Radha-Krishna and Hindu heritage

Maynamati - excavationThe Hindu festivals are more than what they appear to be. They are essentially a way of living and thinking in the course of existence, and as such an integrated bearing on the individual and society. Like the deities of the Hindu pantheon, the festivals are numerous and frequent, but basically religious, and psychologically and intimately connected with the change of seasons, though many of them have lost the history of their origin in the mists of hoary past. With the passage of time they have undergone a process of transformation and evolution and many new festivals have been grafted upon the old ones.

The Hindu festivals, fasts, rituals, holy baths and the observance of sacred days are part and parcel of the great cultural heritage of Indian civilisation. They are religious and social and a great source of spiritual and moral enrichment. They also lend zest, variety, colour and grandeur to an otherwise insipid, routine and care-worn day-to-day human existence. A Hindu festival is generally characterised by rituals like fasting, ablution, prayer, worship, austerity, vigil, vows, offerings and such other activities of piety and devotion. A Hindu festival is, in fact, something more than a 'festival'. It is cathartic in nature, and as a means of purification strengthens the spirit within. The goal is to find enjoyment through renunciation and self-denial. It is more an exploration of the colourful things of life, without being bound to or obsessed by them.

The Hindu culture and tradition does not derive from any one founder. It has neither a uniform creed nor any organised church. Its history and prehistory seem ageless. There is a single 'reality', but it has many forms and names in relation to its multifarious functions, attributes, aspects and the fulfilment sought from it by the seeker. The same 'reality' becomes' Brahma in its creative aspect, Vishnu in preservation, Shiva in dissolution, Laxmi or Sri in benignity, Kali or Durga in fierce female energy and so on. What Lord Krishna says through the Gita is the very same thing -- 'I am the ritual, I am the sacrifice, the oblation, and the herb. I am the prayer and melted butter, the fire and its offering-- even those who are devotees of other gods if they worship with faith, are sacrificing to me alone, though not adhering to the rule.' Hinduism encompasses an entire civilisation and way of life that has evolved since the dawn of human civilisation. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata play an important role in the development and practice of Hinduism. These, the ancient holy scriptures of the world, uphold the eternal truth of the eternal existence of the supreme Lord. 'Owing to the eternal will to communicate God descends on earth to reunite His joyful self with His created beings.' Essentially God manifests Himself in human form to crush and annihilate worldly vices and revive eternal values. Lord Krishna has bound Himself to man and in that consists the greatest glory of human existence. He came down with His full divine manifestations and raised human civilisation to a celestial plane.

Thus came Sri Gauranga and brought a heavenly unification of mankind irrespective of caste creed and races. The Bhakti movement of that time, espousing whole hearted devotion to God in one aspect or another, opened up what was previously esoteric knowledge and practice for large numbers of people. Means were made available for everyone to realise God, with no conflict between knowledge and practice.

There are a number of ways to achieve salvation and spiritual evolution. The Upanishads advocate the path of knowledge and wisdom. Bhakti or devotion is another path, which is far more easy, smooth and open to the masses. In Bhakti the worldly life is not considered an obstacle. Bhakti is based on and inspired by both love and reverence towards the object of devotion -- God. A devotee craves for the divine grace and in order to attain it, indulges in worship, prayer, chanting His names, praising His glory, fasting, and many such ritual observances. The Bhakta maintains a passionate relation with the godhead, whom he considers the sole immanent reality. For him he is father, mother, brother, friend, beloved, family, refuge, teacher, master, -- an omnipotent confidant. Sri Krishna focused on the unity of religions. His Gita is a deep reservoir of knowledge.

There is also a wide range of spiritual disciplines and practice, such as: Karma-yoga, Bhakti-yoga, Raja-yoga and Tantra. These disciplines are significant to Hindus as well as beneficial to all of humanity. The meanings and intention of the Gita have historically found elaboration and explication in the smritis, the two great epics and various major and minor Puranas. Sri Krishna attracts all beings towards Himself so that they may realise the depth of His infinite mercy and love. He maintains an existence of concrete bliss: The entity of the creatures of the cosmos is part and percel of the Lord. There is a chronological order in the manifestation of the supreme being.

Radha and Krishna

radah and krishnaThe relationship of Radha and Krishna is the embodiment of love, passion and devotion. Radha's passion for Krishna symbolizes the soul's intense longing and willingness for the ultimate unification with God. Shri Krishna is the soul of Radha and Radha is definitely the soul of Shri Krishna. She is the undivided form of Shri Krishna. She will remain a mystery unless one can know her inexpressible divine elements. She is worshipper as well as his deity to be worshipped. She being a beloved of Shri Krishna is known as "Radhika".

