Srila Prabhupada’s Presentation of Srimati Radharani
By Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Knowledge about Srimati Radharani, Her relationship with Krishna, Her relationships with Her sakhis and gopi manjaris is expanded throughout the confidential literatures of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In recent years these books are becoming more accessible to English speaking readers. We are becoming more aware, at least theoretically, that devotion to Srimati Radharani is the topmost expression of Krishna consciousness. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says in one of his songs, “Srimati Radhika is the teacher of the mellow of conjugal love. The pure love between Radha and Madhava is meant to be discussed and contemplated.”
But there are many warnings that one should never mistake Srimati Radharani and Her affairs with Krishna to be material dealings of man and woman. There is a danger in being curious about Srimati Radharani but not hearing in the proper way. I wanted to therefore impart Prabhupada’s presentation of Srimati Radharani and confining myself to whatever I have found in his books and lectures and talks. You will find that although Srila Prabhupada was on the one hand very reserved in speaking about Radharani he nevertheless imparted to us a sweet and pure understanding of Radharani and the practical means to advance ourselves in Her service.
In his translations and purports to relevant sections of Nectar of Devotion, Krishna Book and Caitanya-caritamrta, Prabhupada deals in all the intricacies of Srimati Radharani’s love for Krishna. I have gone through these many section especially looking for statements where Prabhupada is speaking personally his own realization in his own words.
I can remember Srila Prabhupada speaking about Srimati Radharani in the summer of 1966 at 26 Second Ave. in New York City.
I always remember Prabhupada on Radhastami because I received first initiation from Prabhupada on this day, September 23rd, 1966. Prabhupada’s qualifications for initiation were very easy in those days and so I could have been initiated at the first initiation in ISKCON which was on Janmastami day 1966. But I didn’t feel ready for the surrender of my so-called free activities. It seemed too much to give up and so I passed up the initiation.
But a few days after that I began to regret that I didn’t get initiated. Then I heard from one of the devotees that Prabhupada was planning to hold another initiation in two weeks on the occasion of the appearance day of Srimati Radharani. So then Prabhupada began to explain to us something about Srimati Radharani.
He said that on Janmastami we had to fast all day until midnight because Krishna is very strong and hard. But on Radhastami we would only have to fast until noon because Radharani is soft and kind.
I therefore decided that I would ask Prabhupada if I could get initiated on Radharani’s appearance day. What had seemed too hard two weeks previously on Krishna’s birthday now seemed easier under the protection of Srimati Radharani.
Prabhupada’s first explanation of Radharani is an unforgettable sutra. Prabhupada said that Srimati Radharani is the best devotee of Krishna. Because She loves Him the most.
Prabhupada then explained that Srimati Radharani was interested in the welfare of all devotees and that we could pray to Her. He said you can’t go directly to Krishna but if Krishna’s devotee is pleased with you then he or she will recommend you to Krishna and Krishna will be obliged to give you His mercy. This is especially true if you get the mercy of Srimati Radharani.
Prabhupada put knowledge of Radharani in the very first books that he translated in America, Teachings of Lord Caitanya 1967, Krishna Book 1968, and Nectar of Devotion in 1969. In the Nectar of Devotion, under the category of “Attracting Krishna”, the characteristics of pure devotional service, Prabhupada explained the principle of approaching Krishna through Radha:
To perform devotional service means to follow in the footsteps of Radharani, and the devotees in Vrndavana put themselves under the care of Radharani in order to achieve perfection in their devotional service. In other words, devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is directly under the control of Radharani. In Bhagavad Gita it is confirmed that the mahatmas or great souls, are under the protection of daivi prakrti, the internal energy—Radharani. So, being directly under the control of the internal potency of Krishna, devotional service attracts even Krishna Himself.” (NOD pg. 16)
Prabhupada’s remark that Krishna was hard and Radharani was soft and kind, is collaborated by a statement he made in the Nectar of Devotion under Krishna’s quality of “compassionate”:
“Instead of offering obeisances to Krishna, devotees offer obeisances to His compassionate nature. Actually , because Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is very difficult to approach Him. But the devotees, taking advantage of His compassionate nature, which is represented by Radharani, always pray to Radharani for Krishna’s compassion.” (NOD pg. 176)
Prabhupada sometimes described Radharani as Krishna’s tenderhearted female counter part.
And for praying to Radharani, the easiest way is to address Her in Hare Krishna Mantra which is made up of names of Radha and Krishna. :O Energy of the Lord (Hara) O Lord, please engage me in Your service.”
