“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
The event is called Krishna Janmashtami. The attendees are well-dressed. Many of them have fasted the entire day. No food or drink. No water, even. They are awaiting the clock striking midnight to commemorate the sacred moment of Krishna’s appearance in this world some five thousand years ago.
Of all places, the setting for that moment was a jail cell. Mother Devaki would deliver on the promise from the voice in the sky, which stated that her eighth child would spell doom for the wicked leader of Mathura, Kamsa.
This single event can be viewed in different ways, and there is a corresponding effect impacting the future wellbeing of the individual.
1. The appearance of an ordinary man
Some people may not know better. After all, births occur on a regular basis. Visit your neighborhood hospital on a given day and you are sure to find babies filling up the nursery. This is the cycle of life. Birth, old age, disease and death. Bhagavad-gita describes that the soul simply moves on to another destination, which triggers the next phase of the cycle.
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
Despite everything they have heard about Shri Krishna, they still consider Him to be an ordinary man. Many who had eyewitness experience were also like this. Duryodhana thought that he could bind Krishna. Jarasandha thought that Devaki’s son was a simple villager who ran away from the battlefield. Shishupala could not stop insulting that great well-wisher of the Pandavas.
2. The appearance of the Supreme Lord
This side knows the actual truth. The word janma references birth, but with Krishna the event is divyam, or Divine. This means that it is not ordinary. Janma is used for helping us understand, but in truth the Supreme Lord is always around. His name of Vishnu means that He is all-pervading. Vishnu expands as the Supersoul to reside within every single heart; the antaryami feature.
The difference in viewpoints is beyond semantics. If I actually know that Krishna’s birth, death and activities are Divine, I immediately become liberated. I no longer have to suffer through birth and death. In a way, my departure from this world turns into something like a disappearance. It is not total destruction to begin with, but now I get to travel to the best destination.
The first viewpoint, which is foolishness, results in continued rebirth in a destructible body. In essence, more of the same. The tragedy is that a simple shift in viewpoint is all it takes to change the situation. Just know that Krishna is not of this world. Understand what it means to be an avatara, how material elements can never cover the one who is beyond the dualities of matter and spirit.
Everything in Vedic culture has this objective; to facilitate the change in consciousness. Not just know the Divine nature of Krishna, but truly realize it. Celebrate occasions like Janmashtami, increase the knowledgebase through reading works like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, apply intellect, bring every doubt to the table, and arrive at the realization yourself, after careful deliberation. Then enjoy the rare-to-be-achieved result of liberation.
How foolish am I?
That on senses to rely.
So an ordinary person to think,
Further into ignorance to sink.
Following ways of enemies so,
Who in challenging spirit to go.
Know one truth and turn things around,
That Krishna’s arrival on Divinity’s ground.
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