iṅhāra madhye rādhāra prema—‘sādhya-śiromaṇi’
yāṅhāra mahimā sarva-śāstrete vākhāni
“Within the kāntā-prema of the gopīs, Śrī Rādhā’s prema for Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the topmost essence of all perfection, and the glories of Her love are described in all the revealed scriptures.
The proper understanding of kāntā-prema is the prema of the gopīs of Vraja for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda became amazed to hear how deeply Mahāprabhu could relate to the astonishing moods that he had just described. It is impossible for sādhakas to attain the prema of Śrī Rādhā, which is the crown jewel of all perfections. However, in the stage of perfection, the jīva becomes qualified for the highest mood of kṛṣṇa-prema (love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa), which is subservient to and follows the loving moods of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. In the stage of practice, or sādhana, the jīva must practice under the guidance of Śrī Rādhikā’s female companions, or sakhīs. (This is called mañjarī–bhāva.) Uddhava witnessed these moods of Śrī Rādhā, and we can also observe them in the life and character of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu tasted the moods of Śrī Rādhā in both Her separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Her meeting with Him.
yathā rādhā priyā viṣṇos tasyāḥ kuṇḍaṁ priyaṁ tathā
sarva-gopīṣu saivaikā viṣṇor atyanta-vallabhā
Padma Purāṇa, Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta (2.1.45)
“ ‘Just as Śrī Rādhā is most dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Her lake, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, is also exceedingly dear to Him. Among all the gopīs, Śrī Rādhā is Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra’s most dearly beloved.’
When the treasured daughter of Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, Śrī Rādhā, enters into māna (jealous anger) and when, being unable to break that anger, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is defeated, He goes to Rādhā-kuṇḍa, because He accepts Her lake to be Śrī Rādhā Herself. Hoping to gain Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s merciful glance, He performs austerities to fulfill His heart’s desire, and finally Rādhā-kuṇḍa indeed answers His prayer:
agha-ripur api yatnād atra devyāḥ prasāda-
anusarati yad uccaiḥ snāna-sevānubandhaiḥ
tad ati-surabhi rādhā-kuṇḍam evāśrayo me
Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍāṣṭaka (3)
by Śrī Ragunātha dāsa Gosvāmī
“For the pleasure of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, even Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, yearning to attain Her merciful sidelong glance, performs difficult austerities at the very precious and fragrant Rādhā-kuṇḍa, regularly bathing and carefully observing all the appropriate rituals. May that supremely enchanting Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter.”
anayārādhito nūnaṁ bhagavān harir īśvaraḥ
yan no vihāya govindaḥ prīto yām anayad rahaḥ
“ ‘O sakhīs, the gopī whom Kṛṣṇa has taken away to a secluded place, leaving aside all of us, must have definitely worshiped the Supreme Controller Śrī Hari very grandly.’ ”
This verse has a confidential meaning. The special gopī mentioned here is the crown jewel of all of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds; therefore Her name is “Rādhikā.”
These words were spoken by the vipakṣā–gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s rivals, during the mahā–rāsa-līlā that took place under the full autumn moon. This verse firmly proves the super-excellence of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s prema. At the time of the rāsa-līlā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed a vast variety of loving pastimes with the Vraja gopīs, which caused them to experience such pleasure that they became proud of their good fortune. Furthermore, Śrīmatī Rādhikā fell into a jealous pout when She noticed that while Śrī Kṛṣṇa was dancing and singing amorously with Her, displaying a variety of poses, He was doing the very same with the other gopīs. Thus, to pacify Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s anger and to check the other gopīs’ false pride in their good fortune, Śrī Kṛṣṇa disappeared from the rāsa–līlā, taking Rādhikā with Him.
As Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa were moving from one secluded kuñja to another, Śrī Rādhikā’s footprints left special marks in the sand: beneath the big toe on the right foot was a barleycorn, beneath the second toe was a wheel, below this was an umbrella, and underneath that was a bangle. In between the big toe and the second toe was a long vertical line reaching down to the middle of Her foot; under the middle toe was a lotus-flower, beneath which was a flag. Below this flag was a creeper, which bore one flower. Beneath the mount of the little toe was an elephant goad, and on the heel was a half-moon. In the left footprint, there was a conch shell at the base of the big toe, and under this was a club; on the mount of the little toe was an altar, below which there was an earring, and below this a spear. Below the second, third, fourth, and little toes were mountains, underneath them was a chariot, and on the heel a fish. Similarly, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s footprints also left their characteristic marks in the sand – flag, thunderbolt, elephant goad, lotus, etc.
padāni vyaktam etāni nanda-sūnor mahātmanaḥ
lakṣyante hi dhvajāmbhoja-vajrāṅkuśa-yavādibhiḥ
[Seeing the footprints, the gopīs spoke among themselves:] “Without a doubt these footprints belong to the most illustrious son of Nanda Mahārāja, Śrī Śyāmasundara, because the marks of a flag, lotus, thunderbolt, elephant goad, barleycorn, and so forth are clearly seen.”
