Glorification of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī
[September 4, 2022 is Śrī Rādhāṣṭamī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on the holy appearance day of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, at Śrī Rādhā Mādhava Gauḍīya Maṭha, Faridabad, on September 9, 2016 and Śrī Tīrtha Āśrama, Govardhana, on September 21, 2015. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
RĀDHĀRĀṆĪ’S BIRTH AND PASTIMES ARE TRANSCENDENTAL
Svayaṁ Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa has spoken in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9)- ‘janma karma ca me divyam’. He is saying that His janma (birth) and karma (activities) or līlās (pastimes), are all transcendental and are difficult to understand. Although He is aja (unborn), He takes birth. How can this be reconciled?
Sometimes pure devotees of Bhagavān desire to have Him as their child, so they can lovingly nurture and pamper Him in every possible way, just as parents of an ordinary child lovingly shower their affection upon him. To fulfil this desire of His pure devotees, Bhagavān manifests His birth pastime in this world, though He is unborn. Consequently, His birth and pastimes such as stealing butter churned by the gopīs, cow-herding, and so on, are all transcendental. Though they may appear of this world, as if an ordinary child is performing them, they are completely transcendental.
‘Satyam vidhātum nija-bhṛtya bhāṣitaṁ’– The Lord appeared in this world to make the words of His devotees true (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.8.17). As bhakta-vāñchā-kalpataru, Bhagavān manifests His pastimes to fulfil all the desires of His devotees. He appears only to make their words come true. Whichever form the devotees cherish and desire to see, Bhagavān assumes that very form in order to give pleasure to the devotees. Only devotees can understand this, not others. Unless one has received the mercy of the Lord, these topics cannot be understood. [Endnote 1]
Aghāsura’s sister, the rākṣasī (female-eater of human flesh) Pūtanā, was ordered by Kaṁsa to kill all children born within the last six months. Hence, this bāla-ghātinī (killer of new-borns), while searching from one place to another, would kill any new-born she spotted. When Kṛṣṇa was just six days old, Pūtanā had come to Nanda Bābā’s place. Smearing her breasts with poison, she wanted to kill Kṛṣṇa on the pretext of breast feeding.
But even a gigantic six krośa (eighteen kilometres) long demoness like Pūtanā could not kill Kṛṣṇa. Instead, simply by sucking her breast, Kṛṣṇa sucked out her very prāṇa (life-air). Is such a thing possible for an ordinary person? The dexterity and swiftness with which Kṛṣṇa killed Pūtanā, demonstrates how His activities are purely transcendental and beyond comprehension.
Today is Rādhāṣṭamī – the appearance tithi of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Being the eternal śakti (consort) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the scriptures have stated that She is non-different or inseparable from Kṛṣṇa [Endnote 2].
Śrī Kṛṣṇa has three prominent śaktis (potencies) - sandhinī, saṁvit, and hlādinī. [Endnote 3]. Through hlādinī-śakti Kṛṣṇa tastes rasa and gives bliss to the devotees. [Endnote 4] Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the mūla (root) of hlādinī-śakti. [Endnote 5] Thus the verse ‘janma karma ca me divyam’ is also completely applicable to Her. In other words, Rādhārāṇī’s birth and pastimes in this world are completely aprākṛta (transcendental). Rādhārāṇī descends in this world of Her own sweet will to give pleasure to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in His pastimes.
BIRTH PASTIME OF ŚRĪMATĪ RĀDHIKĀ RECONCILED
In connection to Rādhārāṇī’s birth, people often ask, “It is mentioned in some places that Rādhārāṇī is the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Kīrtidā-devī, but in Rādhā-sahastra-nāma She is addressed as Kalāvatī-kanyā - the daughter of Kalāvatī. Are Kīrtidā and Kalāvatī one and the same individual or are they two different individuals? Various scriptures have disparate opinions in this matter. How does one reconcile this? What is the significance behind such statements?
