The glorious occasion of Sri Radhastami is observed on September 9th.
The following discourse was delivered by Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda in the Sārasvata assembly hall of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha, on Śrī Rādhāṣṭamī evening, September 19, 1931 (translated from the weekly Gaudiya, Year 10, Issue 11, October 1931):
“There is one person whose name is never mentioned in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And yet Bhāgavatam’s steadfast readers constantly nurture the ardent hope of becoming that person’s devout, one-pointed servant. May that person, who means everything to Śrī Bhagavān, kindly destroy our false ego in all its various forms and bestow upon us the shelter of Her lotus feet. Today is the day of Her advent.
That personification of grand benevolence, having collected all varieties of graces from Śrī Bhagavān to bestow as gifts upon all beings, is eternally the foremost of the benevolent. May She descend within our hearts and make Her appearance there, and may Her advent be the concern of our worship.
His All in All
It is common for us to hear that the entire earth is sustained by the entity known as Govinda. Many people speak in these terms. Yet there is one whom Govinda Himself esteems as His all in all, His sarvasva. And without the guidance of that entity, we cannot realize what it actually means that She is His everything, His sarva.
The word sva means “one’s own”, but it can also mean “one’s treasure” or “one’s affluence”. One who is Govinda’s own, or one who is the affluence of Govinda, is Govinda’s entire fortune. The treasure that makes Govinda wealthy is naturally the very essence of His all in all – His sarvasva-vastu. We can only know the true meaning of loving worship when we make Her – Govinda’s sarvasva-vastu – the object of our own loving worship.
The Devotees’ Only Cherishable Hope
All the scriptures loudly sing that the form of divinity, the personality of Godhead, is the actual object of worship. Other than Him, no one can be worthy of the word ārādhya (the object of loving adoration). Due to being covered by ignorance for the time being, we have given up our loving quest to find Him and have cheated ourselves out of attaining love for Him. The very moment that we became covered by ignorance, anarthas* emerged, which led us to mistakenly perceive Him, the Supreme Lord, as some other entity. Our ultimate goal is to attain artha (meaningfulness), the antithesis of which lays in anarthas. If we do not take up a service attitude and pursue those goals, or perfections, available to us, which are most meaningful to us and dear to our hearts, and if we do not gain an understanding of the principles of service, then, swayed by our own arrogance and ego, we shall end up serving something other than He who is truly meant to be served.
* Anartha – literally “unmeaningful” or “of no value”; an unwanted or meaningless object or condition.
The attainment of pure love of God (prema) is the sole purpose of all worship. Thoroughly grasping this truth, we shall live by the ardent hope that one day we will be counted among Her entourage. Otherwise, it is preferable to die thousands of times.
āśā-bharair amṛta-sindhu-mayaiḥ kathañcit
kālo-mayātigamitaḥ kila sāmprataṁ hi
tvañ cet kṛpāṁ mayi vidhāsyasi naiva kiṁ me
prāṇair-vrajena ca varoru bakāriṇāpi
Śrī Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī (102)
O devī with graceful thighs, now, burdened by hopes of serving You, a hope which is itself an ocean of immortal nectar, I am somehow passing my time with great difficulty, as I wait anxiously. If You will not give me Your mercy then what use to me is my own life’s breath? What use to me is being in Vraja? What use to me even is Śṛī Kṛṣṇa, who defeated the hideous crane demon, Bakāsura?!
hā nātha gokula-sudhākara su-prasanna-
vaktrāravinda madhura-smita he kṛpārdra
yatra tvayā viharate praṇayaiḥ priyārāt
tatraiva mām api naya priya-sevanāya
Śrī Vilāpa-kusumāñjali (100)
He Nātha, fulfiller of Your devotees’ cherished desires; He Gokula-sudhākara, moon of Gokula, who distributes cooling nectar to all the Vrajavāsīs. He Su-prasanna; He Vaktrāravinda. Your face, like a blooming lotus flower, is always cheerful as You grant all of Your devotees’ most cherished wishes! He Madhura-smita, You whose smile is so sweet and gentle! He Kṛpārdra, whose heart is melting from compassion! Please take me to that place where You and Your beloved Śrīmatī Rādhikā taste pastimes of overwhelming love for each other and let me intimately serve the two of You there.
