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Speaking to the Soul: Where can I go from your spirit?

Speaking to the Soul: Where can I go from your spirit?

The readings for today are available here.

Where can I go from your spirit? 
          Or where can I flee from your presence? 

  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; 
          if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 
Psalm 139:7,8

It may be instructive to look at these two verses, indeed the whole notion that we can never be separated from the love of God, by looking through the lens of a different tradition.

 

Indeed, sometimes nothing illuminates a great truth better than a story, Facts are irrelevant in this kind of storytelling, what we are looking for is truth.

 

By way of a brief introduction:  This is a Hindu tale. Like stories in other religions, there are various commentaries, midrash, and ways of thinking about it. The important thing is to find what is true for you.  In this story, Krishna is the power behind all the other Hindu gods. He is the eighth incarnation of another Hindu god named Vishnu. Radah was a gopi, or a cow-herding girl. In Hindu vaishnava theology, these cow-herding girls are known for their special devotion to Krishna.

 

Here is the story:

 

“Krishna had many women disciples among the gopi, but one favorite, Radah. Each disciple said to herself, “Krishna loves me more than anyone else.” Still, because Krishna often talked of Radha, the others were envious of her. Noticing their jealousy, he wanted to teach them a lesson. So one day Krishna feigned a terrible headache. The anxious disciples expressed their great concern over the Master’s distress. At last Krishna said, “The headache will go away if one of you will stand on my head and massage it with your feet.” The horrified devotees exclaimed, “We cannot do this, You are God, the Lord of the Universe. It would be highest sacrilege to desecrate your form by touching your sacred head with our feet!”

 

The Master was pretending an increase of his pain when Radha came on the scene. She ran to her Lord, saying, “What can I do for you?” Krishna made the same request of her that he had made of the other devotees. Radha immediately stood on his head; the Master’s “pain” disappeared, and he fell asleep. The other disciples angrily dragged Radha away from the sleeping form.

 

“We will kill you,” they threatened.

 

“But why?”

 

“You dare to step on the head of the Master?”

 

“What of it?” Radha protested, “Did it not free him from his pain?”

 

“For such a sacrilege you will go to the lowest stratum of Hades.”

 

“Oh, is that what you are worrying about?” Radha smiled. “I would gladly live there forever if it would make him happy for a second.”:

 

Then the all bowed down to Radha, They understood why Krishna favored her; for Radha alone had no thought for herself, but only for her Lord’s comfort.”

 

If we really believed that nothing could separate us from the love of God, what would that do to our ideas of sacrilege?

What notions of what constitutes sin is God ready for us to give up?

When I insist that others conform to my own religious expectations am I really just envious?

>Would I be willing to risk going to Hell for the sake of Divine Love?

How would things be different if we were ready to sacrifice our very lives for the sake of love, content in the knowledge that even if we do go to Hell, our loving God is there?

If we can’t sacrifice our lives, can we at least sacrifice being right?

The esteem of others? The pride of false holiness?

Few of us have the devotion of Radah.  What we can do is examine our own hearts to see if there is anything in there which would hold us back from loving God with our whole beings, even if that means the lowest stratum of Hades, or losing face, or even being wrong.

Radah couldn’t have known that many years later a man named Martin Luther would be so consumed with the idea of God’s good grace that he would urge his followers to sin boldly. Brother Martin was not telling us that we should sin. He was exhorting us in the same way that Radah’s story does, that we should have so much confidence in God’s presence and care that being right about the religious rules becomes secondary.

Where can I go from your spirit? 
          Or where can I flee from your presence?

Martin Luther and Radah both knew the answer.

Wherever you are today, whatever you are doing, if your work is important, or dull; if you are rich or poor; fit, or sick; if you are right, or just think you are right; no matter what circumstance you are in there is not one thing in Heaven or Earth that can separate you from the love of God.

Remember this about your enemies too.

Linda McMillan “Lindy” lives in Shanghai, China

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