As children, we have heard and read stories of Balkrishna innumerable times. It was almost customary for our mothers and grandmothers to tell us stories of his mischief and merrymaking, but not without the lessons that we needed to learn or the punishments Yashoda Maiya gave to the little troublemaker.
Through those stories, we learnt about this supposedly naughty little child, a God, who would go on to impart the Essence of Life, the Bhagavad Gita; and was the Ninth Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
At the heart of each story was a lesson, a "moral", which we learnt as children. Even after all these years, one can learn something new from those stories. Coming back to the beginning, Janmashtami, the birth of the Ninth Avatar of Vishnu, isn't just a story. We learn about eternal joy and bliss right from the time Lord Krishna is born.
As the story goes, the evil king Kansa was prophesied to be killed by the eighth child of his sister, Devaki. Kansa killed six of Devaki and Vasudev's sons out of rage and fear for his life. Miraculously, their seventh child was transferred to Vasudev's second wife, Rohini's womb, after conception. That child was Balaram, the manifestation of Sheshnaag. The eighth child that Devaki gave birth to was Lord Krishna.
Locked up in a dungeon by her brother and surrounded by guards who kept a close watch, there was no way that Devaki could run away and save the lives of her children. However, on the night of the birth of her eighth child, a miracle took place. The calm, peaceful skies took the form of a raging storm; the guards of the dungeons fell into a deep sleep, and the prison bars unlocked themselves. Vasudev, directed by a divine voice, carried the child across a flooded Yamuna river to the home of his dear friend Nandraja in Gokul.
Here, Lord Krishna's mother, Devaki, represents the physical body, while the Lord's father, Vasudev, represents the prana (the vital life force). Joy (Krishna) is born when prana rises in the body. Hence, Krishna is known as Nandalala, the embodiment of happiness. We now understand that we can experience boundless joy and bliss within this small body.
Kansa represents ego. As Devaki's brother, Kamsa signifies that ego is born alongside the body. All the Guards (the five senses) fell asleep when Lord Krishna (joy) was born in prison (body). When awake, the prison guards here represent the five senses, which defend and uphold the ego. The five senses — eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin – are the ego's guardians that keep us engaged with the exterior and material world that we miss the infinite ocean within.
Ego's biggest enemy is joy. Where there is joy and love, the ego cannot survive. No matter how egotistical and well-placed one is in society, one cannot help but feel overjoyed with a little child. When confronted with love, simplicity, and joy, the ego instantly melts. Krishna is the epitome of happiness, the ideal of simplicity, and the fountain of all love. How could Kansa even stand a chance?
With his birth, Lord Krishna taught us that our egos are too fragile and feeble, and what connects us to the divine is eternal joy and bliss, which lies within us. We have forgotten to appreciate the little things that bring pure joy to our lives in our fast-paced lives: it is those brief, fleeting moments through which we experience the essence of our lives. Janmashtami isn't just the celebration of the birth of the Lord; it is a reminder to forgo our egos and to experience Krishna in his truest form: that of joy, happiness, and bliss.
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