We shall try to understand this by studying the history behind it. Himālaya (the mountain) and his wife had a beautiful daughter named Pārvatī who was married to Lord Śiva. In one kalpa, Himālaya’s sister-in-law, Kalāvatī, the wife of Vindhyācala (the mountain), desired to have a daughter as beautiful as Pārvatī. Vindhyācala also harboured a similar desire, “If I had a daughter like Pārvatī, I would marry her to some transcendental personality like Lord Śiva, who is so auspicious and pure.” With this desire in mind, both husband and wife performed many austerities and as a result, Rādhārāṇī was born to them.
In that kalpa, Pūtanā reached Vindhyācala in her search for new-borns. Seeing Rādhārāṇī, Pūtanā lifted Her onto her beak and flew away. However, by the will of Bhagavān, on reaching Rāval, near Gokula, Rādhārāṇī slipped through her grip and fell onto a lotus in the Yamunā.
That morning when Kīrtidā-devī had gone for her daily bath in the Yamunā, she spotted Rādhārāṇī on that lotus. Feeling compassion, Kīrtidā took that baby girl home and related all that had transpired to Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and in this way they kept Rādhārāṇī as their daughter. Unfortunately there was one cause of sorrow. Even though the baby girl had incomparable beauty, Her eyes were shut. This made everyone despondent.
Hearing that a daughter had been born to Kīrtidā, Yaśodā, along with baby Kṛṣṇa, went to greet the blessed parents. However when she arrived, she felt distressed on discovering that the eyes of this beautiful new-born girl were shut. She wondered, “What a pity that such a beautiful girl cannot open her eyes!” In the meantime, baby Kṛṣṇa crawled out of Yaśodā’s lap and went and touched Rādhārāṇī, who was close by. As soon as Kṛṣṇa touched Her, She opened Her eyes and everyone was overjoyed.
The inner meaning behind this pastime is that Rādhārāṇī would not open Her eyes unless She first took darśana of Kṛṣṇa. From this pastime She is teaching that only Kṛṣṇa is the real object of our vision. In other words, if there is anyone worthy of being seen by our eyes, that is Svayaṁ Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Hence the two opinions of Rādhārāṇī being addressed as Kalāvatī-kanyā and Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī are reconciled. Both these opinions can co-exist. That is why this is called divya-līlā (a transcendental pastime).
Our ācāryas explain a deeper meaning. Just as Kṛṣṇa’s birth is mysterious -Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa appeared in Mathura in front of Devakī and Vasudeva, then, on being carried to Gokula, He merged into Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa (the son of Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā Maiyā); in the same way, the daughter of Kalāvatī was brought to Vraja and She merged into the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Kīrtidā-devi. These are transcendental pastimes (janma karma ca me divyam) which are not easily understood.
We are the worshippers of Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa and Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī Śrīmatī Rādhikā. We are not the worshippers of Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa and in the same way we are not the worshippers of Kalāvatī-kanyā. Therefore even though some people say that Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the daughter of Kalāvatī, their words, although true to some extent, are not the complete truth, which is that She is the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Kīrtidā-devī.
THE TIME OF RĀDHĀRĀṆĪ’S BIRTH
If anyone has been to Varsānā to celebrate Rādhāṣṭamī, they would know that Her abhiṣeka is performed during the maṅgala-ārati, preceded by night long kīrtanas and bhajanas. At other places, Her abhiṣeka is performed around 8 a.m. And still, at some other places, Her appearance time is considered as noon and Her abhiṣeka is performed then. So what is the mystery behind this?
When it comes to Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī, everyone unanimously knows and celebrates it at midnight; there is no other consideration than this. However, when it comes to celebrating the appearance of Rādhārāṇī, there is a difference of opinion.
