Thursday, July 07, 2011

SKK 10: Radha-viraha (Part II)

We finished Part I of this review of the last chapter of Śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtana (SKK) in the middle of a bhāva-parīkṣā ("test of love") series of songs. Radha has met Krishna and is appealing to him to accept her, but Krishna steadfastly refuses, ironically reprising many of the arguments that Radha herself used in the very beginning of the book to state the impossibility of their affair.

Now Radha appeals again to Krishna, begging him not to be cruel. She concludes, bujhiteṁ nārila tiri puruṣa jāti la: "Seeing the effects this is having on my body, your heart still remains so hard. Women have not been able to understand the male species." [Of course, this line could be read the other way round: "Men have not been able to understand women." Amitrasudan Bhattacharya has the strange, "I haven't been able to understand whether you are a man or a woman." Which is also the way that Basantaranjan Ray also seems to reads it: "If you were a woman, you would understand another woman's suffering. And if you were a man, you would understand the duties of a man to respect and care for women. Then it would be impossible for you to act in such a cruel way." The latter meaning could be understood in the more straightforward translation. (There is no "or" in the Bengali.)](379)

In song 380, Krishna proclaims himself to be Rama and the chastiser of Ravana, having cut off his ten heads. "I have turned my mind away from you, Radha" (āhme citta nebārila tore). "I am Narayan, Murari, Mukunda. I appear in age after age, kill the demons and put an end to sinful activity. I was born to Vasudeva and Devaki, in this high class family (uttama kulata mora jarama). He concludes "Now, Radha, stop being so shameless and give up your hopes to be with me. All the cowherd community does not yet know of our affair, so go back to your husband." (380)

Here it seems as though, whereas previously Krishna used his divine nature as a kind of way to intimidate Radha and tell her that she had better give in, and also to glorify her as his consort Lakshmi, now he is using it to tell her that she is not worthy of him and that he has to go off to fulfill his destiny as a kshatriya and an avatar. In fact, this contradiction seems perfectly consistent with a bully. The line "I am an avatar" means, like "I am a king", that he is above the law. And though we may say, "God is above the law," we do not appreciate the God who does not show mercy to his devotees. Let us see where Chandidas is going with this.

Radha answers: "I was fortunate enough to find you through lifetimes of pious works. Oh treasurehouse of virtue! How can you tell me to leave? If you have really become a yogi and renounced everything, then let me be a yogini and serve you."

tohme jabe yogī hailā sakala tejiñāṁ |
thākibo yoginī hañāṁ tohāṁka seviāṁ
"I cannot go back home and leave you. I have suffered so much, burning in your separation. Don't kill me. Have you no fear of the sin of killing a woman? What will you gain by killing me. I am your follower, your devotee, an orphan with no other shelter, a woman. Why then do you abandon me, Murari?"
There are certainly underlying overtones of the Rasa-līlā here and the pivotal bhāva-parīkṣā conversation found there. Take for instance:

maivaṁ vibho’rhati bhavān gaditaṁ nṛśaṁsam
santyajya sarva-viṣayāṁs tava pāda-mūlam |
bhaktā bhajasva duravagraha mā tyajāsmān
devo yathādi-puruṣo bhajate mumukṣūn ||
Oh Great One, do not speak such cruel words to us who have abandoned all possessions to come to your feet. O independent one! Please be gracious to us, your devotees, and do not abandon us, just like Narayan is gracious to those who desire liberation. (10.29.31)
tan naḥ prasīda vṛjinārdana te'ṅghri-mūlaṁ
prāptā visṛjya vasatīs tvad-upāsanāśāḥ
tvat-sundara-smita-nirīkṣaṇa-tīvra-kāma-
taptātmanāṁ puruṣa-bhūṣaṇa dehi dāsyam
Therefore, O vanquisher of all distress, please be merciful to us. We have abandoned our families and homes to come here in the hope of serving your lotus feet. O jewel among men, our hearts are burning with intense desires aroused by your beautiful smiling glances, so please allow us to serve you. (10.29.38)
More examples could no doubt be given. The killing of women is found in 10.31.2 (varada nighnato neha kiṁ vadhaḥ). But Radha concludes this song by challenging Krishna:

