The Life of the Bride Named Knowledge
This is the fourth article in our classroom series discussing Swami Tripurari’s Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya. Mandala, 2005. Swami will be responding to comments and questions while guiding readers through the text. Reader participation is encouraged.
Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya is available here.
When attachment to the means of attaining prema matures, it develops into attachment for the object of prema, Sri Krishna, who then appears on the stage of the sadhaka’s heart. This developmental stage is called asakti, the final stage of sadhana-bhakti. Gaura Krishna poetically describes this fourth effect of nama-sankirtana as “the life of the bride named knowledge,” vidya-vadhu-jivanam. This effect will be discussed in greater detail in the fifth verse of Siksastakam.
Vidya is often rendered “practical knowledge,” differentiating it from abstract theoretical knowledge. Applied knowledge is devotion, and thus it can also be said that in the final analysis the highest knowledge is bhakti. This is Sri Krishna’s opinion stated in his opening lines of the Gita’s ninth chapter. There Krishna says that he will now describe the king of knowledge, raja-vidya, and careful study of the chapter reveals that this king of knowledge is unalloyed devotion.
The sruti concurs. In Gopala-tapani Upanishad we find, gopi-jana-vidya-kala-preraka˙: “[Krishna] is the master (preraka˙) of the gopis, who are the potencies (kala) of the knowledge (vidya) that is love characterized by compassion.”1 In other words, the unalloyed love that the gopis embody represents knowledge. Sri Prabodhananda Sarasvati adds, “The cowherd maidens are those who are the parts of perfect knowledge—loving devotion in a particular mood.” Commenting on the phrase vidya-vadhuu-jivanam in his Bhajana-rahasya, Thakura Bhaktivinoda offers further support to the notion that devotion is pure knowledge by citing Srimad-Bhagavatam: “True knowledge is that by which one becomes conscious of Krishna.”2 He also quotes the following verse from the Garuda Purana, which is cited in Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
O king! If you want to gain the greatest jnana,
or if you want to go beyond this goal,
then zealously glorify Govinda.3
In Sanatana Goswami’s commentary on this verse in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, he writes, “The highest knowledge is the glory of devotion to Krishna.”
This highest knowledge that is mature devotion to Krishna is a manifestation of Krishna’s svarupa-sakti. Being feminine, this sakti is appropriately referred to as a bride. This is what Mahaprabhu has done here in Siksastakam. By saying that Krishna sankirtana is the life of the bride named knowledge, he is in effect saying that Krishna nama, who is nondifferent fromKrishna, is the husband of bhakti. In fact, the literal translation of the phrase vidya-vadhu-jivanam is “the life (husband) of the wife called knowledge.” Thus Krishna nama as expressed in nama-sankirtana is the life of the bride named knowledge, and this bride is Krishna’s svarupa-sakti, the highest manifestation of which is Sri Radha.