The Supreme Perfection
Whatever position one may have, if he is fully conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he can become a bona fide spiritual master – an initiator or a teacher of the science. In other words, one can become a bona fide spiritual master if he has sufficient knowledge of the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Becoming such a spiritual master does not depend on a particular position in society or on birth. This is the conclusion of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and it is in accordance with the Vedic injunctions. On the strength of this conclusion, Lord Caitanya, previously known as Viśvambhara, accepted a spiritual master, Īśvara Purī, who was a sannyāsī. Similarly, Lord Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrī Advaita Ācārya also accepted a sannyāsī as their spiritual master, namely, Mādhavendra Purī, who was a disciple of Lakṣmīpati Tīrtha. Similarly, another great ācārya, Śrī Rasikānanda, accepted Śrī Śyāmānanda as his spiritual master, although Śyāmānanda was not born in a brāhmaṇa family. So also did Gaṅgānārāyaṇa Cakravartī accept Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura as his spiritual master. In ancient days there was even a hunter named Dharma who became a spiritual master for many people. There are clear instructions in the Mahābhārata and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.11.32) stating that a person should be accepted as a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra according to his personal qualifications and not his birth. For example, if a man is born in a brāhmaṇa family but his personal qualifications are those of a śūdra, he should be accepted as a śūdra. Similarly, if a person is born in a śūdra family but has the qualifications of a brāhmaṇa, he should be accepted as a brāhmaṇa. All śāstric injunctions, as well as the versions of great sages and authorities, establish that a bona fide spiritual master is not necessarily a brāhmaṇa by caste. The only qualification is that he be conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That alone makes one perfectly eligible to become a spiritual master. This is the conclusion of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in His discussions with Rāmānanda Rāya.
In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa it is stated that if one bona fide spiritual master is born in a brāhmaṇa family and another qualified spiritual master is born in a śūdra family, one should accept the one who is born in a brāhmaṇa family. This statement serves as a social compromise, but it has nothing to do with spiritual understanding. This injunction is applicable only for those who consider social status more important than spiritual status. It is not for people who are spiritually serious. A serious person would accept Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s instruction that anyone conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa must be accepted as the spiritual master, regardless of his social position. There is an injunction in the Padma Purāṇa which states that though a highly elevated, spiritually advanced devotee of the Lord may have been born in a family of dog-eaters, he can be a spiritual master, but that a highly elevated person born in a brāhmaṇa family cannot be a spiritual master unless he is a devotee of the Lord. A person born in a brāhmaṇa family may be conversant with all of the rituals of the Vedic scriptures, but if he is not a pure devotee he cannot be a spiritual master. In all śāstras the chief qualification of a bona fide spiritual master is that he be conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Caitanya therefore requested Rāmānanda Rāya to go on teaching Him without hesitation, not considering Lord Caitanya’s position as a sannyāsī. Thus Lord Caitanya urged him to continue speaking on the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
“Because You are asking me to speak of the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa,” Rāmānanda Rāya humbly submitted, “I will obey Your order. I will speak in whatever way You like.” Thus Rāmānanda Rāya humbly submitted himself as a puppet before Lord Caitanya, the puppet master. He only wanted to dance according to the will of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He compared his tongue to a stringed instrument, saying, “You are the player of that instrument.” Thus as Lord Caitanya would play, Rāmānanda Rāya would vibrate the sound.
Rāmānanda Rāya said that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead – the source of all incarnations and the cause of all causes. There are innumerable Vaikuṇṭha planets, innumerable incarnations and expansions of the Supreme Lord, and innumerable universes also, and of all these existences the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa is the only source. His transcendental body is composed of eternity, bliss and knowledge, and He is known as the son of Mahārāja Nanda and the inhabitant of Goloka Vṛndāvana. He is full with six opulences – all wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. In the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) it is confirmed that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord, the Lord of all lords, and that His transcendental body is sac-cid-ānanda. No one is the source of Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is the source of everyone. He is the supreme cause of all causes and a resident of Vṛndāvana. He is also very attractive, just like Cupid. One can worship Him by the Kāma-gāyatrī mantra.
