Gadadhar Pran has written this essay in two parts, the second being more confidential than the first. For the sake of this blog, I have split the first part into two, and will post the other part tomorrow. Please be sure to read the Praveshika.
Kāntā-bhāva Bhajana by Gadādhara Prāṇa Dās (Part I)
yuvatīnāṁ yathā yūni yūnāṁ ca yuvatau yathā |
mano'bhiramate tadvan mano'bhiramatāṁ tvayi ||
mano'bhiramate tadvan mano'bhiramatāṁ tvayi ||
Hey Bhagavān! I pray that as pretty girls and handsome boys are naturally attracted to each other, may I always be attracted to You. (Sri Rupa Goswami, (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.153, Padma Purāṇa 6.128.258)Who isn't romantically inclined? After all, during youth, when one's body becomes developed and glamorous -- wouldn't it be natural for him or her to desire to fall in love? For this basic instinct is found in every human being. But what often happens then? Let's briefly analyze the matter.
When a boy and a girl first fall in love, don't so many euphoric thoughts start streaming through their minds? Coming under Cupid's spell, they are transported to another realm where nothing else in the whole world seems to matter. And during such blissful times, won't the new couple begin to fantasize how they will live happily ever after?
No wonder romantic love is deemed by countless millions of people worldwide to be the greatest pleasure that life has to offer. But just consider the following: Since man was created in God's image, wouldn't the greatest joy on earth also be the highest pleasure in His spiritual kingdom? And if so, then won't Svayam Bhagavān be the topmost romantic of all?
For this reason, Rupa Goswami's opening prayer is very instructive as he hints that since young people are easily lured into romance, why can't we dovetail this inborn loving propensity to Sri Bhagavān. And in the Vaishnava śāstra there is a wonderful prescription for such worship called kāntā bhāva bhajana.
Now if we stop to think about it, wouldn't it be far wiser for anyone to fall in love with Sri Bhagavān – rather than a mere mortal of our world? Let us examine some of the reasons in the context of Krishna's madhura-līlā:
- Krishna's exceptional bodily splendor is matchless, in fact, millions of times more alluring than the form of any human. Yet Krishna's gopi consorts are all His equal match and hence trailokya-sundarī, the most beautiful women in the three worlds.
- Lovers in our world are subject to the human imperfections of selfishness, anger, greed, pride, jealousy, and illusion, etc. So their mutual love can never be pure. In contrast, the Supreme Lord Krishna possesses divine substance, completely free from material contamination. Yet the Vraja gopis can fully subjugate Him since they embody mahā-bhāva, the highest form of divine love.
- Now, isn't it true that the romantic feelings in couples in our world often wane or become boring after a while? And even if their love does last a lifetime, won't everything be over at the time of death? So, isn't the fantasy that young lovers often nurture to live happily ever after simply an illusion?
- In madhura Vrindavan, however, Krishna and the gopis never grow old, and their prema is nava-navāyamāna (ever fresh and new) because their mutual anurāga (intense attraction) ever increases. At every moment therefore the gopis are discovering a new Krishna—as they appear ever new and intriguing to Him. And because such love is eternal, real happiness can flourish between the gopis and Krishna.
saba rasa haite śṛṅgāre adhika mādhurī
paripūrṇa kṛṣṇa prāpti ei prema haite
e premera vaśa kṛṣṇa kahe bhāgavate
When considering all the rasas neutrally, it is kāntā-prema (śṛṅgāra-rasa) that offers the most pleasure. This is called paripūrṇa kṛṣṇa prāpti, "the complete attainment of Krishna" as the Bhāgavatam declares that such love totally enslaves Krishna! (1.4.42, 2.8.88)Here we can note Krishnadas Kaviraja's due admiration for Sri Krishna's most enjoyable rasa pleasure – the kāntā prema of His beloved gopis. But what makes their consorthood prema that we read about in the Bhāgavatam so complete and enjoyable? For those who are curious to know,
Caitanya-caritāmṛta goes on to answer:
In kāntā bhāva, the consort offers her own body in prema-sevā to the Lord. (2.19.231)This is something worth contemplating. Doesn't every young woman desire a beautiful figure? And if she has one, doesn't it arouse her romantic feelings? So after attractively dressing herself and looking into the mirror, wouldn't it be natural for her to fantasize about how her stunning beauty will captivate the man of her dreams.
Though we have mentioned this because it is in the same way that one may contemplate how their gopī-svarūpa will captivate Krishna's mind. For just as Krishna eagerly pines to see the gopis' curvaceous figures, why shouldn't one desire to attain an enticingly beautiful gopī-svarūpa for the chance to ideally serve Him? Then she may contemplate, "Oh my! Krishna has become impatient to enjoy me!"
