By Swami B.G. Narasiṅgha
Thousands of devotees from across India and from around the world recently gathered in Vṛndāvana for Kārttika and on the evening of October 11th the appearance of Rādhā-kuṇḍa was celebrated. In the days leading up to October 11th many devotees made their way to Rādhā-kuṇḍa and took a holy dip in the kuṇḍa that is considered as non-different from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. The 11th evening saw the greatest crowds as devotees (especially Vraja-vāsī women) bathed in Rādhā-kuṇḍa throughout the night.
The 11th verse of Śrī Upadeśāmṛta by Rūpa Gosvāmī states that if one even once bathes in Rādhā-kuṇḍa that one attains love of Kṛṣṇa. The reasons however for the majority of the Vraja-vāsī women bathing in Rādhā-kuṇḍa on that night were not to attain love of Kṛṣṇa. As one respected Gosvāmī from Vṛndāvana told me, “These women are mainly concerned with getting male progeny. Many are not fertile and bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa with the hopes of getting the blessings of entering motherhood.” Charming, but not exactly the benediction Rūpa Gosvāmī had in mind when he composed Śrī Upadeśāmṛta…
Those seeking motherhood aside, the majority of devotees who come to Rādhā-kuṇḍa for a holy dip indeed desire to attain love of Kṛṣṇa. The verses of Śrī Upadeśāmṛta certainly seem to encourage a bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, but a question is in the air regarding who is actually qualified to bathe at Rādhā-kuṇḍa and who isn’t.
In the article that follows, the most revered guardian of devotion, Swami B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī gives his illumination to the 11th verse of Śrī Upadeśāmṛta and sincere devotees everywhere will certainly heed Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s words of guidance.
In 21st century contemporary Vaiṣṇavism, there are many opinions about many things and these opinions are not always in harmony with each other. In a world of contradictory opinions we can always find our way by looking to those who stand above the common thinking, who are lighthouses of the conception of pure devotion, who are paramahaṁsas in the truest sense of the word and whose lives are cent per cent the example to be followed. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is indeed such a beacon and his words are our guiding light.
ŚRĪ UPADEŚĀMṚTA TEXT 11
kṛṣṇasyoccaiḥ praṇaya-vasatiḥ preyasībhyo ’pi rādhā
kuṇḍaṁ cāsyā munibhir abhitas tādṛg eva vyadhāyi
yat preṣṭhair apy alam asulabhaṁ kiṁ punar bhakti-bhājāṁ
tat premedaṁ sakṛd api saraḥ snātur āviṣkaroti
It has been established by great sages that amongst all the beloved Vraja-Gopīs, Śrī Rādhā is Kṛṣṇa’s most treasured object of love. Similarly, Her kuṇḍa is just as dear to Him. One who bathes even once in the waters of Rādhā-kuṇḍa attains love for Kṛṣṇa which is extremely difficult to achieve even for great devotees, what to speak of ordinary devotees.
In general it has been urged that if one takes bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, one’s devotional qualities can improve. But this must be treated with proper regard and devotion otherwise an offense will be committed. Our Guru Mahārāja advised, “Don’t dive and try to take advantage of a bath. No! Put a drop or two on your head.” He also commented that bathing does not mean to dive into Rādhā-kuṇḍa with this physical body. The soul must take bath there. Physically you are to honor. Many are seen diving deep into the waters of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, sometimes swimming, taking bath etc. But our Guru Mahārāja did not allow us to do so. We did as he did – he would take some water and put it on his head, without touching Rādhā-kuṇḍa with his feet. That was his example that we have seen. He did not like anyone diving and taking bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is not to be considered as a physical utility. Rādhā-kuṇḍa should be revered. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is Rādhārāṇī in the form of liquid, so great respect should be given to that kuṇḍa.
Loving regard is very precious. It is not available anywhere and everywhere. It is not so cheap. It is the highest wealth of our soul that can attract Kṛṣṇa towards us. It is not so cheap that you will think, “I have got that – I can take bath regardless and then I’ll get so much devotion.” Don’t venture! First try to understand what is rāga and when you get rāga you can play there, you can play freely. But you must be sure one hundred percent to have the correct attitude concerning the divinity of Rādhā-Govinda. Otherwise, you will think it is all mundane.
The sahajiyās think that they already have attained that high plane and they are in a position to swim and play in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. But this destroys the real quality of the thing, and so they are pests to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society. It is not so cheap. Therefore the external practice of those higher things has been discouraged by our Guru Mahārāja in the strongest terms. Rāga-bhakti is far, far above. It is not a very ordinary thing to be sold in the market. We hate those who say that they have rāga-bhakti. They are enemies of the sampradāya of Mahāprabhu. Is rāga so cheap? There are so many signs of an ordinary man, the scent of the beast is in him, and he has attained rāga-bhakti? Only to destroy them, the Gauḍīya Maṭha has come – to destroy those imitators of rāga-bhakti.
Some of Svāmī Mahārāja’s disciples have gone to that camp. They think they will easily attain that which is the highest attainment of the whole theological world. These misguided souls have gone against their guru as well as the vehement opposition of our Guru Mahārāja, who gave a warning against such adulteration – love for God is not so cheap! Mahāprabhu Himself says:
na prema-gandho’sti darāpi me harau
krandāmi saubhagya-bharaṁ prakāśitum
bibharmi yat prāṇa-pataṅgakan vṛthā
“I have not the slightest tinge of divine love within my heart. When you see me crying in separation, I am only making a false show of devotion. The proof that I have no love for Kṛṣṇa is the fact that while not seeing his beautiful face as He plays His flute I continue to maintain my insect-like existence.” (Cc. Madhya 2.45)
Na prema gandho’sti – what to speak of prema proper, I do not even have an infinitesimal scent of real devotion. I can’t trace even the remotest scent of divine love in me. There is not a drop of real rāgānuga-bhakti within me – that is an infinite ocean. My attempt is a sham – it is all artificial. Mahāprabhu is blaming Himself in such a way. But from the background rāgānuga-bhakti is completely filling Him up and capturing Him wholesale.
We must not be overconfident of our previous acquisition – “I have acquired so much. I have made so much progress.” I must not be satisfied with a certificate of my own making. Mahāprabhu Himself says, “I am taking the Holy Name and I am showing so many tears in the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. Why? It is all a false show. My crying is only a show to canvas others to see what a great devotee I am.” We must have so much confidence in ourselves to think that we have become a devotee. In this way we must be very, very careful.
Kotiṣv api mahāmune – Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura were thinking, “The whole world is absolved from sin, but I am neglected, I am left as the only exception. I am so low and ill fated that I am rejected from that most benevolent infinite līlā. I alone am rejected. I could not utilize this great fortunate wave.” This should be the real tendency of a genuine Vaiṣṇava who has actually come in relation with the Infinite. Whenever the finite comes in touch with the Infinite his temperament cannot be otherwise. Our temperament should be that, “I am empty; I did not get anything. I feel emptiness within me. I can’t get the goal. My life is frustrated. Neither do I get a drop of grace from the Lord nor the world that I have left. I have no alternative, O Lord. If You don’t accept me then I am undone. Please, just make me the servant of the servant of the servant. Give me the remotest connection to You. Don’t leave me, my Lord. I can’t tolerate this craving for You.”
This heart-felt, heart-rending prayer must come from the Vaiṣṇava devotee of the Lord. Any charm for the outside world is fully eliminated for that person, from the core of his heart and in the near future his heart will be filled with the nectar of the grace of Kṛṣṇa.
