The Joy of Love of Krsna

By Swami B.V. Tripurari, originally published in Joy of Self, Mandala Publishing, March 1997.

The fruit of devotional service is love of Krsna. As such, all sections of the Bhagavatam that deal directly with the experience of love of God, as well as those sections that deal with the fruits of religion (dharma), economic development (artha), sense enjoyment (kama), and liberation (moksa), constitute direct and indirect descriptions of the goal (prayojana).

In describing the fruits of activities other than pure devotion, the Bhagavatam seeks to point out indirectly the glory of love of Krsna, for the fruits of religion, economic development, sense gratification, and even liberation from the cycle of birth and death are paltry in comparison.

Joy is our stated or unstated goal of life. The joy derived from love of Krsna is the highest kind of joy. It is joy that is derived from making the perfect object of love one’s loving repose. This joy is the opposite of material joy, in which one makes one’s own joy the goal, misconstruing oneself to be the body and mind. In transcendental love, the satisfaction of Krsna’s transcendental senses is the only thought of the perfect devotees. They do not seek joy independent of the joy of the Absolute. While material joy is selfish and self-centered, the joy derived from love of Krsna is based on sacrifice, giving, and the self-forgetfulness that true love calls for, and thus it constitutes the highest love.

The question arises, however, as to how it is that the Absolute is in need of anything. How does Sri Krsna derive pleasure from those who love him? Is he not full in himself to begin with? He is indeed, yet as we have seen, he is surrounded by his own inner energy (svarupa-sakti), with whom he eternally consorts. His inner power manifests as eternal associates in five primary moods with whom he eternally enjoys the bliss of his own nature. The five primary moods are known as bhakti-rasa, aesthetic rapture in transcendence.

The Bhagavatam describes the Absolute philosophically as well as through aesthetic analysis. According to the Indian discipline of aesthetics, the soul of aesthetic experience is termed rasa. In the Upanisads the Absolute is also described by this term, raso vai sa, “The Absolute is aesthetic experience.” The Bhagavatam develops this concept. It is thus both a book of Vedanta philosophy and one concerned with aesthetics. It is a philosophy of beauty, the truth that is beauty. It directs us to Krsna and the possibility of entering a transcendental relationship with the Absolute, the possibility of experiencing rasa.

Bhakti rasa develops in the atomic soul in the course of cultivating one of five primary emotions directed to the perfect object of love, Krsna. These primary Krsna-centered emotions are the essence of Krsna’s eternal associates (parsadas), who are constituted of his inner power. Thus atomic souls can enter into the eternal love affair of the Absolute by taking shelter of Sri Krsna’s inner power, manifest as his eternal associates.

The five primary rasas are neutrality (santa), servitorship (dasya), friendship (sakhya), parental love (vatsalya), and conjugal love (madhurya). Thus one can love Krsna in neutrality, as a servant, as a friend, as his well-wisher, and as his lover. Sri Chaitanya has revealed that conjugal love for Krsna is the best amongst transcendental achievements.

Krsna’s consorts thus exemplify to the fullest extent the life of transcendental love. All of the other transcendental rasas in effect serve as a necessary background for the eternal drama of conjugal love of Godhead enacted between Radha and Krsna. This drama takes place in the guise of humanity, as Sri Krsna, the Supreme Truth, comes so close to his part and parcels that the affair at a glance seems no more than the love of a young village boy and girl. However, it is much more than this and is certainly free from all material inebriety. The land, water, trees, animals, birds, and people in this transcendental drama (lila) are all supramundane. Nothing there is touched by material illusion, and one can realize this dimension of consciousness and experience the highest joy only when one is free from the selfishness that makes for a material life of unhappiness. While selfishness is the basis of the material plane of consciousness, selflessness forms the basis of the spiritual dimension of consciousness—Krsna consciousness. This is our highest prospect, within which lies the joy of self.

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