“If you only knew how much God loved you, you would die for joy.” These words from St. Jean Vianney, a French saint of the nineteenth century, have always inspired and motivated me spiritually.
Jyotish and I are visiting Ananda’s community and retreat center outside of Assisi now, and are staying in the lovely guest apartment of two good friends, Shantidev and Radhika. On the wall in one of the rooms is a print of a beautiful Indian painting called, “Enter the Spiritual World.” It depicts Krishna tenderly embracing one of his devotees in a pastoral setting.
I asked Shantidev what the story was behind the painting, and here is what he recounted. The devotee being embraced is Gopal Kumar, who, in a past incarnation, had been one of the gopis with Krishna in Brindaban. Through subsequent lives of spiritual seeking, Gopal Kumar had become a great yogi.
Now he had reached the stage where all he wanted was to achieve union with God. In his quest he traveled throughout the three worlds—causal, astral, and physical—to find what he was seeking. Still, his life’s burning goal eluded him.
Finally he arrived in Goloka Brindaban, the dimension where Krishna resides in the spiritual realm. Here, after many incarnations of separation, he beheld Krishna once again. There was an immediate mutual recognition; Krishna enfolded his dear devotee, Gopal Kumar, in a loving embrace. And just then, to everyone’s alarm, Krishna fainted.
All the devotees gasped, not knowing what had befallen their beloved Lord. They fanned him and rubbed his feet, and eventually Krishna returned to consciousness. He explained that he had been so full of ecstasy and joy to meet Gopal Kumar again after their long separation that he had lost consciousness.
What a beautiful thought to reflect upon: that God is even more ecstatic than we are when one of His lost children returns home. Jean Vianney described the transcendent joy that comes to that devotee who knows God’s love, and Krishna shows us the completion of divine union: God’s joy is even greater than our own.
Sometimes it is life’s tests and challenges that help us to feel God’s love more deeply. Recently while in Assisi, Jyotish and I contracted Covid, which fortunately was a very mild case. Now we are almost totally recovered.
During our illness, we received such an outpouring of love, support, and prayers from friends around the world that we were deeply touched. As we read the many notes, we were moved at how God’s love for us is sometimes expressed outwardly through divine friendship. Often when we need it the most, we get glimpses of how much we are loved.
Like Gopal Kumar, let’s continue on our journey to find Oneness with God. One day, we will know the fullness of His love and merge with it into ecstasy.
Your friend in God,
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