Krishna Janmastami—Celebrating the Descent of God
Regarding Shri Krishna Janmastami, or any appearance day of God, we could say that “God so loved the world, that He personally came to save us.” There are many resources on Krishna.com to help you understand the significance of this day even if you are born in India, and that is certainly true for those unfamiliar with the culture. Holidays used to mean Holy days, but now, at least in the West and in secular society, they often are just an excuse to not go to work. Never the less, Janmastami in India, in ISKCON temples and Gaudiya sangas (association of devotes of Krishna) worldwide, is still completely connected to Krishna and seen as a spiritual day to honor God and the soul, regardless of people’s conception of Divinity. It would be difficult to imagine an Xmastami ever developing!
By studying Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and other such Vedic literature in the company of saints, many people have been inspired to take up the goal explained in such devotional books and lived by the devout. Being enthused by the pursuit of pure love (prema) and service to Krishna (shuddha bhakti, or bhakti yoga) they endeavor to dedicate their lives to constantly remember Krishna’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes, and render him devotional service on a regular basic. (Such remembrance and service awaken the soul by purifying consciousness.) A day like Janmastami is an even greater opportunity to do this than normal, and to also share one’s faith and happiness with others—so pleasing to us and Krishna Himself.
It is a celebration of supreme importance, and the hope of devotees of Krishna is to communicate exactly why, while also honoring other religions and paths. Those who have been influenced by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the Kali-yuga incarnation of God), and by those in His devotional line like Shrila Prabhupada and others, take their celebration to dancing and enthusiastically proclaiming the innumerable glories of Krishna. Even in secular society dancing can be an expression of great joy, and festivity. Such dancing is a universal expression and in regards to kirtan, is meant to be another way to share one’s love for Krishna. Hands held in the air above one’s head are in the mood of surrender and giving to others.” O Lord, please accept me—I am yours!”
Actually, one can’t separate Lord Krishna from Lord Chaitanya, since Shri Chaitanya was spiritually, ecstatically mad after the goal of serving, and remembering Krishna, and has specifically incarnated to give us what he had—pure prema for Krishna. Who can better give us the path to God, than God Himself? Shri Krishna, after (apparently) explaining many paths in his Bhagavad Gita, shares His final instruction in the eighteenth chapter: we are implored to give up all other duties (dharmas) and follow Krishna’s path of pure bhakti in full surrender. Five thousand years later, Shri Chaitanya came to our planet, to teach us by His personal example and instructions, exactly how to surrender or take full shelter of Krishna.
Followers of Shri Chaitanya feel His contribution is so significantly magnanimous, that to avoid His mercy and help, is to make one’s approach to Krishna extremely difficult. Therefore, to understand why anyone would want to come to, and love Krishna, one has to study about Him, hear or read His teachings, and gain appreciation for his all-attractive beauty and charming nature. Shri Krishna Janmastami can facilitate this, and you are invited to visit Krishna temples, or take advantages of the resources here on Krishna.com. And Lord Chaitanya came to give pure love of Krishna, which is extremely rare—and He is willing to give the highest spiritual attainment to the especially fallen souls (compared to more pious and spiritual ages), like ourselves.
Though we may not feel fallen, we are considered “fallen” to the extent that we don’t understand or act for our true spiritual nature or in relationship with God, and act solely or primarily for only physical needs or wants. From this perspective, we all have spiritual work to do! All the best to you in celebrating Shri Krishna Janmastami.