Krishna’s Dilemma: How to Experience Radha’s Prema
Published on September 6th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff2
Radharani’s supreme love, which she alone tastes, is such that Krishna himself yearns to taste it. One may, however, justifiably question how Krishna can lack anything. How can the Absolute be incomplete? The answer to this question can be found in the philosophy that underlies Krishna lila. Krishna is full in himself, yet he is full of love, and love is never satisfied with itself. To taste himself more fully he manifests as two—Radha and Krishna. As the sruti proclaims, ekaki na ramate: “Alone one finds no pleasure.”1 That which resides within Krishna in an abstract sense as his inherent hladini-sakti manifests externally in a concrete form as Radha. These two, rasa and prema, are in essence one. Krishna is rasa and Radha is prema. One has little meaning without the other. Rasa is the highest taste and prema is the means of tasting it.
Because the two, rasa and prema, are essentially one, Krishna naturally desires to express this. He desires to be one with Radha, for as much as love requires two, it is all about two becoming one. However, he must do this in a dynamic sense to preserve his original purpose of fully tasting himself. He must become one with Radha while preserving both of their identities. This dynamic unity gives rise to Sri Krishna Caitanya, the combined form of Radha and Krishna. He is both rasaraja and mahabhava, ‘rasa-raja’, ‘mahabhava’—dui eka rupa.2 Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes this phenomenon:
Radha and Krishna’s love is a transformation of hladini-sakti. On earth, the one, Krishna, has become two, Radha and Krishna, eternally. Then, as Gaurasundara, these two formed a dynamic unity. Pranama to Gaura, who is endowed with Radha’s countenance and personality.3
Although Krishna is complete in himself, he is best equipped to taste love when he expands into two, Radha and Krishna. Philosophically speaking, he does not lack anything; however, at that timeless moment when Krishna becomes Radha and Krishna, lila is born and Krishna loses himself in the drama of divine love. As Krishna becomes absorbed in exchanges of love with his counterwhole, Srimati Radharani, he realizes that tasting love from her vantage point is more desirable than relishing it from his own. Consumed by his own play, he begins to ponder perhaps the greatest theological question: “How can I taste Radha’s prema?”
Contrary to what one might expect, Radha is not inclined to give her prema to Krishna, for she knows its power and how it will drive him mad. Furthermore, in her mind it would be improper to take a superior position to his, and in her supreme humility, she recoils at the thought that her superiority—the power of her love—might be broadcast all over the world. She knows that such a campaign would be a natural result of Krishna becoming mad with her prema and losing his composure. Radha understands the far-reaching consequences of this. After all, while the secret of secrets is that Krishna is her pupil in the school of love, outside of this private tutoring everyone else knows him as the Supreme Brahman, sought after by the most sober sages. He is God, to whom no one is superior.
Thus the necessity of stealing arises in Krishna’s mind. There is no other option. Krishna concludes that he must steal Radha’s prema if he is to taste it, and taste it he must, because he knows that it is superior to anything he has tasted. Whatever embarrassment stealing her love may bring as a consequence, Krishna knows that true supremacy lies in tasting love—love is supreme. Furthermore, just as Radha wants to see him glorified, he wants to see her glorified. Despite his being a thief, he is the Supreme Truth. Truth be told, while most teach that God is the most worshipable object, Radha is the worshipable object of God. Thus Krishna tries to steal Radha’s prema to tell the world the truth. Although he is purnananda-maya, completely filled with joy, and cin-maya purna-tattva, the complete spiritual truth, the fact is that her love drives him mad. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 1.4.122)) Jaya Radhe! Jaya Gaurahari!
This article is excerpted from Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya.
- Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.4.3. [↩]
- Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 2.8.282 [↩]
- radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 1.1.5) [↩]
The most beautiful and intoxicating subject matter.
“Desiring to understand the glories of Radhrani’s love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She appreciates through Her love, and the Happiness She feels when She experiences Krishna’s love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with her devotion, appeared from the womb of Srimati Sacidevi as the moon appears from the ocean.”
Thus Krishna solved His dilemma. Taking on the external complexion of Radharani and Her internal feelings as well, Krishna appeared as Gauracandra, like a golden moon rising out of the ocean.
And we chant, “Namo maha badanya Krishna prema pradayate…”, that Lord Caitanya is so merciful, moreso than any avatar, because He is freely distributing the taste of this love – ecstatic love of Krishna.
And that brings us to the next step: Our Delemma: How to Experience Radha’s Prema.
Therefore Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami writes in Caitanya-caritamrita, ML, 2/81:
“By personally tasting the mellows of love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught His direct disciples the process….”
and, ML, 17/48-49:
“When someone heard the chanting of the Holy Name from the mouth of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and someone else heard this chanting from that second person, and someone again heard this chanting from the third person, everyone in all countries became a Vaishnava through such disciplic succession….”
ML, 17/51, Purport excerpt (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami):
“….Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared 500 years ago, but it cannot be said that the potenccy of the Hare Krishna mantra is less powerful now than it was in His presence. By hearing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through the parampara system, one can be purified….”
SB, 2/1/11 Purport excerpt (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami):
“…..Here it is mentioned that one should constantly chant the Holy Name of the Lord after hearing it from authorities. This means that hearing from the authorities is the first essential…..this way of attaining success is an established fact…..”
SB, 1/5/25: Purport excerpt (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami):
“Pure devotion is as much infectious, in a good sense, as infectious diseases………Infection of the qualities of the pure devotee means to imbibe the taste of pure devotion…..one can have transcendental emotions…”
TLC, Chapter 18, Srila Prabhupada writes:
“The process is that a bonafide spiritual master chants the Holy Name, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, and the transcendental sound vibration enters into the ear of the disciple. If the disciple follow in the footsteps of his spiritual master an chants the Holy Name with equal respect, tha becomes the worship of the transcendental Name…..And the devotee who chants it becomes transcendentally situated in ecstacy, and sometimes laughs and cries and dances in his ecstacy…”
These quotes seem to bring the process down to earth. Let us endeavor to hear the ecstatic chanting of the Holy Name from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as it is delivered to us through the unbroken chain of disciplic succession. Let the understanding of how to experience Radha’s prema not be a dilemma. Let us continue to sing, “From him ecstatic prema emanates”, and, “The lotus feet of our spiritual master is the only way by which to attain pure devotional service.” “By his grace one can cross over …”. That grace is obtainable – if we can hear it, and taste it, and cultivate it. Taking that grace is also an active process.
I recall reading that Srila Sridhara Maharaja said he realized Radha-Krsna first, then later Gaura, which speaks to the complexity and depth of Gaura-tattva.