That hope, the devotees’ only cherishable hope, is an ocean of life-giving ambrosia. When will that hope bear fruit? I feel it is essential to sustain my life because of the hope that, some day, I will be counted among Her entourage. But alas, since our eagerness is not increasing, we are not fully realizing our hopes; we are not obtaining that which we have ardently been hoping for. If our hopes are not fulfilled this very day, if Śrī Govinda’s beloved, His all in all, does not descend within our hearts and make Her appearance there this very day, then we have been deceived and we shall not be able to find anyone more unfortunate than ourselves throughout all history. If we are cheated out of serving that person whose grace will grant us all that we may ever achieve – including our place within Bhagavān’s own holy abode and our connection to all things related to Him – and if we cannot comprehend Her true identity or discover Her presence in the 18,000 verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, then our study of the Bhāgavata has been worthless.
The Perfection of Loving Worship Exists Solely in Her
Being intimately knowledgeable about Her identity, Śrī Gaurasundara spoke to us about unnata-ujjvala-rasa*. He enumerated the many methods of serving Bhagavān and instructed us in the process of serving Him purely, without the adulteration of any extraneous moods. It is only because He spoke to us about such matters that we can comprehend the existence of such a thing as ujjvala-rasa. And on account of this, we can indirectly comprehend the unpleasantness of its antithesis: the bleak, mundane rasa, with its utterly lack-luster sentiments.
* The highest (unnata) mode of pure loving service to Bhagavān; the blazingly effulgent (ujjvala) paramour love conceived of by the vraja-gopīs; madhura-rasa (unwedded conjugal love of God).
In how many ways has Śrī Bhagavān personally offered us intimate knowledge of Himself just to make us relish transcendental service to Him? Yet it is essential that we wholly understand that person who has rendered such immense service to Śrī Bhagavān that He has made Her the object of His own service. Those who adoringly sing about Her can bestow upon us the qualification to serve Her; they alone can awaken anurāga (inexhaustible, ardent affection) for Her lotus feet in the core of our being. The intelligence and strength to serve Her is attained by keeping company with Her dear confidantes, who are in Her ānugatya(guardianship, or tutelage). By such company we can realize that service to Her is the highest purpose in existence.
As soon as we can come to understand, in light of the teachings of the mahājanas, that She is Śrī Bhagavān’s everything, we shall proceed to serve Her, knowing that the perfection and prosperity of loving worship exists solely in Her. If we engage in serving Her from this day forth, the day of Her advent, then we shall become qualified to reach the summit of auspiciousness. Surely, all of us do not pray for that ultimate auspiciousness, but if by some unknown sukṛti (blessed activity) we get the association of one of the confidantes of Śrī Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī, She who is the embodiment and origin of supreme auspiciousness, and if we are truly granted the fortune of hearing genuinely sublime narrations about Her, then we, too, may develop the inspiration to follow the path of that ultimate auspiciousness.
But if we engage in self-deception by depriving ourselves of service to that person who means everything to akhila-rasāmṛta-mūrti* Śrī Nanda-nandana, and service to Her faithful followers, who are Her dear confidantes, we can never attain the eligibility to serve Śrī Govinda.
* The condensed form of the entirety of all transcendent humours.
