All my inhibition left me in a flash

by Vidyapati

English version by Azfar Hussain
Original Language Maithili

All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me of my clothes,
But his body became my new dress.
Like a bee hovering on a lotus leaf
He was there in my night, on me!

True, the god of love never hesitates!
He is free and determined like a bird
Winging toward the clouds it loves.
Yet I remember the mad tricks he played,
My heart restlessly burning with desire
Was yet filled with fear!

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I'm back. I took time last week to make some good progress on the next Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I'll let you know as it is closer to being ready for publication. Soon!


All my inhibition left me in a flash...

Whew! Don't these verses raise a little color to your cheeks?

This excerpt is such a beautiful example of how the soul, the individual self can yearn for God with such a passion that it can be described in erotic terms. Much like Jayadeva's sacred-erotic classic Gitagovinda, Vidyapati also sings of the passionate love between Radha and Krishna.

The speaker here is Radha, recalling her love-play with Krishna. Radha represents the individual soul who has fallen in love with God, Krishna. It is her intense love that draws Krishna to her. This "burning" desire purifies the soul, elevating it into a finer and more subtle state, becoming like the heavenly "cloud" that draws the divine "bird."

The soul is "restless" with desire for union with the Divine, but also "filled with fear" -- for union means we lose ourself and become God's own.

I especially like the first few lines, the way Vidyapati plays with double meanings. Radha breathlessly says "...he robbed me of my clothes," while the soul is saying that God removed all superficial identity. Just as we cover the nakedness of our bodies with clothes, we also try to hide our natural state in order to present a socially acceptable facade. We craft a whole new identity with the clothing we wear. The way a person dresses tells us his or her work, wealth, age, social connections, etc. But they are not who we truly are. Our vestments become masks reflecting the ego. In divine union, we are not the business executive, the struggling artist, the son of so-and-so, the wife, the mother, the spiritual seeker. No, divine union makes us naked; we are simply as we are. We can bring nothing but our bare selves to that sacred meeting.

But in this naked state, we are surprised -- stunned -- by our very wholeness. We suddenly recognize that we have been using the clothing of ego to hide from a false sense of shame. We have spent our entire lives feeling somehow broken, incomplete, disappointed. We've labored under the false notion that there was something wrong with being who we were, so we cover our true nature with social roles, with accomplishments, trying to so impress people (mostly ourselves) hoping that no notice will be taken of who we really are underneath all those layers. But when we truly get naked, when we finally strip down and see ourselves as we are, we are transfixed by a vision of wholeness and immensity and joy. Though no rational explanation can be offered, this vision of reality is recognized as our true nature, our true Self. This is how Radha, the soul, can truthfully proclaim in ecstasy that "his body became my new dress." In divine union, the identity shifts from the ego to the vast Being we call God. That is the only real identity.

"He was there in my night, on me!" In truth, "he" has claimed us in all ways. And, in the resulting joy, all inhibition -- that is, all false shame and fear -- leaves "in a flash."

Still feeling that flush? You should! That flush is the flush of life, the flush of life force, the flush of anticipated union...

Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali

All my inhibition