Janmashtami is the festival commemorating the appearance of Krishna in this world. He is believed to have appeared 5,000 years ago in a prison cell in Mathura. Janmashtami represents the appearance of hope in the dark night of hopelessness, of virtue in the fortress of vices, through the appearance of the Absolute Truth, Krishna.
The sun rises in the East each day. Not that it is born that time, but it comes to our relative vision and with each setting, it no longer appears to our vision. My spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada said that Krishna is within everyone’s heart and with the sincerity of our devotion, can appear to us every day. He reciprocates to us according to our desires.
Everyone is looking for pleasure. The question arises that if our ultimate aim is pleasure and if the world is designed to frustrate our attempts to attain pleasure, then what is the hope? Therefore, the Supreme personally descends into this world simply to reveal the way by which we can not only attain true happiness and peace but also perfect our life and go ahead to the eternal spiritual world.
The Bhagwad Gita teaches the process by which we can achieve the highest joy of Bhakti Yoga and also share it with others. When we celebrate Janmashtami, it should be a time when we commit and dedicate ourselves to live by the will of Krishna. This is real celebration.
When Krishna appears in this world, he gives us a glimpse into the joyful exchanges of love in the spiritual world. Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan are an advertisement for the suffering, living entities to relinquish stubborn, selfish desires and join the eternal party of selfless service and love.
Today, in the name of religion, people are so caught up in rituals, conventions and obligations that they are deluded from the real purpose of religion – transformation of consciousness. Transformation of greed to generosity, egoism to humility, vengeance to forgiveness, agitation to peace and hate to love, all happens when we revive our eternal relationship with the absolute truth, God.
When Krishna appeared, he appeared in a way to attract us to his sweetness and love rather than his power and grandeur. He appeared as a simple cowherd boy in Vrindavan, just to attract our love. The Gita says that we are infatuated by beautiful people and beautiful things, but the beauty of this world is an infinitesimal spark of the supreme splendour of God.
Today, in the name of God, there is so much division and disunity. To help us rise above all externality, ego, selfishness and greed and understand that the real pleasure we’re seeking is unmotivated, unconditional love, is the purpose of religious practices. Each time we invoke Krishna’s names with sincere feeling and devotion, he appears, and it is Janmashtami. Krishna is manifesting and appearing within our hearts and our lives.
Across the world, people make elaborate offerings and decorations and organise grand events to celebrate Krishna’s birthday. With no monetary gains in return, they make time from their daily routine, to serve – to share our love for Krishna through service is the real spirit of Janmashtami. – Radhanath Swami