On the other hand, those who have come through Iskcon and traditional Vaishnavism and who have been deeply convinced that the celibate standard is the objective and the compulsory prerequisite to higher levels of spirituality, will find all these arguments, no matter how sophisticated, just sophistry, word jugglery--rationalizations for sexual enjoyment, nourishing the very roots of illusion and material consciousness.
So, interestingly, both would find the words somehow hiding the truth, rather than revealing it. Indeed, even Taoists find the metaphysical speculations of the Tantrics to be superfluous, as they have a purely physical and health-oriented concept of sexual yoga.
In fact, the Sahajiya way is a middle way between the extremes of mundane sensuality and dry renunciation. I will come back again and again to the nascent humanism of Chandi Das, who said "there is no state of being above the human," or to Krishnadas, who glorified humanity itself by glorifying Krishna's human form. Krishna's humanity shines light on our humanity, as well as making him accessible to us.
Aropa is based on the premise that the body is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Radha and Krishna, Goloka Vrindavan and all the rest, are present within the body. Radha-ness is to a degree present in all women, Krishna-ness present in all men. Since the soul is neither man nor woman, or since the soul is female to Krishna's masculinity, this Radha-ness or Krishna-ness is not specifically related to the soul, but is an attribute of the body. Making that attribution conscious is called aropa.
There is some kind of practice of aropa in all the schools of Tantra, since all tantric philosophy accepts the body itself as a microcosm of their spiritual philosophy; the elevation of the Kundalini represents the spiritual path towards the highest concept of the particular doctrine, which is present in the thousand-petalled lotus in the skull. The aropa concept is adaptable to different philosophical systems--at least all those that have as a goal the union of opposites, or the achievement of a non-dual state. Vaishnavism is a school that believes in the bheda-abheda vada. That means that on one level there is one-ness, identification with the transcendental world in all its variety, and on the other retaining individual identity. However, the essence of Vaishnava sahajiyaism is in the bhava, in the love that is experienced between the sadhaka couple; that love is the miniscule reflection of the Divine Couple's love, which happily can be recognized by the grace of Sri Guru. The sadhakas pass through the window of their love into the transcendental realm, where everything is made of love.
The Sahajiya sadhaka serves the union of the Divine Couple through the process of aropa. Since the principal aspect of the process is to "follow the raga," or "take shelter of the bhava," the sadhaka couple participates in the sacred madhura mood of the Divine Couple, through which insight into their eternal nature as described in texts like the Ujjvala-nilamani is attained. At the same time, because the object is to serve, their identification as manjaris is not corrupted. The manjaris are not different from Radha. Through identification with her, they experience everything that she does. This identification is the same as sadharani-karana, though it is mistakenly taken by the arasikas to be aham-grahopasana.
The secret of manjari-bhava, then, is to not claim the pleasure as one's own, but to recognize that it is the universal pleasure which is the root cause of creation and is the all-pervading backdrop of the spiritual realm, and to enter into it through a spirit of service. As one cultivates this sadhana, taking advantage of yogic techniques to sharpen the senses and to conquer over rajas and tamas, one comes to the point of tasting prema-rasa. This experience carries over into other svarupa-siddha devotional activities and gives them meaning and dynamic power.
Therefore, on several levels, this devotional practice is not in conflict with brahmacharya, but in fact gives meaning to brahmacharya. Remember, Krishna is a brahmachari.
One last point, related but looking for a place to be inserted: Internal devotional activities have two basic attitudes: one is relational, the other observational.
Generally, when we speak of devotion, we think primarily of the relational attitude. By this I mean that we enter into direct relationship with God in a spirit of worship or prayer. In this kind of stance, we stand as one "against" God. The Holy Name is the essential or classical manifestation of this attitude: calling out to Krishna directly in the vocative case. This is a "dualist" or "bheda" position. We could also call this standpoint "2nd person" consciousness. Though the dualism is predominant, the feeling of identity is a powerful substream that penetrates it.
In the observational attitude, one appreciates Krishna's qualities and pastimes objectively. In this attitude, one is not necessarily praying consciously, even if one is chanting the Holy Name. What I am getting at here is the different kinds of lila-smarana, or even the types of consciousness that go into rendering particular types of service. We could also call this standpoint "3rd person" consciousness; it is essentially an "abheda" position, in the sense that one has the sense of being an integral part of the divine world even though sensing one's separate identity. In other words, the directly relational attitude continues on as a hidden stream beneath other types of consciousness.
Just as two vantage points are needed to create a three-dimensional image, these two vantage points are needed to create rasa.
In an earlier post, I talked about Martin Buber and his famous "I-Thou" mysticism. Maintaining a "I-Thou" mentality constantly is neither possible nor desirable; at least, I don't believe that rasa would be entirely possible if one remained exclusively in this "I-Thou" attitude. Nevertheless, the relational attitude is the fundamental mystical default position. It is the template into which all phenomena are placed.
If I-thou-ness is the essence of the experience of the sacred, then it is nowhere more clearly manifest than in the act of making love. However, without aropa, sex partners are mundane and quickly fatigue of the merely sensual experience. The encounter with the "other" is not experienced as an encounter with the Infinite Other, nor as one of mystical participation in the Divine Union. It is the intuitive attempt to grasp that experience without paying the price.
Through the above understanding, an answer to the question about the "spiritual sense gratification" of devotees like the four Kumaras can be found. The apparent objectification of Krishna is in fact an aspect of the relational, but it is the vehicle for rasa. This is why viraha contains oodles and oodles of rasa.