To understand Her identity, we believe that it is essential to first know Her name. Yet, while studying Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we find no apparent mention of Her name anywhere. We only discover descriptions of Her form and beauty, praise of Her qualities, and accounts of the specialty of Her companions and Her pastimes. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we find everything about the dearest beloved of Govinda but Her name, as though it has not been mentioned there at all. Yet, in the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we discover something:
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me
sarahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca
gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
Śrī Bhagavān said: O Brahmā, knowledge of Me (jñāna) is the subject matter established in the revealed scriptures. Such knowledge is verily founded upon realization (vijñāna) of My svarūpa (intrinsic form) and also upon that esoteric secret (rahasya), prema-bhakti. Both are highly confidential. I am revealing all of this to you, and I am also revealing to you knowledge of sādhana-bhakti, which is the preliminary branch (aṅga) of prema-bhakti. Embrace all of this knowledge, and assimilate it with care.
* In the BBT edition of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Verse 12 of this chapter has been treated as a separate verse. Consequently, this verse appears as 2.9.31 in that edition.
kālena naṣṭā pralaye
mayādau brahmaṇe proktā
dharmo yasyāṁ mad-ātmakaḥ
tena proktā sva-putrāya
manave pūrva-jāya sā
Śrī Bhagavān said: The divine message of the Vedas, which describe dharma related to Me, disappeared after the cosmic annihilation due to the passage of time. At the beginning of the next creation, I personally imparted that knowledge to Brahmā.
In turn, Śrī Brahmā instructed this Vedic knowledge to his firstborn son, Manu, and thereafter the seven brahma-ṛṣis headed by Bhṛgu Muni accepted the same.
Śrī Bhagavān explained all these matters to the first created being, Brahmā, but over time the people of this world forgot His message, because the collective currents of their thought were naturally subjected to the effects of degeneration, dissolution and so forth.
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me
sarahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca
gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
Now, as I speak to you, hear My words and assimilate them. Knowledge of Me is highly confidential. It is knowledge fully grounded in realization, knowledge that is interwoven with secrets and therefore is itself an extremely intimate secret. The scriptural definition of the word rahasya is rahasi sthitaḥ – that which is situated in secrecy. Neither these secrets (rahasya) nor anything branching from them (aṅga) can be grasped through observation of some supposed objective reality.* Swept away by the currents of thought that dominate the external world, we have forgotten the essentiality of taking shelter at the feet of one who has true knowledge of the soul. Nothing else is so essential. Śrī Bhagavān remains in a state of perpetual readiness to reawaken this knowledge.
* Rahasya here refers to prema-bhakti (pure, loving devotion), and its aṅga, or limb, is sādhana-bhakti (the practices employed to ultimately attain pure, loving devotion).
Śrī Bhagavān said to Brahmā:
Now, as I speak to you, carefully listen to My words and accept them in your heart. No one is qualified to hear or embrace this message without My grace. Only by My mercy shall those who hear and learn about Me gain this secret knowledge. What am I? What is My form (rūpa)? What is My intrinsic nature (svarūpa)? What are My qualities (guṇa)? What are the specialties of My associates? What pastimes do I perform (līlā)?
The stage of absorption in My transcendental pastimes, which are saturated with rasa, far surpasses the stage of absorption in ordinary mundane sentiments. There is no other way to know all this but through the potency of My mercy.
I am the foundation of all divine qualities. I am not speaking about qualities that are adulterated by passion and ignorance, but rather of those qualities that are the existential, causal basis of creating, sustaining, and destroying the cosmos. Since I am distinguished by these qualities and since I am the instrumental cause of all effects, I am the original, fundamental entity. This can be known only by attaining My grace.
Therefore, Śrī Bhagavān has used the word mad-anugrahaḥ – My grace, or favour.
Information about Śrī Bhagavān’s aṅga aspect – namely sādhana-bhakti; information about His rahasya aspect – namely that most esoteric secret, prema-bhakti; information about his vijñāna aspect – particularly that realized knowledge which is saturated with sublime consciousness; and information of His personal splendour, which includes His abode, eternal associates and expansions (tad-rupa-vaibhava), are all supremely confidential, non-dual knowledge (advaya-jñāna). That eternal, highly confidential knowledge can only be attained by the mercy of Śrī Bhagavān. It is never revealed otherwise, for any reason. This secret knowledge is disclosed at the beginning of the four core verses (catuḥ-ślokī) of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. We are fortunate that Śrī Gaurasundara has revealed this mystery to the world, as though unlocking a treasure-chest.