Kīrtidā-devī sighted the baby girl in the early morning and thus that time is considered by some as Her birth time. She took Rādhārāṇī home and showed Her to Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and the news spread fast across Rāval that a beautiful baby girl had been born to Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Kīrtidā-devī. This caused a lot of commotion as everyone came to see this beautiful new-born girl, Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī. The time, when everyone got to know of Her birth, is considered by some as Her appearance time.
Rādhārāṇī, however, had not opened Her eyes yet and for this reason everyone was morose and the saṁskāras traditionally performed at birth, like the father of the new-born along with all the elderly family members giving charity to the brāhmaṇas, and so on, had not been done. At noon, when Kṛṣṇa arrived with Mother Yaśodā and touched Rādhārāṇī, She opened Her eyes and at that very moment there was a celebration of happiness – ānanda mahotsava. This is another consideration of Her birth time, which is accepted by our guru-varga. Hence we celebrate the appearance of Rādhārāṇī at noon by performing Her abhiṣeka at that time.
THE REAL PRAMĀṆA
We have heard many things about the birth and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. All of these tattvas are full of deep mysteries and this is why bhāgavata-tattva is not comprehensible for those who are netra-hīna, blinded or bereft of perfect (transcendental) vision. Neither are they comprehensible to those who hear from such blinded personalities.
Scriptures have spoken of ten kinds of pramāṇas (means of obtaining accurate knowledge or evidence) [Endnote 6], as the basis by which one can ascertain whether or not what is being spoken is bona fide. However, only one - śabda pramāṇa (revealed knowledge) - among these ten, has been accepted as the absolute truth. This is the channel by which true knowledge appears or descends in this world.
Śabda pramāṇa means the words of mahā-bhāgavatas who, unlike conditioned living entities of this world, are free from the four defects of bhrama (tendency to be deluded); vipralipsā (cheating propensity); karaṇāpāṭava (imperfect senses) and pramāda (tendency to make mistakes). Those who do not have these four defects are differently situated than others.
Whenever anyone expounds a principle or an object, having completely realised it, then that is considered as pramāṇa. By such pramāṇa, various truths are known in actuality, as they are. Anything written or spoken by one having the four defects cannot be taken as pramāṇa.
For instance, during Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s visit to Vṛndāvana, some locals mistook a fisherman for Kṛṣṇa at Kāliyā-hṛda. The fisherman’s torchlight was mistaken for bright jewels on Kāliyā’s hoods. Thus, even the servant of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Balabhadra Bhaṭṭācārya, got influenced by the hearsay and wanted to see ‘Kṛṣṇa dancing on the hoods of Kāliyā at Kāliyā-hṛda’. From this pastime, it is evident how the vision of ordinary people cannot be taken as pramāṇa.
Previously scientists deduced that the earth was flat, and for many years this notion was held as the truth. Only later, the scientific world changed their stance by concluding that the earth was round, not flat, and now everyone believes that to be the truth. This fallible approach of the scientists to acquire knowledge cannot be taken as pramāṇa.
Even knowledge passed through a historical account may be tinged with some motivation or bias. Suppose, a biographer is commissioned by some king to write about him, then such an account is likely to carry details that glorify that king’s position while carefully excluding facts that may put a blotch on his character.
When someone with a particular absorption or bias writes a historical account, the writing will accordingly carry that flavour. For instance, say a young man is attracted towards a young woman. At that time his consciousness is completely absorbed in her and even if there are any faults in her, he doesn’t see them. He only sees her good qualities. In this state, due to this individual’s absorption, whatever he describes about that girl cannot objectively be considered as the truth.
Whenever one is absorbed in someone or something, the object of absorption enters one’s heart and he considers any insult or praise to his object of absorption as his own. In such a state whatever an individual says is not inherently and objectively true as there is some bias. Whatever is spoken has a personal flavour to it such that the glories of one’s object of absorption can be expounded well.
That is why it is said –
yadi haya rāgoddeśa, tāhāṅhaye āveśa,
sahaja vastu nā yāya likhana
Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 2.86)
[If one is attracted to or repulsed by something and is absorbed in that, then one cannot write the simple truth.]
