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Getting the Most From Shri Krishna Janmashtami

janmashtami1Sri Krishna Janmashtami is the appearance anniversary of Krishna, the Supreme Person. He’s not “born” like we are—He comes and goes as He likes—but He appears here to please His devotees, rid the earth of evildoers, and give the rest of us something worthwhile to talk about.

His pastime of janma, birth, occurred on the ashtami, eighth day of the waning moon in the lunar month of Hrishikesh. Janmashtami is one of the world’s biggest spiritual festivals, and is observed by followers of many faiths. For Krishna devotees, Janmashtami is a day of non-stop chanting, cooking, worship of Krishna in His Deity form, and fasting until midnight, when a grand feast is served.
janmashtami2The Tenth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam describes the events leading up to and including Krishna’s appearance on earth. Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to read about Krishna’s pastimes in the Bhagavatam, cook a feast for Krishna’s pleasure, and chant Hare Krishna all day and into the night each year on Janmashtami.

For those are very serious about advancing in Krsna Consciousness the day of Janmashtami is much more than a ritualistic celebration that we celebrate each year. Here are a few tips for elevating our Janmashtami from the ritual level to the spiritual level.

Fasting

Srila Prabhupada writes in Bhagavad Gita that one’s determination in Krishna Conscoiousness is marked by the effort to keep fast on days like Janmashtami and Ekadasi. Fasting has two sides, one positive and one negative. The negative is that we should not eat or drink for the entire day until midnight, and then to break the fast with Ekadasi prasadam. If we are unable to do that, water is permissible and in extreme circumstances one may take some fruit if he is unable to keep the fast. This fasting helps us the control the demands of the body and allows us to focus on the positive side of fasting which is the increase the level of our spiritual practices like hearing and chanting. Any serious devotee MUST make the effort to keep fast on the day of Janmashtami.

Chanting Japa

chanting-japaKrishna is non-different from His Name, therefore an excellent way to celebrate Janmashtami is to immerse ourselves in quality japa. We can gain so much spiritual benefit from chanting japa on days like Janmashtami. Initiated members of our organisation chant a minumum of 16 rounds of Hare Krishna japa each day, but if you are not initiated as yet you can try to chant 16 or any number you can. And if you are really adventurous you can try to chant with a vow of 64 rounds of japa. Either way chanting is a super way to boost the level of your Janmashtami celebration.

Reading Srimad Bhagavatam or Krishna Book

bhagavatam_bigSrila Rupa Goswami writes in his Nectar of Devotion that there are five most potent forms of devotional service, one of which is to read Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna’s pastimes are specifically described in the 10th Canto and the details of His appearance are described in the first 3 chapters. When read with Srila Prabhupada’s commentary these chapters unlock very deep meaning and insight into the Lord’s Appearance and the way we can apply it in our own lives and practise. The same can also be read in the Krishna Book which is Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Bhagavatam’s 10th Canto.

Attend the Program at an ISKCON Temple near you.

DSC02617The central focus of ISKCON Temples is the worship of Krishna. In fact every day is like Janmashtami for us. But, on Janmashtami every service is done at the temple as if its on steroids. All the stops are pulled out and no holds are barred. The decorations are out of this world, the deities are dressed so impressive that one gets the experience that “YES……Here IS Krishna!”, the kirtan is soul stirring, the prasadam tastes even more amazing (at the time of breaking fast it’s even more sweet), and the atmosphere is surcharged with Krishna Bhakti (devotion of Krishna). Everyone is welcome to take part in our celebration; come and chant, hear krishna katha, take part in the worship of the deity of Radha and Krishna and sit and talk about Krishna with the devotees. It can be a life altering experience.

Listening to Lectures about the Appearance of the Lord

In today’s world almost everything is available on the internet. ISKCON Desire Tree has a MASSIVE catalog of lectures and classes give by Srila Prabhupada and many of his disciples and grand-disciples on the Appearance Day of the Lord. Visit them and spend some time hearing about the pastimes of the Lord from the devotees and if our mood is right we can feel the inner stirring to increase the depth of our spiritual practise.

These are just some suggestions to make the best of your Janmasthami festival and can actually be applied to any special day. We hope this Janmashtami proved to be a revolution in your spiritual journey. Drop us a line to let us know what you did to make this Jamnashtami more special for you or to share any special experience you had.

The Glories of Lord Balarama

Lord Balarama The Seed and the Womb of the Universe

balarama“Sri Baladeva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. He is equal in supremacy to the Supreme Godhead, yet wherever Krsna appears, Sri Baladeva appears as Krsna’s brother, sometimes elder, sometimes younger”(SB 10.1.24p). “In His vaibhava-prakasa feature, Lord Krsna manifests Himself as Balarama. The Balarama feature is as good as Krsna Himself, the Only difference being that the bodily hue of Krsna is dark and that of Balarama is fair” (TLC Chap.7). ‘These two Lords, Krsna and Balarama, are each the seed and womb of the universe, the creator and His creative Potency. They enter the hearts of living being and control their Conditioned awareness. They are the primeval Supreme’ (SB10.46.31v).

The Servitor Godhead

kb1Balarama is the servitor Godhead who serves Lord Krsna in all affair of existence and knowledge. The transcenden­tal abode exists by the energy of Lord Balarama. Krsna’s first expansion in a form for pastimes is Balarama. Balarama Himself helps in the pastimes of Lord Krsna and He does the work of creation in four other forms. In all forms Balarama tastes the transcendental bliss of serving Krsna” (CC Adi 4.8-11v.).

