Another failed attempt to explain love

One of the reasons that I have been silent on this blog is because of the particular confused nature of my love life. I bifurcated my path from that of the Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy and called it “Prema Prayojan.” I recognized that I was influenced by Sahajiyaism, and even called myself a Sahajiya, but at the same time I wanted to make a distinction between my own viewpoint and that which is traditionally identified with Sahajiyaism.

In fact, let us face it, most people have little real knowledge of what Sahajiyaism is. Most of what has been disseminated in the orthodox or Gaudiya Math worlds is a mish-mash of criticisms that stretches over a very broad area, from the traditional practitioners of Raganuga Bhajan (like Ananta Das Mahant of Radha Kund) to those doing kirtan professionally and making displays of emotion, to those who engage in some kind of sexual practices with apparently prodigious promiscuity in the name of Radha and Krishna.

In fact, I would say that Sahajiyas themselves are not a monolithic sampradaya with clear and consistent ideas that are held by all. But in several points, I am in agreement with what is generally held to be Sahajiya doctrine. The principal one is that the relationship of love in this world is a means to attaining a transcendental state known as prema.

One thing I have to say here, though, arises from the idea that the relationship with woman is purely utilitarian.

মধু আনি মধুমাছি চাক করে যবে
নানান পুষ্পের মধু যোগ করি তবে
বহু পুষ্প হৈতে মধু করে আয়োজন
সেই পুষ্পে পুনঃ তার কোন প্রযোজন
দীপ হস্তে করি যদি প্রবেশযে ঘরে
তিমির করিয়া ধ্ৱংস দীপ্তিমান করে
যেখানে যে দ্রৱ্য তাহা হয বর্তমান
পশ্চাৎ প্রদীপে আছে কোন্ প্রযোজন

madhu āni madhumāchi cāka kare yabe
nānāna puṣpera madhu yoga kari tabe
bahu puṣpa haite madhu kare āẏojana
sei puṣpe punaḥ tāra kona prayojana
dīpa haste kari yadi praveśaye ghare
timira kariẏā dhvaṁsa dīptimāna kare
yekhāne ye dravya tāhā haya bartamāna
paścāt pradīpe āche kon prayojana
Beehives are filled up with honey collected from many flowers. When the honey is collected, the flowers are of no use to the bees. In a dark room, a lamp is used to drive away darkness and to ascertain the positions of things it contains. As soon as this is done, the lamp can be dispensed with. [Quoted by Manindra Mohan Bose (Post Chaitanya Sahajiya Cult, 76-77)
I was forced, in the very beginning to admit that I was learning, experimenting with this concept on the inspiration of several elements, which I shall review here. And the purpose of making it public is simply to analyze my experiments, make my findings public, and to then go on in the direction that the laws of science take me. When one is trying to create the philosopher’s stone, it may become an obsession. Similarly, my life is either openly or not-so-openly, about my obsession, which is called prema prayojana. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that “divine love is the purpose of life” and as far as possible I have dedicated my life to this project.

In doing so, I have committed mistakes, offenses to individuals and to Love itself. And many people will be critical of the conclusions that I have come to, but after experimentation, I am fairly certain that much of what I have learned is true and transmissible. That is, useful to other people.
Since I have decided to write this, which will take a bit of time and several chapters, I am going to begin with an overview. Because this is all about prema and my personal life here is not separate from that sadhana. I will use the letter R to indicate the person who has been designated by Shrimati Radharani to be my partner in this endeavor. R stands for Radha, but I will not call her by that name. She is a representative of Radha in my life and therefore merits to be called by that name, but I would avoid offending her sense of propriety or that of other devotees. But Shrimati Radharani is the Mahabhava Svarupini.

Basically stated, the prema prayojan project has three wings: the most important is bhakti, the other two are sexuality and yoga. These things will be hard to explain to the narrowly orthodox Vaishnava, and to some extent or another, I have been doing so. But let me start by saying that the recognition of sexuality’s role in spiritual life does not mean that there is a base sexuality going on. This accusation has arisen, and in my particular case, even R has been quick to point out her perception of impurity in my own behavior, and that is something that we will of necessity refer to and discuss again, and no doubt in the future.

Shastra says that the love of the gopis received the name kama because of the external similarities of the two. But even this is misleading, because such a point of similarity between kama and prema is only based on a few points of similarity. There are many points of difference. The main one is always given that the difference between kama and prema is that the former is done out of a desire for sense gratification and the latter is done for the pleasure of the beloved. Priti in the Priti-sandarbha is defined both as receiving pleasure as well as as acting for the pleasure of the beloved. In the case of the samartha-rati, Rupa Goswami says that love and desire are so intertwined that they are never separated from one another. They are not two separate things.

If we don’t understand how these things are possible and visible in human experience, then there is no possibility of experiencing Radha and Krishna’s love as a manjari. This is my humble but very audacious statement. Because human beings are equipped with fundamental sthayi bhavas, i.e., because we all have the inborn capacity to experience the sentiments of love, fear, anger, pity, bravery, disgust, horror and humor, even a person without a real-life experience of love, etc., may through poetry, etc., experience them to some degree.

