A few days ago I discussed our unique devotion and dependence on Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī that separates us from other vaiṣṇavas. There’s more to this topic and I want to touch on some of the implications.
In ISKCON, this realization, that we are actually devotees and servants of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, is considered fairly advanced even in theory. This is not what we tell people first time we meet them on the streets and not even on their first visit to the temple. We don’t mention it in our Bhagavad Gītā classes and one would have listen to great many Śrimad Bhāgavatam lectures to finally hear it.
Even then, we don’t go into any details and we don’t express this philosophical postulate in our external service. We don’t change our mantras, we don’t stop praying to Kṛṣṇa, we don’t start singing bhājanas dedicated to Her, we don’t read books detailing Her service or describing those who are engaged in Her service – nothing, life goes on.
Those of us who jump ship to bābājīs of Vṛṇdāvana, however, make this realization their everyday reality. They greet each other with “Rādhe Rādhe”, for example. We still “Haribol” each other as we meet. They read up on Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes with Rādhārāṇī, we still read Kṛṣṇa book.
Even those who made it out to Gauḍīyā Maṭhas immediately become far more advanced than us, though that’s probably because Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, we allege, took his philosophy from bābājīs rather than from Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, and devotees who leave for other maṭhas go there in search of spiritual highs so they need to be fed highly confidential pastimes to separate them from hoi polloi like us.
Same happens with those who leave for traditional Gauḍīyā gurus in Bengal. Some sort of differentiation from ISKCON is necessary for everyone and this often takes form in devotion to Rādhā, though smoking ganja and sexual exploits as means of self realization are not uncommon, too.
So, Rādhā, our “new” mistress, what should we know about Her and what should we do about it? As far as knowledge goes, we are restricted to books of Śrila Prabhupāda, and for a good reason – we can’t really discuss Her personality if we still maintain anarthas in our hearts.
They think that being devotee of Hers is the height of humility, as clearly follows from a quick look at the situation – it’s really being servants of the servants of the servants rather than trying to approach Kṛṣṇa directly. On reason is that we should realize our contamination and our limitations as devotees, and the other reason is that we should realize that if pleasing Kṛṣṇa is our goal then maximizing His pleasure should be a team effort, with those who are most suited for His enjoyment being placed at the front and those who He has relatively less interest in taking positions in the back.
Sometimes Kṛṣṇa lays His eyes on some girls other than Rādhā and because of Her unique and unsurpassed love for Him She goes to that girl and brings her to Kṛṣṇa, completely forgetting Her personal jealousy.
This is how we are expected to get Kṛṣṇa’s association – He would notice us and then His more intimate servants would come, pick us up, dust us off, maybe do a little make over, and shove us into Kṛṣṇa’s arms.
I also argued that being devotees of Rādhā is a more secure position than being devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa has a very fickle nature and He is as famous for breaking people’s hearts as He is famous for stealing them. Everything about Him spells trouble. Love in separation, as we’ve been taught by Lord Caitanya, is higher and more intense than pleasure of being in His company but by our material standards it’s all a bit too much.
Just think of the time spent by residents of Vṛndāvana in Kṛṣṇa’s company vs time spent without Him. Say, gopīs first noticed Him when He was about seven and He left for Mathura when He was twelve, so that’s five years. If they lived up to a hundred that’s merely five percent of life in love and ninety five percent of life in pain. These are just rough numbers, don’t quote me on this.
Devotees, however, never ever abandon us and if Lord Caitanya was the most merciful avatāra they are even more merciful than Him. His mercy is two fold – first, it’s the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, secondly, it’s the mercy of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
We say that He had two distinct missions in this world, external and internal. External being the preaching of the Holy Name and internal being the tasting of rasas available only to Śrī Rādhā. Preaching, however, is a feature of Rādhārāṇī aspect of His persona. It’s She who wants to engage the entire world in His service, it’s She who looks for quintessential good in each one of us and figures a way to make us useful and pleasing to Kṛṣṇa.
Being servants of the servants of the servants is also our constitutional position so it’s natural for us to seek shelter of devotees rather than Kṛṣṇa directly. With their blessings we can attain bhakti and with bhakti we won’t even need Kṛṣṇa because it’s self-sustainable and independent of His whims.
Bhakti is a reward in itself, it’s more golden than gold itself, so to speak, and it’s given only by other devotees, so, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, here we come, brace Yourself for impact. Thousands and thousands of new devotees have taken shelter of Your feet, declared themselves Your devotees, and there’s nothing You can do about it, ‘cos it’s not in Your nature to turn anyone away.
This is leeching off, however.
Yes, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is always ready to accept new devotees and She would never reject anybody because we are all spirit souls and all meant for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment, there are no leftovers or “reject” bins in the spiritual world. Her shelter is the safest position in all worlds, but there’s one crucial component missing – we must give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa to qualify.
In the spiritual world it’s easy, natural, and self-evident but here in the material world things are very different. By nature we are averse to any kind of selfless service, we negotiate exchanges for mutual benefits instead. We are extremely corrupt and this attitude never really goes away.
We want to become Rādhā’s servants because it’s easy. We turn to Her because we smell a good deal, we are more than ready to exploit Her kindness. It’s like economic migrants to America or Europe paying lip service to running away from tyranny and seeking freedom. This type of migration has been going on for decades and it doesn’t fool anybody anymore but people are still trying to cash in on their oppression at home when they make their cases at Immigration.
This is what we do when we pray to Rādhā, too. We hope we’ll get all the benefits of being a devotee without trouble of actually doing anything for Kṛṣṇa. We’ll just hang around Vṛndāvana, chant our rounds, and Rādhārāṇī will do the rest.
We are missing a major point here – She introduces people to Kṛṣṇa only when they are of any interest to Him, She never rejects anyone but only because of their potential, it doesn’t mean She pushes everyone to enjoy Kṛṣna’s company just for the fun of it. Who says He’d enjoy our company in the first place? What have we ever done to deserve being introduced to Him?
We sit there in our rooms, chant our rounds to ourselves, read books for our own enlightenment – how any of that is supposed to please Kṛṣna? What’s in it for Him? Why should He ever care?
Saṅkīrtana is congregational chanting, japa isn’t. We can’t substitute chanting japa together for saṅkīrtana either, we can’t substitute kīrtans together for saṅkīrtana if we engage in them for our own advancement. It’s like “Do I really have to do this in front of other people? Oh well, if it’s absolutely necessary then I guess it’s okay, I’ll do it.”
It’s not like “I very much enjoy my rounds and there will be more enjoyment if we chant together.” It’s not saṅkīrtana, it’s a mutual masturbation society.
Saṅkīrtana means changing people’s hearts, inducing them to love and serve Kṛṣna more and more, it’s not singing in each other’s company, it’s directly affecting each other’s lives. It’s making others into better devotees, and not theoretically, because chanting make everything better, but practically moving other people’s hearts. Easier said than done but then who said pleasing Kṛṣna was easy. It’s simple but it’s not easy.
And for that humility claim – there’s even better, more humble position – to realize our contamination and seek shelter of Lord Nityānanda and our guru because we are totally unqualified to be servants of the servants of anybody else.
We haven’t earned our entry into the real of Vṛndāvana yet, we haven’t got a visa, let alone green card. Instead of trying to gatecrash the party or sneak in on student visa and then stay there illegally, perhaps we should apply traditional Vedic solution – wait until we are born in more suitable bodies. We have plenty to do and many ways to serve in our current position, and that’s what we should do rather than trying to become residents of Vṛndāvana prematurely and without being invited for our actual achievements rather than our potential.
It’s not a place to leech off others’ devotion.