Radha Kunda tilak – Bonafide or not?
By Varun Gogna
Please accept my humble obeisance. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Over the past few years I have seen that some devotees within our society have an issue with the use of Radha Kunda tilak as opposed to Gopi Chandhan. These individuals carelessly criticize the devotees who use Radha Kunda tilak and unfortunately categorize them in the “DEVIATION” group. Some of the criticism’s include statements like, “They are just imitating Radha Kunda Babaji’s, Srila Prabhupada never encouraged being a Babaji!”, “They are deviating from Srila Prabhupadas standards by using this tilak, do not associate with them!”, “It is just dirt, we shouldn’t wear that”, and I’m sorry to say so but I have even heard of someone saying “That is Demoniac tilak!” (due to the color being dark).
After hearing such outrageous statements, I was impelled to write this paper. I felt the need to show Aindra Prabhu this paper before taking the matter any further as he is my Siksha Guru and I wanted his approval. Being very happy after reading it, he very mercifully gave his blessing to me saying, “All the power to you!” With Aindra Prabhu’s merciful guidance and encouragement only was I able to write anything substantial in this regard.
Following is the evidence which I have collected to firmly establish the authenticity of using this tilak in relation to Srila Prabhupada’s and our Gaudiya Vaisnava’s teachings.
The first piece of evidence which I would like to provide is a transcript of a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada:
Acyutananda: They also wear the Radha-kunda mati, tilaka.
Prabhupada: There is no harm, but they should understand what is Radha-kunda and how to deal with Radha-kunda. Raghunatha dasa Gosvami showed how to live in Radha-kunda………
As you can see from this conversation it is an indisputable fact that Srila Prabhupada has no agenda with someone wearing Radha Kunda tilak. He is saying as long as one understands Radha Kunda there is no harm.
One may then argue that it is a bold statement to claim that one has understood Radha Kunda.
I would also agree with this point. But there is a possibility that one can understand Radha Kunda to the best of their capacity through the mercy of the previous Acarya’s and Srila Prabhupada. Srila Rupa Goswami has clearly outlined in his book Sri Upadesamrta which Srila Prabhupada mercifully translated for us, the divine exaltedness of Sri Radha Kunda. The previous Acarya’s have also explained in many other books the supreme excellence of Radha kunda, which if taken shelter of, will give one some understanding and appreciation for this Lila sthana. By also hearing the glories of Ragunath Das Goswami at Radhkunda and understanding his deep level of sadhana which he performed on a daily basis will elevate ones consciousness. If a mood of appreciation and loving attraction is cultivated in the individual for Sri Radha Kunda through the mercy of the Acarya’s teachings then there is no doubt that one has the right to apply this tilaka as part of his sadhana bhakti.
My second piece of evidence which I would like to provide are pictures of devotees wearing Radha Kunda tilak standing alongside Srila Prabhupada (I have highlighted the areas which show the Radha Kunda tilak)
On seeing these pictures, it is clear and safe to say that wearing Radha Kunda tilak is sanctioned by his Divine Grace.
According to some, wearing Radha Kunda tilak relates one to the Radha Kunda babas. And as we all know, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura as well as Srila Prabhupada heavily condemned the Sahajiya Radha Kunda babas. So if wearing Radha Kunda tilak was to relate one with the babaji’s, Srila Prabhupada definitely would have put a stop to his disciples from using this tilaka.
Still one may argue that the devotees in these pictures probably didn’t have any major role in the society, which in turn wouldn’t attract the attention of Srila Prabhupada, as he had bigger and more important things to worry about. However as we can see from the following pictures not only did the “ordinary” devotees wear Radha Kunda Tilak but one of Srila Prabhupadas most intimate Sannayas disciple, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami also did.
There is no way that Tamal Krishna Goswami would have been allowed to wear this tilak if Srila Prabhupada did not sanction it. Tamal Krishna Goswami being one of the main Sannayasi’s at that time and GBC member wouldn’t have been allowed by Srila Prabhupada to wear this tilak if it was considered as a deviation and was not in relation with the standards of our society. I don’t feel I have to elaborate more on the meanings of these pictures especially the last one as they clearly speak for themselves.
My third piece of evidence which I would like to provide is a quote from the Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 18.14:
Kundera mrittika lana tilaka karila bhattacarya-dvara mrittika sange kari’ laila
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then marked his body with tilaka made from the mud of Radha-kunda, and with the help of Balabhadra Bhattacarya, He collected some of the mud and took it with him.”
This verse clearly shows the authenticity of using Radha Kunda tilak as enunciated by Lord Krishna himself in his incarnation as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. How can one criticize a practice which Mahaprabhu himself also followed? We being followers of Lord Caitanaya can also follow in his footsteps and use Radha Kunda tilaka. If one is wearing this tilak due to some loving sentiment for Sri Radha Kunda and feels a sense of upliftment in ones devotional life, then applying this tilaka should be encouraged. The whole purpose in life is to become a suddha bhakta and attain Krishna Prema. Whatever helps one attain this goal in conjunction with the teachings of our disciplic succession one should do without delay.
