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Is God Male or Female?

Saturday, 05 October 2019 / Published in Articles, Caitanya Caran das / 8,158 views

By Caitanya Caran Das

God is neither – and is both. Let’s see how.

Before we can understand whether God is male or female, we need to clearly understand that we ourselves are neither male nor female. We are at core spiritual beings, souls, whereas our gender refers only to our shell, our physical bodies. Our spiritual identity is eternal, our gender is transient. According to the law of last thought described in the Bhagavad-gita ( 8.5), we attain in our next life a body as per the thought that predominates our consciousness at the last moment of this life. So a male in this life may become a female in the next life, if the person dearest to him happens to be a female and vice versa. Hence both male chauvinism and feminism are two sides of the counterfeit coin of physical misidentification. Only when we distance ourselves from our temporary physical gender will be freed from the ideological preconceptions that are inevitably dragged into discussion on the gender of God. So in the conventional sense of the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ where these refer to bodily gender, God is neither.

Yet God is both too – as seen in the worship of Divine Couples in the Vedic tradition. The highly inclusivistic Vedic definition of God as the source of everything, the cause of all causes, leads naturally to an egalitarian understanding of God – as both male and female. Lets consider the divine couple Radha- Krishna. Here Radha personifies the primordial cosmological feminine principle and Krishna the primordial cosmological masculine principle. Sometimes personification is mistaken to be a mere literary device, but this misconception overlooks the omni-dimensional all-encompassing nature of divinity. So Radha and Krishna are not symbols denoting metaphysical principles. As divine embodiments, they are fully concrete, particular individuals, yet they are, so to say, universal individuals, being wholly identical with the ontological principles they personify.

Krishna is compared to the sun and Radha to the sunshine. Though the sunshine comes from the sun, to say that the sun is superior to or exists prior to the sunshine is incorrect—as soon as there is a sun, there is sunshine. More important, the sun has no meaning without sunshine, without heat and light. And heat and light would not exist without the sun. So the sun and the sunshine co-exist, each equally important for the existence of the other. It may be said that they are simultaneously inconceivably one and different (achintyabhedabheda tattva). Likewise, the singular Absolute Truth manifests as the plural Radha-Krishna for the sake of loving reciprocation. One person, two personalities; inconceivable identity in diversity. Hence the saint Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, “Just as there is no sun without sunshine, I do not accept Krishna without Radha.”

The Gita explains that God is the source, the essence and the best of everything. So, of worshipers of God, God alone is the best. Therefore, as Radha, God is the supreme worshiper, and as Krishna, God is the supreme worshiped. both par excellence. In terms of tattva (philosophical truth), Krishna excels as the supreme controller and so the traditional reference to God as masculine. But in terms of lila (divine loving exchanges), Radha excels by controlling Krishna with her selfless spiritual love. Krishna is celebrated as Madan-Mohan, the mesmerizer of Cupid, who mesmerizes everyone, but Radha is glorified as Madan-Mohan-Mohini, the mesmerizer of the mesmerizer of Cupid. Moreover for spiritual aspirants, Radha acts as the divine mediatrix, without whom access to Krishna is not possible. So devotees always chant her name before Krishna’s, as is also seen with Sita-Rama and Lakshmi-Narayana.

Like the Biblical Bride-of-Christ concept and the Kabbalistic Jewish conception of the Feminine Divine, the truth behind Radha-Krishna is theologically profound and constitutes the zenith of spiritual awareness. This enlightened God consciousness resolves all confusion, contradiction and conflict caused by myopic conceptions of sexuality and spirituality.

Why Srimati Radharani descended from Goloka?
Was Srila Prabhupada intimidated with electronics?

5 Responses to “Is God Male or Female?”

  1. bhakta edwin says :

    Dear Chaitanya Charan Prabhu,

    Hare Krishna! Please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    I liked very much your explanation, and immediately thought of the section of the CC I am reading right now. Please allow me to add some nice quotes to what you have written:

    Radha and Krishna are one and the same, but They have assumed two bodies. Thus They enjoy each other, tasting the mellows of love.