In the Brahma-saṁhitā the transcendental land of Vṛndāvana is described as being always spiritual. That spiritual land is populated by goddesses of fortune who are known as gopīs. These are all beloved of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is the only lover of all those gopīs. The trees of that land are all desire trees: you can have anything you want from any tree. The land is made of touchstone and the water is nectar. In that land all speech is song, all walking is dancing, and the constant companion is the flute. Everything is self-illuminated, just like the sun and moon in this material world. The human form of life is meant for understanding this transcendental land of Vṛndāvana, and one who is fortunate should cultivate knowledge of Vṛndāvana and its residents. In that supreme abode of Kṛṣṇa are surabhi cows who overflood the land with milk. Since not even a moment there is misused, there is no past, present or future. An expansion of that Vṛndāvana is present on this earth, and superior devotees worship the earthly Vṛndāvana as nondifferent from the supreme abode. No one can appreciate Vṛndāvana without being highly elevated in spiritual knowledge, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. According to ordinary experience, Vṛndāvana appears to be just like an ordinary tract of land, but in the eyes of a highly elevated devotee, it is as good as the original Vṛndāvana. A great saintly ācārya has sung: “When will my mind be cleared of all dirty things so I will be able to see Vṛndāvana as it is? And when will I be able to understand the literature left by the Six Gosvāmīs so that I will be able to understand the transcendental pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa?”
The loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs in Vṛndāvana are also transcendental. Such affairs appear like the ordinary lusty affairs of this material world, but there is a gulf of difference between the moods of Vṛndāvana and those of this material world. In the material world there may be the temporary awakening of lust, but it disappears after so-called satisfaction. In the spiritual world the love between the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa is constantly increasing. That is the difference between the love in the transcendental world and the lust in the material world. The lust, or so-called love, arising out of this body is as temporary as the body itself, but the love arising from the eternal soul in the spiritual world is on the spiritual platform, and since the spirit soul is eternal, that love is also eternal. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is addressed as the ever-green Cupid.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshiped by the Gāyatrī mantra, and the specific mantra by which He is worshiped is called Kāma-gāyatrī. The Vedic literature explains that that sound vibration which can elevate one from mental concoction is called Gāyatrī. The Kāma-gāyatrī mantra is composed of 24 1/2 syllables thus: klīṁ kāma-devāya vidmahe puṣpa-bāṇāya dhīmahi tan no ’naṅgaḥ pracodayāt. This Kāma-gāyatrī is received from the spiritual master when the disciple is advanced in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. In other words, this Kāma-gāyatrī mantra and saṁskāra, or reformation of a perfect brāhmaṇa, are offered by the spiritual master when he sees that his disciple is advanced in spiritual knowledge. Even then, the Kāma-gāyatrī is not uttered under certain circumstances. In any case, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is sufficient to elevate one to the highest spiritual platform.
In the Brahma-saṁhitā a nice description of the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute is given: “When Kṛṣṇa began to play on His flute, the sound vibration entered into the ear of Brahmā as the Vedic mantra oṁ.” This oṁ is composed of three letters – A, U and M – and it describes our relationship with the Supreme Lord, our activities by which we can achieve the highest perfection of love and the actual position of love on the spiritual platform. When the sound vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s flute is expressed through the mouth of Brahmā, it becomes Gāyatrī. Thus by being influenced by the sound vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, Brahmā, the supreme creature and first living entity of this material world, was initiated as a brāhmaṇa. That Brahmā was initiated as a brāhmaṇa by the flute of Kṛṣṇa is confirmed by Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. When Brahmā was enlightened by the Gāyatrī mantra through Kṛṣṇa’s flute, he attained all Vedic knowledge. Acknowledging the benediction offered to him by Kṛṣṇa, he became the original spiritual master of all living entities.
The word klīm added to the Gāyatrī mantra is explained in the Brahma-saṁhitā as the transcendental seed of love of Godhead, or the seed of the Kāma-gāyatrī. The object is Kṛṣṇa, who is the ever-green Cupid, and by utterance of klīm Kṛṣṇa is worshiped. It is also stated in the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad that when Kṛṣṇa is spoken of as Cupid one should not think of Him as the Cupid of this material world. As already explained, Vṛndāvana is the spiritual abode of Kṛṣṇa, and thus the word Cupid is also spiritual and transcendental when applied to Kṛṣṇa. One should not take the material Cupid and Kṛṣṇa to be on the same level. The material Cupid increases the attraction of the external flesh and body, but the spiritual Cupid increases the attraction the Supersoul exerts upon the individual soul. Actually, lust and the sex urge are there in spiritual life, but when the spirit soul is embodied in material elements, that spiritual urge is expressed through the material body and is therefore pervertedly reflected. One who actually becomes conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness can understand that his material desire for sex is abominable, whereas spiritual sex is desirable.