This is a process of worship that Rupa Goswami teaches in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
sambhogecchāmayī tat-tad-bhāvecchātmeti sā dvidhā ||
keli-tātparya-vaty eva sambhogecchāmayī bhavet |
tad-bhāvecchātmikā tāsāṁ bhāva-mādhurya-kāmitā ||
The bhakti of a sādhaka or a sādhikā that follows after the Vraja gopis' kāma can be in the sambhogecchāmayī or in the tad-bhāvecchātmikā mood. Those desiring to relish prema-keli follow the sambhogecchāmayī path, and the tad-bhāvecchātmikā process is for those hankering to relish the bhāvas of Radha and Krishna's loving affairs. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.153-154)The terms sambhogecchāmayī and tad-bhāvecchātmikā refer specifically to kāntā-bhāva and mañjarī-bhāva respectively. The first is the direct (pratakṣa) method where Krishna's gopi consorts serve Him in a direct one-to-one loving relationship. The second path, also called gopī-anugata bhajana, is for the aspiring manjaris who wish to serve Radha and Krishna under the leading sakhis' and manjaris' direction.
Now how can we know which path is the best for us? Well, why not make a test? After we read the following story from Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, let's see in which direction our attraction will go?
One day Radhika sent a sakhi to Mani Manjari with the request that she arrange Mani Manjari's private meeting with Krishna. But that sakhi soon returned to report the following news: "O Radhe! I went to Mani Manjari as you instructed, and said, "Hey sakhi ! Do you know how incomparable is the pleasure of Sri Krishna's rati-saṅga? Why not try it once? You may consider that the sakhis enjoy loving affairs with Krishna and friendship with Radha. Now you may take up this mood. Why should you remain behind the others?"From this story we can observe how the sakhis' and the manjaris' moods differ. Yet because both of these sevā bhāvas are highly exalted and pleasing to Sri Yugal Kishora, Rupa Goswami has offered the bhaktas a choice: one can take up either the sambhogecchāmayī kāntā-bhāva or the tad-bhāvecchātmikā mañjarī-bhāva. In other words, Rupa wishes that the bhaktas choose the path that fits their individual ruci.
But then Mani Manjari said, "O sakhi, when I see Radha's happiness in Krishna's loving union, I become the most happy. So please allow me to serve in this way." "O Radhe!" the sakhi went on, "I can now understand how chaste Mani Manjari has become, for Krishna's rati pleasure doesn't interest her at all."
After reading the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi story, we may wonder: How can the manjaris renounce Krishna's rati-saṅga so easily? Could there be another pleasure which they consider much greater?
To answer, it must be said that transcendental bliss is measured in proportion to its āśraya, the person who shelters the love. For example, since Radha is the source of Krishna prema, her capacity to love Krishna is deep like an ocean. Hence the manjaris are clever because they focus on Radha to experience the full spectrum of Her loving emotions and bliss. But as Radha's love goes to Krishna, the manjaris next focus on Radha and Krishna together. In other words, as Radha relishes Krishna, the source of all pleasure, the manjaris relish Him along with Radha, the source of all prema. Therefore when uniting Prema (Radha) with Ananda (Krishna), the manjaris relish the topmost premānanda, right at their fingertips.
In his Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, Prabodhananda Saraswati says,
no tal-leśa-lavāyate bhagavataḥ sarvo'pi saukhyotsavaḥ |
If Krishna's sṛṅgāra pleasure with Radha could be measured, it would prove trivial in comparison to the manjaris' festival of bliss when submerging in Radha's prema-keli-sāgara with her Nikuñja-nāgara Krishna. (Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta 1.54)Wow! This is something really fantastic, no doubt. But we should also examine the coin's other side. Because the pleasure that Radha's sakhis experience when surrendering themselves to Krishna in conjugal love is also very spectacular. Though before this discussion begins, we need to ask where Srimati Radharani's greatest pleasure is found. That is answered in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta:
tathāpi rādhikā yatne karaye saṅgama
nānā chale kṛṣṇa preri śṛṅgāra karāya
ātmā sukha saṅga haite koṭi sukha pāya
anyonye viśuddha prema kare rasa puṣṭa
tā sabāra prema dekhe kṛṣṇa haya tuṣṭa
Although the sakhis don't endeavor to enjoy Krishna, Radhika will carefully arrange that they have Krishna's saṅgama. In fact, Radha will make sure by various means that Krishna gets to enjoy with them. Then Radha's joy becomes a million times greater than when She enjoys with Krishna Herself. Sharing Her love with Krishna makes Radha's love more pure. This in turn nourishes all of the sakhis' prema, and seeing such magnanimous behavior, Krishna becomes exceedingly happy. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.8.211-213)This is a great lesson indeed, that Radha experiences millions of times more happiness when uniting Her sakhis with Krishna. Yet in our world, this is something that we never get to hear about or see. For where is the beautiful woman who so eagerly wishes to share her beloved's love with so many others? But in the case of Radha, what is the outcome of Her charity? Well, first of all, Krishna becomes the benefactor, so He gets to enjoy with all of the sakhis. Secondly, everyone's prema is maintained and nourished by Radha's incredible magnanimity. Moreover, when seeing that such pure and unselfish love makes everyone happy, Krishna's joy becomes boundless.
To be continued...