Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Structure of Dāna-keli-kaumudī

I have been writing about the folk and classical versions of the dāna-keli-līlā, in particular with reference to its classicization in the DKK. My point has been that the difference between the folk tradition and the classical is similar to most low-brow and high-brow culture. In one of my last posts, I gave the analogy of folk music to a symphony, or folk stories to an opera as being the kind of distinction that could be made. There will always be people who favor one or the other, but I think it can be said without too much exaggeration that the latter does require and expect a greater amount of education, or saṁskāra, on the part of the audience.

This will, as we have been discussing in the comments on some articles on culture, always be a point of contention: how to popularize something while at the same time making its full power and richenss available; the whole question is one of throwing pearls before swine. I have been reading a couple of nice books that go into many of these questions and I would like to review them in the coming days, but let me go on here with the necessary exercise of describing the structure of Dāna-keli-kaumudī, which will make it a bit easier to see how the classical form of the Sanskrit play, as well as Rupa Goswami’s structuring of the pastime itself, reveal those elements that he wanted to prioritize.

In this discussion, special attention is being paid to the verses, which simply on account of their form should be considered to have content that is to be prioritized. Moreover, verses of greater length are also considered to have somewhat greater weight. I have divided them into short, medium and long verses: short ones include the āryā type, anuṣṭhubh and triṣṭubh (with 11 syllables to a line). Medium verses include the jagatī type, praharṣiṇī (13), vasanta-tilaka (14) and mālatī (15). Medium-long includes the several varieties of 17-syllable verse (pṛthvī, śikhariṇī, mandākrāntā) and long verses are śārdūla-vikrīḍita (19) and sragdharā (21).

It should also be noted that verses often come in bunches. I haven’t done an analysis of this yet, but it seems that these represent musical interludes, even when they are not of the same metrical form.

Page numbers here, for the sake of convenience, are based on Rasa Bihari Lal and Sons edition translated by Kushakratha and revised by Bhumipati Das. Verses are NOT indicated in that edition, however, which is truly an oversight. You can, of course, find the Grantha Mandir versions of DKK here and here.


All Sanskrit plays begin with a customary three-part introduction: nāndī, prastāvanā, and viṣkambhaka.

(1) The nāndī is the maṅgalācaraṇa or invocatory verse(s). In DKK, there are two verses, a detailed explanation of which is being given on this blog. The first one is up and there will be at least two more. Links will be provided. (Verses 1 and 2) These are significant because in three ways they indicate the purpose of the work—directly through vastu-nirdeśa, and also indirectly through the namaskāra and the blessing. As argued in the abovementioned posts, the prominent element in both nandi verses is Radha, both in her external responses to her love (kilakiñcita), and in the power of her love itself (anurāga).

Sudipta Kaviraja observes that “in Gaudiya Vaishnava theory, ironically, Krishna is gradually relegated to a distant eminence, and the whole metaphorical ground is gradually occupied by an increasingly resplendent Radha. The cult of eroticism undergoes a subtle internal transformation—the love, and its many states which are described become increasingly the states of love of a feminine figure instead of a male.” (The Unhappy Consciousness, 90)

He goes on to say that this is a largely uninterpreted and unnoticed phenomenon, which may be true for academic outsiders, but is certainly not for insiders of the tradition, as these two verses clearly show. The gradual coming into prominence of Radha in the work of Jayadeva, Chandidas, and Vidyapati is of importance central to the development of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which has its apotheosis in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who incarnated that love.

The subject matter of the Dāna-keli-kaumudī is Radha’s love, her anurāga, and the dāna-līlā is simply the occasion for that love to be manifested.

(2) The prastāvanā (Verses 3-8) is a little dialogue between the director or sūtradhāra and the chief actor. These two will normally go on to play the prominent roles in the play itself. The prastāvanā is a more general introduction and customarily includes the name of the play and its author, more obeisances, in this case to Sanatan Goswami. Where relevant, it usually also names the play's sponsor, etc.

In DKK, the prastāvanā begins with the very uncustomary description of the devotee audience at Govardhan, who are ecstatically responding to the two nāndī verses. This is very interesting in that it delimits, as much as the choice of language, the potential audience to an elite group : fully committed practitioners of bhakti-sādhana who are living in the Holy Dham. We have been talking about saṁskāra frequently and there will be more occasion to do so, especially in the article reviewing Sudipta Kaviraj’s book, so check that out. (LINK).

The point I would like to make here, once again, is that the āśraya-tattva is being given prominence over the viṣaya, only the locus of the aśraya here is in the sādhaka-bhakta, not the nitya-siddha pārṣada. They are the exemplars of the actual audience, guiding them in their response to the play that will follow.

The third of these three verses gives us the philosophical reason justifying the devotees’ reaction.

The banter and love-quarrels
of the son of Nanda and Srimati Radharani
would stun the swans on entering their ears
and turn them away from even the purest nectar.
And it does the same to the paramahamsas,
making them indifferent to the joys of Brahman realization.
(3) After a segue based on a pun on the word nāndīmukhī, another introductory scene called the viṣkambhaka (verses 9-12) begins. Its purpose is to establish the specific circumstances of the plot. A couple of minor characters come on stage and allow the sūtradhāra and naṭa leave to put the final touches on their costumes and makeup. In DKK, these characters are Vrinda Devi and Subala, who let us know that Radha and the gopis are going to Govardhan with ghee for a sacrifice that has been sponsored by Vasudeva. They will be amply rewarded with jewels and brahminical blessings for bringing the ghee. These details are mostly given in prose, but the concluding portion, a three-verse block description of Radha, is to be sung. These welcome Radha and the sakhis on stage by glorifying her appearance and beauty.
Wrapped round her head like a coiled snake
is a piece of fine red cloth;
held motionless upon it is a golden jug
containing bright, clear ghee for the sacrifice.
Look, coming from afar, is Radha;
smiling and surrounded by her friends,
who are also carrying golden pots of ghee,
she is approaching the banks of the Manasa Ganga. (10)

Included in these verses is Vrinda Devi’s wistful prayer, asking for service to Srimati Radharani, which should be considered significant here.
Even though the enemy of Madhu would shamelessly
abandon a woman he desires, though she be overcome with jealousy,
to give me honor, insignificant as grass though I am,
I have never had the opportunity to serve Radha.
Who then on this earth can possibly praise her adequately? (11)

Vrinda Devi here thus represents mañjarī-bhāva (the priya-narma-sakhī), I would say, and Subala, as the priya-narma-sakhā. Both are, again, āśraya-tattva, but of the Yugala-kishora, or Divine Couple. Subala and Vrinda Devi are complicit: one is Krishna's buddy, the other Radha's, but both are serving the union of the Divine Couple as represented by this joyful celebration of the dāna-līlā.

So clearly, the entire three part introduction, from different angles of vision, has not only introduced us to the subject of the play, but also to the mode of its appreciation.

The play proper.

The DKK is a bhaṇikā or one-act play, in which the action all takes place in a single time frame and locale. Nevertheless, we can make a rough division of its action into five sections. I am here deliberately going to draw special attention to those features that make DKK distinct from the other versions of dāna-līlā that we have already looked at, most particularly to the Śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtana.

(1) Section I, Part I

The first section can be further subdivided into two: In the first, we see Radha and her friends (Lalita, Visakha, Chitra and Champakalata) walking towards Govinda Kund where the sacrifice is to be held; the second comes when they see Krishna and Krishna sees them. This first part ends on page 10 when the girls pretend not to notice Krishna and walk on by. Krishna sends Subala to stop them, and with that, the mutual insults of Part 2 begin.

This first section is heavy on verses (13-35), many of which are in the medium-long meters, and several of the long śārdūla-vikrīḍita. The way I see this being enacted is as a kind of musical overture, with a great deal of singing, dancing and instrumentation. Just as in the traditional līlā-kīrtana in Bengal, the beginning is heavily musical and is then followed by narration with more intermittent singing, so too here. The same can be said, I think, of Western musical theatre forms.

These verses are mostly in groups of three or four, with different related sub-themes, and evidently would have the further purpose of getting the audience worked up, in the mood, and absorbed in the characters.

The verses are again mostly emotional and descriptive. The gopis are teasing Radha about Krishna, while Radha is meditating on the good fortune of Nandimukhi and wants to become initiated into the practices that led to her good fortune in being able to see Krishna so constantly. This goes on to a similar soliloquy about the flute. The gopis and Vrinda Devi continue teasing Radha as well as whetting her appetite to see Krishna, as well as glorifying her.

Only in verse 19 are we are given a bit of a foretaste of the action to follow when Vrinda Devi says :
Look at that bumblebee amusing himself in the lotus garden,
his lower body covered with bright yellow pollen.
He is wandering lustily amongst the female bees,
shaking his head and making aggressive sounds.
Intoxicated, he suddenly blocks their movement.

The first part of this first section is the longer and can be said to conclude with three verses (27-29) that can all be used as examples of anuraga as it is described in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi. In other words, the anurāga that was the subject of the second nāndī verse is brought into prominence at the conclusion of our introduction to the supreme āśraya of love, Srimati Radharani. The connection to the nāndī verses has been made. The development of āśraya-tattva from the this-worldly sādhaka, to the nitya-siddha pārṣadas, to the supreme, samaṣṭi āśraya tattva, Srimati Radharani herself, has been established.

Radha says,
Again and again, Hari has appeared in the line of my vision,
and yet he appears so new each time.
It seems as if I had never before seen this sweetness of his beauty.
O friend, these eyes are unable to attain even a drop
of the beauty that scintillates constantly
in even a tiny portion of his limbs. (Verse 27, UN 14.147 as example of anurāga).
Vrinda Devi answers:

Whenever you see Madhava before you,
you speak as though you had never seen him before.
Is he really ever-fresh, or is it your eyes
that are always maddened by love
and so surprised at what they see? (28)

Section 1, Part 2
When Radha and Krishna see each other, they both describe the beauty of their respective love object and their feelings in reaction to it. So here, Rupa Goswami has followed the classical model by zeroing in on the nāyikā first and the nāyaka only second. Even though Krishna, through Radha’s description as the object of her love, is clearly the viṣaya, his attraction and love for her must also be told. Nevertheless, though we had many verses about Radha's feelings, Krishna only gets two or three.
Thus, Rupa Goswami has more adequately prepared us for the contentiousness of the arguments that will follow than we were in either the SKK or GoVi, because we already know how deeply Radha loves Krishna. Furthermore, as already explained in the second article on the nāndī verses, there is an awareness on the part of everyone that though this is technically a pūrva-rāga circumstance, in fact, Radha and Krishna are self-consciously eternal partners. Though such things may have been stated overtly in the SKK and DKK, it is most clearly felt here.

