JANMASHTAMI= Birth+ the Eighth day of the Waning moon
THE BIRTH OF KRISHNA, THE EIGHTH INCARNATION OF VISHNU, ‘MAINTAINER OF DHARMA, COSMIC ORDER’, ALLUDES TO THE BIRTH OF WISDOM IN THE HUMAN SOUL.
The major function associated with Vishnu is preservation of dharma, which is the reason he incarnates himself from age to age. As Krishna says in the Gita,
“yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata;
Abhyuthanamadharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham” (BG 4: 7-8)
The motifs of Krishna’s birth taking place despite a slew of obstacles are deeply embedded in popular culture across India. Through the enactment and repetition of the myth of Krishna’s birth the resonance of a symbolic birth, of wisdom in the human soul, is known within the deeper layers of the psyche.
Krishna’s parents, Vasudeva and Devaki have had 7 children and the eighth one is on the way. This is the moment when a new octave begins, with the auspicious notes of a new beginning. This is also the moment when all the forces of the status quo that do not wish for change and transformation, rally together to prevent what is about to happen. Vasudeva and Devaki have been incarcerated in jail by Devaki’s brother, Kansa who has usurped the throne of the kingdom.
In the myth, the King, Kansa, has been told by the astrologers that Devaki’s eighth child will spell his doom. Full of fear, he puts his sister and husband into a dungeon and is ready to kill their eighth child as it is born. Kansa represents the natural state of spiritual blindness that plagues mankind and the birth of Krishna during the waning phase of the moon is symbolic of the spiritual awakening that will follow his birth.
Thus, on the eighth day of the waning moon, (during Krishna paksha or the dark phase of the moon), in the middle of the night, as the clock strikes 12, the child is born. The guards or the usual mind that prevents wisdom from entering the soul, are under a spell, all asleep. The doors of the dungeon unlock miraculously, and Vasudeva carries out the baby Krishna in a basket on his head. He is going to leave Krishna with foster parents, Yashoda and Nanda where he can be nurtured incognito. The conditioned mind is not ready to receive the revolutionary new birth; it must remain hidden while it is nurtured.
There is thunder and lightning, the rain lashes down in torrents. On the way, Vasudeva must cross the Yamuna. As he steps into the water, the river rises dangerously high. The River Goddess wishes to touch the divine baby Krishna’s feet. The crossing over in the river has a symbolic significance of being purified from an ordinary birth and being spiritually awakened to the divine wisdom that Krishna represents. Vasudeva carries Krishna on his head, further signalling the need for a spiritual transformation of the mind and being.
Vasudeva, manages to cross over, deposit the baby in Gokul (the land of the cows or souls), and returns to the dungeon where a divine baby girl has taken the place of Krishna.
Kansa finds the girl child and kills her striking her on the floor of the dungeon. As she dies, the spirit of the child rises into the air and speaks out prophetically “Kansa, you will now reap the fruits of your evil karma, the one who will kill you has already been born!
The story goes on as the forces of darkness represented by Kansa, continue to try and kill Krishna but are unsuccessful.
But through the darkness, in the deep silence of the night outmanoeuvring all the denying forces of the status quo (abinivesha), wisdom has found a way to be born.
The celebration of Janmashtami, therefore, signifies a re-birth for the spiritual aspirant – a moment of spiritual transformation, a victory of wisdom over the dark forces of spiritual blindness.
The day is celebrated across India. The re-enactment of the story re-affirms the possibility of allowing Krishna to be born in us too.
By Vinita Kaushik Kapur
Vinita is a social anthropologist by profession and at present participates in the Gurdjieff Work in India.
Thanks Vinita for the this observation of this mystery.
During this life, I have experienced these denying forces from time to time.
My reaction is to always go against them & continue to work towards the task at hand. ( Your essay reminded me of these times).
Really appreciate GFOI’s Ravi lectures.
Thank you for this wonderful interpretation Vini! It’s refreshing and makes one ponder.
Thanks Vinita for bringing the myth to life!
A beatiful interpretation of the birth of Krishna Vini! Thank you
Thanks Vini for the essay, this is the need of the hour, darkness to enlightenment , virus to vitality, may that supreme bless n retain souls back to the other souls,
This symbolism connects many dots for me. The narrative is so appealing, and is offered to all of us, in music dance and art.
Thank you for this window Vini.
“The guards or the usual mind that prevents wisdom from entering the soul, are under a spell, all asleep”. -This is a beautiful interpretation. Thank you Vinita for the nourishing article.