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HVK Archives: The Divine Lovers

The Divine Lovers - The Observer

Gaurav Raina ()
March 21, 1998

Title: The Divine Lovers
Author: Gaurav Raina
Publication: The Observer
Date: March 21, 1998

Who is Radha? Why does she hold such an exalted place among
the Vaishnavas? What is Her relationship with Krishna who many
consider to be God? The conjugal passtimes of God - the rasa lila
and the significance of Radha and the gopis is an easily
misunderstood subject.

Radharani, the daughter of King Brisha Bhanu was born in Barsana
(30 kilometres north west of Mathura) fifteen days after the
birth of Krishna in Mathura. In Vraja, Radha is revered more
than Krishna and it is said that one cannot attain Krishna
without Her grace. The Lord of the universe, Shri Krishna, is the
supreme lover as much as Radha is the supreme beloved. It is said
in the Chaitanya charitramitra that "Krishna enchants the whole
world, but Radha enchants even Him.

The Bhagavada Gita asserts the divinity of Krishna. The Bhagavata
Purana and oter bhakti literatures elaborate on the various
facets of the Lord in describing His energies - the material and
the spiritual. The material energy is understood as maya and
corresponds to te personality of Durga, who is responsible for
the maintenance of the material creation and maya is synonymous
with illusion implying the function of keeping te jivatma trapped
in material existence.

In the same way as Durga represents material energy, Radha
represents spiritual energy. The Lord is described as having
three attributes of sat-chita-ananda (existence-consciousness-
bliss), of which Radha represents the ananda aspect. Just as
Durga is the source of all material pleasure, Radha is the source
of spiritual bliss.

The devotee is able to commune with the Lord in His lilas, in one
of several bhavas, by the agency of ahladini shakti. Radha as
ahladini is thus the only means of loving Krishna and devotion to
Him can be attained only by Her grace.

When the Lord incarnates in His various avatars, this shakti
accompanies Him as His consort. In the Vaishnava mode of worship
obeisance are first paid to the Lord's consort as we see in Sita-
Ram, Lakshmi Narayan and Radha Krishna. In reality there is no
difference between the Lord and His consort and She is
inseparable from him. Radha and Krishna are but one; She is the
energy and He is the energetic.

Radharani is the central theme in Shri Krishna's rasa lila.

This lila of Krishna is often incorrectly perceived as mundane
sexuality leading to a gross misunderstanding of the most sublime
manifestation of God's glory.

The Bhakti Rasa-Amrita Sindhu, a Sanskrit masterpiece composed by
Rupa Goswami of Vrindavan (16th century), describes five major
bhavas or loving relationships of God with His devotees. These
are shanta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya. Shanta bhava
involves the devotee in a formal relationship with God in which
one is conscious of His attributes of power, majesty and
opulence. This mood is manifested in the lilas in Dwarka where
Krishna reigns as King.

Dasya bhava is the servant master relationship as Hanumanji with
Lord Ramachandra.

Sakhya bhava is the relation of friendship with the Lord as we
see in Sudama and Arjuna.

Vatsalya bhava consists parental affection for the childform of
the Lord personified by Yashoda and Devaki. And finally madhurya
bhava is the relationship of the Lord with Radha and the gopis.
As with the other bhavas, this relationship is devoid of any
element of sensuality and is transcendental to material senses.
Its perfection and ecstasy can be understood and experienced only
when one's materialistic conception of sensuality is transcended
as in the exemplary lives of the several saints of Vrindavan, who
were known for their high standards of chastity.

The Gautamiya Tantra describes madhurya bhava thus, "Lust means
attachment to one's personal sensual gratification. But as far as
Radha and Her associates are concerned, they do not desire
personal gratification but only want to satisfy Krishna.
leasure in earthly affairs is temporary and disappears after
temporary gratification, while in transcendental loving affairs,
it is constantly increasing and is permanent.

Being spiritual and transcendental, all bhavas are equal, yet
they are distinguished from each other in the nature of the
devotee's relationship with the Lord and therefore in the degree
of intimacy and surrender to Him.

Madhurya bhava is regarded as the highest fore there is no
greater love and is said to represent the supreme perfection of
the soul. Many great sages are said to have spent several lives
in aspiring to be born as gopis. Even devotees of the stature of
Rani Rukmani, Lord Shiva and Brahma cannot attain to gopi bhava
as their association with the Lord is in consciousness of His
majesty and is therefore in the mood of awe and reverence. In
their absorption in prema bhakti, the gopis are least aware of
their beloved's exalted status. The gopis are dearest to Krishna
and the dearest of all gopis is Radha for only She can infuse
Krishna with the highest transcendental pleasure. To enter into
this most intimate relationship with the Supreme Lord one has
first render personal service to Radharani, in the mood of a
sakhi (friend) or manjari (servant).

The love of Radha and Krishna has a sweetness and mellow
inexpressable in words. Devotee saints have for thousands of
years written poetry in their appreciation of Radha's love. They
have expressed desire of taking birth again and again in
Vrindavan to participate in the rasa lila. It is believed that to
this day Radha and Krishna and the gopis perform their rasa dance
in the forests of Vraja. Their affairs remain invisible to most
people and can be seen only by devotees. Rasa lila is the
supreme expression of the Lord's infinite glory, and the gopis
are His most beloved devotees and supreme among them is Radha,
the highest perfection of love.

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