Prabhupada did not broadcast explicitly the glories of Radharani as much as he did those of Lord Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And yet he does inform us that, according to Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta, Srimati Radharani is the Queen of Vrndavana. She has the power to attract even Krishna. As stated by Prabhupada in the Nectar of Devotion:
“Krishna attracts everyone, but devotional service attracts Krishna. The symbol of devotional service in the highest degree is Radharani. Krishna is called Madana Mohana, which means He is so attractive that He can defeat the attraction of thousands of Cupids. But Radharani is still more attractive, for She can attract Krishna. Therefore devotees call Her Madana Mohana Mohini, the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.” (NOD 16)
Why then was Srila Prabhupada so reserved and grave in speaking about Radharani?
One reason Prabhupada was reserved was that we were such neophytes. Also Prabhupada was preaching in the West and it is the nature of materialistic persons outside of Vedic culture to take Radha Krishna affairs as ordinary sex affairs. Prabhupada explained this with the example of the cow who experienced fire in the barn. Once there was a fire in a barn and a cow became so frightened that thereafter whenever she saw the color red she panicked. In a similar way, conditioned souls are so traumatized or addicted to sex pleasure, that as soon as they see a picture of Krishna embracing Radha they think “Yes that’s the same as what I feel for my girlfriend.”
Prabhupada was also very afraid that if the devotees took prematurely to Radha-Krishna affairs they would become prakrta sahajiyas, those who take confidential matters too cheaply. He told about a man who said, “Whenever I hear the name Radha I always think of a barber’s wife whose name is Radha.”
In the Preface to the Krishna Book Prabhupada begins, “In these Western countries, when someone sees a cover of a book like Krishna, he immediately asks “Who is Krishna? Who is the girl with Krishna?” But it’s significant that Prabhupada then completes the Preface by answering the question who is Krishna but he does not mention who Radha is.
Another example of Prabhupada’s reserved mood is that he instructed us not to show the feet of the Radharani Deity although Krishna’s feet should be exposed.
We can get further insight into Prabhupada’s presentation by study of some of the lectures that he gave on the occasion of Radhastami. One lecture was on August 30, 1968 in Montreal.
Prabhupada explained that Radha-Krishna philosophy is a very great philosophy and is understood on the liberated stage, not on the conditioned stage.
He said on the conditioned stage we worship Laksmi Narayana by following regulative principles.
“So in this vidhi marga, when you have no love for God or Krishna, you have to follow the regulative principles and automatically…there is practice. When practicing. Just like you practice this mrdanga playing. In the beginning it is not in order but when you become well versed in the practice, the sound will become so nice.”
This is an interesting example because in 1968 the devotees were just learning to play the mrdanga and their beats were very rudimentary but Prabhupada encouraged them that they would get better. And we see that nowadays in ISKCON there are many expert mrdanga players who have learnt by practice and by associating with other good players.
“Similarly, when we are engaged by regulative principles in the worship of Radha Krishna, that is called vidhi marga. And actually when you are on the love platform, that is called raga marga. So without vidhi marga, if anyone wants to learn the raga marga immediately, that is foolishness. That is foolishness. Nobody can pass M.A. examination without going through the regulative principles or primary schools and colleges.
So therefore I do not indulge in the discussions of Radha and Krishna so easily. Rather, go on with the regulative principle at the present moment. Gradually as you become purified, as you become on the transcendental platform, you will understand what is Radha Krishna.”
So Prabhupada is very strict about not jumping ahead but at the same time he indicates that the path of vaidhi marga will lead upward, as certain as regular mrdanga playing will lead to expert mrdanga playing.
Don’t try to understand Radha Krishna very quickly. It is a very big subject. If we want to understand Radha Krishna very quickly, then there will be so many prakrta sahajiyas. In India there are prakrta sahajiyas. Just like Radha Krishna dancing. Radha Krishna has become a plaything. The painting Radha Krishna, Krishna’s kissing Radha, Radha’s kissing. These are all nonsense. Radha Krishna philosophy has to be understood by the liberated person, not by the conditioned soul. So we shall await for the fortunate moment when we are liberated then we shall understand Radha Krishna pranaya vikrtir.
In this 1968 lecture Prabhupada then asked for a harmonium and he began to sing Rupa Gosvami’s song “Radhe jaya jaya madhava dayite”.
Although Prabhupada was very cautious in his own way he nevertheless distributed the sweetness of Srimati Radharani’s love for Krishna. In this 1968 lecture he went on to explain “Radhe jaya jaya madhava dayite”:
“She’s so dear to Krishna.” Everyone is trying to love Krishna, but Krishna is trying to love somebody. How great She is. Just try to understand. The whole world, the whole universe all living entities are trying to love Krishna. Krishna prema. Krishna prema is so valuable but Krishna is after Radharani. Just see how Radharani is great. Try to understand the greatness of Radharani. She’s so great, we have to offer our respect. And how is she?
gokula taruni mandala mahite.
