The Life of the Bride Named Knowledge

radhaBy Swami Tripurari, from Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya.


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.

  1. Gopala-tapani Upanishad 1.5. []
  2. sa vidya tan-matir yaya (SB. 4.29.49) []
  3. yad icchasi param jnanam jnanad yat paramam padamtad-adarena rajendra kuru govinda-kirtanam (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 11.441) []

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4 Responses to The Life of the Bride Named Knowledge

  1. As mentioned this vidya vadhu jivanam corresponds with the stage of asakti. This phrase by which Sri Caitanya refers to this stage also hints at the nature of his own spiritual attachment in madhurya rasa and to Radha dasyam. The obvious word in the phrase in this connection is “vadhu.”

    In the fourth verse of Siksastakam this comes out as well, perhaps more clearly. Can anyone explain how this is so?

  2. I will make a feeble attempt.
    Are you referring to the fifth verse: ayi nandatanuja kinkam..
    being synonymous with the stage of asakti. This verse corresponds with the specific ista devata of mahaprabhu,nanda-tanuja, and his attachment to this particular conception of Godhead i.e Vrajendranandena Krsna. Asati is the progressive development of the specific attachment to ista-devta from the stage of ruci.

  3. I was referring to the madhurya aspect of the asakti of Sri Caitanya. The word “vadhu” in vidya vadhu jivanam of the first verse that refers to asakti is often taken to subtly indicate conjugal love of God. And the fifth verse of Siksastakam that more clearly explains this stage of glimpsing one’s pran isvara within the heart and attachment to the object of one’s love that fosters one’s corresponding inner spiritual identity in relation to Krishna also implies madhurya rasa in the case of Sri Caitanyadeva.

    There he says ayi nandatanuja kinkaram, as you have cited. The name nandatanuja refers to Krishna who has taken birth from the body of Nanda (bliss) Maharaja. Young friends generally do not refer to one another in terms of their friend’s familial relationship. Parents on the other hand will readily refer to a young boy with reference to his father, but not in the context of desiring to be his servant. So here nandatanuja more readily refers either to dasya rasa or madhurya rasa. The former is a general rendering and the latter more specific. With the budding of madhurya in his heart, Mahaprabhu prays to become a maidservant in the house of Nanda Maharaja. In other words he (she) wants to move into the house of her father in law. Note also that Radha dasyam is madhurya rasa but it is also more readily a kind of dasyam (tad bhavecchamayi) as opposed to the madhurya that is filled with the desire for directly embracing Krishna (sambhogecchamayi). And it is tadbhavecchamayi that the Gaudiya sampradaya stresses.

    Some devotees have also understood the word “ayi” to be a word typically used by a female in such an address, as opposed to “he” more typically used by a male. This is at first glance a beautiful point to make but I am not sure how ell it holds up.

  4. It is perhaps most relevant to state here in the discussion of asakti (spiritual attachment) that while on the jnana marg one advances by vairagya (renunciation), on the bhakti marg one advances through sanga (association). The Bhagavatam states that while attachment to worldly things is the casue of bondage, attachment to saintly persons is the cause of liberation. Of course there is an important difference between material and spiritual attachment. The former is self serving and the latter selfless. However, even if one is attached to saintly persons in the beginning for selfish reasons, saintly association will purify one and spiritual attachment will gradually develop.

    Attachment to material things—our sense of “mine”—determines our sense of “I.” Materially speaking, our sense of self is determined by our attachments. We are our desires—a Marlboro man or women or whatever. Here in Siksastakm we find Sri Caitanya has become attached to the object of his bhakti: Nandatanuja. This attachment corresponds with Mahaprabhu’s spiritual ego, his identity in Krishna lila. From this stage onward attachment will intensify.

    Notably, prema—the prayojana—is characterized by mamata, “myness” in relation to Krishna. Beyond the sene that “I belong to Krishna” is the sense that “Krishna is my friend, etc.” This is Vraja-bhakti, where Krishna is one of the Vrajavasis. He belongs to their community.

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