Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pratah Stava: Editor's Note

The most significant gift of madhurya bhakti, a certain spirituality that can only arise from indulging in love, is Yugal Upasana or worship of Shri Radha-Krishna as a sacred couple. Shri Radha is considered the divine mediatrix, without whom access to Narayana is not possible; for it is said that she controls Krishna with her love and that perfect spiritual life is unattainable without her grace.

Devotion to Krishna is not an end in itself but that devotion is to be expressed and experienced in the union of the beloved and the lover, Radha and Krishna. Lord Krishna's longing for dallying romantically,manifested in the form of Shri Radha adorning his left portion. The supreme nayaka involves himself voluntarily in human life and the sensual pleasures of the world; as the play between Radha and Krishna moves into the mazes and mysteries of love.

Without dwait or Krishna's double identity the heights of elation and ecstasy cannot be attained. Shri Radha-Krishna are in essence a single entity who manifest as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal romantic exchange. Krishna tells Radha,'There is a difference only in word...We have two bodies but the soul is identical...I created you for the sake of joy.'

Their love now expands to greater heights through kantabhava because a woman's love for her lord or husband is the only greatest possible love. Shri Nimbarkacharyaji is honoured for giving this doctrine a tangible form, ascertaining its complete acceptance and the stature of worship in the Vaishnava World.

When we love the Lord imagining ourselves as women, calling after him with the kanta bhava as the gopis do (all men and women in the world are spiritually women and the lord alone is male) it is considered the peak of human emotions. An emotion that only celebrates and defines our humanity but equally reaches out to an evocation of divinity.The terrifying love of Priya-Priyatam engaged in romantic dalliances with their own kayavyuhas or replications, gushes forth constantly in Vraja. Vraja Rasa and Vrindavana Rasa are roughly the same.

The distraught, offended and enraptured maiden could easily be interpreted as a symbol of the soul in search of god, from an outpouring of romantic love towards an intimate and personal god. Acclaimed as madhurya or sweet love, it is the key to understanding and celebrating the love of Radha and Krishna, and in doing so, get a glimpse of one's own transcendent self.

The Yugal or Shri Radha-Krishna are a repository of the romantic sentiment that subsumes all other forms of devotion. Radha's re-configuration therefore becomes necessary, as love requires not only the self but equally the object of love for its expression in the idyllic forest of Vrindavana.

The perennial quest of mankind for a divine and transcendental love is an independent science. When the soul's longing takes on a certain form with enthused exaltation it becomes the svarupa (form) of our worship.

Bhagwan Rasikji Maharaj has clarified this concept further:

Nahin Dwaitadwait Hari, Nahin Vishishta-dwait.

Bandhyon nahin Matvad mein Ishwar ichadwait.

The svarupa of worship is neither bound by any propounded theory, nor by nitya vihar (the eternal divine play of Lord Krishna). And it is present in both the prakat(Krishna's playful dalliance obvious to the mundane world) and aprakat lila (divine play not apparent)-plus free from both of them.

Confining devotion to the parakiya form of love (A special feature of Radha's selfless devotion expressed through her status as parakiya, who is a woman married to another; but yet in love with Krishna, making her love free from the constraints of marriage) important in Gaudiya Vaishnavism because it exhibits total freedom from societal pressures, would not be correct.

Not casting off the burdens of conventions in a land of highly restrictive social constraints,the major difference between the early more contemplative and austere Vaishnavism and later more ecstatic Vaishnava tradition, is the romantic sentiment or the instinctive terrifying rush of love towards Shri Radha-Krishna.

When Lord Krishna, the supreme lover, desirous to appease our perennial quest for union with the divine, snuggles us to his huge chest; then which sequence of nitya vihar' and thicket of nikunja vihar (bower, a particular meeting-place of Radha and Krishna's romantic dalliance in Vrindavana) should we seek to impose restrictions in this fusion. We will see the transformation of nitya vihar and prakat lila on reaching the deeper ecstacies of devotion, by savouring love's sweet rasa.

Not becoming a prey to ritualistic Vedic worship, we must instead engage in a more humanistic dharma of love. Vishnu according to the 'Bhagavata' is not to be expressed through ascetic rites and religious rituals, neither by inward contemplation and life negating attitudes, but by evocative expressions of love that affirm one's own sensuality and that of everything around.

How amazing is this ardent longing of the enflamed soul for union with the divine-and the various ways of quietly calming its exquisite desire!

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