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Bhagavan Sri Krishna – The Divine Perfection
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on Sri Krishna Janmashtami, August 25, 1978)

We are here gathered today to rouse our souls to a state of a supernormal type of divine appreciation in the holy act of the adoration of the divine incarnation we know as Bhagavan Sri Krishna, which advent is celebrated not only throughout this country but in many other parts of the world where his presence has been felt, and where he is enshrined in the hearts of people.

This periodical awakening of the human spirit in the celebrations of the religions of humanity constitutes a great significance in human life, in all life in general. There seems to be in every type of living pattern a longing to reach a perfection which one secretly feels lingering in oneself, sometimes being conscious of it and sometimes not being conscious of it. The restlessness and the eagerness to achieve a higher perfection in life is present in all pattern of creation. This restlessness of spirit and an aspiration for the higher becomes a conscious element in the human level, while it is unconsciously driven into the life of subhuman beings. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere as a dual feeling of an inward restlessness and inadequacy, and in a longing for a larger and wider perfection.

If we ponder very deeply over our longings and aspirations, we would realise that what is asked for is capable of being defined only in terms of perfection, in types of wholes or entireties, whatever that little pattern of entirety be. It is something very novel that manifests itself in every life, right from the lowest category of living beings like amoeba or fungi up to higher levels of being such as the human and any other conceivable type.

This is a feature which people very rarely find time to think of, a feature which also reveals what it is we are actually asking for in our lives, our struggles and our endeavours. We are not satisfied with anything that is partial, segregated, segmented or isolated. We are always in states which assert themselves as wholes or completes. Whatever be the pattern of life through which one is obliged to pass, it asserts itself as a completeness. Even an insect is a completeness by itself. It may be an ant, or something which is not even cognisable to our eyes. Gnats, mosquitoes and even minute patterns of life are a completeness by themselves, wholes in themselves, and they assert their wholeness in their lives.

This wholeness is present in our lives also. We are completes, not partials, and in our physical life, mental life, intellectual life, social life, political life, and in every aspect of our life we assert this completeness so that wherever there is a lack felt by us in our aspiration for completeness, we feel a sort of unhappiness. Something is lacking, as we say. The sense of lack is also the feeling that completeness has not been achieved. Even if we take our breakfast, our lunch, an ordinary meal, we wish that it should be a complete action and not a partial act that we perform. We do not like a half meal, for instance, or a one-fourth meal. It should be a complete meal for a complete satisfaction of a particular stage of our existence – the physical and the biological. When we speak, we wish to become complete in our expressions, and when someone speaks in a half-hearted, partial, segmented or chaotic manner, though what is spoken is very delightful and meaningful, we feel a sense of lack. There is an inadequacy of expression. Even when things are properly expressed, the theme that is put forth also should have the pattern of a completeness. Otherwise, we feel that something has been left unsaid, and we will not be satisfied because of there being a lack in the theme itself, notwithstanding the completeness of the expression.

What I mean to say is, there is a novel feature present everywhere in life, inside as well as outside, which, as I mentioned earlier, is something which can be designated only by the word 'perfection'. What we want is perfection; it is everything, and nothing short of it. Though the grammatical meaning of the word is apparently clear to all people – we know what perfection means – the deeper implications of this grammatical significance may not be clear to our mental eye. What is the type of perfection that we require? There is, for example, bodily perfection, to take only one example – physical perfection, the build-up of the body in a perfect manner so that it may be regarded as physiologically or muscularly complete in itself. But we will find that this is not the only thing that we need in life. A person who is muscularly fit and bodily perfect may be mentally deficient, and then we will again feel a lack of perfection in the personality.

When we think of perfection, we will not be able to completely think it even in our own minds though there is a longing for it. It is not any aspect of perfection for which we are asking or longing. It is a perfection that has to be perfect in every aspect. For this purpose, we may have to envisage the structure of life itself. It is a perfection of life that we are aspiring for, and not merely a perfection of the body or perfection of the governmental system or perfection of the community or the perfection of some particular vocation in life, etc., though that is also something which forms part of our aspiration. There is a grand totality of concept which we always try to entertain in our minds. Many a time it is so large that it cannot be contained in our minds. It slips from our very longing itself. Very rarely can we contemplate such a thoroughness of aspiration in our minds. That is why our activities in life do not always succeed completely. We have an unconscious urge from within ourselves for a conscious realisation of something which seems to be beckoning us from the front, which keeps us always in a state of anxiety and restlessness, making us move from place to place in search of things we do not want, yet agonising us from within ourselves.

