, “I’m in a bad mood today so I will not play my flute.” No. Regardless of what the external world brought and wrought, the Song was on. This is a beautiful message for our own lives.
So frequently we let small, small things upset us and ruin our day. However, to truly be Krishna devotees means that we should try, as much as possible, to follow His divine example. After all, it is for us that He incarnated on Earth and gave His beautiful, divine messages.
Therefore, whenever failure, frustration or fury stares us in the face and we are tempted to let it ruin our mood and our day, let us always remember the sound of Lord Krishna’s ever-present flute. Let us try to emulate His divine example and let our own song and our smile also be ever-present.
The Lord Unlocks All Locks in Our Life
Bhagwan Krishna came to Earth in the darkness of night, into the locked confines of a jail cell where His mother and father were being held prisoners, due to His evil uncle Kansa. However, at the moment of His appearance (in the form of a human infant) all the guards fell asleep, the chains were broken, and the barred doors gently opened. Thus Vasudeva (Krishna’s father) safely and easily carried baby Krishna across the flowing Yamuna to Gokul.
There is a beautiful message here, even from the first moment of the Lord’s life. We may be living in the darkness of midnight; we may be bound and chained by so many attachments, temptations, anger, grudges, pains and by the binding force of maya. We may feel ourselves locked into the prison of our own bodies, the prison of duality. However, as soon as we let the Lord live in our own hearts, all darkness fades, all chains are broken and all prison doors open freely. Wherever the Lord is, there are no locks.
Also, we can see that the door to the Lord – from any direction, inside or outside – is always open. The only lock is the lock of our own ignorance and our own illusions. As soon as that ignorance is dispelled, as soon as we see His glowing form, all the doors in this life and in all lives open to us.
Bliss All the Time
Beginning with His appearance in a jail and the immediate rush to whisk Him away to a new family, across Yamunaji in Gokul, the Lord was not given an “easy” childhood.
On the sixth day of the Lord’s life, Putna (the demoness) made Him drink poison from her breast. In His third month of life a bullock cart fell on Him. Then, when He was four, huge trees fell on Him.
Until the age of eleven, He was in Vrindavan and Govardhan. The people of Govardhan worshipped Indra, singing his praises and making daily offerings to him. However, Bhagwan Krishna admonished them and said that they should worship Govardhan instead, since it was Govardhan who gave them land, water, grass for their cows. Yet, the people were afraid. Indra threatened to wreak havoc upon their lives if they ceased his worship. As Indra pummeled the beautiful land of Govardhan with rain, hail, thunder and lightening, the Lord held up the mountain of Govardhan over the heads of the people, protecting them from the violent storm. However, as He held up this mountain on the tip of His finger, for days and days as Indra grew more and more furious, He never became angry, nor frustrated, nor disheartened. No. He was always smiling, even in the midst of the torrential storm.
A few short years later, He was forced to kill His uncle, and He had to flee His home in Mathura, barefoot to Junagar, with nothing but a small pitambar. For years, then, this King of all Kings lived in a simple ashram, doing seva for the saints with no facilities, no amenities and no comfort. He had no coat for winter, no umbrella for the rains…
Yet, wherever He went, wherever He was, He was always blissful, always joyful, always shining His divine light upon others.
We, on the other hand, may get stuck in one traffic jam and our days are ruined. We have one business failure and we feel dejected and broken. We become afflicted with disease and we lose our faith in God.
So, what is the Lord teaching us? If He chose His birth and He chose the course of His life on Earth, why did He choose a life full of obstacles, turmoil, trials and tribulations? Why, if He could have lived His entire life as a king, did He spend so many years living in the jungle?
He did this to show us that the real palace is the palace of our heart. When our hearts are full of God, then we live constantly in the most beautiful Golden Palace, regardless of where our bodies may be. He chose this life to teach us that regardless of what insults are hurled at us or what obstacles we face, we must remain immersed in Divine Connection. Then we will not become depressed or frustrated. His life teaches us that we cannot change what happens – it happens for various reasons – but we CAN change our reaction to it. The message of His life is “adapt and adjust.” Move forward. We cannot stop the wind from blowing, but we can change the direction of our sails, so that instead of capsizing our boat, we use the wind to take us to our destination.
Seeing Bhagwan Krishna everywhere
A very important message from Bhagwan Krishna’s life is to see him everywhere, in everyone, all the time. He is embodied in every form and in all forms. In Lord Krishna’s childhood, he gave Mother Yasoda the darshan of the entire world in his mouth. Everything was shown to her in Lord Krishna’s mouth. When we sit in our puja, in our worship/meditation we look at God’s divine image and we see everything in Him. However, we must go further than just seeing everything in God. We must also see God in everything! When we look at a poor child, or when we look at an old widow, or when we look in the face of our enemy, we must see God. Then we will truly have learned the message of Bhagwan Krishna’s teachings.
