It pleases me immensely to know that Devi Vanamali, the author of this admirable book on the life of Bhagavan (Lord) Sri Krishna, wants me to write a few words by way of an introductory appreciation and suggestion. I have gone through this book carefully and my first impression after reading it was that this is the first attempt perhaps ever made by a scholar-devotee to present in one compact volume the multifaceted and majestic life of the Great Incarnation. What charmed me especially was the perspicacious and deeply touching style and expression in which the whole story is told so beautifully and so comprehensively.
Usually, devotees of Lord Sri Krishna confine their attention to the childhood and boyhood days of Krishna in Gokula, Vrindavana, and Mathura and even if they are a little more extended, the writings generally add only the events in Dwaraka, of Sri Krishna's regime and His social greatness as delineated in the Shrimad Bhagavatha Mahapurana.
Very few pay sufficient attention to the wonderful deeds of the towering Krishna of the Mahabharata, without which facet of His life the great story would remain incomplete. It is delightful to observe that Mata Devi Vanamali has not omitted any salient feature and has managed to press into her book the essentials of the story as we have in both the Shrimad Bhagavatha and the Mahabharata.
The divine play of the child in Vrindavana, the serious posture of a mature potentate in Dwaraka, and the transcendent power exhibited in the Mahabharata constitute the three sections in the book of Sri Krishna's life. The author of this book is not merely a devotee in the ordinary sense of the term, but one who has endeavoured to saturate her very life with Krishna bhakti, due to which speciality in her, the work glows with a fervour of spirit and a radiance of clarity in presentation. A book written by a seeker who veritably lives in the presence of the Lord will no doubt have the magnetic influence it will obviously exert on every reader of this divine saga, this chronicle of God come fully in visible form.
A reading of the life of Sri Krishna will not only be a rewarding treat, as an enchanting vision of the deeds of the Divine Superman, but also charge the reader's personality with an energy and vigour not to be had on this earth.
May works of this kind see the light of day in more and more numbers, for the blessing of all humankind.
"I know of no Reality other than Lord Krishna, whose face is as radiant as the full moon, whose colour is that of the fully laden rain cloud, whose eyes are large and lustrous as the petals of a lotus, whose lips are red as the bimba berry, whose hands are adorned with the flute, and who is clad in resplendent garments"
The story of the Lord's manifestation in the world as Krishna, scion of Yadava clan, is one which has thrilled the hearts of all those who have been fortunate enough to have heard it. It is the glorious tale of how the One who is aja, or unborn, and arupa, without form, was born with a form, in this world of duality, and has delighted the hearts of people for over five thousand years. It is the story of that Infinite, Eternal One, Who was born as Krishna, the son of Yadava chief, Vasudeva and his wife Devaki, Who was the nephew of Kamsa, the King of Bhojas; Krishna, a prince who was born in a dungeon and brought up as a common cowherd boy by their chieftain Nanda and his wife Yashoda in the village Gokula. It is the story of a man Who was also God and of God Who was born, a man. There is no tale comparable to it in all times.
The main facts of His life can be gathered from the Shrimad Bhagavatha and the Mahabharatha the first half of the story, from the former and the second, from the latter. He was born in captivity in the prison of the tyrant king, Kamsa of Mathura, as the son of Vasudeva and thus was known as Vaasudeva. Immediately after birth, he was transferred from Mathura to the cowherd settlement of Gokula, where He grew up as the foster-son of their chief, Nanda and his wife, Yashoda. As a child He was mischievous and willful, charming all with His precocious acts. At the age of 12 He went to Mathura, where He killed His uncle, Kamsa, thus freeing the Yadavas from the rule of the tyrant.
He grew up to be a hero, valiant and invincible, and gradually assumed leadership of the Yadava and Vrishni clans, even thought He did not accept the title of "King". He defeated many of the tyrant kings and made the Yadavas into one of the most powerful forces of His time. He founded His new capital on the island of Dwaraka, on the western seacoast of India, which was then known as Bharathavarsha, and played an important part in shaping the cultural and political life of His times. Though He did not take up arms, He played a decisive part in the great war of the Mahabharatha.
