The Compassionate Name of Radharani
In 2011, I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, giving a lecture in a temple I was invited to speak at. Before starting the lecture, in my usual manner, I greeted the audience with, “Radhe Radhe,” only to find that no one greeted me back. I found myself in a very strange situation, wondering why this was the case when they were all followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. After I delivered the lecture, my disciples came to me and said, “Maharaj, there is a rule that the temple followers should not take Radharani’s Name now or any time in the future because they are very fallen and therefore are not eligible.”
I replied, “In verse 95 of Radha-ras-sudha-nidhi, Prabhodhanand Saraswati Thakur prays: ‘May these two letters of Radha’s wondrous Name become manifest for me. This Name, which on being muttered immediately attracts the Lord of Gokul, which would make all the goals of human life seem as nothing to the loving Beloved, and the mantra composed of which Name Krishn Himself is dedicated to chanting with love.’ “
I was somewhat amazed by their understanding because they feared Radharani’s Name yet in their all temples world-widely they were worshipping the deities of Radha and Krishn. Logically, if devotees are forbidden from taking Radha’s Name then what qualifies them to perform Her worship? All of these devotees’ previous acharyas were followers of Radharani. My curiosity grew deeper and I asked my followers, “Even devotees who have been practicing at this temple for the last 15 to 20 years are not allowed also?”
My disciples replied, “No one is allowed to take Radharani’s Name directly. They can call her ‘Hare’ only. They have a real fear that they are fallen souls and by taking Radharani’s Name directly, they will commit an offence.”
“Which scripture mentions this? That it is even an offence? ‘Hare’ is a direct Name too just as Madhav, Shyam and Gopinath; are these not direct Names of Krishn?” I questioned my followers, “And yet there is direct worship of Radharani at the altar-is it not a direct offence?”
I could not understand how the temple was cultivating such fear within their devotees and how it would be possible to transform this fear into worthiness and place them on the path which their previous acharyas followed? When did our Radharani become a shakti to be feared? In the Radha-ras-sudha-nidhi (verse 18), the second line describes Radharani as:
“Radharani is an ocean of kind Affection and an ocean of great Mercy.”
In Gaudiya practice, there is no way of attaining the sacred love of Krishn without the mercy of Radharani. Even Lord Krishn cannot live without Her, for She is His Soul. The Lord may not hear the devotees’ plea directly but if devotees approach Him via the most compassionate Radharani, Krishn will not refuse Her and therefore He will not reject them.
Shri Krishn thinks in His mind, “The wise call Me absolute bliss, and absolute ras. All Universes get joy from Me. Is there anyone who can make Me happy? Only someone who is hundreds of times more qualified than Me can give Me pleasure. However it is impossible to find one who is more worthy than Me. I realise only Radha to be more competent than Me. My beauty can defeat countless Love-gods, none can equal or surpass My sweetness and all universes are delighted to behold My handsomeness. Yet My eyes are soothed when they gaze at Shri Radha. The song of My flute attracts the three worlds, yet Shri Radha’s speech is so sweet that it captivates My ears. Although the world is aromatic due to My fragrance, the sweet smell of Shri Radha’s body steals My heart and soul. Despite the fact that I am the Fountainhead of all the ras present in this world, the nectarine ras of Shri Radha’s lips enthrall Me. Albeit, My touch is as cooling as innumerable moons, Radhika’s sweet touch soothes even Me. Thus I am the Cause of all happiness in the world, yet I continue to live only because of Radhika’s beauty and excellences.” (Chaitanya Charitamrit)
The Govind lila (11.122) answers the following question, “Who is the originator of the sacred love of Krishn?” with, “Only Shri Radharani.”
Aspirants who take the shelter of Radharani, in the mood of the sakhi-manjaris, are qualified by Her mercy to relish the complete sweetness of Shri Krishn, since She is a fathomless ocean of compassion and the Chaitanya Charitamrit gives great detail of Radharani’s generous nature. Even our acharyas, such as Raghunath Das Goswami, prayed to Radharani, “O Goddess! I seek nothing other than the mercy of Your lotus feet. I pay obeisance to Your friendship. But I yearn for the position of Your servant.” (Vilap Kusumanjali, verse 18)
Also In Stavavali, Raghunath Das Goswami writes, “How will a person ever relish the most mysterious fathomless Ocean of Ras that is Shri Krishn if he has not worshipped the dust of Radharani’s lotus feet, taken shelter of Shri Vrindavan that is decorated with Her footprints and if he has not conversed with the great devotees who are deeply immersed in Her service?”