Spiritual sex is of two kinds: one in accordance with the constitutional position of the self, and the other in accordance with the object. When one understands the truth about this life but is not completely cleansed of material contamination, he is not factually situated in the transcendental abode, Vṛndāvana, although he may understand spiritual life. In this stage he can utter the Kāma-gāyatrī with the kāma-bīja. When, however, he becomes free from all bodily sex urges, he can actually attain the supreme abode of Vṛndāvana.
Rāmānanda Rāya then explained that Kṛṣṇa is attractive for both men and women, for the moving and the nonmoving – indeed, for all living entities. For this reason He is called the transcendental Cupid. Rāmānanda Rāya then quoted a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.32.2) stating that when the Lord appeared before the damsels of Vraja smiling and playing on His flute, He appeared just like Cupid.
The different kinds of devotees of the Supreme Lord have different aptitudes and relationships with Him. Any relationship with the Lord is as good as any other because the central point is Kṛṣṇa. In this connection there is a nice verse in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.1) that states: “Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of all pleasures, and He is always attracting the gopīs by the spiritual luster of His body. He especially attracts Tārakā, Pāli, Śyāmā and Lalitā. Kṛṣṇa is very dear to Rādhārāṇī, the foremost gopī.” Like Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs are glorified by Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. There are different kinds of relationships with Kṛṣṇa, and anyone who is attracted to Kṛṣṇa in a particular mellow is glorious.
Kṛṣṇa is so beautiful, transcendental and attractive that He sometimes attracts even Himself. The following verse appears in the Gīta-govinda (1.11):
viśveṣām anurañjanena janayann ānandam indīvara-
śreṇī-śyāmala-komalair upanayann aṅgair anaṅgotsavam
svacchandaṁ vraja-sundarībhir abhitaḥ praty-aṅgam āliṅgitaḥ
śṛṅgāraḥ sakhi mūrtimān iva madhau mugdho hariḥ krīḍati
“My dear friend, just see how Kṛṣṇa is enjoying His transcendental pastimes in the spring by expanding the beauty of His personal body. His soft legs and hands, just like the most beautiful moon, are used on the bodies of the gopīs. When He embraces different parts of their bodies, He is so beautiful! Kṛṣṇa is so beautiful that He attracts even Nārāyaṇa, as well as the goddess of fortune, who associates with Nārāyaṇa.”
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.89.58) the Bhūmā-puruṣa (Mahā-viṣṇu) told Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, “My dear Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, I have taken the brāhmaṇa’s sons just to see you.” Arjuna had attempted to save some youths who had died untimely at Dvārakā, and when he failed to save them, Kṛṣṇa took him to the Bhūmā-puruṣa. When the Bhūmā-puruṣa brought forth those dead youths as living entities, He said, “Both of you appeared in order to preserve religious principles in the world and to annihilate the demons.” In other words, the Bhūmā-puruṣa, being also attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa, concocted this pastime just as a pretext to see Him. It is recorded in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.16.36) that after the serpent Kāliya was punished by Kṛṣṇa, one of Kāliya’s wives told Kṛṣṇa, “Dear Lord, we cannot understand how this fallen serpent got the opportunity of being kicked by Your lotus feet when even the goddess of fortune underwent austerities for many years just to see You.”
How Kṛṣṇa is attracted by His own beauty is described in the Lalita-mādhava (8.34). Upon seeing His own picture, Kṛṣṇa lamented, “How glorious this picture is! It is attracting Me just as it attracts Rādhārāṇī.”
After giving a summary description of Kṛṣṇa’s beauty, Rāmānanda Rāya began to speak of His spiritual energies, headed by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Kṛṣṇa has immense energetic expansions, of which three are predominant: the internal energy, the external energy and the marginal energy, comprising the living entities. This threefold division of energies is confirmed in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61), where it is said that Viṣṇu has one spiritual energy, which is manifested in three ways. When the spiritual energy is overwhelmed by ignorance, it is called the marginal energy. As far as the spiritual energy itself is concerned, it is exhibited in three forms because Kṛṣṇa is a combination of eternity, bliss and knowledge. As far as His bliss and peacefulness are concerned, His spiritual energy is manifested as the pleasure-giving potency. His eternity is a manifesting energy, and His knowledge is manifested as spiritual perfection. As confirmed in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.12.69): “The pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa gives Kṛṣṇa transcendental pleasure and bliss.” Thus when Kṛṣṇa wants to enjoy pleasure, He exhibits His own spiritual potency known as āhlādinī.