    PURPORT
    The two transcendentalists Radha and Krishna are a puzzle to materialists. The above description of Radha and Krishna from the diary of Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami is a condensed explanation, but one needs great spiritual insight to understand the mystery of these two personalities. One is enjoying in two. Sri Krishna is the potent factor, and Srimati Radharani is the internal potency. According to Vedanta philosophy, there is no difference between the potent and the potency; they are identical. We cannot differentiate between one and the other, any more than we can separate fire from heat.
    Everything in the Absolute is inconceivable in relative existence. Therefore in relative cognizance it is very difficult to assimilate this truth of the oneness between the potent and the potency. The philosophy of inconceivable oneness and difference propounded by Lord Caitanya is the only source of understanding for such intricacies of transcendence.
    In fact, Radharani is the internal potency of Sri Krishna, and She eternally intensifies the pleasure of Sri Krishna. Impersonalists cannot understand this without the help of a maha-bhagavata devotee. The very name “Radha” suggests that Srimati Radharani is eternally the topmost mistress of the comforts of Sri Krishna. As such, She is the medium transmitting the living entities’ service to Sri Krishna. Devotees in Vrindavana therefore seek the mercy of Srimati Radharani in order to be recognized as loving servitors of Sri Krishna. – Adi-Lila 4.56

    Srimati Radharani is as fully spiritual as Krishna. No one should consider Her to be material. She is definitely not like the conditioned souls, who have material bodies, gross and subtle, covered by material senses. She is all-spiritual, and both Her body and Her mind are of the same spiritual embodiment. Because Her body is spiritual, Her senses are also spiritual. Thus Her body, mind and senses fully shine in love of Krishna. She is the personified hladini-sakti (the pleasure-giving energy of the Lord’s internal potency), and therefore She is the only source of enjoyment for Sri Krishna.
    Sri Krishna cannot enjoy anything that is internally different from Him. Therefore Radha and Sri Krishna are identical. The sandhini portion of Sri Krishna’s internal potency has manifested the all-attractive form of Sri Krishna, and the same internal potency, in the hladini feature, has presented Srimati Radharani, who is the attraction for the all-attractive. No one can match Srimati Radharani in the transcendental pastimes of Sri Krishna. – Adi-lila 4.71 puport

  2. SteveM says :

    God is neither – and is both. Let’s see how.
    Your understanding concerning Krishna’s forms are incorrect. You have stated that krishna’s form is neither and is both but this is not the correct understanding. please read carfully the statement below.

    SB 4.8. 47
    Here in this verse the word purusam is very significant. The Lord is never female. He is always male (purusa). Therefore the impersonalist who imagines the Lord’s form as that of a woman is mistaken. The Lord appears in female form if necessary, but His perpetual form is purusa because He is originally male.

    You have also stated: Before we can understand whether God is male or female, we need to clearly understand that we ourselves are neither male nor female.
    I am afread that your understanding in this case is also of incorrect intellegence as stated in
    SB 1.11.33
    The living beings are by constitution feminine by nature. The male or enjoyer is the Lord, and all manifestations of His different potencies are feminine by nature.
    Please forgive any offience your servant steve

  3. shiva says :

    Steve the purport to the Bhagavat verse 1.11.33 does not mean that all jivas are female. Simply think about the male jivas in the spiritual world e.g the gopas, the Pandavas, etc. Here is the full paragraph from that purport:

    “The living beings are by constitution feminine by nature. The male or enjoyer is the Lord, and all manifestations of His different potencies are feminine by nature. In the Bhagavad-gītā, the living beings are designated as parā-prakṛti, or the superior potency. The material elements are aparā-prakṛti, or inferior potency. Such potencies are always employed for the satisfaction of the employer, or the enjoyer. The supreme enjoyer is the Lord Himself, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (5.29). The potencies, therefore, when engaged directly in the service of the Lord, revive the natural color, and thus there is no disparity in the relation of the potent and potency”

    When it is stated that potencies of the Lord are feminine by nature Srila Prabhupada is not speaking on a gender principle. The idea being used is a gender metaphor for an ontological principle. The Lord is the controller and prakriti is being controlled, one is the dominator or masculine and the other is the dominated or the feminine. Using masculine and feminine metaphor has nothing to do with male or female gender it has everything to do with metaphoric symbolism.

