When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)

by Jayadeva

English version by Barbara Stoler Miller
Original Language Sanskrit

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love
And beautiful cowherd girls wildly
Wind him in their bodies.
Friend, in spring young Hari plays
Like erotic mood incarnate.

-- from Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva's Gitagovinda, Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Saturday is Valentine's Day, the day for lovers. But, you know, there is more than one way to be a lover.

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love...

This excerpt from Jayadeva's Gitagovinda strikes a surprisingly erotic note. Is it "spiritual" at all? Is it really just love poetry? The answer is that it is both.

The Gitagovinda is quite passionately erotic, but it is also considered a highly spiritual work, sung daily in many Indian temples dedicated to Krishna.

For many in the Krishna bhakti tradition, the Gitagovinda is read with a reverence similar to the Song of Songs in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Through song, it tells of the love play, separation, and union between Krishna (Hari) and the cowherdess Radha.

On an esoteric level, Radha is understood to be the individual soul that feels abandoned by God (Krishna/Hari) who, in turn, loves all souls (and is therefore accused of infidelity by Radha). But Radha finally overcomes her hurt and rejoins her lover in passionate union.

Using the hugely magnetic power of desire, this bhakti classic describes a pathway to return to Oneness with the Divine.

As a result, we can read this work as both an earthy, erotically charged song of love, and just as honestly it speaks deep truths about the journey of the soul through longing and integration to union and enlightenment. And it reminds us of the importance of intense passion, that it is meant to be fuel for awakening.

Whether or not your Valentine's Day is a day of romance, I hope you find time for a secret passionate embrace with the Eternal!

Recommended Books: Jayadeva

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth
Amazon or AbeBooks
Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva's Gitagovinda
Amazon or AbeBooks

When he quickens