In His spiritual form, Kṛṣṇa enjoys His spiritual energy, and that is the sum and substance of the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa pastimes. These pastimes can be understood only by elevated devotees. One should not try to understand the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa potencies and pastimes from the mundane platform. Generally people misunderstand these as being material.
When the pleasure potency is further condensed, it is called mahābhāva. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the eternal consort of Kṛṣṇa, is the personification of that mahābhāva. In this regard, in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (4.3) Rūpa Gosvāmī states that there are two competitors in loving Kṛṣṇa – Rādhārāṇī and Candrāvalī. When they are compared, it appears that Rādhārāṇī is superior, for She is mahābhāva-svarūpa. The term mahābhāva-svarūpa, “the personification of mahābhāva,” is applicable to Rādhārāṇī only, and no one else. Mahābhāva is full of the pleasure potency, and it is an exhibition of the highest love for Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī is therefore known throughout the world as the most beloved of Kṛṣṇa, and Her name is always associated with Kṛṣṇa as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
The Brahma-saṁhitā (5.37) also confirms that Kṛṣṇa expands Himself by His pleasure potency in the spiritual world and that these potencies are all nondifferent from Him, the Absolute Truth. Although Kṛṣṇa is always enjoying the company of His pleasure-potency expansions, He is all-pervading. Therefore Brahmā offers his respectful obeisances to Govinda, the cause of all causes.
As Kṛṣṇa is the highest emblem of spiritual perfection, so Rādhārāṇī is the highest emblem of the spiritual pleasure potency meant for satisfying Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is unlimited, and Rādhārāṇī is also unlimited in Her ability to satisfy Him. Kṛṣṇa is satisfied just by seeing Rādhārāṇī, but Rādhārāṇī expands Herself in such a way that Kṛṣṇa desires to enjoy Her more. Because Kṛṣṇa was unable to estimate the pleasure potency of Rādhārāṇī, He decided to accept the role of Rādhārāṇī, and that combination of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Rāmānanda Rāya then began to explain how Rādhārāṇī is the supreme emblem of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure potency. Rādhārāṇī expands Herself in different forms, known as Lalitā, Viśākhā and Her other confidential associates. In his Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Rūpa Gosvāmī explains that one of the characteristics of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is that Her body is an evolution of transcendental pleasure. That body is decorated with flowers and fragrant aromas and is complete with transcendental love for Kṛṣṇa. Indeed, that body is the personification of His pleasure potency. Rādhārāṇī bathes Her transcendental body three times: first in the water of mercy, second in the water of youthful beauty, and third in the water of youthful luster. After She bathes three times in that way, Her body is covered with shining garments and decorated with Her personal beauty, which is compared to cosmetics. Thus Her beauty constitutes the highest artistry. Her body is also decorated with the ornaments of spiritual ecstasy – trembling, shedding of tears, perspiring, choking of the voice, cessation of all bodily functions due to transcendental pleasure, standing up of the bodily hairs, changing of bodily color, and madness.
The decorative transcendental pleasure potency manifests nine symptoms. Five of these are manifested by the expansion of Rādhārāṇī’s personal beauty, which is adorned with garlands of flowers. Her patient calmness is compared to a covering of cloths which have been cleansed by camphor. Her confidential agony for Kṛṣṇa is the knot in Her hair, and the mark of tilaka on Her forehead is Her good fortune. Rādhārāṇī’s sense of hearing is eternally fixed on Kṛṣṇa’s name and fame. Chewing betel nuts makes one’s lips reddish. Similarly, Rādhārāṇī’s complete attachment to Kṛṣṇa has blackened the borders of Her eyes. This darkness might be compared to ointment produced by Rādhā’s joking with Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī’s smile is just like the taste of camphor. The garland of separation moves on Her body when She lies down on the bed of pride within the room of aroma. Her breasts are covered by the blouse of anger born of Her ecstatic affection for Kṛṣṇa. Her reputation as the best of all Kṛṣṇa’s girlfriends is the stringed instrument She plays. When Kṛṣṇa stands in His youthful posture, She puts Her hand on His shoulder. Although She possesses so many transcendental qualities, She is still always engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is decorated with sūddīpta-sāttvika emotions, which sometimes include jubilation and sometimes pacification. All the transcendental ecstasies are manifested in the body of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Sūddīpta-sāttvika emotions are manifest when a lover is overwhelmed with certain feelings which he or she cannot check. Rādhārāṇī has another emotion called kila-kiñcita, which is manifest in twenty different ways. These emotions are manifested partly due to one’s body, partly due to one’s mind, and partly due to habit. As far as the bodily emotions are concerned, they are manifested in posture and movement. As far as the emotions of the mind are concerned, they are manifested as beauty, luster, complexion, sweetness, talking, magnanimity and patience. As far as habitual emotions are concerned, they are manifested as pastimes, enjoyment, preparing for separation, and forgetfulness.