    As for the other purport from the Bhagavatam that is also misunderstood by you. These words were also written by Srila Prabhupada:

    Caitanya Caritamrta Adi lila:

    tara madhye vraie nana bhava-rasa-bhede
    krsnake karaya rasadika-lilasvade

    TRANSLATION

    Among them are various groups of consorts in Vraja who have varieties of sentiments and mellows. They help Lord Krsna taste all the sweetness of the rasa dance and other pastimes.

    PURPORT

    As already explained, Krsna and Radha are one in two. They are identical. Krsna expands Himself in multi-incarnations and plenary portions like the purusas. Similarly, Srimati Radharani expands Herself in multi-forms as the goddesses of fortune, the queens and the damsels of Vraja. Such expansions from Srimati Radharani are all Her plenary (completely identical) portions. ALL THESE WOMANLY FORMS OF KRSNA are expansions corresponding to His plenary expansions of Visnu forms. These expansions have been compared to reflected forms of the original form. There is no difference between the original and reflected forms. The female reflections of Krsna’s pleasure potency are as good as Krsna Himself.

    The plenary expansions of Krsna’s personality are called vaibhava-vilasa and vaibhava-prakasa, and Radha’s expansions are similarly described. The goddesses of fortune are vaibhava-vilasa, and the queens are vaibhava-prakasa of Radharani. The personal associates of Radharani, the damsels of Vraja, are direct expansions of Her body. As expansions of Her personai form and transcendental disposition, they are agents of different reciprocations of love in the pastimes of Lord Krsna, under the supreme direction of Srimati Radharani.

    And also

    radha-krsna pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
    ekatmanau api bhuvipura deha-bhedam gatau tau
    caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
    radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam

    The loving affairs of Radha Krishna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krishna are one in Their identity, They have separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krishna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krishna Himself.

    And then again from the Bhagavatam

    nanu kvacit nitya-mukta jivatvam laksmyah svikrtam, tatraha–praheti. nityaiveti padye sarva-vyapti-kathanena kalakasthety adi-padya-dvaye, suddho ‘pity ukta ca mahaprabhuna svasisyan prati laksmya bhagavad-advaitam upadistam. kvacid yat tasyas tu dvaitam uktam, tat tu tad-avista-nitya-mukta jivam adaya sangatamas tu.

    Although some authoritative Vaisnava disciplic successions count the goddess of fortune among the ever-liberated living entities (jivas) in Vaikuntha, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in accordance with the statement in the Visnu Purana, has described Laksmi as being identical with the visnu-tattva. The correct conclusion is that the descriptions of Laksmi as being different from Visnu are stated when an eternally liberated living entity is imbued with the quality of Laksmi; they do not pertain to mother Laksmi, the eternal consort of Lord Visnu.

    Also Baladeva Vidyabhusana write in Govinda Bhasya

    Goddess Laksmi is the mother of the worlds. She is the constant companion of Lord Visnu. As Lord Visnu is all pervading, so is she.

    To think that Goddess Laksmi is different from Lord Visnu, but still all-pervading, is a false, a heretical idea. In this way the idea that Goddess Laksmi is an individual spirit soul, like the many millions of other individual spirit souls is refuted.

    What is visnu-tattva?

    Srila Prabhupada Bhagavad-gita 2.23-24 London, August 27, 1973

    Visnu-tattva means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Visnu-tattva is unlimitedly great eternally, sanatana. And the jiva-tattva, they are infinitesimally smaller eternally.

    Visnu-tattva is another way of saying Svamsa.

