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Same-Sex Love and Affection in the Spiritual World

I offer my respectful dandavats at the lotus feet of my spiritual master, nitya-lila pravista om visnupada paramahamsa Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, by whose mercy the beautiful pastimes of Lord Krsna and His devotees in Vrndavana have been made available throughout the world. I also offer my respectful dandavats onto all of my siksa gurus, who continue to inspire and enthuse me with their valuable instructions and dedication to the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.

The many varieties of love and affection found in this material world all have their pure, unadulterated counterparts in connection with Krsna in the spiritual world. By giving up all material attachments and simultaneously hearing about the sweet, loving exchanges between Krsna and His pure devotees from a qualified servant of the Lord, aspiring devotees can gradually purify their existence and experience true spiritual affection and desire.

The following selected pastimes from Gaudiya Vaishnava literature display the transcendental moods and activities of those eternally liberated devotees who are situated in pure brotherly or sisterly love and affection. These particular pastimes highlight the intense love that occurs in the spiritual world between members of the same gender—liberated souls whose primary attraction and affection in life is for a member of the same sex—such as the love between Krsna and the cowherd boys, or between Radha and the nitya-sakhi gopis. The focus here is entirely on love and there is no claim or suggestion about the degree of same-sex intimacy involved other than what is described. By reading these transcendental pastimes, anyone can catch a small glimpse of the sweet and amazing love that occurs between Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and Their devotees in the spiritual realm of Vrndavana.

The Natural Propensity to Love

The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy. At the present moment the human society teaches one to love his country or family or his personal self, but there is no information where to repose the loving propensity so that everyone can become happy. That missing point is Krsna, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Krsna and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. xv)

The Material World is a Reflection of the Spiritual World

There is no experience in this world of a tree situated with its branches down and its roots upward, but there is such a thing. That tree can be found beside a reservoir of water. We can see that the trees on the bank reflect upon the water with their branches down and roots up. In other words, the tree of this material world is only a reflection of the real tree of the spiritual world. The reflection of the spiritual world is situated on desire, just as a tree’s reflection is situated on water. Desire is the cause of things being situated in this reflected material light. One who wants to get out of this material existence must know this tree thoroughly through analytical study. Then he can cut off his relationship with it. This tree, being the reflection of the real tree, is an exact replica. Everything is there in the spiritual world…The material world is the perverted reflection, so the spiritual world must have the same variegatedness, but in reality…A reflection is temporary, for it is sometimes seen and sometimes not seen. But the origin from whence the reflection is reflected is eternal…The purpose of the Vedas, as disclosed by the Personality of Godhead Himself, is to cut down this reflected tree and attain the real tree of the spiritual world.

(Bhagavad-Gita As It Is 15.1, purport)

Spiritual Sex Life

The whole material creation is moving under the principle of sex life. In modern civilization, sex life is the focal point for all activities. Wherever one turns his face, he sees sex life predominant. Therefore, sex life is not unreal. Its reality is experienced in the spiritual world. The material sex life is but a perverted reflection of the original fact…Consequently, man without information of the actual spiritual form of sex has accepted perverted material sex life as the all in all. There is a distinction between sex life in the diseased material condition and spiritual sex life.(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1, purport)

Actually lust and sex are there in spiritual life, but when the spirit soul is embodied in material elements, that spiritual urge is expressed through the material body and is therefore pervertedly reflected. When one actually becomes conversant in the science of Krsna consciousness, he can understand that his material desire for sex is abominable, whereas spiritual sex is desirable.

(Teachings of Lord Caitanya, p. 323)

The Kama Shastra in Vaishnava Literature

The Vedic literatures are not only full of spiritual instruction but are also instructive in how to prosecute material existence very nicely, with the ultimate aim of spiritual perfection. Devahuti asked her husband, therefore, how to prepare herself for sex life according to the Vedic instructions. Sex life is especially meant for having good children. The circumstances for creating good children are mentioned in the kama-sastra, the scripture in which suitable arrangements are prescribed for factually glorious sex life. Everything needed is mentioned in the scriptures—what sort of house and decorations there should be, what sort of dress the wife should have, how she should decorated with ointments, scents and other attractive features, etc.…Devahuti wanted the passion of her husband to be increased by the arrangement mentioned in the kama-sastra.

