(The following is a public lecture by Shrila B.G. Narasingha Maharaja on the occasion of Shri Krishna Janmastami, given on August 22nd 2011 at Govindaji Gardens)
Today we are celebrating the appearance day of Lord Shri Krishna. Krishna appeared 5237 years ago. That makes the birthday of Krishna the oldest celebrated religious festival in human history. Not only is it the oldest, but it is the original basis of many religious stories told in Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and many other different religions around the world. The first story of God coming on this earth is the story of Krishna. We have that story of Krishna because it was recorded in the Shrimad Bhagavatam 5000 years ago. There is also another book, written around the same time called the Hari-vamsa. The spiritual knowledge and wisdom around Krishna is explained in the Bhagavata Purana. But there are many little details, because Krishna did not come alone. When God appears in this world, He comes with His brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, His whole dynasty, many friends – He brings His whole village. The details of all that are in the book Hari-vamsa. There are so many details of Krishna – what food He likes, what clothes He likes to wear, what musical instruments He plays, what battles He fought, what language He speaks. That is the first question – when God came to this world, what language did He speak? He appeared in India, but in India there are many languages. The answer is that He spoke your language! Whatever language you spoke, that’s the one He spoke. He even spoke the language of the animals. Krishna had many pets – cows, deer, and horses, even dogs – and He could speak to all of them in their own language. So many of these details are in the book Hari-vamsa and today we will discuss some of those details.
I am not here today to convince you that Krishna is God. You may need to know more about why we say that Krishna is God, but today I am not going to discuss those things. We are going to talk about some of the details such as who was Krishna’s mother, who was Krishna’s father etc. But the details are complicated. I can barely keep up with my own family – what to say of Krishna’s? Krishna’s family is very complex.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that Krishna comes whenever there is a decline in religious principles. He comes in every age (yuge yuge). Krishna is known as a great actor, like in a drama, so when Krishna comes He often comes in various disguises. He doesn't always come as the original Krishna – He comes as avataras. Sometimes Krishna shows His full power, and sometimes He only shows a part of His power. Whenever Krishna comes in human society, He has a mother and a father. He selects who will be His mother and who will be His father from His devotees. But the interesting part of the story is that Krishna has an original mother and father also. The original mother and father of Krishna are known as Yasoda and Nanda. So, 5237 years ago Krishna appeared in this world with Yasoda and Nanda as His parents. But at the very same moment, He accepted another mother and father known as Vasudeva and Devaki. Generally the story is simplified and we are told that Krishna was born with one mother and one father, but that is not the detailed story. Krishna appeared in the village of Vrndavana and His mother was Yasoda and at the exact same moment, Krishna appeared in Mathura and His mother was Devaki. The Krishna born in Vrndavana is known as Svayam Bhagavan – the original Krishna. The Krishna that appeared in Mathura is Visnu. The most striking difference between Krishna and Visnu is that Krishna is dvi-bhuja (two handed) and Visnu is catur-bhuja (four handed). There are also other forms of God and if we see them, we will run away in fear. But those who see Krishna, the original beautiful form of God, runs towards Krishna in love. Krishna is the most lovable object in our life.
Yasoda and Nanda are always the mother and father of Krishna. When Krishna comes to this world, He sends His mother and father first and they are born. Then, when the time is perfect, Krishna appears from His mother, just like the sun rising out of the ocean. His birth is a miracle. When this happened over 5000 years ago, this story spread all over the world. That story entered different cultures and different religions and thus you will find in different places around the world the story of God appearing on this earth. But His birth is a miracle. We must understand that we are born in a certain way, but Krishna is born differently. We are born due to our karma, but Krishna does not come due to karma. He simply appears. Then the dream begins and Krishna’s mother thinks, "Oh, I have given birth to this baby." When Krishna came in this way to Mother Yasoda, He also brought His sister at the same time. Mother Yasoda then fell asleep and everyone in the house also slept, and in the bed with Yasoda was baby Krishna and a baby girl.
Now in Mathura, a big drama had been going on for a long time. Vasudeva and Devaki had been put in prison by Kamsa and they had been there for many years. Whenever any children were born to them in prison, Kamsa would come and kill the baby immediately. Devaki was the sister of Kamsa. The reason Devaki and Vasudeva were in prison was because of this – on the day of Devaki’s marriage to Vasudeva, Kamsa put his sister and her husband into his chariot to take them to their new home. Suddenly there was a sound from the skies. A great voice declared, "Kamsa, you are such a fool! You are proudly driving the chariot with your sister, but her eighth son is going to kill you!"