Audārya and Mādhurya
Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa are the representation of two forms – the Predominating Moiety and the Predominated Moiety. And although they are two, there is a channel underground which shows that they are actually both one unit. They are apparently two, but actually one. When the Predominating Moiety and the Predominated Moiety become one; that becomes Mahāprabhu Śrī Caitanyadeva. In Vṛndāvana They are divided into two but there is a connecting link. Svarūpa Damodāra has given us this śloka:
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī-śaktir asmād
ekātmānāv api bhuvi purā deha-bhedaṁ gatau tau
caitanyākhyaṁ prakaṭam adhunā tad-dvayaṁ caikyam āptaṁ
rādhā-bhāva-dyuti-suvalitaṁ naumi kṛṣṇa-svarūpam
“The love of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is the divine manifestation of the hlādinī-śakti. Though originally one, They have become separated eternally. They have again become one as Śrī Caitanya. I offer my respects unto that Lord, who is Kṛṣṇa Himself, with the sentiment and complexion of Rādhārāṇī.” (Cc. Ādi 1.5)
Who is Mahāprabhu? Just as Rādhārāṇī had Her most intimate friend Lalitā, who knew the real heart of Rādhārāṇī – so here, Lalitā’s avatāra was Svarūpa Damodāra and He fully knew who Mahāprabhu was. He has given this ontological acquaintance of Mahāprabhu. We cannot say whether winter is first, or summer, or rainy season, or autumn – they are moving in a cyclic order. Similarly, the līlā of Kṛṣṇa and Mahāprabhu is eternal. In Kali-yuga He is coming as Mahāprabhu Śrī Caitanyadeva, and in Dvāpara-yuga, He is coming as Kṛṣṇa – but time is an eternal factor in nitya-līlā. Generally we consider that Satya-yuga is first, then Treta-yuga, then Dvāpara-yuga, then Kali-yuga. Again, after Kali-yuga comes Satya-yuga, Treta, Dvāpara and Kali – in a cyclic order. So whether Mahāprabhu is first or Kṛṣṇa is first is unquestionable. It is revolving in a cyclic order.
In this verse, Svarūpa Damodāra says that first Rādhā-Govinda are combined, and we see that in Dvāpara-yuga They are separate for their līlā. In ancient times, they divided Themselves for the purpose of līlā. But they are one – ekātmānām. Sometimes They are combined for līlā, and sometimes They are separate for līlā. The Whole was one combined as Mahāprabhu and later we find the Whole is separated in vṛndāvana–līlā as Rādhā-Govinda. Both vṛndāvana–līlā, and navadvīpa-līlā are eternal. In the highest eternal ontological quarter, we find līlā of both types. In one compound there is Vṛndāvana where we find that Rādhā-Govinda are having Their pastimes and They are separate there. In gaura–līlā we find Rādhā-Govinda combined and both of Them try to distribute Themselves to others. What was previously confined to Their own circle, in gaura–līlā we find that that rasa is being distributed to others. Audārya and mādhurya – two specific characteristics of two līlās and two avatāris. Both of them are avatāri, the source of all avatāras. It is the highest conception of the ontological aspect of the Absolute, but in two phases. In one They are tasting Their own sweetness in Their own līlā, and in another place They are trying to distribute that sweetness to the other souls. This is the difference.
Rādhā-bhāva-dyuti suvalitaṁ naumi kṛṣṇa-svarūpam – the close embrace of the potency and the owner of the potency. The predominating and the predominated tendency is mixed, but an extraordinary ecstatic feeling is there. Kṛṣṇa is overpowered by the potency, and He Himself is searching after something – kṛṣṇasya ātmānusandhana. This is the influence of Rādhārāṇī over Kṛṣṇa; Kṛṣṇa is transformed into a devotee and He is searching for Himself. Sweetness is tasting itself and becoming mad and that sweetness is living, not dead. It is endowed with life.
Mahāprabhu is the ultimate source. What is the proof? Ātma-tṛpti – He is tasting His own happiness, ecstasy, beauty and is dancing in madness. Through kīrtana He is distributing that ecstasy to others. He is tasting Himself and that makes Him dance. The Absolute must have this symptom.
