Who is that Girl with Krishna?
some notes on understanding Radha, the feminine aspect of the Absolute Truth
by Jayadvaita Swami
When people see a picture like the one you see here, they often ask, "Who is that girl with Krishna?" The answer is that She is Srimati Radharani, Krishna's pleasure potency. The devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement humbly try to glorify Srimati Radharani because by her mercy one can advance wonderfully in Krishna consciousness.
What is the Pleasure Potency
Everyone naturally wants to enjoy, yet no one is fully independent in finding enjoyment. To satisfy our desires, we need the association of others. We use the expression "to enjoy oneself," but we enjoy ourselves most in good company. Indeed, most people would find prolonged solitude practically unbearable.
Krishna, however, the Supreme Lord, being the source of everything, is fully independent. He is independent in His existence, His knowledge and His pleasure, for everything rests upon Him, as pearls are strung on a thread.
Krishna, therefore, needs no one. Since in one sense He is everything, no one exists outside of Him. Consequently, when Krishna wants to enjoy, He expands the potency or energy within Himself that gives him enjoyment. This potency is a person. Her name is Srimati Radharani.
Radharani is not a different person from Krishna, or, rather, she is both one with and different from Him. How could two people be one person or one person be two? A simple example will illustrate how this is so. The sun cannot exist without the sunshine, nor the sunshine without the sun. We say, "the sun is in my room"—even though the sun itself is ninety-three million miles away—because the sun appears in the form of its energy. Therefore the energy (the sunshine) and the energetic (the sun) are simultaneously one and different. Similarly, Radha and Krishna are simultaneously one and different. Krishna, the self-effulgent Lord, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Srimati Radharani is His supreme pleasure energy. Together They constitute the complete Absolute Truth.
Who Can Understand All This
One cannot understand anything about Radha and Krishna through mental speculation. Krishna and His potencies are achintya, inconceivable, and ananta, unlimited. He is the very source of the mind itself, and therefore He is beyond the mind. The limited mind cannot understand the unlimited Personality of Godhead. The Vedic literature explains this very logically: "that which is transcendental to material nature is inconceivable, whereas speculative arguments are all mundane. Since mundane arguments cannot touch transcendental subject matters, one should not try to understand transcendental subjects through mundane arguments."
When ordinary mundane intellectuals try to explain or interpret the identity or pastimes of Radha and Krishna, Krishna's unlimited nature bewilders them, and therefore they misconstrue everything. Thus they sometimes consider Radha and Krishna to be like an ordinary boy and girl of the material world. But although they often pose as scholars, they do not know what they are talking about. One should therefore strictly avoid the confused mundane ideas of such blundering intellectuals. If one wishes to understand Radha and Krishna, one must understand Them by hearing submissively from a bona fide authority
The original authority on Krishna is Krishna Himself. Everyone is first an authority regarding his own self, and this is also true regarding Krishna. Moreover, since Krishna is unlimited, no one else can understand Him fully. Krishna's disciple Arjuna confirms this as follows in Bhagavad-gita:
vettha tvam purusottama
deva-deva jagat pate
"Indeed, You alone know Yourself by Your own potencies, O origin of all, Lord of all beings, God of gods, O Supreme Person, Lord of the universe!" (Bhagavad-gita, 10.15)
Although Krishna is inconceivable to mental speculation, those to whom He reveals Himself can understand Him. Krishna first gave such transcendental knowledge to Brahma, the first created living being. Brahma later transmitted this knowledge to his son Narada, who transmitted it to Vyasa, the author of Bhagavad-gita. In this way, the knowledge has descended from master to disciple, through a chain of the Bhakti tradition, even down to the present day. A spiritual master in this disciplic line is a bona fide authority regarding Krishna. He is the proper person from whom to receive transcendental knowledge.
What Gives Krishna Pleasure
According to such spiritual authorities, Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and therefore He is all-attractive. Yet Krishna Himself derives pleasure from the service rendered by His devotees. Such devotional service attracts even Him. Krishna Himself, while speaking to a friend, confirms his as follows in Srimad Bhagavatam: "My dear Uddhava, you may know from Me that the attraction I feel for devotional service rendered by My devotees is not to be equaled even if one performs mystic yoga, philosophical speculation or ritualistic sacrifices, studies Vedanta, practices severe austerities or gives up everything in charity. These are, of course, very nice activities, but they are not as attractive to Me as the transcendental loving service rendered by My devotees." (Bhag. 11.12.1)
Krishna is full in six opulences: beauty, wealth, fame, strength, knowledge, and renunciation. No amount of material opulence, therefore, can attract Him. Just as one could not attract a millionaire by offering him a few dollars, one cannot attract Krishna merely by one's limited material opulence. Nevertheless, pure devotional service attracts even Krishna. This is the unique transcendental excellence of devotional service.