I would like to discuss the problem that this has for rasa and in the conflict between the modern/folk and classical approaches. This will have to be done elsewhere. It is the problem of ideal to situation: the classical model prefers to present the transcendent ideal, the modern/folk approach concentrates on the "facts" or "story."

Part II.
Now the fun begins. This is a much longer section (pages 11-43) in which you get all the back-and-forth banter and flirtation. There is negotiation over the taxes that must be paid, the hurling of insults, various kinds of politics and subterfuge as Madhumangala tries to extract bribes and so on. This section is dominated by prose, even though there are 40 verses in it. Even so, at least half of the verses are in the shorter meters. Many of them are short quips or clever subhashitas with puns in them and so. A lot of them are paired, as quick repartees.

Further analysis is needed here to compare specific features of this banter with that found in SKK or GoVi, for there are many differences and similarities. Naturally, Rupa Goswami remains true to his principles and purpose and within the bounds of classical taste. And even those portions spoken in Prakrit contain more sophisticated word play and cultural references than the vernacular versions. But let us not worry about all that here.

Part III
This section (pages 43-50) is much shorter again, but quite significant in that it can be said to be a metaphorical theological interlude. It is quite different from the preceding in that it contains a lengthy narrative. In general, I would say that this is a weakness of Sanskrit drama if there were to be no enactment involved. Such as in the Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka, where lengthy portions contain a narration of Chaitanya’s activities rather than actual interaction of characters on stage. Since there are no stage directions, it is unclear what the audience would be doing other than listening. But I assume that such portions would be mimed or danced so that their attention would be engaged.

This section is about legitimacy. What right does Krishna have to claim authority over Radha? And isn't Radha the real queen of Vrindavan? Who is the real ruler of the land? To counteract Krishna's claim, the sakhis tell the story of how Radha was crowned queen of Vrindavan in the presence of all the holy rivers and goddesses of heaven. It is the same material that is much more extensively given in Mādhava-mahotsava.

There are 10 verses in this description, of which 4 are in śārdūla and one in sragdharā. In terms of dramatic technique it might not be so great, but it takes us out of the playful banter for a second and into the theological dimension of Radha's aiśvarya.

Nevertheless, the section ends with Krishna and his friends reestablishing his authority. But in not exactly a direct way. Once again it is that old "Kama Chakravarti" or "King Eros" who stands above all.
Radha, you are the ruler of only one forest,
but he is master of all twelve forests.
And this too is only a minor aspect of his empire,
for he is the deity of everyone residing in all these universes.
Thus you are nothing better than a satrap,
while Manmatha the Great is the emperor of all.
Listen to the beneficial advice I give you
and stop being so stubborn about paying him his due. (84)

And a bit further on:
Subala: (angrily) Visakha! You have really gotten on your high horse, haven't you? You don't really know the truth of the matter, but intoxicated with the arrogance of your foolish friend, you go on blabbering...

Visakha: (smiling sarcastically) What is the truth of the matter, then, pray tell?

Subala: There is no need of going into great detail. I will simply tell you the basics. The person we have called Manmatha the Great, the emperor over all, is certainly present here in the form of my dear friend. From a higher point of view, there is absolutely no different between them.
This is followed by a few familiar scriptural references from Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, Kṛṣṇopaniṣad, etc. In essence, what we have here is similar to the śuka-śārikā quarrels in the Govinda-līlāmṛta and elsewhere. This is such a favorite theme that Kavi Karnapur also picks up on it in the CC Nataka's version of dāna-līlā discussed earlier.

Part IV
Now Krishna has Radha and the gopis on the defensive again. This section is similar to Part II in many ways and I haven't got the time to really analyze the difference. But things are getting a little more tense. Radha really wants to get away, etc. (pages 51-63, Verses 86-94, again half are short, only two are long)

Part V

Now Paurnamasi comes on the scene to settle the dispute. (pages 64-68, verses 95-99). The grand finale is the bharata-vākyam, where Paurnamasi asks Krishna for the following blessings. The first one is for all devotees, the second for Raghunath Das in particular:
The fortunate land of Mathura
is surrounded by woods that exude the fragrance
of the places where you have had your pastimes,
it is encircled by nectarean sweetness on all sides.

I pray that you will eternally continue these sports there
with a flute dancing on your lips
and accompanied by us, down to our souls
fully enchanted in the identity of frivolous milkmaids. (98)

There is a person who has given up all other activities
to take up residence on the banks of Radha Kund,
and there yearns to directly serve the Divine Couple.

O Madhava, you whose lustrous playful glance
and the touch of whose lotus feet
cause the Vrindavana forest to prosper --
please make the tree of his wishes bear fruit. (99)

An important part of the analysis has to be made by comparing the two longer, mostly prose sections, with the SKK and GoVi. A lot of those bits spring out at one while going through it, but it will be harder work pinpointing the similarities in detail.

But what makes DKK really different from these earlier versions are the sections I, III and V, along with the introductory materials. And what stands out here is the following:

(1) The glorification of Radha's love from the very beginning. It is not something that has a beginning, but like Rupa says in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 15.42, Radha and the other gopis are just naturally, causelessly, beginninglessly, in love with Krishna. Any appearance of beginnings or causes is just for show.

(2) The glorification of Radha herself as queen of Vrindavan. She is the mistress of Krishna's līlā territory.

(3) Krishna as Kamadeva. This idea, which I have been trying to get my head around every since I got into this, is nowhere in the previous material. It somehow seems to be the essence of Rupa Goswami's version of Vaishnavism.

At any rate, I am going to leave this here and we will have occasion to discuss these elements in more detail later.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Shot at Meta-analysis

Image taken from

Three recent letters, all from women, have provoked a great deal of thought in me and made me realize it was time for some meta-analysis of the material that we have been looking at of late. Some preliminary thoughts have appeared in response to the comment made to the Bana-khanda post and it is probably from there that we should commence. But that anonymous letter is the third in the series. And there have been posts since then, so I really should ignore them all ! The first (Letter A) was posted a little earlier:
About the Gosvamis "representing the ideals of our tradition," in this vein I had questioned elsewhere in this blog the fact that the lila might be too Indian for it to be an universal mode of meditation. Especially considering the misogynistic and racist aspects of Indian culture. In modern times, if anything, these traits are anti-ideals. Any comment/reply?
The other (B), which was a private correspondence, goes like this:
I looked at your website, and yes, I agree, you're not really in this world. You're some place else, speculating like crazy about what you think is going on in the spiritual world.

Krishna reserves the right to keep secret the most secret of all secrets and as much as we poke around thinking we've got it all figured out, we're not even close to the real transcendental and divine pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

My honest feelings after seeing your website is that you should just stop everything, dust off your bead bag and chant and listen to the Hare Krishna maha mantra. And read one chapter a day of Bhagavad Gita. The basics. The real basics.

On Youtube, there is a video clip under "Lord Caitanya's moon is rising." It is beautiful and inspiring. I do remember that along with all your brain power you also do have a considerable amount of humility. I hope you will call on it now and take my words to heart.

It's just that truly, how much time do we have left in this world? Are we ready to die? Will we take birth again in any of species of life, or will we love Krishna enough that He will be so pleased with us that He will personally bring us back to Him?

When I read your stuff it doesn't make me feel good at all. What happened to the real you? Someone who cares will always tell you the truth.
We will call the letter on the Bana-khanda post "C."

Now, what I am trying to get at is a Sahajiya concept of spiritual life. As such, I am concerned with a certain approach to the interplay between the ideal with the real. And each of these letters, in a way, shows a similar concern between reality and the ideal.

My whole idea, in a nutshell, is that we are to some extent in control of our ideals.

But not entirely. By which I mean that we are all a part of a tradition, or rather a multiplicity of traditions. We have to recognize both our debts with reverence, but at the same time we cannot be complete slaves to it. Trying to be free of this conditioning is like trying to be free of language. We may be able to understand theoretically a state transcendental to language, but even our efforts to understand such a state are mediated by language itself.

This immediately causes a problem, especially for devotees. We have been trained in Iskcon to have a very literal view and uncritical acceptance of Indian culture. That is not so good.

Here, I am taking the position that we have to look to the symbolic significance of things, most especially Radha and Krishna. The fundamental theological debate of monism and theism is a separate issue, but one in which we participate. But that we could do in any religious tradition. The essence of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is Radha-dasya and we have to hold that front and center. We have to hold it before us like the sun, even if it blinds us. Our whole effort is to make Radha-dasya meaningful. In order to do that, we have to contextualize it, primarily by the concept of "prema prayojana."

Now this is how we become somewhat freed from the cultural limitations

  • Organic relationship with our tradition. Traditions are necessary for community, but communities are made of individuals who influence it in positive or negative directions, for good or for bad.  
  • Faith that the symbols themselves act, or that God mediates His revelation through archetypal symbols, that though they may have trappings of cultural relativism point to something beyond them.
  • This faith leads me to believe that nothing but auspiciousness can arise from the effort to develop a religious social medium and institutions (hard or soft) that promote the culture of love.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DKK: Classical forms and the folk tradition

In keeping with classical Sanskrit dramatic forms, Dāna-keli-kaumudī (DKK) begins with a nāndī of two verses, the equivalent of a maṅgalācaraṇa in other Sanskrit texts. Both of these verses are quoted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which will give us some clues as to their significance and in turn help us to determine which elements make Rupa Goswami's vision of the dāna-līlā differ from that of Chandidas (SKK) and Devakinandan Singh in Gopala-vijaya (GoVi). Some of these differences will appear completely predictable to many readers, others not. At any rate, let us carry on with this exercise with the goal of enriching our reading of DKK and increasing our devotion to our Prema Thakurani, Srimati Radharani.

What is immediately noticeable in the first verse is how Rupa Goswami unabashedly indicates his has adapted a longstanding description of the dramaticians. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, when Mahaprabhu and his associates are appreciating Rupa's plays, Ramananda Raya (who had also written Jagannātha-vallabha in Sanskrit) complimented Rupa for his adherence to the norms established in this long tradition:

I wish I had a thousand tongues to glorify Rupa's poetic ability. This is not poetry, but a fountain of ambrosia. It has both adopted all the characteristics of the classical dramatic tradition and at the same time contains the essence of all theological conclusions. The description of the principal elements of Radha and Krishna's love affairs is truly wonderful. My ears and mind are spinning with delight upon hearing them. (CC 3.1.192-194)
I will have occasion later to discuss more about these classical forms and their relationship to the folk traditions. Rupa Goswami in the DKK is adapting a folk theme and giving it classical form, much in the way that the great classical romantic composers adapted folk melodies to create symphonies, or took folk tales and turned them into operas.

