Tonight's first full moon of autumn draws my mind to a particular love poem that begins with its rising. Of all the poems in the world, some of the most celebrated over the ages have been love poems. When those love poems describe amorous love between souls and the Supreme Divine, they draw one in on a whole other level!
From the ancient Arabic poems of Majnun who was mad after his Layla, to the biblical book Song of Solomon, love mystics across cultures and throughout time have described the soul’s love for God in beautiful, poetic verses full of all kinds of wonderful metaphors and meters, which I find very inspiring.
One of these most ancient, sacred love poems is found in the Bhagavata Purana of India. It is called the Rasa Lila, and describes the amorous relationship Krishna has with his Gopis, or the cowherd maidens of Vraja. This is my very simple summary of that eventful night in autumn, with the content drawn entirely from the tenth book of that classical, Sanskrit text:
It all began with the eastern horizon
birthing a reddish moon,
Autumn announcing His passion
soon to be set in a tune.
Across the blooming lotuses
through a forest thick with desire,
His musical invitation traveled
to fill their beings with fire.
From the fifth note of his flute
Stealing the maidens from their homes
so that the love-dance may start.
Teasing them with verbal seduction
Rasaraja began his test:
Confusing them with feigned rejection
their yearnings in a state of unrest.
Anxious to taste His lips,
Vraja’s ladies spoke in demonstration,
Of love so deep it even captured
Madhava Himself under its subjugation!
So with glances and with smiles
and the fragrance of jasmine in bloom,
He brought them into his arms
|"Bee and Lotus" by Vincent Chen|
just as if he were their groom.
On Kalindi’s bank they sported
forming a mandala of delight,
Of love at its highest pinnacle
dancing all through the night.
Expressions of pure pleasure
became the movements of their forms,
Heavenly bodies encircling
the moon that they adorned.
With ankle bells and bending waists
The eager maidens relished
in loving beyond compare.
Decorated in sparkling perspiration
like lilies covered in dew,
The Gopi’s sweet scent attracted bees
who wanted His nectar too!
Syamsundar played with the girls
like a child with his own reflection,
On a surface of a transcendental lake
where beauty had reached perfection.
His garland crushed by their passion
their kumkuma reddening his chest,
Leading them into Yamuna’s waters
His splashes were the best.
night's breeze pregnant with scents so sweet!
The maidens massaged their lover
and on their chests placed His lotus feet.
Then, as the autumn's night drew to a close
Krishna asked the girls to return,
And to keep their meeting a secret
so that passions continue to burn.
And if you so happen to know their secret
please let it enter into your heart,
For only then will true love bloom
and unwanted lust, depart.
February 11, 2004
Catherine L. Schweig
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