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How do we celebrate Janmashtmi

V P Jain
On this auspicious day of Janmashtmi, let us awaken the Krishna in ourselves, to celebrate
life in the huge desert of sadness and negativity, of suppression and condemnation that we
have all become. Krishna accepts life in all its facets. He is full of love and compassion, yet
he has the courage to accept and fight a war. The popularity of Krishna cult has a social
rationale: its promise of salvation to the dispossessed, the groups despised by the rest of the
society. By rejecting the conventional Hindu axiom that a persons birth, social status and
caste membership govern his chances of attaining salvation (moksha), the Krishna cult
actively welcomes and even recruits the participation of oppressed castes and classes (Dalits)
in its devotion and ceremonies, an utterly unorthodox state of affairs. It is apart from other
forms of Hinduism in which many holy men who preach other worldly values seem to accept
only the rich and the powerful into the company of their ashrams as favoured devotees, and
rationalise the favour they show to the chosen few in terms of the working of the impersonal
karma principle (Kakar Sudhir). Numerous passages in Bhagvata Purana are critical of the
arrogance of the high caste. Krishna very strongly urges Arjuna to drop his cowardice and
fight the usurper and do away with the injustice meted out to the oppressed. Once we have
resolved to do so by shedding our reservations, we will assume the role of Arjuna, the great
warrior, and Shri Krishna will steer us to victory as our charioteer and mentor. We have to
accomplish this task as a matter of duty, ordained by Sri Krishna as nishkam karma, selfless or desire-less action, as the ideal path to realize the Truth, the central message of the
Bhagavad Gita.
In a way, the world today mimics the situation India faced during the Mahabharta war.
Today, we live in a world of haves and have-nots, It is common to speak of a
North\South divide into the developed world (i.e., U.S., Europe,) and the
underdeveloped world (i.e., Asia, Africa, Latin America.). Widespread
unemployment, poverty and exclusion exist, paradoxically enough, in a world that
continues to grow wealthier all the time. For the rich it is a world of consumer's
paradise of immediate gratification, of hot images and cool gadgets. On the other
hand, one fifth of the world's population i.e., over one billion people exist in
conditions of absolute poverty and are unable to feed, clothe and house themselves
properly. One is out and out materialist: for them the existence of the soul (conscience)
does not matter in the least; for them life is just a playground of stark indulgence of predatory
war and exploitation. The core issue centres round sharing of the resources of the nation (the
division of the Hastinapur empire then): the land, the mines, the forests and now the virtual
world. Over the years, the beneficiaries of the system have consolidated their position and
continue to corner resources to which they think they are entitled to because of their
proximity to the powers that be, and they are getting wealthier at the expense of the rest of
the society. It is a zero-sum game. it is now a no holds barred situation and it is wholesale
loot. In fact big business has become a metaphor for organised crime. The situation has,
obviously, gone beyond the tolerance threshold of the people. The current resolve, therefore,
is enough is enough and we have to fight it out. This is the class, epitomised by Duryodhan,

against which the war of Mahabharta was waged. And Krishna had to lead it because it had
become imperative. For Mahatma Gandhi the Mahabharta war only a metaphor. It only
symbolises the inner conflict and war of man, and so it is just a parable. Of course now we
have to fight the enemy in a democratic manner.
Celebrating Janmashtami as just festivities, without substance, is to reduce it to merely a
reality show. Shankara decried the obsession with rituals: in sharp contrast to rituals as a
practice for detachment and renunciation and spiritual enlightenment, it has degenerated into
a means for furthering crass materialism. In a culture of competitive struggle for existence,
the religious fervour increases directly in proportion to the quest for material possessions,
which creates a readymade market for such an enterprise:
Kama ista ista ir hrta-jnanah
prapadyante'nya-devatah
Tam tam niyamam asthaya
prakrtya niyatah svaya
(Bhagavad-gita 7.20).
Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto mythical demigods,
following this or that rite, worship them according to their own nature.
Why not worship that supreme divine from whom everything has come, in whom we live,
and whom we return? Only those who are freed from all material contaminations surrender
unto the Supreme Lord and engage in His devotional service. As long as the material
contamination is not completely washed off, they are by nature non devotees. I am never
manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative
potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and
infallible. (Bhagavad-gita 7.25)

Then why do we go to all these various demigods? Because the heart is full of cravings. He
may help me. So we have got a big calendar of mythical gods and goddesses to worship in
most of the religions, if not all. However, the buck does not stop here. Once, we are
possessed by the crass materialism, we, like a disoriented person, look for all possible ways
to satisfy our cravings. More the obsession to acquire wealth, more the need to invoke gods,
even by inventing new ones and in diversified forms of worship, (to upstage others) for their
blessings. This is where the God market has stepped in. The market dynamics has created a
new diversity and the people are actively making choices among a bewildering supply on
offer. In its essence this is an entirely new phenomenon: no Guru, deity or ashram is any
longer a matter of inherited faith and can hardly cater to the same emotional and spiritual
demands that a village deity once fulfilled. Even thieves and robbers worship gods and
perform elaborate rituals to please their special deities for success in their venture. Such a

belief system has sanctified sprouting of a variety of Gurus, ashrams and places of worship in
every nook and corner of the country, and the results are for all of us to see. The psych of the
usuerper is greed which has manifested in the contemporary world as the modernisation
syndrome. The pathology, as the underpinning of the exploitative relationship of man and
man, views life as a competitive struggle for existence and material progress as the key to
happiness. The exuberance, manifesting in vulgar consumerism and profligate life style has
met its nemesis in the complete dislocation of social and psychological matrix.
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