Retelling of a traditional story from India, originally published in 2018 in Self-Realization magazine.
One late afternoon, sitting under the shade of a kadamba tree in a woodland glade near Brindaban, Krishna began playing his murali (bamboo flute). Golden light filtered through the leaves. Peacocks stopped midstride and listened to the bewitching melody with turned heads. Overhead, the twittering birds fell silent. Deer peered through bushes, their ears untwitching. A cow lay placidly at Bhagavan’s feet. Even the nearby brook seemed to tiptoe serenely by. All nature seemed to swoon in a trance of radiating love.
The gopis came to Krishna and said, “Gopala! We have a problem. You are its cause. So you have to solve it for us.”
Krishna stopped playing and looked at them inquiringly.
Radha, chief among the gopis spoke up, “Are we not your devotees? Do we not continually think of you, pine for you, and long to be in your presence?”
“But, at the end of each day, we barely get a glimpse of you from our doorsteps as you return home to the village with the other cowherds. Even though we would like to rush out and be with you all evening, we have families to look after. Our household duties hold us back. On holy puja days and festivals, we get to spend more time than usual with you. But, it’s not enough. Our souls are parched without your constant presence.”
Krishna smiled and motioned them to sit as he picked up his flute again. His tune lifted their hearts and eased their cares.
In deeper communion, they forgot they had bodies, and families, and responsibilities. They forgot that there was life itself, beyond this perfect moment with their beloved Bhagavan.
As the last notes faded into the silence of the gathering dusk, and after what seemed like an eternity spent in a minute, the gopis moaned in sorrow for it was time for them to depart.
They said, “We are envious of your murali. You never part with it. You hold it in your lotus hands wherever you go. You put it to your lips and play heart-tugging melodies. You even go to sleep with it, cradling it on your bosom. Why do we have to leave your presence while your murali never does?”
“I will tell you why,” Bhagavan Krishna responded. “I am going to tell you the story of my murali.”
The gopis were all attention. Here, at last, was the secret!
“One day I went to the bamboo plant and said, ‘Will you give me whatever I ask of you?’ The bamboo replied, ‘Of course, your wish is my command. You are one with the Lord of the Universe. It is my privilege to serve you.’
“I said, ‘It is going to be painful. I need to cut you down for a special purpose.’
“‘Is there no other way to fulfill this special purpose?’ the bamboo asked.
“‘No,’ I said, and the bamboo assented to being cut. I struck a blow and it cried out in pain. I kept on striking until it was separated from its roots. Then I shaped it with a knife and hollowed it from the inside with a sharp instrument. Afterwards, I drilled many holes in it. Then I polished all the rough edges. The bamboo shivered and shuddered, but never complained. By surrendering itself into my hands, it became a perfect instrument for my music. With its help, I now awaken the entire world from its sleep of maya-delusion. In helping to fulfill my purpose, it has become beloved to me. Therefore, I will never part with it.”
The gopis now understood: The murali had become inseparable from Bhagavan Krishna by giving up its ego in humility, by surrendering its very life to God’s will. They too must become divine instruments, allowing the Lord to play his enchanting melodies flawlessly through them. Then they also would know no separation.