The Secret Should Not Be Revealed To Impersonalists
A secret (rahasya) has been mentioned, an account of it given, but the name of the person about whom this secret is concerned has not been disclosed. Since that name is a secret, it should not be disclosed to those subscribing to schools of ignorant thought, and has not therefore, been openly revealed. After hearing the pastimes of Śrī Nanda-nandana told in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, these ignorant people, what to speak of gaining any faith, discard all accounts of the Lord’s pastimes and just contemplate the impersonal feature of the Absolute, which is in line with their mundane conception. And some of them deem it sensible to merge their very selves with that impersonal reality. Without hearing from a genuine, bona fide source, people’s perception of reality suffers from this form of distorted vision. Due to their immense aversion towards serving the Lord, they can never comprehend the intrinsic nature of bhagavad-bhakti.
But, in our own hearts, which are radiant with pure, existential goodness (sattva), the day of rasa-mayī Parameśvarī’s advent has arrived in the course of the sun’s orbit. The roaming sun is today revealing the appearance of that Supreme Goddess. Hence, for us, the sun-god, too, is showing us supreme favour by unveiling the arrival of the secret at hand. Our duty now is to submit ourselves to someone who has knowledge of that secret. A poet by the name Manohara Dāsa has said: rādhā-pada-paṅkaja bhakata ki āśā dāsa manohara kara ta’piyāsā
The bhaktas’ ardent wish is that they may someday serve Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet. This is also Dāsa Manohara’s only aspiration.
Kṛṣṇa is Bound By Vārṣabhānavī’s Prema
The single most cherished aspiration of the topmost devotees is to serve the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā:
paramābhīṣṭaṁ hṛdā dhārayan
karhi syāṁ tad-anugraheṇa
Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhānidhi (259)
When will I relish that most wonderful festival of attachment to the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā by keeping that most supreme ambition of serving them, in the core of my heart?
In an aṣṭa-padī*, Śrī Jayadeva has said:
* A song composed of eight stanzas. Gīta-govinda consists of twenty-four aṣṭa-padīs.
rādhām ādhāya hṛdaye
Śrī Gīta-govinda (7.1)
Even though Kṛṣṇa is the one who causes everyone’s happiness to swell, and even though He is the Supreme hero who was destined to conquer evil King Kaṁsa, His heart had been bound with the fetters of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s love. Since, within His heart, He was always absorbed in Rādhikā’s prema, which is the quintessence of madhura-rasa, He naturally abandoned all the countless other beautiful vraja- devīs.
At the rāsa-sthalī (the place of the rāsa dance), all the gopīs are present with Gopīnātha, who is engrossed in rasa-laden pastimes with them. When the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, Vārṣabhānavī Śrī Rādhā, arrived there, She saw that countless gopīs were immersed in serving Bhagavān by dancing with Him in a circle. Reproaching that sight within Her mind, She thought, “Today My Kṛṣṇa is in the hands of others and My own confidantes are busy enjoying themselves!” To effect a feeling of separation (vipralambha-bhāva), which actually nourishes the thrill of meeting (sambhoga-rasa), Vārṣabhānavī ran away from the rāsa-sthalī instead of entering it and joining the rāsa-dance.
Remain Proudly in Her Ānugatya
It is at this point that Śrī Jayadeva has written: Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Kaṁsa, suddenly broke away from the rāsa-sthalī. Rādhā is likened to a chain that binds Śrī Kṛṣṇa in intense desires to relish the essence of Her love. With thoughts of that Śrī Rādhā weighing deeply on His heart, Kṛṣṇa deserted all the other beautiful vraja-devīs and went to search for Her, unaccompanied by anyone else.
