Is Radha and Krishna's love analogous to human love?

I have said that the experience of human love is the only way to really understand Radha and Krishna. It is possible, of course, to argue against this by saying two things:

(1) Radha and Krishna's love is so different from human experience that there is no way to compare the two.

(2) Since the knowledge of this love is eternal and self-luminous, we do not need to seek any external worldly experience of any kind in order to understand it. It is revealed from within without any reference to what happens outside.

We have dealt with these arguments before, but the simple answers are:

(1) Since historically the accounts of Radha and Krishna's love can be said to grow out of the secular Indian love literature, and since those accounts mostly use categories developed in Sanskrit poetics, it is ludicrous to say that they cannot be compared.

(2) The entire thrust of the bhakti concept is based on the idea that we use the God-given senses to please the sense of the Divine. In other words, the senses are the vehicle used in the bhakti-yoga (indeed every yoga) path as the way to enter and experience the inner realm.

(1) Historically, the first manifestations of theological analysis of Radha and Krishna's loves are fairly late. Since the discussions in the Nāṭya-śāstra predate them considerably and the former are based on the latter, it is clear that the bhakti-rasa theory follows the kāvya-rasa theory. So here is a case of the understanding of "transcendental love" growing out of the idealized, literary concept of love.

What is more, the various references to Bharata and Vatsyayana in the Radha-Krishna lila descriptions further confirm this. Even the Bhāgavatam uses the expression kāvya-rasa-kathāśrayāḥ to describe the Rasa-lila. This again shows that the Kāma-śāstra was at least a partial of inspiration for understanding madhura-bhakti-rasa.

The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu also uses human love as an analogy for bhakti.

yuvatīnāṁ yathā yūnor yūnām ca yuvatau yathā
mano'bhiramate yadvat mano'bhiramatāṁ tvayi

It may be said here, as the commentators do, that this is only about the non-physical or non-sexual dimensions of attraction, but that is disingenuous. The attraction is anchored in sexuality and to separate them would be erroneous.

(2) To think that there is no need of this material world, i.e., the reflection, to understand the transcendental, archetypal world is a futile attempt to further the above argument. Even if we grant that there may be some highly evolved souls whose intuitive understanding leads them to a genuine experience of bhāva without any experience of mundane love, either in practical fact or in literature, such persons are the exception rather than the rule. Most people are obliged by circumstance to engage in sādhanā bhakti.

There is no reason to think that the analogy of material love, the so-called "allegory of love," diminishes Radha and Krishna's transcendental loves. The two kinds of love are mirror facing each other: the experience of human love as something transcendent points to ultimate reality on the one hand, and the existence of a sacred myth which states unequivocally that erotic love attains the highest dimensions of mystical experience legitimizes human romantic love.

Therefore, the concept of madhura-rasa as the highest dimension of the spiritual world has multiple consequences. Most significantly for us sādhakas is that it liberates us from the false renunciation and ambivalent attitudes that surround sexuality in this world. The attitude that there is no relation between Radha and Krishna's love and the love between men and women in this world (as if we said there is no relation between Nanda and Yashoda's love for Krishna and parenthood in this world) is not only false, but it deprives us of a way of entering this divine world that has been revealed to us. Furthermore, it deprives us of the use of the most powerful psychological and physiological force to which we are thrall and using it for spiritual uplift. This is why Paurnamasi's statement in Vidagdha-mādhava is so full of potent meaning for us all:

harir eṣa na ced avātariṣyat
mathurāyāṁ madirākṣī rādhikā ca
abhaviṣyad iyaṁ vṛthā visṛṣṭir
makarāṅkasya viśeṣatas tad atra
If Krishna had not appeared in Mathura along with Radha of intoxicated eyes, then this whole creation, and especially the existence of Eros, would have been an exercise in futility.
I guess I am repeating myself. Oh well...


Anonymous said…
dont listen to your mind
Anonymous said…
"I have said that the experience of human love is the only way to really understand Radha and Krishna."

Mahaprabhu gave it to jungle animals in Jarikhanda. They didn't have the experience of human love yet they got prema.
Jagadananda Das said…
Well, you'll have to try to understand whether that is relevant or not.
Anonymous said…
quoted from ??
Anonymous said…
Mahaprabhu gave it to jungle animals in Jarikhanda

U sure about that? Don't u know this is just an interpolated miracle story anyway.

Anonymous said…

Neuroscientists have now discovered what "love" is. Basically it is your own brain chemistry.

Hearing romantic stories produces an abundance of dopamine. Turns out that those who enjoy romantic feelings [including immersion in stories of romance] their brains are low in serotonin and high in dopamine.

Also, after ejaculation a person has 500 times the normal level of oxytocin in the body. Is a type of "altered state" or "this is your brain on drugs".