This agony can be stated to be a restlessness of the spirit in ourselves. It is not a call from the body or mind merely; it is not the call of outer life merely, but a call of the total that we really are. And this totality is not confined merely to our individual personalities; there is an individual totality. For example, we are totals in ourselves, each person is complete in himself or herself, but we are not satisfied with being ourselves alone. We have a social sense which keeps us being head-on into contact with other persons and things in life so that we are not satisfied with our own individuality. This is because the perfection that we are, the completeness that our individuality is, is not a real completeness. It is a segmentation of a larger perfection, as it were, to which we are obliged to move.

This is why in spite of individual perfection, academic qualification to the top level, even possession of material wealth, everything that is accessible to human beings, notwithstanding the possession of everything for oneself, one feels restless. There is everything that one can think of – a bungalow to live in and things to sustain oneself physically and socially, prestige in life and what not – but there is insecurity left on account of some lacuna in this so-called perfection of a comfortable and secure life in the outer pattern of our existence. This is why we try to go to realms which we have not reached yet. We go to the moon, we try to go to Mars, we try to explore higher realms in the astronomical universe so that we might come into possession of more and more of things under the impression that our present imperfections would be made good.

But this is a futile attempt. Just as a bungalow cannot make a man happy, a hundred houses, millions of dollars, and even the possession of all the planets will not make us happy. If all the planets are to be under our control, we will be as miserable as a person who has a hundred bungalows under his control or millions of dollars in his pocket. It is, therefore, a sheer ignorance and a stupidity on the part of the human being to imagine that perfection is going to be achieved by running to the other planets. It is something like going to another village, another town, another country. If that has not satisfied us, this project is also not going to satisfy us. It is only an extension of this little activity of moving from one physical realm to another physical realm.

All this is an indication that we have not become properly awakened to the fact of what we actually need. We are running after phantasms and mirages which promise satisfaction to the ignorant longing of the untutored mind of the individual, a perfection which plays hide and seek, by which it never keeps us in peace and also never allows us to come in contact with it. We are tantalised by this sense of perfection in us. This tantalising mirage of perfection is what keeps us hoping and expecting certain satisfactions and perfections of which we have no knowledge today.

There were great masters in ancient times who had thought over all these problems of life. We are not the only people who are thinking along these lines. There were towering personalities, great statures which stood above us right up to the heavens, as it were, and found that this mystery cannot be explained in logical terms. Science, mathematics and logic are inadequate to the purpose. The great mystery of human aspiration cannot be explained by anything which is at present under the control of the human being, even including the intellect and the ratiocinating powers. The great thing, the wonderful thing, the vista of perfection that one holds before oneself, is incapable of definition in language. This was well thought out by great geniuses of the past.

One such Master has come down to our memories today – the great Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata and many other scriptures attributed to him like the Brahmasutra, the Srimad Bhagavata, the Puranas, and so on. Very few even among Indians themselves may be aware of the magnitude of the achievement he has projected forth in his personality and in his writings. He was perhaps the first great unifier of India's culture, the first great personality, to our memories at least, who attempted a consolidation of cultures and thrilled people's spirits by presenting before them a picture of what they are actually longing for. He was not unaware of the futility of logical acumen and scientific presentations, so he turned to another line of approach altogether, which is the line adopted by all great poets and epic writers who knew the depths of human nature and the profundities of the mystery of creation.

It is only art, an aesthetic sense of presentation, that can, to some extent, stir our being to the realities of our aspirations more than logical presentations and mathematical disquisitions. The epic of the Mahabharata is an artistic portrayal of perfection in which the author has beautifully knit together the pictures of personalities who went to form a completeness by themselves, who threaded themselves into a beautiful artistic presentation.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, to mention two of the epics of the world, are magnificent edifices of artistic achievement. But only an artist can achieve that perfection; the layman cannot understand it, and even an appreciation of it is difficult. A magnificent painting, for instance, can be appreciated only by an equally great painter. A person who is not acquainted with the secrets and the principles of art and aesthetics may not be able to appreciate the paintings of Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci or Ravi Varma, etc. We will only say it is a beautiful picture and go away, but the man's genius is there and he has painted not merely a pattern through colours but a picture of human mystery.

By art, I do not merely mean painting but also literature and any kind of symbolic presentation which alone is capable of revealing the mystery of life to some appreciable extent. The great plays of Shakespeare, for instance, the dramas of Kalidasa, the epics of Homer and Virgil, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tulsidas Ramacharitamanasa, the Mahabharata of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, and the Ramayana of Valmiki are not ordinary writings. They are not mere stories. They are revelations of the longings of the human spirit in its completeness, and there was no better way of presenting them.