When someone abandons the ānugatya (guardianship, or tutelage) of Rādhikā, any skill he may display in gratifying Kṛṣṇa’s senses is not actually faithful to the true propensity of his soul: exclusive devoutness to serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Although all the gopīs are direct manifestations (kāya-vyūha) of Rādhikā, it is particularly those confidantes of Kṛṣṇa’s sarvasva, Śrīmatī Rādhikā who, while remaining proudly in Her ānugatya, can provide Kṛṣṇa the utmost delight.
śrīmān rāsa-rasārambhī vaṁśī-vaṭa-taṭa-sthitaḥ
karṣan veṇu-svanair gopīr-gopīnāthaḥ śrīye’stu naḥ
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā (1.17)
Śrīman Gopīnātha, who stands at the base of Vaṁśī-vaṭa and who orchestrates the loving emotions (rasa) that arise during the rāsa-dance, attracts all the gopīs by the sweet sound of His flute, drawing them to His side. May He bless us with all auspiciousness.
Contemplating enjoying sambhoga, that is, contemplating enjoying the company of Śrī Govinda without being in the ānugatya of She who means everything to Him, is something we shall never do. To shed light on this matter, Śrī Jayadeva Gosvāmī, the author of the aṣṭa-padī, reveals something that supplements the description in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He says, “tatyāja-vrajasundarīḥ – abandoning the beautiful vraja-devīs.” Kṛṣṇa abandoned the gopīs even as they danced with Him during the rāsa-līlā. He left them all to find Śrīmatī Rādhikā, while carrying Her in the deepest chamber of His heart. The binding chains of love of the other gopīs are faint, feeble and vulnerable when compared to the chains of Vārṣabhānavī’s love, which are immensely and profoundly powerful.
After Śrī Kṛṣṇa had left them, all the gopīs took shelter of Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī’s adhirūḍa-mahābhāva*. Overwhelmed by emotions such as mohana** and mādana***, they set out in search of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They all understood that without taking shelter at the feet of govinda-sarvasva Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, madhura-rasa can never find complete nourishment.
* The final limit of mahābhāva is known as adhirūḍha-bhāva. It is the very essence of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure-giving potency and it is characterized by the feeling that each moment is like a day of Brahmā (billions of years) when one is separated from Kṛṣṇa, and that an entire day of Brahmā is like a moment when one is meeting Him.
** The exalted state of prema known as mohana manifests in Śrī Rādhā at the time of Her separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this state, She experiences extreme anguish due to Her longing to meet with Him .
*** The exalted state of prema known as mādana, or mādanākhya-mahābhāva, is eternally and splendidly manifest in Śrī Rādhā, to the exclusion of all others. It is the highest stage of mahābhāva and only arises at the time of Śrī Rādhā’s meeting with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It never arises in any other gopī, including Lalitā and the other principle sakhīs.
All moods and expressions of love with which the gopīs perform their services exist simultaneously in Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, and only in Her do such moods of love exist in their entirety and perfection. Therefore, abandoning all the other gopīs, who were each absorbed in one of the eight moods of a heroine, such as the feeling of separation from Her lover (proṣita-bharttṛkā), Kṛṣṇa left the rāsa dance, forcefully drawn by Śrī Vārṣabhānavī’s power of attraction, for She alone possesses all these bhāvas to their full extent. As such, He set out in search of She who verily attracts the all-attractive being.
The gopīs are expansions of Rādhikā. Because they are eternally the fractional portion (aṁsa) of She who is the originating and complete whole (aṁśinī), they could not bind Kṛṣṇa, for He is solely Her property. Rādhikā thus extracted Kṛṣṇa, He who attracts everyone, from the rāsa-dance.
These topics can only be fathomed by someone if the innate faculties of his soul (ātma-vṛtti) have already awakened to the taste of divine amour (madhura-rati). Yet still, if someone’s heart is the seat of intense parental love (vatsalya-rasa), then they, too, can understand the sweetness and beauty of the pastimes of She who is the complete whole.
