This is a video from an introductory talk at our last Intensive by Greg Cester. Greg owns three businesses, helps raise three children and still finds time to devote himself to spiritual practice. He is full of love and passion for the Guru and the path.
Swami Girijananda, (Girija Moran) passed away in her home in Arcata, California in the early morning of October 31.. She was an extraordinary spiritual teacher and yogini. She taught me a lot when I was studying with her and Swamiji during the 70s in the Ann Arbor ashram. She was beautiful, compassionate and wise. She could do everything. She is much loved and will be sorely missed. Swamiji wrote this the day of her samadhi.
My beloved Girija took samadhi early this morning.
Girija and I met on a blind date in July 1968. We got married in December of that year. I got a job teaching at Indiana University and we moved to Chicago. Soon our lives took a spiritual turn.
We met Ram Dass in February 1970 and decided to go to India to find a Guru. We went overland and met great beings and yogis. We studied with Hari Dass Baba and Sri Goenka.
Ram Dass introduced us to Swami Muktananda, Baba. Baba was the real deal and more. We lived in his ashram in India for three years. Baba remarried us and called us Girija and Shankar.
We went on his Second World Tour and after awhile he sent us out to start the first Siddha Yoga Ashram in the West in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He invited us to take sannyas. Now we were Girijananda and Shankarananda.We were together in Ann Arbor for four years.
In 1978 our ways parted when Baba sent me to Los Angeles and then Australia. I missed her terribly but Baba told me to let her go, and told her that it was the right thing.Girija went on to run ashrams in several places.
After Baba’s death she studied Tibetan Buddhism for a number of years. Later she spent two years in our Mount Eliza (Australia) ashram and then went to Northern California to begin her teaching work. She was a great teacher.Soon she gathered a community of beautiful people around her. I feel for them. I know the grief of losing one’s spiritual teacher.
Girija is irreplaceable.She was a great soul, totally focused on her spiritual path. She was genuine, loving and very smart. Her teachings reflected her journey—Tonglen and compassion from Buddhism; Shakti and devotion from Baba.
She was strong minded and fearless. She faced death without flinching. In 1973 I thought I saw some bad aspects coming in my astrological chart. I thought they meant that Girija would die. I had a breakdown and had to be saved by Baba telling me to do the mantra. On the feared day no one died.
Now forty-five years later it has happened. I feel my own sadness but I know that Girija is joyful. She is with Baba and Bhagavan Nityananda in some higher realm.What a great soul! What a strong mind! What a true human being! She was a fierce, uncompromising Goddess.
I will always love her.
Every Saturday evening in Satsang Swamiji gives teachings from his favourite great beings. These great beings have much in common even though their paths vary. Some focus on the wisdom aspect of yoga, some on devotion, some on meditation, some on service and some on intense practice. But, they all have one thing in common. They emphasise knowing the Self and loving and accepting ourselves.
During these programs the devotees come up to greet both of us. Traditionally this is called darshan. I think of it as saying hello and if blessings or shakti is transmitted it is by the miracle of Guru’s grace. I receive something too–lots of love and joy. No small thing in a world beset by desires that cannot be assuaged by love.
Often I meet people who haven’t come to Satsang in a while and I ask, ‘where have you been’. Very often they answer ‘I have been in a bad space. I have been hating myself. I have felt unworthy.’
Surprising answers and ones that give me pause and tear at my heart. I encourage them to come when they feel that way knowing that Satsang will put them in touch with the Shakti which will ease their suffering.
Self-hatred is a poison, it is our worst enemy spiritually and personally. It is the most debilitating thinking the mind creates.
The other day an ashramite came to see me and said, ‘I hate myself, I never feel good enough.’ I immediately thought of Swamiji’s story about an answer to a question he asked Baba during his time in Ganeshpuri in the seventies. His ego was troubling him. He was having thoughts that depleted his shakti and hurt him. Baba said, ‘Do not think you are a king or a beggar. Think, “I am Shiva; I am the Self.”
Swamiji’s demand is that we hold to the space of the Self. As he says, ‘the clear space of good feeling.’ Or, as Bhagavan says, bhavano rakho, maintain the good feeling. Swamiji encourages us to forgive every slight, every hurt, every pain, in every moment. Inwardly we let go of the temptation to blame and attack others for what they didn’t say to us, or give us, didn’t treat us well enough or honour us enough. When we cannot let go of this thinking love turns to poison within. And, in this state the mind creates good reasons to escalate enmity.
To watch someone in the grip of hatred, whether of themselves or another is painful, hurtful and frustrating. When people turn away from the Guru, from the Self, from Satsang it is as painful for the ones who are left as it is for the one leaving.
The heartbreak is especially poignant when that person has been a loving and close companion for many years. How is it that a mind can turn negative so quickly and without warning? How is it that someone who said they love you suddenly becomes an enemy? How is it that love suddenly turns to judgment? This is a great mystery.
To maintain good feeling sounds simple, but after all these years of sadhana I see that it is always possible to fall prey to a sense of unworthiness. Just because we have been meditating and doing practices for years we can still be vulnerable to destructive behaviour and negative thinking.
Bhagavan Nityananda once said, ‘it’s all dust!’ In time the material world, including our bodies become dust. I think he is reminding us that nothing is worth fighting about. To focus on that which is peaceful and loving and not on dissatisfaction requires a commitment to our own loving heart. Instead of venting anger we hold to a higher value like compassion and wisdom. I have always held the Guru as a beacon of love that never fades, never withdraws, and never wavers.
We will confront events that seem unforgivable, or that do not bring peace. These events destabilise our life and relationships. If we succumb to the pain and do not dissolve it into Consciousness then we get stuck in the moment the pain happened, forever frozen in a memory of suffering.
The great beings forgive the unforgivable. It is their power of unconditional love that attracts weary and broken hearted seekers. They hold to that which is eternal, loving and wise. Their interests are not of this world but the world of Consciousness. They are not concerned whether a person is high born or not, whether a person is rich or poor, whether a person is sick or well, whether a person is the ‘right type.’ They are only interested in the spiritual well-being of each individual that comes before them. To see, hear and watch how the great beings love, teaches us to love the same way.
Swami Muktananda writes poetically on love:
Just as the earth remains the same no matter who comes and goes on it, so true love remains unchanging and independent. Love penetrates your entire being. Love is Consciousness.
What follows is an excerpt from Part I: Personal Inquiry in Swami Shankarananda’s book “Self-inquiry: Using your awareness to unblock your life. His method of Self-inquiry bridges the gap between the inner and outer worlds. Swamiji teaches that when our lives are blocked or confusing we can investigate, recognise and uplift the tension and stress that shows up in four chakras. If practiced with the intention to become free of negative emotion, there will be a return to peace and harmony.
All paths end in inquiry. Why not pursue inquiry from the beginning?