The tilaka of good fortune is on the forehead of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and She also has a locket of prema-vaicittya. Prema-vaicittya is manifest when a lover and beloved meet and fear separation.
Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is fifteen days younger than Kṛṣṇa. She always keeps Her hand on the shoulder of one of Her friends, and She always talks and thinks of pastimes with Kṛṣṇa. She always offers Kṛṣṇa a kind of intoxicant by Her sweet talks, and She is always prepared to fulfill all His desires. In other words, She supplies everything needed to meet all the demands of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and She possesses unique and uncommon qualities for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction.
In the Govinda-līlāmṛta a nice verse states: “Who is the breeding ground of affection for Kṛṣṇa? The answer is that it is only Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Who is Kṛṣṇa’s dearmost lovable object? The answer is that it is only Śrīmatī Rādhikā and no one else. Sheen in the hair, moisture in the eyes, firmness in the breasts – all these qualities are present in Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Therefore only Śrīmatī Rādhikā is able to fulfill all the desires of Kṛṣṇa. No one else can do so.”
Satyabhāmā is a competitor of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s, but she always desires to come to the standard of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Rādhārāṇī is so expert in all affairs that all the damsels of Vraja come to learn arts from Her. She is so extraordinarily beautiful that even the goddess of fortune and Pārvatī, the wife of Lord Śiva, desire elevation to Her standard of beauty. Arundhatī, who is known as the most chaste lady in the universe, desires to learn the standard of chastity from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Since even Lord Kṛṣṇa cannot estimate Rādhārāṇī’s highly transcendental qualities, it is not possible for an ordinary man to estimate them.
After hearing Rāmānanda Rāya speak of the qualities of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa, Lord Caitanya desired to hear from him about the reciprocal exchange of love between Them. Rāmānanda Rāya described Kṛṣṇa as dhīra-lalita, a word indicating a person who is very cunning and youthful, who is always expert in joking, who is without anxiety, and who is always subservient to his girlfriend. Kṛṣṇa is always engaged in loving affairs with Rādhārāṇī, and He takes to the bushes of Vṛndāvana to enjoy His lusty activities with Her. Thus He successfully carries out His lusty instincts. In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu it is stated: “By His impudent and daring talks about sex indulgence, Kṛṣṇa obliged Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to close Her eyes, and taking advantage of this, Kṛṣṇa painted many pictures on Her breasts. These pictures served as subject matter for Rādhārāṇī’s friends to joke about. Kṛṣṇa was always engaged in such lusty activities, and thus He made His youthful life successful.”
Upon hearing of these transcendental activities, Lord Caitanya said, “My dear Rāmānanda, what you have explained regarding the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is perfectly correct, yet there is something more I would like to hear from you.”
“It is very difficult for me to express anything beyond this,” Rāmānanda Rāya replied. “I can only say that there is an emotional activity called prema-vilāsa-vivarta, which I may try to explain. But I do not know whether You will be happy to hear of it.” In prema-vilāsa there are two kinds of emotional activities – meeting and separation. This transcendental separation is so acute that it is actually more ecstatic than meeting. Rāmānanda Rāya was expert in understanding these highly elevated dealings between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and in this regard he had composed a nice song, which he narrated to the Lord. The purport of the song is that the lover and the beloved, before meeting, generate a kind of emotion by the exchange of their transcendental activities. That emotion is called rāga, or attraction. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī noted that “this attraction and affection between Us has risen to the highest extent,” but the cause of this attraction is Rādhārāṇī Herself. “Whatever the cause may be,” Rādhārāṇī said, “that affection between You and Me has mixed Us in oneness. Now that it is the time of separation, I cannot see the history of the evolution of this love. There was no cause or mediator in Our love save Our meeting itself and the exchange of feelings through Our glances.”
