Shri Radha--The Divine Feminine: More Secret than the Most Secret of All Secrets
In this world we find that there are many kinds of secrets for living happily that are known by only a few people. Ordinary knowledge is concerned with exploiting the resources of the planet, or other people for our survival, enjoyment and prosperity. This knowledge is based on our individual ego or false sense of self based on bodily identification. We see our self as the subject and all other people or things as objects meant for our purpose. There are rare or secret methods which teach people how to live life more fully, and to obtain the fulfillment of their desires. Materially our sense of self is defined by our attachment, desires and beliefs. Thus material “secrets” involve understanding subtle material laws or misusing spiritual knowledge for worldly purposes and "success". Never the less, such so-called great material secrets or even quasi-spiritual knowledge are still based on this individual false-ego centered idea.
Those who have studied Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures know that to have only material knowledge, however sophisticated, is actually a kind of ignorance. The Gita teaches us the rarity of spiritual knowledge with the statement that, [manusyanam sahasresu] “Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” [Bg 7.3]
Amongst people in general the idea of perfection is rare, and it is often considered unattainable—as some Christians preach. However, perfection is not only possible, but is our potential as souls. Of course our “perfection” doesn’t mean we puff our chests out proudly. I am not speaking of perfection independent from serve to God. No.
We are perfect in our eternal nature as servants of God in any number of loving relationships—as appreciator, servant, friend, parent, or lover. Souls in the material world are described in the Gita as fallible, but the residents of the spiritual world are called infallible. So by the grace of God we can become perfect through surrender and love of Krishna.
The beginning of spiritual wisdom is the secret that we are not these bodies or minds or anything we can see or manipulate with our gross senses—we are the consciousness that animates our body and in fact, the world. This is called in the Gita the preliminary level of confidential knowledge. More confidential then the knowledge that we don’t just have a soul, but are an eternal individual soul, is that an impersonal all-pervading spiritual force exists and sustains the world. Then there is the knowledge that this energy is in the ultimate sense a person, but an unlimited, infallible Supreme Person who expands and maintains the Universe with his diverse energies under his control. Although material egoic knowledge thinks “I” am the subject, at this stage one knows there is a Super-subject in relationship to us and thus everything and everyone one is his object.
We may have some experience of this perspective when we are in the midst of or notice some huge, massive, or immense form of material nature, like seeing the vastness of the Universe, or even a forest of redwood trees. Often we go into nature in the sightseer mode, as if the trees were objects for us to view and enjoy. However, in the face of these gigantic redwood trees we are humbled and may in our insignificance feel the trees are the subject, we the object.
So much of our material and spiritual progress is a matter of perspective and attitude. When we understand that we are only tiny sparks of Divinity this creates another angle of vision and opens the door to devotional service or bhakti yoga. When a devotee asked a great teacher if he had any service for him to do that bhakti saint replied, “Change your angle of vision”, since the essence of devotion is to understand we are servants of Krishna, meant to exchange with him a loving relationship. Krishna is the center upon which to revolve our life around.
It is good for us to honor and respect all religions that teach the existence and worship of God, and our subservience to him. I remember having a conversation with a Christian preacher, in which I was sharing the similarities of all true religions, to which he said, “Then why would I need or aspire to follow your religion?” This is an important question. For interfaith work with other religions and also for sharing a broadminded understanding of the purpose of religion we should be inclusive and appreciative. Where something is good, we can acknowledge it, as well as shortcomings. At the same time we need to be schooled in what is unique and special about Krishna consciousness. Otherwise we may give up the path due to weak conviction and faith when we go through difficulty or someone else convinces us to relinquish our belief or adopt theirs—or both.
Though our goal is to serve Krishna in pure love—which is beyond the knowledge of the Vedas—it is still important for us to be conversant not only in the basics of our path of Gaudiya or Chaitanya Vaishnavism, but also its highest reaches. After all, in our general experience we don’t often obtain a great goal we are not striving for. If we don’t know the value of something or truly want it, we wouldn’t notice it if it was right in front of us.
