August 18th is the birthday of Shri Krishna. It is a most auspicious day. The Brahmacharis and Yogis divide themselves into small groups and devote their time to reading and listening to Shrimat Bhagawat, Vishnu Purana, Brahmavaivarta Purana and the works of such holy poets as Surdas, Shri Jaideva and others; they meditate on Shri Krishna and recite His holy Name.
In Bharat Varsh this festival falls in the middle of the rainy season, when rain falls heavily in the darkness of night. At 12 o’clock the Temple bells are rung, and conches are sounded and the priests draw back the curtains from the Holy of Holies, to reveal the image of Shri Krishna which symbolises the birth of God in the human soul.
There is only one existence. It is consciousness and bliss, which has cast its magic on Itself. To allow duality in the doctrine of Avatar is wrong. The doctrine is Adwaita, never Dwaita. It is the One appearing as the many, by Its own magic.
It conceals and yet It reveals, and this in the chief function of life in any of its manifestations. It is sometimes entirely concealed and sometimes It is revealed as in Galilee where the great Avatar was born in a manger, when the Romans actuated by the selfish priesthood, cast to the wind all ideas of devotion and righteousness.
There was a similar manifestation in India. King Kansa had forbidden all worship, had closed down the temples and had prohibited the reading of the holy Puranas. Unrighteousness had reached its height. Then the rishis and the munis prayed for a revelation, and the revelation was given, there in the manger, here in the prison-house; in both cases, on a dark night. There the holy Virgin and Joseph wore running away, here Devaki and Vasudeva were imprisoned because Kansa had been warned that the Lord was going to take birth to terminate the rule of unrighteousness and to restore virtue once more. It conceals and it reveals.
It conceals and It reveals. To some it says “Come here, come here.” To others it says “Go there, go there,” but the same is the sayer, the same is the one who comes and the one who goes. Who will understand this mystery? Only the one whom He chooses.
The power of the Lord is the power of attraction. There is a Shruti which says: “He is the sweetest sentiment”. The word RASA is difficult to translate, it means sweetness, mental and also physical. The juice of the sugar cane is called rasa, and also the ecstatic state of love in which the devotees forget themselves and are united in the splendour of the Lord all-pervasive. When music casts a spell over the audience, names and places are forgotten – then that state also is called rasa. Much rhetoric is devoted to analysis and examples of this kind of rasa.
What is this sweet sentiment? What is this sweetness in the heart of people, in beauty, in truth, in good conduct, in the martyrdom of the saints, in virginity, in great poetry and drama? What is it? It is called Krishna. So it is Krishna who is attracting the hearts of people everywhere. Where is the heart which is not attracted by Him in some form or other? Has He not said in the Gita that “I am also the gambling”, because many hearts are attracted to gambling; but he who knows the source of this attraction and he who knows the supreme Lover in this attraction is called a yogi, and a devotee. His is the true attraction, rasa or delight, and it is in this sense that the supreme existence is called Krishna. In the Mahabharata five explanations are given of the word Krishna. One of them is Being or Existence: that is the Supreme without which nothing can exist.
The figure which you visualise in the process of meditation, a child with four arms endowed with all beauty, of the colour of a blue cloud, is just an illustration of that supreme rasa, to which the worshipper has to lift his mind in the course of devotion. It is for this purpose you find the images in Brindavan and other Temples.
One cannot fix the mind on Krishna continuously unless one leads a life of great purity arid self-sacrifice. Purity means sacrifice. It does not mean concentration or enlargement of one’s ego with a view to acquire certain powers or certain peace; even that Shanti or peace which is acquired only for one’s own self and which cannot be shared with others is not a yogic quality, and such cultivation is condemned in Shrimad Bhagavad. Therefore that great peace which can be shared by others is called Krishna, and that Krishna is symbolised in many pictures and images. The difference between the symbolised and the symbol is to be forgotten, otherwise the meditation is not complete.
In the temples of Shri Brindavan where these symbols or images have been installed by the holy Pundits and Gurus with due ceremony, they are considered to be the symbolised expressed in the symbol. In the holy rites laid down in the Vedas, when a holy image is installed the rite is called Prana pratastha, – unveiling of the real life of the symbolised in the symbol.
This whole universe, hard to understand, deep to probe, the subject of innumerable theories from the time of Thales, the author of the theory of water, up to Kant, Hegel and Bertrand Russell is only mystery. But this mystery is revealed by Him to his devotees.
It is said that this universe is His sport. He plays with Himself the game of hide and seek. He Himself hides, he Himself appears and Himself seeks. He hides so as to free us from the cosmic illusion of duality. He reveals Himself as Jesus, as Buddha, as Rama, as Krishna, and as His Nayamittic Avatars
The universality of Hari is very well known. To a Yogi all Avatars deserve equal reverence and equal worship. He who says this Avatar is greater than that does not know the truth. The Avatar of Shri Hari when He came at the beginning of this Kali Yuga, knowing well that the intellect of the people was weak, their hearts subject to vacillation, knowing neither the meaning of love or friendship, revealed Himself in a universal form. You find Him a great musician and flute player, a dancer in the woods of Brindavan; a little, naughty child, who, though a prince, is found with His companions stealing butter from the houses of His Gopis.
His naughty acts are legion, each agitating the heart of the devotees with joy, fraught as they are with mirth and sometimes with great humour. You find Him a great philosopher, the Teacher of the Gita, the Charioteer of Arjuna, a king-maker, a governor and administrator, and yet withal the humblest of men. When at the great sacrifice of Yudhisthira, duties were apportioned to those present, Shri Hari went to the King and said, “I have chosen my part in the sacrifice.” When asked what it was. He said: “My duty is to wash with my own hands the feet of the munis, rishis and pious men who come to the sacrifice.” Did He not wash the feet of Sudama. My friends He is All and He is in all.
There is one thing more. If one approaches Him with a true heart in which ego has been cast out and self-interest burnt, as an incense stick at the altar of Truth, He will reveal Himself, just as Jesus revealed Himself repeatedly to St. Theresa. Even to-day He reveals Himself to many, and those many are the obscure people who do not want to speak about it.
Cultivate devotion to Him and you will understand His Gita. Those who try to understand His Gita without having a burning devotion for Him, and accepting His historicity, will never understand it. Knowledge or liberation is His gift to His devotees. Nobody can say “I have earned liberation”; all he can say is “I have tried to attain devotion to Him. ”
May our heads be decorated with the crown of this devotion; may we come whenever occasion requires in order to find at-one-ment with Him, and in order to let your holy association reach to Vaikuntha in which He dwells with His Gopis and Radha, and where He is playing His flute, symbolically speaking, under the Kedumba tree – the flute whose notes materialise themselves into art, beauty, logic, literature and good conduct. May our devotion also reach there in the form of little golden cloudlets, and hover round the crown of the Son of Nanda.