Manjari Bhava: Are the manjaris asexual?

The idea of mañjarī-bhāva as "asexual" is perhaps a misunderstanding. What is stated is that they are not interested in personally having sexual relations with Krishna in the lila, but are satisfied with seeing Radha and Krishna being united. They serve the lila:

vibhur atisukha-rūpaḥ sva-prakāśo’pi bhāvaḥ
kṣaṇam api nahi rādhā-kṛṣṇayor yā ṛte svāḥ
pravahati rasa-puṣṭiṁ cid-vibhūtir iveśaḥ
śrayati na padam āsāṁ kaḥ sakhīnāṁ rasajñaḥ
Nandimukhi continues, “Hey Vrinde! Even though the loving moods of the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna are all-powerful, the embodiment of exceeding joy, and self-manifest, the rasa of their pastimes cannot attain fullness without the help of the sakhis, not even for a moment, any more than the Supreme Lord can accomplish anything without his spiritual powers. So, what rasika bhakta would not take shelter of the sakhis?” (GLA 10.17, CC 2.8.205)
I believe that this position, deliberately taken by Rupa Goswami, is of great significance. At one time, it seemed to me that it was perhaps nothing more than a somewhat artificial way of justifying celibacy, taking the principle of selflessness to an extreme and turning it into a somewhat gross expression of self-superiority. Let us just say that some people use it that way, but that Rupa Goswami was surely wiser than that.

The problem is in the inclusion of tad-bhāvecchāmayi bhakti (the mood of the mañjarīs; tad-anumodanātmaka in Priti-sandarbha 365) in the kāma-rupā (Brs 1.2.290) or kāmānugā categories of bhakti. If the manjaris are in an asexual dāsya-rasa, then why are they included in madhura-rasa?

Or, put another way, if they are not engaged directly in a one-on-one romantic relationship with Krishna, the Supreme Other, then how can they be said to be in madhura-bhāva or experiencing śṛṅgāra-rasa? Should not sambhogecchā-mayi bhakti have the only legitimate claim to being kāmānugā bhakti? (Brs 1.2.297-299)

The essence of sakhi-bhāva is trust, or viśrambha, which Jiva Goswami has further defined as meaning a feeling of mutual identity (Brs 3.3.106). Nevertheless, it is said that since the manjaris experience Radha's pleasure equally (if not more!) they are satisfied to experience Krishna through her. The two verses (from Govinda-līlāmṛta) found in the teachings of Ramananda Ray are explicit:

sakhyaḥ śrī-rādhikāyā vraja-kumuda-vidhor
sārāṁśa-prema-vallyāḥ kiśalaya-dala-puṣp-
ādi-tulyāḥ sva-tulyāḥ
siktāyāṁ kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta-rasa-nicayair
ullasantyām amuṣyāṁ
jātollāsāḥ sva-sekāc chata-guṇam adhikaṁ
santi yat tan na citram
Just as the moon enlivens the lilies, so Krishna is the bright moon who enlivens the lily-like hearts of the residents of Vrindavan. His pleasure-giving potency is personified in Radha, who is like a creeper whose fruits are prema. Her girlfriends are like the unlimited branches, leaves and flowers which expand out from her self and are thus equal to her. For this reason, when that winding creeper of love is watered with the heavenly potion of Krishna’s sporting activities, then the leaves and flowers, the sakhis, find hundreds of times more pleasure than if they were themselves to be sprinkled. This seems quite normal. (GLA 10.16, CC 2.8.210)
spṛśati yadi mukundo rādhikāṁ tat-sakhīnāṁ
bhavati vapuṣi kampa-sveda-romāñca-bāṣpam
adhara-madhu mudāsyāś cet pibaty eṣa yatnād
bhavati bata tad āsāṁ mattatā citram etat
If Krishna should touch Srimati Radharani,
then lo and behold! her sakhis start to tremble;
they sweat and their body hairs stand on end
and tears well up in their eyes.
And if Krishna should carefully sip
the spirituous liquor of Radha’s lips,
it is they who become intoxicated!
This is truly something wonderful.
So, clearly, the sakhīs and mañjarīs, no matter what their specific actions are in the lila, do not miss anything experientially.