    In SB 4.22.29, purport, Srila Prabhupada says:

    The spirit soul is one, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is manifested in svamsa and vibhinamsa expansions. The jivas are vibhinamsa expansions. The different incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are svamsa expansions

    Jiva Goswami also writes about Svamsa incarnations in Krsna Sandarbha

    Krsna Sandarbha Jiva Goswami says there are two types of expansions of The Supreme Lord:

    This is confirmed in the Varaha Purana:

    The two kinds of expansions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead are : 1. svamsa (personal expansions) and 2. vibhinnamsa (separate persons). The svamsa expansions are unlimitedly powerful. Their form and personality are the same as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. There is not the slightest difference between the svamsa expansions and the Original Personality of Godhead. The vibhinnamsa expansions are very weak in comparison to Them.

    The misunderstanding you have of the Lord’s female forms is easy to make if you take that one purport as all there is on the topic. Here is that purport

    Here in this verse the word puruṣam is very significant. The Lord is never female. He is always male (puruṣa). Therefore the impersonalist who imagines the Lord’s form as that of a woman is mistaken. The Lord appears in female form if necessary, but His perpetual form is puruṣa because He is originally male. The feminine feature of the Lord is displayed by goddesses of fortune — Lakṣmī, Rādhārāṇī, Sītā, etc. All these goddesses of fortune are servitors of the Lord; they are not the Supreme, as falsely imagined by the impersonalist.

    As we have seen in other places we are told that there is no difference at all between Radha and Krishna, that they are identical, one soul in two bodies, one and the same.

    From the Sri Krsna-bhakti-ratna-prakasa of Srila Raghava Goswami:

    Because Sri Sri Radha Krsna are not different and because Sri Krsna is the master of all potencies, Therefore Sri Radha is also the master and source of all potencies. He is by nature full of sweetness and bliss, free from the three modes, and eternally manifest beyond the material nature. Because Radha is not different from Him, so is She also. It is said that within the Lord are all potencies, the modes and the material nature.

    Also from Raghava Goswami’s Sri Krsna-bhakti-ratna-prakasa:

    Sri Radha is manifested from half of Lord Krsna’s body. This is described in the following verse of Padma Purana:

    “Sri Radha is the original potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. She is beautiful, graceful, saintly and full of all transcendental qualities. She enjoys pastimes in the forest of Vrndavana. She is manifested from half of Lord Mukunda’s transcendental body.”

    This is also confirmed in the Sammohana-tantra, Patala 1:

    “His form is eternally full of bliss. It is never any other way. Radha is full of bliss. Lord Hari is full of bliss.”

    Their forms are not composed of material elements. Their forms are full of bliss. They are the single Supreme Spirit, manifested as two for the knowledge of the devotees.

    The wise know that as a spark is one with the fire, so the potency and the master of potencies are one.

    That Sri Radha is manifested from half of Lord Krsna’s body is also described in the Govinda-Vrndavana-sastra, where Sri Krsna says to Balarama:

    “O Balarama, please listen and I will tell You something. One day, taking My flute, My heart full of bliss and My form bending in three places, I went under a kadamba tree and, seeing My own form reflected in a splendid golden platform studded with jewels, I became enchanted. At that moment My heart became filled with the sweet happiness known as conjugal love, which charms the entire world. My heart now desires to become a woman. I yearn to enjoy Myself as a woman.

    As the Lord thought in this way, His heart approached itself. From the sweetness of His heart came bliss and from the bliss came Himself, manifested in a second form, a female form of transcendental bliss that could experience the direct perception of Himself.

    At that time a goddess, whose form was nectar, whose fair complexion was like a host of lightning flashes, and who was decorated with glittering ornaments, appeared from the Lord’s left side. She is known as Radha, who is half of Krsna’s body, and who is the mistress of all potencies.”

