Hundreds of millions of adherents of the Hindu faith will gather together, around the world, in temples and homes, to celebrate the advent of God on Earth. This festival of the birth of Krishna is known in Hinduism as Janmastami. According to the popular understanding, Krishna took birth in the town of Mathura, located in Northern India, 91 miles South of New Delhi, approximately 5,000 years ago. This year, the celebration will take place on Sunday, August 17.
Since Krishna is said to have taken birth at midnight, many will observe a fast, from food and water, until midnight. The idea behind the fast is to decrease our focus on food and increase our focus and attention on our relationship with God. Of course, if fasting is increasing your focus on your hungry belly, then better eat something and keeping on praying. At midnight, many temples will organize congregational singing, dancing, and feasting celebrations to honor the event.
Krishna’s personality provides a refreshing perspective about the nature and personality of God. Some descriptions say he likes to dance and play the flute. He is described in Hindu texts as always youthful and all-attractive. This is a stark difference from the popular notion of God as old, angry, cruel and jealous. If God is old, then he comes under the influence of time which would ultimately lead to his demise. However, according to Hinduism, time is an instrument of God and can’t influence him.
Krishna spoke the Bhagavad Gita (“the song of God”), the most prominent and widely read of Hindu texts. Krishna explained the Gita on a battlefield, to his dear friend Arjuna, who was going through a series of major crisis about his life and duty. Many Hindus and non-Hindus (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, Carl Jung, and many more) have been fascinated by the deep wisdom of the Gita. Many have used it to find the right balance between their spiritual and material pursuits and explore the topics of Karma, Reincarnation, God, the Mind, the Soul, Time, Death, the Universe, and the purpose of life.
I first turned to the Gita after my parents experienced a major financial disaster that caused them to lose their multi-million dollar jewelry business in Los Angeles. We had lost everything – our properties, vehicles, and almost everything we owned. We ended up moving to Bulgaria, in 1993, looking for ways to reestablish our financial situation. Being so thoroughly uprooted from my social circle and comfortable lifestyle, I found myself seeking out answers to questions such as “why is this happening to me,” “what did I do to deserve this,” and “what is the purpose of my life?” Krishna’s words gave me solace, hope, and clarity about how to deal with this very unexpected turbulence I was experiencing.
Krishna not only provides deep wisdom and philosophy for the human mind, he also leads by example and demonstrates the trait of humility. After helping Arjuna overcome his dilemma, Krishna humbly drives Arjuna’s chariot around the battlefield for 18 days, receiving instructions and executing the orders and requests of his friend. Through this act, Krishna demonstrates the need for individuals to develop humility and mood of service to others in our lives. It’s through humility and service that one can approach and comprehend the divine.
In the Gita, Krishna suggests that he is the “original fragrance of the earth…the taste of water, the light of the sun and moon…the intelligence of the intelligent, the strength of the strong, and the thread upon which all things rest.” Meditating on all these messages, many on this day, will worship and pray to the youthful, all-attractive God who is the original Avatar.