Shri Krishna is not only the ultimate object of all love, but also is the topmost enjoyer of all loving relationships. Therefore, in the dynamic and expanding form of Krishna, He has unlimited desires to enjoy spiritual loving relationships or pastimes, known as leela. To do this, He expands Himself into the dual form of Krishna and Radha, His eternal consort and topmost devotee. In other words, Radha is the feminine aspect of Lord Krishna and is non-different from Krishna, but together (both the masculine and feminine aspects). They fulfill the purpose of engaging in sublime loving pastimes to exhibit supremely transcendental loving exchanges.

The lotus-eyed, dark skinned Krishna is the complete and perfect man of Indian mythological traditions. That makes Krishna a major non-Aryan God in the Hindu pantheon. He was the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver of Universe. He took the human form to redeem mankind from evil forces. Krishna was physically irresistibly appealing. Ancient texts dwell at length on his exceptionally alluring countenance: a blue complexion soft like the monsoon cloud, shining locks of black hair framing a beautifully chiseled face, large lotus like eyes, wild -flower garlands around his neck, a yellow garment (pitambara) draped around his body, a crown of peacock feathers on his head, and a smile playing on his lips, it is in this manner that he is faithfully represented since the ancient times to the modern.

Radha is recognized as the loveliest of all the cowgirls. She was the wife of Ayana and the daughter of the cowherd Vrishabhanu and his wife, Kamalavati. Radha was the mistress of Krishna during that period of his life when he lived among the cowherds of Vrindavan. Since childhood they were close to each other - they played, they danced, they fought, they grew up together and wanted to be together forever, but the world pulled them apart.

He departed to safeguard the virtues of truth, and she waited for Him. He vanquished His enemies, became the king, and came to be worshipped as a Lord of the universe. She waited for Him. He married Rukmini and Satyabhama, raised a family, fought the great war of Kurukshetra, and she still waited for Him.

Krishna enjoyed the dance of love (rasa-lila) with the gopis many of whom are expansions of His own internal energies. The supreme gopi known as Srimati Radharani is the object of Krishna's highest devotion. This beautiful dance would occur in the autumn season at night under a full moon when Lord Krsna would captivate the young gopis with the extraordinary music of His flute . These esoteric pastimes constitute the most confidential expression of divinity ever revealed

radha-krisnaSo great was Radha's love for Krishna that even today her name is uttered whenever Krishna is referred to, and Krishna worship is thought to be incomplete without the deification of Radha. Radha's utterly rapturous love for Krishna and their relationship is often interpreted as the quest for union with the divine. This kind of love is of the highest form of devotion, and is symbolically represented as the bond between the wife and husband or beloved and lover.

The intimate and playful themes that run through Krishna's love for Radha and the festival nature of his dalliance with the gopis portray a vision of the divine that is approachable, warm, irresistible, blissful, and intoxicating. Krishna moves in a realm of love and lovemaking that invites (indeed demands) a total, impassioned response. All those who enter this realm are freed from bondage to the ordinary and customary, freed to behave imaginatively and spontaneously. The erotic aspect of this other world is not degrading but life-affirming. Erotic dalliance shuns the world of taboos and lived for the moment. It is an ovation to all that is vigorous and full of joy.

The young god Krishna is an unrepentant reveller stirring all those who join with him to uncontrollable frenzy. In the world of the great lover Krishna, the gopis, as representatives of the human, expand themselves; they plumb depths and reach heights of emotion that are impossible within the humdrum world of habitual action. They leave behind the ordinary and participate in the extraordinary. Under the influence of the intoxicating and intoxicated god they lose their inhibitions and revel in playful freedom.

Radha is the soul; Krishna is the God. Krishna is the shaktiman - possessor of energy - and Radha is His shakti - energy. She is the female counterpart of the Godhead. She is the personification of the highest love of God, and by her mercy the soul is connected with the service and love of Krishna.

Radha is married or involved with someone else, and still cannot resist Krishna's musical call. In being with Him she risks social censure, alienation and humiliation. Riddled with shame and inappropriateness, this is hardly a relationship that purportedly embodies the highest union of pure love. Music becomes the voice of their illicit love which is too passionate, and secretive. Krishna is the cosmic musician who woos the gopi's (cowherd girls) with his tunes.