So nowadays we can analyze all of these things.


In the olden days, in the Vedic stories, a guy was convinced that he really "loved" a girl. So she said to meet with her at an appointed hour.

She took enemas and saved all of it in jars. Also she scarfed and barfed and saved all of that in jars. Then she removed her Victoria's Secret push-up bra so that her breasts were not as perky as usual. And she let her Brazilian wax grow in also.

Then when the "I love you" fellow came to her house, she showed him all of the elements of what he loved. And he was all like "OMG!"

But nowadays she could have just saved time, and showed him some articles about neuroscience that there is no such thing as "love" except that we get high on our own brain chemistry and hormones.


Also, Eros or erotic love and sexual love, is not the highest form of human love, according to some contemporary psychologists and sociologists. The highest form of human love has two components: agape (selfless, unconditional love), and philos (friendship).


How the stories of Radha and Krsna can work [in my opinion] is as Bibliotherapy. They are archetypes.

I feel that we can't say for sure that R and K had the highest form of love, because K was like a prairie vole and could not be faithful to R. Nowadays we know that prairie voles, who are very promiscuous, are extremely low in a certain brain chemistry.

K was so easily distractible that he stop by some other girl's kunja on the way to Radhika's. So, he had ADHD or at least prairie vole syndrome. That's why Lalita and Vishaka call him Black Snake and Cheater.

Also, the story does not end so happily. Lalita and Vishaka curse K to take birth as a sannyasi and not have any sex, and furthermore, as LC: so he will cry all the time like R is doing.

K appears to have had narcissistic personality disorder. He just shag any girl, even a Kubja i.e. sex worker. Is that really the topmost BFF someone could get?

No, I think a BFF dry Radhika's eyes after K, wipe her tears, and be a good listener. Encourage her to go into therapy as to why she is attract to Bad Boy in the first place. Encourage her to read more books like "Women Who Love Too Much" and not so many love stories.

K is like guy on Lifetime Channel after school special, "Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?" i.e. a Bad Boy archetype. But, is a type of therapy for some people to hear, read, tell stories of archetypes.


Also perhaps is a stage for some people to get into this archetype. According to some Agamas, Vedas, sannyasa is when we totally balance out our ida and pingala nadis/ currents into the shusumna or central channel. Ida is emotion, pingala is intellectual.

So even it makes sense to me that persons very academic, or not so very sensually minded in their youth, become attract to these stories as they grow older. Because they are balancing out their pingala side with more ida.

To what one will be attracted to, during their youth and as they age we can read about in our astrological chart.


Also, another developmental theory is human beings who are very macho eventually will need to get more in touch with their feminine side.
Is a swing of the pendulum in a different direction.

That is another way to look at it, as a developmental task: where a person who was formerly not too sensually minded integrates their personality by becoming interest in the opposite sex, love stories, kathas, and idealizing them.

Is another way of balancing out the ida and pingala.

And a sadhaka initially very sensually minded and hedonistic could balance out by becoming more scholarly and/or scientific, get into a discipline like mathematics and be able to see [and even swoon!] the Divine there, too.


In summary, the arguments remind me of when Krsna came into Mathura, everyone see him in their own way. To the XXX, he was XXX; to the YYY, he was YYY; to the ZZZ, he was ZZZ. Everyone see him in their own way, because we are all like softwares of a computer our individual brain's wiring.

Someone very into Maryada see him as the perfection of Maryada, a hopeless Romantic see him as the Perfect Love Story, a scientist/ mathematician see him as the proof of all theories, i.e. once you prove something in mathematics it is eternal.

Everyone is correct and seeing facets of a diamond.

Peace, everyone.
Jagadananda Das said…
What an interesting and disparate hodgepodge of critiques--a little something from pop psychology and psychoanalysis, a little something from "bibliotherapy" and Jungian archetype theory, a little something from Christianity, a little something from yoga/tantra! And then you top it off with a reference to the Bhagavatam that promotes relativism.

Well, I certainly hope you succeed in finding a way to tie everything in to give it some meaning for yourself, or into a rationally coherent whole. If you have to explain something "away" in so many different ways, you are trying very hard indeed, but you are far from any terra firma on which to stand.

I guess that is the relativist position--the unbearable lightness of not knowing what the hell we stand for except that "we agin it--maybe."

That is the problem with neti neti, though atheists, Vedantins and Buddhists do try to make a virtue out of it.

And if, like the existentialists, you decide that you maybe, just maybe, HAVE to make up some higher meaning--political, altruistic, philanthropic, hedonistic, whatever--in order to make life meaningful, well then you can do a lot worse than cultivating the idea of love.