The Gaudiya acharyas clearly mention that the service of Radharani is the only bliss for aspirants of the Gaudiya Sampraday; anything contrary to this will render the aspirants’ service imperfect and lead to incompleteness in their devotion. The scriptures say:
binā rādhā-prasādena kṛṣṇa-prāptir-na jāyate
“It is impossible to attain Shri Krishn without Radharani’s mercy.”
One cannot attain sacred love by any means if one is fearful of Radharani. Only through Radharani can experience the nectar. Would it have been possible for any Gaudiya acharya to relish the sacred love if they feared Radharani or rejected Her love? Our acharyas have taught us to perform kirtans of Radharani’s Holy Name. “Those who sing, chant and have strong faith in Radharani’s Name, and those very blessed souls who worship Her, achieve the friendship of Radharani in Vrindavan.” (Radha-ras-sudha-nidhi, verse 96)
I am aware of the most intimate pastimes of Radha and Krishn which are not to be heard by everyone. But I feel that preaching the right essence and understanding of the Gaudiya practice to aspirants is the first important stage before they progress towards the more confidential practices of this path. The Chaitanya Charitamrit describes the process for devotional practice, “Devotional practice is of two types- external and internal. One should hear and chant in the external material body, while one should serve Radha and Krishn in Vraj, all day and night by meditating on one’s spiritual body.” In Gaudiya philosophy, this practice itself is a very profound secret.
To meditate and worship as our previous acharyas did, should be our goal. If we are avoiding what has been practiced, realised and written by our acharyas in their scriptures, by saying that even after several years of practice we are fallen souls and somehow unworthy, then we have little conviction in the blessings of our Gurus and Harinaam. Our goal is to attain Shri Radha and Krishn and by avoiding Radharani we cannot justify our devotion for Lord Krishn. And if we do, are we being genuine followers of our Guru parampara and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? Narottam Das Thakur says in Prem Bhakti Chandrika, “If one decorates his body with the dust from Radharani’s lotus feet, then it will be very easy for him to attain Lord Giridhari. I congratulate such a great soul who takes shelter of Radharani’s lotus feet and I say to him, ‘Well done! Bravo! Excellent!’” The previous acharyas, who were elevated souls and who are eternal, become overjoyed when they see that our bhaav (mood) is to serve Radharani.
In the Krishn Bhavanamrit, Vishwanath Chakarvarti Thakur wrote about the asta-kaliya-lila, the eightfold pastimes of Shri Radha and Krishn, which They perform daily, in a 24 hours time period. Devotees should read these pastimes and start to reflect upon Them. There is no restriction on when and where they should meditate on the Divine Couple’s play.
Gaudiya followers are instructed to listen to the pastimes of Radha and Krishn, “The Divine Couple’s sweet, sweet Holy Name is life of the mind’s memory. Their pastimes are the best remembering. Remembering Them is both the goal and the way to attain it. That is the truth of all truths. This book is not the only place that it is said.” (Prem Bhakti Chandrika)
Though there are numerous verses, which our acharyas have recommended for us to hear, the meditation on the pastimes of Radha and Krishn should be performed while one performs one’s devotional practice. For raganuga followers, Roop Goswami details the method of this practice, “We should meditate on our beloved Shri Krishn and His Beloved, who is in the same mood as ourselves (devotee) and if possible, we should reside in Vrindavan physically. If we are incapable of doing so then we should at least live here mentally and taking the shelter and surrendering unto the Vrajwasi-devotee, who is dear to Shri Krishn, and craving to get the same bhaav as that devotee, we should constantly perform service as an aspirant both physically (externally) and mentally (internally).” (Bhaktirasamritsindhu)
On the path of raganuga bhakti, meditating on the divine pastimes is the main aim; however, in the primary stage, we are not qualified for lila-smaran (mediation or remembrance of the pastimes). Therefore we should concentrate more on hearing, chanting of the Holy Name and following other instructions of bhakti (devotion). When our chitt (the mind field that is the ocean of perception and reflection) gets more and more purified from the preliminary practices and instructions, we become drawn towards lila-smaran. Our smaran too becomes more intense. Ultimately, when we reach the pinnacle of our practice, lila-smaran naturally becomes a major part of our bhajan (sweet remembrance whilst performing any devotional action).
This is the process of reaching the topmost goal of our life, as instructed by our Six Goswamis of Vrindavan. I do not recollect any of our scripture stating that this goal can be attained by avoiding the blissful Name of Radharani. Unfortunately, the mood of some misguided devotees can be very defeatist because they have no idea how they will attain the mercy of Radharani, which they believe is needed to chant Her Name and until they are worthy enough to take Her Name, they must avoid it altogether; it’s a vicious cycle! I wonder if these resigned devotees are really practising devotion to achieve sacred love for Radha and Krishn or has their association with other schools of philosophy projected some superficial image in front of them which is too blurry to distinguish and comprehend?