One of the most important messages that Bhagwan Krishna gives to Arjuna is Abhayam, be fearless. Arjuna was afraid of battle, afraid of killing his relatives and loved ones. In our lives also we are paralyzed by fear. Omnipresent fear is one of the most insidious obstacles to our peace, happiness and progress in life.
When I say fear, I don’t necessarily mean terror. But, rather I mean all that makes us anxious, nervous, tense and in need of controlling our surroundings. The root of fear is distrust. We have been betrayed, injured and abused. We decide that the world and those around us cannot be trusted. In this way, we lose that faith which is so crucial.
What is the answer? The answer to fear is to firmly root ourselves in God (by whatever name, whatever form you choose). When we realize that God is always with us, always for us, we will never be afraid regardless of the circumstances.
Sure, our family and friends may betray us. They may injure us. But, if we give ourselves to God, if we make our relationship with Him our first priority then we will never be broken inside; we will always be cared for.
There is a story of a very powerful king. This king prided himself on being generous and caring for all his subjects. He would often boast that no one in his kingdom was hungry or cold or impoverished. Once, a holy man came to see the king. The king told the holy man how he provided for everyone in the kingdom so well. The holy man asked the king to come for a walk. While they walked in the forest, the saint picked up a large rock by the side of a stream. “Break the rock,” he ordered the king. The king looked surprised but immediately told his servant to smash the rock. As the rock broke open they saw a small frog, living peacefully in the nutrient-rich water which had gathered inside the rock. “Have you provided this as well?” the holy man asked the king. The king realized that he could not possibly provide something as perfect, as intricate as this food and shelter for the frog. He realized that it is really God who provides for all His subjects.
We must realize that if God can provide for even the smallest insects, He certainly will provide for us.
I heard a beautiful story of a young boy on a ship. The ship was trapped in a large storm and waves rocked the boat furiously. The passengers screamed and cried and held each other for dear life. In the midst of this terror sat a very young boy, calm, composed and angelic. When asked why he did not cry he answered, “My mother is here, so I know everything will be all right.” This feeling we must cultivate. If God is here, if God is with us all the time, then everything will always be all right.
We take out millions of dollars (or pounds or rupees…) of insurance to protect our homes, our property, our cars. But, what about our lives? Who will protect our lives? We must remember our Divine Insurance Company. We must place all of our faith in Him. He will never betray us, and we will rest assured knowing that we are in the best of hands.
We must realize that we are God’s children. Just as a child is never afraid when his mother is near, so we must never fear. Fear immobilizes us. It freezes us. It prevents us from thinking clearly. Most of all, it serves no purpose. No tragedy has ever been prevented by fear. No catastrophe has ever been averted by anxiety. No. Calm, serene, wise understanding of the situation coupled with undying faith is what is needed.
Let us renew our faith in the Supreme. Let us give away our fears, our anxieties. Let us put all our insurance in the Divine Insurance Company. Let us realize that everything is just as it is supposed to be. We are in the lap of our Mother. How can anything go wrong?
Surrender to the Divine
The teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita are not applicable merely to life on a battlefield, when war is imminent. Rather the true battlefield is within us constantly, and war is being waged every day. Through His teaching to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Bhagwan Shri Krishna gives us lessons for our lives. The Gita is a divine “Map of Life” for it shows us clearly both the destination and also the clearest and best path to reach there. Just as the GPS system in our cars is always there to show us the path and to quickly tell us if we’ve gone astray, so the Bhagavad Gita is like the GPS system for our lives. Wherever we want to go, whatever we want to achieve, we simply need to turn to the Gita for the instructions of how to reach our goal.
However, in order for the GPS system in the car to start working, after we have entered the destination address, we must push the “accept” button. This button activates the guided instructions; without it the instructions will not begin and we will not be guided to our destination. Similarly in our lives, we must accept His message and surrender, constantly, over and over again, to His Divine Will. It is surrender and only surrender that allows divine grace to work in our lives. It is surrender, and only surrender, that brings Lord Krishna’s presence into our lives.
But, how to surrender?
There is a beautiful mantra we chant which is wonderful for cultivating a spirit of surrender: It is as follows:
Kaayena vaachaa manasendriyairvaab
uddhyaatmanaavaa prakriteh svabhaavaat
Karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai
This means, “Oh Lord….whatever I have done, whatever actions I have performed through my speech, through my mind (anything I’ve thought), through my intellect (anything I’ve planned, achieved or understood), through my hands or body or through any of my senses, therefore anything at all I have performed, perceived or thought, it is all due to Your divine grace and I lay it all humbly at Your holy feet.”
By chanting this mantra, sincerely, deeply and devotionally every night, we remove any vestiges of ego or attachment which may still be lingering, clinging and preventing us from truly surrendering and therefore finding peace and divine connection.
On this beautiful and divine day of Janmasthami let us offer to Him not only our prayers, our puja and our aarti, but let us offer our lives at His holy feet. Let us surrender completely to His Divine Will. This will bring great peace, purity and divinity into our own lives.
With love and blessings to you and all your loved ones,
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati