Becoming a Maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā
The conception of being a maidservant of Śrī Rādhā is described in the following words of the Gosvāmīs:
abhimānaṁ parityajya prākṛta-vapur-ādiṣu
śrī-kṛṣṇa-kṛpayā gopī-dehe vraje vasāmy aham
rādhikānucarī bhūtvā parakīya-rase sadā
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-vilāseṣu paricaryāṁ karomy aham
After giving up false identification with this material body, may I obtain the body of a gopī and reside in Vraja by the mercy of
Śrī Kṛṣṇa. May I become Śrī Rādhā’s maidservant, and always serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, who revel in the rasa of paramour love.
sthūla-dehādite ātma-buddhi parihari’
kṛṣṇa-kṛpāśraye nitya-gopī-deha dhari’
kabe āmi parakīya rase nirantara
rādhā-kṛsna-sevā-sukha labhiba vistara
In his commentary on these verses, Śrīla Gurudeva speaks as follows: As long as the sādhaka identifies himself with the material body, he cannot enter the realm of bhajana. Only after one has rejected all kinds of false identities pertaining to the body, such as, ‘I am a brāhmaṇa’, ‘I am a kṣatriya’, and pertaining to character, such as, ‘I am so qualified’, ‘I am rich’, ‘I am a scholar’, and only after he becomes more humble than a blade of grass (tṛṇād api sunīca) and prays with extreme distress, is it possible to obtain Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. All types of anarthas, aparādhas and false identifications (abhimānas ) can only be eradicated by good association (sat-saṅga).
We should weep and pray in a distressed and humble voice, “O Śrī Kṛṣṇa! O Śrī Rādhā! Gopī-dehe vraje vasāmy aham—when will I obtain such mercy as to reside in Vraja and become the dāsī of the dāsī of the dāsīs of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and when will I eternally serve Your parakīya-rasa-vilāsa day and night?”
By such distress filled prayers, gopī-bhāva will arise in the heart by the mercy of Śrī Rādhā’s sakhīs, the eternally perfect gopīs of Vraja. Without gopī-bhāva it is impossible to attain the land of Vṛndāvana-dhāma where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa perform Their amorous pastimes in the solitary bowers. This mood is attained only by following Śrī Rādhā’s intimate sakhīs, who attend to Her in Her private chambers. Only they can enter these pastimes, no one else, and only they expand these pastimes and taste them. The ekādaśa-bhāvas and the five daśās are evoked by their mercy.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings in Prema-bhakti-candrikā (5.7):
yugala-caraṇa sevi, nirantara ei bhāvi,
anurāge thākiba sadāya
sādhane bhāviba yāhā, siddha-dehe pāba tāhā,
rāga-pathera ei se upāya
I will constantly serve the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa with loving attachment. Whatever I contemplate during sādhana will certainly be achieved upon attaining the perfection of a spiritual body (siddha-deha ). This is the method of the path of rāga.
Parakīya-rase sadā – The scriptures establish the pre-eminence of the paramour love (parakīya-rasa ) of Vraja. By serving Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in the mood of wedded love (svakīya), one will attain Goloka Vṛndāvana, and by serving in paramour love (parakīya), one will attain Vraja-Vṛndāvana, the absolute innermost chamber of Goloka-dhāma, where Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s nikuñja-līlās take place. There, the mañjarī-sakhīs are topmost, as they are endowed with ullāsa-rati, or much stronger affection for Rādhā than for Kṛṣṇa. They render service to the rasa-laden loving exchanges (rasa-keli-līlā-vilāsa) in the secluded groves without any hesitation. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī says in Vraja-vilāsa-stava (38):
vṛndāraṇya-maheśvarīṁ priyatayā yās toṣayanti priyāḥ
prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhī-kulād api kilāsaṅkocitā bhūmikāḥ
kelī-bhūmiṣu rūpa-mañjarī-mukhās tā dāsikāḥ saṁśraye
I take shelter of the maidservants of Śrīmatī Rādhikā of whom Rūpa Mañjarī is prominent. Unlike the prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhīs, they can perform any service without hesitation. They perpetually and affectionately satisfy Śrīmatī Rādhikā by their various services, such as offering tāmbūla, massaging Her feet, bringing Her water and arranging for Her trysts with Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
The rejection of all types of dharma, out of the desire to serve Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet, is described in Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (33):
dūrād apāsya svajanān sukham artha-koṭiṁ
sarveṣu sādhana-vareṣu ciraṁ nirāśaḥ
varṣantam eva sahajādbhuta-saukhya-dhārāṁ
śrī-rādhikā-caraṇa-reṇum ahaṁ smarāmi
The desire for the pleasure received from relationships with family and friends; for the four goals of life, namely dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa ; and for vast wealth, etc., are the causes of all unwanted desires. Knowing this, I abandoned them all. I worship the foot-dust of Śrī Rādhā, which showers natural, wonderful happiness, and I always keep this foot-dust upon my head.
svajana-sambandha-sukha, catur-varga artha
sakala-sādhana chāḍi’ jāniyā anartha
sahaja-adbhuta-saukhya-dhārā vṛṣṭi kari
rādhā-pada-reṇu bhaji, śire sadā dhari’
The first line of this Text, dūrād apāsya sva-janān sukham artha-koṭim, means that the desires for wealth and the happiness derived from the company of relatives cause impediments in remembering the dust of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s lotus feet, and therefore those desires should be rejected. Pure renunciation is actually a natural distaste for material matters and a taste for the dust of Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet. Sādhakas who possess exclusive faith in Śrī Rādhā (rādhā-niṣṭhā) are solely attached to the fragrance of Her lotus feet. Without Śrī Rādhā, they have no taste for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Material happiness seems insignificant to such sādhakas, who have firm attachment for Her lotus feet and who are not slightly inclined toward any other transcendental practice and goal. Indeed, on the path of prema-bhakti, other practices (sādhanas ) are obstacles, as stated in the following verse:
puṇya ye sukhera dhāma, tāra nā laio nāma,
puṇya mukti dui tyāga kari’
prema-bhakti-sudhā-nidhi, tāhe ḍūba niravadhi,
āra yata kṣāra-nidhi prāya
Although piety is the abode of material happiness, do not strive for it. Rather, give up the desire for piety, as well as for liberation. Loving devotional service is an ocean of nectar. Always be immersed in it.