Sri Ramana Maharshi
Real inquiry marries the head and heart. Thought, which has been wandering in its own bloodless world, feeding on itself, is connected to feeling. And like two wires touched together, a spark of energy occurs. Inquiry is also the conjunction of the personal and impersonal. The ancient yogic paths emphasised the impersonal. They insisted that this world does not exist and you are not a separate person.
In Indian culture, you are expected to fit into your particular role in life, your caste, your stage of life. You are to do your duty and any deviation is tantamount to insanity. The single social option to the non-conformist is the possibility of renouncing the world and heading off to the Himalayas to be a wandering monk.
In the West, on the contrary, we hear everywhere the cry, ‘What about me?’ We are obsessed with our individuality and our individual expression. The West is totally focused on the person. In India, the yoga is impersonal, connected to the highest truth, caring little for the person. One must maintain an appropriate silence about personal problems and simply do sadhana and one’s duty.
Yoga says that within each person, in the subtle body, are seven yogic centres, seven chakras, which have to do with different aspects of life. The three lower chakras govern the physical life; the heart chakra is the locus of emotional life; the fifth chakra, in the throat,has to do with communication; the third eye, the sixth chakra, is the place of intellect and higher wisdom. Here we have insights and visions but we are still within the personal realm. When you go beyond the sixth chakra to the seventh, at the crown of the head, you contact a different aspect of yourself. It is transpersonal; the dimension of the impersonal Self.
Western psychology was traditionally unaware of this dimension. In the past 30 years, however, a ‘transpersonal psychology’ has developed, acknowledging that divine, impersonal aspect. Jung knew of it but Freud did not. It exists within all of us, represented by the seventh chakra. What should we make of this knowledge of a higher reality? The first impulse is to try to override the person with the impersonal. A noble goal, but significantly difficult to attain. I tried to achieve it: I threw myself on the altar of impersonality again and again. Each time, the person returned. That the higher power does exist is beyond doubt, but the mystical play between the personal and impersonal has to be discovered.
My Guru seemed to me to be a man who was in cosmic awareness. He was always connected to the Self, and never unconnected. Yet, he was also very much a person. He wasn’t like some of the mind-borne ‘holy men’: ‘Hello my son, at last you have come . . .’ He wasn’t like that at all. He was completely vibrant and immediate and totally himself—to an alarming degree, in fact. He was a unique combination of the personal and the impersonal. He was a force of nature, all right. Like a stone rolling down a hill, and loving it.
Self-inquiry connects the personal with the impersonal. It respects the person. It doesn’t try to kill the person, but it also acknowledges the transpersonal. It seeks connectedness so that the person flowers within the impersonal and discovers the impersonal within. A life without the impersonal is dry and empty. You want the universe to flow towards your personal advantage, but, alas, the universe is indifferent. What chance does the poor little person have? The whole universe is arranged to frustrate or be indifferent to your desires. There is no joy in being merely a person.
You are so blinded by what is personal,
that you do not see the universal.
The blindness will not end by itself—
it must be undone skillfully and deliberately.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Sometimes we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. It might be a political movement, or even a crowd cheering for a team at a football game. It is a rewarding and liberating feeling. Our individuality dissolves in the group, and, at the same time, participates actively. But when the event is over or we leave the group for some reason, we feel a kind of loss—we’ve returned to the merely personal. Such an experience is only temporary, but it is a taste of something real and intrinsic to our true Self. We are actually part of something greater, and when we live in harmony with it, our stress and fear fade away.
Through the process of inquiry, we recognise the dynamism running through us. We become liberated from doubt and concern when we no longer try to hold the universe at bay, but surrender to it, and welcome it. Our actions become effective and powerful, because they are aligned with this great impersonal process. And we have the delightful experience of playing our part in a larger drama.
Self-inquiry seeks to unblock all areas of life: health, career, relationship and spirituality.
Some more thoughts on Self-inquiry:
- Blocks are tensions in our inner world.
- Desire and fear create blocks.
- There is one subject and many objects.
- First force initiates, second force resists, third force enables.
- Second force as blocked inner feeling is the main focus of inquiry.
- Right method increases third force.
- Self-inquiry harmonises our thinking, feeling and doing.
- Wisdom power is where thought and feeling merge.
- Everything undergoes five processes: creation, sustainment, dissolution, concealment and grace.
- Concealment is the universal principle of separation.
- Grace is the universal principle of oneness.
- Our encounters in life are marked by emotion.
- Our negative reactions are stored inside and may reappear later.
- A yogi burns negative reactions to sameness with Consciousness.
- Truth has a feeling of harmony and peace.
- Self-inquiry is the main instrument in the wisdom path, yet it includes devotion.
- Shiva Process Self-inquiry focuses on the higher Self.
- Emotions are starting points for inquiry.
Western sages are few and far between. One of Guruji’s favourites from the last century, is the mystic master GI Gurdjieff. His teachings dovetail beautifully with meditation and yoga. Gurdjieff has many yogic practices but one unique articulation is, ‘think from the work, and not from life‘. To keep your spiritual values alive means to keep a ‘truthful focus.’ When we think from life then we live in fear of loss–our possessions, our relationships, our security. We are anxious all the time.
Gurdjieff encourages us to avoid letting the mind become absorbed in mundane matters that bring up ego–likes and dislikes, jealousy, tearing thoughts, anger, self-preservation, pride, and other emotions. Most sages agree that it is our negative reactions to outer events that create our experience of life. Our painful reactions are ego, manifesting as negative emotion. Ego separates us from the heart, from love and from the Self. The first step in shifting the mind from the mundane to the mystical is to look within.
Gurdjieff called on his students to ‘work’ on themselves. He encourages them to evaluate all choices and decisions against the highest choice, Self-remembering. If we can hold to the highest we make choices for love, for peace, for kindness and wisdom. When we work against ego we are less likely to be led astray into painful encounters and situations. Gurdjieff has said:
“I will tell you one thing that will make you rich for life. There are two struggles: an Inner-world struggle and an Outer-world struggle…you must make an intentional contact between these two worlds; then you can create a new world.
The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, born a slave, had a uniquely surrendered attitude to the outer world. Epictetus gave teachings similar to Patanjali in that he encourages his students to avoid negative thinking and habits. He said that there is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
Perhaps this is why so many great sages and saints guide us toward compassion. We all, at times, ignore, disregard and reject the most wise counsel when we shouldn’t. Epictetus said that every difficult event has two handles. For example, say your brother betrays you. If you hold onto one handle you walk down the path of betrayal, anger and vengeance. If you choose the other handle you walk toward peace, forgiveness and love. Which one are you going to hold?
Guruji places great importance on Satsang and has often said, ‘if you can hold a Satsang then create one, if you cannot create one, then join one’. In Satsang seekers unite in a common goal to know the Self, to contemplate the Self, to meditate on the Self. The energy created by a united spiritual purpose is a dynamic power that is loving and wise.