Śrī Rādhā Herself was unaware of Her own footprints.
Under the cover of a very dense grove of trees, Śrī Śyāmasundara appeased the angry Rādhā by decorating Her and performing other services. By so doing, He managed to pacify Her māna, which was extremely strong and difficult to curb. Not being able to see Śrī Kṛṣṇa once He had disappeared from rāsa, the other gopīs became extremely distressed, as if their lives had left them. They began searching for Śrī Kṛṣṇa everywhere.
After some time they saw His footprints and also noticed that next to them were the footprints of a lady. Seeing them, the rival vipakṣā–gopīs said to each other, “Just as a she-elephant accompanies her beloved king of elephants, similarly that greatly fortune girl walked away with Nanda-nandana Śyāmasundara, keeping Her hand on His shoulder. Who is She? She must definitely have worshiped the omnipotent Bhagavān Śrī Hari very grandly, because Her worship has pleased Him so much that our beloved Śrī Śyāmasundara has taken Her away to a solitary place, leaving all of us behind.”
The svapakṣā–gopīs (Śrī Rādhā’s own group) could recognize that these were the footprints of their sakhī Śrī Rādhā, and although this fact made them blossom with happiness, they did not manifest any emotions outwardly, because other groups of gopīs – vipakṣā (those who are opposed to Her), taṭasthā (those who are neutral), and suhṛdā (those who are friendly) – were also present. If these other groups had understood that the footprints belonged to Śrī Rādhā, their anger toward Her and their jealousy of Her would have only increased. Therefore, as if ignorant of whom the footprints belonged to, the svapakṣā–gopīs continued following them. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written:
rādhikā-caraṇa-padma, sakala śreyera sadma,
yatane ye nāhi ārādhila
rādhā-padāṅkita-dhāma, vṛndāvana yāṅra nāma,
tāhā ye nā āśraya karila (1)
rādhikā-bhāva-gambhīra, citta jebā mahādhīra,
gaṇa-saṅga nā kaila jīvane
kemane se śyāmānanda, rasasindhu-snānānanda,
labhibe bujhaba ekamane (2)
rādhikā ujjvala-rasera ācārya
rādhā-mādhava-śuddha-prema vicārya (3)
ye dharila rādhā-pada parama yatane
se pāila kṛṣṇa-pada amūlyaratane (4)
rādhā-pada binā kabhu kṛṣṇa nāhi mile
rādhāra dāsīra kṛṣṇa, sarva-vede bale (5)
choḍata dhana-jana, kalatra-suta-mita,
rādhā-pada paṅkaja, madhurata-sevana,
bhakativinoda paramāṇa (6)
“For those who never take shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s abode, Śrī Vṛndāvana, which is beautified by the marks of Her lotus feet, which are the abode of all good fortune; for those who never worship Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet; for those who never take the association of Śrī Rādhā’s devotees, whose hearts are fixed in Her worship and whose moods are very deep and grave – please consider how it will ever be possible for them obtain the joy of bathing in the ocean of bliss that comes from serving Śrī Śyāmasundara?
“Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the ācārya of amorous love. The pure love between Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava is meant to be discussed and contemplated. Only those who carefully take full shelter of the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhikā may very easily attain the priceless jewels of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Without taking Her shelter, it is simply not possible. All of the Vedic scriptures declare that those who within their hearts consider themselves to be maidservants of Śrī Rādhā, can easily attain Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
prabhu kahe,—“āge kaha, śunite pāi sukhe
apūrvāmṛta-nadī vahe tomāra mukhe
Upon hearing the previous verse, Mahāprabhu’s voice choked up and He said, “Speak more, Rāya! Hearing this gives Me tremendous joy. An unprecedented, unparalleled, and astonishing river of nectar is flowing from your mouth.
curi kari’ rādhāke nila gopī-gaṇera ḍare
anyāpekṣā haile premera gāḍhatā nā sphure
“Rāya, by the verse anayārādhito nūnam, you have implied that Śrī Kṛṣṇa secretly took Śrī Rādhā to a solitary place out of fear of the other gopīs. Consequently, one might think that She is just like the other gopīs, since it may be understood that He did not steal Śrī Rādhā away directly before them as He loves them as well. If He had stolen Her away directly in front of the others, they would have become angry. Seeing that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is dependent on other gopīs, the intensity of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s prema is not established as superior to theirs.
rādhā lāgi’ gopīre yadi sākṣāt kare tyāga
tabe jāni,—rādhāya kṛṣṇera gāḍha-anurāga”
“If Śrī Kṛṣṇa had rejected all the other gopīs by taking Śrī Rādhā away directly before them, then one could understand that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s passion for Śrī Rādhā was deeper.”
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura explains how Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s profound, exclusive love for Śrīmatī Rādhikā could not manifest in front of the other gopīs. Fearing them, Śrī Kṛṣṇa secretly stole Rādhā away from the other gopīs during the rāsa-līlā. Only in this way was the complete and ultimate mellow actually reached, and rāsa-līlā was accomplished. Removing Rādhā from that situation pacified Her māna, and then it was possible to quell the other gopīs’ pride in their own good fortune. In addition, it enabled the other gopīs’ hearts to come together in a sweet way, mitigating all differences between them.
Śrīman Mahāprabhu concealed the depth of Rādhā’s prema, and He raised a doubt concerning Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s love for Her. Without this question, it would otherwise have been impossible to establish the full glories of Rādhā’s prema. The conceptual streams originating from our worshipful Gosvāmīs regarding Their disappearance from rāsa–līlā are herewith presented.
(1) When both ārādhikā (the worshiper, or Śrī Rādhā) and ārādhya (the worshiped, or Śrī Kṛṣṇa) disappeared from the arena of rāsa–līlā, the gopīs of Śrī Rādhā’s group could not at first understand that their mistress and Śrī Kṛṣṇa had disappeared together. Therefore, at the same time that the other gopīs began to search for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs of Śrī Rādhā’s group also began looking for their mistress. They were not sure whether She had departed with Śyāmasundara or had left separately.
(2) Once they had begun their search, the svapakṣā–gopīs (the gopīs in Śrī Rādhā’s group) then observed a set of footprints which they immediately understood as Śrī Rādhā’s, because they had received the good fortune of serving Her lotus feet. This put all of their doubts to rest and thus Śrī Rādhā was perfectly established as the most beloved of all of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dear gopīs.
It was Mahāprabhu’s intention here that Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda should further explain the super-excellence of the glories of Śrī Rādhā’s prema.
rāya kahe,—“tabe śuna premera mahimā
trijagate rādhā-premera nāhika upamā
Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya said, “Now listen to the glories of Rādhā’s prema. There is nothing superior to Her prema within the three worlds.
gopī-gaṇera rāsa-nṛtya-maṇḍalī chāḍiyā
rādhā cāhi’ vane phire vilāpa kariyā
“Śrī Kṛṣṇa left the other gopīs in the dancing arena. Lamenting over Śrī Rādhā’s disappearance, He began wandering through in the forest in search of Her.
With great expertise, Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda refuted Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s objection, saying, “O Lord, in śāradiya-rāsa Śrī Kṛṣṇa secretly took Śrī Rādhā away from the other gopīs in order to associate with Her alone.” That is true! Furthermore, it is an established and likewise proven fact that Śrī Kṛṣṇa also remains dependent on the other gopīs, but we do not always find this to be the case. The Vaiṣṇava poet, Śrī Jayadeva, has conclusively proved this in his description of vāsantī-rāsa-līlā, which took place in the springtime at Govardhana.
Rāsa–līlā started with countless millions of gopīs being present. Suddenly Śrī Kṛṣṇa noticed that Rāseśvarī Śrī Rādhā (the presiding Goddess of rāsa–līlā) was no longer present. That very instant, He abandoned the rāsa-līlā arena, and lamenting with a saddened heart, He ran from forest to forest, searching for Her everywhere. Millions of gopīs were still waiting at the dance arena, but Śrī Kṛṣṇa did not once look at them again, not even to tell them where He was going. He ran off in front of everyone, not waiting for any other gopī. From this account, we can identify Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s unwavering and heightened attraction for Śrī Rādhā.
Even if we derive our understanding from Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s description, our worshipful Gosvāmīs have explained that when Śrī Kṛṣṇa sometimes shows attachment to other gopīs, the desire to taste varieties of rasa must be the cause. If Śrī Kṛṣṇa had stolen Śrī Rādhā away, directly in front of the other gopīs, their pride would not have been destroyed. Rather, jealousy would have arisen in them instead, and then the great rāsa festival would have been over. By referring to this verse, Śrīman Mahāprabhu draws further attention to the description of vāsantī-rāsa in Śrī Gītā-govinda, composed by the great poet Śrī Jayadeva Gosvāmī.
kaṁsārir api saṁsāra-
rādhām ādhāya hṛdaye
“ ‘His heart bound by the chain of Rādhā’s love, Kaṁsāri Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Kaṁsā, firmly clasped Her to His chest and, taking Her away from the site of the rāsa–līlā, which is the complete essence of all His desires, He left aside all the other beautiful Vraja maidens.’
itas tatas tām anusṛtya rādhikām
kṛtānutāpaḥ sa kalinda-nandinī
taṭānta-kuñje viṣasāda mādhavaḥ
“ ‘Struck by Cupid’s arrows, Mādhava ran here and there along the banks of the Yamunā searching for Śrī Rādhā. Becoming despondent at not finding Her, He wept in a kuñja (forest bower).’ ”
During the vāsantī-rāsa, as soon Śrī Rādhā left the rāsa-līlā arena, the flow of nectar immediately stopped, despite millions of gopīs being there. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa saw that Rāseśvarī Śrī Rādhā was not there, He also left straight away to go looking for Her. He did not even tell the other gopīs, “Wait for Me for a moment. I am coming right back.”
In fact, in the presence of Śrī Rādhā, He does not maintain an attachment for any other gopī. The arrows of Kāmadeva (Cupid) mentioned here are the arrows of Rādhā’s prema specifically. These arrows so much wound Śrī Kṛṣṇa that He cannot even remain on His feet. Just as a diseased person has need of a healthy person’s assistance, similarly the afflicted Śrī Kṛṣṇa can only again become healthy by the medicine of Śrī Rādhā’s darśana. Do any of the other gopīs possess this kind of power? It is only Śrī Rādhā who completely fulfills every object of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s desires.
Afflicted by the fire of Cupid, Śrī Kṛṣṇa searched for Śrī Rādhā but in vain. He became so deeply affected by separation that, upon remembering Her prema, He fell into an unfathomable ocean of self-reproach. He understood that He had indeed behaved with Śrī Rādhā as He had with the other gopīs, even though She deserved greater honor. Repeatedly falling down and getting up, all the while reproaching Himself, He came to a kuñja on the bank of the river Yamunā, where He thought, “Prāṇeśvarī Śrī Rādhā, the mistress of My life, must have come to this kuñja.” But when He did not find Her there, He fell into an ocean of despair and began lamenting.
ei dui-ślokera artha vicārile jāni
vicārite uṭhe yena amṛtera khani
Śrīman Mahāprabhu pondered the meaning of these two verses and understood that they were a reservoir of nectar. Repeatedly chewing them, He began to taste ambrosia, cup after cup.
śata-koṭi gopī-saṅge rāsa-vilāsa
Śrī Rāmānanda continued: “Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed the rāsa-līlā with millions of gopīs, and in their midst He stayed by Śrī Rādhā’s side with one of His forms.
sādhāraṇa-preme dekhi’ sarvatra ‘samatā’
rādhāra kuṭila-preme ha-ila ‘vāmatā’
“Seeing that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s love for Her was the same as His love for the other gopīs, Śrī Rādhā exhibited a contrary, or leftist mood (vāmya–bhāva), because it is the nature of prema to be crooked.
Although both mādhurya (sweetness) and aiśvarya (opulence) are not only present but also complete in Vraja, the opulence stays in a hidden form, under the auspices of sweetness. Whenever the necessity to present itself arises, majesty manifests to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa; opulence cannot abandon Him. When millions of gopīs gathered for the rāsa festival, aiśvarya-mūrti (the personification of opulence, Yogamāyā) manifested millions of forms of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. However, the power of His own aiśvarya–śakti prevented He Himself from realizing this fact. Every gopī thought that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was there with her exclusively. If Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the very form of fully condensed ecstasy, were right there next to oneself, then why would one look to see what another gopī was doing?