(Srimad Bhagavatam 3.23.11, purport)

Krsna: Please do not think I am speaking anything irreligious. I am simply repeating the moral codes of Cupid’s kingdom. These codes are outlined in the scripture recorded by Vatsyayana Muni (Kama Sutra). By following them one attains all happiness and auspiciousness.

Krsna: My dear friend, You are the crown-jewel of all modest young girls. Now You are finally speaking the truth. Your words are confirmed by the Vatsyayana-tantra (Kama Sutra), which clearly states that modesty is the primary virtue for a pious girl.

Radharani: My Lord, You are fond of tasting the nectar of these transcendental mellows by speaking in this way. These pastimes of Yours exactly follow the descriptions of the kama-sastra. You are the original author of the kama-sastra. I therefore offer My respectful obeisances unto You.

(Sri Surata-kathamrta, by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura)

Radha and Krsna went to consult Tarunya Bhatta, the professor of the kama-sastra, eager to study under him. Although They were classmates, They still wanted to argue with each other. There is no fault in this, nor is this astonishing, for students of logic want to argue even with their own teacher!

Krsna asked: Who is expert in the kama-sastra after I learned them from her; and then offered her body to Me in solitude, tell Me? Radhika said: It is Tungavidya!

(Sri Govinda-lilamrta 9.21 and 13.109, by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami)

The vitas are expert valets who dress Krsna. They are mischievous, clever conversationalists, and learned scholars in the scriptures describing the art of love (kama-sastra). Kadara and Bharatibandhu are the leaders of the vitas.

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani 2.2, by Srila Rupa Goswami)

The Importance of Hearing Krsna’s Pastimes

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommended this process of hearing as a means of self-realization in the present age of Kali. In this age it is very difficult to follow thoroughly the regulative principles and studies of the Vedas which were formerly recommended. However, if one gives aural reception to the sound vibrated by great devotees and acaryas, that alone will give him relief from all material contamination…Unless one finds a superior engagement, he will not be able to give up his inferior engagement. In the material world everyone is engaged in the illusory activities of the inferior energy, but when one is given the opportunity to relish the activities of the superior energy performed by Krsna, then he forgets all his lesser pleasures.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 90)

In the Second Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, Maharaja Pariksit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Krsna are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Krsna, they become relieved of the material disease. They are addicted to material enjoyment and are accustomed to reading sex literature, but by hearing these transcendental pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, they will be relieved of material contamination.

(Krsna book, Vol. I, p. 320)

Attraction For Krsna in a Particular Relationship

Krsna’s nice dress, His strongly built body, the all-auspicious symptoms on His body, His knowledge of different languages, His learned teachings in Bhagavad Gita, His uncommon genius in all fields of endeavor, His exhibition of expert knowledge, His mercy, His chivalry, His behavior as a conjugal lover, His intelligence, His forgiveness, His attraction for all kinds of men, His opulence, and His happiness—all provoke fraternal love.

(The Nectar of Devotion, pp. 319-320)

When there are dealings between Krsna and His friends which are completely devoid of any feelings of respect and they all treat one another on an equal level, such ecstatic love in friendship is called sthayi. When one is situated in this confidential friendly relationship with Krsna, one shows symptoms of love such as attraction, affection, affinity and attachment. An example of sthayi was exhibited when [the cowherd boy] Arjuna told Akrura, “My dear son of Gandini, please ask Krsna when I shall be able to embrace Him in my arms.”

