Skinny Dipping With God
by Prem Prakash
In one of the classic yoga stories, it is written that several thousand years ago the people in the Earth world had gotten themselves into a mess. The forces of selfishness and fear had taken over, with epidemics of stress and self-doubt infecting much of humanity. To heal the situation, God incarnated as Krishna, a cowherd boy, in what was then a rural and beautiful area of India.
Krishna was exceedingly charming and handsome. The local dairymaids, the gopis, were very attracted to him. They didn’t know he was a divine being; they simply wanted him for a husband, or at least a boyfriend. The gopis were once skinny-dipping in a river, their clothes resting on the banks. Krishna appeared on the scene and, being playful and a bit mischievous, he gathered up their clothes and hung them high in a tree branch.
The gopis saw what Krishna was doing and they yelled for him to return their clothing. He refused, teasing that he knew they had a big crush on him, so they should come and get their clothes on their own. For girls of a modest culture, this was asking a lot.
Eventually, the gopis came out of the river and, one by one, stood naked before their beloved. He returned their clothes and, as is often the case in these types of tales, there were a lot of “happily ever afters.”
In the yoga teachings, we do not have just one body, but five. These are called the pancha-kosha, literally, “five sheaths.” These sheaths, or bodies are:
Our essential consciousness, the Soul, is cloaked in these five bodies. This dressing in bodies is a necessary stage of spiritual evolution, similar to the caterpillar becoming sheathed in a chrysalis so it can eventually mature into a butterfly.
In each of the five bodies there is a knot of tension, called a “grantha,” which must be untangled if peace is to arise and love to flow. These knots are, essentially, fear-based and they bind energy. With a little introspection, you can recognize for yourself how these knots operate in your life, in each of your five bodies.
The way to untangle the grantha is similar to the manner you might undo a snarl in a piece of rope. Yanking and aggressiveness will likely make the mess tighter. The solution is to poke around, find the loosest spot at the center of things, and then gently pull whatever thread you can get your hands on. In yoga, this process of undoing the knots with the material you can get a handle on is called pranidhana, surrender.
There are two types of surrender, based on the needs of the two general types of human dispositions. For those of an emotional, devotional nature, there is ishvara pranidhana, “surrender to God.” For those of a more analytic, intellectual nature, there is the practice of atma pranidhana, “surrender to one’s own soul.” Both practices are equally potent; both result in the same untanglement of fear and bondage.
Surrender is the ultimate letting go, trusting, and having faith. One of my gurus, Sri Karunamayi Amma, teaches that faith need be 100% : not 99.9%, but the whole ball of wax. This complete trust can be difficult for ordinary people like ourselves because we don’t have total faith in anything: not in God, not in other people, not even in ourselves. But this situation is fine and to be expected. We are, after all, not yet enlightened. We’re not yet butterflies; we’re still growing, wrapped in the cocoon of our fears. We can at least have faith, though, that nature is determined to have us mature.
If we have reached the stage of development, however, where we want to break out of our bonds and stretch our wings, we have to do something more than just wish and hope. We need to undertake sadhana, spiritual practices, such as meditation and yoga. Through consistent sadhana, we develop the drishti, the spiritual vision to see how we are bound up in hurry, worry, fear and self-doubt and, more importantly, that we want to be free.
The longing for love is inherent in us. We are hard-wired for love. When we love, we are seeking God. To come into Krishna’s embrace, we must unwind the knots in our bodies. As we have indicated, this means undoing tension in the physical body, contraction in the heart, and anxiety in the mind. Like the gopis, we need not even recognize the divine in our beloved. We need only love our personal Krishna madly and be willing to be vulnerable before him. With enough passion and surrender, we will discover the divine within our seemingly ordinary love.
Before concluding, I would like to point out that in this discussion I have used numerous Sanskrit terms. This is deliberate, as Sanskrit is an elegant language which capably expresses subtle and sophisticated philosophical terms. Using Sanskrit also demonstrates that we are not the first generation to grapple with the dilemmas of human life. These ancient terms reveal that we have spiritual ancestors, people just like us who found answers to the same questions we are contemplating.
How wonderful to know there is a divine love and a path to achieve this. In a world overrun by fear and foolishness, isn’t it amazing that the yogic teachings about love and the spiritual path have reached us? Now it is up to each of us to determine how intimately we wish to love, how far we care to traverse the path. It takes some discipline of regular practice but, even more, a willingness to relax, let go, and surrender all of the fear and guilt we don’t want so we can swim naked with God.