Searching for Śrī Rādhānātha while engaged in the service of Śrī Rādhā (rādhā-dāsya) is described in Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (142):
rādhā-nāma sudhā-rasaṁ rasayituṁ jihvās tu me vihvalā
pādau tat-padakāṅkitāsu caratāṁ vṛndāṭavī-vīthiṣu
tat-karmaiva karaḥ karotu hṛdayaṁ tasyāḥ padaṁ dhyāyatāṁ
tad-bhāvotsavataḥ paraṁ bhavatu me tat-prāṇanāthe ratiḥ
May my tongue become constantly overwhelmed by relishing the nectarean rasa of the name Rādhā, may my feet wander on the pathways of that Vṛndāvana where Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī walks, may both my hands be engaged in Svāminī’s service, and may my heart contemplate Her lotus feet. By Śrīmatī’s festival of ecstatic moods (bhāvotsava), may one-pointed attachment mani-fest within me for Her prāṇanātha, Śrī Śyāmasundara. This is my earnest prayer.
jihvā hauka su-vihvala, rādhā-nāma gāne
vṛndāraṇye cala pada, rādhā anveṣaṇe
rādhā-sevā kara-kara, rādhā smara mane
rādhā-bhāve mati, bhaja rādhā-prāṇa-dhane
Śrīla Gosvāmipāda is humbly praying to attain attachment to the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā’s prāṇanātha through Her festival of ecstatic moods (bhāvotsava), by engaging all his senses in rādhā-bhajana. When will my tongue become overwhelmed by tasting the nectarean rasa of Śrī Rādhā’s name? There is no equal to the happiness experienced by the tongue that, with heartfelt prema, tastes the nectar of Śrīmatī’s name. Happiness comes when one has achieved the desired perfection by performing nāma-saṅkīrtana of one’s object of worship. The name appears primarily upon the tongue, and both the chanter and the hearer derive bliss.
baliṣṭhaṁ sādhanaṁ śreṣṭhaṁ
tad eva manyate bhakteḥ
phalaṁ tad-rasikair janaiḥ
It is said that to obtain the wealth of prema for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, nāma-saṅkīrtana is the best and most powerful sādhana. This supremely attractive mantra draws Śrī Kṛṣṇa towards the sādhaka. Therefore rasika devotees of Bhagavān conclude that saṅkīrtana is the result of bhakti. It is unfailing in bestowing the wealth of bhagavat-prema.
Relish of the very rasa of Bhagavān, who is Himself an embodiment of concentrated rasa, is definitely contained within His name. Although there is such taste in His name, that same nāmī, Śrī Śyāmasundara, becomes overwhelmed when He tastes the name of Śrī Rādhā. It is the nature of prema that the lover will have affection for the name of the beloved.
Once, due to the vigilance of Jaṭilā, Śrī Kiśorī could not meet Śyāmasundara, who fainted in separation from Her. Madhumaṅgala went to Kiśorī, but since She was under guard, She was unable to leave the house. To pacify Kṛṣṇa’s fire of separation, She wrote the two syllables rā and dhā on a leaf and sent it to Him. When He received it, Kṛṣṇa returned to His senses and He said to Madhumaṅgala, “Friend, I am completely satisfied with what you have given Me.”
In the second line of this Text, Śrīpāda is praying: “pādau tat-padakāṅkitāsu caratāṁ vṛndāṭavī-vīthiṣu – may my feet traverse the paths of Vṛndāvana-dhāma, which is marked with the footprints of Śrī Rādhā. While wandering there, may this sentiment be in my heart: My Svāminī is travelling on these paths to meet with Her prāṇanātha. Every infinitesimal particle of Vraja is mixed with the dust from Her lotus feet and is thus perceived as prema-makaranda, the nectar of love. May my Īśvarī’s vilāsa-līlā be painted on the canvas of my heart. May the dust particles that have touched Her lotus feet be the ornaments of my limbs.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dear associate Uddhava also desired to attain a particle of this dust by taking birth in Vraja as a blade of grass or a shrub. Such a heart’s longing will only be fulfilled by remembering Śrī Kiśorī’s foot-dust which lies upon the pathways of Vraja.