If anything, your yoga/tantra bits in your text are probably the closest to the reality. As far as your analysis of the lila, well looks like you have been hanging out with DK. The lila is not as important as the symbol, as I have been saying with some emphasis. There are many versions of the lila--just like there are many versions of human love. The symbol or archetype of the Divine Couple in its multifarious forms is primordial, permanent, pervasive, and powerful.

You may say that sexual love is not the "highest." That is not so much the point, or at least, it misses the point. We are talking about sexual love as a spiritual or psychological continuum that goes from the basest selfishness to the highest experience of mystical oneness with the Divine Truth. It is a question of sublimation and elevation. Ultimately, all love, higher or lower, comes out of the same continuum, which is contiguous with the human spirit itself.

Put another way: Life is about a lot more than sex, in the same way that a tree is about a lot more than its roots or trunk. But without roots and trunk there is no possibility of leaves, flowers, or fruits.

Many of humanity's achievements come out of sexual repression or sublimation. That does not change the basic structure of the phenomenon.

Anyway, all I really want to say is that without sadhana, without any yogic practice of interiorization that gives some kind of mystical confirmation of a higher reality, it is true that we end up with a jumble of mutually incompatible, miscellaneous and incoherent analyses, each possessing a flicker of comprehension, but none able to order the whole.
Anonymous said…
Hi Jagat, I really enjoy your blog. I like the world literature that you translate and quote, I like hearing what life in India is like, I like haring about the different people that you meet and what they are into.

Thanks for having the blog so I can read all of that. Now as to the other, this is a public blog, you state your opinion, and I am not trying to be a trouble-maker, just I have a difference of opinion some things. Such as we must know human love to understand R and K, and what is more wonderful or motivating [something like that] than love?

When you write that, I feel I have to say something, if you don't mind. This is not "pop" psychology idea, it is from mainstream college level sociology textbook: "Illusion and Disillusion: The Self in Love and Marriage" by John F. Crosby , professor of sociology at University of Kentucky.

According to this college level textbook, many of the behaviors of Radha and Krsna are not "love" but more accurately would be called "infatuation".

You are a scholar and person who translates texts, I am sure you are aware of nuances of difference between different words such as "love", "infatuation', "Eros and erotic", "philos" and "agape". Which you could all sweep under the rug and call 'em all "love", but c'mon I am a college educated person: maybe some medieval illiterate villagers without a library nearby can do that, but post-modern person with master's degreee? I think not.

Look, Radha was dropped from the shoulders of Krsna so she would not be "puffed up"> Is that your idea of "love"? If some celebrity did that nowadays to another celebrity, surely we would all be hearing about it in People magazine about what a jerk the guy is and what an idiot the girl is to even like some passive-aggressive guy like that in the first place.

You want to call that the highest form of love, and something we should all experience in order to understand it, you may. But I don't call that love, nor would a college sociology textbook on love, nor would a psychiatrist or neuro-scientist. And that's the world I live in: of literate college-educated people.

I read your blog because you are one of the few college educated people who have readings from Indian world literature online.

Also, K abandon R. I mean even Hugh Hefner can do better than that. So you are saying that Hugh Hefner has more love for his Playboy Bunnies than K had for R?

In my opinion, human love is nothing like R&K. We don't have three separate and distinct expansions: one that stays in Vrndavana, one in Mathura, and one that goes to Kuruksetra when we are over 100 years old to see our old flame and we have to sit in a tent while our ex gets it on with his wives in their tent [using Viagra at over age 100?]

According to college sociology book, there is nothing "loving" about R and K except that it describes what INFATUATION is like.

Furthermore, most Asian cultures have this exact same story of R and K, only in their version is a CAUTIONARY TALE of do not get into infatuation, because you will abandon your duties and dharma to your family.

The "love" of R and K is, according to college sociology book, immature teenaged type of infatuation.

Also, is very painful and troubling to hear you constantly say that we have to experience this ourselves to experience transcendence, because to me you sound like an immature teenager or guy with not much sexual experience, all excited by his first [or second, or third, or fourth] teenaged crush.

I was trying to be magnanimous and say, well I guess he is balancing out his ida and pingala, etc. But is very difficult to read constantly that we all need to do what you are doing.

I dunno, it just remind me of in the SB, in Kali Yuga everything will be backwards. The householders will have to beg from the sannyasis, who have all of the wealth. And indeed the Catholic Church owns more property and wealth than any multi-national corporation or country in the world.

And in Kali Yuga men will give up their chaste wife and women will roam from man to man. You are so fond of quoting scriptures but is like you are just a living illustration of this particular scriptural prediction of what people in Kali Yuga will be like.

And in Kali Yuga, the brahmanas will ring a bell and do their work simply to satisfy the belly and the genitals. and here you are all telling us is great to satisfy the genitals. Is like anothe Kali Yuga prediction come true.