In this way due to motivation or bias, objectivity is lost and that is why even historical evidence is not accepted in the category of pramāṇa. We could elucidate further, step-by-step, on all these categories which do not constitute pramāṇa but that would be exhausting.
The words of the mahā-bhāgavatas are factually considered as the absolute truth because they are free from the four defects and established in the truth.
In Mahābhārata we hear about the Yakṣa asking Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja many questions. One of the questions he asked was, “What is real path to follow in life?” Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja replied, “mahājano yena gataḥsa panthāḥ– one must follow the path of the mahājana in every respect.” [Endnote 7]
The real essence of the Vedas has been presented by the mahājanas. What the mahājanas speak is considered the real authority. We have faith in the words of our ṣaḍ-gosvāmīs, especially Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, the authorities of the Gauḍīyas. They have appeared in this world to give us ujjvala-rasa.
WE WORSHIP THAT KṚṢṆA WHO IS ALWAYS WITH ŚRĪMATĪ RĀDHIKĀ
In the first verse of Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has specifically instructed us to perform śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam, and not merely kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam. The term śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam means to perform kīrtana of the names of Kṛṣṇa together with those of Śrī. Here, the name ‘Śrī’ refers to sarva-lakṣmīmayī Śrī Rādhikā. It is only when Śrīmatī Rādhikā is by the side of Śrī Kṛṣṇa that He can be correctly called ‘Kṛṣṇa.’ Without Her, He is merely ‘Bakāri,’ the killer of the demon Bakāsura. This has been mentioned by our pūrva-ācārya Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in his Śrī Vilāpa-kumsumāñjali (102):
āśābharair amṛta-sindhumayaiḥ kathañcit kālo mayāti-gamitaḥkila sāmprataṁhi tvaṁcet kṛpāṁmayi vidhāsyasi naiva kiṁme prāṇair vrajena ca varoru bakāriṇāpi?
O Śrīmatī Rādhikā! It is only for the hope of obtaining the nectarean ocean of sevā to You and having darśana of Your pastimes that I have, with great struggle, maintained my life. But if you do not bestow Your mercy upon me even now, what is the use of this life, the land of Vraja and even Bakāri (the enemy of Bakāsura)?
Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī is mentioning, “Oh, whose mercy do I really want?” He is praying, “I want the mercy of that Kṛṣṇa who is always with Śrīmatī Rādhikā, not Bakāri Kṛṣṇa, not that Kṛṣṇa who is killing the demons like Bakāsura and Aghāsura.” Why? Because the killing of demons is being done by Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa, not by Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa Himself, and he does not want to worship that Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa. He is saying, “Oh, Śrīmatī Rādhikā if I can’t get Your mercy then what is the use of my staying in Vraja-dhāma; what is the use of keeping up this body; what is the use of the mercy of Bakāri? I don’t want His mercy! I want Your mercy.” Without Rādhārāṇī, He is just Bakāri. With Rādhārāṇī by His side, He is known as Madana-mohana.
THE SUPREMACY OF ŚRĪMATĪ RĀDHIKĀ OVER OTHER GOPĪS
Once, Śrīmatī Rādhikā disappeared during rāsa-līlā. Some say She left out of envy because Kṛṣṇa was dancing with hundreds and thousands of gopīs and in this way equating Her with all the other gopīs. But our ācāryas reject this argument. The main reason for Her leaving the rāsa-līlā was not out of envy towards the other gopīs, instead it was because of Her humility. She felt that because of Her inability to satisfy Kṛṣṇa completely, He was in need of taking service from others. While feeling this in Her heart, with this mood, She left the rāsa-līlā. Afterwards, to establish the supreme glory of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, Kṛṣṇa left śata-koṭi (one billion) gopīs for Her.