The Glory of Her Ānugatya
The gopīs came to the place where the rāsa dance was to take place, attracted by Kṛṣṇa and pulled to Him by the sweet melodies of His flute. Then, when Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, the embodiment of divine amour (madhura-rati) in its fullest form, desired to serve Śrī Nanda-nandana Gopīnātha Rādhā-ramaṇa, the object of our service, He abandoned the less extraordinary attraction of all the other gopīs and became a victim of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī’s charm. The most attractive being became helplessly attracted. Therefore, when liberated souls gain the qualification required to fathom Rādhikā’s position, they understand the following:
karmibhyaḥ parito hareḥ priyatayā vyaktiṁ yayur jñāninas
tebhyo jñāna-vimukta-bhakti-paramāḥ premaika-niṣṭhās tataḥ
tebhyas taḥ paśu-pāla-paṅkaja-dṛśas tābhyo’pi sā rādhikā
preṣṭhā tadvad iyaṁ tadīya-sarasī tāṁ nāśrayet kāḥ kṛtī
Śrī Upadeśāmṛta (10)
One who selflessly performs virtuous acts in accordance with the path of karma-yoga is superior to those who merely seek to fulfill their selfish desires. The brahma-jñānīs, who by dint of their spiritual knowledge are transcendental to the three modes of material nature, are more dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa than those pious followers of the karma path, who are forever occupied in performing virtuous deeds. More dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa than the brahma-jñānīs are His devotees like Sanaka, who have abandoned the pursuit of knowledge and who consider bhakti alone to be the best path. But pure devotees like Nārada, who are resolutely fixed in premafor Śrī Kṛṣṇa, are even more dear to Him than all such devotees And yet the lotus-eyed vraja-gopīs, whose very lives belong solely to Kṛṣṇa, are even more beloved to Him than all such loving (premī) devotees like Nārada. Amongst all those beloved gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhikā is more dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa than His own life, and in precisely the same way, He dearly loves Her pond, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Therefore, what highly fortunate, spiritually intelligent person would not reside on the banks of Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa in a state of transcendental consciousness, performing bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eightfold daily pastimes?
kṛṣṇasyoccaiḥ praṇaya-vasatiḥ preyāsibhyo’pi rādhā
kuṇḍaṁ cāsyā munibhir abhitas tādṛg eva vyadhāyi
yat preṣṭhair apy alam asulabhaṁ kiṁ punar bhakti-bhājāṁ
tat premedaṁ sakṛd api sarāḥ snātur āviṣkaroti
Śrī Upadeśāmṛta (11)
After thorough deliberation on the matter, the sages have unanimously declared (in the Padma-purāṇa) that just as amongst all the gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the foremost object of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s great love, in precisely the same way this pond of Hers is also the topmost object of His love. Upon one who simply bathes in its waters just once with great devotion, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa bestows that rare treasure of gopī-prema, which is so immensely difficult to attain even for such dear devotees of Bhagavān as Nārada – what to speak of ordinary sādhakas.
Śrī Rādhikā is the abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s intense love (praṇaya). Amidst His other beloveds, She is foremost and dear-most in every respect. Even Uddhava and other exalted devotees pray for the foot-dust of the gopīs. Yet, these gopīs consider that their lives will be successful if they can attain a position in the ānugatya (guidance, or tutelage) of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī. And the most exalted devotees, those who are inclined toward madhura-rasa and who have reached the summit of bhakti to the Supreme Lord, take shelter at the place of Her pastimes and bathe in the sacred waters of Her pond, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa.
In pursuit of awakening the faculties of awareness within the soul proper, they constantly immerse themselves in the holy waters of that lake and dwell by its side. The confidantes of Śaibya, Candrā and other rival gopīs do not even qualify to approach that place. To perpetually live by the bank of such a pond, and to bathe in its transcendental waters by following the soul’s own faculties of awareness is not affordable for any ordinary, fortunate person.
