Krishna was born 5,520 years ago. Before Krishna’s birth there was a prophecy in relation to Kansa, a tyrannical king, that the eighth child of Kansa’s sister would be the cause of his death. It happened that this child was Krishna, the son of Devaki and Vasudeva, born in a prison at Mathura.
His childhood was spent in Gokul and Vrindavan with Yashoda and Nanda. The central theme of Krishna’s life was not destruction of the wicked or protection of the pious. The relationship between the individual and God is not the relationship of the pious and the wicked. Wickedness is a personality trait or tendency. Interaction with the divine power happens in another dimension where wickedness is overcome by continuous remembrance and thinking of God. Even Kansa, who was wicked, did nothing but think and dream about Krishna from the time of the prophecy till the time of his death.
Whether the remembrance was due to fear or affection is not important, but the thought process was ongoing and constant. The relationship that an individual has with God transcends their wicked and pious nature. Wickedness and piousness are external expressions of human personality, but the thought and remembrance which is continuous, ongoing and unbroken indicates the awareness and the relationship that one has with the higher power, with God. The focus of Krishna’s life was the establishment of dharma. Dharma is identified as a purushartha. Dharma is not a belief, a concept or a religion; dharma is action, effort.
This action and effort should lead one to experiencing the divine nature that is dormant in every being. Krishna wanted to establish this concept of dharma right from the time he became self-aware. In the festival of Ganga Dashahara, the women float candles or deepaks on the river as a form of worship. There is a story that when Krishna was very young he accompanied his mother, Yashoda, to the banks of the river to observe this ritual. When he saw people floating little candles on the river, he entered the water himself and every time a deepak or candle floated by he would pick it up and put it on the riverbank. When his mother asked him what he was doing, he replied, Mother, all the candles that come near me I pick up and put on the shore.
My little hands can’t reach the candles that are in midstream or near the other shore, but any deepak that floats towards me I pick up and put on the shore. Deepaks or lights represent the individual souls who are floating in this stream of samsara. Those who are too far away go unattended, but those souls which float towards the godly nature are immediately picked up and saved. Coming close to the proximity of the Divine is the purpose of dharma, nothing more.
Teachings that can bring us closer to God change from age to age, from civilization to civilization. In Satya Yuga, the method was tapasya. In this age, known as Kali Yuga, Buddha, Mahavir, Christ, all the saints and sages, have said that the form of religion should be love and compassion. Being compassionate, loving and kind towards others was the teaching of these sages for this age.
In the times of Krishna and Rama, when there was affluence everywhere, when there was no rampant poverty, when adherence to dharma was an integral part of the human act, there was no confusion. Krishna, and the teachings of Krishna, speaks about accepting and realizing action. This idea is the underlying philosophy of life as practiced in those times. In the Bhagavad Gita, emphasis was given to acceptance, performance and realization of actions.
It is also said that knowledge of action, knowledge of human participation in life, in this creation, understanding the role that each human being has to play, is a very secret subject that has never been revealed before. But it is only through perfection in action that one can improve the quality of life. This belief holds true even today. All the masters, after they have attained the highest realization, have involved themselves in hard karma.
Buddha, after attaining nirvana, plunged himself into karma. He did not isolate himself from the world. When we see these living examples of people who have attained realization again involving themselves in action, then we have to think, because the common belief is that nothing needs to be done after realization, that one is free to retire to the mountains and lead a solitary life. We isolate ourselves by creating walls of silence around us, by meditating for ten or twenty hours a day.
But that has no meaning because the transformative experience of life lies in karma, not in meditation. Karma, not meditation, has been the central philosophy of spiritual life in todays world. If followed sincerely, the state of meditation can be achieved within one year. But what about the karma which binds your personality, your nature, your individuality to this plane and which restricts the growth of human nature by becoming a samskara, an unconscious desire, an unconscious seed for happiness and contentment. How do we eradicate that? Meditation cannot eradicate the seeds created by karma.
Meditation can provide you with mental, emotional and psychic strength, tranquility and harmony. Whenever the grass grows, you can cut it and make it look beautiful on the surface, but the weeds are still there. Similarly, whenever the mind goes through difficult times, conflicts, tensions, anxiety and stress practice meditation and you will find relief. It will make the surface of the mind tranquil and peaceful. But the seeds of karma, the weeds of karma, are deep-rooted and cannot be uprooted through meditation alone.
For this, the central theme in yoga and in other spiritual philosophies is karma yoga. I am not talking about the type of karma yoga that we perform in the ashram or in society. When you associate the word yoga with karma, it takes on a different meaning altogether. It indicates a process, a state in which you are the master of your karma and not a subject of your karma. When you are the master of karma, you become a karma yogi. When you are under the influence of karma, you are subject to karma.
This was the message that Krishna gave to Arjuna, and through Arjuna to all of us. In order to transform and harmonize life, in order to understand the secrets of life, in order to understand your relationship with other beings and with the universe, with the cosmos, with creation and with God, you need to understand how you interact with Krishna’s teachings were to develop transcendental love and to be involved with karma. If we can understand these two concepts, we will find that many of our doubts about life, spirituality and dharma can be clarified.