eta kāla āhmāka tejiteṁ ekhokhaṇe |
sakati nā bhaila tora nehāra kāraṇe ||
koṇa lāje bola ebeṁ moka jāiteṁ ghara ?
All this time you were unable to stay away from me for even a moment you loved me so much. Aren't you ashamed to now tell me to go home?
Now Krishna admits,
When I was younger, I desired you so much that I even gave up food and drink. Then, on the command of the dūtī, I shot you with the flower arrows because I was angry. (See Bāṇa-khaṇḍa.) Now I have turned my mind away from you and expiated my sin. Now it will be a waste of time to try to appeal to me. Don't try to entice me. I am Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. I am the Niranjana form. [This appears to be a reference to the Nath Yoga, which would sit well with 378 above. ASB has Buddha, which I find unlikely.] I was sitting here by the Yamuna, day and night, but you never came looking for me. Now suddenly you are afflicted by desire and so you come begging. When I smiled and spoke nicely you did not give me a single sweet word. Now your youth and beauty can go to hell. I am the son of Kashyap (Aditya = Surya = Vishnu) and you are the daughter of the ocean (Lakshmi), but being puffed up with your youthful beauty, you failed to recognize me. For your sake I killed all the demons. All the gods came together and decided to give you to me. You can go now, I take no pleasure in your company, no desire to make love to you. You caused me great suffering by making me carry your goods (bhāra) all over Gokula. So just leave, go home, give up any hope of having me. (382)
I have to say, that one is a mess to analyze. If he is such a powerful god, why is he so upset and why was it such great suffering to carry her pot of dahi? And if the gods gave her to him, why does he refuse her now?

The next few songs (383-387) contain a great deal of repetition. The next song is a back-and-forth verse by verse duet, with many of the same points repeated. Krishna here adds the moralizing tone, "Let me tell you about sin and piety. Piety will take you to heaven where you enjoy and sin will take you to hell." Radha says, "I am a foolish woman, born of many flaws. How can you go on being angry?" (383) In 384-385 the same continues, Radha saying that Rama abandoned Sita and had to suffer on account of it. Krishna: "You can break gold jewelry and it can be repaired by heating and joining it, but if you break a man's heart, no one can put it together again." (sonā bāṅgileṁ āche ūpāe juḍie āguna tāpe | puruṣa nehā bhāṅgileṁ juḍie kāhāra bāpa ||)

In Song 388, Krishna says that God has made the rules. "No work can be successful if one is a sinner. I have made up his mind to free the earth of all the demons, but this will be impossible if I commits sin. So I have abandoned you, Radha, and am engaged in brahmopāsanā, yoga and meditation to purify myself of any sin and have rid myself of all sexual desire. So give up any hope of reconciliation."

But Radha has not yet given up hope:
What great achievement is it to kill someone who is already dead? Your own qualities [powers] are in your own heart [you know them]. You are master of the three worlds, what is one insignificant cowherd girl to you? I did not listen to you and so I am being punished. If I had known how angry you would be, I would never have told on you to your Mother [Yamuna-khaṇḍa]. I am taking shelter of you, Kanai, punish me as you think I deserve. I can suffer any pain, but I cannot tolerate your separation (sakala santāpa kāhna sahibāka pārī | tora biraha-santāpa sahiteṁ nā pārī ||). Please do something and free me from this suffering. (389)
In other words, you are the ruler of the three worlds, what is the question of having to perform austerities to kill demons? They are subject to death. You know your own powers, so what is one insignificant cowherd girl? On my account you won't be able to kill the demons? You want to punish me, that is your prerogative, but I am surrendered to you, will you not give shelter to me?