The other night in Satsang Guruji drew on the aphorisms and teaching of Epictetus. Epictetus also talked about the value of keeping good company, or keeping the company of the highest truth. Guruji has often said, ‘the great beings are humanity’s greatest treasure’. Epictetus agrees when he says:
The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.
Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.
The teachings of Epictetus are pure jnan, a breath of fresh air. I felt my mind enter a wide space of mental clarity. I was surprised to discover that I preferred them to Patanjali, who often seems like hard work. Epictetus sweeps away useless thoughts and leaves behind a sweet peace.
Guruji summarised his teaching by saying ‘Think in such a way as to promote your own happiness’. To live fearlessly is to live in the Shakti. No matter where we live or what we do, creativity, inspiration and dynamism arise from a state of remembering the Self not forgetting it, not sacrificing it for the sake of the material world. To remember our highest values is to live in the state of oneness and peace. This is what sages both East and West want for us.
The wise counsel of Epictetus
- The universe is but one great city, full of beloved ones, divine and human by nature, endeared to each other.
- In our power: our opinions, impulses, desires and aversions. Not in our power: bodies, possessions glory, and power.
- Be not swept off your feet by the vividness of an impression, but say, ‘Impression, wait for me a little. Leet me see what you are and what you represent. Let me try you.’
- It is not death or pain that is to be feared, but it is the fear of death and the fear of pain.
- When you close your doors and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone for you are not alone; nay, God is within, and your genius is within. And what need have they of light to see what you are doing?
The heart of Mira is entangled in the beauty of her Guru’s feet;
Nothing else causes her delight!
He made her happy in the drama of the world;
His knowledge dried up the Ocean of being and becoming.
Mira says: My whole world is Shri Krishna;
Now that my gaze is turned inward, I see it clearly.
When I was around eight a friend that I often played with on the weekends asked me if I believed in God, and I told her that I didn’t know because I wasn’t sure what God was. She told me that God was love and that He loved everyone. Her conviction awoke a curiosity in me.
I asked her where He lived and she said that He was in heaven and pointed to the above sky. I looked up trying to imagine where exactly in the sky God lived and what he looked like. As young as I was it seemed unlikely that he lived up there, but on the other hand it was likely there was a place where he did live. She said that God was also in her church and that if I wanted to meet Him I could come to church with her and her family but that I had to ask my parents.
One Sunday morning I crept into my parents’ bedroom and woke my mother. I asked her if I could go to church with my friend and she groggily mumbled yes.
There was a subtle current of anticipation as I thought about meeting God. When we arrived at the church all the children were ushered into a classroom very much like a school room. My friend told me that children were not allowed to hear the sermon by the minister.
We sat at children’s desks while a young woman talked to us about Jesus, sinners, evil and saving lost souls. I could not grasp how children could be sinful or evil. I felt myself recoil as my mind drifted away from her voice. I fantasised a God that was different from her version, different from the ordinary. When I thought about how God might be for me, I imagined Him to be bright and loving, but mostly magical.
When I got home I asked my mother what religion we were and she told me that we were Presbyterian. I asked her why we did not go to church. She said that she did not go to church when she was a child either.
‘Your grandmother was an Orange woman and hated Catholics’.
I was not sure what this meant, but I realised I was not going to get an understanding about God from my parents. I thought they knew less about God than my young friend and so I put aside my questions. When I went to play with my friend the next time her mother came to the door and told me she could not play with me again. I only saw her from a distance and I felt sad for her.
From then on I would occasionally wonder about God’s existence. I asked my girlfriends if they went to church but none of them did, nor did their parents. I wondered why some families believed in God and some did not. And then one of them told me that people who did not believe in God were called ‘atheists’ and people who did not know whether God existed or not were called ‘agnostics’. I put myself in the category of agnostic because I was aware that some part of me wanted to believe that God existed.
The first time I felt God was the first time I met Baba Muktananda. In his company I had my first meditation experience, a profound and deep knowing of the Self. In hindsight I realised that I had had a God experience. As I meditated over the years, love for God grew in me, as did love of mankind, love for the Guru and love of Self.
The other night in the Mother’s day Satsang Guruji was teaching from Anandamayi Ma. As he was speaking I felt myself sinking into meditation. Then I vaguely heard him say my name. He was calling on me because I was supposed to lead the meditation by reading from Mirabai’s poems.
‘Oh my God,’ I said as I returned to consciousness, ‘I was so deep’. I was aware all eyes were on me but was unselfconscious because I was still in meditation. If the person sitting behind me hadn’t poked me I would not have come out of it. Forty-five minutes had passed and I had missed Guruji’s whole talk.
It is difficult to describe the state I had been in. Yes, it was nirvikalpa samadhi, but deeper than I had ever felt. Yes, it was like deep sleep, but somehow deeper and darker and more peaceful. I didn’t know that was even possible. Yes, it was like a death experience, but comforting and warm, safe and indescribably delicious. It was the deepest state of samadhi I had ever experienced. It was total absorption in the depth of my being.
God had embraced me, held me, rocked me, loved me, healed me, and He then threw me back to the world with a deeper connection to myself. I knew that it was nirvikalpa samadhi but it was extraordinary samadhi.
I was wondering where my consciousness had gone. I found a Wikipedia article on nirvikalpa samadhi as described in Raja Yoga:
Nirvikalpa samadhi, on the other hand, absorption without self-consciousness, is a mergence of the mental activity in the Self, to such a degree, or in such a way, that the distinction of knower, act of knowing, and object known becomes dissolved — as waves vanish in water, and as foam vanishes into the sea.
This probably comes closest to what I experienced. Then another definition by Swami Shivananda:
All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge. All thought forms which bring on rebirth are totally freed up.
All mental modifications that arise from the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions: ignorance, egoism, love, hatred and clinging to life are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated.
It gives deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths.
I was free from all thoughts and afflictions but I am not sure about ‘deliverance from rebirth’. Nor is that an issue for me; I am not averse to rebirth. An astrologer told me some years ago that my chart indicated that I had made a vow to come back.
I would not know how to achieve that deep state again. It was not by any effort I made in the moment that caused it. It was God’s grace. As the experience fades the memory lingers in my mind as a possibility, a potential that is within me. A part of me is still connected to that space, like an anchor that holds a ship steady in the rocky ocean. I am left in awe of that small miracle that brought me the magic of such deep meditation and peace.
A share from a devotee’s letter on his first visit to Ganeshpuri and Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram.
I lost my mind and found God. There was that day I spent reflecting that unhappiness was a memory and that happiness was the natural state of being.
The tree out the front is a portal like Ganeshpuri is a portal. But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate.