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 334)

The development of conjugal love for Krsna is not manifested in women only. The material body has nothing to do with spiritual loving affairs. A woman may develop an attitude for becoming a friend of Krsna, and, similarly, a man may develop the feature of becoming a gopi in Vrndavana…We should note carefully that this conjugal love for Krsna, either as a gopi or as a queen, is not limited to women only. Even men can develop such sentiments, as was evidenced by the sages of Dandakaranya…Devotees who are attracted to Krsna as parents or as friends should follow in the footsteps of Nanda Maharaja or Subala, respectively. Nanda Maharaja is the foster father of Krsna, and out of all of the friends of Krsna, Subala is the most intimate in Vrajabhumi.

(The Nectar of Devotion, pp. 128-129)

Loving Pastimes Between Krsna and the Cowherd Boys

The friendly relationship of the cowherd boys with Krsna is a particular type of spiritual ecstasy almost similar to the ecstasy of conjugal love. This ecstasy of loving affairs between the cowherd boys and Krsna is very difficult to explain. Great expert devotees like Rupa Goswami express their astonishment at the inconceivable feelings which are in Krsna and His cowherd boyfriends.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 339)

The priya-narma-sakhas know the most confidential secrets of Krsna’s pastimes with the gopis. Their love for Krsna is almost as intense as the gopis’ love. Of all the gopas they are Krsna’s closest friends. In Gokula, Subala and Arjuna are the leaders of the priya-narma-sakhas.

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, p. 10)

The priya-narma-sakhas are privy to extremely confidential secrets and have taken shelter of the bhavas (spiritual emotions) of the sakhis (girlfriends). Subala and Arjuna are prominent among Krsna’s priya-narma-sakhas. Thus they are the best of all Krsna’s friends.

(Jaiva Dharma, pp. 694-695)

There is an example of conjugal love and fraternal affection when Srimati Radharani said, “My dear friends, just see how Krsna is resting His hand on the shoulder of Subala, who is dressed up just like a young girl! I think He must be sending some message to Me through Subala.” The purport is that the superiors of Radharani do not like Krsna or His cowherd friends to associate with Her; therefore these friends sometimes clothe themselves in female dress so they can give Radharani a message from Krsna. In this example the whole is conjugal love and the part is fraternity. (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 388)

When Krsna and Subala were embracing one another, Srimati Radharani became a little envious, and hiding Her hot temperament, She said, “My dear Subala, you are very fortunate because even in the presence of superiors you and Krsna have no hesitation in putting your arms on each other’s shoulders. I think it must be admitted that in your previous lives you have succeeded in many kinds of austerities.” The idea is that although Radharani was accustomed to putting Her arms on Krsna’s shoulders, it was not possible for Her to do such a thing in the presence of Her superiors, whereas Subala could do so freely. Radharani therefore praised his good fortune.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 334)

Another important pastime of the friends of Krsna was that they served as messengers to and from the gopis; they introduced the gopis to Krsna and canvassed for Krsna. When the gopis were in disagreement with Krsna, these friends would support Krsna’s side in His presence—but when Krsna was not present, they would support the side of the gopis. In this way, sometimes supporting one side, sometimes the other, they would talk very privately, with much whispering in the ears, although none of the business was very serious.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 333)

The following example contains a mixture of ecstatic fraternity and laughter, taken respectively as the whole and part. When Krsna saw that Subala, in the dress of Radharani, was silently hiding under the shade of a beautiful asoka tree on the bank of the Yamuna, He immediately arose from His seat in surprise. Upon seeing Krsna, Subala tried to hide his laughter by covering his cheeks.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 387)

One day Candravali’s friend, Padma, informed Radharani’s mother-in-law, Jatila, that Radha and Krsna were enjoying pastimes together in Bhandiravana forest. Jatila quickly arrived at that place and saw Radha and Krsna together. At that time, the following conversation occurred between Jatila and Radharani’s friend, Syama. Jatila said, “Agitated by a foolish girl, I have come here. What am I to believe? Syama, I have firm faith in you. Tell me, what is happening here?” Syama replied, “What I tell you is the truth. I am not deceiving you. What you see is Subala, dressed up like a girl, clowning with Krsna, the funny comedian of Vraja village.”

