My introduction to spirituality came at a very young age.
“RADHE RADHE!” came the loud chanting of the vrijbasis (locals of Vrindavan) who had just entered Bankey Bihari temple - one of the most famous Krishna temples in India, as it opened its doors for darshan. The sound stopped me short, as I was about to put a bite of halwa puri in my mouth. “Radhe Radhe!” the men and women dressed in traditional attire continued, as they clapped their hands together rhythmically. I stared at them a little bewildered. Scanning their faces, I turned to my mother who was sitting on the temple floor beside me, receiving prasad and talking to the pandits. “Why are they calling me mummy?” I asked with confusion. I turned to the crowd and yelled, “Yes, I am here! Why are you calling me?”
My mum looked down at her 5-year-old daughter and laughed hysterically. With Radha as my name and Radhe as my nickname, I naturally assumed the call was for me. I once read about a princess from Rajasthan who came to this temple and had such a strong connection, that Krishna followed her and was found missing at his temple home. That day, I think he followed me too.
Celebrations in Vrindavan. Image source: sid-thewanderer.com
Bearing a name permanently conjoined with one of Hinduisms most loved Gods, often made me wonder what role Krishna as a character played in my own life. I have always been besotted with Krishna, and I know it’s not only because my name is Radha. Though this has undeniably contributed to the realisation of an incomparable bond.
I admit there have been times where I didn’t feel thrilled about my name. For example, when it was constantly butchered growing up around foreigners, being called ‘Radical’. Or when random guys in an attempt to flirt will say, “Your name is Radha?? Then I am Krishna!!” Seriously how could they believe I have never heard that one before?
Maybe because of my (borderline) obsession, I’m often asked if I would like to end up with a man with the personality type of Krishna. Honestly, which girl doesn’t dig the attractive/flirt/bad boy/prankster? But in truth, my love for Krishna is much deeper than romantic love.
Familiar with the ritual of prayer from a young age, a realisation came to me in my teen years. After school one day I was sitting with my best friend, Krishna Lila Sims, an American girl whose family are Hare Krishna devotees. (Its not surprising that Radha was drawn to Krishna yet again). She was discussing a quote from The Mahabharata that she loved, spoken by one of its characters, Queen Kunti. Kunti prayed to lord Krishna and stated that people only seem to remember God during times of suffering. So if that is what it took for her to remember him more often, to please give her more suffering. This really boggled my mind. I had always been taught to pray for the things I wanted most, and in prayer to ask God to ease my suffering. So why would someone desire suffering in order to pray? She explained, “See that’s what Krishna is all about, that’s how his worship differs. He is the love deity. You pray to him, just for the love of him. No reason, no request, just simply for the love of him.”
With my nephew who wanted a tattoo inspired by mine
Spirituality seemed to be something I was always attracted to. I remember a day in high school that was particularly bad. I was having disagreements with everyone and was so distraught that I couldn’t stand being there any longer. Not wanting to go home, I went to Birla Mandir, the temple closest to school. After wandering around, I went and sat in front of a statue of Krishna. I looked at him wondering how to handle my troubles. What followed can officially be described as a spiritual experience. I locked eyes with the statue, and everything else seemed be get completely quiet. I felt like I was in the presence of immense energy, and everything was charged. The feeling was so overwhelming, my eyes started to water. This lasted a few seconds, but felt like an eternity. My trance like state was broken by the sensation of a hand on my head. I looked up and saw a pandit smiling at me, “Radha?” he said. I looked at him searching for familiarity. “Radha,” he repeated, beaming.
“I’m sorry panditji but have we met?” He shook his head.
“Then how do you know my name” I interrogated. He looked at me a little puzzled and stated, “Beti you were looking at Krishna with such devotion, that I had to call you Radha, your devotion is like Radha’s. Always keep Krishna with you.”
This slightly eerie experience pushed me more into thoughts of him. It wasn’t long after this that I dreamt of him. I was lost in a forest, scared and shouting for help. I looked down to see the face of Krishna on my right wrist. I repeated his name and woke up with a jolt. I truly felt rescued as I sat up in bed, my heart beating fast. I knew I always had him then, and post that I got his name tattooed on my right wrist for continued guidance.
Today, living in this divided world, I try to live by what we call Krishna consciousness. Which to me means enjoying all the worldly pleasures without attachment, accepting the impermanence of life. Like the celestial song of his flute – beautiful and always up and down, such is the tune of life. And like the variability of life, the difference of each note makes the whole tune enjoyable.
After all shouldn’t life be enriched by an awareness of dreams, an appreciation of myth and a sense of mystery?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Radha Jetley
Cover photo credit: oneindia.com