The Tax Collector

You know when you’re participating in a guided meditation, and the instructor says, Imagine you’re somewhere that makes you feel calm and happy, and you imagine yourself in that place, and it feels really nice and peaceful?

Where do you go?

Do you go someplace real –someplace that brings back fond memories for you?

Or do you imagine someplace new –like the perfect beach at sunset…

or somewhere under a canopy of sweet-smelling evergreens?

I’ll tell you where I go.

I go to Vrindavan.

Vrindavan in the place where Sri Krishna appeared and ‘grew up’ over 5,000 years ago. It’s a small town, surrounded by many villages and forests, situated approximately 90 miles south of New Delhi, India.

It is also a state of consciousness in devotion.

In this place, Krishna enjoys childhood pastimes with his eternal companions, headed by his beloved Sri Radha. Even today, these same pastimes are said to take place both continuously and simultaneously, as they are not subject to the material limits of time and space.

Yes, you can see them.

But you are more likely to hear them.

The pastimes, or lila, of Krishna and his friends are recited and sung all over Vrindavan, 24 hours a day, and by hearing them, a listener becomes both entertained and enlightened.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb.

In honor of the looming American federal tax deadline (April 15th), and because I would rather do anything right now than codify receipts, I will narrate the dana-keli-lila, the pastime of the tax collection, and thus welcome you into my happy place.

Cookies and chai for everyone.


One day, the young milkmaids of Vrindavan were walking through a narrow pass at Govardhan Hill, carrying their milk products to a nearby village for a yajna (sacrifice). Krishna, along with his cowherd friends, came and blocked the pass, saying that the gopi girls had to pay a tax.

“Who are you to charge us a tax?” they scoffed.

“I am the king of Vrindavan!” Krishna replied teasingly.

Although the gopis knew Krishna only as their most beloved friend, he was, in truth, the One for whom their sacrifice was intended. Therefore, by demanding a portion of their offerings, Krishna secretly fulfilled their hearts’ desire.

Inwardly, the gopis were elated.

Outwardly, they pretended to be outraged –which pleased Krishna very much.

The taxing continued until the gopis decided one day to launch a counter-attack.

So, at the place of Sankari Kor (“narrow path”) in the village of Varshana, thousands of gopis hid themselves in caves and behind bushes, while the others proceeded as usual through the pass with their pots of milk products.

When Krishna and his friends obstructed the passage and demanded the customary tax, all of the gopis came out of their hiding places and pummeled the boys with clods of yogurt and butter.

Humbled, the boys made Krishna promise to never demand taxes from the gopis again, and Krishna happily conceded defeat.

Thus, the supreme controller, Sri Krishna, was controlled by the loving familiarity of his pure devotees.


Photo: Kusum Sarovar at Govardhana, Vrindavan/

This entry was posted in Old Yoga Stories and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Tax Collector

  1. Nancy A says:

    Rupa.. your posts are ON FIRE lately. WONDERFUL!!

  2. Thais says:

    thank you for sharing what a beautiful story <3

  3. Shanna Mann says:

    Uh… clarification? Why was Krishna happy when the gopis pretended to be outraged? Because they were all playing lightheartedly, or is there a subtext I’m missing?

    • Rupa says:

      Good question, Shanna. Thanks for asking! It’s because he knew that their anger was feigned. Further, the combination of their internal and external moods was a particularly relishable rasa, or taste, like sweetness with a little salt.

      It should be noted that the gopis are not mundane milkmaids, but expansions of Krishna’s own internal potency (Krishna being the supreme source). So you could say that these plays, or lila, are like Krishna engaging with aspects of himself. Thus, the emotions of the gopis are also transcendent.

      That’s the subtext. But it’s also simply a charming story.

  4. Fran Sussman says:

    lovely. and I’ll take any help to get me through tax season.

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