Pious activities, liberation and so forth are like a pile of ashes to the premī-bhakta (the devotee at the stage of prema). Indeed, if a devotee persistently desires to submerge himself in the nectarean ocean of loving devotional service, and his bee-like heart is attracted by the fragrance of Śrī Rādhā’s foot-dust, which is full of immaculate rasa, how can he go anywhere else? After receiving happiness from a supremely excellent object, can one become attracted by some trifling pleasure? Compared to the happiness of merging with brahma (brahmānanda), the bliss of bhajana (bhajanānanda ) is vastly greater. That ecstasy is indescribable. Bhajanānanda in its most condensed form is premānanda, but it is beyond words to express the nature of premānanda, as it is a stage to be experienced. Amongst all varieties of premānanda, the prema of the gopīs when distressed in separation crosses beyond the ultimate limit of ānanda and attains a state that cannot be expressed in words. From the dust of the lotus feet of the crest jewel of all gopīs, Śrī Rādhā, a stream of this indescribable happiness continuously flows towards that sādhaka who remembers Her. This stream of ānanda, composed of pure sweetness and devoid of even a scent of aiśvarya-jñāna, is natural and filled with wonderful astonishment. This is the meaning of the words sahajādbhuta-saukhya-dhārā in this Text.
Śrī-rādhikā-caraṇa-reṇum aham smarāmi—in the absence of directly receiving the exceedingly rare dust of Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet, the sādhaka who is established in rādhā-dāsya remembers that dust. What this actually means is that he yearns to obtain his cherished service in Śrī Rādhā’s pastimes in the pleasure groves (vilāsa-kuñjas ). This is the heartfelt desire of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, and it is their topmost sādhana. Prema-bhakti-candrikā (2.2) states: “sādhana smaraṇa līlā, ihāte nā kara helā, kāya mane kariyā susāra – the sādhana at this stage is to remember Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes; do not neglect this. Make this the most essential endeavour of your body and mind.”
In this way, the sādhaka worships the dust of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s lotus feet. In Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (198) Śrī Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī prays:
āśāsya dāsyaṁ vṛṣabhānu-jāyās
tīre samadhyāsya ca bhānu-jāyāḥ
kadā nu vṛndāvana-kuñja-vīthiṣv
ahaṁ nu rādhe hy atithir bhaveyam
O Rādhā! O Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī! When will I, who am residing on the bank of the Yamunā with the hope of becoming Your maidservant, become a guest on the pathways of Vṛndāvana’s kuñjas?
vṛṣabhānu-kumārīra haiba kiṅkarī
kalinda-nandinī tīre ra’ba vāsa kari’
karuṇā kariyā rādhe e dāsīra prati
vṛndāṭavī kuñja-pathe haiba atithi
Similarly, in one place Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura prays, “O Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī, there is a hope growing in my heart, that You will become a guest on the path of my vision as You go to Your rendezvous on the paths of Vṛndāvana’s kuñjas on the bank of the Yamunā.”
In an extremely restless condition, Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī has composed this Text while remembering service to Śrī Svāminī. In the absence of this service, vast pain and longing has arisen in his heart as he remembers the sweetness of these pastimes. Realising his disqualification to taste such sweetness, his life air is agitated by an intolerable unhappiness and pain. However, a firm hope of one day attaining the eternal service of Svāminī is stirring his heart. One symptom of the jāta-rati-bhakta is a firm hope of attaining the Supreme Lord (āśā-bandha), and the ultimate development of this āśā-bandha is seen in mahābhāva. The resolute hope of the vraja-devīs is indescribable. Even in the condition of long-term separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the expectation of attaining His service keeps them alive. They have faith in Kṛṣṇa’s words spoken when He left for Mathurā (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.39.35): “āyāsya iti – I will return.”
With this hope, Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī prays at Śrī Svāminī’s lotus feet, “O Rādhā! O Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī! When will I, with the hope of becoming Your maidservant, be a guest on the pathways of the kuñjas situated on the bank of the Yamunā?”
“O Rādhā, You are the daughter of King Vṛṣabhānu, the empress of Vṛndāvana and a treasury of overflowing compassion. Therefore, do not neglect me, a destitute and lowly person. Please engage me as a maidservant in the service of You and Your prāṇa-priyatama in Your pastimes within the secluded groves. Filled with intensely passionate pure love (premānurāga ), You move along the bank of the Yamunā towards the nikuñjas of Vṛndāvana to meet with the lord of Your life. When will this destitute guest sit on the path You travel?
My determination will be fixed; I will not move from that place without first receiving Your mercy. Upon seeing this destitute guest sitting there, Your heart will certainly be moved by compassion. O Svāminī, You are Kṛṣṇa’s most treasured beloved and His worshipper. Please make me successful by giving me an opportunity to perform some tiny service in the worship of the love of Your life. Now, at the end of my life, I am a beggar for Your mercy. Please accept me as Your unpaid maidservant. If You deprive me of this, Your name will be defamed, and that I cannot tolerate.”