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Lord Krishna’s Birthday Celebrations

Janamashthami or the birthday of Lord Krishna has always been special in my childhood. It is the monsoon season in India. It is greenery all around. The sky is full of grey clouds, dancing in gay abundance. Pleasant mild winds blow. It is the time for kite flying. Alas! Urbanization has curbed an affordable sport. How else do you watch the clouds and the sky whole day?  The colourful kites of special paper flying under, near or above the clouds! Many elderly fellows used several kilometer long strong thread for very big kites flown in the evening. They would tie to it earthen lamps carefully placed within a lampshade of paper, so that only the lamp, called Aakaashdeep, will be visible in the night sky creating the illusion of a star! The nights are extremely dark, almost black this time of the Bhadrapad maas or the month of Bhadon falling in August-September, when the monsoon is preparing to withdraw.

The celebrations are important for other economic reasons. It is sowing time. It is also the time for temperature changes, causing viral diseases. Health care is required and change of diet is introduced. Cereals are not eaten on this day. Milk, milk products and fruits are consumed. The elders in the family keep a fast until midnight prayer-the time of the birth of the Lord. But sweets made of milk is a rare treat. Children have the best of times, savouring the various preparations, tasting distinct, even as all of them are made of milk. Milk production suddenly goes up at this time of the year in comparison to the preceding summers, when it is the lowest. Isn’t it scientific to save cereals and consume more milk? Managing food economy can never be healthier than this.

Were it only religion, I would not have taken your valuable time. As is known, Lord Krishna is revered for the BhagwatGeeta or Geetaa(Gita). It contains the philosophy of life. It takes the inquisitive to the heights of knowledge. I am going to talk of just one single aspect here. My query is: what is the age of emotions? Should or could one live with emotions forever? Or does a time come in the life of a person when he has to give up emotions and grow up? The Geeta gyan updesh or the Geeta discourse delivered by Lord Krishna answers exactly those questions.

A brief reference to the context is necessary.The great war of Mahabharat is about to begin. On one side is the Kaurava army and on the other the Pandava Army. It is a family feud. (Actually it is the conflict of the individual mind).The Kauravas include the grand fathers, fathers, uncles, preceptors, teachers, friends, brothers, sons, sons- in- law etc. Seeing them, Arjun, the Pandava  prince and best archer, loses nerve,overtaken by emotions. Realizing who all he was going to kill, he becomes sad. He sees the elders in whose embrace he has grown up, the preceptor who mentored him, the teacher who taught him, brothers who loved him and were loved by him, friends who meant everything dear in life! He saw no meaning in fighting such a war. He didn’t find the idea of enjoying the worldly pleasures in the absence of his near and dear ones. He preferred to be killed without a fight unarmed, by his dear ones rather than killing all of them to win the battle.

Not bad ideas at all. Good such feelings cross the mind. War should be avoided to the maximum extent. Even on the battlefield, one can attempt last ditch efforts to salvage the situation . Peace at whatever price obtained is cheaper than war. But such attempts fail to elicit the right response from the opposite party, especially when the crisis rises to a level forcing a war only. Grief easily overwhelms an emotional person. But the experienced and knowledgeable of the society know the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of emotional response to a real crisis in life. A  warrior can never fight a war in a state of mind overwhelmed by grief, real or imaginary. What should he do? Run away? Leave the battlefield? Will it be reciprocated or taken as weakness? Will loss of reputation establish peace in the country, society or family? (Can an individual run away from the crisis within?). These are issues which are bound to trouble any adolescent mind. To do or not to do is a question that each individual has to face, decide and answer. Unless answered by him, the individual remains an adolescent. As a man can’t remain in his childhood forever, so in adolescence. But it takes a lot of time for the individual to outgrow adolescence. It is so because of our emotions. Love, respect, superiors, elderly, youth are emotions that can’t be easily given up, for the individual grows through them. These emotions make and support him. But in life moments arrive rather early when things change and emotions experience stress. The easiest example is marriage, which tends to invalidate all his emotional bonds. Or leaving one’s country due to employment.

