Excerpted from my upcoming e-book, On the Road to Enlightened Duality
Mistress of the Blueblack Void
During recent decades, the vital function of myths and mythology in human culture has come back into focus for many contemporary people the world over, largely due to the teachings of visionaries such as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman and others. Why is mythology so important? Myths are messengers that speak directly to the human soul. They are symbolic stories that carry vital, powerful, universal information about Life and the soul; they teach us how things work, from macrocosm to microcosm.
Myths commune with us through the nonlinear pathways that connect imagination and heart with the mind. If we are open to receive them, the living archetypes of myths will instruct us and transmit wisdom. We need only to hear and receive, and the story will work its magic on us at deeper levels of being, for their twilight language of symbol and poetry is essential to our true nature.
It’s a sad fact that we have lost contact with our inheritance of living mythology in the midst of today’s global techno-culture. We have forgotten how to speak the twilight language of the soul. Upon hearing a story from India, Africa, Ireland, old Europe, or the Native Americans, people often say, “What does that mean? I don’t understand.” Understanding is not the point. Myths are not rational or linear. They bypass the logical, earthbound mind and resound in flights of the imagination, hinting of the subtle grandeur of a layered, multivalent cosmos, in which anything is possible.
In the sacred culture of the Indian tradition, the symbolic language of myths has such a central importance that it has a name; it is called, in Sanskrit, sandhya bhasa. Once we embark upon the spiritual path, we begin to encounter the reality that is communicated through twilight language, and it is this form of communication that begins to speak to our hearts in poetry, story, and scripture. As we listen deeply to its whispers and songs, sandhya bhasa calls to us, asking us to remember the life of the soul, to reclaim its living truth. The work of this reclamation has been a passionate underpinning of my own journey, and one that I am inspired to share with others. It is through mythic speech and language that I have found the most powerful and effective means to communicate about and commune with subtle and sublime nuances of the archetypes that shape the Universe in which we live and take form in the abundant stories of gods and goddesses found in all cultures and times.
The archetypes primarily speak to us through everyday life and the natural world. From my earliest memories, the goddess has called to me through Great Nature, in the affection and love of my mother and my Irish maternal grandmother and of many wisdom holders—teachers, mentors, friends, sisters, and brothers—who have enriched and inspired the feminine dimensions of my life. The goddess has spoken to me through forests and fields, through thunder, lightning, wind, fire and rain. She has spoken through the night sky, through stars and the moon with its phases, and through the sun as divinity—a perfect circle of light. She has spoken to me through dreams, literature, words, music, melody, song and movement.
The goddess has spoken to me through the eyes of children and very old people. She has spoken as much in the kitchen and the bedroom as in the meditation hall. She speaks to me through gardens and rivers and oceans, through thatched roof cottages, mud huts, village life, animals and plants of all kinds.
While the goddess claimed me very early in life, as an adult I began to actively seek knowledge of her, studying her vivid archetypes and sub-types, worshipping her in ways both extraordinary and mundane. I discovered her first in the forms of Isis, Artemis, Astarte, Asherah, Aphrodite (Venus), Diana, Artemis, and Hecate. Later she touched me in her Sumerian forms—Inanna (Queen of Heaven, the starry goddess of the planetary sphere, Venus), Ereskighal of the underworld realm, and Tiamet, the archaic Mother Earth. She came to me as well in her Greek forms, as Demeter, Persephone, and Kore.
For many years the goddess stayed with me as Mary, the Mother of God, but she configured more importantly in my life as Mariam (Mary) the Magdalene, lover of Yeshua. I came to know Mary in both these forms (mother and erotic lover) alive and well in the cathedrals of Europe and made many pilgrimages to get to know her there. Then I traced her form to the more ancient Mari, the Star of the Sea of the Middle East, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Babylonia, and even Sumari, and then found her again in her Indian form, Mariamma, mother of life and death.
