Male ego, Radha's grace and Manjari Bhava

Prisni wrote the following status on Facebook a few days ago and I responded almost immediately. I have been meditating on the exchange for a few days. I will quote her whole post because it does show some nice devotional sentiment: She was responding to the following blog post.
Woke up in the middle of the night, this pops up on my phone, and I cannot fall asleep again, me thinking [about the following blog post].

The last sentence “You need to understand Radharani by entering into her soul. That is what lovemaking is all about.”, and have the male approach in a nutshell: "I will come, I will conquer, I will penetrate." And no, it is so not working.
You have to let Radharani enter your soul, let her energy, her mercy, enter you. That is what sakhi bhava is all about. When her energy enters your soul, then you become an instrument of Her. She plays her tune, the strings in your soul vibrate. That way you experience what she experiences, that is the key to "manjari bhava".

Sakhi bhava is the same when you approach Krishna. By vibrating with Radha's energy, with her tune, you approach Krishna, Radha is playing, you are the instrument, her tune, and she is making love to Krishna through you, as She desires, you experience love of Krishna.

Or you never approach Krishna, and you experience Radha and Krishna through her all the same. You are still the instrument being played, but slightly different. That is the difference between sakhi bhava and manjari bhava, how you are played, which range of tunes you are played. Otherwise it is the same thing. And as an instrument you cannot have ego.
Take up a guitar, and you try to play a Spanish tune, and the guitar only plays Stairway to Heaven. That is no good, that is a stringed instrument with ego. To be a sakhi, you say "I am the instrument, you Radha, you play me. I am your servant, your sakhi." You may be an instrument that sounds better in a certain key, but still, that is not up to you.

And how it works. Radha's energy descends to you, engulfs you, you are an instrument of her energy. You experience, but never do you enter the soul of Radha, that is not possible. She is like the raincloud of love, you are a straw of grass, at no time can you enter the raincloud, but she can let her drops of rain of love pour on you to make you wet. That is how you learn of the quality of the raincloud as a straw of grass. And by being poured with rain, you take on the qualities of wetness too. You never become the raincloud, but you take on the essential principle of wetness. You are wet, fully engulfed in love, and you can love on yourself.
My first response was to say that appreciated this critique because it does indeed touch on something that I have thought about a lot and have probably not articulated concisely or clearly enough.

Here are the articles on this blog that come up in a search for "male ego." I hope it will be clear from these that I recognize the problem you are describing and that what I am doing is proposing a solution. I recognize also that my solution is different from yours, which is admirable in my view. I believe you have thought about this question on your own and have found an answer that deeply touches you.

I am merely putting out what I think is a legitimate proposal that should be tried by adhikari sadhakas. .

From what you write about your life, you are on the nivritti side of life. What I am proposing is intended for sadhakas who wish to follow the pravritti marg of bhakti-sadhana. See here

What I am trying to present is the male sadhaka's point of view, and to understand how one transitions from the male identity to the female identity in the lila. There is no doubt that the fundamental devotional attitude of seeking divine grace is always at the base of all genuine spirituality.

It all comes down to that thorny problem of āropa. Now I am saying that there is a sadhaka deha and a siddha deha. The two are engaged in activities that are meant to be complementary as external and internal approaches to the divine.

It is actually quite interesting that in my talk tonight explaining Gopala Champu we were discussing the same topic of the internal, which is the nitya-lila, and the external, which is the prakata-lila. This a related subject, but we will talk about that another time.

I have been quite interested in this topic of masculine/feminine, as you can well imagine, ever since I took siddha-pranali initiation in 1979. I spent five years seriously attempting manjari-bhava sadhana, and trying at any rate to understand it. When sexual desire suddenly reared its head, I had to make serious inquiries into myself and my identity, as well as calling into question this entire process of sadhana and what it signified.

What does it mean to change one's gender identity? It seemed -- and I am sure everyone has a stock answer for this -- contrary to nature. Or at least, I recognized that it would seem contrary to nature to anyone other than someone who had spent 15 years as a Hare Krishna, living a life of unexamined faith.

So I set out to try to understand the problem of gender identity and what the meaning of the "feminine" is in terms of Krishna bhakti. And also, how it related to thorny questions like sexuality in this world and, more important, love. After all love is the goal, not manjari bhava. premān pumartho mahān. Manjari bhava is a bhava, not prema.

Now I know that Prisni has far greater insight into the bhakti process than I, being a woman. Bhakti is the only feminine yoga, I believe. But this idea of changing genders was baffling me. How to explain it? How many ways could it be explained?

