Natavara nagara nanda bhajo re mana Govinda

This is a popular kirtan which can be loosely translated as follows:

"Oh Krishna, master of the senses, the great play actor, creator of the play and knower of all, whose sole aim is to give bliss, let us sing your praises."

Krishna was the greatest of yogis. Why? Because he led the fullest life. As a prankster and thief, hero and lover, ruler and sage, he is still remembered and worshipped with great love and devotion in every home, whether simple or grand, throughout India. Countless stories about his life have been passed down through the ages and his teachings are recorded amongst the great sacred literature of the east. Today the maha mantra Hare Rama, Hare Krishna is well known around the world. All over India everybody, young and old alike, are familiar with dozens of devotional songs about Krishna, his flute, his lovers and his life.

Many people have done great things in this world. Countless yogis have achieved siddhi and performed wonderful miracles, but few, if any, are remembered 5,000 years after their death as Krishna still is today. A born yogi, he never followed the path of asceticism, inactivity and restraint. While living in the world he was the embodiment of enlightenment. Though he lived a married life and ruled a large kingdom, he was always merged in the highest bliss. How did he manage it?

How could a man live such a complete life, fully dedicated to performing his duties, with so many responsibilities and dependants, yet maintaining the highest realisation throughout? To the renunciate and the wordly person alike this is a great mystery. Krishna's life exemplifies the highest stage of yoga, the complete yogi.

This is what all the different yogas, sects and religions aim to bring about. For thousands of years saints and ascetics have been trying to reach this highest pinnacle but without complete success. Most could not achieve the final goal at all and, if they did, their means was usually too extreme to be of any use to the people. Even the lives of Christ and Buddha tended towards asceticism and renunciation rather than acceptance and integration. Thus their teachings were rather difficult for the people to assimilate and follow on a practical level. Krishna, however, lived life. The Bhagavad Gita, his most important teaching, was delivered in the middle of a battlefield. It contains all the stages of yoga from the first aspirations to the final liberation. Short and concise, it is still studied and practiced by all people in every walk of life.

If Krishna, master of yogas and lilas, could manage to live in the world with such divine insight, then so can we. Yoga after all is a means to live more fully, not an escape from life. Human birth is precious; our bodies and minds are useful instruments. They not only enable us to function on this planet, but also to fulfil our quest for transcendental awareness. In the past, yoga, ashrams and sannyasins were always linked with austerity, renunciation and solitude. Those who felt a need to retreat from life, worldly problems and responsibilities always took up this path. Thus most people who were interested in living life generally avoided yoga. Now, however, this attitude is changing as people everywhere are realising the dynamic and positive aspects of yoga.

Gokulashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, is always celebrated on the eighth day after the full moon of August. The best way to remember and worship. Krishna is to reinforce his example in our daily lives. Let us wake up and start living life to the full. But in order to do this we need yoga to arouse our sleeping senses and mind to the world and people around us. Let yoga be our stepping stone into life, rather than out of it.

All people who come here to the ashram or to the guru looking for a solution to their problems in the form of a quiet escape, are in for a big surprise and let down. Here we live in crowded conditions which necessitate full awareness, understanding and co-operation. We are very busy day and night with all kinds of work demanding skill, one-pointedness and intelligence. We have no appreciation for introversion, and no time for quiet contemplation except amidst our never-ending duties. Total involvement in work is the key to our spiritual quest. Yoga and ashram life, as we know them, are in no way a means of leaving the world, but a way of entering more fully into life.

Yogashrams are not meant for recluses, but for active people who want to learn to live life to the fullest. Those who know how needn't come; they are already practicing our yoga. Let them continue with their work. May they benefit mankind and prosper for 5,000 years as Lord Krishna has.