Now Kamsa was not a good man. He was a thousand times worse than today’s politicians! He was greedy, evil and violent. He was an asura – a demon. When Kamsa heard this voice, he was shocked. He grabbed his sister’s hair, pulled out his sword and attempted to cut off her head. He was thinking that, "If I kill my sister, she will have no children, then there is no chance of her eighth son killing me." But Vasudeva immediately grabbed him, "What are you doing? Would you kill your own sister? People will wonder what type of man you are! You will get such a poor reputation. "
It was a very critical situation with Kamsa, so finally Vasudeva said, "You don’t have to worry about her. When any children are born, I will bring them to you immediately and you can kill them." Vasudeva spoke many flattering words to Kamsa to cool his anger and he made this very extreme promise.
After a year had passes, Devaki gave birth to a son and Vasudeva brought the baby to Kamsa but he told him, "This is the first baby, but your problem is with the eighth child." So Kamsa agreed and let them keep their son. But then a very strange thing happened – it was already strange but it’s going to get stranger! Narada Muni came to see Kamsa and Narada thought, "This king is so evil and he is already causing so much suffering to innocent people. We need to speed up his karma!" It was also said that the eighth son would be Krishna, and Krishna had killed Kamsa in a previous life. Kamsa’s name in his previous birth was Kalanemi. Narada Muni told him that, "The eighth son will be Krishna, your old enemy, and He will kill you. But you can’t trust Krishna – He may come as the second son, or the third. It’s better you kill all the children."
Actually, nothing happens by accident. Even an accident is ultimately not an accident. Life is complicated and it involves previous lifetimes. You have things in this world because you have an education and you work, but that is not everything. You have things because of what you did in a previous life, in ten previous lives, in one hundred previous lives. This life is complicated.
After talking to Narada, Kamsa arrested his sister and her husband and put them in prison. Every year, as children were born, he killed them in the prison. If we examine the story at this point, it is clear that Kamsa is evil. But a saint was the one who gave the suggestion to him to kill all the children! So the question arises, who were these poor children? Why were they killed What was their karma?
When Kamsa was Kalenemi in his previous birth, the children of Devaki that he was killing were his own sons. Their grandfather was Hiranyakasipu, one of the greatest demons ever known in the universe. He cursed his own grandsons that they would take birth and they would be killed in that way. This is the family business of demons – they don't even have good wishes for their own children. So these first six children were previously the six sons of Kalanemi and Kamsa killed them all. He was killing his own children.
Then the seventh son appeared. This was Krishna’s brother, Balarama. In India Balarama is very famous. He is also known as Sankarsana. Ananta is His expansion. But Krishna told Yogamaya, the spiritual power of Krishna who helps create the lila of Krishna, "Take My brother to Vrndavana before He is born, so that He does not have to face Kamsa." Everyone in the prison thought that Devaki had had a miscarriage. The next year, on this day, on the lunar calendar, Krishna appeared in two places at the same time. He came to Mother Yasoda as a baby with two arms, and with His sister. In Mathura, at the same moment, Krishna also appeared as Visnu with four arms.
In Vrndavana, after seeing Krishna, Yasoda slept. But in Mathura, Vasudeva and Devaki didn't sleep. They understood that, "Bhagavan has become our son!" Vasudeva and Devaki offered prayers in glorification of the Lord. If we study those prayers, we can clearly understand who is God. If we understand who is God, we will automatically understand who is not God! We will immediately broom out so many bogus bhagavans.
After hearing their prayers, Visnu took the form of baby Krishna. At that moment, everybody in the world slept. Nobody was awake. When you have had a successful day, you are able to have a good sleep. When God appears on the earth, everyone has a good sleep, even the demons. At that time, all the locks on the prison door opened and Vasudeva picked up baby Krishna and walked out of the prison. It was flood season and he came to the river Yamuna which parted and Vasudeva and Krishna crossed the river. He then came to the village where Yasoda and Nanda lived. Generally we call that whole area as Vrndavana, but that village is actually known as Gokula. Vasudeva entered that house, the door opened and he saw Mother Yasoda sleeping. He saw one little baby girl and he picked her up and replaced her with Krishna. Then he crossed the Yamuna, returned to Mathura, entered the prison and immediately the all doors closed again.
