Happy Krishna Janmashtami 2017: 10 lessons we can learn from Krishna’s life

So effective is the wisdom imparted in the Bhagwad Gita - when a desolate and dejected Arjuna refuses to fight the battle at Kurukshetra - that it is known as the fifth Veda. Here are 10 things about Krishna that make him a devotee’s complete God.

Written by Ritu S | Mumbai | Updated: August 15, 2017 1:06 pm
krishna janmashtami 2017, janmashtami, janamashtashmi, krishna, krishna jayanti, sri krishna jayanti, lessons from krishna, krishna arjun, bhagwad gita, indian express, indian express news Krishna, who is the Supreme Realised Soul in human form, comes across as a very personal form of divine.

Krishna is best known and understood through his ‘song celestial’, the Bhagwad Gita. The dialogue between him and Arjuna (one of the five Pandava brothers) has been a source of relief to many a mortal heart. When a desolate and dejected Arjuna refuses to fight the battle at Kurukshetra, Krishna’s words of wisdom spring him back to action.

Arjuna represents the mortal human soul (the jiva atma) and its moral dilemmas. Arjuna’s state of mind reflects our state of mind, surrounded as we are in this morally ambiguous world where good and bad, right and wrong are intricately woven. Krishna, who is the Supreme Realised Soul in human form, comes across as a very personal form of divine. He is responsive to the human condition and its infinite yearnings.

So effective is the wisdom imparted in the Bhagwad Gita that it is known as the fifth Veda. Here are 10 things about Krishna that make him a devotee’s complete God.

1. Focus on our duty

‘But the mind is restless o’ Krishna’, says Arjuna. When Arjuna speaks these lines it resonates our very thought. As we move through the twists and turns of our life we find ourselves at crossroads where we too, like Arjuna, want to give up on our situation and withdraw from the battle of our life, our Kurukshetra. On the surface, our circumstances may not seem as grave as Arjuna’s but in our antahakarana, our mind, they seem no less oppressive and overwhelming than the Kurukshetra.

Through the Gita, Krishna tells us that whenever we are in any sort of a moral dilemma, we should transcend our emotions and concentrate on our duty (dharma). Emotions render us weak and we tend to deviate from the path of duty (dharma). Emotions of love, hate, jealousy, attachment are subjective in nature, whereas the path of dharma is objective in nature. We justify our lapses on emotional grounds but no emotion is higher than the path of dharma. The mind, says Krishna, can only be at peace when we make our Kurukshetra, our personal battlefield, our dharamkshetra, ground of duty.

2. Good will always be rewarded

‘The doer of good never comes to grief’, assures Krishna. According to him, as long as we follow our duty (dharma) we shall be protected by him. This does not make his love conditional but he leaves the choice to us. He says that as humans, we are creatures of intellect and we have the freedom of choice. Our choices dictate our fate. Those who choose to do good, are protected by Krishna’s grace and those who choose the path of unrighteousness (adharma) perish by their own wrong-doing.

3. Focus on action, not the results

‘Your business is with the deed and not with the result of the deed’, also known as the maxim of Bhagwad Gita, Krishna here says that our focus must be the deed, not the outcome of the deed. As long as we fulfil our duties sincerely we will be rewarded, such is the law of karma. But Krishna also says, ‘Inexorable are the ways of karma’, hence the outcome of our deeds cannot be easily predicted.

Whether the outcome is positive or negative, we must trust the working of karma since according to this law , there is no such thing as unmerited outcome or unmerited suffering for that matter.

4. Forsake ego for bigger goals

“Be just my instrument”, says Krishna. When we perform actions as his instrument rather than our pompous ego self, there is equanimity in our action and we are better able to focus on the task at hand. Ego makes us act out of the fear of our outcome. It makes us anxious about the result – whether we’ll succeed or fail, incur losses or gains.

The ego also takes the onus of the outcome upon itself. When it succeeds it becomes vain and arrogant and when it fails, it becomes grim and dejected. As his instruments we leave the outcome of our actions to Krishna and accept both losses or gains with equipoise.

janmashtashmi, janamashtashmi, krishna, lessons from krishna, krishna arjun, bhagwad gita (Source: Arnab Dutta/Wikimedia Commons)

5. Seek divine grace over material gains

In the epic Mahabharata, the warring cousins Duryodhana (Kaurava) and Arjun (Pandava) both approach Krishna for help. Much to Duryodhana’s relief and delight Arjuna chooses Krishna (to be his charioteer), while Duryodhana gets his massive army to fight the battle. This sheds light on our tendency to put our faith in the tangible forces and empirical truths. Arjuna chose Krishna’s divine presence and with Krishna on his side, Arjuna went on to win the battle.

As long as we have Krishna’s grace, we can fight the strongest of evil opponents. Truth is beyond empirical knowledge. It is intuitive in nature.

6. Believe in the law of Karma

Krishna suggests that all life is subject to the law of karma. The law of karma is based on the choices we make in life. When our choices are governed by dharma (sense of duty), victory is on our side but when we make selfish choices we lose the battle of life. No amount of effort will yield the desired result as long as our karmic merits are not on our side. We make our own luck by choosing right over wrong, selfless actions over selfish actions, compassion over exploitation, response over reaction.

7. Respond to life situations, not react

Krishna says that when we choose to respond rather than react to our situation, we free ourselves from the consequences of our action. Reaction stems from ego, when we renounce our ego, we are able to respond to our situation effortlessly. This way we are in the world and yet not of the world. This eventually frees us from the web of karma and we attain moksha or liberation from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.

8. Keep the bigger issues in focus

Krishna, the strategist, is seen as a shrewd manipulator. But Krishna believes that ‘Those who live by the law of the jungle die by the law of the jungle’. He argues that in order to preserve dharma in this imperfect world he needs to resort to trickery. He says that in Kalyuga, the dark age, one has to commit smaller wrongs for the sake of bigger right.

9. Uphold friendship

In contrast to his reputation as a strategist, Krishna is also an upholder of the sakhya rasa (friendship) which is one of the five divine mellows. His relationship with Draupadi (wife of the five Pandava brothers) is one of complete trust and solidarity. During her disrobing in the royal court when her protectors – her five husbands and the elders of the clan – leave her to her fate, Krishna comes to her rescue like a true friend.

Draupadi turned to Krishna when the entire world turned against her. Krishna alone protects her modesty defying all laws of logic, time and space. Like Draupadi, whenever we are going through the most trying period of our life, if we sincerely remember Krishna, he is sure to come to our rescue since he can overpower the shackles of our karma. He is our most reliable friend and we can take solace under the unfailing umbrella of his love.

Even with his childhood friend Sudama, Krishna is completely indifferent to his friend’s social status. Sudama is clearly embarrassed of his social station in life and tries to hide the modest gift he has got for his friend, but Krishna puts him completely at ease. He treats him with the same affection and informality that they shared during their childhood days. Krishna changes his friends fortunes without making him go through the humiliation of asking. He simply gifts him a palatial house and riches out of his regard and fondness for his childhood friend.

10. Cherish bonds of love

And last but not the least is his the love for Radha. Together they epitomise conjugal love – madhurya rasa. Radha-Krishna union is the union of love in its purest form. Love that is eternal. Socially Radha was related to him and was, in fact, even older to him by 10 years, but true love transcends worldly norms. What makes their union special is that it stems not out of a sense of incompleteness but out of paripoornata, completeness.

Happy Janmashtami.

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