Today the entire Gauḍiyā world celebrates the appearance day of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Unfortunately, I’m not in the mood to “wax lyrical” about it, which means I don’t feel cleansed enough to discuss Her personality directly. Or I could use Śukadeva’s excuse and say that I won’t talk about Her because it would bring forward too much ecstasy and it shouldn’t be done in public. It’s a great excuse to use (rhyme!) because not only it makes one feel spiritually advanced but also denigrates the audience as not being qualified to hear about Śrī Rādhika.
Of course the audience will always take affront at being called unworthy of discussion, especially on a day like this, but, tbh, none of us is qualified and it’s perfectly okay for us not to wade into Her world in our current condition. Spiritually, we are like plumbers who just finished a five hour fight with a massive sewage leak. Neither the smell, nor the sight, nor our vocabulary fit for the occasion.
Just the other day I listened to what was labeled “Rādhā kathā” but most of the talk, like 90% of it, was about material attachments and controlling the mind, the ABC stuff. I also remembered how Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī took his disciples on the very first Vṛndāvana Parikramā and they were all filled with anticipation of nectarian pastimes. Instead, sitting on the bank of Rādha-kuṇḍa, he lectured exclusively on upaniṣads and haven’t mentioned līlā even once. When local bābājīs passed an unfavorable judgement on his level of advancement he paid back by calling them “all kaniṣṭhas”.
In his explanation upaniṣads are all about glorifying Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa but we can’t hear it because of our stunted vision. We see only philosophy in them and not their pure spiritual form. Consequently, we are attracted by “pastimes” because of the mundane meanings and imagination provoked in our minds, and so if we can’t yet relish the upaniṣads we shouldn’t try to relish the pastimes either. Discourse on foundational philosophy therefore, was a test of his listeners readiness. Some passed, some didn’t.
Another reason he considered local bābājīs as kaniṣṭhas was because they didn’t understand preaching. This is really a simple litmus test in our tradition – preaching is our life and soul, if we don’t get it we are not advanced at all, we are kaniṣṭhas. Madhyamas should preach, it’s their dharma, but it gets a little more complicated with uttamas because they can legitimately engage in nirjana bhajana, a solitary worship, and are not obliged to preach. But even the uttamas, when ther devotion is fully ripened, renounce renunciation and become parivrājaka ācāryas, wandering preachers. This little period of legitimate nirjana, solitude, gives people an excuse to excuse themselves from preaching. Personally, I think they are abusing it, but that’s not something I want to discuss today.
What is the source of this preaching urge? What is the śāstric support for it? What is its philosophical basis?
On this occasion it must be said that we preach because Śrī Rādhika does so, we just follow Her footsteps. We say that preaching originates from Vṛndāvana because Śrī Rādhika wants Kṛṣṇa to experience bliss of relationships with all the suitable gopīs, She is not possessive and jealous in this sense. Whatever makes Kṛṣṇa happy is above Her personal considerations. Finding new people to bring to Kṛṣṇa’s service, therefore, is an essential service.
This is a perfectly good explanation, I’ve even heard how Prahlāda Mahārāja’s compassion towards all living beings and his preaching to his classmates were not really his but a reflection of Śrī Rādhā. That was an argument against looking at non-Vṛndāvana devotees as inferior. They are, in a traditional sense, but they also aren’t because all devotion stems from Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Vṛndāvana and, therefore, it can’t be imperfect or inferior. Śrīla Mādhavendra Purī, for example, is “only” a tree in the spiritual world, and yet he is the one who brought the nectarean rasa into our sampradāya.
So, okay, we can say that preaching originates from Śrī Rādhā, but then I have a question – why do Christians do it, too? Surely, procuring other girls for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment is not on the list of their reasons. They have no clue about spiritual relationships whatsoever, no rasa beyond servitorship. Perhaps a different philosophical basis is needed, but I’m not going to take it away from Śrī Rādhā today.
Whatever reasons they have, they still originate in Her service, She is the patron of all devotees everywhere, even outside of our tradition. Yes, we’d better not mention Her existence to Christians at all, but it doesn’t mean they don’t owe Her anything. Their world might start and end with JC but we know that JC was just a messenger. Not in a sense he heard something something in Kashmir and then rushed back to Palestine to share his new found enthusiasm, but as a genuine messenger from the spiritual world.
We don’t know the true source of his knowledge and his true spiritual form. Whatever it is, however, it could only be an expansion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, no matter how many times removed from Her personally.
Oh, and I just remembered another test we can easily apply to ourselves – do we pray to Kṛṣṇa or to Rādhā? If we still aspire to be Kṛṣṇa’s devotees we are still neophytes. Real devotees in our sampradāya aspire to be devotees of Śrī Rādhā, and traditional Vrndāvana greeting of “Rādhe Rādhe” is not just a quaint custom but a reflection of spiritual reality, too.
Of course we can also cheat and train ourselves to pray to Śrī Rādhā but that won’t make us any more advanced, we shouldn’t cheapen the shelter of Her lotus feet by pretending it’s ready to accept us so we can start praying right away. When the time comes it will come to us naturally, too. In fact, if we catch ourselves on trying to appear more advanced than we really are, it’s another sign of being neophytes.
Why am I fixated on these tests, one might ask. The answer is that these are tests of readiness to discuss Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līlā and whether listening to this kind of kathā would be beneficial to us or not.
Having said that, nothing should stop us from praying for the cooling shelter of Her soft, fragrant lotus feet. And here I’ve already said too much. Enough.