Disclaimer: None of what appears below is about actual Tulasī Devī, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, Sudāmā, or Kṛṣṇa. All the characters are just imagination of sexually obsessed śaktas and should never be confused with real spiritual forms of the aforementioned personalities.
Continuing yesterday’s story of Tulasī devī as it appears in Devī Bhāgavata, it’s time to follow her down to the material world. To recap – Tulasī gopī was having a private moment with Kṛṣṇa and lost her consciousness, which somehow angered Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī who cursed Tulasī to be born in the material world. On a separate occasion, one of Kṛṣṇa’s bestest friends, Sudāmā, also got cursed by Śrī Rādhā to be born here, and to be born as a demon. His transgression was protecting Kṛṣṇa from Rādhā’s anger.
Personally, I don’t buy this story. Something happened, this much we do know, but I don’t want to get details from the source as unreliable as Devī Bhāgavata. More on that later.
So, Tulasī was born here to noble parents but somehow she left the house early and undertook unbelievable tapasyā for a hundred thousand years. For the first twenty thousand years she followed regiment prescribed in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam for vānaprasthas. In the summer she surrounded herself with fire and in winter she stood neck deep in freezing water. During that time she ate fruits and water but for the next thirty thousand years she subsisted only on tree leaves. For the next forty thousand years she gave up eating at all and only breathed in air. For the last ten thousand years she also stood only on one leg. Then Lord Brahmā showed up and gave her his benediction. Her goal was to get Lord Nārāyaṇa as her husband. That’s when she told the story of her curse. Part of it was that she quit her body in Goloka and got a new one down here – this goes against our siddhānta, too.
In reply Lord Brahmā told her about the curse laid on Sudāmā and said that first she has to be married to him, then she will get her Nārāyaṇa. The worst part of that curse, the one I hasn’t mentioned yet, is that Sudāmā was lusting after Tulasī up in the spiritual world and therefore was quite happy to come and join her while living out his curse.
I don’t know what to make of this information. We know that gopīs are married women and they run away from their husbands to join Kṛṣṇa but it’s quite a stretch to suggest that these husbands also happen to be Kṛṣṇa’s friends. It’s just not cool, bros before hos and all that. What is suggested here, however, is that Kṛṣṇa’s best friend was lusting after Kṛṣṇa’s girl. For me, that just doesn’t compute. And he wasn’t just a friend, he was a trusted friend who used to cover up for Kṛṣṇa’s other “indiscretions”. What kind of joint are they running up there? It looks only one step away from gangbangs.
Devī Bhāgavata has absolutely no problems with this. It glorifies sexuality and that description of Tulasī tapasyās was the only good thing about her there. Otherwise her life was meant just for sex, from the very birth, as a new born baby, she was an embodiment of femininity. After she was done with her austerities and got her looks back she was struck by Cupid and was practically in heat, if translated into modern language. She had sexual dreams and everything.
That’s when Sudāmā, now known as Śankhacūda, appeared on the scene. All he asked her was her name and who were her parents, it took him just one śloka. In response Tulasī delivered a twenty verse tirade covering all aspects for female sexuality, including preying on men and mentions of faeces and menstrual excretions. Again, translated into modern language Śankhacūda must have thought “Bitch be crazy” and looked for a way out but these two were destined to be married and so they did, buy “Gandharva rites”, which means no rites at all. Even in Vegas people get official papers but Gandharva marriage has nothing, not even parents need to be informed, just mutual consent, and so they had sex right there an then.
Thankfully, the intercourse itself is not described in the book but the foreplay is covered very well, in graphic details. I just can’t bring myself to take that seriously. Here’s what I really think.
Devī Bhāgavata is a book for śaktas and a big part of their worship revolves around sex. Whatever had really happened to Tulasī and Sudāmā, śaktas need to see it through the prism of sexual expressions. The difference between gender relations in the spiritual and material worlds does not exist for them, it’s the same sex described in the same language, and it’s all sacred, the more of it the better. Rules, regulations, or talks about dharma exist only to enhance sexual experiences, there’s no other goal either in this life or the next (back in Goloka for these two).
As devotees we can clean up the story and explain it differently, and that’s how we usually present it. Sudāmā, for example is mentioned as partial expansion of Kṛṣṇa so his desire to enjoy Tulasī is fully legitimate. Likewise, Tulasī’s attraction to him also doesn’t contradict her passion for Nārāyaṇa. We can also say that because both of them were able to remember their previous lives and because they came straight from Goloka there was no need to them to follow any rules, nor did they forget their positions as Kṛṣṇa’s servants. We can also dismiss colorful language of Devī Bhāgavata as a tribute to its listeners, but should we?
Assuming the underlying facts are true, how do we know where facts end and interpolations start? How do we know what was added? It’s a fool’s errand, imo, we shouldn’t touch the whole thing with a ten feet pole.
Why did I title this post as “cross pollination”? Because possible arguments in favor of this Devī Bhāgavata presentation, as well as its general tone itself, are strikingly similar to presentations by our prākṛta sahajiyas. There’s no place for Victorian attitudes in Kṛṣṇa līlā, they’d say. We have authorized books appreciated by Lord Caitanya Himself that are even more explicit. My vulgarity here is mine only, people’s visions of material sex are people’s only, while the language and descriptions are genuine. I just don’t have the adhikāra but if I did I would appreciate these stories for their pure spiritual content. This is what the spiritual world is really like.
What I suspect is that Devī Bhgāvata and sahajiya tendencies have risen at the same time – post Lord Caitanya, post Six Gosvamīs, and Bengal was a fertile ground for both. By the middle of 19th century it was completely overrun by śaktas and sahajiyas. I don’t have any proof but I think it’s reasonable to suspect that our sahajiyas, in their embrace of mundane expressions of spiritual sexual relations, were influenced by śaktas. I’ve also first heard this story from someone with unusual interest in discussing private Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes just as they do in certain GM or bābājī circles.
I’ll leave the end of the Tulasī story for another day, it’s actually pretty cool, far better than the beginning and the middle.