janmastami, lord krishna's birthday
A Contribution for Janmastami
The Ultimate Teacher, Guru and True Yogi
Having been born and brought up in India, I can say that Krishna is an integral part of everyone, especially for those who grow up in the surroundings of sanatana-dharma, known as the Hindu religion. Krishna’s epic stories, his teachings, his multi-dimensional approach to life and his anashakti towards our existence is incredibly inspiring for any spiritual aspirant. The kirtanas, the music, the chants, the devotional songs for Radha and Krishna – all this was so much in the air when I grew up that I could never imagine Krishna not being part of my life.
Also as an artist, one observes that no art from India – whether music, dance, painting or sculpture – can be complete without including Krishna and his life. More than half of India’s art would die without Krishna. He is the color, the essence, the rhythm, the music and the dance of India. India’s past and present wouldn’t be the same without Krishna. That’s probably why the Bhagavad-Gita is the book with the largest readership in the world.
Krishna’s teachings are also applicable in the contemporary world, as much as they were 5000 years ago, when he was on this planet. According to many saints and wise men from India, the Bhagavad-Gita is much more than a religious scripture: it is an impressively accurate analysis of the human psyche. And this could not have been possible without the wisdom of the great Lord with the flute: Krishna, who lived life in its full 360° dimension, not negating anything, accepting his existence in all its colors, yet remaining totally detached (anashakti). “His being is his teaching, and his teaching is his being.”
When Arjuna inquired from him about his conflict in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna did not give him commandments or instructions to follow blindly. No, he very patiently and compassionately resolved each question and confusion of Arjuna – until Arjuna fully understood his duty. This is a rare phenomenon. Krishna could have commanded Arjuna what to do. However, a real teacher resolves the confusion of a student rather than discarding it as useless. Thus, Krishna is for me the ultimate teacher, guru and true yogi.
Krishna is someone who cannot be defined in a single way: There is a Krishna playing the flute, one with whom Radha is in deep love, a butter thief, a protector from evil, a naughty and mischievous youth, stealing the clothes of the bathing gopis in Yamuna river. And at the same time, Krishna protects Draupadi from losing her dignity in the court of the Kauravas by supplying unlimited clothes. He would suggest to Duryodhana to give just five villages to the Pandavas, but when he refused, Krishna gave his full support to Arjuna in leading the devastating Mahabharata war. In all of Krishna’s actions, one can see there is no doer, and there is no one to take the delivery – yet there is action and there are consequences one has to accept. Though Krishna blessed the entire universe with his presence and sweet smile, still, he accepted to suffer the curse from persons like the mother of Duryodhana, Gandhari. Krishna is an avatara with such sublime qualities of life and wisdom that he chooses to depart in an unusual yet “ordinary” way: through an arrow shot by a hunter who mistook his beautiful feet for a deer.
Krishna is someone we cannot grasp easily. You have to put aside all your mundane concepts and prejudices. Then maybe we are able to understand him to some extent. With all the contradictory things happening in his life, he is still the same Krishna in all of his lilas, his pastimes. He can be a thief and a perfect yogi at the same time. He teaches totality, he teaches surrender, he teaches acceptance, he teaches spontaneity and he teaches non-doership. The best teacher humanity can find is Lord Krishna.
My childhood memories of Janmastami are still as clear as crystal. Having been born in Gujarat, where Krishna is worshipped and celebrated widely through festivals and music, Janmastami has always been one of the highlights of the year. The best part, of course, were the five days of school holidays, starting on the 5th day of the rising moon. It was also the time when a big fun fair would start in our town. Streets were decorated with flowers, small Krishna murtis and sweets were distributed among the people. Then finally came the day of Janmastami. The dahi handi event always attracted thousands of people. Human pyramids were created by young boys, trying to fetch and break a pot of curd or butter, tied up very high – just like Krishna did in his childhood. Songs, kirtanas and bhajanas would mark the end of these unforgettable celebrations.
Manish Vyas was born in Gujarat, India, in a Hindu family. Since his childhood, he has been related to music, having learnt singing, tabla, harmonium and santoor. Manish’s variety of sound is vast, yet a lot of it is sacred and devotional Indian music, like mantras and kirtana. He has been touring in the USA and Europe for many years, being one of the few mantra singers in the West who has kept the authenticity of the ancient Vedic tradition. Manish released over 15 albums and gives concerts, workshops and retreats on Indian music, its spiritual tradition, yoga and the power of sound. More info: maniyshvyas.com