May 28 2020

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

Published by at 7:50 am under Poetry

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 /

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.


Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali


Vidyapati, Vidyapati poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Vidyapati

India (1340? – 1430) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

Vidyapati was born in the village of Bisapi in Madhubani, on the eastern side of north Bihar. Courtier, scholar, and prose-writer, Vidyapati. In the well-known tradition of the influential early Indian poem called Gita Govinda by Jayadeva, Vidyapati’s love-songs re-create and reveal the world of Radha and Krishna, the major erotic figures of Indian mythology and literature. Such poems convey the devotion of Krishna’s worshippers through the metaphor of human erotic love. While Jayadeva’s poem celebrates Krishna’s love and pays comparatively little attention to Radha the woman, Vidyapati is primarily concerned with the intense passion of Radha’s love. At once sensuous and sensual, descriptive and dramatic, Vidyapati’s songs range beyond the mythological only to find their place in the heart of a human lover whose dreams and desires never die, whose sighs and cries never end.

— From Reading About the World, Volume 1, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.

More poetry by Vidyapati

Share this page ~

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Vidyapati – My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain”

  1. Patricia Tayloron 28 May 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Now that is LOVE! It puzzles me when we think the word needs an adjective such as unconditional. Love is love…that’s it. If it needs an adjective we are not understanding the word in its fullness.
    Bless you Ivan.

  2. marrobon 29 May 2020 at 7:15 am

    What a good start…”I cannot answer…” and then I marvel at the words that CAN express the experience of Love so well …and your commentary / invitation , Ivan, to go yet deeper. I hesitate…with gratitude!

    Feels a bit like starting at the light-hearted, romantic-azure edge of the sea then swimming deeper to vast , indigo depths, more scary, but fuller for sure, more mature..back to shore on the other side, the same but different. To the simplicity of ‘Love is love’ (thanks Patricia Taylor for reminding!)

    A good start to the weekend . Thank you.
    May you enjoy your earth-garden time and may the acorn squash vines grow gracefully.

  3. Anna M.on 29 May 2020 at 8:31 am

    Hi Ivan,

    How exactly you have described my lately actual experiences and perceptions of Love.

    “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.”

    In late times , I suddenly, like of nowhere, starting to see with peripheral eyes, rapidly flashing patterns of triangular gemstone colored Lights, diamond like forms, some white and bright, some colorful lights…Flashing, shimmering…so joyfully playing…

    They were in a specific shape in my eyes and vision and constantly flashed very quickly, spun horizontally for a while, changed directions, position and shape slightly, flashed vertically for a while then rolled rapidly for a while.

    This ordinary went on for nearly 25-30 minutes and I carefully watched, felt, discerned and paid close attention to not only what I was seeing in my eyes the entire time but remained very aware…

    Then later starting to see the same patterns flying and playing inside my body…moving, embodiment in the whole body…like the whole my body was shining with colorful light…inside…it is really a perception of Love…

    My friend, I really can’t explain, I haven’t enough words, but isn’t it is amazing?:)
    How rapidly we all are changing, so is our perceptions of reality…inward and outward…minute to minute…day by day…

    The whole transformational process we all are going reminded me about Ryokan,s poem

    like a little stream making its way
    through mossy crevices
    I slowly turn
    clear and transparent

    May be we all are really getting transparent……hmmmmmm?

    =

    I am so glad for your focus on gardening and really ‘envy’ for it, because I live in apartment…:(

    But what to do, everyone must to play one’s role in service at the right place and in the right time as much as one can…

    Enjoy your garden, dear friend, be well…and have a good weekend…

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply