sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Issue 6, Fortnightly Centennial Edition
Posted: 13 September 2021
In honour of the centennial appearance year of
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Dedicated to and Inspired by
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Śrī Rādhā-tattva and Śrī Rādhā’s Appearance
Excerpts from an article published in 1961
by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Presented in English for the first time
The upāsaka-sampradāyas (devotional traditions) of India, especially the Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, are particularly eager to know about śrī rādhā-tattva. It is natural that every sādhaka is eager to know about Śrī Rādhikā, because without serving Her, attaining the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a distant prospect. However, the truth of who She is can only be preserved if She is revealed or described as She is. Otherwise, all we perceive are deceptions that assert truth to be false or falsehood to be truth.
Living entities who are situated on the material platform and bound by māyā are incapable of describing the nature (svarūpa) of Śrī Bhagavān and His spiritual potency, who are supramundane and embody eternal existence, pure awareness and bliss. Only the Vedas, which are Bhagavān’s incarnation as word and are not of human origin, and other sacred texts pursuing them, like the Bhāgavata, as well as the utterances (vāṇī) of self-realized, eternally perfected associates of Bhagavān, who are devoid of the four flaws of perception (bhrama, pramāda, etc.), have been accepted as authoritative. Lacking the wisdom to reliably discern real substance from the unreal, living entities, who abide by the vagaries of their own minds, are eager to prove what is true to be false and what is false to be true. Nowadays, many poets, academics, and philosophers who are not acquainted with the truths of dharma and who, despite being bereft of proper understanding, consider themselves paṇḍitas, are confusing inquisitive seekers of truth with their incoherent statements and theories that abound with flawed notions.
The truths of dharma depend on sādhana. Only to a sādhaka who is dedicated to his practice do they manifest, by Bhagavān’s grace. Prior to that, by accepting a guru, sambandha-jñāna (knowledge of relationship with Bhagavān) arises. Only liberated personalities who are situated in their pure self are capable of conferring any intimation of the wealth that is Bhagavān; no one else. Therefore, it is necessary to accept the shelter of a realized personality. “Nāyam ātma pravacanena—the self is not realized through delivering lectures.” From this statement of Śruti (Kaṭha Upaniṣad1.2.23), it is understood that only by the grace of Bhagavān is knowledge of truth attained, not by material learning, intelligence, and scholarship.
In regard to śrī rādhā-tattva, various upāsaka-sampradāyas harbor many different distorted theories. Those who seek the truth, however, are not bewildered by that and accept only the description affirmed by sāttvika scriptures as it is. In many instances, statements found in rājasika and tāmasika scriptures that concur with the sāttvika scriptures are also accepted as authentic by the sātvata (devotee) community. In Skanda Purāṇa, it has been said:
śiva-śāstreṣu tad-grāhyaṁ bhagac-chāstra-yogī yat
paramo viṣṇur-evaikaṁ taj-jñānaṁ mokṣa-sādhakam
anyathā mohanāya hi varjayettān vicakṣaṇaḥ
“Statements from tāmasika scripture are acceptable if they concur with sāttvika scripture. Viṣṇu, who is equipped with all potencies, is the Supreme Truth—this knowledge leads to liberation; other types of statements are to bewilder [the demons]. Scholars who behold the truth discard all those utterances as inauthentic.”
There are many who say: “Though Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is a Vaiṣṇava scripture, you cannot find Śrī Rādhikā’s name in it.” Because there is no mention of She with whom Śrī Kṛṣṇa enjoyed all of His amorous pastimes, many also become doubtful of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s authenticity and excellence. However, those who have had the fortune to study the Bhāgavata under the guidance of a guru who beholds the truth (tattva-darśī), is conversant in śabda-brahma(Bhagavān’s form as sound) and has realization of Parabrahma (the Supreme Being) have discerned the mention of Śrī Rādhā’s name in many places in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, like the anayārādhito nyūnaṁ verse [10.30.28]. Besides Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Rādhikā’s appearance and tattva are described in many Purāṇas and Upapurāṇas.
Śrī Rādhā-tattva, as spoken by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself
In regard to śrī rādhā-tattva, it is described in the Śrī Kṛṣṇa-janma-khaṇḍa section of Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa that Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke as follows:
“Dear Rādhike! Remember the incident in Goloka. You are My beloved, dearer to Me than My own life, and You grant all auspiciousness. Who You are is who I am; there is no difference between Us. Just as whiteness is forever inherent to milk, heat to fire, and fragrance to earth, I too forever dwell within You. As the potter cannot make pots without clay and a goldsmith could never make gold earrings without gold, I too am not capable of creation without You. You are the foundation of creation, whereas I am the seed.