Śrīla Gosvāmipāda continues: “tat-karmaiva karaḥ karotu – may both my hands be engaged in stringing various kinds of flowers into garlands, ornaments and so forth for Śrī Svāminī. When Svāmīnī is fatigued from Her vilāsa, please allow me to attain the good fortune of massaging Her lotus feet.
“Tad-bhāvotsavataḥ paraṁ bhavatu me tat-prāṇanāthe ratiḥ – Śrī Rādhā’s bhāvotsava, festival of ecstatic moods, is Her pastimes with Śrī Govinda. Sometimes, when Śrīmatī becomes māninī, sulky, Govinda will pray to me with clever words, ‘O beautiful one! O merciful one! Please satisfy Śrī Rādhā and thereby pacify My fire of separation.’ Upon hearing His petition, I will catch hold of His hand and lead Him to Svāminī. May it be my goal and all-good fortune to arrange for my Svāminī to meet with Her prāṇa-priyatama. Govinda will certainly give me mercy, knowing that I have taken shelter of Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet.”
A prayer to attain Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet, which are the only goal, is given in Vilāpa-kusumāṣjali (8):
dūyamānam ati-durgataṁ janam
O Devī Śrī Rādhikā, I am in a helpless condition, drowning in the ocean of unhappiness. Please lift me into the strong boat of Your mercy and give me the shelter of Your lotus feet.
duḥkha-sindhu mājhe devi, durgata e jana
kṛpā-pote pāda-padme uṭhāo ekhana
Feeling himself to be bereft of service, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī is extremely agitated by separation from Śrī Rādhā. He feels himself to be without shelter and is drowning in the deep ocean of unhappiness. Remembering this śloka, he begins to glorify Śrī Svāminī in every way by using the word devī. The root of devī is div, which means “playful” or “sportive”. In other words, She enjoys pastimes of divine love sports with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Remembering this, Dāsa Gosvāmī uses the word devī. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 4.84) it is said: “‘devī’ kahi dyotamānā, paramā sundarī – devī means ‘resplendent and most beautiful’.”
“O Śrīmatī Rādhikā, deprived of service to Your lotus feet, I am drowning in this ocean of material existence, which is difficult to cross. Please shelter me within the boat of Your mercy and bestow upon me the qualification to serve Your lotus feet, for apart from this service, there is no other remedy to remove the exhaustion caused by pangs of separation from You. Everything in the material world causes misery; only service to You is fully blissful.”
The maṣjarīs are firmly and resolutely fixed in the mood of being Śrī Rādhā’s maidservants. The only thing on their minds is service to Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet. A desire to enjoy bodily association with Śrī Hari does not arise even in their dreams. If Śrī Kṛṣṇa forcefully catches hold of them and begins to speak to them, they say stiffly, “O Nanda-nandana! Do not dare touch this body!”
The bhāva that Śrī Rādhā’s maidservants have towards Her is pure and completely free from the desire for self-enjoyment. They do not even have a tinge of any desire other than to serve Her.
The inclination to be solely attached to serving Śrī Rādhā is described in Vilāpa-kusumāṣjali (16):
pādābjayos tava vinā vara-dāsyam eva
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devi yāce
sakhyāya te mama namo ’stu namo ’stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso ’stu raso ’stu satyam
O Devī, I have no desire other than for the topmost attainment of servitude to Your lotus feet. I forever offer obeisances to the position of being Your sakhī, but may I remain firmly attached to being Your maidservant. I speak this as a solemn vow.
tava pada-dāsya vinā kichu nāhi māgi
tava sakhye namaskāra, āchi dāsya lāgi’
In this Text, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, absorbed in his internal maṣjarī form, is praying in great distress to the lotus feet of his Svāminī. “O Svāminī, please make me Your maidservant by bestowing upon me the great fortune of service to Your lotus feet.” This servitorship (dāsya) is topmost (vara) because Śrī Rādhā’s maidservants are free from reverence and fear. Their service is devoid of hesitation and is supremely tasty and relishable. The desire for this dāsya is the compassionate gift of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and its attainment is the heartfelt aim of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas.
