Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #51 – Radha-Bhāva and Prabhupāda

December 18th, 2017

This is not about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s eternal relationship with Krishna. I will leave that for other discussions. What I want to share with you is a realization I had recently in my reading of the last chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja called The Śikṣāṣṭaka Prayers, a realization that highlights how Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us the most practical path in understanding our own relationship with Krishna. [1]
 
In that regard, I found particularly relevant the discussion of the last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam that describes the mood of Śrī Radha at that height of Her devotion:
 
“I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.” (v. 8)
 
Before I continue with my thesis, it is important to understand the context in which this verse is recited. According to Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja this verse is a paraphrase by Śrī Caitanya of what Śrī Radha told Her friends after they advised Her to disregard Krishna. He had apparently spurned her. In other words, She loved Krishna so much that just the suggestion to ignore Krishna, even when seemingly justified, ignited the depths of Her unconditional love. [2] In Śrī Caitanya’s ensuing explanation of this verse to His most confidential associates Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya, He further elaborates on how this concluding verse expresses the nature of Śrī Radha’s love at its height.
 
“I do not mind my personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Krishna, for His happiness is the goal of my life. However, if He feels great happiness in giving me distress, that distress is the best of my happiness.” [3] (Cc. Antya-līlā 20.52)
 
Now back to my originally inspiration. After reading the eighth verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam and its explanation by Śrī Caitanya Himself, it struck me how this final verse not only expresses the mood of Śrī Radha at the height of her devotion but accentuates the basic foundation of bhakti in a manner very reminiscent of the way Śrīla Prabhupāda and his own spiritual master, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta, preached. This is clearer when understanding the history of their mission.
 
Without retreading a long and complex history, Śrīla Bhaktisddhanta appeared at a time when the teachings of Śrī Caitanya had become very much degraded. The people coming to Śrī Caitanya’s lineage were mostly guided to higher and esoteric meditations in Krishna consciousness without the prerequisite foundational sacrifice and proper behavior. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta’s concern about this and how he called out those called prākṛta-sahajiyās who cheaply concentrated their meditation on Krishna’s intimate pastimes without the recommended step-by-step process to first purify their hearts.
 
“Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura says that a devotee does not care about his own happiness and distress; he is simply interested in seeing that Krishna is happy, and for that purpose he engages in various activities […] Those who are materialistic, […] like the prākṛta-sahajiyās, regard their own happiness as the aim of life. Some of them aspire to enjoy themselves by sharing the happiness of Krishna. This is the mentality of fruitive workers who want to enjoy sense gratification by making a show of service to Krishna.” (Cc. Antya-līlā 20.52, purport)
 
Seeing this tendency, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta, and Śrīla Prabhupāda after him, stressed unconditional surrender to the spiritual master and stringently warned of entering realms of esoteric bhakti prematurely. As a result they were often criticized for not giving what Śrī Caitanya came to give, rāgānugā-bhakti, a practice based very much on meditating on Krishna’s pastimes and visualizing one’s own spiritual identity within them.
 
The last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam, however, implies clearly that what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta and Śrīla Prabhupāda stressed was not just for beginners, but also the essence of the highest attainment in Krishna-consciousness, a practice that only needs to be ripened by the pure chanting of the name to achieve its fruition.
 
So that’s my realization today while reading the Caitanya-caritamrita – that if you want to awaken your eternal relationship with Krishna then faithfully follow the teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda by unconditionally surrendering to Śrī Śrī Guru and Krishna in service of Śrī Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana mission. Certainly one who sincerely does this is embracing the essence of radha-bhāva as expressed in that ultimate verse:
 
“I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.”
 


[1] It is worthy to note here that the Śikṣāṣṭakam prayers are particularly significant because they are the only verses, eight in number, that Śrī Caitanya composed.
 
[2] Also significant is that this verse is the last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam and represents the fulfillment of the internal reason for Śrī Caitanya’s appearance, to experience the love of His topmost devotee at the height of Her love.
 
[3] Śrī Caitanya’s explanation of the Śikṣāṣṭakam comprises thirteen verses. I have only chosen one for the sake of the clarity and force of my post to highlight the mood of them all.
 
 

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