Srimati Radharani is the embodiment of pure devotional service. No one can be a greater devotee than She. The very name Radharani comes from the Sanskrit word aradhana, which means "worship." Her name is Radharani because She excels all in worshiping Krishna. Although Krishna is so beautiful that He can attract millions of Cupids and is therefore called Madana-mohana, "the attractor of Cupid," Radharani can attract even Krishna. She is therefore called Madana-mohana-mohini—"the attractor of the attractor of Cupid."
The same Krishna who is not attracted by any amount of material opulence finds Srimati Radharani irresistible. One time Krishna, to joke with the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrndavana, was hiding Himself beneath a bush, but finally they spotted Him from a distance. Krishna then changed Himself into His four-armed form of Narayana. When the gopis approached and found Narayana instead of Krishna, they were not very interested in Him; only Krishna's original two-armed form attracted them. They therefore offered their respectful obeisances unto Lord Narayana and prayed that He would bestow upon them the benediction of Krishna's eternal association. Then they went on searching for Krishna. When Srimati Radharani passed by, however, Krishna tried to maintain His disguise as Narayana but was unable to do so; he kept slipping back into His original two-armed form. This illustrates the great influence of Srimati Radharani's pure transcendental love.
Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita that as one surrenders unto Him, He reciprocates accordingly. Therefore the more Radharani tries to please Krishna, the more he desires to please Her, thus in turn increasing Her enthusiasm to increase His pleasure. Therefore although the Lord is unlimited, both He Himself and His pleasure potency are always increasing. The all-blissful reciprocation between the Lord and His pleasure potency is expressed in the transcendental pastimes of Radha and Krishna, which are described in detail in Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Love or Lust—What's the Difference
The reciprocation of love between Radha and Krishna is the essence of spiritual love. Because Krishna is the origin of everything, He is the origin of love also. The attraction between boys and girls in the material world is a perverted reflection of the purely spiritual relationship between Radha and Krishna. One who thinks he can be happy through material sexual enjoyment cannot understand the relationship between Radha and Krishna; and, conversely, if one hears about Radha and Krishna from a bona fide spiritual master, his material sexual desires evaporate.
In the material world, although one may profess true love, inwardly one's real desire is to enjoy his own senses. We love someone as long as he or she satisfies our senses, and when such sensual pleasure dwindles, the so-called love dwindles with it. Thus the love affair ends in separation or divorce. But pure devotees of Krishna on the spiritual platform have no desires to please themselves. They desire only to please Lord Krishna. This is true unalloyed love.
What we speak of as "love" in the material world is actually lust, or a desire to serve oneself. It has no permanent basis; today I love one girl, tomorrow another, according to my changing fancy. Indeed, although a boy and girl may change sexual partners as often as dogs and cats do, in our modern idiom we refer to their sexual intercourse as "lovemaking," as through the gross friction of two hot bodies could generate love. We speak of love so easily, but really in this material world there is no love—it is all lust. The difference between love and lust is like the difference between gold and iron. Both gold and iron are metals, but otherwise they are not at all alike.
The conditioned souls in the material world are generally misdirected and frustrated in love because they try to get pleasure by satisfying their material bodily senses. They do not know that they are different from their bodies. The body is always changing—from childhood, to youth, to old age—but the same person is always present in each body. He identifies himself as an American or Englishman, a Jew or a Christian, a boy or a girl, according to his body, but that body is not himself. Therefore no matter how diligently he tries to be happy by gratifying his bodily demands, he is never successful. Just as one cannot satisfy a bird by cleaning its cage and not feeding the bird itself, one cannot satisfy his physical senses. Besides that, the more one tries to satisfy the senses, the more they demand. Indulgence cannot satisfy the senses, any more than gasoline can extinguish a fire. Trying to smother one's anxieties with the gasoline of sense gratification will only ignite an explosion. Therefore, by trying to satisfy his material desires for sensual enjoyment the poor conditioned soul merely increases his desire, but not his satisfaction. He becomes a servant of the senses, working hard to fulfill hankerings that can never be fulfilled. To find real pleasure, one must find real love—and for this one must love Krishna. To be truly happy, one must engage in His devotional service.
