Few months back I was blessed to be part of “Krishna Janmashtami” celebrations at Art of Living Banglore Ashram. During the evening satsang, Gurudev Sri Sri Rav Shankar gave a beautiful insight about the meaning of the story behind one of the names of Lord Krishna – Govardhan Giridhari. For those who don’t know the story, it goes like this:
The Gopis and Gopas of Braj used to perform special prayers and Yajnas to appease Lord Indra, the God of rain. Krishna felt that these prayers were boosting the pride of Indra. So Krishna asked the Gopis and Gopas to offer their prayers and offerings to Mount Govardhan rather than Indra. Indra got annoyed and ordered the wind, thunder and rain to destroy the entire village. All the Gopis and Gopas ran to Krishna for help. Sri Krishna then lifted the Mount Govardhan on his little finger and all the Gopis and Gopas also supported the mountain with their sticks. Everyone was safe under the shade of the mountain. After seven days Indra got tired and his vanity of being all powerful perished.
Sri Sri said that this story gives us the message of Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion), Karma Yoga (Yoga of action) as well as Gyan Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge).
The Gopis and Gopas of Braj had total faith in Krishna’s divinity. They had unconditional love in their hearts for Krishna. When Krishna told them to stop worshipping Lord Indra, they all agreed. They broke their ancient tradition without any second thought. When they started suffering because of Indra’s fury they had full faith that only Krishna can save them. They came running to Krishna for their safety. Krishna gave them an outrageous idea of lifting mount Govardhan and taking refuge under the mountain. The Gopis and Gopas didn’t have an iota of doubt that they will be successful in their efforts when Krishna is with them. Having a heart filled with unconditional love and faith for the divine like the Gopis and Gopas af Braj is “Bhakti Yoga”.
All the Gopis and Gopas put their sticks for lifting the mountain and held it up for seven full days. They did not go into the, “Let thy will be done – I will do nothing” mode. They had put their 100% efforts and skills along with Krishna in lifting the mountain. Action for the benefit of everybody, action without any botheration of result, action with 100% efforts and skills, action without any doer-ship is “Karma Yoga”. Before lifting the mountain, the Gopis and Gopas had full faith that Sri Krishna will lift the mountain for them. While lifting the mountain they knew that Sri Krishna himself is lifting the mountain for them. And after lifting the mountain the Gopis and Gopas were fully aware that it is none other than Sri Krishna who was supporting and balancing the mountain with his little finger. This uninterrupted awareness that the Divine only will be doing everything, is doing everything and has done everything is “Gyan Yoga”.
This story teaches us that Bhakti, Karma and Gyana are not complete without each other.
The Gopis and Gopas had complete devotion (Bhakti) because their mind was free from doubts. Doubts kill devotion. Knowledge (Gyana) frees the mind from doubts. So ‘Bhakti’ is not possible without ‘Gyana’. On the other hand ‘Gyana’ is also not possible without ‘Bhakti’. So ‘Bhakti Yoga’ and ‘Gyana Yoga’ go hand in hand. They grow together.
The Gopis and Gopas had so much love for Krishna that they never felt that he was different from them. They were ‘One’ with Krishna. When he started to lift the mountain every Gopi and Gopa was also putting their 100% efforts and skills because Krishna’s work was their work. Love in action is Service (Seva) or ‘Karma Yoga’. ‘Bhakti Yoga’ expresses itself as Service or ‘Karma Yoga’. Bhakti and Karma are incomplete without each other.
The Gopis and Gopas could put their 100% efforts and skills for lifting the mountain because they were completely aware that everything is being done by Krishna only (Gyan Yoga).
So there was no anxiety in their mind before lifting the mountain, no doubt about their capacity to hold the mountain for seven days and there was no ego in their mind after the job was done. ‘Karma Yoga’ cannot reach its peak without ‘Gyana Yoga’. Life finds its fulfilment only when Bhakti, Karma and Gyana go hand in hand.