It is always disconcerting to read attempts to compare works such as DKK and SKK, which I think is a question of apples and oranges. Klaiman, for instance, prefaces her translation of Chandidas by saying, rebutting the argument that SKK’s excessive eroticism was the reason for its fall into disfavor:

...raciness and eroticism in themselves constitute no reason for excluding a writing from the Bengal Vaishnava tradition. Nor does the subjective factor of taste, for DKK suffers from a shortness of this quality. SKK is composed in the vernacular, an idiom that, if not always elegant, carries with it a quality of vivacious honesty. DKK, on the other hand, is composed in the sacred language, Sanskrit, an idiom ill-suited to the content of the work, which reads pedantically in consequence. If the two pieces are objectively judged and compared for tastefulness of composition and literary excellence, SKK should emerge as the clear superior. (Singing the Glory of Lord Krishna, 14)
I have discussed these things to some extent in my introduction to Haṁsadūta and Uddhava-sandeśa, so I won't belabor the point here. We should not confuse genres, even when they have many points of similarity. It is something like comparing the book to the movie.

Clearly, this was a self-conscious attempt to classicize a folk tradition, and that is part of what we are trying to understand here. It is generally said that the bhakti movement stood in contrast to the classical tradition and revitalized the Hindu tradition by invigorating classical themes with earthy ones that captured the popular imagination. In fact, as already hinted above, there is a mutual process of invigoration that has been going on since time immemorial, and especially in the Vaishnava tradition itself.

It seems almost certain that the personality of Gopala Krishna, as opposed to Vasudeva Krishna, is a product of a different milieu, and it is not altogether unlikely that it was grafted onto the Vasudeva figure at some time. This infiltrated into the Sanskritic tradition in Harivaṁśa and Viṣṇu-purāṇa from where it burgeoned in the popular imagination of the Alwars and returned into the pan-Indian Sanskrit tradition with a deeper philosophical and theological framework in the Bhāgavatam.

Meanwhile the folk tradition continued to grow and in Gīta-govinda found cross-pollination with the Sanskrit dramatic tradition, revitalizing both. This primarily influenced the folk presentation of Krishna līlā in Bengal, which grew into a form that presented an entirely novel version of the Krishna story in the Śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, where most of the usual elements of the Puranic legend of Krishna are entirely missing. We have seen some of these original elements of SKK here: Dāna-līlā, Nauka-līlā, Bhāra-khaṇḍa, Vaṁśī-caurī, Bāṇa-khaṇḍa, etc., are all entirely new additions. Only in Krishna's finally leaving for Mathura to kill Kamsa, where Krishna takes up his duty as an incarnation to rid the world of evil forces, do the two stories meet again. Even the Rasa-līlā, the jewel in the crown of the Bhāgavatam and the seed of all erotic manifestations in Krishna's Vrindavan līlā, takes an entirely different form in SKK. And clearly Devakinandan Singh is trying to harmonize the best of both the Bhāgavata and the SKK tradition.

I have already mentioned before my belief that the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, whenever it may have been composed, most likely did not arrive in Bengal, or at least did not strike the popular imagination in Bengal, until the 15th century. In all the Bengali works that are influenced by the Bhāgavatam in this time period (i.e., the period that precedes Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's direct influence), there is a bias towards the līlā portions, not the philosophical ones. In other words, Śrī-kṛṣṇa-vijaya, Gopala-vijaya, and Kṛṣṇa-prema-taraṅgiṇī, etc., only summarize partially the prayers of the demigods, Indra or Lord Brahma, if at all, and certainly do not bother with the subtleties contained in them.

Perhaps it was Mahaprabhu's own influence, or that of Sridhar Swami and his followers a bit earlier on, that gave the Bhāgavata's philosophical depth influential appeal to intellectuals, but the distinction between this theological richness and the līlā itself is something that can clearly be found at the basis of the classical/folk divide. Even Krishnadas Kaviraja was conscious of it in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, where he writes:

jadi keha hena kaya, grantha kaila śloka-maya,
itara jane nāribe bujhite
prabhura jei ācaraṇa, sei kari varṇana,
sarva-citta nāri ārādhite
If one says that I have written this book full of Sanskrit verses and that therefore ordinary people will not be able to understand it, I say that I am describing the Lord’s activities and simply cannot please everyone. (CC 2.2.85)
nāhi kāhāṅ savirodha, nāhi kāhāṅ anurodha,
sahaja vastu kari vivaraṇa
jadi hoy rāgoddeśa, tāhāṅ hoye āveśa,
sahaja vastu nā jāya likhana
In this book I am nowhere engaged in a polemic, nor am I beholden to anyone. I am simply trying to describe the topic as it is. If I write in order to please someone else and make that my principal purpose, then I cannot possibly write on the topic naturally. (CC 2.2.86)
jebā nāhi bujhe keha, śunite śunite seha,
ki adbhuta caitanya-carita
kṛṣṇe upajibe prīti, jānibe rasera rīti,
śunile-i boro hoy hita
Even if one should not understand what I write, if he goes on hearing Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes, he will come to recognize their wonders. Love for Krishna will awaken in him and he will understand the ways that rasa is experienced. Whoever hears it will benefit greatly. (CC 2.2.87)
bhāgavata śloka-maya, ṭīkā tāra saṁskṛta hoy,
tabu kaiche bujhe tri-bhuvana
ihāṅ śloka dui cāri, tāra vyākhyā bhāṣā kari,
kene nā bujhibe sarva-jana
The Bhāgavata is full of Sanskrit verses, and its commentaries are also in Sanskrit. How is it then that everyone in the world seems to understand it? Here I have included only the occasional Sanskrit quote and I explain it in the vernacular. So why should it not be understood by everyone? (CC 2.2.88)

So even though he was writing in Bengali, Krishnadas was consciously presenting a vision of Radha Krishna līlā that had been made more sophisticated by the rich contributions of both the Sanskrit dramatic tradition as well as the Bhāgavatam. Krishnadas had both Rupa Goswami's revamping of the former and Jiva Goswami's work on the Bhāgavatam to help him shape this vision and it was that which he was trying to communicate.

You have to remember that the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement spread through Bengal not simply through Harinam and theological discourses, but also through līlā-kīrtana, which reshaped by the Goswamis' classically-based presentation invigorated Bengali popular culture as well.

Most of the authors writing on SKK have shown where Gīta-govinda influenced Chandidas. But even in Gopāla-vijaya, we can see how classical Sanskrit forms had begun to enter the popular culture.

I am getting a little ragged here with various posts that are going all over the place and seem to have no particular order. Please forgive me and you will have to buy the book when this all eventually gets whacked into shape. The article I am working on next is the one on the DKK outline, but really all the current articles have something to do with this subject.

Radhe Radhe !

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DKK Nāndī 2: Anurāga


vibhur api kalayan sadābhivṛddhiṁ
gurur api gaurava-caryayā vihīnaḥ
muhur upacita-vakrimāpi śuddho
jayati muradviṣi rādhikānurāgaḥ

Though all-pervading, it increases at every moment;
Nothing as serious, yet always lighthearted;
Full of twists and turns, yet always straight and pure:
Ever glorious is Radha’s love for the enemy of Mura.

The second verse of the nāndī shares several common features with the first. First of all, both differ from the usual invocatory prayers in no particular god is being addressed, invoked or supplicated. Here, as in the first verse, where Radha’s anubhāva known as kilakiñcita was seen as the source of blessings, the sthāyi-bhāva of anurāga has been singled out for a declaration of victory.

The basic definition of anurāga, which will be discussed in greater detail below, is given in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi as follows:

sadānubhūtam api yaḥ kuryān nava-navaṁ priyam
rāgo bhavan nava-navaḥ so’nurāga itīryate

When Rāga becomes ever newer and makes the beloved seem always newer and newer, though he is constantly being experienced, it is called anurāga. (UN 14.126)
The word jayati marks the second verse as a namaskāra type of nāndī, while also showing signs of the vastu-nirdeśa. But whereas the first verse specified a particular moment of the play and its general premise, the second describes the underlying type of love that is displayed by Radha in this play.

There is, moreover, a further playful hint at the paradoxical character of this Divine Love. Just as the kilakiñcita manifestation was the result of contradictory emotions clashing, the state of love known as anurāga is characterized by inner contradictions.

This verse plays a significant role in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s explanation of Chaitanya’s incarnation in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He there says that just as the Supreme Truth is the place where all contradictions are resolved, so too is Radha's love is full of paradox. This is indeed a significant element in the Vedantic definition of the Divinity, the embodiment of all paradox. In the synthetic philosophy of the Gaudiyas, the multiplicity of God’s creation, a necessity for the sake of experiencing love, is at the same time paradoxical, since it appears to disrupt his essential unity. The contrast between the plurality of the creation and this ideal, underlying state of primal and unbreakable unity, is the paradox of play. Both are simultaneously necessary for the creation of rasa.

Radha’s love is vibhu

Vibhur api kalayan sadābhivṛddhiṁ. Vishwanath states in his commentary that vibhu means belonging to the cit śakti. As Krishna is all-pervading, so is Radha’s love. The word vibhu is a term that is generally used only in reference to the Supreme Absolute Truth, for by definition that alone can be all-pervading. But since Radha is Krishna's energy, she is not different from him. Wherever she is, there is Krishna. Wherever Krishna is, there she is. Radha is not different from Love or from her love for Krishna. Though this verse does not explicitly refer to this ontological unity of Radha and Krishna, this underlying foundation of the acintya-bhedābheda doctrine should be seen as informing the entire concept of the paradox of play or līlā.