“Taruni taruni means young girls. You will see the pictures, they are all young girls, She is the most beautiful. She is enchanting to the young girls also. She is so beautiful.
gokula taruni mandala mahite damodara rati vardana vese.
She always dresses Herself so nicely that Damodara, Krishna, because attracted by Her beauty.
She is the only lovable object of Krishna and She is the Queen of Vrndavana. You will find in Vrndavana, if you go to Vrndavana, everyone is worshipping Radharani. Rani means queen. They are always speaking “Jaya Radhe”. Radharani. All the devotees in Vrndavana they are worshipers of Radharani.
(In another lecture that he gave in Vrndavana around 1972 Prabhupada was explaining that there is no one as great as Krishna, matah parataram nanyat. But then he paused and said, “There is one person greater than Krishna. That is Radharani.” He said, “But that is out of love.”)
In his 1968 Radhastami lecture Prabhupada then went on explaining the song karunam kuru mayi karuna-bharite/sanaka-sanatana-varnita-carite.
Now somebody may say, O you are so great learned scholar, you are so great saintly person and you are begging mercy from an ordinary girl? How is that? Therefore Rupa Goswami says, “O, this is not ordinary girl.”
Sanaka sanatana varnita carite.
This girl’s description is possible to be made only by great saintly persons like Sanaka and Sanatana. She is not ordinary.
In Prabhupada’s 1969 lecture on Radhastami which he gave in London, he said “Radharani is the pleasure potency, hladhini shakti.” Prabhupada taught from the very beginning and always re-emphasized—that just as we have a desire to love and have pleasure, so that desire exists in the Supreme Person, Krishna. But when He wants to desire, He doesn’t desire pleasure from an ordinary person. He expands into the pleasure potency and that is Radharani. So actually Radharani is not different from Krishna. As Prabhupada puts it in the introduction to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, “Without Radha, there is no meaning to Krishna, and without Krishna there is no meaning to Radha. Because of this, the Vaisnava philosophy first of all pays obeisances to and worships the internal pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord. Thus the Lord and His potency are always referred to as Radha Krishna.”
In that ‘69 Radhastami lecture Prabhupada began to sing the mantra, “Tapta kancana gaurangi radhe vrndavanesvari” He also mentioned that we should approach Radharani and then we can get Krishna’s favor.
“If we approach Krishna through Radharani, through Her mercy, then it become very easy. If Radharani recommend, “This devotee is very nice” then Krishna immediately accepts, however a fool I may be. Because it is recommended by Radharani, Krishna accepts. Therefore in Vrndavana you will find all the devotees, they are chanting more Radha’s name than Krishna’s. Wherever you go, you will find the devotees are addressing “Jaya Radhe”. You still will find in Vrndavana. They are glorifying Radharani. They are more interested in worshipping Radharani. Because however fallen I may be, if somewhere or another I can please Radharani then it’s very easy for me to understand Krishna.”
Prabhupada criticized people who didn’t understand Radharani even if they did live in Vrndavana. But somehow he was favorably moved by the simple chanting of Radhe Radhe even by seemingly ordinary people in Vrndavana. I remember going on many morning walks with Prabhupada on Bhaktivedanta Swami Marga and sometimes rikshaw wallas would stop their rikshaw, get down and take off their shoes and make obeisances and say “Jaya Radhe”. In his lectures in other parts of the world Prabhupada would talk about it. And through Prabhupada’s eyes we Western disciples come to think that this was the essence of Vrndavana where even ordinary people chant Jaya Radhe. Nowhere else in the whole world, even in India, do you find that. So even if their chanting is not with full understanding Prabhupada liked it.
Another indication of Prabhupada’s deep affection for Srimati Radharani was that he would always begin his lecture by singing “Jaya Radha Madhava”. We don’t find that other Gaudiya Vaisnavas begin their lectures by singing this song as a regulative principle. But Prabhupada always did it and sometimes he would fall into deep ecstasies and not be able to speak.
We also know that Prabhupada’s father prayed that he could please become a devotee of Srimati Radharani.
Also, when Prabhupada was on the boat to America he wrote a poem in which he said, “My dear brothers, you cannot get success in Krishna consciousness unless you worship Srimati Radharani.”
Another important point is that as Radharani worshipped Krishna in the mood of separation, after Krishna left Vrndavana, so Lord Caitanya was in this mood. And Lord Caitanya’s demonstration of separation was taken up by the six Gosvamis. Prabhupada indicates that this should also be taken up by all sincere and serious devotee in this line. There are a few examples of his saying that.
Here is one from the 1969 Radhastami lecture. Prabhupada quoted “He radhe vrajadevike ca lalite, he nanda suno kutah”.