“O virtuous one! You frolic at My chest. As the ornament makes the body beautiful, You effect the beauty of My body. When I am separated from You, then everyone calls Me only “Kṛṣṇa”, and when I am with You, only then do they call Me “Śrī Kṛṣṇa”. You are beauty (śrī), You are wealth, You alone are the foundation of existence, and You are the embodiment of My and everyone’s power.
“He Rādhe! You are the Supreme Power and I am the Supreme Person. This is what has been determined in the Vedas. You are sarva-svarūpā (the feminine nature of all existence), I am sarva-svarūpa (the masculine nature of all). While I am tejo-rūpa (the effulgent masculine form), You are tejo-rūpiṇī (the effulgent feminine form). O beautiful one! When, by supreme yogic strength, I become the seed of everything, then You become the embodiment of all power and take form as all feminine forms. You are the mūla-prakṛti (the original force of Mother Nature) born from half of My self. You are equal to Me in power, intelligence, knowledge, and spirit.”
Brahmājī worships and praises Śrī Rādhā
[Continuing from Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa:] “Then there appeared the four-headed Brahmā, holding a rosary and water pot in his hands and smiling gently. He first approached Kṛṣṇa and, with bowed heads, tears in his eyes, and his heart bristling with ecstasy, offered his obeisances to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, praising Him with hymns of the Āgamas [the Tantras]. Then he approached Śrī Rādhikā and, cradling Her feet in the locks of his hair, washed Her feet with water from his kamaṇḍalu. Then, folding his hands, he began to praise Her: “O Mother! The hosts of goddesses are born of aspects of Nature and thus they are composed of material energy and mortally born. However, You are born from half of Kṛṣṇa and are like Him in all respects. You are Śrī Kṛṣṇa, He is Rādhā, or You are Rādhā and He is Himself Hari—who can determine this? This is never seen [to be resolved] even in the Vedas.
“O Mother! Goloka is beyond and above the material universes. It is there that You dwell. Just as Goloka and Vaikuṇṭha are eternal, so You too are eternal. While all the living entities in this universe spring from an expansion of Kṛṣṇa’s expansion, You are the embodiment of all power possessed by every living entity. Males are born from a portion of Śrī Hari; females are born of a portion of You. This Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa is like the soul, while You are like the body, the basis of existence.
“O Mother! United with Kṛṣṇa’s life force, You have become the mother of all worlds and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, endowed with Your life force, has become the Lord of all that exists. This is most astounding! What artist has created things this way? It is not even conceivable. Just as this Kṛṣṇa is eternal, so You too are eternal. None are capable of determining whether You are part of Him or He is part of You.
“I am the creator of this world and compiler of the Vedas. Many people hear these Vedas from the mouths of their gurus, study them, and become scholars. Though I am the author of those Vedas, I am incapable of describing even one hundredth of Your glories. Whether Veda or scholar, who can adequately extol Your qualities? The cause of hymns is knowledge, and You have been referred to as the very potency of consciousness (cit-śakti) that produces knowledge. O Mother! You are the mother of intelligence. Who is so intelligent that they could glorify You? Scholars can only describe what is visible to everyone. But who is capable of putting into speech that which is unseen and unheard of? Neither I, nor Ananta, nor Śiva is capable of praising You adequately. O Jagadīśvarī! Even Sarasvatī and the Vedas themselves are not capable of praising You.”
Mahādeva Śiva glorifies Śrī Rādhā
Once, in response to Goddess Pārvatī wanting to know about śrī rādhā-tattva, Śrī Mahādeva said: “O Maheśvarī! While narrating the Āgama scriptures, I was about to perform kīrtana of the topic of Śrī Rādhā when I was prevented from doing so by the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Now, having received His permission via trance, I am telling you these highly esoteric truths concerning Śrī Rādhā, the beloved of my worshipful Lord, hearing which will confer upon you devotion to Kṛṣṇa. Previously, in Goloka, in the rāsa-maṇḍala situated within the charming forest of Vṛndāvana, the ever-desirous Jagannātha Śrī Kṛṣṇa, seated upon on an elegant jeweled-throne, manifested Himself into two forms in order to engage in pastimes. From His right half, He assumed the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and from His left limbs, He donned the form of Śrī Rādhā.
