A Divine Festival of Freedom

by February 8, 2012

Over 5000 years ago on this very day of Janmashtami, Lord Krishna appeared at midnight in a dark prison cell. This is indeed a his­torical fact, but this momentous event has a deeper significance. Presently, our hearts have become darkened due to the debilitating passions ­lust, anger, greed, pride, envy and illusion. These dark de­sires prevent the illumination of di­vine wisdom and joy from flooding our hearts and lives. Moreover these murky cravings compel us to hanker for the undesirable and

lament over the inevitable. Thus moment after moment, they dis­tract us from fruitful utilization of our precious mental and physical energies. They imprison our desires and destiny within the world of matter, where we are constantly tormented by anxiety and misery. Those who succumb to these passions harm not only themselves, but also everyone else. When these internal passions are repeatedly frus­trated, they become distorted and aggravated. In their extreme per­verted form, these insidious internal forces manifest as the specter of international terrorism that is haunting everyone today.

We moderns have researched tirelessly to understand and con­trol the external world, but we have neglected research to control the inner world. Martin Luther King Jr states our malady, “We have guided missiles and misguided men.” The Bhagavad­gita – and in­deed all the wisdom traditions of the world ­explains that the mind can be controlled only when the individual connects himself with the divine power of God by a bond of devotional love.

Going back to the history of Janmashtami, as soon as the Lord appeared, the darkness in the prison cell immediately disappeared. Similarly, the holy occasion of Janmashtami offers us the best op­portunity to invoke the Lord’s presence in our heart through sincere devotion. Then we can break free from the darkness and shackles of self­destructive desires and attain inner peace and fulfillment. And once our hearts are overflowing with tranquility and joy, we can share that treasure with all our brothers and sisters in God’s eternal family, help free them from their slavery to self­destructive desires and thus assist in heralding a better world.

Srila Prabhupada, the founder­acharya of ISKCON, poignantly summed up our existential dilemma: How can we have universal brotherhood without accepting the universal father, God? When we are established in selfless love for God, love for all His children, our brothers and sisters, is an automatic byproduct. He succinctly stated, “Without awakening divine consciousness in the individual, there is no use of crying for world peace.” In our turbulent times of terror and tribulation, Janmashtami is a timely reminder of the time­less aphorism: No God, no peace; Know God, Know Peace.

We can very easily and effectively invite the Lord in our heart by the non­sectarian spiritual process of chanting His holy names, as is recommended by all the great religions of the world. For example,

1              the Bible declares, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10.13);

2              the Islamic tradition extols the chanting of the ninety­nine names of Allah, called the “Beautiful Names” and

3              the Bhagavad­gita (10.25) declares, “Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names.”

 Sincere spiritual practitioners, irrespective of time, place, cir­cumstance or religion, have experienced the potency of the holy name of God to evoke divine love for all living entities. On the sacred appearance day of Lord Krishna, let us come together in a festival of the heart by chanting His holy names.

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