Each one of us is actually born into the darkness of a prison — the prison of ignorance and karmic bonds. We are born crying, live crying and die crying. However, Krishna was born with a smile, lived with a smile, and was smiling even when he cast off his mortal frame. Krishna was able to do this because he always saw the unchanging true face of Eternity behind the ever-changing masks of impermanence. Thus, when we are able to realise the Krishna-hood that is our true nature, we will likewise be able to look death in the face, thumb our nose at it and laugh. We all sing the bhajan “Amme Bhagavati Kali Mate,” which has the following verse: kaliyeyullil-otukkiyon nyan kalante kayyil kurungumenno kali tan namam japichu kondu kalante nere nyan goshti kattum
How can I, who have contained Kali within me, be trapped in the hand of Kala [death]? Chanting the name of Kali, I will mock at Kala [death]! Just because a light bulb fuses doesn’t mean the electricity gets destroyed. The Atma is eternal and never can be annihilated. It is only that the forms it expresses through may change — like heated butter becoming ghee. There is gold in golden ornaments and golden ornaments in gold. There is the formless within the form and the form within the formless. Pure consciousness is eternal and never changes. The forms come and go, but the consciousness remains ever the same. Everything that has taken birth will die. This body, which is comprised of the five elements, must reveal its nature, one day or the other. However, for those who have developed the awareness that the Atma is eternal, death becomes no different than the experience of moving from one room into another.
Such individuals take death light-heartedly. That is why it is said that Sri Krishna’s life was one big laugh. For one who knows how to swim, the ocean waves present a delightful game. They are like the people we see surfing with the wind and waves. They navigate their boards as per the flow of the waves. They enter the water to enjoy the waves — not to suffer. They know the ocean will always have waves and know how to deal with them. Or suppose a person from a war-ravaged country comes here and is passing by a temple festival. Someone sets off some firecrackers, and he is so shocked by the explosions that he faints. When he wakes up, he says that he thought that it was a bomb. At the same time, the person next to him thoroughly enjoyed the bursting of the firecrackers. When we live in the world understanding its true nature, we will be able to celebrate every situation.
If we know a dish is bitter, we will not complain, “Ah… It’s so bitter!” We develop the attitude of acceptance. Whether positive or negative experiences take place, we are able to accept them with equanimity. It is in fact when we are able to accept ourselves and others that we are able to love ourselves and be patient and loving towards others. We see this in Sri Krishna’s life. Even when Gandhari cursed his whole clan to be destroyed, Krishna smiled. He already knew that was going to happen. He did not see it as something new. The Krishna we see in the Bhagavad-Gita always has a smile on his face. Spirituality teaches us how to face success and failure and, in fact, every situation with equanimity. It helps us air-condition the inner realm. Air-conditioning the external world is not enough. There are people who live in air-conditioned rooms and yet have to take pills to fall asleep. Some even commit suicide in such rooms. Scriptures like the Bhagavad-Gita teach us to air-condition the mind.
We become adjustable to every situation. When it is hot inside the house, we can sit under the shade of a tree. When it is hot outside, we can move inside the house. At times when we are driving, the roads may be fine, but there also may be stretches full of potholes, bumps or hairpin curves. We may also have to drive up and down steep inclines. When this happens we have to shift gears according to the situation. Similarly, when facing the various situations in life, we must be able to patiently shift the gear called the mind. This is one of Krishna’s teachings.
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