Therefore, studying the philosophy of Krishna consciousness is meant to awaken our desire to obtain it. Knowing this philosophy along with performing our spiritual practices centered around the holy name of Krishna, such as kirtana and japa (and other kinds of devotional service) are meant to purify our heart and its desires so that our soul will be uncovered. Why will we want to love and serve Krishna if we don’t know who is, how beautiful and attractive he is, and how desirable is his company and living in his spiritual world?
There is a common saying from an old song of the 40’s that “getting to know you, is getting to love you”. So the more we know about Krishna—his special sweetness and charm, and the process of reviving our love for him, the more likely we will dedicate our life to obtaining what is actually a supremely rare and valuable treasure. And if we are to know about Krishna, we will also come to know what and who is dear to him. As we increase our knowledge about Krishna we enter more and more into secret knowledge. Religious people know that “God is great”, but not how great God is. Specifically, just knowing that Krishna is the original supreme personality of Godhead is very confidential knowledge.
In the Bhagavad-gita we have a number of verses which speak of this secret or confidential knowledge. There, in the forth chapter we are also told that there are qualifications or “adhikari” for entering into these spiritual mysteries. Those qualities in brief are our not being envious of Krishna, and being his devotee and friend. For us this is a goal, and it is traversed through initiation by a guru (Bg 4.34) and undergoing the purification of Bhakti yoga. Then gradually our relationship with Krishna is revealed. In the Gita’s ninth chapter we are told about the “most confidential knowledge” or most secret of secrets. Beyond material knowledge and spiritual knowledge of the soul and God, is the secret that we can and should exchange reciprocal love with Krishna—who is the most accessible aspect of God and is the all-attractively charming person.
Finally in the conclusion of the Gita in the 18th chapter, we are told that the most confidential knowledge is four things (repeating them again from the 9th chapter): that we should fix our mind on Krishna; become his devotee; sacrifice for him; and offer our respectful obeisance. By adopting these four processes we should give up all physical dharmas or forms of materially tinged duties and religions and simply take full refuge in Krishna. This is the highest the Gita takes us—its most secret of secrets. However, this is only the beginning of the secrets to come which are revealed in the more advanced texts of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, such as Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita.
This brings us to the inspiration for this class: Shri Radharana’s blessed appearance day. Every religion teaches that God is supreme and should be worshipped. However, in addition to this, Gaudiya Vaishnavism teaches who is dear or worshipable to him. This is a very great secret! In a general sense out of all kinds of religionists, yogis, or mystics, Krishna’s devotees are most dear to him. Yet out of all devotees (servant, friend, or parent-like), the gopis and particularly Shrimati Radharani are most dear to him. He loves all, but there are gradations based on that person’s degree of intensity of love, and according selflessness. In fact Krishna’s different forms exist in relationship to the type of love the devotee possesses. This point is explained in the Gita 4.11, wherein Krishna says that in whatever way we love or take shelter of him, he reciprocates in kind.
Supremely confidential secrets greater than the most confidential knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita have been revealed by the disciples and followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu--of course we go through the Gita to these great commentaries on the Vaishnava scriptures. (And we also have commentaries by Prabhupada and other Gaudiya acharyas/teachers who bring out things that even other Vaishnava sects don't see!) Lord Chaitanya came to give the highest and most confidential knowledge and pure love of Krishna. I have explained this in part in the blog on the confidential reasons for Shri Krishna’s appearance.
Radharani is the greatest devotee, but more than that she is our devotional Deity and supreme ideal. Krishna is the energetic source, Radha is his energy. She is the primal sakti who expands into all other energies or shaktis. No one can please Krishna in a better way, so if she is pleased, then Krishna is pleased; if she recommends us to Krishna, he will surely accept us. Krishna came in her mood as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to experience her love for him and to also share this to the world. This is the compassionate female nature of Radha combined with Krishna's nature to share himself with others.
On such special days as this--and really everyday--we can pray to Shrimati Radharani to engage us in Krishna's divine service under the guidance of those dear to dear to her. There is so much to know about spiritual life and God. I have only skimmed the surface. Please emerse yourself in the nectar topics about Radha and Krishna, and Shri Chaitanya and realize their sweetness and mercy. And as you have understood it, share it with others. Become fortunate, and help others become fortunate as well.