As maidservants, the maṣjarīs are also receptacles of mādhurya-rasa. They can, without fear or shyness, enter the solitary nikuṣja where amorous pastimes are taking place, and very gracefully and cleverly perform their service. They also thoroughly know the requirements of the youthful Divine Couple, as well as when and how to fulfil them. The speciality of these maṣjarīs is performing their service while knowing the innermost feelings of the Divine Couple’s hearts. Seeing the enchanting skill of the maṣjarīs’ service, a desire for such service is aroused in the mind of Śyāmasundara Himself, the crest jewel of all those who relish rasa.
As svādhīna-bhartṛkā, a heroine who controls her lover, Śrī Rādhā orders Him, “Fix My dishevelled clothes and ornaments, or the other sakhīs will see them and tease Me.” Understanding Svāminī’s mood, the kiṅkarīs bring clothes and cosmetics. Śrīmatī orders Śyāmasundara to apply footlac (altā), and upon seeing the beauty of Her lotus feet, He becomes overwhelmed with prema. Ecstatic transformations (sāttvika-vikāras) make all His limbs horripilate and tremble (pulakita and kampita), and as a result He is unable to hold the brush. Observing His condition, Śrīmatī softly and sweetly smiles and orders Rati Maṣjarī to apply the altā. The maṣjarīs taste various types of sweet pastimes like this in a completely unobstructed way.
Śyāmasundara has to take shelter of the maṣjarīs in order to get the opportunity to meet with Śrīmatī or to pacify Her māna. While eating at the house of Nanda in the evening, Śyāmasundara becomes restless to know if He will be able to meet with Rādhikā that night or not. Through subtle gestures He inquires from Śrīmatī’s maidservants about the possibility of this meeting. A maidservant indicates, “Yes, it will take place.” Whatever these maṣjarīs have is for the pleasure of the Divine Couple – they have nothing of their own. In rank, the priya-narma-sakhīs are superior, but from the perspective of having the most fortunate service, the maṣjarīs are superior.
The kāmātmikā-bhakti of Vraja, which is exclusive to mādhurya-rasa, is of two kinds: sambhoga-icchāmayī and tat-tad-bhāva-icchāmayī. The mādhurya-rasa that Vraja’s yūtheśvarīs (group leaders) such as Rādhā, Candrāvalī and Śyāmalā have towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa is called sambhoga-icchāmayī. Serving the Divine Couple in the mood of maṣjarīs like Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Rati, whose inclination is towards Śrīmatī Rādhikā (rādhā-snehādhikā), is called tat-tad-bhāva-icchāmayī.
The sakhīs are of three kinds:
- (1) rādhā-snehādhikā – those more inclined towards Śrī Rādhā,
- (2) kṛṣṇa-snehādhikā – those more inclined towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and
- (3) ubhaya-snehādhikā – those equally disposed to both.
The sakhīs are also of five kinds:
- (1) sakhī,
- (2) nitya-sakhī,
- (3) prāṇa-sakhī,
- (4) priya-sakhī and
- (5) priya-narma-sakhī.
Both the nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs are rādhā-snehādhikā and are called maṣjarīs. The maṣjarīs are absorbed in the mood of service, even though they feel friendship (sakhya) for Śrī Rādhā. They remain exclusively intent on Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet and do not desire bodily contact with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, even in their dreams. This is confirmed in Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta (16.94):
hareḥ saṅge raṅga-svapana-samaye nāpi dadhatī
Single-pointed service to the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā is an ocean of transcendental rasa. One who wishes to enter that ocean will never desire enjoyment with Śrī Hari, even in dreams.
