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Janmasthami: Krishna Consciousness Underlines Diverse Approaches to Divinity, Dialogue and Multiple Identities

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 11, Aug 2020, 12:44 pm IST | UPDATED: 11, Aug 2020, 13:35 pm IST

Janmasthami: Krishna Consciousness Underlines Diverse Approaches to Divinity, Dialogue and Multiple Identities
Lord Krishna Stressed on Diverse Approaches to Divinity 
Swami Vivekananda wrote in his book “Thoughts on Gita” that before the advent of Lord Krishna there used to be internecine conflicts among different sects founded on many paths to realise divinity.  Such sects fought among themselves and caused much bloodshed.  For instance sects based on Karma Yoga. Dhyana Yoga, Gyan Yoga and Bhakti Yoga remained engaged in violent conflicts to purse their goals and caused much hatred and conflict among themselves.  Such bloodshed was committed to establish supremacy of one sect over anothe resulting  in constant bickering, sectarian violence, narrowness  of outlook and fanaticism. According to Swami Vivekananda Lord Krishna, therefore, advocated reconciliation of diverse approaches to divinity when He said in Gita that whatever path one followed  it would lead to realisation of same divinity.  Swamiji said that by reconciling diverse approaches to divinity Lord Krishna became the first prophet to make  the adherents of diverse approaches to divinity equal in spiritual plane.  It was quite revolutionary to proclaim equality for adherents of all  sects and schools of thought.  In that sense He was underlining the point that there was no scope for fanaticism in  pursuing one's faith and belief.  Such an approach of Lord Krishna underlined an inclusive approach which celebrated relevance of diverse approaches to pursue truth.  At a time when the humanity is confronting the challenges of fanaticism and sectarianism and the spread of terrorism by invoking one religion or the other it is important to invoke this aspect of Krishna consciousness. In fact Swami Vivekananda in his famous Chicago address delivered in 1893 quoted Lord Krishna’s words “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.”. Then he added that
“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal”.  Unfortunately the fanaticism is gripping the minds of the peoples across the world.  Unfortunately in India some fanatics get actuated to violently target  other religious groupings in the name of food they eat, dress they wear and Gods they worship and shrines they visit. Such attacks negate expansive Krishna consciousness and devalues the immortal message enshrined in the Gita. We should be mindful that approach and worldview determined by fanaticism would herald a dark era for all. In his edited book “Choose Peace: A Dialogue between Johan Galtung and Daisaku Ikeda,” Mr. Richard L.  Gage quotes Alvin Toffler who in his book “The Powershift“ referred to the rise in religious fundamentalism in the world and cited it as factor making twenty first century a Dark Age. The religious fundamentalism which became the diabolical force threatening the whole world is based on sectarianism and fanaticism which could be countered by a more expansive approach which Lord Krishna emphasized in Gita and which is intensely relevant for the world and India. In India many forms of religious fundamentalism be it based on faith of majority of people or creed o faiths of others are antithetical to Krishna consciousness. 
Amartya Sen Invoked Dialogue Between Krishna and Arjun in the context of Idea of Justice 
The second aspect of Krishna consciousness deals with dialogue which was brilliantly manifested in the engagement of Lord Krishna with Arjuna in battle field to reason out the imperative necessity of duty when Arjun expressed his reluctance to fight the war against his own relatives.  While Arjuna took the stand that he would not kill his own relatives and wreck havoc to win kingdom and territory, Lord Krishna stressed on performance of duty on the part of Arjuna regardless of consequences.  Professor Amartya Sen said that none could say that Lord Krishna was right and Arjuna was wrong and vice versa.  He then maintained that truth lies somewhere in between and some truth was there in the stand of both Lord Krishna and Arjuna.  In other words truth lies in diverse approaches and so plurality of approaches should be a critical imperative to realise truth and divinity.  Krishna consciousness means dialogue and engagement.  Lord Krishna through dialogue eventually changed Arjuna to perform duty. Professor Amartya Sen in his book "Idea of Justice" invokes dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna and outlines the relevance of dialogue as a method for deepening public reasoning to ensure justice to people.  Professor Sen argues that the idea of justice could be taken forward not only by pursuing western  thoughts and intellectual tradition but by a plurality of factors which should include ideas from non-western intellectual tradition.  
Lord Krishna underlined Multiple Identities 
When Lord Krishna told Arjun that he was the soul and not just body and mind He was talking about multiple identities of people and how often people remain alienated from their identity based on soul and remained fixated to the identities based on body or narrow categories.  In taking Arjun to the level of soul he made him realise his true identity and thereby empowered him to go beyond limited and restrictive identities.  In this sense Krishna consciousness takes one to higher levels of awakening based on which one can perform duty with total dedication and detachment. 
Lord Krishna’s Viswaroopa was invoked when first atomic device was tested 
Professor Robert Oppenheimer who was director of Manhatan Project was found reading Gita when the first atomic device was being tested in Neveda desert on 16th July 1945. When asked as to how and why he was reading a Hindu scripture Bhagvat Gita at the time of testing of first atomic device he quoted its stanza where Lord Krishna told his disciple Arjuna that he had within Him energy of thousands of suns which would be released at the end of Time to destroy every thing. Professor Oppenheimer said that such thoughts from Gita struck the minds of many of those who were present at the time of testing of the first atomic device. 
Krishna consciousness is expansive and ranges from high abstract level of soul to the level of other  identities defined by  several other categories. Many aspects of Gita it have impacted sensitive minds as also  ordinary people for ages. It will continue  to do so for all time to come.
.The author was Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K.R.Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister’s Office