Arjun, in that state of mind, overwhelmed by intense grief, unable to find answers to these questions, requests the Lord to help him clear these doubts. The very fact that Arjun needed someone else, some knowledgeable person to guide him, is indicative of his adolescence. Education alone is not enough to face all the crises of life. Life is too complex and it is difficult to acquire all the knowledge.

What troubled Arjun was the death of the near and dear ones in the battle. But he didn’t know about them prior to their birth nor post their death. He didn’t know if they were related to him. He also didn’t consider the permanence of death, as all of them were to be visited by death  someday and Arjun could do nothing about it. Sensitized to these facts, Arjun explores the mystery of life and death. In the process he learns that there is a kind of duality, as some things are perishable while others are imperishable. Death affects only the body, which represents the sthool or that which can be felt by the sense organs. The reality  that death is certain is shooksma or that which is beyond the sense organs.  It is called the soul, which is imperceptible, inconceivable, inimitable, indestructible, incombustible. There are experiences effected by time such as childhood, youth, old age or present, past and future. It is best represented by the physical form of a body. But if the body suffers destruction, the supply can’t be unlimited. Science also says that matter can’t be destroyed. If the body is matter the soul is energy. Neither dies. They change form.  If the body dies, there must be something that doesn’t die. That is the soul. If death is a felt reality, so is life. If body is perceptible to the sense organs, the soul is perceptible to the consciousness of man. The conflict survives only so long the adolescence doesn’t cross into manhood.

An adolescent is always dependent on a mentor. When he becomes a learner, he makes a man of himself. An adolescent easily gives up in a crisis but a man gets over the crisis. An adolescent grieves for death of his loved ones, in the ignorance of pre-death or post-death phenomenon, but a man of knowledge doesn’t grieve for the dead or the living. There is a kind of permanence to childhood, adolescence and old age which will visit every individual as in the past or present or future. Even then, the growth trajectory will demand growing above emotions. That sense of the timing alone is the age of emotions. Childhood gives up to adolescence, which again gives up in favour of adulthood. That is the cycle. Nobody can interfere with this cycle.  It is altogether different that we tend to prolong our adolescence beyond the desired age and refuse or fear to walk into adulthood. Arjun is a perfect example of such prolonged adolescence. Life will demand of every individual to experience reverse emotions in respect of same relations.  The son standing up to his father or mother or a student challenging his own dear mentor are not uncommon situations in life and have to be faced. It brings about equanimity. Neither pain nor happiness should stir a man of wisdom. When the journey from personal pain or happiness to universal pain or happiness  is undertaken, a certain detachment sets in the individual’s mind. He sees the reality of life. Pleasure or pain becomes insignificant. Connecting to the entire cosmos, one moves from time defined as past, present or future to superior time which has no past, present or future.

Decisions in life require neutrality, objectivity and an impersonal attitude. Even in his individual capacity one has to take decisions where one of the two most loved ones has to be chosen?  Should one yield to emotions? In matters of governance, is it possible for the ruler to yield to emotions or maintain objectivity? Was it correct of Arjun to suffer such a bout of emotions on the battlefield when war became  imminent. His final instructions came to him from Lord Krishna in the form of the Geeta discourse. It was expected of him to attain adulthood earlier, but he was  very  emotional of all the brothers. He carried his adolescence, his emotions to the battle field, where cool judgement is needed to be made. Through the discourse, Arjun crosses his adolescence and attains adulthood. That is the essence of the Geeta.

Life demands righteous action or karma of every individual. Adolescence can’t withhold him from performing his duty. The Lord told Arjun that life is best lived in an equipoised state of mind in happiness and unhappiness, profit and loss, victory or defeat. The discourse helps Arjun rise above his grief and take a dispassionate decision. Irrespective of who dies, he fights the war to re-establish the rule of dharma or righteousness, where the righteous live happily under the protection of dharma or law. He gets over the conflict within him, as all of us would like to do.

Happy Janmasthami!

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