    So there seems to be some contradiction. But really what Srila Prabhupada was talking about in that purport you cited was the relative difference between Krsna and his female forms. On the absolute level they are identical, one person in two bodies, identical, as Srila Prabhupada writes in the above. To understand what I mean by relative difference here is Srila Prabhupada explaining the difference between Sri Panca Tattva

    Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 17

    There is no difference between the energy and the energetic in regard to the Lord’s appearance as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His four associates–Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Gadadhara, and Srivasa. Amongst these five diverse manifestations of the Supreme Lord (as the Lord Himself and His incarnation, expansion and energies) there is no spiritual difference. They are five in one Absolute Truth. For the sake of relishing transcendental flavors in the Absolute Truth, there are five diverse manifestations. These are called the form of a devotee, the identity of a devotee, the incarnation of a devotee, the pure devotee and devotional energy.

    Out of the five diversities in the Absolute Truth, the form of Lord Caitanya is that of the original Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Lord Nityananda is the manifestation of the first expansion of the Supreme Lord. Similarly, Advaita Prabhu is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. These three–Caitanya, Nityananda and Advaita–belong to the category of Visnu-tattva, or the Supreme Absolute Truth. Srivasa represents the pure devotee, and Gadadhara represents the internal energy of the Lord for the advancement of pure devotion. Therefore Gadadhara and Srivasa, although included in Visnu-tattva, are dependent, diverse energies of the Supreme Lord. In other words, they are not different from the energetic, but they are manifest diversely for the sake of relishing transcendental relationships. The whole process of devotional service involves a transcendental reciprocation in the relationship between the worshiper and the worshiped. Without such a diverse exchange of transcendental flavors, devotional service has no meaning.

    Even though the Panca Tattva are all visnu-tattva, they are the Lord, not different from the energetic or shaktiman, for the sake of relishing pastimes Srivasa and Gadadhara are manifested differently. In the same way Radha and Her expansions are Krishna, identical to Krishna, as Srila Prabhupada writes in an above purport, but they are manifested as Krishna’s servitors for the purpose of relishing pastimes. It is also important to not that in the purport you cited Srila Prabhupada mentions mayavadis who imagine the Lord as female as being mistaken. That is in reference to those who believe they can worship or meditate on any goddess and that there is no difference between that and worship of Krishna. They consider Krishna to be just another temporary manifestation of Brahman. So they say you can worship or meditate on Kali, Shiva, Krishna, etc, and you will get the same result because they are all the same Brahman. Srila Prabhupada was pointing out that Krishna is not a manifestation of Brahman, that he is the Adi Purusa, Parabrahman, the original Personality of Godhead. So we shouldn’t mistake what he said in that purport to cancel out everything else that we are taught by guru, sastra, and sadhu when it comes to the ontological position of Radha and Her expansions.

    From the intro to Teachings of Lord Caitanya

    Radha and Krsna are one, and when Krsna desires to enjoy pleasure, He manifests Himself as Radharani. The spiritual exchange of love between Radha and Krsna is the actual display of the internal pleasure potency of Krsna (Radha’s display). Although we speak of “when” Krsna desires, just when He did desire we cannot say. We only speak in this way because in conditional life we take it that everything has a beginning; however, in the absolute or spiritual life there is neither beginning nor end. Yet in order to understand that Radha and Krsna are one and that They also become divided, the question “When?” automatically comes to mind. When Krsna desired to enjoy His pleasure potency, He manifested HIMSELF in the separate form of Radharani.

    From Jaiva Dharma by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

    Srila Jiva Gosvami describes the Supreme Person in these words:

    “The Absolute Truth is one. Still, by His inconceivable potency He is manifested in four ways: 1. svarupa (His original form), 2. tad-rupa-vaibhava (His incarnations), 3. jiva (the individual spirit souls), and 4. pradhana (the material energy). These four features are like: 1. the interior of the sun planet, 2. the sun’s surface, 3. the sunlight, and 4. the reflection of the sun.”

    This example of course, explains only a small part of the Lord’s nature. His svarupa (original form) is His form of eternity, knowledge and bliss. His svarupa-vaibhava (manifestations of His form) are His spiritual abode, name, associates and paraphernalia. The jiva-sakti is the abode of the numberless eternally liberated and conditioned individual souls, who are tiny particles of spirit.