What Bhagavan Nityananda gave me I can’t describe except in a child’s terms. It is like he gave me a Willy Wonka lolly, like the endless tasting chewing gum of Shakti. It is like he put a lingam in my head and said ‘off you go.’ It is nuts but I have the rest of the trip to bring this into a meaningful context and apply it in the real world.
From the Goddesses of the temple with eyes that emitted blue light, to seeing a blue light like a mist coming from me and in my mala beads. And some being telling me I have not left Siddha Loka yet. Then saying a week later ‘you have left Siddha Loka.’ Well what reference does even a spiritual nut like myself have to measure such experiences?
I knew my mental state had become more normal.
But other than to say Bhagavan gave me all the Shakti I needed then and more for the road.
I know I have the Shakti at home in my meditation. I feel Bhagavan has given me a great gift and I have reformed a personal relationship with a place and perhaps even a guru from a previous existence.
I can only say that Ganeshpuri felt like the most natural place on earth. There was only what was real and no unreal, no pretending. And I lost my mind. God madness is good madness.
See if you can make sense of that. I’m only just getting my head around it.
I know now why Bhagavan Nityananda did not speak or convey teachings. How can you sustain a normal conversation for longer than a few minutes in that place? It is too easy to slip away.
This week I found that my spiritual name is a name of Lord Krishna, I like it, thanks Guruji.
Steadily I’m coming down to earth and the more unreal it seems that all of this happens. But I’m not worried. I have a deep faith in God.
I am not concerned with the fluctuations of my waking mind.
It’s said that we lose the feeling of Ganeshpuri when we return to Australia. I say to that, ‘so what–why should I care?’ If it is that natural then it’s the way it is supposed to be.
Funny! I had this idea that I once lived in or close to Ganeshpuri as a Muslim. The place felt as comfortable as a childhood place I left and then returned to later in life. There was a strong sense of familiarity about the place.
Sri Ramana is the gentlest of souls. Truly the love and peace of this place is at first too much. Juxtaposed is the power of the mountain [Arunachala] which exudes Shakti.
But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate. Ramana Ashram is the perfect cure for this power and turmoil and madness.
But as time went by the turmoil settles like dirt in a jar of agitated water. And the peace of the place becomes apparent in oneself.
Enough for now. God bless. With love.
One Christmas when I was around fifteen I was watching a movie about the life of Jesus. I was terrified and shocked by the crucifixion and the horror people could perpetrate. But I was also in awe of the disciples. As I watched a scene in which a disciple spoke of his devotion to Christ I was moved to tears. ‘Too bad,’ I thought, ‘that a relationship like that isn’t possible today. I would like to have that experience. I would like to be a disciple.’
Many years later when I met my Guru I was overjoyed to discover that discipleship was still available. I understood that Jesus was a Guru and that Gurus exist now and will exist always.
The love of a disciple for the master is beautiful, vulnerable and poignant. A disciple who has surrendered to the Guru is naked. A disciple offers their ego to the Guru to banish individuality and to lay bare the darkest secrets of his or her psyche. The desires to remain an individual, to do well, to have approval, to be loved and accepted, to be first among many, must die.
Once before God, before the Guru, I was riding the bus downtown. As I sat there, I was aware of an ache in my heart. I looked around at the passengers wondering if their hearts also ached. As I watched them the veil between me and them faded. I could see suffering etched on their faces, masks of ugly pain. It was as though every hurtful event had left deep emotional scars. The past somehow doomed them to misery.
The vision scared me. I wondered, ‘is there a way to escape the pain of life? Is there a way to be happy? Is that going to happen to me? Is suffering going to scar me? What is the purpose of all this? What does life mean?’
Some kind of discipleship is necessary if we are going to learn anything. As children we disciple ourselves to our parents, to our teachers, and to our friends. I loved horseback riding and became a kind of disciple to my teacher, whom I loved very much. I could not find that same love or feeling in school.
By the time I could read and write I had lost what little enjoyment I found in school. My mind rebelled against using my intellect. Language was the only subject I liked because it came easily. Nothing the teachers said gave me a sense of purpose, love or self-knowledge. I was bored and the teachers seemed as uninspired as I was.
My mind wandered into gloomy feelings of doubt, disappointment and frustration. If a subject had interested me then I would have applied myself. But none did. Instead my mind dwelt on the psychic discomfort in my inner world. And, there was no subject to address it.
Disciples, on the other hand, mostly learn by osmosis, by watching and observing the Guru, by being in the Guru’s company and by soaking up the spiritual energy, the Shakti.
I love to learn at the feet of the Guru. To sit with fellow devotees in Satsang and hear the teachings on the Self, the Shakti, the Guru, and other spiritual matters is sublime. Satsang is the best company. Satsang never fails to uplift, is never dull, and always inspirational.
Studying and learning with Guruji however, is joyful, especially if the subject is Kashmir Shaivism. There is an inherent aliveness in Shaivite texts. But even Patanjali and Vedanta are pleasurable. Guruji has always taught from esoteric yogic texts with humour and warmth. He had the capacity to make clear the hidden meaning in the aphorisms. He fields questions with sensitivity and wisdom; he invites discussion, objections and skepticism.
When I first started studying these texts with him I was surprised that I could understand even the most mysterious ones. Naturally I have my own quirky way of relating to them. But that is the greatness of learning with the Guru. A wise teacher will encourage a student to take what makes sense, and discard what doesn’t. When learning with the Guru I feel the presence of God and the meaning becomes clear.
In his book Satsang with Baba, Baba said:
The Guru’s feet refer to the Being in whom the Guru stands rooted, and that Being is the Supreme Being, and that Being is the highest truth. The source of worship is the state of the inner centre in which the mind completely merges in meditation. The water of the Guru’s feet flows from the Guru to the disciple. When one attains the state beyond the distinction of you and me, beyond the distinction of mine and thine, outer and inner, Guru and disciple, then one can drink this nectar, the water of Guru’s feet.
Baba goes on to say that when a disciple merges with the Guru principle he or she becomes one with the source of stability, where the Guru’s Consciousness is anchored. That is worship, that is the source of love, that is oneness with the divine.
A disciple of a Hassidic master said:
‘I don’t come to listen to him speak, I come to watch him tie his shoe laces.’
I go to soak up Guru’s grace.
Sitting with the Guru is darshan. In darshan an alchemical synergy flows between the Guru and the disciple. It is a more intimate experience of Satsang. Like Satsang, it ignites the experience of God, the Self, and divine love. Shakti moves between guru and disciple in a Tantric flow of blissful energy. The Guru transmits grace and the disciple receives grace. This is the experience available to us when we sit with a true Guru.
Once in Baba’s Ganeshpuri ashram in the early morning I was working in the courtyard. My shift finished and I sat to meditate. Baba was sitting on his perch. His perch was like a shelf, with room only for him, some precious photos, his peacock feathers, some statues and other gifts to give away. He routinely sat here. Managers, devotees and ashramites would come and speak to him.