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was my clue. He was Krishna trying to know Radha, trying to understand the greatest mystery of a woman's love. He had to become a woman in order to experience that. It was the only way to know what love is.

He is not someone other than Krishna, he is Krishna himself doing what he must in order to know what it is to love. In mundane terms, in order to love a woman, a man must know how a woman feels. He has to be able to identify with her completely. That is what Chaitanya was doing and manjari bhava means to align oneself with his mood.

The manjaris are indeed the parts and parcels of Radha and they experience her love as though it were their own. But how will the male ego, trapped in a male body, ever make that jump? Pray for Radharani's mercy as he must, indeed he must pray with the fervent heart of Raghunath Das Goswami, he must transform his heart into the image of the Divine Couple through the medium of the feminine, Srimati Radharani. Sahajiyas are notorious for their tears, Prisni. To advise a Sahajiya to cry is like telling Pavarotti to sing.

Now some of you may think that Mahaprabhu's lila is all symbolic of something transcendental; I am not really sure what people think it is symbolic of other than the superiority of Radharani. But that is impossible to understand -- the symbol would have NO POWER -- if one did not recognize that the love of a woman for a man, as experienced in this world, apotheosized. We have in the modern world greatly lost the very concept of the superiority and a man's spiritual necessity of a woman's love, i.e., the complementarity and spiritual necessity of the union of Shakti and Shaktiman, the principle that says a woman's love is really what makes a man. First as mother and then as lover.

And of course, the union of Shakti and Shaktiman is a sexual one. On the pravritti marg (and, I may add, in Gaur lila) the male sadhaka body is going to function according to its samskaras, which are male samskaras. When in relation with a devotee woman, his entering into her -- through the koshas, going from grosser to subtler -- signifies entering into the divine realm of love that is governed by Radha, i.e., Vrindavan. In keeping with the principle outlined above, that can never be done by force. Oddly enough, to enter that realm he must become a woman. And how to become a woman without associating with a woman, without learning love from her?

This can only be understood by an adhikari sadhaka, male and female, a yogi, someone who knows the sattva guna, who knows the lila, who is imbued with love for Radha and Krishna as an idea, as a symbol, as a living form of God.

It is not in the physical realm that the sexual change takes place, which happens when by the mercy of his partner, who is also externally playing the role of Radha not only in her physical femininity but in the psychological aspect of loving. She is thus the vehicle for a mood of love that is most similar to that of Radha. The potential for entering this internal realm is entirely dependent on the sadhakas being in male and female bodies respectively.

Internally, in union however, the two are both functioning as manjaris who have the privilege of entering the kunj where they are witnesses to and direct experiencers of Radha and Krishna's bliss in lovemaking. Witnessing is the key to a great number of spiritual paths and so it is here.

As you all know, the great grace that is given to the manjaris is that they can enter the kunj without any sankoch.

vṛndāraṇya-maheśvarīṁ priyatayā yās toṣayanti priyāḥ
prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhī-kulād api kilāsaṅkocitā bhūmikāḥ
keli-bhūmiṣu rūpa-mañjarī-mukhās tā dāsikāḥ saṁśraye

I take shelter of the handmaidens of the Queen of Vrindavan,
who are led by Sri Rupa Manjari
and who lovingly satisfy her
by offering betel nuts and other condiments,
massaging her feet, bringing fragrant water
and arranging for her trysts with her gallant;;
Having thus become most dear to her,
they are thus allowed to enter the scene
of the Divine Couple’s most intimate affairs
without the slightest discomfiture.
(Vraja-vilāsa-stava 38)
The mental preparation for this can only come about by cultivating the inner manjari identity, but nothing is more powerful.

There is of course more to the experience. But the process is one of externally incarnating Radha-Krishna lila in a uniquely individual fashion, while internally becoming the creator and enjoyer of that lila. Like a playwright and audience combined in one watching the unfolding of the prema-lila.

Now you may consider this all quite mundane, a kind of convoluted justification for sexual enjoyment, either a sex enhancing fantasy or a way of putting a balm on some primordial Oedipal guilt, and it would be so, were it not for the fact that it is imbued with bhakti-yoga-sadhana and the experience of bliss that it engenders. This is hardly about sex alone, it is about cultivating one's inner Radha-maya identity. It just so happens that madhura rasa is the rasa: erotic love. That is the particular flavor of bhakti that is being cultivated.

It is the same for a woman in her complementary role of the woman in the love story, who is always Radha or trying to be Radha in her own individual way, feeling what Radha feels. Every woman is Radha's lila when it comes to love. Those who know it know love.