“Adorned in jewel-studded ornaments, that supremely gorgeous Rādhikā-devī situated Herself with that Rāsa-bihārī within the rāsa-maṇḍala. In garments as pure as fire, Her limbs shone like millions of moons and Her face carried a mild, gentle smile. Her braided hair was decorated with garlands of mālatī jasmine and the jewel necklace She wore dazzled like the rays of the sun. Her conduct is endearing to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every respect as She offers up Her very soul. ‘Śrī Rādhā adores and worships Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Kṛṣṇa adores and worships Rādhā. Both are equals,’ say the saints. O Durgā! Just by uttering the sound “rā”, devotees attain the state of liberation (mukti), and just by uttering the following syllable “dhā”, they attain a place at the lotus feet of Śrī Hari.
“Śrī Rādhā, the goddess of rāsa, appears from the left side of Anaṅga-mohana (the beguiler of Cupid). All other goddesses arise as aspects (aṁśas) of Her. From Śrī Rādhā’s pores came the multitude of gopīs and from Her left half arose Mahā-lakṣmī. Śrī Rādhikā Herself dwells forever on Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s chest and She is the presiding goddess of all Kṛṣṇa’s life force. O Pārvatī! Śrī Rādhikā, the blessed beloved of the Transcendental Personality, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is dearer to Him than His own life. The Supreme Goddess Śrī Rādhā, who is the mūla-prakṛti, is related to the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the limbs of a body are related to the body itself. O Devī! Serve the feet of the most worshipful Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, who are beyond the modes of material nature. Know this alone to be the quintessence.”
Description of Śrī Rāsa-maṇḍala in Goloka
It is stated in Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa: “Surrounded by their friends, the sakhās and sakhīs, Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are engrossed in eternal pastimes in the śrī rāsa-maṇḍala in Their personal abode of Goloka. The embodiment of spiritual energy (cit-svarūpā), the Supreme Goddess (Parameśvarī), the beguiler of the cosmos (Viśva-mohinī), the supremely worshipful Śrī Rādhā is, in form and qualities, equal to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every respect. Gaṅgā, Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī and Virajā—these four potencies are also supremely dear to Bhagavān. Govinda, who abounds in playful pastimes with them presides in supreme happiness. However, Viśva-rūpiṇī (the form of all existence) Govindānandinī (the delighter of Govinda) Śrī Rādhā is dearer to Him than all His beloveds.
“In the rāsa festival, to alleviate Rādhikā’s anger, Śrī Kṛṣṇa divided His form into many. All of His forms were equally resplendent. That is to say, they were all equal in munificence (audārya) and sweetness (mādhurya) to the splendor exuded by that two-armed form of Śyāmasundara who held the muralī flute and wore a garland of forest flowers. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa divided Himself into hundreds of forms, Govinda-mohinī Rādhā (She who bewilders Govinda) also replicated into hundreds and hundreds of forms. These forms that emanated from Her very self mingled with the gopīs, who had emanated from Her limbs, and created Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa festival, which was replete with all the topmost varieties of rasa.
“Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifested Himself between each and every gopī and, locking arms with them, began to dance with all of them. Like the moon shining in the starry sky, Govinda, who is Jagan-nivāsa (the abode of the cosmos), was radiant in the midst of the assembly of gopīs. Though Śrī Kṛṣṇa is self-satisfied (āpta-kāma), though He is beyond the compelling modes of nature (nirguṇa) and is free from endeavor, He was set alight by love for Rādhā and became keen on pleasure pastimes.
“As the rāsa festival ensued in the abode of Goloka, Vāg-vādinī (“composer of divine melodies”) Saravatī Devī began to play her melodious, sweet vīṇā, while others began to play drums like mṛdaṅga and paṇava, thus becoming absorbed in performing kīrtana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līla, which is full of amorous mellow.”
King Vṛṣabhānu receives mahā-mantra initiation and performs austerities
There was once a king by the name Mahābhānu, who was a lord of Gokula and the foremost of gopas. He had four exalted, self-controlled Vaiṣṇava sons by the names of Vṛṣabhānu, Ratnabhānu, Subhānu, and Pratibhānu. From among them, it was Vṛṣabhānu who was coronated king. For the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, he performed hundreds and hundreds of Rājasūyā and other yajñas. Though he was born in a dynasty of vaiśyas (merchants), through the strength of his own arms, he came to govern many kingdoms and became sovereign king much like the rājarṣis (sage kings) of old. He was self-controlled, had conquered his senses, was supremely generous, was worshipped by all kings and was a maintainer of all dharma.
In this Vraja-dhāma, there lived a wealthy devotee of Viṣṇu, an esteemed gopa, by the name Bindu. From the womb of his wife Mukharā, were born five sons – Bhadrakīrti, Candrakīrti, Mahābala, Śrīdāma, Mahākīrti – and three daughters – Bhānumudrā, Kīrtimatī, and the youngest, Kīrtidā. In other Purāṇas, Kīrtidā’s other name has been said to be Kalāvatī. King Vṛṣabhānu accepted the hand of this Kīrtidā amid due pomp and ceremony.
They both spent a long time hoping for a child, but eventually grew worried and succumbed to sadness, so they set out on a pilgrimage to the foremost holy places. When, even after performing many yajñas, giving charity, and performing various rituals and worship, their desires bore no fruit, their hearts filled with grief and they fell to the ground, senseless. Later, as per Kīrtidā’s wishes, they arrived at an elevated area on the banks of the pristine Yamunā, alongside the best of mountains, Govardhana, where they came before the auspicious Kātyāyanī-devī and engaged in worshipping her. Vṛṣabhānu, who had full control of his senses, stopped eating, took a vow of silence, and aligned his soul with Paramātmā situated in the thousand-petalled lotus, becoming absorbed in rigorous austerity.
In this way, when a hundred years had passed, Vāg-devī [Sarasvatī] addressed him from the sky in a deep, booming voice: “O son, without hearing the name of Hari, the living entities’ ears are not cleansed. Therefore, you should accept śrī nāma from a guru and, according to the proper process, perform kīrtana of those holy names.” After hearing the aerial voice, Vṛṣabhānu humbly said to the goddess: “O Mother! You are the cause of universal creation, maintenance, and destruction. This order you have given me, to accept harināma—please describe to me precisely its glory and how to perform it.”
Thereafter, King Vṛṣabhānu, as per the advice of the goddess, arrived at the āśrama of Mahā-muni Kratu on the sandy banks of the river Virajā, received harināma mahā-mantra, and also became acquainted with the process of chanting śrī nāma. Kratu Muni, having given the harināma mahā-mantra to King Vṛṣabhānu, once again said to him: “Son! For Vaiṣṇavas, and especially in the case of Śākta, Saura, Śaiva, and Gāṇapatya initiation, only the performance harināma-kīrtana purifies the aural faculties. In other words, because of impurities within the aural faculty, without first of all having harināma-dīkṣā, no other mantra will bear results. Ears into which harināma has not entered are impure like the ears of a dead body. In other words, as long as one does not receive harināma-dīkṣā, one’s ears remain impure. Once harināma enters, one attains purity. O Mahābāho (strong-armed one)! I have given you this harināma. Hereafter, practice this with full concentration of your heart and soul.”
King Vṛṣabhānu immediately offered obeisances to Kratu Muni and, following his order, chanting the harināma mahā-mantra incessantly, came to the bank of the Yamunā. After much austerity, Jagan-mātā (the World Mother) Kātyāyanī, pleased with the king, appeared there. Vṛṣabhānu paid obeisances to the Mahā-devī with great devotion and offered prayers to her. Kātyāyanī-devī said: “O son! I have become satisfied with your austerity, worship, prayers and devotion. Ask for the boon you desire.”
King Vṛṣabhānu, eyes blooming with delight at hearing the goddess’ compassionate words, began to say: “O Goddess! If you are pleased with me, then you know my heartfelt ambition. If it can be granted, then please award me that cherished boon.”
When the Mother of the Universe, Kātyāyanī-devī, heard Vṛṣabhānu’s words so filled with a mood of devotion, she placed in his hands an egg that had the effulgence of thousands of suns and disappeared from that place. King Vṛṣabhānu, supremely delighted to obtain this egg, returned to his palace.
Śrī Rādhā’s Appearance in Bhauma-Vraja
Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu’s doe-eyed queen, Kīrtidā, adorned with various ornaments, wearing divine garments, anointed with divine perfumes, and surrounded by countless friends and maidservants, was situated on a jewel-studded bed when King Vṛṣabhānu arrived at his palace holding the egg the goddess had given him. Seeing that her husband had arrived, worn out by fearsome austerity, his body covered with dust, but overjoyed at heart, she hurriedly rose and came to stand before him, her face shyly bowed. King Vṛṣabhānu then placed that majestic egg given by the goddess in the hands of his beloved Kīrtidā.