As long as the transcendental nature of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī’s age and of Her childish innocence, even in the midst of Her dawning adolescence, does not become the subject of our reflection, we cannot understand the glory of achieving a position in Her ānugatya. *
* Although Śrīmatī Rādhikā is apparently an eternal kiśori (adolescent), She remains intrinsically a kaumari (pre-adolescent).
We Must Know Her Name
In order to perform bhajana, those who study Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam must know the name of their venerable deity, for one can only perform bhajana beginning from nāma. One cannot begin his bhajana directly from līlā. It is said in scripture:
prathamaṁ nāmnaḥ śravaṇam-antaḥ-karaṇa-śuddhyartham-apekṣyaṁ | śuddhye cāntaḥ-karaṇe rūpa-śravaṇena tad-udaya-yogyatā bhavati | samyag-udite ca rūpe guṇānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ sampadyate sampanne ca guṇānāṁ sphuraṇe parikara-vaiśiṣṭyena tad-vaiśiṣṭyaṁ sampadyate | tatas teṣu nāma-rūpa-guṇa-parikareṣu samyak sphuriteṣu līlānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ suṣṭhu bhavatīty-abhipretya sādhana-kramo likhitaḥ |
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama-sandharbha commentary on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.18)
First, a person must hear and chant the holy name to achieve purity of consciousness. Thereafter, when his heart has become pure, it is a fit appearance place for the Lord’s beautiful form, and as soon as the Lord’s form thoroughly manifests in his heart as a result of hearing descriptions of that form, the bhakta experiences revelations about the Lord’s qualities. As the Lord’s qualities fully unfold, the defining characteristics of His associates and thus His own defining characteristics, that is, His unique interrelationship with each of them, are exhibited. After that, when the Lord’s name, form, qualities and associates have completely manifested in the bhakta’s heart, the Lord’s pastimes blossom in their full splendour. The progression of sādhana has been delineated in this way with the intention of acquainting the bhaktas with the sequential process involved in the Lord’s appearance within their hearts.
Therefore, unless we begin, on account of attraction to śrī nāma, to contemplate within our heart the transcendent rasas, we are not qualified to study the form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord. People may have perfected their comprehension and expression of the words of scripture from an external, worldly perspective, yet as long as their conduct remains contrary to the conduct of realized souls, narrations of the Lord’s rāsa-līlā are beyond the reach of their understanding. Therefore, Śrī Gaurasundara has instructed us about nāma-bhajana (divine worship in the form of chanting the holy name).
Kṛṣṇa’s name is tāraka-brahma-nāma, the holy name who delivers us. Alongside His name we can see the word hare. As long as one does not gain realized knowledge of the direct meaning (vidvad-rūḍhī) of that word, one remains at a great disadvantage. For that matter, when we try to understand the word rāma, also, we are usually carried away by historical considerations*.
* Thinking in terms of history, ordinary people usually interpret rāma as Lord Rāmacandra.
Too often, the purity of our intellect is sullied and ruined by figurative and metaphorical doctrines, metaphysical theories, and that preposterous act of projecting man’s nature on the figure of God. If someone tries to obtain the darśana of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda but lacks knowledge of Reality’s secret truths (rahasya-jñāna), he finds that his vision is veiled.
In the mahā-mantra, the name Harā*, which refers to Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, becomes Hare when it is uttered in the vocative case. In a similar way, the name Rādhikā-ramaṇa Rāma becomes Rāma when it is uttered as a personal address. Those who have attained neither eligibility to enter the realm of madhura-rati (divine amour) nor knowledge of Reality’s hidden truths (rahasya-jñāna) assume that the name Hare is simply Hari in the vocative case and therefore another name of Bhagavān Himself. Some even say that the word rāma means ātmārāma, or He who is satisfied in Himself, and they forgo scrutinizing the matter any further.