Suddenly Śrī Rādhā glanced at another gopī and realized that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was with her, and She also noticed Him with all the other gopīs. She could perceive that Śrī Kṛṣṇa would leave one gopī and move to the next, then leave that gopī and go on to the next, and dance with each of them. Suddenly She beheld Śrī Kṛṣṇa there, with Her also. Seeing this She became very angry, because She understood that all along He had been sporting with other gopīs. “He has come to Me last. He is a magician and a debauchee. He loves all the other gopīs just as much as He loves Me!” Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s crooked prema took on a leftist mood, and becoming angry, She indignantly left the rāsa arena.
aher iva gatiḥ premṇaḥ svabhāva-kuṭilā bhavet
ato hetor ahetoś ca yūnor māna udañcati
“ ‘The movements of prema are naturally crooked like a snake; therefore, young lovers experience māna, that is, they become sulky, sometimes with cause and sometimes without.’
krodha kari’ rāsa chāḍi’ gelā māna kari’
tāṅre nā dekhiyā vyākula haila hari
samyak vāsanā kṛṣṇera, icchā rāsa-līlā
rāsa-līlā-vāsanāte rādhikā śṛṅkhalā
tāṅhā vina rāsa-līlā nāhi tāṅra cite
maṇḍalī chāḍiyā gelā rādhā anveṣite
itas-tataḥ bhrami’ kāṅhā rādhā nā pāñā
viṣāda karena kāma-bāṇe khinna hañā
“Śrī Rādhā became jealous, and with good reason; thus She left the site of the rāsa-līlā. Śrī Hari experienced extreme distress at not seeing Her. Rāsa-līlā is the condensation of all Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s yearnings, and thus, certainly, it is His most prominent desire. Śrī Rādhā is surely the vital link of the chain of His desire to perform rāsa-līlā. Without Her presence, Śrī Kṛṣṇa did not feel happy within His heart, and therefore He left the rāsa-līlā to search for Her. He looked everywhere but when He could not find Her, being pierced by the arrows of amorous desire, He became hopeless and wept.
Here, the purpose of Rādhā’s anger is not to fulfill Her own desires, because She does not have even the slightest desire for Her own happiness. Prema is crooked by nature, thus contrariety automatically arises, which enhances the taste of prema. Because all of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s desires are present within His rāsa–līlā, it was His primary desire to perform this līlā. And in fulfilling His desires, Śrī Rādhā is the crucial link. Actually, Śrī Rādhā Herself is the reason that Kṛṣṇa desires to enact rāsa–līlā and thus She is the supreme abode of this pastime. This is why, despite the presence of millions of other gopīs, right in front of them, Śrī Kṛṣṇa also left that place.
It is obvious that Śrī Kṛṣṇa did not take away Rādhā by stealth. The statement here is very clear: owing to māna, She left rāsa–līlā on Her own. Śrī Kṛṣṇa was wounded by kāma, but this does not mean material lust; rather it is the mutual eagerness between lovers to give one another happiness. Śrī Rādhā’s tendency to perform amorous service is of the highest standard. Furthermore, as long as Śrī Kṛṣṇa has not fulfilled Her desire He feels pain in His heart.
śata-koṭi-gopīte nahe kāma-nirvāpaṇa
tāhātei anumāni śrī-rādhikāra guṇa
“Even millions of gopīs were not able to extinguish the kāma of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. From this alone, one can infer the greatness of Śrī Rādhā’s qualities. Without Her, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s desire to taste kāntā-prema would not be met.”
prabhu kahe—“ye lāgi’ āilāma tomā-sthāne
sei saba tattva-vastu haila mora jñāne
After hearing the deep explanation of prema-tattva from Śrī Rāya
Rāmānanda, Mahāprabhu became very satisfied, and with a choked voice He explained, “Rāya, I have come to see you to receive know-ledge of all these tattvas. My coming to you has proven successful.
ebe se jāniluṅ sādhya-sādhana-nirṇaya
āge āra āche kichu, śunite mana haya
“I have understood the tattva of both the sādhya (goal) and the sādhana (means to achieve it); but please speak further, for my mind desires to hear more.