On pilgrimage in India, and over many years of studying the great stories and religious myths of the Hindu tradition, she captured my attention completely as Smashan Tara and as Mother Kali, as she did in the sublimely beautiful, enchanting, or terrifying forms of Saraswati, Parvathy, and Durga. As Lakshmi, the celestial consort of Vishnu, the goddess takes shape in detail through the stories of Sita, the heroine of the Ramayana and wife of Lord Rama, and through Radha, the divine consort of Lord Krishna. It is Radha who came to reside with me and resonate intimately with my deepest experience on the path. All of these sacred images have played a part, and yet it is Radha who continues to guide my quest for the awakened Feminine.
To know Radha we must begin with Krishna, the blue-skinned flute player of ancient India. He is captured in India’s written histories, epics, puranas (collections of stories) and scriptures. The great Indian epic, The Mahabharata, tells us that Krishna lived long ago, in past eons of time (perhaps three-to-five thousand years ago), when he was born into the Yadava clan as a young tribal lord destined to save his people from the evil usurper, Kamsa. Prophecy reflected his destiny and alerted the cruel king Kamsa, who ordered his soldiers to slay all the male children born at the same time as Krishna. In order to save his life, his mother and father—Devaki and Vasudeva, the true king and queen of the Yadavas—sent the baby Krishna away shortly after his birth. In a supreme act of personal sacrifice, they ensured that their son would fulfill his divine destiny, and so he grew up with the gypsy cowherds in the remote and tiny forest enclave of Vraja. There the baby Gopala grew up, unaware of his true identity, his royal blood, or his fate, raised by his adoring foster parents, Yashoda and Nanda.
Ages after the Mahabharata recounted the story of Lord Krishna, counselor to Arjuna in the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas—in which Krishna gives the great teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and later becomes the king of his own realm, where he ruled with his eight queens (Rukmini, Satyabhama, and Jambavati to name a few, plus 16, 008 junior wives, as some say)—storytellers began to delight and thrill their listeners with the allegorical tale of Krishna’s boyhood when he enacted his love games or ras lila with the gopis (milkmaids, cowherdesses) of Vraja. These mythic stories of Krishna as baby, boy, and very young man were passed down to eager children and adult audiences through the oral tradition by countless generations of wise men and women, priests, yogis, and yoginis, grandmothers and grandfathers and were eventually collected and written down as the Bhagavata Purana.
In the twelfth century, a visionary poet-seer named Jayadeva wrote a poem titled The Song of Govinda, and it is in these lines that Radha, as the human embodiment of perfect love of Krishna as the Supreme Reality, came into being. In this poem the mythological circle of gopis, who were courted and loved by Krishna and wildly abandoned to him, is focused and amalgamated into one very human image, Radha, providing the imagination and heart a focal point for our deep, archetypal need to worship a goddess who is the beloved of her Consort. And so, as human consciousness evolved and the living myth interacted with the human soul, Radha became much more than a poetic invention. She grew into a symbol of the Divine Feminine in mystical union with a Divine Masculine—an image so potent that Radha moves the heart and soul of millions of people. She is alive in the inner realms as the Beloved of Krishna.
The Bauls of Bengal, poets par excellence, took Radha to heart. She plays a central role as living symbol in the sandhya bhasa of the Bauls, who say that all human beings are Radha, as every being is feminine in relationship to the Supreme Reality as Beloved. The story of Radha and Krishna is the closest description to my guru’s work—the transmission of loving God, the personal Beloved, in the vivid nondual awareness that may perceive enlightened duality—and was fully embraced by him as the central myth of the Western Bauls.
Radha is also known as Shri—the secret at the heart of every woman—who stands at the right hand of Lord Vishnu. This is her story. For he or she who has the ears to hear, listen and know thyself.
Queen Radha, Retold
In Vraja, a remote village in the north of India, in a time long, long ago, a simple tribal girl named Radha grew into a young woman, dark-skinned, dusky, and passionate. She glimmered with an uncommon beauty. She was both humble and bold, soft and swift, a hard working gopi who milked cows and made curd, panir, and yoghurt. Radha went about her work wrapped in a well-worn sari in colors that rivaled the rainbow. Even as she worked, Radha was full of joy that delighted her friends and elders. Walking barefoot on the earthen paths of Vraja with a copper pot full of milk balanced on her dark head, Radha sang, with earrings swinging as she moved. Shining with inner radiance, she inspired all who came into her sphere.
