Early m the morning one of the gopis got up to sprinkle water at her doorstep and to paint pictures with flour as was the custom. She saw a strange chariot at the door of Nanda’s house. Dropping her vessel full of water and the dish containing rice flour she rushed to the other houses and spread the news … One bolder than the others went nearer and from somewhere near the house saw what was going on. She rushed out in panic and said: ‘Stop that chariot! Take it away! Hide it! Do something with it!’ . . . The gopis saw Krishna and he rushed to them. He was embraced by each and every one of them and they could not talk, any of them. They did not ask where he was going. They knew that he was going: it did not matter where . . . They turned to Akrura and spoke harsh words to him: ‘How dare you take away our darling Krishna with you? . . . You are Yama) the god of death and you have come to take away our lives.
We will die if Krishna leaves us.’ Krishna pacified them and told them that he had to go [but] . . . none of these words could comfort the lamenting women. . . Krishna left them and went to his playmates. They were numb with the thought that their Krishna, their playmate, their companion from childhood was going to the city . . . Krishna took leave of them and his eyes were sad since he knew he would never come back to Vrindavan: never again to the slopes of Goverdhan: never again to the banks of the Yamuna. Never more would he make sweet music on the sands when the moon shed its soft beams: never again would he hold the stick of bamboo in his hand and drive the cows to the forests. He had bade farewell to his cows. But once again he went into the sheds where his beloved cows were standing and they were all weeping. He wiped their tears and with his forearm wiped his own tears and went to the presence of his mother.
He fell at her feet and once again took leave of her. She clung to him and he had to disentangle himself from her restraining hands . . . After a few stunned moments the gopis realized that their Krishna had begun his journey to the city . . . They tried in vain to stop the chariot. Akrura laid his whip across the horses* flanks and at once they began to move. The gopis and the young boys set up such a wail that the very skies resounded with their piteous cry . . . They stood staring in the direction where the chariot was fast disappearing. They wiped their eyes and stared intently until the dust rising from the progress of the chariot had settled down and they saw nothing there far away in the distance. Krishna had gone away from them.
Krishna had himself initiated and encouraged the love of the gopis for him. His affair with Radha was one in which he was completely and equally involved. Why then was his departure from Vrindavan so final and irrevocable? Certainly such a course of action would not be attributed to whimsy or coincidence. It could appear that his sojourn in Vrindavan, and his conscious and definitive departure from it, was meant to convey the one integrated message: Kaama has validity, but not exclusive validity; sex is a window to the divine, but not the only window; the physical is joyous, but so can the non-physical be.
This Hindu view of life was always informed by two parallel themes: one emphasized the legitimacy of desire, the other stressed the joys of transcending such desire. Shiva gambolled in sexual play with Parvati for such an extended period that the gods themselves began to worry; but the same Shiva remained for years immersed in the most sublime meditation, totally oblivious to the senses. The dialectics of mainstream Hinduism were not either-or. It was not that one path was right, and the other wrong. Both were valid, for the essential premise was that there was more than one avenue to experience the bliss of the infinite. Mythology became a tool to correct the exclusivity of one approach. When Shiva, angry at being disturbed in his meditation, destroyed Kaamadeva, the God of Love, he was forced to recreate him.
The empirical observation of life reinforced such an eclectic outlook. It was apparent that more than one strand combined to produce the final weave of existence, and more than one colour the complete picture of reality. In the unfolding life of an individual there was a plurality of phases, each with a dominant pursuit and emotion, valid for that particular phase, but not valid in the same manner for all of them. In the Hindu scheme of things, the ideal life had four stages (ashramas): brahmacharya, the period of discipline, dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge; grahastya, the period of the householder and worldly pursuits; vanaprastha, the period of preparing oneself to withdraw from the worldly senses; and sanyasa, the period of the hermit, withdrawn from the material world.