So let us try to understand this on two levels, first of all the spiritual, second the material. On the spiritual plane, though there are apparent distinctions (bheda), in fact there is no bheda--everything is cinmaya. This is what I meant when I was talking about the "bhāva-rājya." Therefore, genital contact, erogenous zone stimulation, etc., sexuality is not a necessity for anyone, not even for Radha and Krishna. After all, Krishna's senses are interchangeable, it is said. The ecstatic experiences are experienced primarily through bhāva rather than sense contact. The sense contact in the lila is entirely subservient to the bhāva. This is the actual purport of the final kārikā in Ujjvala-nilamani :

vidagdhānāṁ mitho līlā-vilāsena yathā sukham
na tathā samprayogeṇa syād evaṁ rasikā viduḥ 
Those who are knowledgeable about sacred rapture have experienced that the actual sexual act is not as great a cause of happiness for these experienced lovers as their various flirtations and loving exchanges. (15.253)
So when it comes to the spiritual world, for the sakhis to experience direct sexual relations with Krishna is of no consequence. The important thing is that they are participants in this non-dual realm of Goloka Vrindavan. Now, when referring to the sādhana under discussion, we must first of all bear the above in mind.

When I said that "the bodies are Radha and Krishna," I realized immediately that there was a certain lack of clarity. My point is that the distinction between the archetypal Radha and Krishna (entering into all aspects, physical, mental, emotional, of the experience) and the individual consciousness within the body remain distinct. The object of bhakti and service remains the Divine Couple; one never becomes Radha or Krishna, except of course in the sense of mystical participation in their being, as described in the previous paragraphs. All bhakti is a culture of the bhāva. However, the particular culture of mañjarī-bhāva remains true to the particular relational (sambandha) diagnosis given by Rupa Goswami and Krishnadas Kaviraj, that is as servants to the Divine Couple; first, as servants to their pleasure and second, as participants in it. In this lila, we are primarily servants of Radha, just as we are primarily her parts and parcels.

The experiences in this world between men and women are the mirror reflections of those existing in the divine archetype, in the objects of our devotion: the Supreme Person and his Hladini Shakti. Of these experiences, the bhāvas are more important than the physical sexuality, but clearly the two are tied in with one another. However, the mundane consciousness puts primacy on the physical. This is why I think it is tragic that with all the scriptural analysis of different activities in the modes of nature, sexuality has not been discussed in that light.

Sexuality in the mode of ignorance--rape, for instance, and other kinds of sexual deviancy--generally emphasize the physical aspects of sexuality or are connected to fantasies arising out of abuses of the body. As one rises through the modes, one transcends primarily orgasmic sexuality, i.e., selfish genital-oriented sexuality, and focuses on the bhāva. This in itself has nothing to do with bhakti, but it refines the consciousness. This is, of course, why yogic sexual practices can be associated with different kinds of metaphysical and cosmological schemes.

So, in answer to your first question, "I don't think you are getting it right here... It is not the physical body which is identified as Radha and Krishna but the taking on of the archetypal persona of Radha and Krishna, an internal self-identification using Radha and Krishna as archetypes for the relationship between the male and female."

This is correct inasmuch as the external phenomena are somehow mirroring the Divine Realm. But the stance of the soul in relationship to those phenomena is that of a manjari. On the material platform, this translates as a kind of distancing from the erotic pleasure itself, subsuming it to the bhāva. I will leave this matter here for now.


Vraja said…
Thanks for your detailed explanation Jagat. Still I didn't really see an answer to the query about this statement of yours:

"And, at the risk of repeating myself, manjari bhava is the hidden ingredient to sacralizing human sexuality beyond its reproductive function."

I didn't see where you explained how manjari bhava sacralizes sex for the sadhaka engaged in sahajiya relationships. Are you saying that without the inner identification as a manjari that sahajiya practice doesn't sacralize sex?

Also I didn't get a response about my question on how traditional sahajiyas view manjari bhava. Is your version of sahajiyaism which seems to include manjari bhava as a prerequisite or at least as the apotheosis of the Chaitanya tradition also found in the traditional sahajiya sects?

Also I was really wondering more about a specific mentioning of manjaris engaged in erotic lila as opposed to say the sakhis in general. In the Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi Lila the sakhis are described as being expansions of Radha and who do engage in direct romantic liaisons with Krishna:

krsnere karaya yaiche rasa asvadana
kridara sahaya yaiche, suna vivarana

Now please listen to how Lord Krsna's consorts help Him taste rasa and how they help in His pastimes.

krsna-kanta-gana dekhi tri-vidha prakara
eka laksmi-gana, pure mahisi-gana ara
vrajangana-rupa, ara kanta-gana-sara
sri-radhika haite kanta-ganera vistara

The beloved consorts of Lord Krsna are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens, and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Radhika.

avatari krsna yaiche kare avatara
amsini radha haite tina ganera vistara

Just as the fountainhead, Lord Krsna, is the cause of all incarnations, so Sri Radha is the cause of all these consorts.