One then may argue that we cannot imitate Mahaprabhu’s manifesting his 6 armed form to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya or many of his other extraordinary lilas which he performed. So how can we imitate his wearing Radha Kunda tilak?
My response would be that Sri Krishna personally came in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us conditioned souls how to perform devotional practices by his own example which he set forth. There is no doubt that we cannot imitate his manifesting a 6 armed form or any other transcendental activity which he performed. But what we can do is follow in his footsteps the practices which are achievable by us and that is in the realm of Sadhana Bhakti such as, Harinama Sankirtan, chanting japa, worshipping the deity, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, applying Radha Kunda tilak, etc. These practices should be taken up for definite and effective progress on the path of Krishna prema.
Still one may argue, “Radha Kunda tilak is a babaji tilak! We are not babaji’s!”
Well to label Radha Kunda tilak as babaji tilak is absurd as this statement in itself is labeling Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a babaji (which he is not), because of his applying this tilaka. Therefore one should think first and use their words wisely before criticizing. Just because the babajis happen to also use this tilak it does not give them sole proprietorship over the use of this tilaka. Rather it is a tilaka which is most welcomed by all sects branching off the Caitanya tree. So by applying this tilaka does not mean one is stamping oneself as a Radha Kunda baba. This is a big misconception amongst devotees.
My fourth piece of evidence which I would like to provide is a quotation found in the Pancharatra Pradipa published by the GBC in 1993:
Pancaratra pradipa – GBC Press
Material for Tilaka
………The Padma Purana quotes Yamaraja as saying that gopi-candana and earth from the base of a tulasi plant are the best materials for making tilaka. If neither of these is available, says the Padma Purana, one may use the earth from the top of a mountain, the bank of a river, a pond, the foot of a bilva tree, the seashore, an ant hill, or especially holy places of pilgrimage such as Sri Rangam, Venkata-giri, Kurma-ksetra, Varaha-ksetra, Narasimha-tirtha, Dvaraka, or Prayaga. Following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, one may also use mud from Radha-kunda in Vrndavana to make tilaka.
So as we can see from here, if the GBC is the authority for setting down the law then it’s a 100% bonafied act to wear Radha Kunda tilaka in our Iskcon society. Also if the Padma Purana states that one can apply as tilak the mud from a holy place of pilgrimage, then mud from any part of Vraja Bhumi being the topmost of all holy places is acceptable for use as tilak.
My fifth and last point which I would like to add is that there are many Guru’s and sannayasi’s within our society who allow the use of Radha kunda tilak also. There are many names of which I could list here but choose not to as I have not asked permission for using their name in this regard, but rest assured there are many.
The evidence given in this paper clearly show that the use of this tilak is undoubtedly a bonafide practice substantiated by Guru, Sadhu, and Sastra, which I hope has helped to clear any misconceptions on this topic.
I would like to end this paper with the concluding verse’s from Srila Rupa Goswami’s, Sri Upadesamrta which glorify and bring into the purview of our understanding, the Supreme excellence of Sri Radha Kunda:
The holy place known as Mathura is spiritually superior toVaikuntha, the transcendental world, because the Lord appeared there. Superior to Mathura-Puri is the transcendental forest of Vrndavan because of Krsna’s rasa-lila pastimes. And superior to the forest of Vrndavan is Govardhan Hill, for it was raised by the divine hand of Sri Krsna and was the site of His various loving pastimes. And, above all, the superexcellent Sri Radha-kunda stands supreme, for it is overflooded with the ambrosial nectarean prema of the Lord of Gokula, Sri Krsna. Where, then, is that intelligent Person who is unwilling to serve this divine Radha-kunda, which is situated at the foot of Govardhan Hill?
In the sastra it is said that of all types of fruitive workers, he who is advanced in knowledge of the higher values of life is favored by the Supreme Lord Hari. Out of many such people who are advanced in knowledge [jñānīs], one who is practically liberated by virtue of his knowledge may take to devotional service. He is superior to the others. However, one who has actually attained prema, pure love of Krsna, is superior to him. The gopīs are exalted above all the advanced devotees because they are always totally dependent upon Sri Krsna, the transcendental cowherd boy. Among the gopīs, Srimati Rādhārāṇī is the most dear to Krsna. Her kunda[lake] is as profoundly dear to Lord Krsna, as this most beloved of the gopīs. Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings [aprākṛtabhāva], render loving service to the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who perform Their aṣṭakālīya-lila, Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Radha-kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe.
Of the many objects of favored delight and of all the lovable damsels of Vrajabhūmi, Srimati Rādhārāṇī is certainly the most treasured object of Krsna’s love. And, in every respect, Her divine kunda is described by great sages as similarly dear to Him. Undoubtedly Radha-kunda is very rarely attained even by the great devotees; therefore it is even more difficult for ordinary devotees to attain. If one simply bathes once within those holy waters, one’s pure love of Krsna is fully aroused.
Thank you very much,