As a man, He was a Mahayogi, the greatest of all yogis, totally unattached, having complete mastery over Himself and nature, capable of controlling the very elements, if need be. His miracles were only an outflow of His perfect unity with God and therefore, with nature. The spiritual gospel which He taught is known as the Bhagavatha Dharma and is chiefly expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, the Uddhava Gita, and the Anu Gita. The simplicity of His teaching was such that it could be followed by any man, woman, or child, unlike the Vedic teachings, which were meant only for the elite. The Vedic religion had elaborated into a vast system of complicated sacrificial rituals, which could be deciphered and performed only by the Brahmins and conducted only by Kshatriyas. Out of the Vedic religion had developed the glorious philosophy of the Upanishads, which required high intellectual ability, moral competence, and training under a qualified spiritual preceptor, or guru, before it could be comprehended. The advent of Lord Krishna came at a time when the common man in Bharathavarsha was without a simple religion that would satisfy his emotional wants and elevate him spiritually without taxing him too much intellectually. The Bhagavatha Dharma provided a devotional gospel in which action, emotion and intellect played equal parts and proclaimed Krishna as Ishvara (God), Who had incarnated Himself for the sake of humanity. He could be communed with, through love and service, and responded to the earnest prayers and deepest yearnings of the ordinary person. Thus, Lord Krishna were not only a precocious child, an invincible hero, and a Mahayogi, but He was that Supreme Immaculate, Whose contact transforms even sinners into saints, ignorant men into sages, sense-bound beings into spiritual ecstatics, and even animals into devotees. Krishna is the human version of the metaphysical Satchidananda Brahman (existence-consciousness-bliss) of the Upanishads, Who took on a human form, to help the ordinary mortal to attain union with the formless Brahman (the Indivisible Absolute) through bhakti or devotion alone and not merely through the path of meditation and Samadhi (super-conscious state), as advocated in the Upanishads. All His human actions during the span of His earthly life were meant, not only to bless His contemporaries and establish righteousness on earth, but to provide a spiritually potent account of His earthly deeds, for the uplifting of the future generations. By meditating on these stories, one can establish a devotional relationship with Him, similar to that which His great devotees had during His lifetime. He is the expression of the redeeming love of God for humanity, which manifests itself in different ages and in different lands, bringing spiritual enlightenment and bliss into our otherwise dreary life.
The theory of the avatara, or the descent of God into the human form, is one of the established beliefs of Vaishnava theism and is very difficult for the modern mind to conceive. If we believe in the unborn, impersonal godhead of Brahman, how can we accept the fact that it can be born as a human personality? The Vedantic view postulates that everything is divine. Every particle in the universe is imbued with the divine spirit. Far from the "Unborn" being unable to assume a form, Unborn Spirit, Who is without beginning and without end. The assumption of imperfection, by the Perfect, is the whole phenomenon of this mysterious universe and can only be attributed to the divine lila, or play. "Avatara" means "descent," and this descent is a direct manifestation in humanity by the divine, in order to aid the human soul in its ascent to the divine status. It is a manifestation from above, of that which we have to develop from below. It is to give the outer religion of humanity, an inner meaning, which will enable it to grow into divine status, that the avatara comes. The ordinary person has to evolve and ascend into godhead, but the avatara is a direct descent into the human form. The one is a birth from ignorance into ignorance under the shroud of Maya, or the cosmic veil of illusion, and the other is a birth from knowledge into knowledge, with all powers intact and a full awareness and consciousness of His supreme status. He is thus a dual phenomenon, for He appears human and is yet divine. This has to be, for the object of the avatara is to show that a human birth with all its limitations can still be made the means for a divine birth. If the avatara were to act in a superhuman way all the time, this purpose would be nullified. He might even assume human sorrow and suffering, like Christ or Sri Rama, in order to show that suffering itself may be the cause of redemption. The Krishnavatara is unique because even in hours of sorrow and travail, He showed Himself to be a complete master of the situation, thus exemplifying the truth of how one who is established in unity with the divine, can remain unaffected in the midst of pain and sorrow. Hence, this avatara in the form of Krishna is known as purnavatara, or the complete descent of the entire divinity into the form of humanity. The Bhagavad Purana declares, "Krishnasthu Bhagavan Swayam". Krishna is the Supreme Lord in His completeness.
