The Beauty Of The Gopi Symbol

The Foundations Of Bhakti Yoga

The Divine Gopis by Priti Ghosh

The foundations of bhakti Yoga are only to be found in the heart consecrated to the inner Divine, the Amour of the secret heart of the aspirant, for the Divine embraces his bhakta wholly in His personal bhava and accepts him as he is in his many-faced approach and through means conventional or otherwise. There are also foundations of stability of nature and spiritual forbearance of self descending in response to an ardent aspiration of the heart, and they form in an utter embrace of each other a synthesis of a silently self-ardent, a self-intimate and a self-expressive bhakti beyond the turbid streams of impure passions and religious extravagance. The purified heart is a fulcrum on which stands the ineffable movements of bhakti, and they become in their exalted heights of pure passion an incredible symbol of a perfect self-consecration to the inner Divine, the Paramour of the solitary heart of aspiration. A heart consecrated wholly to the inner Divine becomes a blissful song of delight, the highest intensity of which could be found in the lore of the Gopis, the happy beings of Krishna in the physical, and Radha is a spiritual acme of that intensity and passion, the very symbol of the high afflatus of a self-consecrated, a self-given heart. The Gopis are different in that they are beings of the divine Krishna in manifestation, a self-multitude of His immeasurable Love as much in the higher spiritual and vital as in the inner heart and in the forms and symbols of the outward terrestrial, and it was out of these marvelous syntheses had come a rich and many-sided tradition of self-adoration of the personal Divine as the Lord of all our existence. Humanity, as it is self-constituted at the present moment, is a sum of many egos, and is not yet an expression of the secret collective Soul, the binding alchemy of the Spirit. A multitude so driven by lower desires and urges of the flesh as well as of the mind cannot at all hope to understand the tradition of pure devotion or of its innumerable aspects and forms in the play of consciousness, for it only sees its imperfections reflected in the otherwise radiant symbols of Parabhakti, the acme of the aspiring heart merged wholly in the thought and movement of the divine Krishna, and seeks to implant impure motives to the wonderful lore of the Gopis or to distort the purity of the higher symbol by attributing to it a wayward and lascivious assumption of sexuality.

The trajectory of the heart towards finding the immanent Divine within often tends to digress into emotional movements of the lower vital or remains enchained to a long and redundant curve of external seeking through forms suited to easy comprehension or surface experience of the Deity in the active vital froth of turbid emotions and religious hysteria, and as a consequence of that, a symbol of a religious Chimera extolled and glorified instead of a wonderful inner movement leading to a happy discovery of Krishna in the seeking heart and of His fulfilment in the being of the earnest aspirant. Man lives in the rigour of a mental apparatus which determines as well as grossly limits his external life by foisting on his lower nature a dull routine within the bounds of its huge Machinery, and all that he becomes or achieves are of the same nature and expression as of the Machinery itself, for nothing would come out of its binding laws and ignorant half-lights. Mental aspiration divorced from the heart becomes dry and lifeless and fits only the garb of a religious seeker after some vital stimuli in the inglorious passion of the flesh. There is a movement hidden from the gaze of men which lights the heart and uplifts the senses towards an intimate possession of the Divine in oneself and in everything, as if by a stupendous miracle the bhakta becomes a possessor of all that the Divine possesses and an enjoyer of all He enjoys.

The intimacy of the Gopi symbol cannot at all be grasped by the mind wallowing in the dirt of self-ignorance or basking in the glory of its ego-bubble, for the ignorance of man, by its very nature and constitution, moves away from the Divine into a division of nature or division of manifest self and constructs a world of many ambitions and desires inside its mere bubble-house, and all the imperious call of the Spirit goes unanswered by its unwillingness to open to the floodgates of a higher ananda of divine existence, a centre of which lies beneath the deep layers of the aspiring heart, and it is out of this secret centre arises the glorious symbol of the dancing Gopis descending the stair of evolution in order to assume in embodied existence the living sense of the Ānandamaya Purusha and to live in a constant state of union with His boundless Love. The intimacy of Radha with Krishna, the very acme of heart’s love for the Divine, derives itself from — and founded on — the principle of a greater self-seeking of the individual soul for the divine Paramour, and this seeking is a two-way movement of an ascending aspiration asserting itself beyond all ego-personality in a wider infinity of divine embrace and a descending response of the personal Divine equally asserting itself in the consecrated heart of the bhakta as the Lord of all existence and its most intimate Lover. The Western idea of devotion, on the other hand, derives from an exalted vital impulse masquerading as love or as a symbol of sacrifice on the alter of a hyper-ego, and humility is its favourite mask to hide its ugly motives and put up instead an air of saintliness to impress upon a hapless and defenseless humanity with strictures and rules of moral conduct, as if these would lead to love of God and salvation in a cosy heaven! The critical intelligence of the West finds the Gopi symbol too ostentatious and bombastic; it is to its understanding rather an intemperate and uncontrolled expression of religious emotions with a bad connotation of explicit sexuality pitched through an amorous insistence of close intimacy, and therefore, too immoral and illegitimate to be followed by the rational temper of intelligent men. The discovery of God within or of His standing presence in humanity is alien to the Western psyche, for it sees God outside of itself and always as an extraterrestrial authority waiting eagerly for the day of His reckoning! The Western psyche needs an outward symbol of a suffering God so that it can identify itself with Him and grow into a similar temperament which often determines its outlook and conduct of life, a temperament which belittles the idea of an inner Godhead of supreme delight and refuses to believe or acknowledge His standing presence in the hearts and minds of men. And, this denial — self-denial, to be more exact — takes the form often of a fervent or even violent defence of its creed and practises by devising a succession or hierarchy of religious heads and institutions, not only to make sure of its own survival but also to infringe on the creed and practises of other faiths by deceit and propagation of disorder and disharmony. No wonder, it follows the curve of its own deceit to self-destruction or self-annihilation.

A divine symbol arising out of psychic self-experience of the Divine as the basis of all existence, the sole reason of the individual as well as the universe, assumes myriads of endless qualities in the integral self-seeking of the individual, and so assumes too — because of a perfected psychic individual — in the aspiration of a collective multitude the myriads of endless, divine qualities which lead it to an infinite embrace of the Supreme Divine even in the terrestrial physicality. For, the chord between the Divine and the individual or humanity is an inscrutable movement of divine Love incarnating and embodying itself into the twin-movement of aspiration and its response, and thereby raising the human consciousness to a supracosmic delight of existence in the infinite body of Sri Krishna. The Gopis are higher spiritual beings in embodied existence, and the symbol of Vṛndāvana is as much an affirmed fact to self-experience as it is a place on earth inhabited once by Krishna and His marvellous Gopis. The City of Vṛndāvana still stands tall and has survived through a thousand ruins and destruction and it will withstand the mighty embrace of the Rudra and Kali until it is ready for its Lord and His supreme playmates. The Gopi tradition explains itself through the common lore of a Nation still in her struggle and external chaos, through her peoples and their very common acts of collective worship of their inner Divine and its outer representation; it is these among others that form the core principle foundation of the Indian Psyche, of which the West and its ringmasters have no idea at all. And, therefore, the spiritual progress of India derives, both secretly and overtly, from this inner foundation of a vast and inexplicable bhakti tradition of the divine Gopis, who saw themselves as Lord’s innumerable consorts with a spiritual connotation of a higher intimacy in the delight-world of Krishna, and we, Indians, carry their secret principle in our embodied existence here to be discovered and lived within and also to be manifested, as a consequence of the inner alchemy, into the outer life of this great Nation of Sri Krishna.

Painting by Priti Ghosh