Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...

My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain

by Vidyapati

English version by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. and Denise Levertov

My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain
what has befallen me.
Love is transformed, renewed,
each moment.
He has dwelt in my eyes all the days of my life,
yet I am not sated with seeing.
My ears have heard his sweet voice in eternity,
and yet it is always new to them.
How many honeyed nights have I passed with him
in love's bliss, yet my body
wonders at his.
Through all the ages
he has been clasped to my breast,
yet my desire
never abates.
I have seen subtle people sunk in passion
but none came so close to the heart of the fire.

Who shall be found to cool your heart,
says Vidyapati.

-- from In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, Translated by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. / Translated by Denise Levertov

/ Image by Boris SV /

View All Poems by Vidyapati

The speaker in this poem is Radha and the "him" she refers to is Krishna. Bhakti poetry often celebrates the love affair between Radha and Krishna, but it plays with multiple levels of reality at once: it can be read as erotic love poetry and, at the same time, as an exploration of the love between the soul (Radha) and God (Krishna).

Try reading this poem a few times. Start with the poem's surface meaning, its beauty, sensuality, and yearning. And, with each reading, look progressively deeper and with an open heart. See what emerges.

Love is transformed, renewed,
each moment.

When we are in a truly open state, deeply at rest with what is, we are flooded with the most profound sense of love and bliss. As a concept, considered from outside the conscious experience, this might sound rather uninteresting.

Love is nice, and when it is strong it can feel wonderful, but even at its best, do we really want to feel it as an unending experience? Of course, in these thoughts the mind is imagining objectified love -- love for a person, love for a thing or an experience -- which floods us with endorphins but is also too often followed by an emotional crash. It can be the sugar rush version of love. Extreme swings are normal with that sort of love. As we mature in our relationships and our desires, the extremes level out and our connections become more steady and, hopefully, more fulfilling. But we have still externalized our ideas of love, limited it, and often used it to reinforce the ego sense of identity.

Then, just maybe we come to a point of stillness and openness, and that limited experience of love blossoms in a way we never imagined possible. It is just there, utterly and undeniably. Love. Not hooked outwardly upon a person or an experience, not tethered internally to feelings of reward or reinforcement of the ego-self. There is just the deep well of love bubbling up and flowing out in all directions.

Not only is the joy of this love indescribable ("I cannot answer when you ask me to explain"), it is somehow alive and continuously shifting its color and tone, always new, always a fresh experience from moment to moment. Love is transformed, renewed, each moment.

This is the awareness Vidyapati seems to be exploring in these lines, the delight and surprise of the continual newness of the experience, how it fulfills without sating, how experiencing it we recognize it as our natural state and seek to continuously center ourselves within it.

Through all the ages
he has been clasped to my breast,
yet my desire
never abates.


...Now I have to put my shoes on and go outside to plant some acorn squash. I hope to see their vines happily meandering around the edges of my garden later this summer.

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/ Photo by Daisuke Matsumura /

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