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, p. 88)

Gopis to Lord Krishna: "O best among men, You so eagerly desire to attain the young brides of Gokula that You even adorn the sakhas, like Subala and others, in gopi dress."

(Sri Bhajana-rahasya 5.7, commentary)

Another friend once told Krsna, “My dear enemy of Kamsa, since You have left us, the heat of separation has become extraordinary. And this heat is felt more severely when we understand that in Bhandiravana you are being refreshed by the waves of the cooling river known as Bhanu-tanaya [Radharani].” The purport is that when Krsna was engaged with Radharani, the cowherd boys headed by Subala were feeling great separation, and that was unbearable for them.

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 336)

Sometimes there were also signs of death caused by separation from Krsna. Once Krsna was told, “My dear enemy of Kamsa, because of their separation from You, the cowherd boys are suffering too much, and they are now lying down in the valleys, breathing only slightly. In order to sympathize with the boys’ regrettable condition, even the forest friends, the deer, are shedding tears.”

(The Nectar of Devotion, pp. 334-338)

Krsna's Crossdressing Pastimes

At this age [kaisora], Krsna once dressed Himself up exactly like Radharani, just to create fun among His friends. He put on golden earrings, and because He was blackish, He smeared the pulp of kumkum all over His body in order to become as fair as She. By seeing this dress, Krsna’s friend, Subala, became very astonished. (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 332)

Krsna says to Uddhava, “When Radharani and I had quarreled, and She was angry with Me, I disguised Myself as a woman [Syamali] and appeared before Her. Seeing Me, She asked Her friend Visakha: ‘Honest Visakha, who is this dark complexioned girl?’ Visakha replied: ‘She is a cowherd’s daughter.’ Radha: ‘Why has she come here?’ Visakha: ‘She seeks Your friendship.’ Radharani then accepted Me as Her friend, but after repeatedly embracing Me, angry Radharani understood that the girl was Myself disguised as a woman, and this made Her very embarrassed.”

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, p. 204)

A crossdressing pastime in Dvaraka: Sometimes Lord Krsna began to play by dressing Himself like a woman. Seeing this form, Uddhava said, “How wonderful it is that this woman is attracting my ecstatic love exactly as Lord Krsna does. I think she must be Krsna covered by the dress of a woman!”

(The Nectar of Devotion, p. 155)

The Glories of Krsna's Flute

My dear gopis, what auspicious activities must the flute have performed to enjoy the nectar of Krsna’s lips independently and leave only a taste for us gopis, for whom that nectar is actually meant!

(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.21.9)

My dear Krsna, since You are a male, it is not very extraordinary that the attraction of Your lips can disturb the minds of women. But I am ashamed to say that Your impudent lips sometimes attract even Your flute, which is also considered male. It likes to drink the nectar of Your lips, and thus it also forgets all other tastes.That flute is a very cunning male who drinks again and again the taste of another male’s lips. It advertises its qualities and says to the gopis, "O gopis, if you are so proud of being women, come forward and enjoy your property—the nectar of the lips of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta 3.16.123,125)

How is it that this venu [flute] always tastes the rasa of Krsna’s lips? Just see how Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna loves him. Sometimes He holds him in His hands, sometimes He kisses him, sometimes He keeps him tucked under His arm, sometimes in the folds of His waistband, and sometimes He sprinkles him with the nectar of His lips. O sakhi! If anyone in this entire Vrndavana is fortunate, it is surely this venu. By giving us birth as gopis, the Creator has deprived us of all our fortune. Alas! Why couldn’t we have taken birth as the venu?

