All play, No Work.
It’s Monday morning in Vrindavana and everybody is taking life in their stride. The bazaar owner is lying left side down in his storefront, while the rest of his cohort inefficiently open shop. At the Yamuna there’s an array of boats, but no boatmen in sight – then you see them huddled around a fire, warming up, exchanging jokes, and missing all the business in the process. Rickshaw drivers are hanging around for something to happen, kids are chasing the cows, vehicles seem to just horn out habit although there’s no pressing agenda to get anywhere. People argue, shout, get worked up and then kind of forget about it and return to normal. You may get ripped off now and again, but nobody holds a grudge – you win some, you lose some. The overall scene of Vrindavana exudes a unique aloofness. Nobody seems to take it too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, there are hard-working people here, but the predominant mood is that there’s more to life than work.
The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad tells us na tasya kāryam – “Krishna has no work to do.” Well, there you have it! Maybe the locals have absorbed some of that spirit. While Divinity assumes various roles and responsibilities for universal upkeep, when He’s at home there is no agenda whatsoever. In Vrindavana, it’s all play and no work… even that’s a play on words! This play is not incidental or peripheral – it’s at the very heart. Vrindavana is God’s playground, He’s surrounded by playmates, the mood is always playful, and every passing hour is playtime. It’s a paradise of Divine Play, or ‘lila’, what we call ‘pastimes.’ Back in our reality, the day-to-day grind definitely isn’t a pastime. We diligently operate in this world out of duty, responsibility, necessity and complexity. Because of unlimited desires, we’re like a spider who creates a web and then gets entangled within it. Thus, we keep ourselves busy in the hamster wheel of life, working hard, pushing to get something or reach somewhere. The net result - all work and no play.
How do you make the shift? The great saint, Narrotama Das Thakur guides us, viṣaya chāriyā kabe śuddha ha 'be mana – “only when the mind is purified of material desires can you really see Vrindavana.” As we become more and more averse to the hunger for possessions, power, popularity, prestige and position, then we can truly enter the playfulness of the spiritual reality. While we’re preoccupied with material agendas, we have to keep working hard – inviting more responsibility, complexity and necessity. Freedom from material desires means freedom from material work, ushering in the freedom to see the divine play of God. Oh Vrindavana, thank you for giving me a glimpse this time around! Please allow me to come back sometime soon. Maybe one day I’ll find the strength to retire from the power games of this world, to eternally play in the purposeless games that transpire in the playground of God.
“I pray that wonderful Vrindavana Forest, which is manifest in the splendid ocean of transcendental bliss and love, may appear before me. I pray that my mind may become worthy to taste the nectar of the sight of the supremely enchanting fair and dark young couple that enjoys transcendental pastimes in the groves of Vrindavana forest.” (Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī)