Confidential Reasons for Krishna's Advent, and Thinking of His Appearance in Our Hearts!
Many important perspectives can be expressed for Janmastami or the birth/appearance day of Krishna—who is considered in Gaudiya or Chaitanya Vaishava tradition to be the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. To begin with he is not forced to take birth as we are, but “appears” or manifests himself in his original form for many external and internal reasons. Externally he appears to teach the method of self-realization for the age, to annihilate the “miscreants” or sinful, materialist people (which is done by his Vishnu aspect) and more confidentially, to protect his devotees.
However, Krishna’s most confidential reason for appearing is to taste the sweet essence of love of God (prema exchanged with his devotees) as a way to also propagate this standard of pure devotional service on the platform of spontaneous attraction. This is the opposite of formal reverential adoration as expressed in the hymns of the Vedas. Although there is certainly a place for respectful worship, awed by the Lord’s majesty (as offered to Lord Vishnu or in vidhi bhakti), it doesn’t truly satisfy Krishna. Why? The reason is because Krishna means the heart of God, or God in forgetfulness of his own Godhood in the madness of love. Krishna wants to be himself without the Godly profile. This is important to understand since the more “aishvarya” (awe and reverence) present in him, then the less intensity of friendship and love (and visa versa) that is shared.
Even within our experience we find that famous movie stars get tired of all the limelight and want to just be themselves without being honored or swooned over. So this nature is also in God. In particular to Krishna, “madhurya” means his sweetness and unrivaled beauty. The relationships Krishna shares with his devotees are dripping with the unparalleled sweetness of loving intimacy.
Please listen to Krishna’s thoughts about this as expressed in Chaitanya Charitamrita: "Mother [Yashoda] sometimes binds Me as her son. She nourishes and protects Me, thinking Me utterly helpless. My friends climb on My shoulders in pure friendship, saying, ‘What kind of big man are You? You and I are equal.' If My beloved consort reproaches Me in a sulky mood, that steals My mind from the reverent hymns of the Vedas. Taking these pure devotees with Me [to Vrindavana on the Earth], I shall descend and sport in various wonderful ways, unknown even in Vaikuntha [the abode of Lord Vishnu, or the Lord of the Universe]. I shall broadcast such pastimes by which even I am amazed.” [Cc Adi 4.24-28]
"The influence of yogamaya will inspire the gopis with the sentiment that I am their paramour. Neither the gopis nor I shall notice this, for our minds will always be entranced by one an other's beauty and qualities. Pure attachment will unite us even at the expense of moral and religious duties [dharma]. Destiny will sometimes bring us together and sometimes separate us. I shall taste the essence of all these rasas, and in this way I shall favor all the devotees. Then, by hearing about the pure love of the residents of Vraja, devotees will worship Me on the path of spontaneous love, abandoning all rituals of religiosity and fruitive activity." [Cc Adi 4.29-33]
How amazing is this? Objectively nothing can compare in any of the world’s spiritual and religious books. Krishna is not just your regular avatar or incarnation! Not that any manifestation of God or spiritually empowered soul is ordinary, but even in the dynamic Oneness of the spiritual world there are gradations, with varieties of qualities. For instance, in different places Krishna is perfect, more perfect, and most perfect. These gradations of perfection are seen in relationship to the degree of sweetness or reverence. The more sweet and less formality in worship the more perfect it is, since then the degree of intimacy increases when the knowledge of God is hidden—and that is what is really important to Krishna--pure unconditional love. In Krishna’ world “love reigns supreme”! So in Vrindavana Krishna is most perfect, in Dvarka more perfect, and in Mathura, perfect. You can research those places and the reasons for these degrees of perfection in the 10th Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam or Prabhupada’s summary study, “Krsna Book”.
In addition to levels of perfection or full throttled, uninhibited love, in the infinite varieties of manifestations of Krishna there are different nuances of personality, some appearing contradictory! That is not so surprising since even within ourselves (who are a small sample or part of God) we find contradictory or competing parts of our personality—and how much truer and more perfect is this fact then in our Source, the supreme connoisseur of love, Shri Krishna, reality the most beautiful and supremely loving. At the same time all contractions are resolved in him as he is the unlimited Supreme Personality.
From Shrila Rupa Gosvami, one of the principle disciples of Lord Chaitanya, we learn in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (summarized by Prabhupada as the “Nectar of Devotion” about four personality types displayed by Krishna: dhirodatta, dhira-lalita, dhira-prasanta and dhiroddhata. In different circumstances and for different spiritual purposes Krishna manifests these personally styles.
Briefly, a dhirodatta is a person who is naturally very grave, gentle, forgiving, merciful, determined, humble, highly qualified, chivalrous and physically attractive; a person is called dhira-lalita if he is naturally very funny, always in full youthfulness, expert in joking and free from all anxieties; a person who is very peaceful, forbearing, considerate and obliging is called dhira-prasanta; and a person who is very envious, proud, easily angered, restless and complacent is called dhiroddhata.
Remember that all qualities and types of relationships have their source in Krishna. Although we may not think the last category is fitting for God, he uses it to protect his devotees. We can always judge a thing by the results and we find that Krishna's dealings with any person are always helpful for that person’s spiritual progress, even if it involved insulting or killing their physical form. Krishna as God is all good and supremely so!
Although from one perspective God is unknown and unknowable (materially speaking), he can be known to some extent by His grace to those who serve him in love. The basic philosophy is revealed in the bhakti scriptures but to really accept it, and then realize it takes time, love and supreme mercy. It isn’t about having a big brain, but having a selfless unconditional loving heart…and Krishna will help us come to Him! He carries what his pure devotees lack and preserves what they have! On the special days of Krishna’s appearance we can pray to go deeper into our understanding of him. There is so much knowledge just to get us to serve him in full loving surrender. In the bhakti tradition, when we love him completely, then we will forget his position as God, and just love him as our superior, friend, child or lover—love for love’s sake with no calculation.
For now though, we want to aspire to be totally absorbed in our service to him and those dear to him—his pure devotees and our gurus. The knowledge given in the scriptures such as I have shared above helps us take up the path of bhakti until we gain our own personal experience and feeling for him. Then our spiritual path takes on a life of its own, and our heart goes to Krishna, as a child to its mother, or a lover to the beloved. Our thirst for Krishna will lead us step by step. This process was elaborated on by Lord Chaitanya and his six Goswamis disciples, which continues today with their representatives such as Shrila Prabhupada and his followers. They have made the mysterious appearance of Krishna accessible to those willing to open their hearts to spiritual possibilities through chanting the holy name of Krishna and hearing from saintly devotees.
As we meditate on Krishna’s appearance in this world, we can think of His potential appearance in our heart of hearts. We can pray for a pure heart that Krishna will want to reside or appear in, attracted by our selfless love and ardent yearning for union with Him. He who is Lord of our hearts, the soul of our soul, is dearer to us then our very life. Just imagine it—how inconceivably wonderful to be charmed by the transcendental cupid, the beauty of beauties, the greatest yet most charming personality! With the aim of falling in love with Krishna, or reviving it, we follow the scriptures and the devotees who embody them. Then some day we will celebrate Krishna’s appearance in our life since we will live with him forever!