Thousands of devotees from across India and from around the world recently gathered in Vrndavana for Karttika and on the evening of October 11th the appearance of Radha-kunda was celebrated. In the days leading up to October 11th many devotees made their way to Radha-kunda and took a holy dip in the kunda that is considered as non-different from Srimati Radharani. The 11th evening saw the greatest crowds as devotees [especially Vraja-vasi women] bathed in Radha-kunda throughout the night.
The 11th verse of Sri Upadesamrta by Rupa Gosvami states that if one even once bathes in Radha-kunda that one attains love of Krsna. The reasons however for the majority of the Vraja-vasi women bathing in Radha-kunda on that night were not to attain love of Krsna. As one respected Gosvami from Vrndavana told me, “These women are mainly concerned with getting male progeny. Many are not fertile and bathe in Radha-kunda with the hopes of getting the blessings of entering motherhood.” Charming, but not exactly the benediction Rupa Gosvami had in mind when he composed Sri Upadesamrta.
Those seeking motherhood aside, the majority of devotees who come to Radha-kunda for a holy dip indeed desire to attain love of Krsna. The verses of Sri Upadesamrta certainly seem to encourage a bath at Radha-kunda, but a question is in the air regarding who is actually qualified to bathe at Radha-kunda and who isn’t.
In the article that follows, the most revered guardian of devotion, Swami B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami gives his illumination to the 11th verse of Sri Upadesamrta and sincere devotees everywhere will certainly heed Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s words of guidance.
In 21st century contemporary Vaisnavism, there are many opinions about many things and these opinions are not always in harmony with each other. In a world of contradictory opinions we can always find our way by looking to those who stand above the common thinking, who are lighthouses of the conception of pure devotion, who are paramahamsas in the truest sense of the word and whose lives are cent per cent the example to be followed. Srila Sridhara Maharaja is indeed such a beacon and his words are our guiding light.
SRI UPADESAMRTA TEXT 11
krsnasyoccaih pranaya-vasatih preyasibhyo ’pi radha
kundam casya munibhir abhitas tadrg eva vyadhayi
yat presthair apy alam asulabham kim punar bhakti-bhajam
tat premedam sakrd api sarah snatur aviskaroti
It has been established by great sages that amongst all the beloved Vraja-Gopis, Sri Radha is Krsna’s most treasured object of love. Similarly, Her kunda is just as dear to Him. One who bathes even once in the waters of Radha-kunda attains love for Krsna which is extremely difficult to achieve even for great devotees, what to speak of ordinary devotees.
In general it has been urged that if one takes bath in Radha-kunda, one’s devotional qualities can improve. But this must be treated with proper regard and devotion, otherwise an offense will be committed. Our Guru Maharaja advised, “Don’t dive and try to take advantage of a bath. No! Put a drop or two on your head.” He also commented that bathing does not mean to dive into Radha-kunda with this physical body. The soul must take bath there. Physically you are to honor. Many are seen diving deep into the waters of Radha-kunda, sometimes swimming, taking bath etc. But our Guru Maharaja did not allow us to do so. We did as he did – he would take some water and put it on his head, without touching Radha-kunda with his feet. That was his example that we have seen. He did not like anyone diving and taking bath in Radha-kunda. Radha-kunda is not to be considered as a physical utility. Radha-kunda should be revered. Radha-kunda is Radharani in the form of liquid, so great respect should be given to that kunda.
Loving regard is very precious. It is not available anywhere and everywhere. It is not so cheap. It is the highest wealth of our soul that can attract Krsna towards us. It is not so cheap that you will think, “I have got that – I can take bath regardless and then I’ll get so much devotion.” Don’t venture! First try to understand what is raga and when you get raga you can play there, you can play freely. But you must be sure one hundred percent to have the correct attitude concerning the divinity of Radha-Govinda. Otherwise, you will think it is all mundane.
The Sahajiyas think that they already have attained that high plane and they are in a position to swim and play in Radha-kunda. But this destroys the real quality of the thing, and so they are pests to the Gaudiya Vaisnava society. It is not so cheap. Therefore the external practice of those higher things has been discouraged by our Guru Maharaja in the strongest terms. Raga-bhakti is far, far above. It is not a very ordinary thing to be sold in the market. We hate those who say that they have raga-bhakti. They are enemies of the sampradaya of Mahaprabhu. Is raga so cheap? There are so many signs of an ordinary man, the scent of the beast is in him, and he has attained raga-bhakti? Only to destroy them, the Gaudiya Matha has come – to destroy those imitators of raga-bhakti.