Even during his lifetime, He because canonized among those of His own clan, as well as among many others. He was looked upon as the incarnation of Vishnu, the godhead of Vaishnava theology and the preserver, in the trinity made up of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, who is invoked in the great Gayatri hymn. In the course of time, Vishnu became the most dominant among the Vedic deities and came to be accepted as the Supreme Being. By worshipping Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu, one can gain the status achieved by striving yogis through the difficult forms of various yogic practices.
The charm of His avatara is the perfection with which He played every role He was called upon to play. He was a staunch friend, a dutiful son, an exciting lover, and a model husband, not to just one, but to all women who desired Him. There was none who called to Him with intensity, to whom He did not go with speed!
"However a man approaches me, in that same manner do I go to him," was His creed. In whatever guise people looked upon Him as son, lover, or husband He went to them in that very form, in which they visualized Him and satisfied their desires in the way which was most meaningful to them. At the same time, He sublimated their desires and thus fulfilled their earthly lives and led them to eternal bliss. There was no one who approached Him, whether saint or sinner, in hatred or fear or love, who did not attain liberation The difference between a Kamsa, who tried to kill Him, and a Kuchela, who worshipped Him, is light indeed. One approached Him with hatred and the other with love, but both thought of him constantly and were thus rewarded with moksha, or liberation. An object of mortal dread and antagonism can produce as much absorption in the mind, as an object of love. If this object of dread happens to be God, concentration on Him, though motivated by antagonism, must purify the person, just as potent but unpleasant medicine can effect a cure. This is what the Bhagavad Purana declares.
Thus Lord Krishna is not only the Sat-chid-ananda, the existence-knowledge-bliss, of the Absolute, without any diminution or contamination of His perfection, He is also the Uttama Purusha, the perfect person, amidst all imperfect situations. He is the eternal boy, the paragon of masculine beauty, Who always retains His spiritual nobility, absolutely unaffected and unperturbed in every situation, be it amidst the poverty and hardships of the cowherd settlement, the rigors of a hermitage, the seductive charms of dancing beauties, the gory scenes of the battlefield, in the self-destructive holdcaust of His own kith and kin, or in the peaceful interludes with His friends. As He Himself taught, Krishna lived in this world of duality as the lotus leaf in water, absolutely untouched and unaffected by the environment, a witness of situations, never a victim.
The river of time collects much flotsam and jetsam on its way, and the story of the Lord's life has been embellished with a wealth of detail, perhaps true, perhaps imaginary. Fact and fiction, truth and fantasy are entwined. But the final test of truth is time itself. It is the true touchstone.
It deletes the dross and retains the gold. The story of a divine manifestation is always filled with mystery and defies all attempts at human analysis. But it has the quality of being svayamprakasha, or self-illuminating, and therefore the person who narrates it, will find illumination coming from within, for Krishna is the charioteer seated in the heart of everyone, the supreme guru. In and through the seemingly redundant detail that has woven itself around the story through the centuries, it retains its breathtaking beauty, for it is dominated by the powerful influence of Krishna's enchanting personality, in which the wisdom of the seer is mingled with the charm and simplicity of a child and the glory of God gushes forth in an inexhaustible fountain of divine love and wisdom.
The story of such a life can only be written by His grace and can only be understood by His grace. May that grace flow into us, inspire and enlighten us, and lead us to eternal bliss!
Glory to Lord Krishna to Vanamali the wearer of the garland of wild flowers.
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