āmi yaiche paraspara viruddha-dharmāśraya
rādhā-prema taiche sadā viruddha-dharma-maya
rādhā-premā vibhu yāra bāḍite nāhi ṭhā‘i
tathāpi se kṣaṇe kṣaṇe bāḍaye sadāi

Radha's love is simultaneously full of apparent contradictions, but by its transcendent character, it resolves them all. Her love is all-pervading, leaving no room for expansion and yet it expands constantly. (CC 1.4.127-128)

Rupa Kaviraja in his Sāra-saṅgraha explains it a little differently: "The supreme glory of Radha's mahā-bhāva comes from its being beyond the power of reason to comprehend it. This is because it is paradoxically both with a cause and without one, since its source, rāga, arises out of samartha-rati (which is identified with mahā-bhāva). It is like Krishna, who according to the evidence of the scriptures is simultaneously the Cause of all causes and yet appears as the son of Nanda Maharaj." (Sāra-saṅgraha 1.1)

Rupa Kaviraja's quote indicates the direction in which devotees look for and delight in the paradox of the Lord. It consists in his simultaneously being the Supreme Absolute Truth and yet appearing in a human form for the sake of love. This diminution, multiplied to infinity, is necessary to keep the infinite expanding. He expands in terms of love.

Similarly, in various ways, as Krishnadas Kaviraj explains in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Radha's love (bhāva) makes it possible for her to experience Krishna (rasa) fully, but her increasing love has the effect of also increasing his qualities and loving reciprocation. In this way, Krishna's qualities and Radha's love are in constant competition, eternally trying to outdo one another.

ei mata paraspara kare huḍāhuḍi
paraspara bāḍe keha mukha nāhi muḍi

In this way, a competition takes place between them, in which no one acknowledges defeat, despite their constantly increasing efforts. (CC 1.4.193)

Radha’s love is guru

Gurur api gaurava-caryayā vihīnaḥ. Various translators have treated this line differently. Surendranath Shastri has, "Although sublime, it lacks dignified deportment." Others have "Although important, it is devoid of pride." (BBT) "Though weighty, never for a moment does it take on a submissive and compliant attitude."

Kaviraja Goswami himself gives the following Bengali version, which helps a little:

jāhā ba:i guru vastu nāhi suniścita
tathāpi gurura dharma gaurava-varjita

There is certainly nothing greater than her love. Even so, it is devoid of any self-importance. That is the sign of its greatness. (1.4.129)
But since the same words are used in Bengali as in Sanskrit, the difficulty inherent in the translation of the words guru and gaurava remains.

Guru can mean weighty, serious or important; or, as a noun, a teacher or elder, respectable person. Similarly, gaurava means: related to, belonging to, or appropriate to a guru; weight, heaviness, difficulty, cumbrousness, gravity, respectability, venerability, or the respect shown to a person. The word gaurava actually means the same as gurura dharma ("the sign of its greatness") in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta couplet.

Bhaktivedanta Swami's translation of guru ("pride") appears to be based on Bhaktivinoda Thakur, who glosses it as ahaṅkāra (“egoism”). R.G. Nath doesn’t really discuss gurura dharma, but interprets gaurava as aiśvarya ("majesty"): “Radha’s love has not a whiff of aiśvarya about it. Therefore it neither asks for honors from anyone else, nor does she herself offer them.”

Though all these translations contribute to our understanding, I chose “serious” and “lighthearted” as most representative. Radha takes her love as the most serious thing: it is her life. And yet when with Krishna, especially as shown in this short comic play, her mood harmonizes perfectly with Krishna’s lighthearted dhīra-lalita personality. Her love is the most profound thing in the creation, and yet it does not weigh her or her beloved down. It is light.

A verse that expresses this mood of love nicely can be found in Rupa’s Vidagdha-mādhava:

stotraṁ yatra taṭasthatāṁ prakaṭayac cittasya dhatte vyathāṁ
nindāpi pramadaṁ prayacchati parīhāsa-śriyaṁ bibhratī |
doṣeṇa kṣayitāṁ guṇena gurutāṁ kenāpy anātanvatī
premṇaḥ svārasikasya kasyacid iyaṁ vikrīḍati prakriyā ||

What you are seeing is the working
of some spontaneous kind of love:

where praise is seen as a sign of indifference
. . . and even causes the beloved pain,
where insults cause hilarity
. . . and only make the loved one laugh.

No lapse makes this love disintegrate,
no virtue can cause it to inflate.

It is hard, however, to avoid the suggested sense of the word guru as teacher or venerated person, with all that this entails. According to Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, Radha is personification of love of God. She is the hlādinī śakti: she is thus the means by which God is pleased, the ultimate medium by which God is attained. Therefore she is the original guru; her love manifests externally as the guru, spiritual teacher of all souls in the world. But the paradox here is that she is even the guru of Krishna himself. Krishnadas has Krishna say:

rādhikāra prema guru āmi śiṣya naṭa
sadā āmā nānā nritye nācāya udbhaṭa

Radha’s love is my teacher, and I am pupil, her puppet. Her love constantly makes me dance in extraordinary ways. (1.4.124)

Of course, Radha's is the guru of the other gopis (e.g. GLA 11.126) and the queen of Vrindavan. If there was any doubt about who wins the war of the sexes as represented by the Divine Couple, Krishnadas provides his own example to show how Radha's love rules over her disciple Krishna:

kasmād vṛnde priya-sakhi ? hareḥ pāda-mūlāt. kuto'sau?
kuṇḍāraṇye. kim iha kurute ? nṛtya-śikṣāṁ. guruḥ kaḥ ?
taṁ tvan-mūrtiḥ prati-taru-lataṁ dig-vidikṣu sphurantī
śailūṣīva bhramati parito nartayantī sva-paścāt

"Where are you coming from, friend Vrinda?"
"I have just been with Krishna."
"And where is he?"
"In the woods over by your pond, Radha Kund."
"And what is he doing there?"
"He is learning to dance."
"And who, pray tell, is his teacher?"
"It is you, Radhe! It is your image,
which he sees manifest in every tree and vine,
which he sees whirling in every direction like a great dancer,
that makes him prance as he tries in vain to catch it."
(CC 1.4.125; Govinda-līlāmṛta 8.77)
Despite this power, however, in the anurāga state, Radha is oblivious to it, for anurāga makes her unable to recognize the power of her own love. She is therefore without pride, either in her thoughts or in her actions.

Radha’s love is śuddha

Now the last of the three paradoxes is given: Radha's love is pure. Bearing in mind the previous contradiction, it may well be asked how there can be any place for Radha’s love pouts, her bouderies, and her persistent recalcitrance? Is her lack of straightforwardness in dealings a sign that it is not free of pride or impurity? But here Sri Rupa says that any appearance of impurity in her love is to be discarded as a misunderstanding, muhur upacita-vakrimāpi śuddhaḥ. In fact, this again is, practically speaking, to be taken as an axiomatic truth.

jāhā haite sunirmala dvitīya nāhi āra
tathāpi sarvadā vāmya-vakra-vyavahāra

Nothing is purer than her love. Even so, her behavior is complex and quarrelsome. (1.4.130)
Besides the obvious explanation of the word śuddha as śuddha-sattva, which we will discuss briefly below, it means that Radha is without any motivation other than love, in the sense that both consciously and unconsciously, she has Krishna’s pleasure as her only object. Radha’s samartha-rati means that she is not consciously manipulative, for without complete purity, how could her love subjugate Krishna?

The word śuddha also implies a kind of honesty, straightforwardness or simplicity. And yet, Radha’s love shows all these crooked qualities, particularly those born of her non-submissiveness. (upacito vakrimā kauṭilya-paryāya-vāmya-lakṣaṇo yasmin, so’pi śuddhaḥ śuddha-sattva-viśeṣātmakatvāt nirupādhitvāc ca). Radha seems incapable of simple surrender, of admitting to her love. She says no before she says yes. She says one thing, but means another. Her love makes her dance in ways that bring Krishna the maximum pleasure. Radha’s love makes Krishna dance, but it makes her dance as well. Their love is the divine force driving the līlā.


As already mentioned above, anurāga is one of the divisions of the sthāyi-bhāva, as conceived by Rupa Goswami in his theoretical works. Ordinarily, the earliest poeticians conceived of the sthāyi-bhāva, as its name indicates, as a sort of unconscious, potential pool of emotion. Everyone can be angry, afraid, or in love, but one is not necessarily experiencing any of these emotions openly at any one moment.

Any work of art, to be effective, is dominated by one of these emotions, which it aims to reproduce in its audience. Nowadays, the dominant mood (sthāyi-bhāva) of a film is usually indicated by its “genre”: horror, action, romantic, comedy, etc. A play is successful to the degree that its audience is affected by such emotions. The degree to which the author succeeds in communicating any message to his or her audience is measured by the extent to which they experience rasa.

We must remember that the entire discussion of rasa begins with Bharata and the dramatic arts. The objective of any work of art is to produce an emotional response, an aesthetic experience, in the audience. The analysis of the various factors or ingredients that go into successfully producing rasa forms the basis of Sanskrit literary criticism. It is based in an understanding that there is a difference between direct experience of an emotion and the same emotion as mediated through art. In the latter, it is produced in a kind of transcendent fashion: the audience is in an artificial environment detached from worldly concerns and transported into another realm of vicarious experience.

The transposition of such aesthetic experience into the world of religious devotion is something that no doubt developed over a lengthy period of time, but clearly had its apotheosis in the writings of Rupa Goswami. The changes he made in the theory itself are based primarily in the way he looked at the sthāyi-bhāva itself.

A necessary interim step in the historical development of the concept, romantic love was isolated from the other dominant emotions as the essence of them all. A hint at what this means can be seen to some extent in modern film, where the element of romantic love is almost always present, whether the dominant mood of the film is horror or heroic, comedy or other. There is an almost Freudian understanding that the desire for love is directly or indirectly behind all the other passions, and that none of them are truly fulfilled without making that connection explicit.

The contribution of Rupa Goswami as a theoretician was to say that this underlying desire for love is realized in the love of God, and thus it is the unique worthwhile emotion that should be produced in any work of art or literature. This is a development of the classical goal, which sees rasa as a distilled, idealized, transcendent, almost spiritual, experience. But Rupa recognizes that though the "natural" man, who seeks fulfillment in sexual love, has a spontaneous capacity to identify with heroes and heroines in worldly creations of art and literature, he is required to undergo a process of transformation (saṁskāra) in order to retrieve a basic relation with God, or Krishna, before it is possible for him to experience all rasas in connection with the Divine Person. That process is called sādhana-bhakti.

