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It was a summer evening, long ago and far away. On the outskirts of a village, Krishna, the dark skinned, laughing eyed Preceptor of the Universe, Bestower of Boons, Eternal Lord, played his flute as the sun sank in the west. He knew that the milkmaids of the village, the gopis, would hear his flute and heed its call. He knew they would come and dance, come and play, come and be with him in the moonlight.
Sure enough, as each gopi heard the flute she left what she was doing without looking back. Some left dishes still dirty, or butter unchurned. Some even left mothers in mid conversation or food to burn on the stove. The call of Krishna's flute was strong and they couldn't resist, they didn't want to resist.
Out into the forest they ran, into a clearing where Krishna stood with his flute. He was beautiful to look at and each gopi felt he was looking right at them. They began to dance around him, their ankle bells tinkling, their saris waving. He played his flute and the gopis danced. Some waved their arms in the air, some spun in circles and some bent their knees and waist, swaying with the flute music. The flowers decorating their neck and ears scenting the air and the gopis reached for their Lord of All Senses. As they reached for him he reached back, expanding himself to meet each gopi individually. Each gopi placed her hands on his shoulder and Krisna placed his hands on each gopi's shoulder. They smiled at him and their eyes twinkled at him. He laughed out loud, delighted with their delight. They danced and danced, waving their wrists, stamping their feet and twirling in the moonlight.
The bells and bangles of the gopis and the stamping and clapping of hands and feet joined with the singing of Krishna to fill the night. Some gopis twirled their saris, spinning with Krishna. Others sang back and forth with him, or stepped lightly in time with Beautiful Lord. Some clung tightly to him, crushing their flower garlands into his strong chest, while others barely touched him as they danced in time with the music. The singing and dancing, the twirling saris and intertwining arms was so beautiful that the moon paused in her track across the sky to watch. Gentle deer and sleepy birds watched from the edge of the forest. And Krishna and the gopis danced on, each gopi embracing Krishna as if he was there only for her. Each gopi completely satisfied with Krishna, The Soul of the Universe's touch and gaze.
The gopi's faces and arms dripped with sweat and Krisna wiped the droplets from their cheeks. Garlands of flowers lay crushed on the ground as the gopis, one by one, dropped their arms in exhaustion. Krishna, still expanded to be with each gopi individually, led them to the banks of the Yamuna river and poured the cool water over their faces and hands. They splashed him back playfully and their laughter filled the clearing. The gentle wind picked the scent of flowers from the garlands around the gopis neck and the blossoms in their hair and carried it up to the watching moon. Slowly, slowly, the moon sank, the sun began to rise and the gopis rested in the embrace of Krisna, each gopi held tight, held lovingly, held personally by the Endless Compassionate Lord.
This story of the rasa-lila (playful, beautiful dance) is told in the Bhagavata Purana, an ancient Hindu text, is usually used to illustrate the means and the ends of a life of bhakti, or pure devotion. It has been coming to me this month, though, to remind me of god's ability to love all of us, all the time, personally and individually. Krishna expands and holds each gopi in his arms so that they each feel he is there to dance just with them. The Goddess does this for all of us every day, expressing her motherlove for all of creation through her limitless, endless loving presence. It is mind blowing to think of it, really. The Bible says every hair on your head has been counted by God and every tree in the forest knows her love as much as each child does. Multiply that out even by the number of people, trees, birds and babies you know and it blows the mind. Now multiply it out by all the people who live, ever have lived and ever will live. God really is great. And she loves you. Hallelujah!
You can read more about Krishna and the Gopis by clicking on any of the images in this post, or by reading an etext version of the Bhagavata Purana chapter entitled The Rasa Dance.
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Mother's Moon 2009: Gifts from the Mother
Mother's Moon 2010: You Are the Mother's Beloved Child and Motherlove and Caring for the Environment
Mother's Moon 2011: Freedom and July