Radha-Krishna as the sambandha, manjari-bhava as the abhidheya

There is a great deal of difference of flavors even within the madhura-rasa worship of Radha and Krishna. The idea that Radha is a symbol of the jiva and Krishna God, and that a direct erotic relationship with the Deity is being intended, is not a new one. That is in fact the symbolic situation that Mahaprabhu incarnates, but the one that Rupa Goswami stepped beyond.

By seeing Mahaprabhu as the combination of Radha and Krishna, by placing Radha and Krishna on an equal footing and conceiving of God as a Dual, and then jiva as a servant of that Dual Supreme, Rupa Goswami was coming up with something original.

When trying to understand a text according to the Vedantic hermeneutics, there are six things we take into account, one being apūrvatā, or the original something new. All the other relationships are there and are no doubt very nice and legitimate, but when we talk about Rupa Goswami and want to know what it is he is getting at, the anarpita-carī, then this certainly qualifies by way of apūrvatā.

upakramopasaṁhārāv abhyāso'pūrvatā phalam
arthavādopapattiś ca liṅgaṁ tātparya-nirṇaye
In order to establish the meaning of a text or an author, one should look at six different signs (liṅga), (1) the introductory and concluding portions, (2) that which is repeated throughout, (3) new and original material (apūrvatā), (4) the glorification of specific benefits, (5) that which is praised in the text, and (6) that which is explained with logic and argumentation.
We could go through the other elements and show how the establishment of the Divine Couple as the ultimate goal of worship (sambandha-tattva) and the primacy of Radha are demonstrated by each of them. But this in itself is enough to establish that this particular characteristic of the upāsya corresponds to a particular kind of upāsanā, which is mañjarī-bhāva.

The esoteric and the general need to be connected in every religious tradition. That is, the language and so on are layered so that multiple meanings can be adduced from them. For instance, myths and stories that are perceived as literal truths seem like stories meant for children at a certain level of advancement. This often leads to problems, most often resulting in loss of faith or a reductionist kind of symbolic interpretation.

The formation of the intellect that begins with the sacralization of specific kinds of myths -- as opposed to other kinds of archetypal messaging through fable and fairytale -- and to a sacred vocabulary, i.e., a linguistic system that directs the mind into patterns of thinking that are conducive to understanding spiritual experience, is particularly favorable. Indeed, without them, and without trusting that a particular closed system of religious myth, symbol and language is the best way of achieving the promised results of that system. Furthermore, this system (or meta-system) is to be seen as something with integrity even when clashing with other metasystems, and capable of assimilating them and growing in depth through such assimilation.

So for the esoteric to be understood, there must be a medium for general understanding, as a jumping off point or a point of reference or departure that is deeply ingrained in consciousness. The conclusions of the Goswamis about Radha and Krishna and mañjarī-bhāva are based in the meta-language of Hinduism and the Upanisads, in particular, the general mythology of the Bhagavatam and including the folk cultural developments in Radha Krishna līlā-rasa, but also understood though the particular interpretive tradition of Indian poetics.

The rasa theory of Rupa Goswami is based on a kind of romantic idealism, which can really only be understood through our aesthetic experience of fiction. But Rupa Goswami is saying that such experience is factually real, the central point of Absolute Reality, and though he does not say it so explicitly -- since he concentrates on the dynamics of romantic fiction -- this experience, being real, must be transformative to the exterior world and not an escape from it.

Indeed, it has to be, because if it is not explanatory of the world as well as transcendental to it, it would have no point. I cannot believe that Rupa Goswami's world of idealistic imagination (i.e., his archetypal world of romantic fiction extrapolated to the Supreme Truth) was not meant to influence the actual world of experience, i.e., society, which would have been opposed both scripturally and by generally accepted moral standards, to romance, i.e., parakīyā love.

But in order for that to happen, the main criticism of parakīyā love, its immorality and its being based in lust and the material conception, has to be bypassed. And this bypassing has to be not just theoretical, but has to be attained in the real world of experience. The understanding is that romantic love, experienced spiritually and aesthetically in the external world, makes the internal experience of Radha and Krishna as the Divine Reality concrete.

How does that work?

Rasa theory distinguishes and prioritizes the subjective experience that arises out of identification over the direct experience of love externally.

Why? Because that absolute pure experience of love can only exist in the Supreme Person, who is totally One with his Beloved. In all other experience, it is only a romantic fantasy that can be approximated, but is generally contaminated by lust and disinterest, i.e., the vikṣepa and mūḍha states of consciousness.

The culture of the mañjarī-bhāva is that of simultaneous unity and separation based in what some call "mystic participation," which is similar to the mystic unity of audience to a work of fictional representation. And this, in practical terms is expressed as "participative observation" or service in identity.

It is service to the union of the Divine Couple, remembering that the romantic mood is the domain of the feminine, Radha, and that such service can only be achieved by complete identification with Radha as the beloved of Krishna.


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