According to Rupa, the sādhya, or goal of the practices, which are both internal and external, is twofold--bhāva and prema. In fact, however, prema is described in BRS 1.4.1 as an intensification of bhāva. In his all important commentary to BRS 1.3.1, where the subject of bhāva is introduced for the first time, Sri Jiva Goswami explains as follows:

Devotion has an active side (ceṣṭā-rūpā) and an emotional side (bhāva-rūpā). The emotional side of devotion is also of two kinds: in the realm of rasa, there is the underlying mood (sthāyi-bhāva) and the passing emotions (sañcārī). The former, i.e., sthāyi-bhāva is again of two kinds: the first is called prema, which includes a number of other levels, such as praṇaya; the other is synonymous with rati, which is the first manifestation of prema. Now, in the present context, the general form of sthāyi-bhāva, which is at the basis of both these last two is being indicated.

This division of sthāyi-bhāva into two can be confusing. To simplify the matter, the term rati, which is here said to be synonymous with one aspect of the abovementioned sthāyī, is identified with what I will call the category of love. These are defined by the category of loving relation. Followers of Rupa Goswami generally speak of five rasas, namely dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and madhura, but these are technically given different names when speaking of the sthāyi-bhāvas or of the corresponding rasas. The second kind of sthāyī may more accurately be viewed as the levels and characteristics of love as it matures and increases in intensity. These are in theory applicable across the board to all of the five principal categories, though in fact, the highest degrees of love are only present in the romantic affection.

So, to resume, we have three kinds of sthāyi-bhāva--those belonging to the poeticians' original concept of the rasas ("genres"), which in Rupa Goswami are seen as a secondary and somewhat irrelevant category, practically speaking equivalent to the sañcārīs. The second is the five principal kinds of love with their various subdivisions, i.e., types of relation, and finally, a set of categories based primarily on degrees of intensity. Anurāga belongs to this third division.

In the following chart, I have tried to show the two latter kinds of sthāyi-bhāva and the relations between them:


śāntaśānti (kevala) None
prītidāsya (1) gaurava-prīti,
(2) sambhrama-prīti
(1) prema
(2) sneha
(3) rāga
preyānsakhya (1) vayasya
(2) suhrit
(3) priya-sakhā
(4) priya-narma-sakhā
(1) praṇaya
(2) prema
(3) sneha
(4) rāga
vatsalavātsalya None(1) premavat
(2) snehavat
(3) rāgavat
madhuramadhura (1) sādhāraṇī
(2) samañjasā
(3) samarthā
(1) prema
(2) sneha
(3) māna
(4) praṇaya
(5) rāga
(6) anurāga
(7) bhāva

  • The definitions for prema are given in BRS 3.2.81 (“strong bond”) and in the context of madhura-rasa in UN 14.63 (“unbreakable bond”).
  • Sneha is characterized by melting of heart and the inability to tolerate even a moment’s separation (BRS 3.2.84, UN 14.79).
  • In BRS (3.3.108), praṇaya is given as a special category that only applies to friendship. It is characterized by trust (viśrambha). In madhura-rasa, praṇaya is the sense of trust that comes in the wake of māna. Māna, quite logically, is not found in any of the other sthāyis
  • Raga is characterized by the perception of even unhappiness in love as happiness (BRS 3.2.87, UN 14.126). It has several subdivisions.
  • Rāga is the springboard to anurāga and then to bhāva, which also have numerous subdivisions, but are only found in the madhura-rasa.

The question we will have to ask as we go through the Dāna-keli-kaumudī is what specific elements in the play are particularly revealing of the anurāga state and thus justify its special mention here in the introduction.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Archetype and Avatara

I was sent by a link on Facebook to a live lecture by Niranjana Swami in Russia. The main theme was a retelling of the Prabhupada story. It was an embellishment of the Prabhupada myth: Old man goes to foreign land and in the face of multiple obstacles spreads God's message.

His story shows how mythology works and grows: A man in a temple saw an old sannyasi crying in front of deities of Gaura Nitai and asked him why he was crying. The old sannyasi answered, "I have been ordered by my guru maharaj to preach the yuga dharma of Harinam sankirtan in the Western countries. This is an impossible task and so I am crying, praying to Gaura Nitai to bless me and allow me to fulfill this mission. I am leaving tomorrow."

Many years later, the devotees were selling Back to Godheads in India, and this man inquired from them what they were doing. They showed him the picture of Prabhupad on the cover and this man immediately recognized him as the saint who was crying in the temple on that day.

This embellishment of the myth is archetypal in itself. Now I have talked about Prabhupada's life as archetypical or mythical before, but as I was listening to Niranjana Swami's retelling, a few further thoughts came to my mind.

An avatar is said to be a descent of the divine into phenomena. We experience such a descent not so much through actual events, though these are of course real and objectively detectable in various ways, such as the creation of a mass movement, temples, books, economic activity, etc. But the root of all these other manifestations is actually rasa. Rasa is of various types, but where God or saints is involved, we have bhakti rasa and their manifestation is in religious movements.

Let me first say this, a point of difference from most rasa manifestations, but which is mentioned by Sisir Kumar Das in his book The Mad Lover. He traces the ecstatic bhakta in Indian medieval religious poetry and observes that in the earlier stratum, the principal feature of the poetry is direct devotional utterances of the poet to the Lord, even though such devotion may have been expressed in the various rasas. In other words, the essential feature of the poetry is the poet's direct relationship with God.

In later poetry, the poet stands outside the lila and the emotion is expressed descriptively, in the utterances of the characters in that lila, principally, Radha. Now this is something that I have also observed and I think it is an essential development in the understanding of Rupa Goswami's rasa theory, which by extension is our entrance point into Manjari Bhava. It is a kind of "law of displacement" that, nevertheless, must be kept under some form of control.

This means that the bhakta has a direct relationship of devotion to God, expressed in prayer and other direct devotional acts like calling out the name of God, surrendering, accepting him as savior, provider and protector, etc. These "direct" manifestations of devotion are highly valued in most religions and are a source of direct experience, no doubt. From the rasa point of view, one becomes the central actor in the drama of devotional progress, the path to God.

The second, displaced feature, is also manifested in sravana, kirtan, smarana, etc., in which God and the Perfected devotess are players, and the the sadhaka is the observer. We can call the first the "service mode" and the second the "observer mode." From the point of view of theology, the first appears to be the more genuine manifestation of bhakti, but in the Bhagavata school, the latter is given a very high value. Indeed, the two are inseparable. The manjaris are serving the lila of the Divine Couple, but their reward is to observe it. It is their mystical experience.


Friday, September 18, 2009

DKK Nandi (1), Part 2: Divine Madness, Purva-raga, Nitya-lila

Divine Madness

The reference to mahā-bhāva made by Kaviraja Goswami is particularly worth noting (quoted in Part I). The principal characteristic, I believe, is the idea of a particular eternal moment or snapshot, containing all these different conflicting reactions to one particularly confusing situation. In the mahā-bhāva, as described in UN 14, Radha experiences both the ecstasies of union and separation simultaneously. Here, something similar is happening.

As we go through the sthāyi-bhāvas described in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, what becomes evident to the observer is that we are watching a progression of madness in love--a disorientation that progresses to the point of a complete loss of touch with reality: e.g., attributing properties to lifeless objects and even being angry and envious of them, hallucinations, seeing the beloved where he is not, etc. If, as the Gītā (2.69) says, the sage sees day where the materialistic person sees night, and vice versa, it follows that what is wisdom in the eyes of the worldly may well look like madness to the spiritually awakened.

Of course, it only means madness in a material sense: disorientation from the false reality that is forgetfulness of God. It is the madness that comes from the conflict of that experience with the apparent reality of this world. I realize here that my characterization of madness is inadequate: this is a madness of ecstasy, where the bliss of Krishna prema becomes so great that one feels unable to contain it.

Nevertheless, at present what concerns us is the historical question of the interaction of classic and folk elements, which are here being equated to idealized (classic) vs. somewhat more reality-based representations in the folk tradition of Chandi Das. In this connection, I am also interested in what problems this idealized classical approach creates; but that discussion will have to await another time.

The appropriateness of the metaphor of erotic love in spiritual life comes from its resemblance to intoxication and madness, in that in all these cases some external force overcomes the rational aspects of the self, those that tie one to the world of conventional reality, and push one to total absorption in a dimension of reality that is purely subjective.

It may be said that the Hindu idealism of the jñāna-mārga attempts to overcome the restraints imposed by objective reality through reason alone, whereas the bhakti-mārga recognizes the inherent weakness of rational forces to do the job on their own and the necessity for an emotional leap of faith, for a kind of possession or madness to overcome these limits. Thus, where the jñāna-mārga prefers a staid, rational approach to transcendence, bhakti tends to be untidy and unrestrained.

In the vernacular devotional literature of both Vaishnava and Shaiva sects there are countless examples of this. But in all of them, the prominent feature is this theme of conflicting emotions, experienced on various levels, much in the way demonstrated by the specific example of kilakiñcita.

For instance, Prahlada, who is not in madhura-rasa by any means, is described as abandoning the characteristic behavior of a young boy and acting as though possessed.

Though just a small child, Prahlada discarded all his toys. So absorbed was he in Krishna that he seemed to others to be an imbecile. As though possessed by some astral influence, he did not know this world in the way that others perceive it. Whether sitting, walking about, eating, sleeping, drinking or speaking, he did not make any of these actions the real object of his search, for he was fully embraced by Govinda.

kvacid rudati vaikuṇṭha-cintā-śabala-cetanaḥ
kvacid dhasati tac-cintā-hlāda udgāyati kvacit
nadati kvacid utkaṇṭho vilajjo nṛtyati kvacit
kvacit tad-bhāvanā-yuktas tan-mayo'nucakāra ha

Sometimes he cried, his mind merged in the thought of Lord Vaikuntha, sometimes he laughed as thoughts of him brought joy. Then he would sing aloud. Sometimes he would shout with enthusiasm, and sometimes dance shamelessly. Sometimes he became so absorbed in thoughts of him that he imitated his activities. Sometimes his body would become covered with horripilation and he would fall silent, in the bliss of having been touched by him. Motionless, in the joy of loving ecstasy, his eyes would fill with tears and he would close them. (SB 7.4.37-41)
Elsewhere, the Bhāgavatam describes the aspiring devotee tasting the fruits of his efforts in sādhana:

evaṁ-vrataḥ sva-priya-nāma-kīrtyā
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
unmādavan nrityati loka-bāhyaḥ

When a person is fixed in his vow and has come to the stage of great loving attachment to Krishna through chanting his favorite names, his mind and heart melt and he loudly laughs, cries, shouts and sings, even dancing like a madman, without a care for what anyone thinks. (11.2.40)

Vishwanath comments on the sources of the various emotional changes as the result of sometimes having visions (sphūrti) and sometimes being plunged into separation. It is also worth noting the use of the word anurāga here, as it may be of significance in our discussion of the next verse.

