If we are interested in learning more about the yoga system, especially bhakti yoga, it is inevitable that we will begin hearing about Krishna. We will hear the name of Krishna being chanted or sung at kirtan meditations. We will hear about Krishna – and Krishna’s instructions to us – from yoga scripture, such as the Bhagavad-Gita. And we will see beautiful pictures of Krishna.
So, naturally, we will want to know – who is Krishna?
Although the name Krishna may be new to us, it is helpful for us to know that Krishna is not a stranger to us. He is actually the person who is closer to us than anyone else in existence. In fact, He is our closest relative and dearmost eternal Friend. He travels with us, in our heart, in every lifetime, in every body – giving us guidance and comfort. We may have forgotten Him, but He never forgets us, even for a moment. His love for us is absolutely unconditional, unwavering, indefatigable. He is always aware of us, of absolutely everything we are going through – and knows our heart, knows us, even better than we know our self. It is Krishna, our dear eternal Friend and well-wisher, who is constantly offering us opportunities to come back into full remembrance of our true spiritual nature, and thus experience real and lasting happiness, peace, fulfillment, and love.
Simply put, Krishna is God, the Supreme Person. He is our original Source and the foundation of our existence. In fact, He is the Source of every person and thing, all that is material and all that is spiritual. Everything animate and inanimate emanates from, and rests upon, Him. He alone has no other origin for He is the Original Cause of all causes. He is the Supreme Friend and Well-Wisher of all living beings. And He is the Supreme Controller, eternally.
“Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.” ~Śrī Brahmasaḿhitā 5.1
In the yoga scriptures it is explained that out of all the spiritual beings in existence, there is one being who is uniquely superior to all the other beings. He alone is Supreme and all others come from Him, and are dependent upon Him. Krishna is the Supreme Spiritual Being and all other living beings are subordinate to, and dependent upon, Krishna. He is the center and foundation of all life.
The Supreme Person has innumerable transcendental names, forms, and expansions, but Krishna is His original name and form – His supreme name and form. All other names and forms are contained within the name and form of Krishna.
So when we speak of Krishna, all the other names and forms of God are included. Govinda, Gopala, Rama, Narayana, Vishnu, Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, and so on, are all included within the name and form of Krishna. We can relate with Him through any of His transcendental names, but the name Krishna is supreme and all-inclusive – and also the most intimate and endearing name – so Krishna is the name He is most often called in yoga, especially bhakti yoga. Similarly, we can relate with Him through any of His transcendental forms, but Krishna is His original and supreme form, His most intimate form. Thus, in bhakti yoga, we will see people relating with Him most often as Krishna.
As individual spiritual beings, we are a part of Krishna’s marginal spiritual potency. Although we are eternal spiritual beings, made of spiritual energy, we are always subordinate to the Supreme Spiritual Being. We are eternally individuals and eternally subordinate. The Supreme is always Supreme in every circumstance and situation. We can never become Him, or become superior to Him. Although we are spiritual in essence and have many of the same qualities as Krishna, we have these qualities in very minute quantities. We are always dependent upon and subordinate to the Supreme Person. Thus, we have a natural tendency to want to serve Him and be in harmony with Him. Doing so brings us immeasurable transcendental pleasure and satisfaction.
Our eternal relationship with Krishna is compared in the yoga scriptures to the sun globe and the particles of sunlight which emanate from the sun globe. The Supreme Person is like the sun globe, and each of us is like one of the innumerable, infinitesimal particles of sunlight which emanate from Him. As individual spiritual sparks, we are distinct from the Supreme and He is distinct from us – yet we are eternally, intimately related with each other.
This intimacy of relatedness between ourselves and the Supreme Person actually goes far beyond what can be intellectually grasped from this metaphor. The relationship between the sun globe and the particles of light emanating from the sun globe is impersonal. But the relationship between the Supreme Person and each and every one of us is absolutely personal – and the foundation and essence of these relationships is love.
“When we speak of Krishna, we’re speaking of the perfect friend.” ~Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa
Living in loving harmony with Krishna is our natural condition. When we are again linked up with Krishna in love, in yoga, we experience transcendental bliss (ananda). Yoga means to be united with, linked up with, the Supreme Person in a condition of pure love (bhakti).