The songs seem to increase with intensity, Radha continuing her appeal in 390. Finally in 391, Krishna seems to soften a slight bit. After repeating the same old complaints, he finally says, "When Barai orders me, then I will come to you." (jabeṁ baḍāyi ādeśibo more tabeṁ jāiboṁ tora pāśe |) And then, says Chandidas, he fell silent and thus the conversation between the two (373-391) ends.

In Song 392, Radha appeals to Barai to arrange a meeting between her and Krishna. Again she describes her suffering, her dream apparitions of Krishna, etc. Barai is again rather unhelpful, reminding Radha of the fateful tambul incident and saying that Krishna is probably otherwise engaged with other women. "Men and bees have the same nature. They go from place to place in search of honey to drink." (puruṣa bhramara duiho eka māna | nānā thāna bhrami bhrami karae madhu pāna || 393)

Radha continues to lament her past flaws, her complaint to Yashoda, the incident with the flute. Her situation has become unbearable. She says, "I have no more shame, I have taken shelter of Shrinivas. Please bring him to me." (394) The old woman keeps on telling her that Radha angered Krishna and now what can I do about it? Finally Radha and Barai set off together to look for Krishna again, but this time they meet Narada Muni in the forest. They bow down to Narada and Radha asks if he can tell them where Krishna is. Radha summarizes her love for the son of Nanda and says that she will have no choice but to become a yogini if she cannot be reunited with him. Narada tells them that Krishna is sitting on a flower bed under a kadamba tree and that they will find him there. They go and indeed see Krishna. Radha faints and Barai brings her to, but Radha says, "I can't speak, I can't walk. You go and talk to him. Tell him how I am suffering."

[I must say, Narada's presence could have been used to greater dramatic effect. I was expecting him to say something vital to the plot. Strange.]

In Songs 397-399, Barai describes Radha's separation and weakness to Krishna. Many of the classic tropes are repeated: She curses the moon and the sandalwood, saying they are burning her. The normally cooling Malaya breezes are like acid on her skin, etc. Barai asks Krishna, "When Radha is in this state, why do you want to run around with other women?" [So I guess that Barai is not buying the yogi meditation schtick.] She tells him that she cannot bear to see her suffer so and asks him to please meet with her. At the end of Song 399, Krishna smiles and says, "Alright, have her dress in her finest, come and sit beside me and speak to me sweetly." Barai immediately goes to Radha and tells her. The next moments are for Radha longer than eons.

Song 400 describes Radha's dress and coming to Krishna and 401 their lovemaking. In 402, Radha, fatigued, rests her head on Krishna's thigh and goes to sleep. When she is asleep, Krishna gets up and goes to Barai, to whom he says that he has made love to Radha because Barai asked him to. He has kept his word but now he must leave for Mathura. It is evening, take Radha home and take care of her. You lie down beside her here, I am going. And off he goes (403).

When Radha awakens, she sees Barai sleeping beside her. She wakes her up and says, "I was just sleeping with my head on his thigh, and now he has gone away. I was so tired, but if I had known, I would not have fallen into such a deep sleep." Her feelings of separation have doubled and she begs Barai to find Krishna again. (404)

[I have to confess that this departure reminds me a lot of Mahaprabhu's sannyasa, especially as described by Lochan Das in Chaitanya Mangal. I would not be surprised if this served to some extent as a model. Lochan Das describes Mahaprabhu's last night with Vishnupriya before sneaking off in the middle of the night to go to Katwa. Though of course there are many differences, one thing is certain: Bengali Vaishnavas do see a distinct parallel between Mahaprabhu's sannyas and Krishna's departure for Mathura. Here, there is a more distinct parallel in the narratives than is provided in the Bhägavatam. Jai Radhe, so I will finish this up a little later. There is not much left to do now.]

(To be continued)

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