This exchange of feelings between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī is very difficult to understand unless one is elevated to the platform of pure goodness. Such transcendental reciprocation is not possible to understand even from the platform of material goodness. One has to transcend even material goodness in order to understand. This is because the exchange of feelings between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is not a subject matter of this material world. Even the greatest mental speculators cannot understand this, directly or indirectly. Material activities are manifested for either the gross body or the subtle mind, but this exchange of feelings between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is beyond such manifestations and beyond intellectual mental speculation. It can be understood only with purified senses freed from all the designations of the material world.
Those who have purified senses can understand these transcendental features and exchanges, but those who are impersonalists and who have no knowledge of spiritual senses can only discriminate within the scope of the material senses and thus cannot understand spiritual exchanges or spiritual-sensual activities. Those who are elevated by virtue of experimental knowledge can only satisfy their blunt material senses, either by gross bodily activities or by mental speculation. Everything generated from the body or the mind is always imperfect and perishable, but transcendental spiritual activities are always bright and wonderful. Pure love on the transcendental platform is the paragon of purity because it is devoid of material affection and is completely spiritual. Affection for matter is perishable, as indicated by the inebriety of sex in the material world. But there is no such inebriety in the spiritual world. Hindrances on the path of sense satisfaction cause material distress, but one cannot compare that with the spiritual distress of separation from Kṛṣṇa. In such spiritual separation there is neither inebriety nor ineffectiveness, as one finds with material separation.
Lord Caitanya said that this is the highest position of transcendental loving reciprocation, and He told Rāmānanda Rāya, “By your grace only have I been able to understand such a high transcendental position. Such a position cannot be attained without the performance of transcendental activities. So will you kindly explain to Me how I can raise Myself to this platform?”
“It is similarly difficult for me to make You understand,” Rāmānanda replied. “As far as I am concerned, I can only speak what You wish me to, for no one can escape Your supreme will. Indeed, there is no one in the world who can surpass Your supreme will, and although I appear to be speaking, I am actually not the speaker. You are. Therefore You are both the speaker and the audience. Thus let me speak only as You will me to speak about the activities required to attain this highest transcendental position.”
Rāmānanda Rāya then began his explanation, saying that the transcendental activities of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are very confidential. These activities cannot be understood by one who has an emotional relationship with the Supreme Lord as servant to master, friend to friend, or parent to son. This confidential subject matter can be understood only in the association of the damsels of Vraja, for these confidential activities have arisen from the feelings and emotions of those damsels. Without the association of the damsels of Vraja, one cannot nourish or cherish such a transcendental understanding. In other words, because these confidential pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa have expanded through the mercy of the damsels of Vraja, without their mercy one cannot understand them. One has to follow in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja in order to understand.
When one is actually situated in that understanding, he becomes eligible to enter into the confidential pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. For one who wants to understand these confidential pastimes, there is no alternative to following in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja. This is confirmed in the Govinda-līlāmṛta (10.17): “Although manifest, happy, expanded and unlimited, the emotional exchanges between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa can be understood only by the damsels of Vraja or their followers. Just as no one can understand the expansion of the spiritual energy of the Supreme Lord without His causeless mercy, no one can understand the transcendental sex life between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa without following in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja.”
The associates of Rādhārāṇī include Her personal associates, called sakhīs, and Her near assistants, called mañjarīs. It is very difficult to express the dealings of Rādhārāṇī’s associates with Kṛṣṇa because they have no desire to mix with Him or enjoy with Him personally. Rather, they are always ready to help Rādhārāṇī associate with Kṛṣṇa. Their affection for Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī is so pure that they are simply satisfied when Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are together. Indeed, their transcendental pleasure is in seeing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa united. The actual form of Rādhārāṇī is just like a creeper embracing the tree of Kṛṣṇa, and the damsels of Vraja, the associates of Rādhārāṇī, are just like the leaves and flowers of that creeper. When a creeper embraces a tree, the leaves and flowers of the creeper automatically embrace it. The Govinda-līlāmṛta (10.16) describes the pleasure of Rādhārāṇī’s associates as follows: “Rādhārāṇī, the expansion of the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa, is compared to a creeper, and Her associates, the damsels of Vraja, are compared to the flowers and leaves of that creeper. When Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa enjoy Themselves, the damsels of Vraja relish the pleasure more than Rādhārāṇī Herself.”
