Krishna’s last lesson for Arjuna

As soon as Lord Krishna concluded his divine play on Earth and left the planet, Arjuna understood that it was not Arjuna’s own power that had won the Mahabharata war but that he was only an instrument that Krishna had nurtured to carry out parts of Krishna’s divine play. It is interesting to note that Arjuna, in spite of his nearness to Krishna, took an entire lifetime to understand this, reflecting the situation of a typical spiritual seeker.

Earlier, Arjuna had seen his own chariot turn into ashes after the Mahabharata war was over and had heard the Bhagavad Gita directly from Krishna’s mouth. Yet, being a human being, Arjuna could not understand some of the important points. Sometimes, difficult lessons in living may be understood by revising the related theoretical concepts again and again; when this approach does not work, we may have to learn lessons by experiencing difficulties and creating our own possible solutions. Now that Arjuna’s time to leave Earth was nearing, Nature delivered the final lesson: Arjuna lost a battle to ordinary thieves who were fighting with wooden clubs and running away with Dwarka’s wealth. To make it worse, Arjuna even forgot how to discharge his arrows from the bow. For a warrior who possessed most of the divine weapons reachable in the solar system, this defeat was a major blow to the ego — the biggest loss that Arjuna had ever experienced. Possibly, this event was much bigger for Arjuna than the destruction of the major Kaurava warriors in the Mahabharata war.

As the Vishnu Purana tells us, when Arjuna visited Maharishi Ved Vyas after losing this last battle and asked why this had happened, Vyas said, “Everyone that is born must die. Everyone that rises must fall. A union always ends in a separation, and all accumulation ends with a loss.” Vyas further advised the Pandavas to renounce everything, leave the kingdom, and spend their remaining days in the forest.

Markandeya meets Baby Krishna

Rishi Markandeya is known to maintain his identity even after the world’s dissolution; he gets to meditate on the Supreme Soul when there is no one else around. According to the Mahabharata, once Yudhisthira asked the rishi, “There is nothing in the universe that you do not know. Could you please tell us something about the cause of this universe?”

Markandeya started sharing his experience, “After a thousand cycles of the four yugas go by, a day of Lord Brahma is completed, and it is time for the world to dissolve (pralaya) so that Brahma can get some rest. It rains for years, the mountains submerge, and Brahma recalls the atmosphere.”

“Once, when I was wandering in the ocean of dissolution and felt weary, I saw a beautiful baby on a tree, who gracefully offered me some rest in his stomach. I entered his mouth and saw the entire creation inside his never-ending body. When I exited his mouth after a hundred year-long journey, the baby asked me if I had taken enough rest. I touched his lotus-like, pink-soled feet with my head and asked him why he was situated on the tree and how long he would be staying there. The baby told me that the water is one of his permanent abodes and this is why he is known as Narayana. He said that he would be living on the tree as a baby until Brahma wakes up.”

Markandeya continued, “Your cousin, Krishna, is the same Supreme Soul I had met that day. Krishna, the refuge of all, the creator and sustainer of the universe, is achintya (beyond thought), though he appears perceptible to us because of his divine plays.”

Happy Janmashtami!

Janmashtami: The birthday of Krishna and Yogamaya

Millenniums ago, a lot happened in Mathura and Gokul at midnight on Janmashtami. A child who was radiating divine light, wearing celestial jewelry and a pitambar, and holding a conch, chakra, mace, and lotus was born to Devaki and Vasudev in a prison in Mathura. After offering praise to Bhagavan Krishna, the cause of the universe, mother Devaki requested him to hide his divine form, for she was afraid that her brother, Kansa, would try to hurt him. Krishna soon turned into an ordinary child.

As the Srimad Bhagavata Purana further tells us, Yogamaya, the Goddess, had also been born on the same night to Yashoda and Nanda in Gokul. By her all-pervading influence, Yogamaya opened the gates of Vasudev’s prison and had the guards lose their consciousness so that Krishna’s father could easily transfer Krishna to Gokul and bring her back to Mathura. Vasudev reached Gokul in the midst of heavy rains and a flood in the river Yamuna, who eventually made a way for Krishna’s first journey. The incarnation of the Mother Goddess also turned Yashoda Devi unconscious so that she could recognize Krishna as her real son when she woke up. When Vasudev brought baby Yogamaya to Mathura, the ignorant Kamsa threw her against a wall in an attempt to kill her. The Goddess reached the sky, revealed her divine form, and announced, “O Fool! Don’t kill innocent children. Your annihilator has already taken birth.”