The object (viṣayālambana) of the maṣjarīs’ love and affection is Śrī Yugala-kiśora. The maṣjarīs experience all kinds of rati by beholding the Divine Couple embracing, by hearing Them conversing, by tasting Their chewed tāmbūla remnants, by smelling the matchlessly beautiful fragrance arising from Their amorous pastimes, by touching Their lotus feet as they massage them, and so forth. They also taste the ecstasy of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s most intimate union (samprayoga). In this regard, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja says in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.209–10):
rādhāra svarūpa – kṛṣṇa-prema-kalpa-latā
sakhī-gaṇa haya tāra pallava-puṣpa pātā
kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta yadi latāke siṣcaya
nija-sukha haite pallavādyera koṭi-sukha haya
By nature Śrī Rādhā is like a creeper of kṛṣṇa-prema and the sakhīs are the leaves, flowers and twigs of that creeper. When the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes is sprinkled on that creeper, the leaves, flowers and twigs experience a happiness millions of times greater than if they were to be directly sprinkled with this nectar.
In Govinda-līlāmṛta one also finds this type of description: when Kṛṣṇa touches Śrī Rādhā, sāttvika-bhāvas also arise on the bodies of Her maṣjarīs. And when Kṛṣṇa drinks the nectar of Rādhā’s lips, the resultant bhāva is also reflected in the nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs, who become as if intoxicated. This is described in the first verse of Vilāpa-kusumāṣjali:
tvaṁ rūpa-maṣjari sakhi! prathitā pure ’smin
puṁsaḥ parasya vadanaṁ na hi paśyasīti
bimbādhare kṣatam anāgata-bhartṛkāyā
yat te vyadhāyi kim u tac chuka-puṅgavena
My dear sakhī Rūpa Maṣjarī, you are well known in Vraja for not even looking at the face of any man other than your husband. Therefore it is surprising that your lips, red like bimba fruits, have been bitten, even though your husband is not at home. Has this been done by the best of parrots?
Like Śrī Rādhā, Her maṣjarīs also have samartha-rati2. This rati is causelessly present in them in a transcendental, incomprehensible and inconceivable way. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 18.225) says: “sunileo bhāgya-hīnera nā haya pratīti – even though hearing of this, those devoid of good fortune cannot perceive it.”
In this Text 18, Dāsa Gosvāmī prays to attain pālyadāsī-bhāva. Using the words raso ’stu, he expresses an ever-fresh heightening of prema and prays to Śrī Svāminī not to cheat him, either with clever words or by giving him other blessings.
A sincere prayer for attaining śrī-rādhā-dāsya, spoken in a voice choked with emotion, is found in Stava-mālā (Śrī Gāndharvā-samprārthanāṣṭakam (2)):
hā devi! kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍavad-udbhaṭārtiḥ
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike! nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi
O Devī Gāndharvikā! Today, in utter desperation, I throw myself on the ground like a stick. Filled with great distress, I implore You with a choked voice to be merciful to this fool and count me as one of Your own.
bhume daṇḍavat-paḍi’ bahu ārti-svare
kāku-bhare gadgada-vacane yoḍa kare
prārthanā kari go devi, e abudha jane
tava gaṇe gaṇi’ kṛpā kara akiṣcane
Here Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is offering an extremely grief-filled prayer at the lotus feet of Śrī Svāminī: “Please also count me amongst Your intimate maidservants.” Even though he is one of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s eternal associates, he considers himself an ajāta-rati-sādhaka. There is not a great difference between humility and prema. Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.5.224–5) states, “In the fully mature stage of the highest type of prema, natural humility arises. Similarly, when humility matures, incessant prema develops. Therefore, in humility and prema a relationship of mutual ‘cause and effect’ or ‘producer and product’ is clearly seen.”
The phrase kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā indicates melting of the heart, which is the external symptom of prema. The word hā expresses longing (utkaṇṭhā), and the word gadgada, which means “with a choked voice”, indicates that his prayer is beseeching and filled with humility.