Krsna’s adharamrta [the nectar of His lips] is our property only, but this venu is drinking all the nectar and snatching our share as well! Of this there is no doubt. Sakhi! Just see the evils of this venu—even after stealing someone else’s wealth, he is not even the least bit embarrassed or afraid. He is shamelessly tasting our wealth right before our very eyes, and with his deceptively sweet melody he even has the nerve to tease us by announcing, “Just see, O gopis! I have taken your wealth of Krsna’s adharamrta, and unrestrained, I am drinking the full rasa right in front of you! What can you do about it?”

(Venu-gita, pp. 49-51)

Lord Caitanya's Ecstatic Moods

One day Lord Gauranga, entering the mood of a cowherd damsel, dressed up as a gopi. He wore a bodice, sari, golden ankle bells and conch shell bangles. His eyes swam in rasa. His waist was very attractive and slim as a fist. The unparalleled beauty of the Lord’s gopi dress enchanted the three worlds. The effulgence of His bodily limbs was transcendental. The fragrant malati garlands swinging from His golden neck looked like the celestial Ganges rushing down golden Mount Sumeru. Gaura Nataraja, the king of all dancers, relished various ecstatic moods of prema [divine love] as He danced.

(Sri Caitanya-mangala 2.9, p. 186)

As Lord Visvambhara [Caitanya] put on His gopi dress inside one of the rooms, He became fully absorbed in the mood of Goddess Rukmini. Being absorbed in Her mood, the Lord forgot Himself and considered Himself as the daughter of the Vidarbha king. He then began to write a letter using His tears as ink, the ground as paper and His finger as a pen. He cried as He read Rukmini’s letter consisting of seven verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Supreme Lord becomes the husband of one who hears the purport of those seven verses.

(Sri Caitanya-bhagavata 2.18.70-74)

Once, the sense-controlled great Lord with His moon-like face and smile of nectar dressed Himself in sublime women’s attire and performed a drama with His associates in the courtyard of Candrasekhara. Like a gopi, He wore a beautiful bodice on His chest, bracelets made of tiny conch shells, and a saffron dress around His very slender waist. He danced with sweet lotus feet, celebrated by tinkling ankle bells...A moment later, the Lord entered the all-powerful mood of goddess Durga. The people became enlivened and offered praises by chanting excellent hymns composed by the saints. Then, the Lord, who is known as the annihilator of the armies of the demons, gave breast milk to those most exalted of godly men. And, as they gazed upon the Supreme Lord, whose beautiful eyes were filled with tender compassion, His associates felt joy.

(Sri Caitanya-carita 2.15-16)

[During the Ratha-yatra Festival of Lord Jagannatha] When Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced and jumped high, eight wonderful transformations indicative of divine ecstasy were seen in His body. All these symptoms were visible simultaneously. His skin erupted with goose pimples and the hairs of His body stood on end. His body resembled the simuli [silk cotton tree], all covered with thorns. Indeed, people became afraid just to see His teeth chatter and they even thought that His teeth would fall out. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s whole body flowed with perspiration and at the same time oozed blood. He made the sounds “jaja gaga, jaja gaga” in a voice choked with ecstasy. Tears came forcefully from the eyes of the Lord, as if from a syringe, and all the people surrounding Him became wet. Everyone saw the complexion of His body change from white to pink, so that His luster resembled that of the mallika flower. Sometimes He appeared stunned, and sometimes He rolled on the ground. Indeed, sometimes His legs and hands became as hard as dry wood, and He did not move. When the Lord fell to the ground, sometimes His breathing almost stopped. When the devotees saw this, their lives also became very feeble. Water flowed from His eyes and sometimes through His nostrils, and foam fell from His mouth. These flowings appeared to be torrents of nectar descending from the moon.

(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta 2.13.101-109)

The Dancing of Sri Gadadhara Pandita

Gadadhara danced wonderfully in the dress of Rama [Rukmini], the Goddess of fortune, as his companion sang appropriate songs. Who would not become overwhelmed and cry on seeing the dancing of Gadadhara? Drenched by tears of love flowing like a river from Gadadhara’s eyes, the earth considered herself fortunate. Gadadhara appeared like the personification of the Ganges. In fact, he is the potency of Lord Krsna. Lord Caitanya has repeatedly declared, “Gadadhara is My consort in Vaikuntha”…The sound of crying in ecstatic love for Krsna was heard everywhere as the son of Madhava [Gadadhara] danced in the dress of a gopi.

