This predawn, I saw my friend the grey fox return after a long absence. She was successfully exploiting a new bird feeder full of sunflower seeds. When her partner arrived, I was transfixed by their beauty. After they left, I wondered how I might communicate such a spiritual experience to my friends.
I thought back two years ago to my interview with Shrivasta Goswami in Vrindavan, India. Shrivasta is a teacher of Bhakti, a spiritual path based on loving devotion to Krishna (footnote 1) as a personal God. He comes from a long line of spiritual masters and scholars and is a leader in interfaith dialogue.
I asked Srivasta what example he would use to communicate the experiences of Being that is taught by mystics of all religions. Without missing a beat, he smiled and said “Orgasm.”
Being that Vrindavan is known as the playground of young Krishna, his response is understandable. Vrindavan celebrates the Rasalila, where the gopis, girls who herd the village cows, hear the divine flute of young Krishna and run to the forest to join him in this Dance of Divine Love. Although sometimes seeming risqué to Westerners, Hinduism includes the entire realm of human experience.
His response to my question may be no surprise to those acquainted with Hindu or Buddhist Tantra. To me? I immediately thought of the first time I slept with the man who would become my husband. It was an ecstatic cosmic experience although, at that time, I was too immature to integrate it with my spirituality of the time.
Just a few weeks ago I was reading Rumi’s Masnavi, the great work of Sufism. He speaks not of orgasm, but a similar experience: the mystic’s ultimate overwhelming encounter with Light, an experience so strong it racks the body. He calls it an expansion of the heart. Similarly, an expansion so fast and so vast, one is lost in ecstasy, is described by a modern Sufi Teacher, Abdul Hai.
As foxes and thoughts receded into the early morning light, I reached for my copy of “The Book of Joy,” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I opened to their discussion of death. The Archbishop commented “Death is a fact of life. You are going to die.” The Dalai Lama suggested the three best ways to die. The third “is to at least have no regrets.” The second “is without fear.” “The best way is to be able to approach death with joy.” At that moment I had but the briefest flash of infinite expansion and ecstasy. Perhaps a glimpse of the joy of death.
1. In Hinduism, Krishna is worshipped as an incarnation of the God Vishnu, the Preserver. Some worship Krishna as Absolute Reality itself. He plays both a sacred warrior and the Divine in the “Bhagavad Gita”, known as the Bible of Hinduism. Some Hindus acknowledge both Jesus and Buddha as incarnations of Vishnu.