From Darkness to Light

God incarnated as Krishna to charm humanity by His pranks, His play, His song and sweetness, and to show man the path of love and how to live in love. Krishna was born on ashtami (eighth day) during the dark fortnight of the month. The effulgence of the Lord is seen with greater effect when it is dark. In a world of disorder, Krishna was born to establish order. Ashtami is associated with troubles and difficulties. When do troubles arise? When righteousness is forgotten. Krishna's advent signifies the dispelling of darkness, the removal of troubles, the banishing of ignorance and the teaching of mankind of the supreme wisdom.

Who is Krishna?

We must understand properly the meaning of Krishna. The word Krishna has three meanings. First meaning is: "Krishyati iti Krishnah", or "the one who cultivates is Krishna." Krishna cultivates our hearts by removing the weeds of bad qualities, watering it with love, ploughing it with sadhana, and sowing the seeds of devotion.

The second meaning of the word is: "Karshati iti Krishnah", or "the one who attracts is Krishna." Krishna attracts by His enchanting Divine form, His  nectarine speech, His  divine sports, and by action saturated with love. By His sweet words, He softens and calms the hearts of even those filled with hatred and makes them rejoice.

A third meaning of the word Krishna is "Kushyati iti Krishna", or "the one who is always blissful." Krishna was always in a state of bliss and bestows bliss on His devotees.

Due to these attributes, the sage Garga named Him Krishna. The ordinary meaning of the word Krishna is "one who is dark." But people think only of this meaning and forget the deeper and truer meanings of the Lord's name.

Surrender to His Will

On the eve of the Mahabharatha war, Arjuna was subjected to a test by Krishna. Arjuna was worried about how to wage the war against his kinsmen and what strategy he should adopt. Krishna took him to a forest in the evening. It was twilight. The light of knowledge was setting and the darkness of ignorance was emerging. Krishna wanted to find out whether Arjuna was fit for receiving the Geethopadesha (message of the  Gita) the next day. He pointed out to Arjuna a bird on a tree and asked him whether it was a peacock. Arjuna said: "Yes, my Lord! It is indeed a peacock". "No, no. It is a dove," observed Krishna. Arjuna immediately said: "Yes, it is a dove". Krishna then said: "You senseless fellow! It is not a dove but a crow!" "Yes, Krishna! It is a crow," said Arjuna. Krishna then told Arjuna: "You have no power of discrimination at all. You cannot decide whether it is a peacock, a dove or a crow and only say 'yes' to whatever I say. Should you not have this much of understanding?"

Arjuna replied: "Krishna, if one does not know your real nature, one may attempt to agree or disagree with you. But I have understood the truth about you. If I declare that it is not a peacock, a dove or a crow, you have the power to turn it into a peacock, a dove or a crow. I have therefore no need to enquire into what it is. Your word alone matters for me. That is sufficient authority for me." When Arjuna displayed such implicit faith in Krishna, He felt that Arjuna was fit to receive the message of the Gita.

The Supreme Devotion of the Gopikas

Prema is nectarine in its sweetness. Bhakti (Love for the Lord) was the highest expression of devotion among the gopikas (the cowherd maidens of Gokulam) because they were saturated with the sweetness of Divine Love. They did not seek liberation or higher knowledge. The ecstasy they derived from merely seeking Krishna, they did not get from any other source. Sage Narada coined the phrase, "Parama Bhakti" (Supreme Devotion) to describe the devotion of the gopikas. These supreme devotees regarded the Lord as their companion and most precious treasure. So intense was their devotion that they used to go about as highly intoxicated persons who were unmindful of the world. Leaving their homes on hearing the music of Krishna's flute, they rushed to the forest in search of Krishna, oblivious to everything.

The Yearning of Neeraja

As Krishna’s mission unfolded, He left Gokulam and His childhood companions to be the King of Mathura. Gopikas, who had never experienced being away from Krishna’s company, could not continue to live life in normal manner. Many of them stopped eating and taking proper care of their bodies. Swami narrated a story about Neeraja, who yearned to see Krishna in her last moments.

Here was an occasion when Krishna laid His flute aside and declared that He would not play it again. It is a long story, not found in books. I alone must tell you about it, for only the Person who has experienced it can describe it.

A bride called Neeraja came to Gokulam as the daughter-in-law of a Gopa family. Once she peeped into a crowd of enthusiastic gopikas watching the dance of Radha with Krishna in a flower bower near the hill. She was so captivated by the divine presence that she was no longer the same person.

Another day, while on the Yamuna river bank, she saw Krishna fashioning a flute from a reed taken out of bamboo bower, and she heard Him play! Oh, it was overwhelmingly ecstatic! It was a call to transcend the material bonds to free oneself from the trammels of earthly endeavours. Neeraja did not care for anyone now. She became God intoxicated. She spent her days in the bamboo bower, her whole mind fixed on the Lord whom she had installed there.

Years passed. Nanda, Yasoda, and Radha left the world. Neeraja was now 52 years old. One day, she prayed desperately to Krishna, “I can no longer bear this forlorn life. My eyes have gone dry and they have no more tears to keep this love green. My heart is fast turning into a wasteland. Come, O Lord, come and save me, take me unto yourself.”

Krishna heard the prayer. He responded to her yearning and called her by name so sweetly that His very voice filled her with new life. The bamboo bower was fragrant with divine glory. Krishna came near and took Neeraja’s palm in His Hand. “What do you desire?” He asked.

She asked “What is the purpose of life?” “To merge in God.”

“Well let me merge in You ... but before that, before my love merges in yours, let me hear you play on that flute for a short while.”

Krishna smiled and gave the excuse that He had not brought His flute. But seeing Neeraja’s yearning, He plucked a reed from the bamboo bower and broke it right and in a trice converted it into a flute. With Neeraja on his lap, Krishna played so melodiously on the flute that the entire Gokulam and even the whole world was bathed in ecstatic joy. When He stopped, Neeraja had attained final beatitude and was no longer a limited individual gopi separate from Him.

Krishna laid aside His flute and said He would not play on it again. That is the story of one gopi. The story of every gopi will be interesting, each in its own way, for they were all so transmuted by the devotion they bore toward the Lord.

Sathya Sai Speaks vol 3.19, August 12, 1963

My Devotees Will Never Suffer

Arjuna and gopikas are supreme examples of devotees who knew the secret of surrender. Their love and devotion was not tainted by any selfishness. Swami says, “For those who bargain and crave for profit, reverence is equated with the returns; they sell homage at so much per unit of satisfactory response. They are like paid servants, clamouring for wages, overtime allowance, bonus, etc. They calculate how much they are able to extract for the service rendered. Be, on the other hand, a member of the family, a kinsman, a friend. Feel that you are the Lord's own. Then, the work will not tire; it will be done much better; it will yield more satisfaction; and, the wages? The master will maintain you in bliss. What more can any one aspire for? Leave the rest to Him; He knows best; He is All; the joy of having Him is enough reward. This is the secret of human happiness. Live out your lives on these lines and you will never come to grief. Na me bhakthaah pranashyathi, says Krishna―My devotees never suffer sorrow."