Such devotional service is under the control of Srimati Radharani. She is the presiding Deity of devotional service. Because She is very merciful, devotees especially take advantage of Her merciful nature to attain the service of Krishna. Indeed, although engagement is pure devotional service is rarely achieved, one can achieve it very easily by the grace of Srimati Radharani.
Bhagavad-gita confirms that those who are truly mahatmas, great souls, take shelter of Krishna's daivi prakrti, or spiritual energy—Srimati Radharani. "Always chanting My glories," Lord Krishna declares, "endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion." (Bg. 9.14) This devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is fully spiritual because it is directly under the control of Krishna's spiritual energy—Srimati Radharani.
To perform devotional service, one should follow in the footsteps of Srimati Radharani by performing pure devotional service to Krishna, without any concern for material profit. But one should not worship Krishna alone. Krishna is not complete without Srimati Radharani, as the sun is not complete without the sunshine. One should therefore worship both Radha and Krishna, for together They are the complete Absolute Truth.
Actually, worshiping Radharani is better than worshiping Krishna. More precisely, one can best worship Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through Srimati Radharani, His supreme pleasure energy. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." (Bg. 9.26) But rather than offer a flower directly to Krishna, better to offer the flower to Srimati Radharani, requesting, "My dear Radharani, please recommend me to Your Krishna." Krishna is the supreme controller, yet he is controlled by the pure devotion of Srimati Radharani. Krishna is therefore also known as the "property of Radharani." If one can please Radharani, therefore, one can very easily please Lord Krishna.
Srimati Radharani has the vision of a most highly elevated devotee. Thus She sees everyone equally. If anyone approaches her to serve Krishna, even if he is the most fallen, She immediately bestows Her mercy upon him by recommending to Krishna, "Oh, Krishna, here is a devotee. He is better than Me." Because Srimati Radharani is always absorbed in thought of Krishna, She is very dear to Krishna. Therefore if one tries in this way to reach Krishna through Radharani, he will surely be successful.
How Can We Learn To Serve Radha and Krishna
To be able to serve Radha and Krishna, one must first approach a bona fide spiritual master. Krishna has two energies—material and spiritual. The spiritual energy is full of eternal bliss and knowledge, whereas the material energy causes ignorance, misery and death. Although we are all originally spiritual, unfortunately we are now engrossed in the material energy. Because of illusion, however, we do not remember our real position, nor do we know how to return to the spiritual world. Therefore Krishna personally descends to this material world to attract us by exhibiting His transcendental pastimes and by speaking the message of Bhagavad-gita for our enlightenment. But Krishna returned to His abode 5,000 years ago. Does this mean we can no longer approach Him? No. In His absence, we may approach him through His representative, the spiritual master.
The spiritual master is the mercy incarnation of God. Because Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, approaching Him is difficult. But he is also most compassionate, and out of his compassion He empowers His pure devotees to bring back home, back to Godhead, the fallen souls who have forgotten Him.
Srimati Radharani, the tenderhearted female counterpart of Lord Krishna, represents His compassionate nature. Therefore he spiritual master, who compassionately appears in the material world for the sake of the fallen souls, is considered a representative of Srimati Radharani. By the mercy of the spiritual master, one can obtain the mercy of Krishna. There is no alternative means for success. Without the mercy of the spiritual master, one cannot make any progress in devotional service. This is the opinion of all bona fide authorities on devotional life.
The spiritual master trains his disciples in such a way that they can become free from bondage to material consciousness, engage in devotional service, and thus gradually develop pure love of Godhead. The spiritual master has the responsibility of scientifically engaging each disciple in a practical manner. Among the many different paths for the attainment of spiritual realization, one needs the expert guidance of a bona fide spiritual master to understand which path to follow to make actual progress toward the supreme goal.
In our modern age, the most recommended process for perfection is to chant the Hare Krishna mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krishna and Rama are names of the Lord, and Hare addresses Hara, the pleasure potency of the Lord—Srimati Radharani. As living spiritual souls, we are originally spiritual energy, but somehow or other we have now fallen into this material world of birth and death. But when we come under the shelter of the supreme spiritual energy, Srimati Radharani, we come to our happy, normal position.
Radharani is the potency who gives transcendental pleasure to Krishna. When the mercy of that potency is bestowed upon a living entity, he develops love of Godhead and thus attains the highest pleasure—and he can also distribute that pleasure—and he can also distribute that pleasure to others. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has introduced this process of chanting to the Western countries and is spreading it all over the world. "The chanting," he says, "is exactly like the cry of a child for its mother's presence. Mother Hara [Srimati Radharani] helps the devotee achieve the Lord Father's grace, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants this mantra sincerely."