    Here we see where Krsna’s svarupa-vaibhava (tad-rupa vaibhava) is described as his visnu-tattva associates and expansions (Balarama, Radha, etc), name, abode, and paraphernalia. They are compared to the surface of the sun and Krsna is compared to the interior of the sun. When you look at the sun you only see the surface, but underneath is the sun. So when you look at a personal expansion or visnu-tattva associate of the Lord they may display a great variety of forms, personas, pastimes, etc. But underneath they are the same Surpeme Lord.

  4. Sita Rama dasa 1962 says :

    Caitanya Caran Prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obiesances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
    You write
    "One person two personalities inconceivable identity in diversity. Therefore, as Radha, God is the supreme worshiper, and as Krishna, God it the supreme worshiped. Both par excellence in term of tattva (philosophical truth)…… As we have seen in other places, we are told there is no difference all between Radha and Krishna, they are one soul in two bodies, one and the same".
    You describe Radha and Krishna as “one person” and “one soul”. They are described in the scripture as identical, nondifferent, one, etc., but I have never seen them described with the phrase “one soul” or “one person”. At any rate, they are eternally individual persons.
    The internal potency (prakriti) also known as Radha, is the supremely enjoyed aspect of the Absolute Truth. Krishna is the origin of all potencies. Thus, He can experience Himself as the supreme enjoyer, and He can also experience Himself as the supremely enjoyed- as Lord Caitanya. But Radha is always the supremely enjoyed. That is an important distinction between Radha and Krishna.
    Krishna’s marginal potency, the jivas are described as identical to Krishna and eternally individual persons.
    SB 1.5 20
    Thus the living being is also identical with the Lord. But he is never equal or superior to the Personality of Godhead. The Lord and the living beings are all individual persons
    Like Radha, as prakriti, the purpose of the jiva’s is to please Krishna. But unlike Radha, they have a tendency to want to be purusa so the become controlled by the external energy of the absolute truth. These are important comparisons and contrasts of Radha and the jivas.
    The effect of mayavadi philosophy pervasive, so it is important for Vaisnavas to stress the fact that there is no time when Krishna, Radha and the jivas do not exists as individual persons.

  5. Sita Rama dasa 1962 says :

    Prabhu,
    I just read the purport of SB 6.19.13.
    "O best of the brahmanas, Lakshmij is the constant companion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, and therefore she is called anapayiné. She is the mother of all creation. As Lord Vishnu is all-pervading, His spiritual potency, Mother Lakshmi is also all-pervading. Lord Vishnu has three principal potencies—internal, external and marginal. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has accepted para shakti, the spiritual energy of the Lord, as being identical with the Lord. Thus she is also included in the independent Vishnu-tattva."
    I had never heard Radha described as Vishnu Tattva. I thought your equating Krishna and Radha was inaccurate. Still, only Krishna is the original cause of all causes- the summum bonum. Krishna stu bhagavam svayam(SB 1.3.28).
    " In another place in the Caitanya-caritämåta (Adi 5.142) it is said, ekale éçvara kåñëa, ära saba bhåtya: the only supreme master is Krishna, and all others, both Vishnu-tattva and jiva-tattva, engage in the service of the Lord.( Purport, CC Adi 7.14
    Lord Caitanya taught the direct meaning of the scripture:
    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur comments that mukhya-våtti (” the direct meaning”) is abhidhä-våtti, or the meaning that one can understand immediately from the statements of dictionaries, whereas gauëa-våtti (”the indirect meaning”) is a meaning that one imagines without consulting the dictionary.( Purport,CC Adi 7.110)
    "God :The one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe” (dictionary.com). We need to explain that Krishna, alone, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, origin of all, the cause of all causes. Then we can describe Radha as a full expansion of God. But if we do not explain properly, it will appear as philosophical imagination.

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