Krishna's flute sounds so powerful that they embodied the energy of the cosmos. His beauty, charm and musical skill impassion women everywhere; at the sound of his flute playing, the gopis "jump up in the middle of putting on her makeup, abandon her family while eating a meal, leave food to burn on the stove, and run out of her home to be with Krishna". In the embrace of Krishna, the gopis, maddened with desire, found refuge; in their love dalliance with him who was the master in all the sixty-four arts of love, the gopis felt a thrill indescribable; and in making love with him in that climatic moment of release, in that one binding moment, they felt that joy and fulfillment which could not but be an aspect of the divine.

In the embrace of Krishna, Radha, maddened with desire, found refuge; in her love dalliance with him who was the master in all the sixty-four arts of love, she felt a thrill indescribable; and in making love with him in that climatic moment of release, in that one binding moment, she felt that joy and fulfilment which could not but be an aspect of the divine. Through her experience, thus, the erotic the carnal and the profane became but an aspect of the sublime, the spiritual and the divine. This cumulative myth sustained one basic point: for women, Krishna was a personal god, always accessible and unfailingly responsive. He was a god specially made for women. In the popular psyche, Krishna and Radha became the universal symbol for the lover and the beloved. Krishna was the ideal hero, and Radha the ideal heroine.

The essence of beauty springs
from the eternal play
of man as Krishna
and woman as Radha.
Devoted lovers
in the act of loving
seek to reach
the goal.
(Chandidasa, 15th century)

Real love exists between Radha and Krishna. Real love is transcendental and spiritual. We have to become attracted to spiritual love and give up false love and beauty, which are only skin-deep. There is nothing beautiful underneath the skin. Krishna consciousness means to be serious and determined to transcend the material attraction between man and woman in order to become attracted to the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna. Srila Prabhupada said, "The sum and substance of material life is attraction for woman. And the sum and substance of spiritual life is attraction for Radha-Krishna".

In the embrace of Krishna, Radha, We know that festivals, ceremonies and rituals are integrating and uniting force in the Hindu tradition. Pilgrimages and temples play the same role. There is a huge literature of stories, mythologies and legends that affect the imaginative man. There is also integration at the conceptual level. At this level, many systems of philosophy are developed. The classical philosophies like Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta come under this category. Again, there is no conflict over holding the single, universal truth, rather each system is recognised and respected by the other.

All gods and goddesses are translations of Brahma. Krishna is the most perfect as such of pure Brahma in the human experience. We can talk about Krishna, meditate on Krishna, love Krishna and dedicate our lives to Him. In this universe nothing parallels Krishna. We living beings possess a mortal body and immortal soul, but His body and soul are both immortal. His Gita attempts to bring about a synthesis of existence. This book has attracted the interest of the philosopher as much as have the aphorisms of the Vedanta. Almost all of the great Vedantists have some commentary on this little book of seven hundred stanzas. Apart from the Vedanta philosophy, there exists other systems of thought as said earlier. These systems of thought are not in any sense in serious disagreement with the Vedanta. An attempt has been made to bring about a synthesis of all systems of thought by the Puranas. They are semi-philosophical works, eighteen of them, attributed by tradition to one person, Vyasa. The most outstanding of these Puranas is the Srimad Bhagavada which itself is considered as commentary of the Vedanta. In this book have been fused all the great system of Hindu philosophic thought with wonderful genius and skill (Prem Ranjan Dev. September 6, 2004).

Sri Krishna's Bhagavad-Gita

The Bhagavad-gita is the famous philosophical discourse that took place between Lord Krishna and the warrior Arjuna, just before the onset of the great Bharata War (c. 3138 BC). Although widely published and read by itself, the Bhagavad-gita originally appears as an episode in the Sixth Book of the Mahabharata (Bhismaparvan, 23-40). (See Mahabharata Home Page ) In this treatise of 700 verses, Lord Krishna systematically surveys the major Vedic dharmas and shows how each directs a person toward the ultimate conclusion, the "most confidential of all knowledge." He analyzes the performance of sacrifices and the worship of demigods; He discusses the yogas of work, meditation, and knowledge

In each case, Krishna shows how it leads to the "most secrets of all secrets, " pure loving devotional service to God. "Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer you homage unto Me." This, Krishna says is "the most confidential part of knowledge." The Bhagavad-gita is universally renowned as the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom. Spoken by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead to His intimate disciple Arjuna, the Gita's seven hundred concise verses provide a definitive guide to the science of self realization

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