As soon as I sat the electric current of the Shakti moved between us. No words were necessary. I was one with him; he was my very own Self. People approached, spoke to him and walked away. These movements did not disturb the divinity that connected us. We were one being. The intimacy, love and acceptance was beautiful. I thought only about God and the present moment. I relished the love for about half an hour. Slowly as more people came my mind became distracted and I lost the thread. I still felt the connection but it was less intimate.
Sometimes darshan is divine but sometimes it can bring up the most painful and fearful thoughts and feelings. The Shakti moves to wash away negativity, blocks, all of the obstacles to the divine experience of darshan. It is painful if we let fear or desire get in the way.
Discipleship is not a career choice, it is a calling. To surrender to discipleship is a kind of self-acceptance, an acknowledgment of the yearning to know God. To deny the calling can cause unbearable pain. This yearning may make no sense from a worldly point of view. It only makes sense from an inner point of view.
Baba once said that a worthy disciple is one who becomes absorbed in the Guru. A good disciple merges with the Guru’s highest state of Consciousness, and eventually attains permanent oneness with the Self. This is my goal in life–to know God, to be close to God and to serve God.
I haven’t always been the most compliant disciple, or the best disciple or perhaps the most worthy. But, I am a disciple and, God willing, I shall always remain one.
The following was submitted by a devotee.
I’m in India, Ganeshpuri sitting on the Guru’s floor. The cool of the floor meets my old knees. A soft cloth is in one hand, I am gently washing his floor. My other hand supports my body – the floor is being cleaned. I feel present, with the cloth, the hand and the Shakti. What a delight. So much Shakti.
Two devotees walk around beating their chests like bouncers in a night club. I can’t work out what’s happening, I feel incredible bliss.
My roommate and I are sick. We are drunk with Shakti. Baba talks about this, but I don’t know what it means.
So much sweat and sleep! The doctor comes and gives us medicine. We feel the cool and quiet of Mandagni, Fire Mountain. My tearing thoughts knock but I sleep, they knock again. I cry. I’m missing the Guru and satsang, but hold on.
A couple of days and nights of calm bathes us in Fire Mountain’s restorative love and our bodies are ready. Mother Shakti takes us, her children back to the Guru’s feet for more.
It’s been huge, something is gonna blow.
This is adapted from a talk I gave the National Gallery of Victoria.
We meditate upon that transcendent reality from
Whom the universe springs, in whom it abides
And into whom it returns,
Because He is present in all existing things…
We meditate upon Him who is self-conscious and self-effulgent…
On account of whom the creation shines as a reality and
Who excludes illusion by his own Self-effulgent glory. (Bhagavatam page xiv)
Thus begins the Bhagavatam, the Book of God, one of Hinduism’s most holy texts, the story of the birth, life and death of Lord Krishna. Sages have gathered in a holy city to perform a yagna, a fire ritual and to hear spiritual discourse. They invite Sūta, who they call ‘the master of all the scriptures’ to give a summary on ‘how man will instantly be delivered from this ever-whirling cycle of birth and death.’
Sūta replies saying:
‘Man should constantly endeavor to do that which generates devotion to Lord Krishna—devotion which is motiveless, which knows no obstruction, and as a result of which one realizes the all-blissful God.’(2nd January page I.2)
Many Hindu texts take the form of conversations between a Guru and a disciple. The disciple is in a state of apathy, weighed down by sorrow, and the Guru works diligently to teach the disciple by anecdote, story and example in order to free him or her from suffering.
In the customary style of teaching Sūta narrates a conversation between King Parikshit, who is destined to die in seven days, and Shukadev, a great sage, who has agreed to impart his wisdom to the dying king.
Their conversation goes on uninterrupted for seven days prior to the king’s death, during which the king does not eat, drink or sleep. Shuka tells the king that the true goal in life is to give up sensual enjoyment and embrace the supreme absolute truth, embodied in the teachings and life of Shri Krishna.
Hindu theology differs from Western in that it says the sages, saints, great beings and Gurus, the ‘son of God’ take birth now, and always. There is never a time when a great being does not exist.
The Bhagavatam says there are three types of people incarnating at all times: human beings, wicked people and those inclined toward divinity, or gods, who are known as Avatars, Gurus, sages and seers.
The difference between Gurus, sages and Avatars is that an Avatar is born self-realized, with full knowledge and experience of their divinity and oneness with the Lord. They are souls who ‘descend into the lower realm,’ into the world, for a special purpose. Avatars incarnate when the suffering of mankind is overpowering joy; evil is rising over good; or by the intense yearning of devotees for their beloved Lord to manifest in human form.
Gurus, seers and sages are born with an inclination to know the Self. They are conscious of their separation from the Lord and but must do sadhana, spiritual practice and austerity in order to realize the Self and connect with the Divine.
An Avatar’s life, is a ‘lila’, a play or sport of the Lord and is never ordinary, it is epic. As their lives unfold there are dramatic incidences of violence, unconditional love, confusion, self-realization, knowledge, apathy, sorrow, anger, despair, greed, fear, jealousy, desire, lust and finally, moksha¸ freedom from suffering for there devotees.
‘Whenever there is decline of righteousness here and an increase of sin, then the lord manifests himself.’ (3rd August page IX.24)
Krishna’s life is typical of an Avatar’s, which is full of tests and miracles. As he overcomes the obstacles he teaches those witnessing them and those who are eager to hear the truth. The outcome of each challenge shows how right understanding leads to right action and right action leads to freedom.
The energy of an Avatar represent different aspects of God’s power: Brahma, the creative energy, Shiva, the energy of dissolution and change and Vishnu, the sustaining energy or “that which abides”. Each has a feminine counterpart or Goddess as a consort. She is known as Shakti, the Holy Mother, Maya, or the great Goddess. She is also called Kali, Durga, Devi, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Radha and Parvati; her names are many and represent the female aspect of God. Her responsibility is to manifest the material world, the mission and work of the Lord, the avatar and the Guru. She gives outer form to the Lord’s highest attainment and spiritual goals. She embodies power and energy, compassion and wisdom.
The masculine energy is still, quiet, peaceful, tranquil and calm; the feminine energy is dynamic, powerful, creative. He is a canvas; She is the artist who gives shape, colour and texture. He is a screen; She is the image on the screen. He is a lake; She is the rippling wave on the lake. He is the invisible; She is the visible.
The scriptures say that the masculine and feminine energies unite in cosmic ecstasy to create the whole universe. Although they appear separate they are one and never apart. Shakti is the inner potency of the Lord manifested as the world and is His spiritual inspiration.
The Lord and Shakti incarnate in order to experience themselves as ‘other’ and to play out the dance of separation and oneness. They mirror the positive and negative, the dark and the light, the possibility of liberation and the temptation of destruction. In this cosmic joining the masculine and feminine reflect and manifest the highest spiritual potential, the personal and divine Self of a human being.