In season, Radha filled her basket with bananas and mangoes, worked in her garden, and tended the fire in her earthen hut. When Radha was thirteen her menses began to flow and she became a woman, married by her parents to Ayan Ghosh, one of the gopas or cowherds who played games in the forest while tending the family cows in the fields near the village. “It is good that Radha is married now,” her mother and father said to each other. “Marriage will cure her of that fascination with the boy Gopala!” Even as a little girl of eight years, Radha had become smitten with a beautiful boy named Gopala, the village darling who toddled about and enchanted men, women, and children of all ages. Gopala was charming and quick and soon grew wily, playing pranks on the village wives, stealing butter and curds from their kitchens and running away with a sweet smile upon his full and shapely lips. His happy laughter pierced their hearts with joy as he ran away, even as they called his name, and he glanced back upon them with thunderbolt eyes, his face like a dark lotus.
As Gopala grew, his boyhood friends, the gopas, loved him as much as his own foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda, and as much as the village gopis. By the age of ten, Gopala became Govinda, a lad with skin so dark that at times it exuded a deep blue sheen of celestial beauty that matched the brooding colors of the monsoon clouds as they flickered and flashed with lightning. The villagers sensed the rare vibration of his being and whispered among themselves, “He is divine. He is like a god among us!” His miracles gave them proof of his true nature. When he conquered the demon serpent Kaliya, or lifted the holy mountain to shield them from the torrential rains, they were overcome with awe and gratitude and swooned with devotion. Upon seeing or hearing the divine boy, Radha was rendered helpless by an overwhelming mood of love that pulsated from her heart, consumed her body, and left her breathless.
As Govinda grew taller, he left behind the mischievous pranks of childhood and became pensive at times. A fine charisma hovered around his luminous form, and his soulful dark eyes blazed with light. Taken by brooding, electric, and magnetic moods, he took up a bamboo flute, which he played with amazing dexterity. His spontaneous melodies drifted through the village or the forests surrounding Vraja and captivated the hearts of Radha and all the other women.
Reaching young manhood, Govinda’s physical beauty and inner radiance grew so alluring that Radha was captivated, heart and soul. Despite her love for Ayan, her obsession with Govinda became furious and took on the hues of a passion so deep that she feared she was going mad. Her desire was boundless, and she wanted him to belong to her alone, at any cost. At the sound of his flute she left the milk boiling on the fire and ran, ankle bracelets jingling, full hips swaying, hair loosened about her shoulders and streaming down, toward the forest. The celestial melody of its sound lured her deep into the trees and hidden bowers, and their meetings there were clandestine and fever hot. Govinda claimed her, body and soul, and Radha reveled in all his holy wild ways.
Even when she lamented his shameless, unfaithful ways—when he chased after the other gopis and loved them well on moonlit nights—she worshipped her Krishna. When he was away, she tore her hair and wept, fumed with anger, stewed in a jealous fury, then fainted from the power of her longing. But he
always came back to her, more fervent in his devotion to Radha than ever before, teasing and cajoling, courting her playfully or with full adoration, until she relented in her refusals and gave herself without restraint, once again, into his arms. Then he caressed her with erotic hands, stroked her face and hair and breasts until she was enveloped in the overwhelming sensuous delight of him.
Thus they rocked and rolled in erotic play unabashed, without shame or censure, casting their clothes aside and running naked together. She surrendered to his every whim without fear of losing herself, even as he surrendered to her fully, without reserve. Their love trysts unfolded in the deep wooded places of Vraja—at dusk, in the gloaming, and late at night under the full moon when the fragrance of night blooming jasmine and kadamba filled the air. Streaks of lightning rent the thick monsoon night, as hot and wet as their kisses that lingered and flowed with nectars never before tasted in that ancient earthly realm. Sometimes Radha heard Krishna’s flute calling to her in the early hours of the morning, just before dawn, and after their loveplay, they watched the sunrise, lost in the intoxication of each other.