As she beheld that divine object that encompassed all the power in existence and shone with the brilliance of millions of suns, she became overwhelmed with wonder. Before her eyes, the egg split into two halves. As soon as it separated in two, a breeze filled with a pure, enchanting fragrance began to blow. All the ten directions, the bodies of water, like reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and oceans, and the hearts of all living entities all seemed to blossom. The Devas, Gandharvas, Vidyādharas, Apsarās, Siddhas, Sādhyas, Kinnaras all gathered in the skies. At that time, Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Maheśvara, and Viśvadeva, the two Aśvinī-kumāras, the personified planets, constellations, the forty-nine Vāyus and the Pitṛs (forefathers of humanity), the ṛṣis, and the Manus all appeared. The Gandharvas began playing instruments, the Apsarās began to sing, the equiposed minds of the sādhus became pleased, the munis and sādhus began offering prayers, and from the sky, the demigods began to shower flowers. On an auspicious day and at an auspicious hour, on the eighth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhādra, the Mother of the Universe, the beloved of Hari, Śrī Rādhā, who is ayoni-sambhavā (not born from a womb), appeared in Kalāvatī, that is, Kīrtidā’s lap. Just as the hearts of all living entities blossom with delight at the rising of the moon, each and every one [of the Vrajavāsīs] attained happiness at the appearance of the mūla-prakṛti (root source of all energy).
Śrī Rādhā’s Jāta-karma, “Birth Rituals”
Her figure resembled vine-like streaks of lightning and Her complexion was like molten gold. She was adorned with armlets, necklaces, a crown, and other ornaments. That Goddess Rādhā, who causes all good fortune to flourish, situated Herself in the lap of Her mother. The moment the daughter of Kīrtidā, the potency of Viṣṇu Herself, the eternal Mahā-devī, was born, the whole town became illuminated by the effulgence of Her limbs. As Mother Kīrtidā beheld that divine and elegant baby girl, she could tell that She was not of the material realm, that by Vṛṣabhānu’s worship, the Goddess of all the worlds, the Lord’s personal potency, had appeared as Her daughter.
Kīrtidā-devī informed the king of how her beautifully resplendent daughter had been born into her lap, healthy and whole. Hearing those ambrosial words, the great, illustrious King Vṛṣabhānu was overjoyed and, for the pleasure of Bhagavān, began to give away many precious treasures, jewels, garments, and other items to the servants and maidservants who had brought him the news. Then he distributed to the brāhmaṇas the finest clothes, hundreds of cows, hundreds of pots of yoghurt and milk, the finest rice and other grains and pulses. He then gave profuse charity to the poor and destitute, the disabled, blind, orphaned, elderly and all the children. At the news of the birth of the king’s daughter, many male and female singers, dancers, musicians, reciters of hymns, various storytellers, minstrels, and bards arrived there and the king granted them suitable charity as well. Receiving the news that the king had a daughter born with all auspicious characteristics, the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, and various members of the four castes, including prominent artisans and craftsmen, inhabitants of the countryside, and the townspeople, started arriving at the palace to see the newborn baby girl.
Vṛṣabhānu knew himself to be fulfilled. As his heart blossomed with delight, he knew his austerities and his birth itself were a success. Keeping the brāhmaṇas in front, surrounded by his friends and relatives, he went to Kīrtidā to see the face of his daughter and had the brāhmaṇas perform the birth rituals and svasti-vacana (blessings for health and prosperity). Priests established a fire according to proper ritual tradition and worshipped the god of fire by offering oblations of clarified butter.
Seeing the king seated and surrounded by his friends and relatives, Kīrtidā addressed him as follows, her voice choked with happiness: “O Lord of kings, satisfied with our austerities, the cause of all auspiciousness for the living entities, the primeval Supreme Goddess, has appeared in our home.”
The king then folded his hands and, with full devotion, fell to the ground like a stick, offering obeisances to the Goddess. He said to Mahā-devī: “I am incapable of knowing You in truth, so kindly enlighten us in regard to Your own personage.”
The Supreme Goddess then said, “O Father, know Me to be Nārāyaṇī (Nārāyaṇa’s counterpart), Sanātanī (The Goddess of Eternity), Mūla-śakti (the root of all potency). I am fully worshiped and adored by Bhagavān. I am the parā-śakti (supreme potency), obscure even to the four Vedas, inaccessible by mind and words. Father, you worshipped Me profusely with Mother Kīrtidā, and that is why I have appeared as your daughter.”
Saying this to Father Vṛṣabhānu, the Goddess once again covered everyone with illusion and, like an ordinary child, put Her big toe in Her mouth, wanting to nurse, and began to cry. The Supreme Goddess began to manifest Herself in an exceedingly gorgeous form, beautiful in each and every limb, reddish like a pomegranate blossom, and as brilliant as thousands of suns.
That fortunate King Vṛṣabhānu then had the brāhmaṇas complete all the birth rituals and other traditions for his daughter. The supremely worshipful Goddess had been worshiped (ārādhita) through fierce austerity and therefore Father Vṛṣabhānu named Her Rādhā.
Translated from Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja’s Prabandhāvalī
By the Rays of The Harmonist team
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