* Sri Jiva Gosvami’s first definition of Hare: “Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra’s transcendental beauty captivates the minds of all, but Śrīmatī Rādhikā captivates the mind of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by exercising Her unrivalled cleverness. Therefore, She is known as Harā. The vocative case of Harā is Hare.”
To state that the Lord, who is known as Puruṣottama (the Supreme Person), exists in solitude is to present only half of His identity. Statements that fail to account for the other half of reality just deceive us. And when we are cheated of the understanding that there exists a Supreme Divine Couple, we are bound to reject the conception of the unity and identity of the potent (saktimana) with His potency (sakti). And as a consequence of this, whatever limited understanding of Puruṣottama we may have already attained, also degenerates, terminating in the conception of an emasculated, impotent God (kliva-brahma).
The conception of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda is of the Absolute Truth in utmost completeness. On the other hand, the conception of Puruṣottama in solitude, where the Lord exists alone as the supreme reality, cannot bring the ānugatya-dharma of the soul (the innate commitment of the soul to remain in the charge and care of a higher guide) past the moods of parenthood (vatsalya), friendship (sakhya), and servitude (dāsya). It never touches on the topic of unnata-ujjvala-rasa. And describing the Lord by His titles like brahma or paramātmā, can never convey the fullness of the Absolute Truth that is so effectively established by names such as Rādhā-nātha or Rādhā-ramaṇa.
The Summit of Transcendence
All those souls who, while seeking out the kingdom of prema-bhakti, journey through sādhana-bhakti and reach beyond it to the stage of bhāva-bhakti, must realize that divine love of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, which is the topmost summit of prema-bhakti, is only available in Her ānugatya. Without being in Her ānugatya, the soul gains but a feeble eligibility within the realms of spiritual existence.
When we transcend Devī-dhāma (the material world, which is presided over by the goddess of the illusory energy) and cross the Virajā River (the threshold between the divine and mundane worlds), even transcending Brahma-loka (the realm of the impersonal absolute) and totally evading the conception of opulence found in the paravayoma (the spiritual sky, or kingdom of God); when we even surpass the intimate moods of friendship and parental love found in Goloka and at long last, grounded in the perfect, eternal (nitya-siddha) identity of our soul, we become acquainted with the conception of Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa, then our eligibility shall be so exalted that we shall be the most fortunate of the fortunate and our service shall rise to the very pinnacle of its perfection.
Such a state cannot simply be called “realization”, nor even aparokṣa-anubhuti – direct experience of the imperceptible absolute – as seen in the language employed by the jñānīs. No. What we shall attain is the extraordinary functions of love known as mohana andmādana. What we shall experience is known by names like udghūrṇa*, citra jalpa** and mahābhāva (the ultimate stage of ecstatic love of God). Now we live confined within our gross bodies, which consign profuse obstructions to such experiences. Even the sensitivity achieved by our subtle bodies actually still encumbers us. If our ātmā-vṛtti, the very calling of our soul, cannot find unimpeded and unceasing shelter in the ānugatya of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī, then we can never grasp even the slightest hint that such achievements exist. So, taking the foot-dust of the foremost rūpānuga, Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī, upon our heads, we fervently pray:
* The state of divine-madness (divya-unmāda) in which one deliriously endeavours to serve the beloved, despite their absence, is known as udghūrṇ. Rādhikā experienced udghūrṇā when Kṛṣṇa departed for Mathurā.
** The incoherent, delirious babbling resulting from intense longing is known as citra-jalpa. C.f. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 10.47 (Bhramara-gīta).
hā devi! kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍavad udbhaṭārtiḥ
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike! nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi
Śrī Gāndharvā Samprārthanāṣṭakam (2)
O Devī Gāndharvike! I am suffering greatly and therefore, today, I am throwing myself on the ground like a stick and desperately imploring You, with a choked voice, to be merciful to this fool and count me as one of Your own confidantes.”