The lilas, the love games, of Krishna and Radha became legion in their time. They were often seen walking hand in hand or arm in arm. They frequently sat together on the thick trunk of a flowering vine that grew in a deep bower of the forest, where they gently swayed while Krishna played the flute. Sometimes he played the flute standing, while Radha sat at his feet looking up, tears of bliss streaming down her face. Some say that their favorite game was to playfully tussle over Krishna’s flute, for he loved to hear her play it, and each time he gave her the magic flute, she was loathe to give it back. Then she would run and he would chase, laughing, until he captured her in the glimmering warm embrace of his arms to kiss and nuzzle her neck and chastise sweetly. There was nothing Radha could do that did not charm her Lord. Their love bliss was evanescent, golden, sublimely sweet, causing subtle heavens to manifest on Earth and captivating all who saw them.
Then one day Radha’s lover came to her and said, “My darling one, my very self, this day I have learned that I am not only Govinda, a simple cowherd, player of flutes and lover of Radha… My name is Krishna, and I am king of the Yadavas! My place is in the city of the Yadava tribe, Dwaraka. O my Radha, I have been summoned by destiny! On this day I depart to vanquish the demon usurper, Kamsa, and set my people free.”
Her beautiful dusky face, uplifted with elation at seeing him, crumpled and fell upon hearing this news. Seeing her anguish and grasping her to his breast, Krishna embraced her with all the force of his passion, whispering into her hair, “Have no fear, my love, you will see me again. Radha, you are my very self! I will surely return to you within seven days…”
Counting every hour and minute of seven days, Radha waited. Finally, when Krishna did not appear at the appointed hour, her beautiful face turned to dust. Crestfallen, she waited. She waited and waited, stirring the milk on the fire and pouring the curd into vessels. Radha walked to the forest groves and remembered every moment, every second of their merging—the waves of love, the trembling tender intimacies shared between lovers who feel they are not two but one. She remembered the sweet twining of their hands and bodies; she remembered the long, languorous gazing into one another’s eyes. She remembered the honeydew of their kiss, the dewy sweat of Krishna’s brow and chest, the pearly drops of his semen. She remembered the simple joy of walking beside him, swinging with him, the feel of his flute against her full mouth, how he enjoyed her songs, the stream of love that flowed from his heart to hers and back again. The fire of yearning burned in her, body and soul.
After seven weeks, then seven months and, finally, seven years, Radha began to weep. She cried into the endless space of forever. Radha tore her sari and ripped her hair from its braid. She scratched her cheeks in agony as waves of longing gripped her, shaking her slender frame until her knees buckled and she fell senseless to the earth. Her mind began to contract in upon itself in waves of fear and horror. Why, oh why, did he tell her he would return? And then never return? Why does the Lord tell lies to his beloved?
Agonizing pangs of sorrow ate at the tender flesh of her heart like worms on a corpse. She writhed in anguish at her abandonment, then beat her thighs as anger flushed her body with heat, even as the tears of longing scalded her tender skin. Fiery waves of heat burned the delicate interstices of Radha’s body, causing the blood to churn and the belly to contract in knots of pride, anger, loss, until she knew without a doubt that she had been betrayed by the very one she trusted the most.
Dense epochs of pride, sorrow, fear, grief, and anger passed through Radha, until reality pounded at the doors of her heart. The truth dawned—her time with Govinda was over. Inexorable impermanence struck at the core of her identity. Radha was shattered and cast to the far corners of the universe and beyond. She no longer knew who she was.
Bereft, desolate, inconsolable, Radha’s grief caused oceans to crash in tidal waves that flooded the shores. In response to her desolation, the moon ceased to travel around the earth and the sun wept tears of blood. Radha’s long black hair trailed disheveled across her arms, which she held up in supplication. Her heart was a deep black hole, a seething abyss of loss. She wept for so long that she swooned, fainting into an unconscious state of utter darkness—just as one who sleeps after a great ordeal. Uncountable eons of time in the world of the soul, along with countless cycles of death and birth, arose and subsided. Creation, preservation and destruction passed through their enumerable phases, until finally Radha ceased to exist. She entered the oblivion necessary to regeneration.
