Visual Media and Radha and Krishna

It also has something to do with brevity. In our day, wisdom has to be Twitter length.

Madanmohan Dasji wrote: Well, as for that, I noticed that when I post some verse or other, people only 'like' it if it is posted with an illustration; then I wonder if it was the picture or the writing that was 'liked". Maybe since the introduction of film and TV and ubiquitous screens in every home, we have lost, to some degree, the capacity to visualize in the mind, which is necessary in reading and hearing, and its real pleasure.

Mathura Dasji wrote: The visual arts or written/spoken word coupled with sound or music is the most powerful of art forms, and that is why TV, cinema, drama and theatre are so popular. More senses are involved and hence for the majority of people (the masses) these art forms thrive.

That also holds for spiritual music such as kirtan, bhajans and other forms of classical Indian music, and is why it is so important to understand aesthetics and the power of harmoniously blending these divine art forms. The Bhakti traditions all contain highly evolved aesthetic/spiritual art forms. Otherwise how will the majority of people understand and appreciate concepts and emotional expressions of rasa and bhava?


So in that respect, the Sanskrit poeticians gave importance to the word. I think that even for people of his day the language of Shakespeare was likely to have been somewhat challenging. His genius was that he was able to capture his audience primarily through his poetry.

I think though, referring back to Madan Mohan's original statement, that the process of visualization derived from the words is something that is being lost because of the sheer availability of images.

The power that Mathura talks about is used to inundate people's brains as the most effective brainwashing media that humans have ever been able to create.

But presenting Krishna etc., in a visual medium, though I don't doubt it can be done by a great genius, is very difficult. Think of the cartoons of Krishna that recently became popular, think of Braja Rasa Lilas and how Western people react to them. Mastery of special effects have brought the "reality" of the "fantasy" to extremely high levels. They are literally able to create the worlds that the proud Sanskrit poet could only aspire to : kavir eva prajāpatiḥ -- "Because he creates his own world, the Poet is God."

So now, who can create Krishna's world, or the Krishna world, or _a_ Krishna world that will capture today's mind? And be able to give it a taste of rasa?

The genius of the rasa theory is that it makes you think about religion from the aesthetic and human perspective.

The aesthetic is about producing rasa, but the full spectrum of human experience is not. As a matter of fact, genuine human experience is pretty much denied under a barrelfull of rules. Love, which is of course the essence of all rasa, is only a promise -- if you follow the rules, you will be loved by mummy and daddy.

So the very use of drama and entertainments to preach becomes a necessity. From the vidhi point of view to increase faith in the rules and to present the aiśvarya of Krishna's līlā.

From the rāga point of view though, it is absolutely necessary to be able to identify with the personalities in the play, and not as Gods except inasmuch as all archetypes have some God-ness to them.

The problem with the devotee is Krishna's perfect love-life. Well I can tell you that the success of Krishna as a popular figure is precisely because of the effectiveness of līlā kirtan in Bengal. The songs were good, they were sung well, and even within the Krishna-ness of the story, the Love itself was humanly human.

So, this is exactly what the devotees fear -- that Krishna should be seen as human. We have to always remind ourselves that he is God, and indeed most of the time we are not allowed to think otherwise. But is not a handsome film actor a god? Don't we even call them gods? Krishna is indeed a God like these.

But though Angelina and Brad Pitt may be gods and goddesses in the Swarga known as Hollywood, the love they portray is something we can all identify with. Every man is a Brad Pitt in his dream self world, and every woman an Angelina Jolie.

So it is for identification with Radha and Krishna. You cannot say, first I become a manjari or even a devotee before I can experience rasa. You cannot say that the _natural_ process of identification with Radha and Krishna is NOT what is desired and is indeed expected.

It is because the story of pure love in separation struck a deep chord. The story of a pure illicit love, with the suffering it entailed. It is very much comparable to Tristan and Iseult.

So now, where does that stand in relation to Krishna bhakti. Rupa Goswami himself says that you are to identify 'as a devotee, not as Krishna." And he gives the famous example that you are to identify with Rama and not with Ravana.

So it seems clear enough. At least in most cases. Think though of the relation of love itself to the capacity to identify with a character in a play or film. If love means complete identification with the beloved, then one MUST identify with the Beloved also.

So naturally, Krishna and Radha as the Hero and the Heroine are every hero and every heroine.

But the fear is to portray them as less than archetypal.

In other words, if Brad Pitt plays Krishna and Angelina Jolie were to play Radha and Krishna... nope, nope, it is not working for me either.

And yet, because Radha and Krishna are the root of all erotic love, spiritual or material, their _human_ love is the most perfect of human loves, all loves are theirs.

But Their love is the love that is entirely free of kama.

Now there are two states: nitya-siddha and sadhana-siddha. The sadhana-siddha person struggles to attain the state of perfection. The nitya-siddha person needs no education in suffering. They have learned the meaning of suffering and its relation to love and they have no more need of lessons.

The sadhaka knows kama. And the nitya-siddha knows that the appearance of kama, the perception of it, can always enter even the nitya līlā. Think of baby Krishna and Yashoda. Krishna acting as a baby dislikes his mother's action of stopping the milk from boiling over. He is forgiven his naughtiness by us, and maybe Ma Yashoda is also laughing, but she is serious too. She has to educate the boy.

This is the nitya-prakaṭa līlā. I call it that because it is the nitya-parikaras and Krishna within a world where time exists and where changes happen and so on. So in that respect, the archetypal actions are also manifestations of pure love within a world where misunderstanding is possible.

BUT, it must be recognized that without a story, there is no rasa. Without time and the world, there are no stories. This was a problem for Jiva Goswami, which is why he wrote the Gopala Champu. The prakaṭa-līlā is more real than the aprakaṭa līlā. The aprakaṭa līlā, if we were to put it crassly, is like an old, happily married couple sitting around watching reruns of their own wedding video.

But the level we haven't got to appreciating is the līlā nature of our own lives. If Krishna is too divine, we never understand how the most normal part of our lives -- our love lives -- are really at the center of our sense of self. A Radha Krishna devotee who doesn't understand this is really not at the madhyama stage.

I guess the question really is: Here, the uniqueness of the visualization is actually what we want. There is really no problem with having Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt play Radha and Krishna, because you accept as your basic premise that they can, at best, be tiny sparks of Their splendor. But if we allow them their human failngs and allow them to capture us in their story, Radha and Krishna's story, the Story beyond their limited story, the Eternal Story of stories, then it will find its way to Spiritual Knowledge and Love.


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