When we begin hearing about Krishna, seeing pictures of Him, and hearing and singing His Names, our natural attraction for Krishna is awakened. Krishna literally means “the all-attractive Person.” As the origin, foundation, and center of our existence, as the dearmost, loving Friend of all, Krishna has a special, unique, eternal relationship with each and every one of us – with all living beings. It is this relationship with Krishna that draws us to Him, that inspires us to seek Him, even if we are not consciously aware of this attraction.
Often, in the material world, our attraction for Krishna is misdirected toward things and people of this world. So we may unconsciously look for Krishna, our eternal Friend, Lord, and Beloved, in relationships of this world. But because none of these things or other living beings are Krishna, we are never fully satisfied. However, when we come into contact with Krishna through His transcendental Names, forms, instructions, and devotees, our consciousness becomes purified – and thus we are able to awaken to the realization that it is Krishna who we have been seeking all along.
This may be an immediate and very tangible awakening, or a subtle awakening that unfolds over many years, or even lifetimes – but the awakening is there. And because our attraction for Krishna is such a core aspect of our being, because it is so deeply pleasurable and nourishing, we follow this attraction. We consciously choose to put ourselves in environments where we can continue to see pictures of Krishna, to hear about Him, to hear His names, glories, and instructions – and to associate with others who are also knowingly attracted to Him.
When we do this, not only our attraction blossoms, but also our remembrance of Krishna, our relationship with Him, and our love for Him blossoms more and more. Directly, consciously, experiencing this loving relationship with Krishna is the perfection of happiness for the living being. There is no happiness higher than this anywhere, in all of existence. It is the Supreme Treasure of all treasures. The deep spiritual happiness of consciously, lovingly reconnecting, reuniting with our Supreme Friend is the nectar we long for within the very core of our being.
Out of His love for us, Krishna is constantly giving us opportunities to remember Him, and love Him again. For this day and age, the primary method that He gives us to reunite with Him is through hearing and chanting His transcendental Names. In yoga, this is called Mantra Meditation. These Names of God are not ordinary, mundane sound, but are, in fact, Krishna Himself appearing in the form of spiritual sound vibration. Krishna’s Names originate in the spiritual realm and descend to the material platform without losing any potency – having been handed down orally for countless centuries via an unbroken chain of bonafide spiritual masters.
“O my Lord, Your Holy Name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental Names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these Names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your Holy Names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.” ~Sri Śikṣāṣṭakam, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
By first hearing Krishna’s Names through an authentic source, then repeating them, our dormant relationship of love with Krishna can eventually be fully re-established. Names which relate with Him in very intimate and endearing ways, such as Krishna, Gopala, Govinda, Rama, Madana-Mohana, Gauranga are especially potent in awakening the dormant love for God which resides within our heart of hearts. If we want to very deeply, intimately, and directly know who is Krishna, then the best and most essential method is through regularly, daily, hearing and chanting or singing these Names.
Although there are no hard and fast rules for hearing and chanting the Names of the Supreme Person, the most spiritually potent way of practicing yoga mantra meditation is through the congregational hearing and chanting of God’s Names – which is called kirtan or sankirtan. In kirtan, two or more people gather together to hear and chant or sing the Names aloud. Often a call and response format is used, and it is common for the chanting to be accompanied by musical instruments, and even dancing.
Not only is kirtan the most powerful way to awaken our loving remembrance of Krishna, but it is also very easy and fun for people of all ages and abilities to participate in. Naturally, people like to get together with friends and family, play music together, sing, and dance. When we dovetail these natural tendencies for the purpose of coming to know and love God, they become an immeasurably beneficial spiritual activity. Through kirtan, we can all help each other to reconnect with our Supreme Friend Krishna and become truly happy and fulfilled.
The yoga scriptures clearly state that it is only by coming in contact with Krishna’s Names, that our dormant love for Him can be fully awakened. And it is only through loving Krishna, that we can truly come to know Him – purely, directly, as He is.
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon-locket, whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jeweled ornaments, who always revels in pastimes of love, whose graceful threefold-bending form of Śyāmasundara is eternally manifest.” ~Śrī Brahmasaḿhitā 5.31
And for videos, articles, and more on Kirtan, Bhakti Yoga, and related subjects, I highly recommend visiting: http://wisdom.yoga/