Although the associates of Rādhārāṇī do not expect any personal attention from Kṛṣṇa, Rādhārāṇī is so pleased with them that She arranges individual meetings between Kṛṣṇa and the damsels of Vraja. Indeed, Rādhārāṇī tries to unite Her associates with Kṛṣṇa by many transcendental maneuvers, and She takes more pleasure in these meetings than in Her own meetings with Him. When Kṛṣṇa sees that both Rādhārāṇī and Her associates are pleased by His association, He becomes more satisfied. Such loving reciprocation has nothing to do with material lust, although it resembles the material union between man and woman. Because of that similarity, such reciprocation is sometimes called, in transcendental language, transcendental lust, as confirmed in the Gautamīya-tantra. Lust means attachment to one’s personal sense gratification. But as far as Rādhārāṇī and Her associates are concerned, they have no desire for personal sense gratification. They only want to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.31.19), in a verse spoken by the gopīs among themselves:
yat te sujāta-caraṇāmburuhaṁ staneṣu
bhītāḥ śanaiḥ priya dadhīmahi karkaśeṣu
tenāṭavīm aṭasi tad vyathate na kiṁ svit
kūrpādibhir bhramati dhīr bhavad-āyuṣāṁ naḥ
“My dear friend Kṛṣṇa, You are now roaming in the forest with Your bare feet, which You sometimes keep on our breasts. When Your feet are on our breasts, we think that our breasts are too hard for Your soft feet. Now You are wandering in the forest and walking over rough stones, and we do not know how You are feeling. Since You are our life and soul, the displeasure You are undergoing in traveling over the rough stones is giving us great distress.”
Such feelings expressed by the damsels of Vraja constitute the highest Kṛṣṇa conscious emotions. Anyone who actually becomes captivated by Kṛṣṇa consciousness approaches this level of the gopīs. There are sixty-four categories of regulated devotional service, the performance of which helps one rise to the gopīs’ stage of unconditional devotion. Affection for Kṛṣṇa on the level of the gopīs is called rāgātmikā, spontaneous love. When one enters into a spontaneous loving affair with Kṛṣṇa, there is no need to follow the Vedic rules and regulations.
There are various kinds of personal devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the transcendental abode. For example, there are servants of Kṛṣṇa, like Raktaka and Patraka, and friends of Kṛṣṇa, like Śrīdāmā and Subala. There are also Kṛṣṇa’s parents, Nanda and Yaśodā, who are also engaged in His service according to their respective transcendental emotions. One who desires to enter into the supreme abode of Kṛṣṇa can take shelter of one such transcendental servitor. Then, through the execution of loving service one can ultimately attain transcendental affection for Kṛṣṇa, the highest goal. In other words, the devotee in this material world who executes loving service in pursuance of the activities of the eternal associates with Kṛṣṇa attains the same post when he is perfected.
The sages known as the śrutis, the personified Upaniṣads, also desired the post of the gopīs, and they also followed in the footsteps of the gopīs in order to attain that highest goal of life. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.87.23), where it is said that in general sages control their mind and senses by practicing prāṇāyāma (control of the breathing process) and mystic yoga. Thus they try to merge into the Supreme Brahman. But this same goal is attained by atheists, who deny the existence of God, if they are killed by an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They also merge into the Brahman existence of the Supreme Lord. But the damsels of Vṛndāvana worship Śrī Kṛṣṇa, having been bitten by Him just as a person is bitten by a snake, for Kṛṣṇa’s body is compared with the body of a snake. A snake’s body is never straight; it is always curved. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa often stands in a three-curved posture, and He has bitten the gopīs with transcendental love. The gopīs are certainly better situated than all mystic yogīs and others who desire to merge into the Supreme Brahman. Therefore the sages known as the śrutis followed in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja in order to attain a similar position. One cannot attain that position simply by following the regulative principles. Rather, one must seriously follow the principles of the gopīs. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.9.21), wherein it is stated that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Śrīmatī Yaśodā, is not easily available to those following the principles of mental speculation but is very easily available to all kinds of living beings who follow the path of spontaneous devotional service.