It was not that the other gopīs were not very qualified. The vraja-gopīs are indeed very glorious, more than even the mahīṣīs (queens) of Dvārakā. And those queens themselves are not ordinary either. Rukmiṇī, Kṛṣṇa’s foremost queen, had taken a vow - “Kṛṣṇa, if You don’t accept me then I will take birth again and again and perform many austerities until You accept me. I will not accept anybody else.” This is her glory - that she doesn’t want to accept any mortal person of this world as her husband. She was ready to die for Kṛṣṇa for so many births. Her śaraṇāgati and love compelled Kṛṣṇa to go and rescue her and accept her as His wife.
However, it has been proven by one pastime that the glories of Rukmiṇī and the other queens are lesser than the glories of the vraja-gopīs. How? Once, Kṛṣṇa manifested a pastime of having a headache, which could only be relieved by His devotee’s foot dust. All the queens of Dvārakā failed because they were unable to give their foot dust as a medicine for Kṛṣṇa’s headache, being afraid - “Oh, He is the Lord and He is our husband. How can we give our foot dust to Him? We will go to hell.” But the vraja-gopīs were not afraid at all and instead, readily gave their foot dust. They said, “We can go to hell for hundreds and thousands of births. It does not matter that we may have to stay in hell forever. But we cannot tolerate to even hear that Kṛṣṇa has a headache.”
In this way the vraja-gopīs were most glorious, but again, amongst all the gopīs, aṣṭa-sakhī śiromaṇī Śrīmatī Rādhikā is superior to them all. As soon as She left the rāsa-līlā, Kṛṣṇa followed Her. Śrīmatī Rādhikā is like the thread in a flower garland. As soon as the thread is broken anywhere, the garland falls apart, scattering the flowers here and there. So in the same way, as soon as Śrīmatī Rādhikā left, Kṛṣṇa started following Her and the rāsa-līlā stopped.
At one place, Kṛṣṇa manifested His four-armed form and there the superiority of Śrīmatī Rādhikā over the other gopīs was established even more. How? The gopīs that were walking ahead of Śrīmatī Rādhikā saw Kṛṣṇa in His four-armed form and prayed, “O Nārāyaṇa, please bless us and give us the association of Kṛṣṇa.” They offered other prayers and then went ahead. But, as soon as Śrīmatī Rādhikā approached, Kṛṣṇa was unable to hold His four-armed form. Immediately, two arms entered His body. Śrīmatī Rādhikā and the gopīs behind Her saw Kṛṣṇa in His two-handed form.
In this way, while demonstrating Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s superiority over the other gopīs, this pastime also shows that those who are following Śrīmatī Rādhikā are really able to attain the mercy of Kṛṣṇa in full; they can get Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, darśana and sevā in full. Nobody else does. Those gopīs who were ahead of Śrīmatī Rādhikā were unable to receive Kṛṣṇa’s complete mercy whereas those who were following behind Śrīmatī Rādhikā were able to get Kṛṣṇa’s mercy in full.
OUR GURU-VARGA’S MOOD
The mahājanas in the Gauḍīya line, especially Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, have established the superiority of Śrīmatī Rādhikā in this way. Even though there are so many authorities in the Gauḍīya line, who also present their verdicts in so many different ways, we are the staunch followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has mentioned in Śrī Manaḥ-śikṣā (9) about our relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrīmatī Rādhikā- ‘madīśā-nāthatve vraja-vipina-candraṁ vraja-vane-śvarīṁtāṁ-nāthatve’ –‘O mind, always remember Vṛndāvana-candra Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Lord of my svāminī Śrī Rādhikā’s life and Vṛndāvaneśvarī Śrīmatī Rādhikā as my mistress’. [Endnote 8] These are the real thoughts and moods of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas which we are aspiring for.
nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo
na medhayā na bahunā śrutena
yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyas
tasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanuṁsvām
Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.23)
[One cannot attain para-brahma Paramātmā by lecturing, by intellect, or by the study of various śāstras. He only reveals His transcendental form by His own mercy to one whom He Himself accepts.]