(Sri Caitanya-bhagavata 2.18.112-119)

Then Srivasa said, “Gadadhara, listen to me. I know all about your past. You are also a gopi. Previously, you and all the other devotees here were in Vraja Gokula. Rejecting your attachments to your husbands, you all rendered loving service to Sri Krsna. Gadadhara, as Radharani, you are the principal energy of Lord Krsna. You are the main gopi and dearmost lover of Sri Krsna.

(Sri Caitanya-mangala 2.9, p. 185)

Loving Pastimes Between Krsna and the Sama-Sakhis

The intimate, sweet and rare friendship existing among the sama-madhya-sakhis [gopis who are equally affectionate to both Radha and Krsna] is very difficult to understand. Only those learned in the intricacies of transcendental love can understand it.

Describing the activities of Sasikala and Kamala (two friends of Rangadevi), Rupa-manjari said to Rati-manjari: Kamala said, “O Sasikala, I shall go now and leave you in Krsna’s hand.” Sasikala replied, “Why do you speak these lies? I am your servant and messenger. It is I who should go, and you who should stay.” Look! Krsna has become charmed by the sweetness of the extraordinary love these two gopis bear for each other. Simultaneously He embraces them both to His chest, and passionately enjoys amorous pastimes with them together.

Krsna addresses the two gopi messengers, Madhavi and Malati: “Madhavi, where are you going with My Malati? And you Malati, where are you going with My Madhavi? My dear extraordinarily beautiful and qualified girls, the dark-complexioned young bumblebee of Krsna shall now take you both to a secluded place and drink the honey of your kisses, thus enjoying transcendental amorous pastimes with you.”

Krsna said to the gopi messenger, Mandaraksi: “I am very glad to tell you that your friend, Radharani, said to Me: ‘Mukunda! Follow Mandaraksi and quickly bring her to Me in the cottage of creepers in this forest grove.’” Appearing like a moon standing between two stars, Krsna then enjoyed transcendental pastimes with Radharani and Mandaraksi.

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani , pp. 78-79)

Loving Pastimes Between Radha and the Gopis

The sakhis [cowherd girlfriends] who are always satisfied by the friendship of the other sakhis and do not aspire to become nayikas or direct lovers of Krsna, are called nitya-sakhis [eternal girlfriends].

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, p. 78)

A gopi once said to her friend, “Do not repeatedly leave me on the pretext of going to pick flowers in Vrndavana forest. I fear that you will suffer in some way when you are alone in the forest. O beautiful-faced friend, I tell you the truth, I simply wish the happiness of your friendship. I have no desire to enjoy amorous pastimes with Krsna.”

One day Radharani tried to arrange a conjugal meeting between Krsna and Her friend, Mani-manjari. Mani-manjari declined the invitation saying, “My friend Radharani, I have no desire to taste the happiness You enjoy by touching the transcendental limbs of Krsna. I simply yearn to expertly engage in Your service. This Mani-manjari has no desire at any time for a conjugal meeting with Krsna.”

A gopi says to Krsna, “My dear Govinda, I request that You please engage me in expertly arranging for Your splendid transcendental conjugal pastimes on the dancing stage of Radharani. This service is the topmost treasure in the exalted kingdom of all the gopis’ hearts. My heart has no desire to personally taste the nectar of the touch of Your transcendental body.”