prema-dhāma-devam-eva naumi gaura-sundaram
“He is the source of self-evident perfect bliss that is full of natural loving pastimes. His dancing arises from the intoxication of overflowing spiritual bliss, and His chanting of the Holy Name and fame of the Supreme Lord arises from the attempt to enjoy and distribute that spiritual bliss. These two characteristics are the natural and fundamental substantial symptoms of the perfect absolute principle. Therefore He is asamordhva – no one can equal or surpass Him, for He is the unalloyed Supreme Truth. O sing with joy the unending glories of my golden Lord Gaurasundara the beautiful, the divine abode of pure love.” (Śrī Prema-dhāma Deva Stotra 66)
In my Prema-dhāma Deva Stotra I have written that He is the Ultimate Reality. Why? Two things are represented in Him – one is that He is dancing in ecstatic joy, feeling ecstasy within Himself and secondly He is distributing that to others. This is Gaura. The highest principle of ecstatic energy cannot but be such. He is dancing and that dancing explains that inner propensity of ecstatic joy. Sat-cit-ānanda – in ecstatic joy He is dancing. And kīrtana means distribution of that joy to the environment; it is assertive. Ecstatic joy is assertive. That is self-assertion and self-distributed. He is distributing ecstatic joy. That we find in Gaurāṅga.
On the highest level of ontological conception there are two phases of līlā – one confined within Himself, and another attracting everyone and distributing everything to one and all. To us gaura-līlā is more useful because our prospect is there. Through Mahāprabhu only can we have entrance into the other aspect of His līlā when He gives it. If we approach Him we are sure to have entrance into that līlā.
yathā yathā gaura-padāravinde
vindeta bhaktiṁ kṛta-puṇya-rāśiḥ
tathā tathotsarpati hṛdy akasmād
“One who is extremely fortunate may get the mercy of Śrī Gaurāṅga. As much as we devote ourselves to the lotus feet of Śrī Gaurāṅga, to that extent we will automatically be able to taste the nectarine service of the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in Vṛndāvana. The more one engages in the service of Lord Gaurāṅga, the more one finds oneself in Vṛndāvana, tasting the nectar of the service of Śrī Rādhā.” (Caitanya-candrāmṛta 88)
This is a stanza by Prabhodānanda Sarasvatī. Yathā yathā gaura-padāravinde vindeta bhaktiṁ kṛta-puṇya-rāśiḥ – those who have great sukṛti will invest in Gaurāṅga. Prabhodānanda Sarasvatī says that you will automatically find that everything has been offered to the divine feet of Rādhārāṇī. She will accept us in Her confidential service, and give us engagement, “You have good recommendation from Navadvīpa. Yes, I will immediately appoint you in this service.” If you invest your money in the Bank of America, it will go there. Similarly, your investment in Navadvīpa will automatically take you to Vṛndāvana. It may be unknown to you how the company has carried you there, but automatically you will find that you are in that rasa. Such an arrangement is there. As much as we are able to connect ourselves with gaura-līlā, automatically we find that without any trouble we are already there in kṛṣṇa-līlā in the camp of Rādhārāṇī. We are blessed. We are carried to the camp of Rādhārāṇī in Vṛndāvana.
Additional Notation (by Swami Narasiṅgha):
In 1932, during the month of Kārttika, while lecturing at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śrī Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura made the following comment:
“Those who are still attached to this body and mind can never attain the qualification to bathe in the kuṇḍa of our Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī; I say this at all times! But those who are not attached to this body and mind – they are eternally qualified. This body has been produced by our mother and father – one who still deliberates upon this body or deliberates upon the mind cannot bathe in Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa! Only one who is knowledgeable of his aprākṛta body and intrinsic internal nature can bathe there.
“We are fallen souls! These words should always remain in our ears. They will be most beneficial for us life after life. By hearing such words we will be protected from offences.”
The above quote was published in numerous books and periodicals of the Gauḍīya Maṭha during that period (1932-33).
Further research into the topic of who takes a full body bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa as opposed to those who simply put a few drops of water on their heads as a reverential bath has revealed that only sahajiyās, most of ISKCON and a few stray sannyāsīs with no authority actually take full body bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. The vast majority of Gauḍīya Vaisnavas, including all of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and most respectable Gosvāmīs and even some sahajiyās do not take full body bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. YES – even some sahajiyās say that Rādhā-kuṇḍa is too high and is always to be shown the greatest respect. That being said, where does that leave those who neglect the caution given by Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and other ācāryas.