A sannyasi who feels disgust (as one person quoted Prabhupada to me, “the only rasa in the material world is that of disgust”) for the erotic life of lovers in this world is unlikely to be able to fathom what is going in Radha and Krishna’s nikunja. One who has not felt the heartbreak of an argument with a lover will have a hard time truly understanding what is going on in Radha’s māna. No one who has not felt the separation over a long period of time will understand the psychology of this great trial of love, its dangers, its tests.

But it is not enough to experience something materially. From that one will get some reflection of Radha and Krishna, but it will be totally inadequate to the task of the sadhaka. When I say materially, I mean even the experience of sattvika love, though that is better than tamasika or rajasika love.

I humbly implore everyone who simply thinks that sexual love is all the same to recognize that the Gita says “all phenomena in the material world must be understood as having divisions according to the three gunas” (18.40). It is a little unfortunate that the Gita does not specifically give the three divisions of sexuality according to the gunas, but we have enough information from the Lord’s song to be able to extrapolate for ourselves.

As I have said before, the rapist’s explosion of violent sexuality is at the other extreme to the sadhana of sexual love, in which the partner becomes the entry point for the Divine, and “making love” is truly about making love. Through the perfection of exchanging pleasure, through the sadhu sanga of mutually purifying the understanding of Radha and Krishna’s perfect love, the sadhakas gradually become mirrors of the Divine Couple and their love itself becomes a service to the Divine Couple.

Their love mirrors the love of the Divine Couple, accompanied by sankirtan and smaran that is on a level of concentration and depth that the mere sentimentalist cannot begin to conceive. But the effects of this love are far reaching and transformative on the consciousness of the sadhakas. It enhances all the other sadhanas of meditation and hearing and chanting because it informs them with reference points of real experienced sensations and emotions.

It is transformative for the sadhaka couple in many ways. But if we remember that the work of the sakhis and manjaris is to serve the union of the Divine Couple, we will get an idea of what is happening.

The definition of māna in the Ujjvala Nilamani says that māna is the particular emotional state (bhāva) of the lovers who, though still deeply in love with one another, prevents them from experiencing or engaging in the desired activities of loving, such as embracing, etc., even when the opportunity is there.

dampatyor bhāva ekatra sator apy anuraktayoḥ |
svābhīṣṭāśleṣa-vīkṣādi-nirodhī māna ucyate ||

The curious ability of the human psyche to split itself makes it possible for two individuals to play the role of both the lovers and the sakhis, but perfection comes in the nitya-vihāra. There is much to be said about this and it will be discussed in detail as we go on. Without a doubt this is the hardest part of the lila, since Lalita and other sakhis are persuading Radha to be stronger in her māna, while others are taking Krishna’s sideand persuading her to relent. Eventually, she has to relent because she is as attached to the nitya-vihāra as Krishna is. But Radha is the mistress, the ishwari, the adhishtatri devata of the lila of love.

Much is made of the manjari identity. Manjari bhava is called bhāvollāsā rati because the manjaris take ullāsa in Radha’s bhāva. Their love for Krishna exists inasmuch as Krishna is loved by Radha. tad-bhāvotsavataḥ paraṁ bhavatu me tat-prāṇa-nāthe ratiḥ. The expression in the Gaudiya sampradaya is based on its attempt to keep a historical connection to the Vaishnava sampradayas. This leads to some confusion on the part of scholars.

But the emphasis on Radha’s bhava means basically that Radha rules love. And without understanding this, all Sahajiyaism fails. The main accusation of sexual misconduct in Sahajiyaism is based on the misconception, either real or imagined, that men rule the sexual act. When men rule the sexual act, it falls into the modes of passion and ignorance. When sexuality is equal between partners and controlled by conquering the orgasm, it is in the modes of goodness. And when such love is enveloped by the Holy Names and smaran of the eternal nikunja, it becomes an entry point to that divine state.

Radha rules love. The aropa (identification) in practice of the male and female bodies and roles with Radha and Krishna may be called ahaṅgrahopāsana by some, but to do so would be to totally misunderstand the goal of such prescriptions in the Pancharatra, Gopala-tapani Upanishad and other late Upanishads. In fact, this whole direction has been clarified by Mahaprabhu in his taking of the sannyas mantra.

Someone asked me the other day whether tat tvam asi can mean “You are his.” The answer is no, it cannot. But what is the state of perfection? It is a state of non-dual consciousness. The statement gopālo’ham means, “The world of Gopala is the Supreme Truth from which all things come. I am that. I am not different from that. I am part of that.”

This can only be understood through manjari bhava, where the separation of the Radha-Krishna dimension, where one can be misguided by the sense of ownership or ego doership.

In fact, one enters a state of samadhi.

In such consciousness, one who experiences the dynamics of a loving relationship with another devotee sadhaka, who shares the taste for love, who loves the effects of love on his or her consciousness and behavior throughout life, will see how his own engagement in the actions of love soften and strengthen his character.


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