The auspicious day of Janmashtami is an occasion not only to sing, pray, celebrate or try to get the Dahi Handi, the hanging earthen pot of yoghurt.? It is an occasion meant also for deeper devotion and contemplation.? This is the day when Krishna came as Jagadguru and guided humanity towards truth.? This is the day when devotees resolve to walk the path shown by the Bhagwad Gita and dedicate themselves to cultivate the qualities of viveka, discriminating power; vijnana,? ultimate knowledge and vairagya, dispassion.
Some may wonder whether Krishna would actually visit the house of devotees on Janmashtami. An incident in the Mahabharata indicates that Krishna does visit the home of a real devotee even if he was not invited.
Krishna wanted to avoid war between the Kauravas and Pandavas.?? He came to Hastinapur as a messenger of peace to the warring clans.?? However much Krishna tried, the Kauravas refused to part with the land they illegally occupied.? Duryodhana came to know about Krishna’s arrival.? He wanted to impress Krishna and? in order to bring Krishna to his side, Duryodhana invited him to a lavish dinner and also provided a comfortable house for his rest.
? But his hopes were dashed when Krishna declined the offer.
Krishna was aware that Duryodhana had refused to return to the Pandavas their legitimate territory.? Krishna replied: “Generally, feasts are taken under two conditions; one is when the server offers the meal with love and secondly when the taker is hungry for food. Since you have no love in you and since I am not hungry, none of the two conditions prevail here. Therefore, I have to decline your offer,” said Krishna.
Krishna then goes to the cottage of Vidhura, his ardent devotee, uninvited. Vidhura’s was the lone voice of protest when Draupadi was being humiliated in Kauravas’ court.? When Krishna found the door of Vidhura’s house closed, he knocked.? When Sulabha, Vidhura’s wife opened the door and found Krishna, she was delighted. Vidhura’s joy knew no bounds. Bhishma and elders like Drona, Krupa and others saints called at Vidhura’s small cottage and invited Krishna and Vidhura to their house for a sumptuous dinner but Krishna chose to enjoy the simple meal offered by his loving devotee, Vidhura.
Devotion passes through many stages.? In the first stage, the devotee offers flowers, lights and sweets. “If one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or even a little water, I will accept it gladly” said Krishna in the Gita, 9:26.? This is the first stage of devotion, called apara bhakti where the devotee focuses on rituals, prayer and image worship.
As he makes progress, his devotion matures into para bhakti and he realizes what Krishna said: “Surrender unto me” -- Abandon all dharmas and simply surrender unto me and I will liberate you...(18.66).? A question would still arise how total surrender would be practical when there are duties to perform and responsibilities to hold.? Surrender does not mean giving up everything that belongs to one. Surrender means giving up the notion of ownership. Real surrender means mentally distancing oneself from what one owns. ?
Surrender comes when the individual realizes that he is not separate from God.? When a devotee asked Ramana Maharshi whether he should surrender whatever he possesses, Maharshi replied: “Surrender the possessor”.???? ?