The third verse of the Dāna-keli-kaumudī, describing the devotees responding to the nāndī verses, is in a similar vein:

bhaktaḥ ko'pi tanos tanoti pulakair nṛtyann ihotphullatāṁ
śuṣyan ko'pi cirād vivarṇa-vadano dhatte vidīrṇaṁ manaḥ
garjjan dhāvati ko'pi vindati patan ko'py eṣa niṣpandatām
udyaty acyuta-vibhrame gatir abhūt kā stheyasām apy asau

One devotee over there is stretching his limbs,
dancing as his hairs stand on end in jubilation;
another has become motionless, his face losing color
as though his mind has been split asunder;
another is running through the crowd, shouting,
while yet another falls over, motionless.
In the confusion of love for Krishna,
such an incredible variety of reactions
is manifest in this group,
even though by nature they are very grave.

Similarly, Jayadeva provides the connection between these anubhāvas of devotion and the same external symptoms of love, when he has the go-between describe Radha’s state to Krishna in similar terms as a kaleidoscope of emotions:

vilapati hasati viṣīdati roditi
cañcati muñcati tāpam

At one moment she laments, then she laughs; then she feels sad and weeps, then she grieves and now again composes herself. (GG 4.8)

Sisir Kumar Das, in his discussion of folk and classical elements in the development of madness as an ideal in Indian and Sufi mysticism, specifies that Radharani is a nexus of such madness. What is this madness or intoxication? Without embellishing the many examples that can be found in multiple sources of Indian or Sufi poetry, we may say that it is found in the total absorption in a specifically individually perceived ideal value (i.e., the beloved, whether human or divine) against the objective values of society—-beginning with the family to the wider cultural norms.

But for this madness to be a positive value, it has to prove that it is a happier state than that provided by conventional reality. Is it necessary for there to be contrast? Is it necessary for there to be variety? If so, what is the difference between this pleasure and any other kind of pleasure, which after all, is the result of a contrast with a prior, less pleasurable state?

Evidently, Radha's madness, which is manifest in seed form in the kilakiñcita-bhāva comes out of the peculiar situation she faces: her inchoate feelings for Krishna are challenged by him as he surges out of nowhere to demand her commitment by giving herself to him physically. Certainly in the original versions of the story, we have seen that this is a tremendously difficult situation for such a young, newly married girl to be in.

Remember that in the Bhāgavatam, the construction of the gopis' relation to Krishna takes a somewhat different form. And that is really what we are looking at here. It is not just the meeting of folk traditions with the classical Sanskrit poetic tradition that is significant, but it is also the way that that the Bhāgavatam comes in and transforms the vision of Radha's personality and the development of the relationship with Krishna, as well as the deepening of the theological considerations.

Pūrva-rāga, Pārakīyā and the Nitya-līlā

In our earlier discussions of the dana-līlā, it was made clear that in the linear narrative of the folk Radha-Krishna story, i.e., that of Chandidas and Devakinandan, this particular pastime falls into the earliest segment, which we call pūrva-rāga, or the dawning of love. In our two Bengali works, this was very clear, but it is a little less so in in Dāna-keli-kaumudī.

Technically, the pūrva-rāga falls into the category of vipralambha, or separation (UN 15.4). But because it is still full of expectation, its bite is not as great as the later manifestations of separation, where doubt and insecurity play an even greater role. This play, for instance, will end with the promise of a meeting.

If we clarify the distinction between the nitya-līlā and prakaṭa-līlā, the reasons for it should become a little more clear. Although Jiva Goswami in his commentary to UN 15 says that Rupa Goswami shows a general preference for themes of the prakaṭa-līlā, i.e., the four kinds of separation, of which pūrva-rāga is one, it is clear that the major difference between Rupa Goswami and Chandidas lies in the abiding awareness of the nitya-līlā, or eternal archetype of union. He repeats this argument several times, not only in UN, but in Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, and elsewhere.

But the DKK has another dimension, that of the underlying nitya-līlā. This leads to the repeated reminders, such as the description of Radha's abhisheka, which takes place near the end of the play itself in a kind of theological diapaison. To be more clear, Rupa Goswami's rasa requires all these contradictions to be in constant play. For the devotee, awareness of Krishna's divinity, though repeatedly downplayed, is never out of the picture.

Radha and Krishna are, in their svarūpa, svakīya. Pārakīyā is an illusion of the prakaṭa-līlā, meant to enhance the pleasure of the Divine Couple by creating the sense of separation and obstacles. Rupa Goswami states that this is where the highest realm of love is established: atraiva paramotkarṣaḥ śṛṅgārasya pratiṣṭhitaḥ (UN 1.19). This is also, incidentally, the reason for the material world itself.

The characteristics of pārakīyā love are summarized by Rupa Goswami with reference to the Śṛṅgāra-tilaka of Rudrata and the Viṣṇugupta-saṁhitā:

vāmatā durlabhatvaṁ ca strīṇāṁ yā ca nivāraṇā
tad eva pañca-bāṇasya manye paramam āyudham

I hold that the God of Love’s most powerful weapons are a woman’s recalcitrance, the difficulty in attaining her, and the prohibition to doing so. (1.21)

yatra niṣedha-viśeṣaḥ sudurlabhatvaṁ ca yan mṛgākṣhīṇām
tatraiva nāgarāṇāṁ nirbharam āsajjate hṛdayam

Wherever there is a specific prohibition in relation to a beautiful woman, or some great difficulty of obtention, that is where the playboy (nāgara)’s heart becomes most attached.

The root of all madness is in the conflict between the subjective and the objective, the contrast or inner conflict between the ideal and the real. This is expressed in various ways in Radha Krishna līlā. The most obvious is that which pits the Supreme Person with the human-like activities. Another is the contrast between the svakīya and pārakīya, another that of the prakaṭa-līlā and nitya-līlā, or just union and separation. All of these dualities present certain apparently irreconcilable differences.

The contradictory nature of the kilakiñcita is emblematic of the pūrva-rāga-līlā—the contrast inner conflict of desire and the external barriers join to make the pārakīya-līlā. See also Krishnadas's Govinda-līlāmṛta verse (9.18, quoted in Part I of this article).

More of the contradiction (virodhābhāsa) that is at the heart of Krishna lila will be highlighted in the next verse.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Downtown Montreal

Some work is being done on the house and that has made it necessary to go into town each day for the last few days. Honestly, I don't know why I haven't done it before. I have been enjoying it a great deal and it has snapped me out of the doldrums.

Riding in on the Metro, as you take the Green Line from Lionel-Groulx, you pass Guy-Concordia, Peel and McGill stations, all of which are stops for university students and staff. You can almost immediately sense a heightening of I.Q. in the train, as compared to the suburban buses full of high school students and service industry workers.

At McGill, I feel as though I have been given a shot of intellectual adrenaline. It is like a cup of coffee after six months without. I have been coming back to this campus every few years since the 60's when I was a teenager. It is here that I first saw devotees chanting by the Leacock Building in 1967. Every time I come to the university I feel as though I am in a time warp; at the same time it is a place where I always seem to be most aware of the changes taking place in the city.

The campus seems much more crowded than before, but that may be just because it is the beginning of the school year. It is also still warm, so you see the throngs of students enjoying themselves outdoors on the lawns.

The MacLennan Library has been upgraded all around, but Birks is still unchanged. The reading room with its worn parquet... it may be one of the few libraries where you have to take your shoes off.

I am working well, better than in the house, that is for sure. But I don't really belong, any more than I belong at the Iskcon temple. As I reflect, I realize that I don't really see myself as either an intellectual or a devotee. It may be the cause of my relative lack of success in either department.

Swami Veda wondered why I didn't have a job in a university somewhere. But even when I had university jobs, I always felt that I was not really home. I much prefer the bhakti life, but I don't really have much of a home anywhere in the devotional universe, either. A person in my situation has to create his own world.

I have been writing like crazy. If I read a page from a book I practically have to write for hours to keep up, until my brain wears down.

Today I worked in the Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec, which is also downtown. It is a relatively new building, maybe four or five years old. The building itself doesn't photograph well, though I like that sculpture outside it. Its best features are actually inside. But I was rather astonished to see how much it is being used by the public. There were about 100 people at 10.00 waiting to get in, and it has been bustling the whole day. There are hundreds of computer terminals available for free public use for up to three hours a day. At McGill I wasn't able to use the computers because I am not a student. I might have been able to get a special guest i.d., but this has been much easier.

There are a number of homeless people who come in and hang out, but basically it is full of people who like knowledge and reading. The BN is right next to UQAM, one of Montreal's two French universities, and so many of its students are here too.

UQAM has an interesting architecture with its red brick buildings weaving in and out of church husks. Montreal has four big universities, three of which are right downtown, so there is a large student population.

In short, I am getting a lot of work done. Eventually you will get to see some of it here. I have started writing commentaries on the first two verses of the Dana-keli-kaumudi and also taking notes on other points related to the folk/classical interface of Krishna bhakti in the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I have also been writing stuff in relation to the subjects that are currently being discussed in the comments here, but I forgot my memory stick at home and so am still unable to share any of it. My brain loses a bit of its shine about this time of day.

So, see you later. Jai Radhe!

More on cultural specifics

Art by Shyam Nadh

You try to explain or retain the symbolism of Radha Krishna Lila by Jungian archetype theory which does not make any link between the material world and the transcendental world as BVT's theory does. I agree that it has some explanatory power. However, this view requires a different view of rasa theory from that of the Goswamis.

First of all, as I already stated previously, there seems to be a little bit of confusion about the "dustbin of Maya" comment, which is indeed Mayavada. I do not hold that view myself. I am a Vaishnava and I believe strongly that the material world is real, though temporary. Maya means taking temporary phenomena as having ultimate value. They have only reflected value. I am in perfect accord with Bhaktivinoda Thakur here.

Nevertheless, we do have a problem, and I don't see how it can be resolved by taking a purely literalist approach. That may be what Bhaktivinoda Thakur did; it is quite possible, but I do not find that it adequately deals with the problem of cultural relativism and the Absolute Truth, which by definition must be beyond any such relativism. I already mentioned somewhere that Satya Narayan said that the historical accident (historically when?) of the Indian culture at the time of Krishna's incarnation perfectly replicates the spiritual world. As though there is some concrete spiritual world that can be found on Google Earth (leaving aside Bhauma Vrindavan and all that).