After an interminable eon of timelessness, something unknown, a mysterious flutter of the heart, caused her to awaken. Radha lifted her head and listened. What did she hear? What was that sound? A whisper? A humming, a lilting note, that was familiar and heartrending. Was it was the sound of Govinda’s voice, calling her name? The reverberation of that sound shook her world until the sound emerged as audible words. “Radha, my Radharani, my Queen, I am here. You, Radha, are my very self! You have only to look within the find Me.”
It was a very long time before Radha could move. She listened again and heard, once again, the sound of Krishna’s voice resounding deep within her being. “I am here. I will never leave you. I have never left you. Come to Me…” Radha stirred only to find herself surrounded by blackness. She was suspended in a void so profound that it had no beginning and no end. Taking heart at the sound of his voice, she peered into the darkness. Nothing. No thing. Endless emptiness.
Her mind quailed at the vast aching emptiness of this darkness and tears began to slide, hot and urgent, down her silken cheeks. In the terrible black nothing she realized that time, in its inexorable reality, had devastated all that she knew. The village of Vraj was gone forever. The forests were long forgotten, the trees and flowering vines had all passed away—they were now no more than dirt and dust. Her friends, her sakhis—the other gopis of the village, with whom she had struggled and competed and fought to win the love of the awesome, peerless, magnificent and mysterious Govinda—had also disappeared. Perhaps they were each on their own path, finding a way through their inner labyrinth. Radha prayed for their well-being; she begged Narayana to bless them on their way. Maybe they too traversed their own void-like empty place and were slowly awakening to awe, amazement, wonder.
As she pondered all this, the truth of impermanence, how things change, and how she was utterly helpless to prevent the transformation of all she had known into the Great Unknown, she also pondered the resilient goodness of the human heart. Love came upon her in a warm wave, completely unbidden, unsought. Bliss and happiness crashed the shores of her being in gentle waves that rocked her, and she relaxed in the embrace.
“Radharani, my love, my queen! Breathe, and know that you are alive! Come to Me.”
Her senses piqued and awakened by the loving sound of his voice, Radha breathed in, and, somehow in the ubiquitous darkness of that seemingly desolate place, the air was fresh and her breath flowed freely. In the vast space of the Great Mystery, a glimmer of radiance permeated her senses and grew, until she realized that the darkness of the void in which she was suspended was naturally radiant, somehow full of wonder and potential. It was no longer a frightening place, an eternal abyss of nothing, but a fertile and warm lacuna—a womb wherein new beginnings took shape in empty, vast eternal spacelessness and timelessness.
As her mind began to explore the reality of just this, the thought occurred, “There is sukha here.” Yes, sukha—good space, ease, happiness, contentment. She discovered that the mysterious void was full, marvelous, and paradoxically bright. Like an empty glass filled with sunlight, Radha knew the void as intrinsically self-generating—it was the place where creation began.
Even as this awareness arose it also subsided, and in its place came the blueblack void again, awesome and unknowable, enigmatic, frightening and enthralling at the same time. Radha peered into darkness, relaxed into the voidness, and fear began to fade from her mind like a bad dream. Wisdom dawned in her being, and as she gazed into the endlessness, she saw a light begin to coalesce. How was this possible? Folding in upon itself, the light formed into a scintillating diamond that exploded into a night sky filled with stars, each one a sun that radiated and shone in its own sphere, exuding heat, fire, light, warmth, joy, and all the potentials of new life. Each of these expanded in exponential kaleidoscopic mandalas of radiance, and then she saw Krishna, radiant as ten thousand suns, alive in the brilliant chalice of love that pulsed within her heart. He smiled at her, held his arms out to embrace her, and in that embrace they merged.