“Where, Radharani, where are You? Where are Your associates? Where are You, Nanda Suno, the son of Nanda Maharaja, Krishna? Where are you all? They were searching after. They never said, “I have seen Krishna dancing with the gopis. Last night I saw.” This is sahajiya. They take everything very cheap. They take Krishna very cheap and Radharani very cheap as if they can see every night. No. The gosvamis don’t teach us like that. They are searching after.
“So we have to follow the footprints of the Gosvamis how to search out Krishna and Radharani. (We may do this in Vrndavana) or within our heart….This process of devotional service is taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Don’t say that very easily we have seen Krishna or seen Radharani in Rasa Lila. No not like that. Feel the separation. The more you feel separation from Krishna you should understand that you are advancing.”
Prabhupada told us, If you engage your tongue in the service of the Lord He will reveal Himself to you, “Here I am.” We should feel separation of Krishna just like Radharani, as Lord Caitanya teaches, and engage our tongues in the service of the Lord, then one day when we are mature we will see Krishna eye to eye.
This same point is described in Antya Lila Chapter 14 of Caitanya-caritamrta. Krishna dasa Kaviraja tells us that Radharani’s emotions after seeing Uddhava exactly corresponded to those of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Then in the purport Prabhupada says that some theosophists declare, “because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, such cultivation of separation is easy for Him but difficult for the living entity. And so we can approach Krishna in any way we like. To nullify this idea, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated practically how one can achieve love of Krishna by adopting Srimati Radharani’s mood in separation from Krishna.” (Antya lila 14 14)
Although these confidential matters are not to be cheaply taken up, yet such an esoteric doctrine as separation from Krishna in the mood of Radharani, is something Prabhupada recommends.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu lamented, “I found Krishna in Vrndavana, and now I have again lost Him and come to Kuruksetra. Unless one is a very highly advanced devotee, he cannot understand these intricate feelings. The author of Caitanya-caritamrta, however, has tried to explain this divyon mada as far as possible, and it is our duty simply to appreciate it as far as possible. Therefore the author has made the following request, “My dear readers, simply try to hear this description with faith and love. That will help you to understand transcendental ecstasy and at last you will achieve love of God very easily.” (Antya 14.37 purport)
In the Krishna Book Prabhupada also recommend to all devotees the mood of Radharani in separation. He says that the six Gosvamis were in this mood and so was Lord Caitanya.
“He was in the role of Radharani, feeling separation of Krishna. Those who are in the disciplic succession of Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya should also feel the separation of Krishna, worshipping His transcendental form and discussing His transcendental teachings, His pastimes, His qualities entourage and association. The spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection. Feeling constant separation while engaged in the service of the Lord is the perfection of Krishna consciousness.” (Krishna Book, Chapter 34)
There are just two more short quotes that I have chosen because of Prabhupada’s personal use of words in describing Radharani. This give us another glimpse into the fact that although he didn’t indulge in talking so much about Radharani, his feelings are very great within.
One statement occurs in the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam where he is discussing the feelings of separation felt by the members of the Yadu dynasty for Krishna:
“The feelings of separation cannot be described, but it can simply be imagined by devotees only. After His separation from Vrndavana and the innocent rural cowherd boys, girls, ladies and others, hey all felt shock through their lives, and the separation of Radharani, the most beloved cowherd girl, is beyond expression. Once they met at Kuruksetra during a solar eclipse, and the feeling which was expressed by them is heart rending.” (SB 1.10. verses 9 & 10 purport)
A final quote is from Caitanya-caritamrta about the Supreme position of Radharani even in relationship to Krishna. This is spoken by Lord Caitanya while dancing at the Ratha Yatra and speaking about Radha and Krishna:
Sri Krishna continued, all the inhabitants of Vrndavana dhama—my mother, father, cowherd boyfriends and everything else—are like my life and soul. And among all the inhabitants of Vrndavana, the gopis are my very life and soul. Among the gopis, You Srimati Radharani, are the chief. Therefore you are the very life of My life.
In the purport Prabhupada says:
Srimati Radharani is the center of all Vrndavana’s activities. In Vrndavana, Krishna is the instrument of Srimati Radharani; therefore all the inhabitants of Vrndavana still chant “Jaya Radhe”. From Krishna’s own statement given herein, it appears that Radharani is the Queen of Vrndavana and that Krishna is simply Her decoration. Krishna is known as Madana Mohana, the enchanter of Cupid, but Srimati Radharani is the enchanter of Krishna. (Madhya lila 13.150 verse and purport)
So we like to hear of Srimati Radharani from Srila Prabhupada. It is the safe and most expert way. Because, as Srila Prabhupada writes, “The spiritual master is always considered one of the confidential associates of Srimati Radharani or a manifested representative of Sri Nityananda prabhu.” (CC Adi 1.46)