This is an excerpt from the draft chapter on Ardra, the sixth star of the Vedic sidereal zodiac, from my forthcoming book.
Protector of the Divine Beauty of Rasa
Residents of the holy city of Vṛṇdāvana is tell a sacred legend of Śiva as “Gopeśvara Mahādeva.” This tale beautifully illustrates how Ārdrā forms a wall barring the undeserving from entering the realm of Rohiṇī; how destruction of the unreal and utter forgetfulness and abandonment of ones ego is required before one can enter into the true beauty and pleasure of spiritual abundance. I will now tell you that tale:
In the middle of the full-moon-lit autumn night, Śrī Kṛṣṇa held the magnificent “dance of rasa,” manifesting the true infinitude of abundant romantic beauty that is partially reflected by Rohiṇī’s fullest glory. You should already know what rasa is, and what its significance is, because we discussed it while discussing Mṛgaśīrṣā.
Śiva rushed to the spot to participate in the rasa-dance. Vṛṇdā, the goddess of Vṛṇdāvana, stopped him in his tracks at the outskirts of the forest groves. “You are not permitted to enter!” She declared.
Śiva was crushed and dejected. “Why!?”
“No male exists in the rasa-dance except Kṛṣṇa,” Vṛṇdā explained. “Because you hold on to the false-identity of being a male, your presence cannot be tolerated there. You are barred from entry!”
From a great distance, Śiva could hear and see and smell and feel the excitement of the rāsa-dance. He could taste its intoxicating sweetness on the breezes. This drove him mad with desire.
“I am Rudra!!!” He declared. “I can destroy, dismantle, and put an end to everything!!! Therefore I will destroy my own male ego!” With this ferociously powerful determination he entered meditation upon the supreme female, Śrī Rādhā, the central figure of the rāsa-dance, seeking her blessing.
Hearing his prayers, Śrī Rādhā sent her closest confidant, Lalitā, to Śiva, who sat in fiery, passionate meditation at the edge of the forest. Lalitā imparted to Śiva all the profound conceptions required to develop the inner ego of a purely feminine goddess fit to partake in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s paramount revelry of rāsa. Yet Śiva’s male body remained.
Lalitā escorted him to the Yamunā. “Submerge yourself in it,” she commanded. By her blessing, when Śiva again emerged from the water his possessed a new physical self to matched his new internal self: he had the form of a divine goddess of rāsa, a Gopī.
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa saw this new gopī entering the rāsa-dance hand in hand with Lalitā a surge of happiness and mischief erupted from his transcendental being. Because this gopī was none other than Śiva (who is called Maheśvara, the great controller) Kṛṣṇa playfully nicknamed her Gopeśvara.
When the annihilation and destructive force of Ārdrā is given spiritual direction, it dismantles the false ego and one can pass its barrier into the blessed realms of Kṛttikā, Mṛgaśīrṣā and ultimately Rohiṇī.
– Vic DiCara