Happy Janmashtami!

Krishna: The Eighth Incarnation of Vishnu

To continually guide humanity towards himself, Lord Vishnu followed his incarnation as Rama with that of Lord Krishna, who was born on the eighth day (waning fortnight) of the lunar month Bhadrapada, which is celebrated all across the Hindu world as Janmashtami. For most followers of Sanatana Dharma, Krishna, the author of the Bhagavada Gita, is the guru of the universe and the sole savior.

Krishna has arguably been the favorite form of God for Hindus on the path of Bhakti. Many devotional saints over the last few centuries have claimed to have seen the Divine in person as Krishna, who happens to be a divine flutist and dancer, the possessor of the Sudarshana Chakra, the chariot driver of Arjuna, and a cow-herder – all at the same time. The impact of his divine plays on the Hindu world can be seen from the fact that the devotional schools of Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Chaitanya, along with numerous other bhakti saints, consider Krishna not only an incarnation but the source of all incarnations — who also manifests as the Hindu trinity.

Astrologically, Krishna is related to the moon, the significator of the mind. Whether we talk about Krishna’s foster parents, Yashoda and Nand, the gopis, the bhakti saints, or modern day devotees and jnana yogis, we can easily see how Krishna has attracted the devotional mind. His incarnation probably represents perfection in devotional spirituality where nothing but his memories fill our mind to get rid of everything else.

Happy Janmashtami!

Kabirdas: Where to find God

In a poem1 from the Sabad, the Bhakti Saint Kabirdas says, “Only God knows about the origin of creation, which resembles a forest. All I know is that without the name of God, our life is in vain.” He continues to say that the blossoming flowers of spring (metaphor for materialism) look very attractive to the jiva. But the jiva forgets that just like scent, which resides in flowers, it is the Divine who pervades every object and being. Then Kabir concludes, “My mind is feeling blissful, for I have found the giver of life — the Supreme Bliss.”

Omnipresence of the Divine and his easy accessibility to every soul that wishes to search for him has been a major theme in Kabir’s poetry. In a few poems, his words even seem to criticize our search for God in places of worship. Though Kabir’s tone may not always appear pleasurable to a devotee who prefers the vicinity of a murti or a symbol of God to connect to him, we cannot really blame a devotee-saint who sees God in every flower, not only in the Lord’s statue decorated with flowers.

[1] Poem: Banamali jane ban ke adi, Rama nama bin janam badi

Edited on 31 March, 2019

Mirabai: Holi with Krishna

As we play Holi with colored powder and water to welcome joy and friendliness in our lives, we should recognize that for bhakti saints like Mirabai, the festival and its colors have a special meaning — they symbolize the complete immersion of a jiva in the Lord’s bhakti.

In one of her poems,1 Mirabai aspires to play Holi with Krishna in her own way. She requests Krishna to color her veil (a metaphor for the mind) in his dark-bluish shade (of devotional spirituality). She insists that the dye (of bhakti) be permanent and is ready to wait for an entire lifetime if Krishna takes that long to take seat in her heart.

Needless to say, Krishna does not take so long to color her. In other poems, Mirabai admits that she has been fully adorned in the Divine’s color2 and can not be dyed in any other shade.3

Mirabai, in another poem,4 senses that the spring season (metaphor for material joy in life) is short-lived and encourages the human mind to play a more meaningful Holi with colors of morality and contentment while spraying love for the Divine. Only then can we appreciate the limitless colors of Krishna’s love drizzling through the sky.

Happy Holi!

[1] Shyam Piya More Rang De Chunariya

[2] Mai Sanware Rang Rachi

[3] Mira Lago Rang Hari

[4] Phalgun Ke Din Char Re, Hori Khel Mana Re

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