Janet Stone’s Rasa Lila – A Divine Play
I am not familiar with the story of Rasa Lila. It seems other yogis more well versed in Hindu mythology are. But, for me, this was an entirely new experience, as should be so many of the experiences at BaliSpirit Festival.
Janet started by asking the group to pull their mats together into a small semi circle. She wanted people to be close. Not only to her, but to each other. Even once the mats were pulled tight, still she asked us to inch closer, to come off our own mats, and to listen to the story of Krishna. It was like sitting around the campfire for story time.
Again, I am not a Hindu mythological scholar, but this story resonated with me, at least in one respect. Janet used the story to highlight the problems we face in today’s society, where we are always so distracted, by the internet, by Facebook, by noise, that often times we don’t see what is just in front of us. At least, that is the moral I took from the story. Some of the others may have heard something different, but isn’t that true of any and all mythological stories.
In this story of Krishna, he is in his prime, alluring to those around him, and playing his flute with such sweet nectar. As if on cue (and I am sure it was planned), someone started playing music along to Janet’s story, on a traditional wooden flute.
Janet continued with the story of the people in the surrounding village, the Gopis, who suddenly heard Krishna, heard the call, the alluring sweet nectar of sound, which was crystal clear with no obstructions, unlike the world we currently live in, and the noise and obstruction that we face each day. The Gopis, or the cow hearding girls, dropped everything to listen to Krishna, with each Gopi in turn falling madly in love with Krishna, stating that they each wanted him, until he practically disappeared. But, Radha, her love was true. She did not think that Krishna was hers and hers alone. Instead, she held true love for Krishna, with an open heart; a love that lasted for a thousand years in the dance of the Rasa Lila.
And, there we have the Rasa Lila. Rasa is the juice, the nectar. Lila, the play. When I returned home to learn more about the Rasa Lila, I saw the images of the Gopi, dancing in a circle, and suddenly everything started to make sense.
With the story over, Janet invited each of us to come to the dance with palms open, with hearts open, to receive the juice. The nectar.
As we started to move in our tight little circle, it quickly became apparent to me that we would not be returning to our mats anytime soon. Although influenced by contemporary yoga asana, Janet turned each posture into a dance, asking us to lean and support each other, to open each others’ hearts. The play, for me, came from the unpredictability. It was the essence of a Vinyasa practice, but as a coordinated dance sequence, studded with a sense of individual expression. The practice was accompanied by Liza, a well-known Kirtan singer in Ubud, and other musicians, who added to the unique feel of the class.
There was dancing and signing, include a sing along to the Hare Krishna mantra, and I found myself totally out of my comfort zone, which often happens in Ubud, a town where everyone is expected to push their boundaries, at least a little bit. To cut through the noise, to bypass the obstructions of daily life, and to open our hearts to simple jot and love. And, in a sense, Janet asked the group to push their limits on what they consider a “normal” yoga class, as this was certainly Divine Play.
Written by : Amber Hoffman