In this great work of art which is the achievement of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, he centralises his theme in the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is the spokesman of the Bhagavadgita, which is the pendant in the garland of the whole Mahabharata. The Bhagavadgita is a small microscopic Mahabharata by itself, and its spokesman is Bhagavan Sri Krishna. In his personality, the author of the Mahabharata, or the Gita, as we may say, has brought into focus the total aspirations of all humanity, a perfection which could not otherwise be explained than by a style of presentation and a language which will simply rouse us into the empyrean of delight. This is the work of art. The mystery of art, the peculiarity of art, the greatness of art is that it simply ravages us completely. It enraptures us, catches our spirit at the very roots, and we do not know where we stand at that time. It happens sometimes when we look at a vast ocean, or when we look at the full moon in a clear sky, which are principles of art. We are ravaged and possessed by a spirit which is not merely logical, and which is more than human. Such was the picture that was presented in the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

I was chatting with some friends the other day when I put a question whether anybody has written a biography of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. We came to the conclusion nobody has written it, and perhaps nobody will write it. The reason is that it is impossible to conceive the many-sidedness of this personality because anyone who tries to write a biography of such a person has to rise to that level of perfection of thinking, which is ordinarily not possible. And if one attempts to think in such a thoroughness and completeness and many-sidedness, the mind may get stunned and any kind of writing will be impossible. It is impossible to write the beauty of the ocean. We can only appreciate it by looking at it. We want to see it again and again, and we want to be there always. The thundering waves that dash upon the shores, ebbing and flowing, catching our spirits – we do not know how they work, but they do work. We enjoy the sunset, we enjoy the sunrise, we enjoy the magnificent brilliance of the orb of the sun at midday. We do not know how it happens, or why is it that we appreciate it. Art cannot be explained. It is an explanation by itself. Everything can be explained, but art cannot be explained because it is not science. That is why we call it art. Science can be explained, not art. So here we have the perfect art of presentation – the magnificence of the Bhagavadgita, the magnificence of the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, and the magnificence of the Mahabharata.

I am not here to drag on for hours together explaining to you all the implications of what is in my mind. My intention is merely to invoke before your minds a way of thinking which may set you pondering over possibilities which are other than merely human, intellectual and rational – call it divine if you like – thinking in terms of the yoga of the spirit, on account of which Bhagavan Sri Krishna is designated as Yogeshwara, the Lord of Yoga, a master in every field of life and every aspect of reality, a total being manifest in this temporal world, walking on this Earth with his feet planted on human values but with a spirit towering above the realms of human thought, reaching the apex of creation itself.

Perhaps in this great depiction of the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna we have the ideal of true life presented before us by the great author of the Mahabharata, how we also are to live in this world. We are not merely appreciating some great person, we are trying to emulate that ideal, to the extent possible, so that we may also tread that path and live that life within the ambit of our knowledge and capacity.

We are all things at the same time. We are in the earth plane, we are in the astral plane, we are in the celestial plane, and we are also planted in the bosom of the Absolute, even at this very moment. We are not tiny toys pulled by the strings of nature, puppets which are dancing to the tune of forces over which we have no control. Not so is the truth. We have great profundities in us, and we are not such little things as we appear to be on our surface. There is in us that magnificence which can open up the gates of heaven itself, and raise us up to the status of a perfection which will drown us in the bliss unknowable.

We are little physical bodies no doubt, we are social units living on this Earth no doubt, but that is not the whole truth of our life. We are simultaneously in all realms of being, even today. By the term 'we', I do not mean merely human beings. Everything that is created, right up to the atom, is simultaneously connected with all levels of manifestation, so that right from the lowest element of creation conceivable to the highest crown of creation there is a totality and perfection manifest.

God is immanent, we say in ordinary language. When we say God is present in all things, we mean perfection is present everywhere. God is perfection. Even in the littlest dust that is floating in the air there is this completeness manifest, and it can reveal its magnificence if the time for it comes. This is symbolically, traditionally and mythologically told to us by stories like God bursting forth from a pillar made of bricks, God speaking through a flaming bush as He did to Moses, and voices coming from nowhere, etc., which means to say the most transcendent, unreachable, super-individual Absolute is also the most immanent reality present in the deepest core of the cells of our bodies, so that there is perfection within as well as outside.

The consciousness of there being such a perfection everywhere is what we call the attainment of true yoga, mastery in yoga. Though this perfection is present everywhere, it has not become a content of our consciousness. When we are awakened to the presence of such a mysterious magnificence in life, we become divinities overnight. God reveals himself immediately.  One example before us, among many others, of the conceivable pattern of this divine perfection that is possible is the history of the advent of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, whose incarnation we celebrate today, known as Sri Krishna Janmasthami.

May the grace of this supreme Master be upon all of us. May we rise to the status of this great expectation of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. May we live the life chalked out to us in the Bhagavadgita, a life of perfection, true and simple. “May our life be godly,” be our prayer.