In the iconography of the world’s great spiritual traditions, one of the most familiar and enchanting images depicts a youth of surpassing beauty with blue-hued skin and a sweet, serene countenance, playing a flute. He is often shown surrounded by woodland creatures and village gopis—women cowherds—all enraptured by his music. Each image emanates pure love, joy, and freedom. For this is Shri Krishna.
There are many cherished forms of this divine being who has captured the hearts of myriad seekers over millennia. We adore the Krishna who dances the raslila with the gopis under the luminous full moon. We delight in Shri Krishna as the irresistibly impish child. We revere Krishna as the wise statesman of Dwarika and counselor to the Pandavas in the Mahabharata; we are inspirited by Krishna the indomitable hero, who drives Arjuna’s chariot to victory in the war between good and evil. We are awestruck as Lord Krishna unveils the astounding refulgence of his virata rupa—his Supreme, all-pervading form.
Perhaps the most renowned and treasured of all is Krishna as Shri Guru, spiritual teacher and bestower of divine knowledge in Shri Bhagavad Gita, one of the most influential scriptural texts the world has ever known. Lord Krishna’s teachings in Shri Bhagavad Gita are a cornerstone of humankind’s legacy of spiritual and moral wisdom.
Krishna is all of these manifestations and more—for he is an avatar, the incarnation of the Divine in human form. Shri Krishna is the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Sustainer of the Universe. As Krishna himself explains to his disciple Arjuna, “For the protection of the good and the destruction of evildoers, for the sake of establishing righteousness, I am born in every age.”1
Yet even among avatars Shri Krishna is unique because of the remarkably detailed picture we have of his 125 years of life in northern India five thousand years ago. From ancient scriptures such as Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam to folk tales and traditions, from great dramatic works to bedtime stories that mothers fondly tell their children—Krishna’s every exploit, relationship, and teaching has been lovingly recounted and re-imagined, expounded upon, danced, sung about, depicted, and enacted.
Among the poet-saints of India, for instance, Surdas composed hundreds of songs about Krishna’s childhood and youth; Mirabai sang longingly to him as her divine spouse; Jnaneshvar Maharaj so revered Lord Krishna that he composed Jnaneshvari, a 9,000-verse commentary on Shri Bhagavad Gita in the Marathi language.
Because Shri Krishna’s life embodies divinity in every phase of human existence, he shows us how to be a true son, sibling, friend, student, spouse, leader. Krishna is both relatable and mysterious, immediate and transcendent; he is the heart’s most intimate Beloved and the clear, compassionate guide on the spiritual path. He is the exemplar of a human life fully realized.
Is it any wonder, then, that Shri Krishna is such a dearly familiar presence on the Siddha Yoga path? As our path encompasses the yogic practices of devotional worship and knowledge, meditation and seva, study and dharmic action, grace and self-effort—Siddha Yogis have a multitude of ways to worship Krishna and imbibe his teachings.
In their talks and writings, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and Baba Muktananda have expounded extensively on Lord Krishna’s life and on his teachings from Shri Bhagavad Gita—which Gurumayi has described as the story of sadhana.2 For in the Guru-disciple relationship of Krishna and Arjuna, in the sadguru’s compassionate and unrelenting guidance to his struggling student, Siddha Yogis find clear direction for every step of our own spiritual journey.
Gurumayi and Baba have also taught us to understand the true nature of devotion through the example of the gopis, especially Radha—who adored Shri Krishna and yearned for him so ardently and ceaselessly that her separate identity dissolved and she merged with him entirely. Lover and Beloved became one. Baba, in his book Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay, says: “Radha is the whole world, the manifestation, which the [Bhagavad] Gita calls prakriti… Krishna is the inner Self, who is the mover of nature, who lives in nature and is the protector of nature, who causes nature to be herself. This is how you should understand it.”3
In Siddha Yoga satsang, we chant the Lord’s divine names—Krishna, the one with dark blue skin; Nandalal, child of Nanda; Keshava, the one with beautiful tresses, the slayer of the demon Keshi; Madhava, sweet as nectar; Murali, he who plays the flute; Manohara, the entrancing stealer of hearts; Devakinandana, son of Devaki; Radharamana, beloved of Radha; Govinda, divine cowherd and master of the senses; Gopala, protector of the cows and the whole world; Murari, destroyer of ignorance.
Gurumayi teaches that the music of Shri Krishna’s flute represents the nada—the divine inner sounds; it is the irresistible call of our awakened Heart. Gurumayi has also given an extraordinary visualization of Krishna’s flute as the sushumna nadi, the central energy channel in the body, with the sound holes as the chakras and the breath of God pouring through our entire being. Because of the profound and mystical association of the flute with Lord Krishna and the divine nada its sound evokes, this revered musical instrument is often featured in Siddha Yoga satsang.
For Siddha Yogis, the sublime imagery of Krishna playing the flute and dancing the raslila with the gopis—each gopi feeling that Krishna is hers completely––has vivid resonance, for each of us can experience our own Shri Guru’s loving, guiding presence wherever we may be.
And in essence, this is why I most love Shri Krishna––experiencing him, I experience Gurumayi. In his pure love, compassion, and wisdom my heart recognizes Gurumayi. In his stories I find insights into how a realized being lives in this world; how their every word and action showers grace and uplifts humanity. To study Shri Krishna’s teachings is to fortify my Siddha Yoga sadhana. To worship Shri Krishna is to bathe in an ever-replenishing spring of devotion to God.
About Krishna Janmashtami and Gopal Kala
The birth of Lord Krishna is known as Krishna Janmashtami. This is a holiday that is celebrated widely in India, and is honored on the Siddha Yoga path.
In the Indian lunar calendar, Krishna Janmashtami occurs on the eighth day of the waning moon during the month of Shravana. The night of Krishna Janmashtami, called Moharatri, is considered to be one of the three most auspicious nights of the year. On these nights every minute is auspicious, giving heightened power to the spiritual practices we perform. In 2020, the date of this holiday is August 11.
The day after Shri Krishna’s birth is celebrated as Gopal Kala, also called Dahi Handi. This joyful festival highlights the story of how baby Krishna loved to steal butter and curds from his mother’s pot, which she never managed to keep out of his reach. On Gopal Kala, communities all over India hang dahi, curd-filled earthen pots, at a considerable height. Young men and boys form human pyramids to reach and break the pots, while the girls cheer them on and sing rousing songs about Lord Krishna.
On these auspicious days and nights honoring Lord Krishna—and truly speaking, every day and night—we can meditate on the one who embodies divine love, we can recount stories of him, and we can sing his sweet names.
Shrī Krishna Nīla Krishna Bala Krishna Jay Jay!