Why is Lord Krishna a source of inspiration? Why has He been the subject of such reverence by devotees across the globe for centuries. He the famous Hero of the Puranas (mystical stories) and the epic Mahabharata, and the giver of Knowledge in the Geeta. We have all heard of Him and His names. But what do they represent? Who is this blue flute player?
Birth of Krishna
Krishna Janmashtami is a celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. The story goes that Krishna was born in a prison. Kamsa, Krishna’s maternal uncle and Chanura, Kamsa’s minister, imprisoned Krishna’s father and usurped the throne of Mathura. Their tyrannical rule caused confusion and chaos everywhere. Krishna came to destroy the tyrants and restore peace and order in the land.
Just as Krishna was born in a prison, so also it often seems that the infinite, all-pervading Truth, when it takes on the finite form of a human being, gives the impression that Truth is limited. Kamsa and Chanura represent two negative forces which exist in us, namely the ego and egocentric desires. These cause us agitations, worries and anxieties. When these two forces are conquered by one’s higher nature, the original glory and splendour of the Self is restored.
The Enchanting Krishna
Every aspect of Krishna and His deeds is pregnant with deep mystical symbolism, indicating the highest Truth. His many names come both from his beautiful physical form, as ‘KRISHNA’ which means the all-attractive one, as well as from His famed life and actions.
Krishna’s every limb and adornment is not only bewitchingly beautiful but also immeasurably deep in its philosophical import. Thus captivating both the emotional and intellectual aspects of our personalities.
Many Names of Krishna
His names are thus an inspiration because they restrain the outward flow of the mind towards the world of things and happenings, enticed by their magical promises of happiness. They redirect the mind towards the source of all this magic. The mind is therefore given the most enchanting form to meditate upon and the most heroic stories to revel in.
No picture of Krishna, the beloved boy of Vrindavan, is complete without Him amid the dancing gopis. Their limbs were ceaselessly engaged in activity of their obligatory duties while their minds remained attuned to the Lord. This is in essence one of the greatest spiritual practices, known as karma yoga – the dedication of one’s actions to a higher altar while working without egocentric desires. Krishna Himself pictured amid the dancing gopis represents the Consciousness within all of us, which vitalises our thoughts (represented by the gopis) but remains unperturbed and unaffected by them. Hence he is known as ‘GOPINATH’, Lord of the Gopis.
The most beautiful and most beloved of all gopis was Radha. The love of Radha and Krishna is symbolic of the eternal love affair between the devoted mortal and the Divine. And thus, Krishna has also come to be known as ‘RADHESH’, the Lord of Radha. Radha’s yearning for union with her beloved Krishna is the soul’s longing for spiritual awakening. This long forgotten pain of separation is the root cause of all suffering. To rediscover our Oneness is the source of all happiness and fulfilment. When a devotee turns her entire attention towards the Higher she experiences the Immortal, the Infinite, as intimately as we experience the world and its changes. Radha represents this state of devotion and the consequent merging with the Lord
A major part of the story is Krishna’s role as Arjuna’s charioteer, friend and spiritual guide in the epic Mahabharata. Arjuna falls victim to conflict at the beginning of the war of Kurukshetra when he considers it a sin to fight against his own preceptors and relatives. What he required was not additional men or weapons but the guidance of one who was truly righteous and wise. It is during this conflict that Arjuna faced, that Krishna elucidates the priceless teachings of the Geeta, the divine song of the Lord. Thus He leads Arjuna’s chariot of consciousness through the maze of war to victory through Dharma (or righteousness) alone. In the end, it is always only the moral force, the spiritual strength that wins and brings peace to the world. Thus one of Krishna’s names is also ‘DHARMADHYAKSHA’, the Lord of Dharma.
Arjuna represents you and I. His conflict is but a reflection of the internal conflict we face every day. Every human being is constantly seeking a share of peace and happiness. And since one does not know the real source of these, one seeks them in the midst of the world of objects, leading to a life of limitation and weakness in the face of conflict. It is at such times that the guidance of Lord Krishna trains us in treading the steep and thorny path that leads to peace. These divine lessons of the Infinite Truth are relevant to all everywhere. For the path is one, though it has many names. And all souls seek the same goal, though they may not realise their unity.
It is this Infinite Truth which, being the same everywhere, rules our own world. It is this Truth that pervaded the world of Vrindavan through the Beloved Blue Flute Player, this same Truth, which lives in the teachings of the Geeta as the Charioteer of our Lives, and again the same Truth, which pervades the entire universe as the Supreme Teacher of the World. And thus we come to our final great name of Krishna: ‘VASUDEVA’, the all-pervading Lord.
“In and through the clamour of the lower beastly gruntings in our bosom, we surely hear very often the enchanting notes of a warbling music of Truth and peace.
The divine flute player is never far away from our bosom. To be alert to catch His melody, in and through the boisterous wooing of the baser in us, is to live the life of devotion and spiritual seeking. To all those who sit thus in vigil, He is born again and again.
Krishna is not merely a historical figure; He is the perpetual Truth. He does not belong to the past. He is of the ever-present immediate moment. On this Krishnashtami day, I expect every one of you to sit in vigil waiting for His birth within the iron doors of our self-made penitentiary.
Shri Krishna is not merely a historical person; the Bhagavad Geeta is not written by a historian. The birth of Krishna is a fact repeated every moment in everybody’s life.’
(Read more about Krishna in our blog ‘Introduction to Lord Krishna‘)
“WHEN YOU MEET HIM THERE, I SHALL NOT BE FAR AWAY FROM HIM.”
With Prem and Om, Thy Own Self, Swami Chinmayananda
Source: Chinmayam (Chinmaya Mission UK, September 2010)