Celebrating Janmastami at Home & Nine Years of Blogging

Karnamrita Das

 photo DSCN5094_zpsgj8dzz2y.jpgCelebrating the holy day of Krishna’s appearance in this world five thousand years, or Shri Krishna Janmastami, is one of the many “high holidays” (to borrow from Judaism) which devotees of Krishna observe. What is known today as Hinduism includes what is called Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or the bhakti (devotional) movement inaugurated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which Krishna.com represents. My spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada, wasn’t fond of the word Hinduism since it is an imposed term created by those not familiar with the tradition and is a word not found in any Vedic literature.

Be that as it may, for the sake of convenience, we sometimes say we are part of the very diverse and inclusive Hindu tradition of India. Irrespective of the various Hindu theologies, all sects of Hinduism celebrate Janmastami as an important day, and glorify Krishna in various ways. Whether they think he is one of the many Hindu gods, or that the Ultimate Truth is “The One,” or the formless, impersonal Brahman source energy, they still glorify him as the wise speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, and are charmed by his depiction in the Shrimad Bhagavatam as a carefree cowherd who lived an idyllic life amidst the simplicity and beauty of Nature, surrounded by those who loved him.

This evening we read from the Krishna Book, and discussed some of Krishna’s pastimes surrounding his so-called “birth” in the world. I was reminded of watching how excited Prabhupada was when he was presented with advanced copies of the Krishna Book during the 1970 Rathayatra, and how he personally sold and signed copies. I also remembered our routine of reading “Nectar of Devotion” and “Krishna Book” while we sipped hot milk and ate popcorn. I never doubted—what to some people are fantastic stories—but felt more and more connected to Krishna by hearing his pastimes. When I think of it, my attitude was truly amazing and shows my open and innocent heart as a very young, tender 19 year old. I had only been a devotee a short time, and yet hearing about Krishna was so faith building. I was still basking on the energy from my spiritual existential search and felt no need to question the teaching.

Krishna's lila or pastimes are inconceivable and can't be understood with material logic alone. Our Christian brothers and sisters are fond of saying that the life of Christ and his crucifixion are an historical fact that can be verified. We, however, would argue that while Krishna was really here five thousand years ago and engaged in his pastimes, they happened in a spiritual way, and are inconceivable to ordinary logic. By material reasoning they seem impossible, and we won’t be able to verify them by science or archaeology. Although there are some remnants of Vedic culture that have been discovered, or coins with Vasudeva Krishna and Sankarsana Balaram on them, or any number of findings hinting that Krishna walked the planet, by those means people won’t understand Krishna’s Divinity. That comes from Shrimad Bhagavatam, the Bhagavad Gita, and are especially found in the heart of pure devotees.
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In that sense, Krishna's lila or pastimes are not only transcendental, though appearing on Earth, but trans-rational--beyond the ability of our limited intelligence to comprehend. Once a devotee told Prabhupada that he had calculated the number of cows that Krishna's father had, and the amount of land in Vrindavan, and he concluded that this number of cows would not fit in the amount of land available. Hearing this, Prabhupada told him that he thought too much. One of the meanings of “maya” is to measure. We can’t measure the activities of Krishna or fully understand them, as if we can capture them for examination and hold them in our hands as a completely known quantity.

While we are encouraged to be reasonable and thoughtful people, we should know the limitations of material reasoning. We have to develop spiritual reasoning as a result of our spiritual practice, faith, and realization. On another occasion, devotees were traveling with Prabhupada throughout the holy places in Vrindavan—where Krishna was born—and someone asked him, "Prabhupada, we have to take a bus to reach the various places of Krishna's pastimes and it takes hours, whereas Krishna could walk from one place to another in a short time. Prabhupada held out his hand, palm up, and said, "Vrindavan is like a lotus flower, the different forests like the petals, so if Krishna wants to go to a particular place,” Prabhupada brought his figures together to touch one another, “then the petals come together and Krishna very easily moves from place to place.” In this way, Krishna can do wherever is required beyond material considerations.
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I am flooded with emotional memories of the many Janmastamis and Prabhupada’s appearance days I have celebrated over the decades, especially as a head pujari when I would often stay up all night engaging in many services and then getting reading for celebrating Prabhupada's Vyasa-puja day or his spiritually understood "birthday," or as we say, his appearance day. As an aside, this day is also important to me since it marks my nine year anniversary as a blogger on Krishna.com. Though the value of my contribution is debatable and may not be of interest to you, I can personally say writing blogs here has been a great boon to me in terms of personal and spiritual growth. I have solidified my identity as a writer, and have been steady over the years through many stages and reverses of life. I have used these changing times of life successes and reverses, like the death of my mother, or my current struggle with cancer, as grist for the writers mill.

To date I have contributed over 560 blogs, from which two books have been compiled and are still available on Amazon.com. I am currently working on a book documenting my journey with cancer. As I have expressed over the seven months of my cancer healing journey, I have faced the reality of death in a very empowering way. As time is of the essence, and I meditate that I could die today, I have defined how I would like to serve devotees in ISKCON and in the worldwide Gaudiya Vaishnava community through traveling and speaking. I also want to produce books that will I feel will support and encourage devotees to stay the course in bhakti their whole lives, celebrating the appearance of Krishna in their hearts--another meaning of Janmastami--by the mercy of great devotees. Thank you all for reading and helping me in my service.

Here is the link from my first blog: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2010/05/1/krishnas-birthday-or-janmastami-ha...

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