In my way of understanding this, the cultural situation represented in the mythical Vrindavan existed only in people's minds as an approximation or ideal, whenever it came into existence. That is why I find it so funny when these Indian scholars try to portray something like the "Bengali society as depicted in the Sri Krishna Kirtan" or whatever. It makes as much sense as trying to reconstruct medieval Europe from Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales or from the legends of the Knights of the Round Table. We may get some idea, but it will only be a subjective ideal with its roots in the time of the author, not a real picture.

Radha and Krishna's lila arises from a composite image that from the very beginning was meant to contrast the real and defective world of human experience in Indian society; it extrapolated an ideal vision of love and then mapped that onto the Supreme Truth as a metaphor. It was never real. In the article "History is Bunk" I quickly jotted down some of my ideas about this.

My tendency, as I have indicated before, is to accept that whether Mayavadi or Theist (broad use of terms), all spiritually minded people are idealists in the philosophical sense, i.e., they believe in the primacy of consciousness. This is what the word chit really indicates. Consciousness contains within it an infinite number of possibilities, and since they all come from the same source, i.e., God, they have, on one level, equal value.

On another level, there is no meaning to variety without hierarchy. Even the Mayavadi "idealizes" his "ideal" of the non-differentiated Absolute. This is philosophically persuasive because God is really the Ideal beyond all ideals, the Archetype beyond archetypes. As soon as we identify God in phenomenal terms, we are immediately restricting Him in some way. This is why the negative path is an essential part of any theological discourse. In Christianity and Islam, this is the constant fight against idolatry or shirk, in Advaita Vedanta, against Maya.

And we too, even as Vaishnavas with our commitment to Nama, Rupa, Guna, Lila, etc., are also engaged in the same process of cutting away material concepts of the Supreme Truth. We simply negate the limitations placed on the Absolute by depriving It of personality, relationship and variety. We validate this by saying that God's glory lies in his accessibility, in his making himself available to an infinity of fragmented consciousnesses, His own separated parts, for the sake of experiencing rasa, which is another way of saying the infinite varieties possible in love. Nearly all religions around the world, as far as I can tell, whether incipiently or as a result of cultural transfusion, accept the idea of love as somehow being central to the idea of God.

Central to the Gaudiya Vaishnava doctrine is the distinction between Mahamaya and Yogamaya. In one sense, all of Krishna's energies are one and non-different from Him. parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate. Maya for the Vaishnava really means the medium which God uses to relate to the jiva soul. Maya is the illusion of separateness. This applies equally to Mahamaya and Yogamaya, the difference being that the essence of Mahamaya is discovering God as God, whereas Yogamaya is about discovering Love of God. It is something like stepping through the looking glass out of the Bizarro world.

The major theme of Mahamaya is that God is hidden; He is the unconscious center or object (vishaya). Put another way, where the vishaya appears to be something other than God, i.e., where God is not recognized as the object. In one sense, Yogamaya is no different, since a nitya-siddha devotee similarly does not recognize God as God, but accepts an apparently phenomenal manifestation as vishaya. That, we recognize, is God.

Gaudiya Vaishnavas do, however, accept that there is a difference between prakata lila and nitya lila. Sri Jiva and Vishwanath's commentary on 10.14.37 is particularly instructive in this regard. Vishwanath seems to postulate the necessity of a material world in order to show by contrast the value of the transcendental. Jiva says something similar in his comments on UN 1.20. So variety implies hierarchy.

In other words, love is the unrealizable ideal in the material world, and so humans project this ideal onto the spiritual and then try to emulate it in the phenomenal world, according to their distorted sense of Truth.

Now though I keep using the term "projection," and this really is the crux of the matter, it does not mean that "Man creates God" instead of "God creates Man." Actually, I find this opposition to be a real red herring. God and Man create each other together. Or, the Jivatma and Paramatma are engaged in simultaneously creating a lila together. You cannot separate the Jivatma from the Paramatma at any time.

This chicken or egg question is relatively meaningless and we have to look at it in an entirely different way. The infinite God is trying to reveal Himself to finite human beings through their experience of the world. Humans have a natural tendency to see the ideal of the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and that is what they call God. And wherever they are, in whatever cultural circumstances they are, they produce artefacts that in some way or another reproduce their perception of that ideal. Even in the most negative moments, e.g. "shock art", they are really saying "see how far we have fallen."

Radha and Krishna, as I keep saying, are a symbol of the ideal. This symbol is Transcendent, even though it appears within a particular culture. Our thinking and meditation on this symbol is and should always be informed by the striving for the highest perfection of Love, which must be reflected by our behaviour and actions in this world. If the "ideal" does not inform the "real", then the ideal is emptied of its reality, i.e., its transformative power.

Then it ceases to be a religious symbol and becomes a mere fable. It ceases to be transcendent and needs to be refreshed by revision.

The error we all make when we are literalist is to see God in linear terms. We think Krishna is literally living on a planet somewhere, expanding physically into various Vishnu forms, etc., etc.

Radha and Krishna are real subjectively (that is what I mean by idealism). There is nothing wrong with saying that they are a projection because the potential for envisioning the ideal comes through God and His representatives, i.e., those who come in parampara, i.e., those who preserve and expand the symbolic tradition through explanation and execution.

The parampara, through its cultural products, through its success in creating community, turns a symbol into a kind of objective reality. When we strive for an ideal, when symbols take on deeper and deeper meaning on multiple levels, they produce individual and collective experiences of rasa. In a sense, that experience itself IS God. That is the way God makes himself known. That is how we enter into communication with him. This is how Yogamaya works. Raso vai saḥ.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DKK Nandi (1): Part I, Kila-kinchita


antaḥ-smeratayojjvalā jala-kaṇa-vyākīrṇa-pakṣmāṅkurā
kiñcit pāṭalitāñcalā rasikatotsiktā puraḥ kuñcatī
ruddhāyāḥ pathi mādhavena madhura-vyābhugna-tārottarā
rādhāyāḥ kilakiñcita-stavakinī dṛṣṭiḥ śriyaṁ vaḥ kriyāt

Radha’s eyes are a kilakiñcita bouquet of flowers:
brightened by a repressed smile,
with teardrops clinging like dew to the base of her eyelash petals;
reddened slightly around the edges;
overflowing with juices of amusement,
or contracting like buds.

Ah, such are Radha’s eyes,
made more beautiful by their flashing sweet pupils
as she is blocked on the path by Madhava,
May they bring you all good fortune.


This is the first of the two nāndī verses. It contains elements both of the āśīrvāda or benediction and the vastu-nirdeśa indication of the subject matter to follow in the play itself.


Blessings in this form are quite common in poetry related to the gods and are often found in the invocations of secular texts. They use the śārdūla-vikrīḍita meter of 19 syllables to a line, describing an incident from the mythology of that particular deity, and conclude with a particular benedictory formula, such as pātu vaḥ (“May he save you”).

Large numbers of such invocatory verses can be found in the great classical compendia like Subhāṣita-ratna-kośa , Sad-ukti-karṇāmṛta or Padyāvalī. Indeed, much of what we know about attitudes or knowledge of Radha and Krishna from the pre-Gīta-govinda period comes from verses of this type and not from complete works. In the lilas related to Krishna, these verses show both a kind of playful description of the lila as well as recognition of its having a “magical force,” such as, "May Krishna’s smile deliver you, may the effulgence from his body grant you all benedictions."

The blessings in this verse are interpreted somewhat differently by each of the commentators. The word stavakinī is generally translated as a bouquet of flowers (gucchaka), but Vishwanath Chakravarti takes it to mean a flowering vine, and since it is deemed capable of giving blessings, (śriyaṁ vaḥ kriyāt) it can be deduced that it is a wish-fulfilling vine or kalpa-vallī.

What is that bouquet of flowers? It is Radharani's eyes, the mirror of her soul, which simultaneously manifest a variety of emotions that are likened to the individual flowers in the arrangement. What are these emotions? They are the different competing feelings that arise in her when Krishna surprises her on the path, blocks her way and insists on flirting with her.

Vishwanath rounds out the metaphor by explaining that the inner or partially repressed smile ( antaḥ-smerā ) means that some of these flowers are only partially blossomed, in other words she cannot openly respond to Krishna in a favorable way, drops of water are a sign that the flowers are filled with nectar, they are both red and white, the flowers are slightly bent on their stems, etc.

What benediction is being given by Radha’s eyes, so filled with mixed emotions? It is śrī, here translated as “all good fortune.” Surendranath Shastri glosses śrī simply as sampatti, or prosperity, while Vishnudasa calls it the treasure of the supreme goal (paramārtha-sampattiM). The anonymous commentator of the Dāna-keli-kaumudī (usually attributed to Vishwanath) glosses it as prema-sampatti, the treasure of divine love, while Vishwanath, in his comment on the verse in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, defines it as the beauty of ecstasies (sattvikas) that arise from divine love (premottha-stambha-kampādi-śobhā). This last interpretations gets some confirmation in the verses that follow in the play's prastāvanā, or introductory scene, where the devotee audience is described as reacting to hearing these verses with precisely such ecstatic reactions.

The Vaishnava sees the benediction being one of the supreme goal or the “fifth goal” of human life, which is prema. What we should note here from the very beginning is that this benediction is not coming from Krishna, nor even specifically from Radha as a powerful deity, but from her love, which is manifested in the form of this flurry of conflicting emotions.

This is an immediate sign that the DKK is distinct from Chandidas's SKK. Of course we don't have the SKK's introductory or concluding verses, but we would expect some recurring benedictory themes emanating to the audience, or even blessings at the beginning or end of the chapters. That is not there. Devakinandan concludes each verse with some blessing that will come from hearing the lila, but the source of such blessings is never designated as Radha, much less to her emotions. In fact, for Devakinandan, it is clear that he sees Narayan as the supreme divinity, and it is to him that he offers his prayers and obeisances.

It would appear then, both from this verse and the next, that Donna Wulff's statement, quoted previously on this blog, has been verified: “The absolute for Rupa is not a metaphysical principle, but an emotion... Radha, as love embodied, is thus the supreme avenue of religious realization.” ("Radha: Consort and Conqueror of Krishna" in Devi: Goddesses of India (eds. J.S. Hawley and Donna W. Wulff. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. p.123).

In terms of vastu-nirdeśa, then, the point of the Dāna-keli-kaumudī is not as much the līlā itself, the blocking of Radha on the path to Govinda Kund, but the divine moment, the snapshot of Radha experiencing this particular moment of blissful turmoil.


