Beliefnet
My 20th century incarnation is that of a modern New York City lawyer, but that hasn't stopped me from continuing to practice a 2,000-year-old form of Hindu dance. "Bharatanatyam" has been my window into the world of my heritage and my religion, Hinduism.

In my world as a lawyer, there are few black and white decisions or choices, and innumerable grays. Hinduism recognizes this through scriptures; through a rich oral tradition of chants, stories and myth; through several epic tales - and through dance.

In the dance I've performed for Beliefnet, the antics of Krishna, the God of Love, are set in Mathura, his kingdom, which may or may not have existed. Krishna is one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who is one third of the major triumvirate in Hinduism.

When I dance, I am transported into that world where evil and good may merge and then emerge, divided but sometimes only by subtle lines. It is a world where God is often depicted as an earthly lover with all the human vices and virtues, but takes that form only to convince all of us that we too can transcend our bodies to attain enlightenment through him, and oneness with him.

Lord Vishnu is the "protector" of mankind, and forms a trio with Lord Brahma (the creator) and Lord Shiva (the destroyer). In Hinduism, there are many echelons of gods, just as in life, there are human beings at every conceivable level of spiritual realization. Hinduism even grants legitimacy to demons. Called Rakshasas, they are regarded as divinities at the bottom of the spiritual totem pole, perhaps higher deities condemned to demonic rebirth for misdeeds in past lives.

The dance shown here portrays some of Krishna's pranks. He tugs at the head coverings of the demure milkmaids as they wend their way through the fields to milk the cows or carry pots of milk home to churn into butter. He throws stones at their earthenware, causing them to crack, shatter and drench the maids. Just as the maids are about to box his ears and report him to his mother, he charms them into dancing with him. Their love for him makes them forget his teasing and tricks.

Metaphors abound in the dance. Krishna is God, but he is also a flirtatious boy. His pranks are like life itself: full of twists and turns, tossing up all sorts of difficulties-but just when we begin to fear that God has abandoned us, he does something to show us that he is there and cares. The milkmaids with whom Krishna toys represent all the various human souls, each on its own unique spiritual quest.

Radha, Krishna's favorite milkmaid and ultimately his bride, is a more evolved soul. Her very human yearning for him is really the longing in every one of our souls to be united forever with God, and to be eternally happy.

When I dance, I am, for brief moments, free of my earthly ties. When I am in the midst of a performance, I like to think that I could be Radha. Hinduism is founded on the notion that God is within each of us. We can seek him out (as the milkmaids seek out Krishna), or we may be sought out by him at various junctures in life, as Krishna seeks out Radha.

As you watch an excerpt from the dance, a padam or expressive piece entitled "Mathuranagarilo" ("In the Kingdom of Mathura"), I hope you will get a glimpse into Hinduism as I live it.

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