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, p. 80)

The nitya-sakhis are more affectionate toward Sri Radha. Some of the nitya-sakhis are Kasturi, Manojna, Mani-manjari, Sindura, Candanvati, Kaumudi, Madira, etc. The principal among the nitya-sakhis are called prana-sakhis. Some of the prana-sakhis are Tulasi, Kelikandali, Sasimukhi, Candrarekha, Priyambada, Madonmada, Vasanti, Kalabhasini, Ratnabali, Malati, Kanpurlatika, etc. All of them are almost equal in beauty with the queen of Vrndavana, Sri Radhika.

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani-kiranah, p. 6)

[The demigods] saw all the beautiful gopis dressed in many different kinds of garments, some with mrdangas in their hands, some with vinas, camaras, karatalas and various musical instruments. Some were making their jeweled anklets tinkle melodiously and some were making a whole network of jeweled ornaments tinkle. Some were spontaneously dancing as they carried jugs on their heads. Some were dressed as men with others dressed as their heroines, and some were dressed as Krsna with others dressed as Radha. Some were in the mood of separation, while others happily embraced each other. As they gazed at these playful gopis, the three demigods smiled.

(Sri Brahma-vaivarta Purana, 4.172-180)

When Radha saw that Her sakhi was late, She made an excuse to send another female envoy. That messenger disguised herself as a male pilgrim and approached Krsna in the evening twilight. The “pilgrim” gave Krsna a message from Radha indirectly informing Him about a secret tryst. Sri Jayadeva says, “May Govinda's words of praise to that pilgrim be victorious.”

(Sri Gita-govinda 6.12, commentary)

Various Levels of Spiritual Love

In ujjvala-rasa (the topmost pinnacle of all devotional mellows), the permanent mellow is madhurya-rati (loving attachment for Krsna expressed in the mood of a lover). This madhurya-rati is of three kinds:

1) sadharani - attachment wherein one’s own personal enjoyment is present.

2) samanjasa - attachment wherein both one’s personal enjoyment and the desire to please Sri Krsna are equally present.

3) samartha - attachment wherein only the desire to please Krsna is present.

The sadharani-madhurya-rati found in Kubja is like an ordinary gemstone. The royal queens of Dvaraka, beginning with Rukmini, are possessed of samanjasa-madhurya-rati. This is compared to cintamani or touchstone. The gopis of Vraja are possessed of samartha-madhurya-rati, and this is compared to the Kaustubha jewel.

That attachment which has of its design and intent one’s own personal enjoyment is called sadharani. That attachment, which has as its purpose the enjoyment that accrues both to Krsna and one’s self, from being His wife, is called samanjasa. That attachment which has as its intent the exclusive pleasure of Sri Krsna, which He obtains by enjoying other’s wives, is called samartha.

The shelter and support of these various emotions or bhava will now be ascertained. In Kubja, who possesses sadharani-rati, the limit of prema [intense love] is present. In the queens of Dvaraka, who possess samanjasa-rati, the limits of anuraga [intense love and attachment that is ever fresh] are to be found. Therein Satyabhama and Laksmana correspond to Srimati Radhika, and Rukmini and the other queens are the corresponding representatives of Candravali. The progression of the love for Krsna by the priya-narma-sakhas [most dear boyfriends] is up to anuraga. The gopis of Vraja who possess samartha-rati possess a deeper love of Syamasundara, which is up to the limit of mahabhava [the highest stage of love]. Among Subala and some of the other cowherd boys, the limits of their love can be found to also extend up to mahabhava. However, adhirudha-mahabhava [the second stage of mahabhava] is only found to be present in Sri Radha’s camp, and not within any other party or group. Then mohan [the first stage of adhirudha-mahabhava] is only to be found in Sri Radha, Lalita, Visakha, and their followers; and finally madan [the second, highest stage of adhirudha-mahabhava] is existent only in Sri Radha.

(Sri Ujjvala-nilamani-kiranah, pp. 12-13)

We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who have developed a taste for transcendental relationships with Him relish hearing of His pastimes at every moment.

(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.19)

(Edited by Amara Das Wilhelm)

Image: Lord Krsna crossdressed as Syamali-gopi. Painting by Syamarani dasi.

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