We see how the "consorts" of Krishna are being described as proceeding as expansions of Radha in the same way as Krishna's avatars are proceeding from him.

laksmi-gana tanra vaibhava-vilasamsa-rupa
mahisi-gana vaibhava-prakasa-svarupa

The goddesses of fortune are Her plenary portions, and they display the forms of vaibhava-vilasa. The queens are of the nature of Her vaibhava-prakasa.

akara svabhava-bhede vraja-devi-gana
kaya-vyuha-rupa tanra rasera karana

The Vraja-devis have diverse bodily features. They are Her expansions and are the instruments for expanding rasa

bahu kanta vina nahe rasera ullasa
lilara sahaya lagi' bahuta prakasa

Without many consorts, there is not such exultation in rasa. Therefore there are many manifestations [of Srimati Radharani] to assist in the Lord's pastimes.

In very clear unambiguous language we are told that the consorts of Krishna are related to Radha in the same way that Krishna's avatars are related to him. Nitya mukta jivas do not fall under that category of being. Without first understanding what we are told in Adi Lila then the esoteric message given by Ramananda Raya in the Madhya Lila (at the prompting of Sri Chaitanya to give the ultimate highest truths) will not be understood:

'mahabhava-cintamani' radhara svarupa
lalitadi sakhi -- tanra kaya-vyuha-rupa

Srimati Radharani is the topmost spiritual gem, and the other gopis -- Lalita, Visakha and so on -- are expansions of Her spiritual body.

madhya-vayasa, sakhi-skandhe kara-nyasa
krsnalila-manovrtti-sakhi asa-pasa

[Srimati Radharani's] gopi friends are Her mental activities, which are concentrated on the pastimes of Sri Krsna. She keeps Her hand on the shoulder of a friend, who represents youth.

sabe eka sakhi-ganera ihan adhikara
sakhi haite haya ei lilara vistara

Actually, only the gopis have the right to appreciate these transcendental pastimes, and only from them can these pastimes be expanded.

sakhi vina ei lila pusta nahi haya
sakhi lila vistariya, sakhi asvadaya

Without the gopis, these pastimes between Radha and Krsna cannot be nourished. Only by their cooperation are such pastimes broadcast. It is their business to taste the mellows.

radhara svarupa -- krsna-prema-kalpalata
sakhi-gana haya tara pallava-puspa-pata

By nature, Srimati Radharani is just like a creeper of love of Godhead, and the gopis are the twigs, flowers and leaves of that creeper.

sakhyah sri-radhikaya vraja-kumuda-vidhor hladini-nama-sakteh
saramsa-prema-vallyah kisalaya-dala-puspadi-tulyah sva-tulyah
siktayam krsna-lilamrta-rasa-nicayair ullasantyam amusyam
jatollasah sva-sekac chata-gunam adhikam santi yat tan na citram

All the gopis, the personal friends of Srimati Radharani, are equal to Her. Krsna is pleasing to the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi, just as the moon is pleasing to the lotus flower. His pleasure-giving potency is known as ahladini, of which the active principle is Srimati Radharani. She is compared to a creeper with newly grown flowers and leaves. When the nectar of Krsna's pastimes is sprinkled on Srimati Radharani, all Her friends, the gopis, immediately appreciate the pleasure a hundred times more than if they were sprinkled themselves. Actually this is not at all wonderful.

yadyapi sakhira krsna-sangame nahi mana
tathapi radhika yatne karana sangama

Although the gopis, Srimati Radharani's friends, do not desire to enjoy themselves directly with Krsna, Srimati Radharani makes a great endeavor to induce Krsna to enjoy Himself with the gopis.

nana-cchale krsne preri' sangama karaya
atma-krsna-sanga haite koti-sukha paya

Presenting various pleas for the gopis, Srimati Radharani sometimes sends the gopis to Krsna just to enable them to associate with Him directly. At such times, She enjoys a happiness ten million times greater than that enjoyed through direct association.