The word kilakiñcita, or kilikiñcita is really untranslatable, and its etymological origins are also, as far as I know, unfathomed. It is a longstanding element of the dramatic art, or Nātya-śāstra. It is generally included in the descriptions of the anubhāvas or external expressions of emotion, and specifically in that subgroup knowns as alaṅkāras or ornaments. These are not to be confused with the literary ornaments, also known as alaṅkāras, but are physical manifestations that reveal specific inner emotions, which are called vyabhicāris or sañcāris. Nearly all descriptions of vyabhicārīs in the rasa-śāstra are accompanied by a list of corresponding anubhāvas.

The idea is that Radha’s beauty is enhanced by the combination of various emotions, which arise in specific circumstances.

Bharata Muni, as with most things related to this area, is not only the first to name this particular alaṅkāra, but also the first to define it:

garva-duḥkha-śramābhilāṣāṇām |
saṅkara-karaṇaṁ harṣād
asakṛt kilikiñcitaṁ jneyam ||

Kilikiñcita may be known as repeated hysterical commingling of the feelings like smiling, weeping, laughter, fear, joy, pride, sorrow, fatigue and desire. (22.18 or 24.17 depending on the edition)

After Bharata, the particular combination of emotions was treated roughly in the same way by most in the Sanskrit dramatic tradition, only slight differences of view appearing:

  • Agni-purāṇa (5.4) seems to pinpoint the essence of kilakiñcita as a mixture of laughing and crying, etc. (hasita-kranditādīnāṁ saṅkaraḥ kilakiñcitam).
  • Daśarūpaka highlights four elements -- anger, tears, excitement and fear -- but leaves it open-ended for the possibility of more emotions to join in the mix. (krodhāśru-harṣa-bhītyādeḥ saṅkaraḥ kila-kiñcitam 2.39)
  • Rasārṇava-sudhākara also has four: lamentation, anger, tears, excitement: (śoka-roṣāśru-harṣādeḥ saṅkaraḥ kilakiñcitam, 1.353),
  • Sāhitya-darpaṇa mentions six: “The combination of smiling, dry tears, laughing, trepidation, anger and fatigue is called kilakiñcita .” (smita-śuṣka-rudita-hasita-trāsa-krodha-śramādīnāṁ sāṅkaryaṁ kila-kiñcitam; SD 3.117).

Rupa Goswami's definition in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (11.42), most closely resembles the one given by Bharata:

saṅkarī-karaṇaṁ harṣād ucyate kilakiñcitam
When pride, desire, tears, smiling, envy, fear and anger come together as a result of some joyous excitement (harṣa), that is called kilakiñcita. (UN 11.44)
One feature that is found only in Bharata and Rupa Goswami is the pinpointing of a specific cause for kilakiñcita, namely harṣa or sudden excitement, which in many of the other definitions is simply given as one of the elements. Harṣa is itself one of the vyabhicārī bhāvas:

abhīṣṭekṣaṇa-lābhādi-jātā cetaḥ-prasannatā
harṣaḥ syād iha romāñcaḥ svedo'śru mukha-phullatā
āvegonmāda-jaḍatās tathā mohādayo'pi ca

The pleasure of mind that comes from attaining or seeing the desired object is called harṣa. It is characterized by bristling of the body hair, perspiration, tears, a shining face, hurry or haste, intoxication, immobility, bewilderment, etc. (BRS 2.4.148)
Historically, the word probably has its origins in the manifestation of excitement that is the standing of hairs (hṛṣṭa-roma, roma-harṣa) and there is a definite hint of a sexual element in this excitation rather than the kind of serene happiness implied here by the word prasannatā.

As stated in the verse under discussion, this excited joy is one that comes of suddenly encountering Krishna in an unexpected situation, where there is a component of surprise. This can come from more than just seeing Krishna, as Rupa's first example in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 11.45 indicates, where Krishna actually touches Radha’s breasts.

mayā jātollāsaṁ priya-sahacarī-locana-pathe
balān nyaste rādhā-kuca-mukulayoḥ pāṇi-kamale
udañcad-bhrū-bhedaṁ sa-pulakam avaṣṭambhi valitaṁ
smarāmy antas tasyāḥ smita-rudita-kānta-dyuti mukham
When I forcefully placed my lotus hands on Radha's nipples in the plain sight of her sakhis, she felt joy and excitement arising; she raised her brows, her body hairs stood on end, she gave me a crooked glance and then looked away. Ah, I remember her face at this moment, bright with both smiles and tears. (UN 11.45)
The word ullāsa here should be considered synonymous with harṣa. Krishna's sudden aggressive touching of Radha is the source of her mixed emotions.

Krishnadas Kaviraj, while allowing that harṣa is a causal factor, also identifies it as a separate, eighth characteristic of kilakiñcita (as indeed seen in Bharata's definition). Since his explanation seems to be the most complete, let us just quote it here in its entirety:

When Krishna sees all these ecstatic ornaments (the various alaṅkāras) appear on Radha’s body, the ocean of his joy rises like the tide. Now listen to the description of kilakiñcita, for with this particular ornament, Radha steals Krishna’s mind. When Krishna sees Radha and wants to touch her, such as when he blocks her on the path near the Dāna-ghāṭī or when she is coming to pick flowers, and Krishna wants to put his hand on her in front of the other sakhis, these are occasions when Radha manifests kilakiñcita.

Its primary symptom is harṣa, which is the causal sañcāri-bhāva. Then to this are added the seven other characteristics, which follow naturally. The combining of all eight symptoms results in a mahā-bhāva. Pride, desire, tears, smiling, envy, fear and anger; each of these eight relishable moods come together at the same time, which when Krishna enjoys to his great satisfaction. It is just like the mixture of yogurt, sugar, ghee, honey, pepper, camphor and cardamom, which together make a delicious sherbet drink.

When Krishna sees Radha’s face and eyes filled with all these emotions, he gets millions of times more pleasure than he does from even sexual union. (CC 2.14.169-179)
Krishnadas Kaviraj quotes two verses as examples here, one being the nāndī from DKK currently under discussion, and another from his own Govinda-līlāmṛta, where he again takes pains to say that Krishna’s delight in simply drinking in Radha’s beauty at this time exceeds the pleasure of sexual union.

bāṣpa-vyākulitāruṇāñcala-calan-netraṁ rasollāsitaṁ
helollāsa-calādharaṁ kuṭilita-bhrū-yugmam udyat-smitam
rādhāyāḥ kilakiñcitāñcitam asau vīkṣyānanaṁ sangamād
ānandaṁ tam avāpa koṭi-guṇitaṁ yo’bhūn na gīr-gocaraḥ
Radha’s darting eyes are anxiety-ridden, tear-filled, and red with anger. Her lips tremble owing to the pressure of Eros, her eyebrows arch and a delicate smile reveals her heart’s intention. The joy Krishna relishes on seeing her display of kilakiñcita is beyond the power of words to describe, a million times greater than that which comes from his directly making love to her. (GLA 9.18, CC 2.14.181)
Krishnadas has another verse in Govinda-līlāmṛta where he specifically describes Radha’s eyes in this kilakiñcita manifestation. Radha’s eyes are the focus of the DKK verse, and it is the eyes, the windows of the soul, that reveal the emotions as they clash and swirl through Radha’s mind.

tārā-nartana-sūcitātyavamatiḥ smerā tad-āsyāmbujaM
dhāvantī tṛṣitālinīva kuṭila-prāntā nivṛttā tataḥ
kiñcid bāṣpa-kulākulā’ruṇatayā spṛṣṭāñcalollāsinī
rādhā-dṛṣṭir amajjayat priyam apārānanda-vārāṁ nidhau
As Krishna touches the corner of her garment, the dancing pupils of Radha’s eyes reveal deep disdain. But still she smiles, and her eyes, like hungry bumblebees, soar on their crooked course towards Krishna’s lotus face, where their flight ends. Tears surface and those eyes turn angry red, all of which throw the Dear One into an ocean of incomparable bliss. (GLA 9.42)
It should be pointed out here that this idea that the various dalliances that surround the erotic relationship, from the flirtations to the lovers' spats, the separations and even intrigues and infidelities are all considered by Rupa Goswami to be indispensible to the rasa, unlike the Vrindavan schools that are adamant that the nitya-vihāra, which dispenses with almost all of this as extrinsic or even inimical to the pure erotic mood. This has to stand out as one of the unique characteristics of the Gaudiya approach. (See UN 9.41 and 15.253)

We can give one more example from Rupa Goswami's Utkalikā-vallarī, which is taken from the point of view of the manjari, the devotee servant who wishes to observe another pastime in which the kilakiñcita symptoms arise. There Rupa Goswami prays,

vyātyukṣī-rabhasotsave’dhara-sudhā-pāna-glahe prastute
jitvā pātum athotsukena hariṇā kaṇṭhe dhṛtāyāḥ puraḥ
īṣac-choṇima-mīlitākṣam anṛju-bhrū-valli-helonnataM
prekṣiṣye tava sa-smitaṁ sa-ruditaṁ tad devi vaktraṁ kadā
When will I see your face, O Devi, both laughing and crying at the same time during the time of spraying colors on one another, when Krishna has made a bet with your kiss as the wager. When he wins the bet and tries to enthusiastically take hold of your neck, in anger your eyes half close and redden and in scorn, the vine of your eyebrows bends and lifts on one side. (UV 44)

The summary is: Kilakiñcita is the confusion of emotions, of conflicting distress and elation primarily felt in the context of the purva-raga, when Krishna first gives her aggressive and not altogether welcome attention. It is a situation where theretofore she has been fantasizing about Krishna, desiring and imagining a relation with him, but has remained confined to thought and feeling. When Krishna does bursts in on her, it is a clash of reality and fantasy and she is faced with the choice of following through on her fantasy or the dictates of her internalized sense of religious duty and social obligation. Since the fantasy is closer to her true desire, so her basic reaction is one of pleasure, but the various external restraints make it necessary for her to refuse his attentions. Other elements can also be detected--flirtatiousness, for one.

If we can remark a development in the three versions of the Radha-Krishna story we are looking at, SKK, GPVJ and DKK, we can observe a progression in Radha's complicity with Krishna. For Chandidas, Radha is genuinely unwilling to surrender to Krishna at first and she only warms to him gradually. In DKK, what is stressed is Radha's love for Krishna as an eternal given.