Is just one more old ex-sannyasi, telling us how great tantric yoga is, how great sex is, how great his massage therapist is. [Roll of eyes here]. While we normal peons, got sex all out of our system doing it to excess way back before we get into yoga lifestyle, met some Indian sage, or whatever.

Some people follow a different sampradaya that believes that a person can't really get into
transcendence until you close off the muladhara chakra, i.e. stop having sex life. After having had a nice sex life for decades: in the natural order of dharm, artha, kam, moksha.

Anyway, I wish you well and I didn't want to tell you that you are a horny, lecherous old man and cite pages of why what you are advocating goes against scripture. Because others have done that already.

I guess I just wanted to say that infatuation is not love, it is certainly not the highest form of love, in my opinion.

The audience that these stories were written for were illiterate people living in a harem culture during medieval times. So the authors could not exactly be explaining how the cosmos works through a PhD in Mathematics' language now, could they?

Still, there is charm in the stories, even truth in them at a level that a PhD student in Mathematics can understand and appreciate: if you just let the stories speak for themselves.

I do appreciate that about your blog. Just, really, to me you sould like a repressed person who missed all of his teenaged humping years and now is telling us, "This is great! You all have to try it!"

It's just difficult to read sometimes. Sigh.
Anonymous said…
"This is not "pop" psychology idea, it is from mainstream college level sociology textbook: "Illusion and Disillusion: The Self in Love and Marriage" by John F. Crosby , professor of sociology at University of Kentucky.

According to this college level textbook, many of the behaviors of Radha and Krsna are not "love" but more accurately would be called "infatuation".

The process of analysis applied here by Anonymous is not reasonable. The Gaudiya Tradition makes it very clear that its teaching is that, for a human being to understand Radha and Krishna's love, said human being must be initiated in to the Tradition. The religion does not make any claims of realization being possible by academic means. Thus, doctor Crosby may have an opinion on "love" and "infatuation", but, without first undergoing a personal transformation by faith, he would not be equipped to opine specifically on Radha Krishna's love. Indeed, the religion requires and recommends a certain process to refer to itself. So, the conclusion is, Dr. Crosby is not acquainted enough with the subject to contribute a substantial analysis in the matter.

As for human love, if the academic world is open to reciprocation of its opining on matters of faith, the world of faith thinks that love, as perceived by academics such as dr. Crosby, is indeed not the real article but a shadow of it. So the meddling of academics in the field of faith is really not a fair one, what to speak of it being courteous.
Anonymous said…
"The audience that these stories were written for were illiterate people living in a harem culture during medieval times. So the authors could not exactly be explaining how the cosmos works through a PhD in Mathematics' language now, could they?"

A PhD in Mathematics' language now (or ever, for that matter) is irrelevant because the intent of those stories is not to communicate the how but the why. The how is merely a side curiosity, sometimes supportive. Therefore these stories are in themselves a language, perpetually written for a perpetual audience - the creation and recreation of symbols in itself the drama.
Anonymous said…
"Is just one more old ex-sannyasi, telling us how great tantric yoga is, how great sex is, how great his massage therapist is. [Roll of eyes here]. "

To be fair, I think what Jagat has been saying is more in the lines of, "how great the devotee sanga I have met with is".

" While we normal peons, got sex all out of our system doing it to excess way back before we get into yoga lifestyle, met some Indian sage, or whatever."

How accurate as far as facts is this statement, really? We "normal" peons are precisely who? This is a tradition tried, expanded upon, and meant to address no less than the entirety of humankind, for no less than, well, forever - its about human nature irrespectively of any one particular era, be it a harem era or a hippie free-love era. Indeed, growing old and sexless does not eliminate the probability that one will again experience sex full blast into his system again as a new body comes around next life. And even if one believes that there is no such thing as rebirth but one single life experience, the teenager next door could use some enlightening on the nature of his own sex tormented system - a very clear and present danger as it unfolds. Compassion towards such fellow junior human beings can make all the difference in their futures. Indeed, we ourselves, the seniors, could perhaps have been better human beings ourselves presently if we had had better resources when our systems were sex charged but operating without proper information. If sex is an "immature" thing, then so is the vessel that is is a conduit for it. But humanity, like youth, is not immature simply because of its placement in time. Immaturity lies in fear. And in non awareness of one's self.
Brian said…
Thankyou so much for your article. Although a Westerner I live in Maharshtra and am still coming to grips with the rchetypes and ideas that differ from the my western Biblical heritage. Whie I am still learning Hindi and the vedic texts, I often see the same sort of srories as analogous to human love. for example, the Biblical story of Rachael and Leah as the different levels of how we see our bride, turns wife or wife - husband.

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