There are many pseudo-devotees, claiming to belong to Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s sect, who artificially dress themselves as the damsels of Vraja. This is not approved by advanced spiritualists, or advanced students of devotional service. Such people dress the outward material body because they foolishly confuse the body with the soul. They are mistaken when they think that the spiritual bodies of Kṛṣṇa, Rādhārāṇī and Their associates, the damsels of Vraja, are composed of material nature. One should know perfectly well that all such manifestations are expansions of the eternal bliss and knowledge in the transcendental world. They have nothing to do with these material bodies; thus the bodies, dresses, decorations and activities of the damsels of Vṛndāvana do not belong to this material cosmic manifestation. The damsels of Vṛndāvana are not a subject for the attraction of those in the material world; they are the transcendental attractions for the all-attractive Kṛṣṇa. Because the Lord is all-attractive, He is called Kṛṣṇa, but the damsels of Vṛndāvana are attractive even to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore they are not of this material world.
If one wrongly thinks that the material body is as perfect as the spiritual body and thus begins to worship Kṛṣṇa by imitating the damsels of Vṛndāvana, he becomes infested with Māyāvāda (impersonal) philosophy. The impersonalists recommend a process of ahaṅgrahopāsanā, by which one worships his own body as the Supreme. Thinking in this way, such pseudo-transcendentalists dress themselves as the damsels of Vraja. Such activities are not acceptable in devotional service. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, the most authoritative ācārya in the Gauḍīya-sampradāya, has condemned these imitators. The process of transcendental realization is to follow in the footsteps of the associates of the Supreme Lord; therefore to think oneself a direct associate of the Supreme Lord is condemned. According to authorized Vaiṣṇava principles, one should follow a particular devotee and not think of himself as Kṛṣṇa’s associate.
In this way Rāmānanda Rāya explained that one should accept the mood of the damsels of Vraja. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is clearly said that one should accept the emotional activities of the associates of Kṛṣṇa, not imitate their dress. One should also always meditate upon the dealings between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in the transcendental world. One should think of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day and engage in Their service within one’s mind, not externally change one’s dress. By adopting the mood of the associates and friends of Rādhārāṇī and following in their footsteps, one can ultimately achieve the perfectional stage of being transferred to Goloka Vṛndāvana, the transcendental abode of Kṛṣṇa.
By adopting this emotional mood of following in the footsteps of the gopīs, one attains his siddha-deha. This word indicates the pure spiritual body, which is beyond the senses, mind and intelligence. The siddha-deha is the purified soul who is just suitable to serve the Supreme Lord. No one can serve the Supreme Lord as His associate without being situated in his perfectly pure spiritual identity. That identity is completely free from all material contamination. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, a materially contaminated person transmigrates to another material body by material consciousness. At the time of death he thinks materially and is therefore transferred to another material body. Similarly, one who at the time of death is situated in his pure spiritual identity thinks of the spiritual loving service rendered to the Supreme Lord and is transferred to the spiritual kingdom, to enter into the association of Kṛṣṇa. In other words, the qualification for being transferred to the spiritual kingdom at the time of death is to think, in one’s spiritual identity, of Kṛṣṇa and His associates. No one can contemplate the activities of the spiritual kingdom without being situated in his pure, spiritual identity (siddha-deha). Thus Rāmānanda Rāya said that without attaining one’s siddha-deha one can neither become an associate of the damsels of Vraja nor render service directly to the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, and His eternal consort, Rādhārāṇī. In this regard, Rāmānanda quoted a nice verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.47.60):
nāyaṁ śriyo ’ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ
svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto ’nyāḥ
rāsotsave ’sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-
labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-vallabhīnām
“Neither the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, nor the damsels of the heavenly kingdom can attain the facilities of the damsels of Vrajabhūmi – and what to speak of others?”
Lord Caitanya was very satisfied to hear these statements from Rāmānanda Rāya, and He embraced him. Then both of them began to cry in the ecstasy of transcendental realization. Thus the Lord and Rāmānanda Rāya discussed the transcendental pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa throughout the night, and in the morning they separated. Rāmānanda left to go to his place, and the Lord went to take His bath.
At the time of separation, Rāmānanda fell at the feet of Lord Caitanya and prayed, “My dear Lord, You have come just to deliver me from this mire of nescience. Therefore I request that You remain here for at least ten days to purify my mind of material contamination. There is no one else who can deliver such transcendental love of God.”
The Lord replied, “I have come to you to purify Myself by hearing from you the transcendental pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. I am so fortunate, for you are the only teacher of such transcendental pastimes. I can find no one else in the world who has realized the transcendental loving reciprocation between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. You are asking Me to stay here for ten days, but I wish to remain with you for the rest of My life. Please come to Jagannātha Purī, My headquarters, and we will remain together for the rest of our lives. Thus I can pass My remaining days in understanding Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā by your association.”