Some of Svami Maharaja’s disciples have gone to that camp. They think they will easily attain that which is the highest attainment of the whole theological world. These misguided souls have gone against their guru as well as the vehement opposition of our Guru Maharaja, who gave a warning against such adulteration – love for God is not so cheap! Mahaprabhu Himself says:
na prema-gandho’sti darapi me harau
krandami saubhagya-bharam prakasitum
bibharmi yat prana-patangakan vrtha
I have not the slightest tinge of divine love within my heart. When you see me crying in separation, I am only making a false show of devotion. The proof that I have no love for Krsna is the fact that while not seeing his beautiful face as He plays His flute I continue to maintain my insect-like existence. (Cc. Madhya 2.45)
Na prema gandho’sti – what to speak of prema proper, I do not even have an infinitesimal scent of real devotion. I can’t trace even the remotest scent of divine love in me. There is not a drop of real raganuga-bhakti within me – that is an infinite ocean. My attempt is a sham – it is all artificial. Mahaprabhu is blaming Himself in such a way. But from the background raganuga-bhakti is completely filling Him up and capturing Him wholesale.
We must not be overconfident of our previous acquisition – “I have acquired so much. I have made so much progress.” I must not be satisfied with a certificate of my own making. Mahaprabhu Himself says, “I am taking the Holy Name and I am showing so many tears in the Holy Name of Krsna. Why? It is all a false show. My crying is only a show to canvas others to see what a great devotee I am.” We must have so much confidence in ourselves to think that we have become a devotee. In this way we must be very, very careful.
Kotisv api mahamune – Krsna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami and Narottama Dasa Thakura were thinking, “The whole world is absolved from sin, but I am neglected, I am left as the only exception. I am so low and ill fated that I am rejected from that most benevolent infinite lila. I alone am rejected. I could not utilize this great fortunate wave.” This should be the real tendency of a genuine Vaisnava who has actually come in relation with the Infinite. Whenever the finite comes in touch with the Infinite his temperament cannot be otherwise. Our temperament should be that, “I am empty; I did not get anything. I feel emptiness within me. I can’t get the goal. My life is frustrated. Neither do I get a drop of grace from the Lord nor the world that I have left. I have no alternative, O Lord. If You don’t accept me then I am undone. Please, just make me the servant of the servant of the servant. Give me the remotest connection to You. Don’t leave me, my Lord. I can’t tolerate this craving for You.”
This heart-felt, heart-rending prayer must come from the Vaisnava devotee of the Lord. Any charm for the outside world is fully eliminated for that person, from the core of his heart and in the near future his heart will be filled with the nectar of the grace of Krsna.
Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda are the representation of two forms – the Predominating Moiety and the Predominated Moiety. And although they are two, there is a channel underground which shows that they are actually both one unit. They are apparently two, but actually one. When the Predominating Moiety and the Predominated Moiety become one; that becomes Mahaprabhu Sri Caitanyadeva. In Vrndavana They are divided into two but there is a connecting link. Svarupa-damodara has given us this sloka:
radha-krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini-saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam
The love of Radha-Krsna is the divine manifestation of the hladini-sakti. Though originally one, They have become separated eternally. They have again become one as Sri Caitanya. I offer my respects unto that Lord, who is Krsna Himself, with the sentiment and complexion of Radharani. (Cc. Adi 1.5)
Who is Mahaprabhu? Just as Radharani had Her most intimate friend Lalita, who knew the real heart of Radharani – so here, Lalita’s avatara was Svarupa-damodara and He fully knew who Mahaprabhu was. He has given this ontological acquaintance of Mahaprabhu. We cannot say whether winter is first, or summer, or rainy season, or autumn – they are moving in a cyclic order. Similarly the lila of Krsna and Mahaprabhu is eternal. In Kali-yuga He is coming as Mahaprabhu Sri Caitanyadeva, and in Dvapara-yuga, He is coming as Krsna – but time is an eternal factor in nitya-lila. Generally we consider that Satya-yuga is first, then Treta-yuga, then Dvapara-yuga, then Kali-yuga. Again, after Kali-yuga comes Satya-yuga, Treta, Dvapara and Kali – in a cyclic order. So whether Mahaprabhu is first or Krsna is first is unquestionable. It is revolving in a cyclic order.
In this verse, Svarupa-damodara says that first Radha-Govinda are combined, and we see that in Dvapara-yuga They are separate for their lila. In ancient times, they divided Themselves for the purpose of lila. But they are one – ekatmanam. Sometimes They are combined for lila, and sometimes They are separate for lila. The Whole was one combined as Mahaprabhu and later we find the Whole is separated in vrndavana-lila as Radha-Govinda. Both vrndavana-lila, and navadvipa-lila are eternal. In the highest eternal ontological quarter we find lila of both types. In one compound there is Vrndavana where we find that Radha-Govinda are having Their pastimes and They are separate there. In gaura-lila we find Radha-Govinda combined and both of Them try to distribute Themselves to others. What was previously confined to Their own circle, in gaura-lila we find that that rasa is being distributed to others. Audarya and madhurya – two specific characteristics of two lilas and two avataris. Both of them are avatari, the source of all avataras. It is the highest conception of the ontological aspect of the Absolute, but in two phases. In one They are tasting Their own sweetness in Their own lila, and in another place They are trying to distribute that sweetness to the other souls. This is the difference.
