9. The Love-Slaves of God
In the golden era when Indian civilization was at its height, and Eros was earnestly pursued as a spiritual discipline, many wondrous things took place that in the West would seem exceeding strange. The primal scenario of Pan or the Devil emerging from the forest to seduce the wives and daughters of men could here be enacted by an alpha male who had attained Supernal enlightenment. Not only would he drive his paramours to the pinnacles of physical pleasure but to the heights of divine unfoldment. Surely it happened any number of times, and the tales and legends conflated into a sacred myth which still holds sway over the hearts of millions.
Upon a lustrous night in the village of Vrindavan there was heard the sound of a flute that stirred every female from slumber, filled them all with passionate desire, and drew them to a moonlit glade where they were met not by a furry creature with hoofs and horns, but by God incarnate in the form of a beauteous blue-skinned youth named Krishna. At first glance his inclinations and behavior bear little resemblance to the charioteer of the Bhagavad Gita, yet the premise is that this was him in his early days. This retroactive biography first appeared in a sacred scripture in the sixth century CE, almost a thousand years after the Gita was orally composed; and the myth became so popular that it was retold and embellished for a thousand years more, gradually degrading from the sublimely divine to the pornographically diabolic.
In the earliest version, the music of Krishna’s flute opened the hearts of the women before they had even opened their eyes from sleep. They were called Gopis, or milkmaids, and young Krishna himself was Govindan, a cowherd. When the Gopi girls gathered around Govinda in the glade, he rebuked them for eluding their fathers, brothers, and husbands to come to him. They honestly replied that they could not help themselves ~ they were overwhelmed by the magnetic attraction of his presence, his potent manly way of radiating the glory of God. In a teasing show of resistance he told them to go away; instead they threw themselves at his lotus feet and cried: “We are determined to become thy slaves!”
Only then, after winning the insistent consent of the women, did Krishna resume playing his flute, and they all began to dance. In the early scriptures the climax comes as Krishna and the Gopis dance in a big circle holding hands, and they all become One in the pure white light of God’s love, just as it still happens to trance-dancers today. But by the time we get to the tenth contury, we find Krishna caressing the girls in the dance, stimulating them to erotic frenzy. They strip off their halters and in thinly-disguised lyrics beg him to take them in the act of love. Just when it seems that they’re about to fall upon Krishna in unbridled passion, he disappears into thin air. The Gopis are left in that supremely frustrating state of desire unsated at its peak. But they spot Krishna’s footprints in the soft earth leading into the forest, and they set off to follow them in search of their Lord.
The scriptures that closed at this juncture were able to make a point about the illusoriness of carnal desire, and to exhort the devotees to constrain themselves as they followed the traces of God through the world, unto a divine consummation that may come only after death. But inevitably the tale was taken up by poets with a more worldly bent, and the canon reopens to reveal that Krishna disappeared from the midst of the Gopis in order to carry off the one he had found most desirable. But she waxed proud at being so chosen, so he vanished again; she plopped onto the ground, and was overtaken by the other Gopis. They all followed Krishna’s tracks until they heard his flute again, and found him on the banks of a lake, the Moon reflected on its placid surface. They resumed the Rasa Lila, the dance of divine love. Krishna miraculously multiplied his form, so that he was able to dance with each girl in passionate embrace, all at the same time.
Again the dance crescendoed into a peak of collective passion, and if the obvious climax was ever explicitly penned by a daring poet, the scripture was lost in the Muslim purge. We are left with the transparent symbol of the dancers jumping into the lake in one fell swoop; Krishna is likened to the thousand-petaled lotus of the Crown Chakra floating on the water, with the Gopis enveloping him as a swarm of bees. So the multiple forms of Krishna reintegrated into the Solar Lotus, and in another beautiful symbol the Gopis merged into One as the Moon. Then their conjugal union was the reconvergence of the ultimate God and Goddess into Ardhanarishvara, the divine androgyne.