So now there are two Krishnas in the bed with Yasoda. The Visnu-avatara from Mathura entered into the body of the original Krishna and they became one. Then at that moment, everyone in the house woke up, heard the baby crying and they all came running to see. For a moment, Mother Yasoda thought, "Where is the girl?" because she remembered that there were twins – a boy and a girl. But when she saw the beauty of Krishna, she forgot about everything and thought that it must have all been a dream.
Meanwhile, in Mathura, that baby girl began to cry and everybody woke up. The guards heard the crying and ran to Kamsa to tell him that the eighth child had been born. When Kamsa entered, Devaki told him, "This is your niece. Please don't kill this girl. You are in danger from a boy – the eighth son was supposed to kill you. This is a girl." But no – he pushed them down, grabbed the baby by the feet and he prepared to smash her head on the wall. Suddenly, that baby slipped out of the hand of Kamsa, stood in the sky and took the form of Goddess Durga with sixteen arms holding many weapons. This goddess has many names – Durga, Bhadra, Bhadrakali – she has many names. She chastised Kamsa, "You are a bigger fool than we thought! The one who has been born to kill you has already appeared!" Then she disappeared into the sky. Kamsa had killed the six sons of Devaki who were previously his own sons, but this could not change his destiny. The will of God is above everything. He had done many horrible things, but he had changed nothing.
Kamsa then apologized to his sister and brother-in-law and allowed them to leave the prison and return home. Some time later, Kamsa’s associates came to him and told him that Vasudeva and Devaki were not to be trusted. They suggested that they should be imprisoned again and all the children in the whole kingdom up to ten years old should be killed. Anybody here who knows the Jesus story will immediately remember the same thing happened in Judea. The only difference is that this is the original story. The other is a duplicate.
So due to bad company, Kamsa arrested his sister and her husband again and put them in prison for sixteen years. Then he started a campaign to kill all the children. For this program he employed one friend named Putana. She came to poison Krishna, but Krishna killed her and saved all the children in the whole kingdom. But when Putana was killed, at once Kamsa knew where Krishna was. He didn't need to kill any more children. For sixteen years Kamsa sent powerful demons with magic powers to kill Krishna, but one by one, Krishna killed them all. After sixteen years, Krishna came to know about His other mother and father being locked up in prison by Kamsa, so He went to Mathura. There, He fought with elephants and wrestlers and finally He fought with Kamsa, and with His left hand He hit Kamsa and killed him. Then He set His mother and father free.
These activities are known as Krishna-lila and by hearing Krishna-lila we can be freed from karma. This means we can be freed from suffering. All of you today have come from your homes; some of you have even come from a different country to this place. This means that you have an original place – Krishna also has an original place.
Krishna says that He is God and He shows it – not once or twice, but many, many times by His knowledge, His activities, by His power, by every means He proves that He is God. But nowadays, particularly in India over the last fifty years or so, like to imitate Krishna. They like to say that they are God. Then we read in the newspapers that such-and-such bhagavan went to hospital. If we go to hospital, then that is alright – we are humans so we may have to go to hospital. But in India, God goes to hospital! Then they will say that, "That is his lila!" What fool wants to go to a hospital? Nobody!
It should also be noted that Krishna was on this earth for 125 years. Sixteen years He was in Vrndavana and that is known as His lila of youth. Vrndavana is known as the original home of Krishna, and that eternal home of Krishna is beyond our temporary time/space reality. One of the characteristics of God is that He doesn't grow old. Have you ever seen a picture of Krishna as an old man? He is nava-yauvana – ever youthful. This year I went to the Vatican and I saw pictures of ‘God’ there. He had white hair, a big white beard and wrinkled skin. Now what if you were God? Would you like to be old or young? It is obvious – we would want to be youthful. There are many ideas of God, but the original idea is Krishna and He is always youthful, He is never old. And when God wants to remove your sin, He just does it. He doesn't have to die or suffer to do it. At Kuruksetra, Krishna was 55, but when he is with Arjuna at Kuruksetra He looks like a sixteen-year-old boy. He has no moustache or beard because He never grows old.
These are some of the wonderful aspects of Shri Krishna.
Shri Krishna Bhagavan ki jaya!