Radha-bhava-dyuti suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam – the close embrace of the potency and the owner of the potency. The predominating and the predominated tendency is mixed, but an extraordinary ecstatic feeling is there. Krsna is overpowered by the potency, and He Himself is searching after something – krsnasya atmanusandhana. This is the influence of Radharani over Krsna; Krsna is transformed into a devotee and He is searching for Himself. Sweetness is tasting itself and becoming mad and that sweetness is living, not dead. It is endowed with life.
Mahaprabhu is the ultimate source. What is the proof? Atma-trpti – He is tasting His own happiness, ecstasy, beauty and is dancing in madness. Through kirtana He is distributing that ecstasy to others. He is tasting Himself and that makes Him dance. The Absolute must have this symptom.
prema-dhama-devam-eva naumi gaura-sundaram
He is the source of self-evident perfect bliss that is full of natural loving pastimes. His dancing arises from the intoxication of overflowing spiritual bliss, and His chanting of the Holy Name and fame of the Supreme Lord arises from the attempt to enjoy and distribute that spiritual bliss. These two characteristics are the natural and fundamental substantial symptoms of the perfect absolute principle. Therefore He is asamordhva – no one can equal or surpass Him, for He is the unalloyed Supreme Truth. O sing with joy the unending glories of my golden Lord Gaurasundara the beautiful, the divine abode of pure love. (Sri Prema-dhama Deva Stotra 66)
In my Prema-dhama Deva Stotra I have written that He is the Ultimate Reality. Why? Two things are represented in Him – one is that He is dancing in ecstatic joy, feeling ecstasy within Himself and secondly, He is distributing that to others. This is Gaura. The highest principle of ecstatic energy cannot but be such. He is dancing and that dancing explains that inner propensity of ecstatic joy. Sat-cit-ananda – in ecstatic joy He is dancing. And kirtana means distribution of that joy to the environment; it is assertive. Ecstatic joy is assertive. That is self-assertion and self-distributed. He is distributing ecstatic joy. That we find in Gauranga.
On the highest level of ontological conception there are two phases of lila – one confined within Himself, and another attracting everyone and distributing everything to one and all. To us gaura-lila is more useful because our prospect is there. Through Mahaprabhu only can we have entrance into the other aspect of His lila when He gives it. If we approach Him we are sure to have entrance into that lila.
yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta-punya-rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy akasmad
One who is extremely fortunate may get the mercy of Sri Gauranga. As much as we devote ourselves to the lotus feet of Sri Gauranga, to that extent we will automatically be able to taste the nectarine service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in Vrndavana. The more one engages in the service of Lord Gauranga, the more one finds oneself in Vrndavana, tasting the nectar of the service of Sri Radha. (Caitanya-candramrta 88)
This is a stanza by Prabhodananda Sarasvati. Yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde vindeta bhaktim krta-punya-rasih – those who have great sukrti will invest in Gauranga. Prabhodananda Sarasvati says that you will automatically find that everything has been offered to the divine feet of Radharani. She will accept us in Her confidential service, and give us engagement, “You have good recommendation from Navadvipa. Yes, I will immediately appoint you in this service.” If you invest your money in the Bank of America, it will go there. Similarly, your investment in Navadvipa will automatically take you to Vrndavana. It may be unknown to you how the company has carried you there, but automatically you will find that you are in that rasa. Such an arrangement is there. As much as we are able to connect ourselves with gaura-lila, automatically we find that without any trouble we are already there in krsna-lila in the camp of Radharani. We are blessed. We are carried to the camp of Radharani in Vrndavana.
In 1932, during the month of Karttika, while lecturing at Radha-kunda, Sri Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura made the following comment.
"Those who are still attached to this body and mind can never attain the qualification to bathe in the kunda of our Vrsabhanu-nandini; I say this at all times! But those who are not attached to this body and mind – they are eternally qualified. This body has been produced by our mother and father – one who still deliberates upon this body or deliberates upon the mind cannot bathe in Sri Radha-kunda! Only one who is knowledgeable of his aprakrta body and intrinsic internal nature can bathe there.
"We are fallen souls! These words should always remain in our ears. They will be most beneficial for us life after life. By hearing such words we will be protected from offences."
The above quote was published in numerous books and periodicals of the Gaudiya Math during that period [1932-33].
Further research into the topic of who takes a full body bath at Radha-kunda as opposed to those who simply put a few drops of water on their heads as a reverential bath has revealed that only Sahajiyas, most of ISKCON and a few stray sannyasis with no authority actually take full body bath at Radha-kunda. The vast majority of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, including all of the Gaudiya Matha and most respectable Gosvamis and even some Sahajiyas do not take full body bath at Radha-kunda. YES – even some Sahajiyas say that Radha-kunda is too high and is always to be shown the greatest respect. That being said, where does that leave those who neglect the caution given by Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami and other acaryas.