Yes, in that embrace Radha was born anew. Through abject loss and the death of the soul, she was revealed in wholeness, in freedom, in perfect creative joy, in absolute surrender to her Beloved. Deserted, abandoned, betrayed by Krishna, finally she had accepted all only to realize—or did she simply remember?—that He flowed in her veins. His essence vibrated deep in the core of her own. Her heart was his heart, her body, his body. Her existence was Krishna alone. Radha became Krishna, and Krishna became Radha.
As Radha, she looked out over Creation and knew it as her own being. Every sentient being, great or small, every galaxy, solar system and brilliant illuminating sun, every black hole and trail of stardust emanated from her, was contained in her body. She was the cause of all appearances, all karmas, all things, all the play of the three forces, the gunas of becoming. She was creation, preservation, and destruction. She was consciousness, cosmos, terrestrial worlds, individual beings, all things at once, simultaneously occurring, complete, interwoven, interdependent with all things, perfect and perfectly evolving, and in these forms she became Radharani—Queen Radha—the Sovereign Queen of Krishna’s infinite Creation. But when she merges with Krishna Himself, she is Beyond, Beyond, Gone far Beyond. Radha becomes Mistress of the Blue Black Void.
All this occurred in the depths of Radha’s being, even while she fulfilled her role as Ayan’s wife, as a keeper of cows and maker of curd. Life went on in Vraja; there was no flute resounding from the forest, no games of chase or hide and seek with the beautiful young Govinda, but children were born to Radha and Ayan, who were happy and fulfilled as they watched their daughters and sons grow into adults. The years passed and grandchildren sat upon Radha’s knees, and she smiled and touched their faces, melted with love as it was she saw Krishna smiling in their faces. In the years that followed, as Govinda’s absence continued Radha became more radiant with each passing season. Now and then she heard stories from wandering yogis and sadhus, who told of Krishna’s exploits and conquests, of the war of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, of his great teachings to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra; of Krishna, King of the Yadavas in Dwaraka with his many queens. Radha smiled a secret smile, and knew that he had never left her. In her heart of hearts, Radha traversed the infinitude of his Blueblack Void, learning its intimate secrets, and reveled in Vaikuntha at his side as his queen.
The villagers wondered at how Radha was mysteriously filled with light and peace—love seemed to flow from her fingertips, exuding a fragrance that drew them near. Over time they knew her as more than a great holder of wisdom—she had become the Goddess herself. They came to her, touched her feet in reverence, and listened as she talked of Krishna. When she spoke, it was Krishna who smiled radiantly from her aging face, and they knew that their darling Radha had become Krishna. Her secret was that she had realized a great truth—Krishna longed for her as much as she longed for him.
The source of infinite waves of creation, Radha who is Krishna is an eternal state of becoming. As Krishna is the flame of life, Radha is the water of life. Radha is the very Self, the vessel of the infinite Lord Krishna as Supreme Reality, and there is no separation between the Two who are One. As Divine Consort, she is Mistress of his Blueblack Void and the Great Beyond, perfect unity, Oneness, indivisible, just as she is also Krishna made manifest, and in this mode Radha embodies creation and destruction, all qualities, all rasas, all potentials: clarity, courage, strength, wisdom, support, passion, eros, divine love, boundless creativity.
As Krishna, Radha is beyond definition, beyond concept, unborn and undying. As Gopala, Radha is mischievous, playful, and adorable… Like Govinda, she is soulful, the essence of beauty, madly in love, taken by bhavas of overwhelming love bliss and delight. It is when Radha perceives all these rasas together—emptiness and fullness, nondual and dual—that she appears wholly herself, naked and adorned with flowers, flute poised at her lips, to play her song as she stands, arms entwined with the Lord. It is then that the gopis fly across the universe to worship Radha and Krishna together, each gopi yearning to become Radha, to revel in love play with her Lord. Somehow, in all that ecstasy and convergence of gopis with Radha and Krishna, the ras lilas begins again. But that is another story…
©2016 Mary Angelon Young, All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce without permission.