Krishna was accompanied by two main Shaktis, Radha, head Gopi, and her friends the cowgirls, who he bewitched and beguiled in his youth and Rukmini, the wife of his elder years.
The exact date of Krishna’s birth was not recorded, however most scholars agree that it coincided with the advent of the Kali Yuga, the age of darkness which began at least 3000 years before the birth of Christ. Some scholars think that Krishna was a folk hero whose valor became legend over generations, and he took on God-like attributes. Some say that he may not have been one person and that his story is a series of fables of different men from different eras morphed into one man. Regardless of whether he was one person or many, today Krishna is worshipped by millions of Hindus as an incarnation of the God Vishnu and is regarded as the “Lord of Love”.
Love inspires everyone. Artists, writers, poets, and actors search for inspiration to give voice to their craft out of love. Others seek love in order to give a focus to life and anchor it. Love settles us and gives us a purpose for living.
Love is the sustaining power of our lives. We create works of art, build a career and a family and sustain life by love, by giving it our attention, energy and good heart. Our lives are reflections of loving thoughts and feelings. When we withdraw love, we stop sustaining what we have created and our life begins to fall apart. When we again turn to our life with love, it flourishes.
Love is the reason and purpose of Krishna’s birth. His mission is to reflect God’s love and to show his devotees how to attain it and hold onto it.
Avatars never take birth alone, not only do they have a Shakti; they are accompanied by a host of companions. Each has a spiritual attitude, a bhav toward the Lord. Some are friends, lovers, wife or husband, colleagues, servants, advisors, gurus, demigods, saints and enemies. They are a mandala, a circle of wholeness and completion, each with a particular role to play in the Avatar’s drama. And so Krishna is accompanied by a retinue of associates who help him fulfill his destiny.
The Radha bhav, the attitude of the Gopis toward Krishna, is said to be the highest spiritual feeling that a person can hold toward God. The Gopis consider Krishna to be husband and lover for Krishna embodies everything that is holy and sacred. They are pulled toward him in order to reach ‘Supreme Love’.
Their love has some of the qualities of personal romantic love, the love we look for when we search for a partner. However, it is much more than the personal love most of us know. Personal love can be contaminated by desire for pleasure and possessiveness. Inevitably, when romance and Eros fade it falls under the influence of fear, desire, anger and attachment.
Radha bhav is complex, mysterious, and contains the bittersweet experience called ‘the bliss of the pain of separation’. The relationship is more piquant from the dance of union and separation, the longing to merge with the Lord or Guru, the pain of separation from Him and finally permanent union with Him.
The Gopis feel an intense attraction, a yearning to be close to their object of love, Krishna. This is partially due to Krishna’s mission, which is to draw them close to him so that they can realise unconditional love and become an inspiration for others. However their love must be free of selfishness or any negative emotion that separates them from Krishna. Their spiritual task is to hold to devotion, the highest understanding and love for Krishna without attachment, without wanting anything in return.
Krishna energy is charming, fickle and playful. Krishna types are usually the naughty boys that girls adore and mothers fear. Mothers have a sixth sense about the Krishna energy and encourage their daughters to avoid it. Of course, they don’t and heartbreak is usually inevitable. In the contemporary novel ‘The Hindi Bindi Club’ one mother’s advice to her daughter is, ‘play around with Krishna but marry Shiva.’ Shiva is loyal, faithful and steady.
The Krishna of the Bhagavatam is much more than a charming young man; he is the Lord of the universe and has a serious purpose. His mission is to return righteousness, divine love and prosperity to the people of the land of Vraja.
As our story begins, at the onset of the age of darkness, violence, greed, dishonesty and jealousy are on the rise. There is great fear and confusion in the land where Krishna is about to take birth. Kamsa, a wicked king whose addiction to pleasure has destroyed his wisdom and compassion, rules the kingdom of Vraja.
Kamsa arranges the marriage of his sister, Devaki, to a local king, Vasudev. On their wedding day Kamsa hears a voice in his mind that tells him that Devaki’s eighth child will slay him. He decides to kill Devaki and her future husband. Upon hearing their fate, Vasudev convinces Kamsa to imprison them both instead of murdering Devaki. Kamsa agrees with a promise that he will slay every child born to them and so he does.
Years pass and evil has risen. It is time for the Lord to incarnate. He speaks to his Shakti and asks Her to incarnate with him saying that:
‘You will earn a place of glory in the heart of humanity. People will erect temples for you and worship you in your various aspects….’(5th August, page X.2)
The night of the birth of the eighth child Krishna, the gates of the prison mysteriously open. Vasudev recognizes the hand of the Lord in this magic. He carries Krishna to Vrindavan, where he exchanges him for the girl child, the newborn daughter of Yashoda, wife of King Nanda, ruler of Vraja who will foster Krishna into manhood.
When Kamsa hears of the birth, he comes to kill the newborn baby girl. She manifests as the Supreme Goddess, the holy mother Mahamaya, and scares him off. Laughing at his folly she says:
‘What is the use of trying to kill me, O fool! Your death has taken birth somewhere else. Therefore, do not harm the innocent.’ (8th August, page X.4)
Since then the divine mother has been worshipped everywhere under many different names. Unable to slay her, Kamsa vows to destroy all babies under the age of ten months.
As the story of Krishna’s birth and Kamsa’s failure becomes known, the people of the valley herald the birth of an incarnation of Vishnu, sent to release them from Kamsa’s tyranny.
As Kamsa’s wickedness grows so too does the divine power of Lord Krishna. From the moment of his birth it is obvious he is not an ordinary person. Miracles happen around him. As a young child he is shepherd to the village cows; he defends them against wild animals and thieves, thereby safeguarding the villagers’ income, food and wellbeing. Krishna’s sweet nature attracts the villagers to him and they share in the ecstasy of his spiritual joy. He plays various roles. He is the magical child who teases the village mothers, steals their butter and hides things from them.
When Kamsa sends a host of demons to slay Krishna and others, he easily wins every battle, even as a young boy. His reputation grows and the whole valley celebrates him as an incarnation of the Lord. He is constantly demonstrating his mystical power that confirms their belief that he is none other than the supreme Lord Vishnu.
Krishna’s older brother, Balaram, who avoided death at the hands of Kamsa by mystical means, always accompanies Krishna. Krishna and his brother enchant the villagers, for a radiant light seems to follow them wherever they go.
‘Here comes Krishna, the protector of Vraja and the cows, with elders bowing to him. He appears fatigued, but even so he is beautiful and delightful to look at, with his garland covered with the dust of the hooves of the cows—his dear ones. As he strolls in, like a little elephant, he removes the distress in our hearts caused by our separation from him during the day.’ (10th September page X.35)
Later in his life he is a great King and wise Guru but for now he is the sustainer of lives and playmate of the Gopis. As Krishna grows up he becomes the enchanter, the playful seducer of tender hearts. He is flirtatious and teases the cowgirls without mercy. He calls them to him and then runs away, thereby increasing their yearning to be in his company. His romantic play of oneness and separation intensifies as he leaves his childhood behind and enters manhood.
