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) [↩]