I've been following the metaphor of Krishna and the gopis seeking parallels with my practice of Siddha Yoga and the disappearance of Gurumayi, only to find the trail turn as cold as my sadhana. The gopis are abandoned, lost and alone; it appears Krishna really had been playing them all along. He got bored and grabbed his first chance to move to the big city and take eight queens as wives. The comments on the last post in which this betrayal was narrated intrigue me. No one seems to have much sympathy for the gopis, and the only advice we are able to muster is on the order of "get a life" or (and I love this one!) "he's just not that into you, ladies". Are we impatient with those 16,000 long-suffering cow-girls because they remind us too much of ourselves? Or is it because theirs is a cautionary fable. Avatars and Perfected Masters are fantastic at foreplay; the earth moves, the stars tremble and fall and all that. But they make lousy lovers, never sticking around long enough to engender the kind of trust that needn't be blind, or to help shoulder the burden of the daily grind. And if they're present to share our sorrows it is only because we will them to be; in the face of their absence it's the only comfort we've got.
In other words, the rasalila was one big dry hump.
The tale of Krishna and the gopis has been controversial for as long as it's been told. For centuries a debate raged among Hindu scholars regarding whether their love was svakiya (legitimate) or parakiya (illegitimate). The question was at last settled definitvely during a six-month long theological smack-down. I'll let Calasso relate how it ended:
"In the end, the disciples who upheld that the love between Krishna and the gopis was conjugal, legitimate, conceded defeat. They underwrote a document in which they accepted as correct the doctrine they had always abhored. But what were the decisive arguments that sealed the triumphant sovereignity of the illegitimate? Parakiya is that which brings the metaphysical element in love to the point of incandescence. And what is that element? Separation. Never is the rasa of separation so intense as in illegitimate passion. Furthermore, whatever is parakiya is denied the permanence of possession. It is a state in which one can only occasionally be possessed. This corresponds to the essence of every relationship with Krishna. Finally: the woman who abandons herself to a love that is parakiya risks more than other women. To violate the rules of conjugal order is to deny this world's bonds and abandon oneself to what calls to us from beyond our world. Such love does not seek to bear fruit and it never will. Whatever seeks to bear fruit will consume itself in that fruit. While that which disregards every fruit is inexhaustible."
It took the good scholars of India only half a year of intense debate to come to the truth any fan of the Lifetime channel or devotee of Italian opera knows in their heart: forbidden love is the hottest. Like the composers of grand opera, the rishis of ancient India lived in cultures steeped in tradition and tightly girded by the strictures of religion. Love was forbidden for one reason alone: it violated or threatened to sever the bonds that culture held most sacred—whether of marriage, religion or clan.
We don't live in such a world (thank goddess). So, what is forbidden to us, who have inherited every freedom? To love someone who doesn't love us back. Unrequited love's a bore, so the song says, but only if you're stuck listening to your friend go on about 'the one that got away'. If you're the one who is mired in it, infatuation is endlessly fascinating. You get to play victim of the capriciousness of fate, martyr to the ideal of a love so true it thrives even when rejected. What never occurs to us is that this kind of love survives only because it isn't returned. Infatuation, like parakiya, depends on the element of separation. A lover who withholds their attention or, worse, allows you only an occasional taste of themselves like Krishna petting his gopis, remains forever idealized. You're free to project onto the tabula rasa of their indifference all the best qualities you long for in a lover. Such a love is dangerously seductive precisely because it is all ache and no release. Reality can never intrude on an idyll when it is conducted solely in fevered fantasy, bereft of the sort of cold shower delivered when your boyfriend forgets your anniversary, or goes out for beers with the boys leaving you to clean up their Super Bowl mess.
The relationship between devotee and guru in Siddha Yoga is petrified in just such idealized amber. In "The Perfect Relationship" (note the starkly naked message of the title) Baba Muktananda wrote about the difference between romantic love between two people, and the love that exists between disciple and guru. He says (from memory, my SY books are in storage and I see no need to cite chapter and verse) that mundane love is a business transaction, on the order of "you give me this and I'll give you that; stop doing this and I won't do that". The guru-disciple relationship has no such crass bargaining; it is all surrender to unconditional love. Baba meant to press home the superior purity of spiritual love, but he opens up a Pandora's box. His definition hews uncomfortably close to our experience of mundane infatuation and obsession. Wonderfully remote, physically present only in the stolen clasp of darshan, or as a blaze of orange just glimpsed before we lowered our eyes behind hands clasped in reverence, the guru played Krishna and we worshipful gopis played ecstatically along.
And now, like the gopis we are wandering in silence. Ok, maybe not silence, our ongoing online discussions prove that. One commenter asked what advice we should give the gopis of Vrndavana. Here's mine. You will love and you will be torn from that love. The duty of forsaken love is to extinguish itself without leaving behind the ash of bitterness. Because only you will taste of that bitterness.
"Parakiya is that which brings the metaphysical element in love to the point of incandescence"
"Jyota se jyota jagavo
Sadguru jyota se jyota jagavo."