Even after hearing such a deep deliberation on sādhya-sādhana-tattva from the lotus mouth of Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya, Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s curiosity was still not pacified. It seemed that He wanted to know more about the special glories of Śrī Rādhā’s nature. Therefore, He cleverly yet indirectly asked:
‘kṛṣṇera svarūpa’ kaha ‘rādhāra svarūpa’
‘rasa’—kon tattva, ‘prema’—kon tattva-rūpa
kṛpā kari’ ei tattva kaha ta’ āmāre
tomā-vinā keha ihā nirūpite nāre”
“O Rāmānanda, what is the nature of Śrī Rādhā and of Śrī Kṛṣṇa? What is rasa–tattva? In addition, what is the intrinsic nature of prema-tattva? Please be merciful and explain all of these truths to Me. Except for you there is no one else who can explain these things.”
rāya kahe,—“ihā āmi kichui nā jāni
tumi yei kahāo, sei kahi āmi vāṇī
tomāra śikṣāya paḍi yena śuka-pāṭha
sākṣāt īśvara tumi, ke bujhe tomāra nāṭa
hṛdaye preraṇa kara, jihvāya kahāo vāṇī
ki kahiye bhāla-manda, kichui nā jāni”
Hearing Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s question, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya said, “I do not know anything about this subject. I utter only those instructions You speak through me. Whatever teachings I receive from You, I recite just like a parrot. You are directly the Supreme Controller – who can understand Your drama? My tongue will vibrate those very same instructions You have inspired within my heart as the Supersoul. Whether I am speaking correctly or incorrectly, I do not know.”
prabhu kahe,—“māyāvādī āmi ta’ sannyāsī
bhakti-tattva nāhi jāni, māyāvāde bhāsi
Hearing Rāmānanda Rāya’s humble words Mahāprabhu said, “I am a Māyāvādī sannyāsī. How can I understand bhakti–tattva? I always remain entangled in māyāvada philosophy.
We should understand that these words, spoken by Śrīman Mahāprabhu in full humility, were actually meant to conceal His real identity.
sārvabhauma-saṅge mora mana nirmala ha-ila
‘kṛṣṇa-bhakti-tattva kaha’, tāṅhāre puchila
teṅho kahe,—‘āmi nāhi jāni kṛṣṇa-kathā
sabe rāmānanda jāne, teṅho nāhi ethā’
“Staying with Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya My mind has been purified. I inquired from him about the fundamental truth of kṛṣṇa–bhakti. However, he said to Me, ‘I do not know topics of Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda knows everything, but he is not here now.’
tomāra ṭhāñi āilāṅa tomāra mahimā śuniyā
tumi more stuti kara ‘sannyāsī’ jāniyā
“O Rāmānanda Rāya, hearing of your glories I have come to you, but understanding Me to be a sannyāsī you began to praise Me.
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
“Whether or not one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra, if one knows kṛṣṇa–tattva, he in reality is guru.
By this statement, Mahāprabhu’s intention is that Rāmānanda Rāya should not entertain the idea that because Mahāprabhu has accepted birth in a brāhmaṇa family and is also a sannyāsī, He cannot take religious instructions from a śūdra.
For anyone following varṇāśrama-dharma who desires to receive religious instruction and initiation, a guru from the brāhmaṇa caste is indispensable. Yet because knowledge of kṛṣṇa-tattva is the supreme goal of all jīvas, the scriptural conclusion is that anyone who knows bhakti–tattva is actually a spiritual master. It is said:
tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (1.2.12)
“In order to obtain knowledge of the Supreme Truth, one must approach a bona fide guru who knows the Vedas and is fixed in the Absolute Truth, taking ingredients for sacrifice in hand.”
varṇottame ’tha ca gurau
sati yā viśrute ’pi ca
sva-deśato ’tha vānyatra
nedaṁ kāryaṁ śubhārthinā
Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (1.51)
“If a famous brāhmaṇa spiritual master is present in one’s own district, a person who desires auspiciousness will not travel elsewhere to accept initiation from someone other than him.”
A person from a low caste should not undertake the work of bestowing mantras [thus becoming an initiating spiritual master]. A qualified person of a high caste should not receive a mantra from one in a lower caste. These are ordinary mundane instructions, meant for those who have pride in their caste. However, for those pure persons devoted to bhakti, who are devoid of the false ego arising from caste, this regulation does not apply. Instead, the prescription for them is that only those who are knowledgeable in the science of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, expert in the process of devotional service, and expert in tasting devotional mellows should be accepted as spiritual masters, whether they are from a brāhmaṇa family or from a śūdra family.
The sāttvata scriptures (the Vaiṣṇava scriptures) explain that those who have taken initiation into a viṣṇu-mantra are known as dvijādhika, meaning they are even superior to the dvijas, or twice-born brāhmaṇas. This is because an ordinary vipra