‘It was summer. But in Vrndavan, it was forever springtime. The blazing sun shone pleasantly over the valley, bringing warmth but not heat. The air was constantly cooled by the numerous ponds and was laden with the fragrance and the pollen of flowers. The earth was thickly carpeted with many-hued flowers for the Lord to sport on; and the birds and beasts entertained him with their sweet notes. He loved them. He was love.’ (23rd August, X.18/19)
Then autumn followed:
‘As the moon is surrounded by stars, so Krishna, surrounded by his friends, brought delight to the hearts of all. The temperate climate brought relief to the hearts of all except the women of Vrndavan whose hearts had been stolen by Krishna.’
And so the scene is set for Krishna to show the Gopis their spiritual destiny. They had already lost their hearts to him. During the months of December and January they rose early every day and bathed in the river. Afterward they worshipped the goddess Katyayani and prayed:
‘Oh Goddess Katyayani, please make Krishna my husband’. (26th August, X.22)
Upon hearing their prayer Krishna replies:
‘I know your hearts’ desire, O chaste girls, and it shall be fulfilled. Desire directed towards me is no desire at all, even as seed roasted in fire is no seed. You will soon realize the fruit of your worship of the Goddess.’ (26th August, page X.22)
In other words the yearning directed toward the Lord is free of negative consequence. Because their prayer is full of devotion for the Lord, it is only a matter of time before Krishna grants their wishes.
The Gopis are either married or betrothed. Certainly no husband, betrothed or parent would allow his or her daughters to sport unattended with a man, even if he is the Lord. So then, what of their attitude?
The Gopis fear their husbands and parents might disown them for visiting Krishna un-chaperoned and tell Krishna of their doubt. Krishna assures them that there is nothing to fear, and there is not.
Their husbands, parents and betrothed are sporting with Krishna also, in order to know the love of the Self. Aware of his great spiritual power and radiance they curse themselves. They are guilty and embarrassed in front of the knowing eye of Krishna. They admit that many of their religious rites and sacrifices have only worked to make them selfish and greedy. Praying to Krishna they plea:
‘Surely we are blessed to have had these ladies as our partners in life, for through them we too can develop devotion to the Lord’. (28th August, page X.23)
Already the Gopis are fulfilling their spiritual destiny by example of pure devotion that has moved their husbands to self-examination. Krishna counsels all of the villagers to be like a tree saying:
‘Blessed is the life of a tree. They afford food and shelter to all beings, and they never turn anyone away without sharing what they have. By their fruits, leaves, flowers, roots, bark and firewood they serve all. This indeed is the greatest duty—that one serves another and works out one’s salvation with the life, wealth, intelligence and speech that one has.’ (26th August, page X.22)
Krishna takes every opportunity to teach and encourage the villagers.
One autumn day there is a special sweetness in the air. The Gopis are constantly meditating on Krishna, yearning to become one with him, the villagers are pining to catch a glimpse of him, and the whole valley is alive and glowing from his radiance. The atmosphere is intoxicating.
The story goes on:
‘It was autumn and in the clear blue sky the lovely full moon rose. The setting was ideal, thought Krishna, for enacting a divine drama. Krishna was seated in the forest and, wishing to shower his grace upon the gopis, he played a few notes on his flute. The music fanned the flame of love that constantly burned in their hearts of these women.
‘Spell-bound they began to arrive where Krishna was seated. At the moment they heard the flute of Krishna they dropped whatever they were doing and turned their steps towards him. Not one could restrain them. It did not matter if they were not properly dressed and adorned. At the first sound of the music, their hearts, their soul, their very life and already reached the feet of Krishna; the body followed without argument.
‘Some, however, found that all the exits from their house had been bolted and locked. Contemplating Krishna in their hearts they sat with their eyes closed. Intense longing burned in them—and it burned the residue of ignorance and bad deeds. In deep meditation they embraced the Krishna of their soul, and the bliss they enjoyed worked more deeply on the residue of past good karma in them. Thus rid of the consequences of both good and bad karma, and resorting to Krishna, though as a lover, they attained so: one who loves or hates; fears or befriends the Lord is united with him. This is the very purpose of his incarnation: to make himself easily accessible to everyone.’ (2nd September, page X.29)
The Bhagavatam says that any thought, whether positive or negative, when turned toward the Lord, invites the Lord into the heart. And so, even the wicked can attain liberation, even though they meditate upon Krishna with grievance or evil. The Gopis’ work is the opposite, to meditate on Krishna without attachment or grievance.
When they arrive Krishna speaks:
‘Welcome blessed ladies! What shall we do? But, why have you come away from your homes at night? Your parents and husbands will be worried. It may be that you are attached to me, for I am the Self of all in which everyone finds delight. But it is the duty of a married woman to be devoted to her husband, regarding him as a god, even if he is wicked, unlucky, aged, sick or poor. It is not necessary that my devotee should by physically close to me, but should hear and sing my glories and meditate upon me. Hence, return to your homes soon!’ (2nd September, page X.29)
The Gopis reply:
‘Do not spurn us Lord. We have completely renounced all the objects of this world and have resorted to your feet. Kindly accept us as your servants. For even so does the Lord of the universe treat the seekers after liberation. You have taught us that service to our husbands is our foremost duty. Let that be so. But are you not the very self of all beings—hence the very self of our husbands? So, by serving you we are serving them. Even they who perform their duties and scriptural rituals are only worshipping you….
‘Since we touched your lotus feet, our hearts do not wish to hold anyone else dear. The goddess of wealth vies with the sacred basil leaf for the dust of your feet. All the world seeks the blessings of that goddess; but we seek the dust of your feet. Listening to the music of your flute even birds and beasts are entranced. So how could concern for respectability restrain us from being magnetically drawn to you by that music? You have taken birth to save us from all fears and sufferings; hence, we beseech you, place your divine hands on our hearts and on our breasts.’ (3rd September, page X.29)
Krishna, moved by their plea spends time in their company. They sing, and run about in the garden. He leads them to the river bank and plays in the water. As they soak up his loving attention, the mood shifts. Each thinks they are the chosen one, superior to all other women. Krishna the indweller of all, knows their thoughts and in order to destroy their pride he vanishes. They are immediately stricken with grief. One moment their hearts are filled with love and the next overwhelming grief.
‘In the loneliness and silence of the forest they could ask no human being about Krishna’s whereabouts, but they asked the flowers, the shrubs and the vines.’ (4th September, page X.30)
When one Gopi (perhaps Radha) thinks, ‘Krishna loves me best; I am His favorite; or I am the most beautiful’; they lose touch with divinity, their egos expand and the divine vision leaves them. They again find themselves in separation.