You wrote:

"The ecstatic experiences are experienced primarily through bhava rather than sense contact. The sense contact in the lila is entirely subservient to the bhava.

So when it comes to the spiritual world, for the sakhis to experience direct sexual relations with Krishna is of no consequence."

I don't think that is really quite accurate. The bhava between Krishna and the gopis is based on sexual attraction, that's what differentiates that bhava from that between Krishna and male friends or parental figures. The sexual relationship therefore is of great consequence, otherwise why would there be need of having the male female dynamic being taught as the highest expression of intimacy between god and the jiva? I think you may be confusing the bhava of prema with the bhava of rasa. Prema is love in general and rasa is a specific manifestation of love through some type of activity between people. The sakhas have prema for Krishna but they do not need nor have the erotic rasa directly with Krishna, whereas the sakhi's rasa with Krishna cannot be fulfilled without the erotic element. The direct erotic relationship must be there and it must be acted out otherwise there is no purpose for it, besides it would leave a feeling of perpetual longing without satisfaction.

You also wrote:

"So, in answer to your first question, "I don't think you are getting it right here... It is not the physical body which is identified as Radha and Krishna but the taking on of the archetypal persona of Radha and Krishna, an internal self-identification using Radha and Krishna as archetypes for the relationship between the male and female."

This is correct inasmuch as the external phenomena are somehow mirroring the Divine Realm. But the stance of the soul in relationship to those phenomena is that of a manjari. On the material platform, this translates as a kind of distancing from the erotic pleasure itself, subsuming it to the bhava. I will leave this matter here for now."

I don't see why the "stance of the soul" needs to be that of a manjari which results in distancing from erotic pleasure. From my perspective you are chipping away at the edges of something much bigger then you realize. But the problem is that you rely too much on literal interpretations in creating your esoteric doctrine. From my perspective the esoteric message of Sri Chaitanya cannot be contructed brick by brick, especially if you are relying on literal rather then esoteric interpretations of sastra in creating your esoteric doctrine. The esoteric truths are given rather then constructed. And I don't mean given in the sense of using our god given intellect to figure something out. I mean given as in handed to you on a silver platter.
Jagadananda Das said…
I am flattered that you are devoting so much attention to reading and responding to my texts. It is a bit of a challenge to keep up...
Jagadananda Das said…
Briefly, then.

I have already stated elsewhere that various efforts are made by different people with different approaches to sacralizing sex. Since the sahajiya movement traces its origins to Mukunda Goswami, the disciple of Krishnadas Kaviraj, it stands to reason that the concept of manjari bhava is related to this sadhana. The answer to the manjari concept lies in the ideas of sadharanikarana.

For the sadhaka who enters into the spiritual world, there is no longer any difference between him and the spiritual world. A green bird entering a green tree.

The whole point about the manjaris is that they do not seek their own erotic pleasure. They don't need to. They are one with Radha. They serve the union of the Divine Couple and they participate in that union.

The refutation of manjari bhava is, on the whole, a pointless exercise for someone who claims to be a Rupanuga.
Vraja said…
Wherever Chaitanya sahajiyaism finds it's origin is interesting, but I was wondering about their actual take on manjari bhava i.e is it as relevant to them as it is to you? Also I don't think Rupa Goswami really taught directly about manjari bhava,. Nevertheless I am not trying to "refute" it. I am pointing out that to accept esoteric teachings using a strictly literalist perspective leaves the sadhaka out of the loop so to speak. The exoteric literal teaching is hiding a deeper esoteric truth. It's not that manjari bhava itself is not real, it is our understanding of what it means which changes when we change from being the seer of the literal exoteric as being the final conclusion, into being the seer of the symbolic esoteric conclusion, which is quite different from the exoteric literalist conclusion. Gaudiya vaisnavism has at it's core an esoteric version which is hidden within the exoteric. I am always a bit surprised when I see people who delve deep into gaudiya siddhanta but then fail to understand that there maybe is an esoteric inner dimension which is not seen when taking gaudiya siddhanta literally.
Jagadananda Das said…
And I am trying to say that there is no reason not to accept manjari-bhava at face value, at least in the way that it is described on the siddha platform.

I am going to try to explain this again, as I realize that I did nt really work it out to my own satisfaction.
ankt said…

Pranams Jagadanandadasji,

Could you please direct me to some books that are foundational/core for Sahajiya Vaishnav theology and philosophy. I would greatly appreciate your input.

Bhajana naam Ramakrsna!

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