Today is what is supposed to be our biggest celebration of the year – Kṛṣṇa janmāṣṭamī. Unfortunately, or maybe it’s actually the plan, Kṛṣṇa appeared at midnight and so the real party has to wait until only His most devotees are still up.
General guests are entertained as usual, of course, but we ourselves are not striving for that kind of entertainment, we want to catch the actual moment of Kṛṣṇa coming into our lives in the company of actual devotees. Concerts and food are only distractions there while fasting and servicing guests are our best friends.
If we are physically exhausted from the lack of food and sleep, if we are overworked and tired, if we gave Kṛṣṇa everything we could on this day, and we just humbly wait for His appearance, that’s the best celebration for us ever.
Just like Mother Yaśodā was too tired to remember whether she gave birth to a boy or a girl and totally missed Kṛṣṇa’s entrance so we don’t need to jump up and down whole night and stuff ourselves up to the neck with holiday prasāda, we only need to feel Kṛṣṇa’s warm presence, that’s the best reward we can obtain.
Kṛṣṇa’s first hours on Earth were very quiet, maybe it was time for the demigods to offer their salutations, people’s turn would be in the morning – it’s a special day in our calendar, Nandotsava, which we don’t celebrate separately because it’s also Prabhupāda’s appearance day.
Frankly, after Janmāṣṭamī’s full day fast and service, we aren’t usually in the mood to celebrate the next day either, maybe only the youngest and strongest of us, or those who are fully transcendental to the state of their bodies.
Kṛṣṇa’s quiet night doesn’t mean that He had a quiet entrance, though, quite the opposite. There was a lot of drama in Vasudava’s house where he was jailed (house arrest or real jail? I don’t know). Kaṃsa broke in and tried to kill Yogamāyā, Viṣṇu made a grand entrance and had to be asked to tone it down for His devotees, Kṛṣṇa had to be carried across the river during the storm – it was quite an eventful night. Our janmāṣṭamī troubles are nothing in comparison.
Apart from a nice story – what’s in it for us? Why should janmāṣṭamī even matter? If there are subtle changes in the universe, reverberations of Kṛṣṇa’s real entrance five thousand years ago, we are too thick skinned to feel them, the cover of dirt and illusion on our hearts is too thick to notice anything spiritual. Janmāṣṭamī for us is just a festival, one of many to enjoy.
Should we enjoy it, however? If Kṛṣṇa lived on our block and had a birthday, what kind of party would it be? Would there be clowns, piñyatas, cake, and the whole program? Probably yes, and a lot more. Modern birthday celebrations are elaborate affairs prepared long in advance, with guest lists, invitations, and a lot of planning. Presents and blowing candles are important but it wouldn’t be a real party if guests were not fully satisfied, it’s about pleasing them as much as about anything else. Your birthday party has to be the talk of the town and a standard for all other birthdays parties in the neighborhood, and for that you really need to be nice to your guests.
Should we, as devotees, emulate that?
Not really. Our parties are about pleasing Kṛṣṇa, if we want to have fun ourselves we probably shouldn’t even be there – hence midnight appearance to wait until all hangers-on give up and go to sleep. When Kṛṣṇa comes, only His dearmost devotees should be there, only those who do not have any selfish desires and who are not waiting for the cake.
Typically, our public programs are all done by the time devotees get to celebrate themselves, and I think it makes janmāṣṭamī really special, it makes it the biggest public holiday that is also the most private one. Well, Ratha yātrās are usually bigger but still.
Having done a day of honest service isn’t enough by itself. In order to really have Kṛṣṇa come into our lives we need to prepare our hearts. He won’t appear there if our hearts are full of grime and dirt.
Look how He managed His appearance on Earth – first He chose His pure devotees to act as His father and mother. Vasudeva and Devakī have been playing these roles since time immemorial. We will surely fail at this very step – we are not good enough for Kṛṣṇa to personally step into our lives.
Even with Devakī, Kṛṣṇa had to purify her body first, I heard. The first seven children that were killed by Kaṃsa were personifications of sin – lust, anger, greed etc. I’m not saying that Devakī’s body was contaminated with those but for Kṛṣṇa purging of all traces of any impurities is a must even for His best devotees.
In this regard, we are not any better, we are not special, we have to undergo same purification if want Kṛṣṇa to step into our lives. It doesn’t matter that we are not going to give birth, Kṛṣṇa’s appearance has nothing to do with any bodily functions. Our hearts need to be pure all the same.
Perhaps it also means that parting with those anarthas should be as painful as losing one’s children. Imagine that.
What if the pain of losing the anarthas should really be comparable to the pain of losing one’s child? What if it’s not a metaphor? What if the hooks anarthas planted in our hearts are just as deep? They might be little things, completely invisible to outsiders and ourselves, but plucking them out and dismissing them is never easy. It’s like losing a part of oneself, which it actually is – we are stripping ourselves of our false ego, we really can’t imagine life without it or without some of its aspects.
Our problem is that we do not want our false ego to go, we want to accommodate it in our service, we need to justify and rationalize it, we want Kṛṣṇa accept it, too. He, of course, won’t, and so He doesn’t appear to us but to Vasudeva and Devakī instead.
As much as we like that story we should also realize that we must become part of it, too. Kṛṣṇa should appear for us just as He does for all His other devotees or our life would be a giant waste of time, and not just this life, all the lives that follow but do not bring Kṛṣna would be a waste, too.
We can’t compel Him to show us any favors but at least we should prepare ourselves just in case. That’s what tṛṇād api su-nīcena verse tells us to do – humbly wait for all eternity – kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ.
If we fail on this janmāṣṭamī, there will always be the next one, and the next one, and the next one. If we have any intelligence, we would always be waiting, nothing else in this life is important, everything else is just a distraction.
Hopefully, Kṛṣṇa is waiting for us to become ready, too. He is never complete without His devotees and we are part of that group even if currently covered by illusion. Us coming back to the shelter of His lotus feet is what Kṛṣṇa wants, too. After all, His appearance is not about Himself but about reuniting with all His devotees.
So, maybe not this janmāṣṭamī but there’s always hope. He WILL come, it’s inevitable, we just have to be patient enough to wait for Him with rapt attention, for all eternity, if needed.