And, according to the shastras of our tradition, i.e., Chaitanya Charitamrita, Radha's pleasure is much greater than his. In all respects of love. Therefore Radha should be understood as the ashraya of all the infinite kinds of love. And love is greater than God. bhaktir eva garīyasī. In all the different kinds of relationships and allowing for an infinity of individual external guises, she is the archetypal source of all love in their hearts. Our relationship with her is sealed through the realization of love in this world.

One may argue that these are outdated stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that have -- thankfully -- been lost. But the real point here is that the union of love is experienced equally by both, but the dominant force of love is always the receptive, as you nicely point out in your status.

Love is not about being a love-swooning little plaything. Not in Radha's case, anyway. Radha's maan, in the nara-lila is infused with vatsalya also. She is also there to create her Krishna, who does more than play around in the bedroom -- he also kills the occasional demon. In other words, he is good for something.

And on it goes. You understand life as a reflection of Krishna lila, not in a bad way, but as a way of seeing love in the world. A mystical process that opens up possibilities for enhancing love in this world and thereby -- doesn't it make sense? -- enhancing one's understanding of THAT world? Or do you think that suffering is the only path for seeing the glory of God's love?


Taz said…
Hi Jagat

Thank you for this inspiring article and indeed all your postings. I have been reading with interest your discussions of the problem with male ego and the problems it may present to experiencing manjari-bhava.

I agree with you that women devotees have an advantage over males when practicing Bhakti yoga by virtue of inherent femininity which the male appears to lack. I think that we would all agree that femininity is a prerequisite for realising a female identity as per the practices.

However I think that such an advantage is only to a certain point. Indeed I see femininity as being within all of us including males. Male devotees need only to find this within themselves in order to make progress with the practices.

So how can anyone do this? There are indeed plenty of spiritual practices that one can do on a day to day basis that enhance one’s awareness of femininity from within. For the male devotee in particular, sincerity and tenacity with these will aid progress with the siddha-dehar practices, and with Radha’s grace, enable them to start realising their eternal form as a female identity (if that be their svarupa).

I could write more about such practices and how they have helped me in a further post if people are interested.

As a devotee practicing siddha-dehar I have been fortunate, by the grace of Radha, to have begun to have some initial experiences of the alternative Krsna Girl identity in the transcendental realm.

I like to refer to the female identity as a Krsna Girl. It is a term I use to collectively include Radha’s maidservant, manjari-hood, participant in Radha / Krsna pastimes and so on. It saves going into specifics, which is confidential, and leaves open individual differences for each of the many Krsna Girls serving Radha.

In Devotional Service to Radha / Krsna

Taz said…
Hi Jagat

Further to my earlier post, I have to say I experience the issue of male and female identity very differently from the transitional process you describe.

I experience male and female identity as a very fluid thing. Rather than it being a once in a lifetime change from one to the other, I find that I almost imperceptibly switch back and forth between male and female identity very often, sometimes many times a day. I don’t see it as a problem.

Being in the female identity is not something that I try to make happen. It just happens spontaneously as driven by situations I find myself in. This includes times when I do the siddha deha and siddha pranali practices which are experienced in the female identity.

The male identity is not something that I try to give up. Indeed as a male I need this to function in my day to day existence. However the subject of male ego is a different matter.

I see issues with male ego resulting from a lack of coordination between the masculine and feminine. I have found this coordination greatly improved with progress with Krsna consciousness. I think it is simply a by-product of becoming more whole.

So to me it is all about reducing male ego. But the male identity itself I will have for the duration of my life as a male.

I see the whole person as being fully feminine and masculine in a way that is totally coordinated. We all have the whole person within us, although not in awareness, as that is our potential being. Bringing this integration into awareness is a prerequisite for realising the svarupa, specifically that of being a Krsna Girl.

Indeed I think that being male and dealing with issues associated with masculinity and its place as part of our whole being is a necessary component of the spiritual journey we are on. Why else would Krsna assign to us male incarnations?

I believe we all have many past incarnations of both genders. I have been able to recall many fragments from past lives including female ones. One such recall I have had was of reaching womanhood. It was a very valuable experience and it took me a while to understand the feelings that came with the recall.

We all have the feminine inside us. For male devotees it is a matter of finding it within ourselves and bringing it into awareness. Then the challenge is to coordinate it with everyday conscious functions. To me it is this coordination that is an essential part of realising the true spiritual identity of the svarupa.

In devotional service to Srimati Radharani / Sri Krsna

Jagadananda Das said…
Interesting comments. Thank you. Jai Radhe.

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