“If we develop consciousness of this fact, then we are in actual Krsna consciousness. We should always remember that Krsna is the only Supreme Master and that everyone else is His servant ekale isvarah krsna, ara saba bhrtya. Either Narayana or Lord Siva, everyone is subordinate to Krsna. Even Baladeva is subordinate to Krsna’ (SB 10.13.53p.). “1n the transcendental pastimes, Krsna is the chief hero, and Balarama provides additional help.” (SB 10.8. 27p.).

 Sri Balarama Serves All Mellows

kb3Lord Balarama is constantly serving Lord Krsna in every respect. In all of Krsna’s incarnations and pastimes Lord Balarama is always present serving Krsna in different forms and manifestations. In Rama-lila, Balarama serves Lord Ramacandra as His younger brother, Laxman. In Kali-yuga, Sri Balarama spreads the Sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya as Lord Nityananda. Lord Balarama serves Sri Krsna in all the five rasas (mellows), from santa to madhurya rasa.

In santa rasa Lord Balarama fulfils Sri Krsna’s desires for blissful transcendental pastimes by expanding Himself as the holy dhama of Vraja Mandala. All of Krsna’s personal Possessions such as Krsna’s crown, bed, clothes, throne, ornaments; and any other object that Krsna utilises are all expansions of Lord Balarama.

As Krsna’s cowherd friend and elder brother in sakhya rasa, Sri Balarama sometimes accepts service from Krsna after defeating Him in a wrestling match. But generally, Balarama ‘s fraternal feelings are mixed with servitude (dasya rasa) and parental affection (vatsalya rasa). In the mood or vatsalya rasa, Sri Balarama sometimes protects Krsna as a parent or chastises Him as the elder brother. “Once Lord Balarama told Subala, ‘My dear friend, please inform Krsna not to go to Kaliya lake today. Today is Krsna’s birthday, and so I wish to go along with Mother Yasoda to bathe Him. Tell Krsna He should not leave the house today! This shows how Balarama, Krsna’s elder brother, took care of Krsna with parental love, within the scope of fraternal affection” (NOD Chap. 42).

“The splendor of Lord Balarama’s transcendental form eclipses many millions of glistening rising moons, and the slightest scent of His boundless strength is sufficient to destroy many armies of demons. Although He knows the supernatural power of His younger brother, Krsna, still, out of love for Him, Balarama never leaves Krsna alone in the forest even for a moment. I offer my prayers to Lord Balarama, the enemy of Dhenukasura” (WS)

Lord Balarama can expand Himself into unlimited and different forms. In order to  serve Sri Krsna’s intimate conjugal pastimes in madhurya rasa, Lord Balarama expands Himself as Ananga Manjari. Ananga manjari wears beautiful clothing the colour of a blue lotus flower and She is especially dear to Lalita and Visakha.

Sri Krsna For a Day

   kb4“Lord Balarama is called “Douji” (the elder brother who protects and cares for the younger brother). After lifting Govardhana Hill Lord Krsna killed a succession of ferocious demons including Sankasura and Aristasura. Balarama hadn’t killed a demon for a long time, and He was concerned about Hi duty of protecting Krsna as His elder brother. Desiring to dress like Krsna, Lord Balarama once asked Krsna if He could wear His peacock feather and play Krsna’s flute for just one day. Krsna, who dearly loved His elder brother, agreed and personally gave His peacock feather and flute to Balarama.

 Krsna and Balarama warmly embraced and then Balarama laughing happily, ran away playing gaily on Krsna’s flute. Mean-while, in Mathura, the wicked King Kamsa was about to send the horse demon, Keshi, to Vrindavana in order to kill Krsna. The Keshi demon asked King Kamsa, “How will I recognise Krsna?” Kamsa told him that it would be easy to tell, because Krsna would be the only person wearing a peacock feather and playing a flute.

“While Balaramji was fully enjoying His pastime of being Krsna for the day, the fierce horse demon, Keshi, stormed into Vrindavana. Seeing Balarama wearing a peacock feather in His crown and playing a flute, matching the description King Kamsa had given of Krsna, the Keshi demon roared up and gave Balarama a mighty kick that could have killed a full-grown elephant. This kick totally knocked the wind out of Balarama, and sent Him tumbling far away out of the demon’s sight. Thinking that he had killed Krsna, the Keshi demon galloped away. Balaramji, picking Himself up, began to cry. Balarama’s chest still hurting from the demon’s kick and He was short of breath. Balarama was hungry, very tired and sore all over from tumbling so far.

“Reaching home, Balarama immediately went to Krsna and returned His flute and peacock feather. Balarama told Krsna that He never again wanted to wear them, and that a huge horse demon had just violently kicked Him; thinking He was Krsna. Then Balaramji met His mother Rohini and fell asleep in her arms.     

“Krsna replaced the peacock feather in His crown, tucked the flute back in His belt and walked into the village. Then Sri Krsna met the horrible horse demon and effortlessly killed him” (SVMP).

“Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘Lord Balarama is the original Vishnu; therefore anyone remembering these pastimes of Lord Balarama in the morning and evening will certainly become a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus his life will become successful in all respects’ “(SB 1O.79.34p.)