Even though Krishna plays with them as an equal, he is their Guru and insists they renounce possessiveness. They must understand that love and oneness is sustained only in the awareness—we are one; Love is one; Krishna belongs to everyone.
For hours they search for Krishna to no avail. He is not to be found while they are in the state of attachment. Eventually realizing their folly they stop searching and sit to pray:
‘Because you were born there, Vraja is even more prosperous. Indeed, the goddess of wealth dwells there permanently now. Beloved, see how your devotees are wandering about in search of you. By the shafts of your love-laden eyes you have robbed us of our very lives. Yet you have indeed saved us, the people of Vraja, time and again from diverse calamities. We know that you are not the playmate of the Gopis, and that you are the indwelling witness of all beings. You have taken birth among the satvata [the pure] at the specific prayer of the creator.’ (6th September, page X.31)
While they are absorbed in meditation Krishna appears, ‘looking like the enchanter Cupid’. He again leads them to the bank of the river where they find a sandy beach that is illumined by a flood of moonlight. There the Gopis prepare a seat for him with their scarves. Krishna sits, surrounded by the beautiful Gopis, a heavenly sight. Sitting close to him they question him:
‘Some love those who love them, others love even those who do not love them, and yet others do not love even those who love them! Can you tell us why?’
‘Friends love one another actuated by selfish interests; there is no true friendliness there, but only self-interest. Others love even those who do not love them—this is like paternal affection; here the love is actuated by duty and friendliness, and it is blameless. Yet others do not love even those that love them: they are either sages who delight in their own self, or those whose desires have all been fulfilled, ungrateful people, or they who hate their own benefactors and elders.’
‘As for me, I do not love even those who love me, so that they may never forget me nor take me for granted, but remain forever immersed in quest of me—like a poor man who found a pearl which he lost and is, therefore, forever looking for it.
‘I disappeared from your midst for awhile but I tell you, even if I am born again and again for many millennia, I will not be able to repay the debt I owe you nor to recompense your pure love for me.’
Enthralled by the loving words of Krishna, the Gopis form a circle around him. By his own divine power he appears between every two and he commences the rasa dance. Sensing this divine play the Celestials gathers in heaven to watch this rare scene. Krishna and the Gopis dance, their bodies sway, rock and whirl. Their dresses and tresses fly around. Some are overcome by fatigue and cling to Krishna’s shoulder; some fondly kiss his arm and swoon in ecstasy; some press his hands to their bosom. Thus they play and sport with the Lord in this magical atmosphere:
‘Embracing them, touching them, looking at them, smiling at them, the Lord sported as a child would play with its own reflection.’
‘It is said that the moon, the stars, the planets and the constellations, stood still, witness this wondrous play of the Lord who was in truth reveling in his own self all the time.
‘Then, surrounded by the Gopis, he entered the waters of the river. There again he played with the gopis who sprinkled him with water as the celestials watched and rejoiced. Afterwards Krishna roamed the groves and gardens on the bank of the river surrounded by the Gopis.’ (8th September, page X.33)
Again the question of propriety arises. King Parikshit who has been listening with deep interest asks:
‘How was it that the Lord, who incarnated as Krishna to establish righteousness, thus sported with others’ wives?’ (8th September, page X.33)
‘What appears to be transgression of duty is noticed in the conduct of the great, but it does not taint them. A wise man would accept their precepts as authoritative and emulate only those actions of theirs, which are in accord with the highest teachings, not others.
‘Non-volitional, spontaneous actions of those who have transcended ego are totally unselfish and are beyond the realm of virtue and vice.’ (8th September, page X.33)
Krishna lives fearlessly without ego. And so the villagers’ spiritual task is to see Krishna with a divine eye, and not with an ordinary ‘human’ eye. He is not an interloper, who has come to tear apart lives, but he is a healer of broken hearts and a destroyer of the negative karma evil brings.
Krishna as an incarnation of the Lord, is the indweller all, of the Gopis and of their husbands. Even though he appears to be a person, a separate human being, he is not. He is not a worldly threat, but a spiritual call to see the world through the eyes of the Lord. Hence the Gopis’ husbands are accepting. Krishna’s love is not carnal and even though the Gopis’ husbands suspect there is physical affection, they are drawn into the spiritual ecstasy resulting from the dance. This was the moment of testing for the Gopis and their dear ones, to see Krishna as the inner Self of all, not as another. This was their opportunity to embrace the Lord in pure love and so be united with him.
Shortly after the dance Krishna was called to Mathura to take up his kingly responsibilities. And so, even though the Gopis personified true and pure devotion to him alas, he left them.
They pined and yearned for him. The yearning to hold the experience of him burned within them. They embraced their destiny by becoming one with him spiritually.
Later concerned about their welfare, Krishna sends his disciple Uddhava to give them a message. Upon seeing he has come from Krishna they ask:
Why have you come here and what will you gain by singing the glory of Krishna to us? Having stolen our hearts once, he has deserted us. What need of our friendship has he? For his sake we have fully controlled our inborn tendencies, likes and dislikes, and are leading the life of mendicants. The very mention of his name fills us with distress and despair. Can you take us back to Krishna?’ (22nd September, page X.47)
‘You have with your own lives laid a unique path to god-realisation—that of supreme love. Hear now Krishna’s special message to you:
‘You can never be separated from me, for I am the life and very self of all. I create, sustain and withdraw the universe, by myself, within myself. The self is ever-pure, it is consciousness itself and should be sought in and through the waking, dream and deep sleep states. At all times remember that this world is not different from an object in a dream. It is not necessary that you should be physically near me as away from me you will be spiritually closer to me.’ (22nd September, page X.47)’
The gopis are delighted to hear Krishna’s message. Moved by their profound understanding and seeing their love for Krishna Uddhava spends many months learning the art of devotion.
‘These village girls have fulfilled the purpose of human life, thought Uddhava. I salute the dust of the feet of the gopis, who uplift the three worlds by remembering and singing Krishna’s name.’ (23rd September, page X.47)
When it is time to leave, Uddhava praises their spiritual attainment saying:
‘May our minds and all our thoughts rest forever in the lotus feet of Krishna. May our speech always glorify him. May our bodies bow to him who is all-pervading, and may we ever serve him. Whatever be our destiny, may we ever be devoted to Lord Krishna.’ (23rd September, page X.47)
This ends the story of Krishna and the Gopis who to this day, remain the shining light of the Bhakti movement, the path of love.
I am not sure if the story of Krishna and the Gopis dispels the confusion and mystery of love or not. One thing is clear, however, that the ultimate test of our commitment to wanting our hearts to be full of love is, paradoxically, according to Krishna and the Gopis, to keep giving our love to God and the Guru in every situation, especially when our hearts break and it is the last thing we want to do.