Because their longing is so intense, the vraja-devīs are able to reject their family members and the rules and regulations of society. Due to abundant possessiveness (mamatā), they are also able to cross over all obstacles and impediments. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is controlled by this mamatā, which is filled with longing, considers Himself ever-indebted to the gopīs.
The words devi gāndharvike express the glories of Śrī Rādhā’s good fortune. They refer to She who is a mine of sweetness and beauty and who, by Her captivating dancing, singing, playing on musical instruments and performance of other charming arts, completely enchants the mind of Kṛṣṇa.
Attachment (rati) filled with longing and humility is the wealth of rāga-mārga-sādhakas. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī defines humility as follows: “If in spite of possessing all good qualities, one considers oneself wretched, abhorrent and incompetent, this is dainya, humility.” It is only humility that attracts the mercy of Bhagavān and makes a person a worthy recipient of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Pretentious humility is inimical to bhakti and is always to be abandoned. In fact, real humility is not mere external behaviour; it manifests from the heart.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings in Vimala-vaiṣṇava (from Kalyāṇa-kalpa-taru):
antara bāhire, sama vyavahāra, amānī mānada ha’ba
kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtane, śrī kṛṣṇa-smaraṇe, satata majiyā ra’ba
With a heart free from duplicity, my outer behaviour will correspond to my inner thoughts and feelings. Seeing myself as completely insignificant, I will give respect to others, seeking no honour in return. Always singing the holy names and dancing, I will remain constantly absorbed in remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.
A prayer to attain the position of a maidservant of Śrī Rādhā, who attracts the mind of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is found in Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (39):
veṇuṁ karān nipatitaṁ skhalitaṁ śikhaṇḍaṁ
bhraṣṭaṁ ca pīta-vasanaṁ vraja-rāja-sūnoḥ
tāṁ rādhikāṁ paricarāmi kadā rasena
When, with rasa, will I serve Śrī Rādhā, whose arrow-like sidelong glance causes Śrī Nanda-nandana to faint, the flute to fall from His hands, the peacock-feather crown to slip from His head, and His yellow cloth to fall from His body?
yāṅhāra kaṭākṣa-śare śrī-kṛṣṇa mūrcchita
kara haite vaṁśi khase, śikhaṇḍa skhalita
pīta-vastra bhraṣṭa haya, se rādhā-caraṇa
kabe āmi rasa-yoge kariba sevana?
Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.291) states: “teṣāṁ bhāvāptaye lubdho bhaved atrādhikāravān – the anurāga from which ever-fresh greed is born and which is displayed in a variegated way, manifests in an astonishing, unparalleled manner and reaches the stage of mahābhāva. Only a person who craves to attain this kind of bhāva is eligible to enter rāga-mārga.”
Taste, or ruci, is the most important aspect of bhāva-bhakti. When a person has ruci for rāgānuga-bhajana in the mood of mādhurya-rasa, he relishes Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava’s names, forms, qualities and pastimes in his hearing and chanting. By this kind of bhajana, one can perceive the method of service of the nitya-siddha-maṣjarīs.
In this Text, Śrī Sarasvatīpāda is praying for the rasa-filled loving service of Śrī Rādhā, who enchants the mind of Kānu, or Kṛṣṇa. Concealed within this verse is the influence of mādanākhya-mahābhāva on the heart of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is the emporium of all nectarean mellows, akhila-rasāmṛta-mūrti.
Padmā and other sakhīs somehow allured Śrī Kṛṣṇa to Candrāvalī’s kuṣja, leaving Śrīmatī distressed in a state of extreme separation. The clever kiṅkarīs, however, skilfully brought Him from there and submitted Him to Śrīmatī. Rādhā’s mood of contrariness was then set in motion. First She forbade Kṛṣṇa to touch Her; then She exhibited feigned anger and cast a crooked sidelong glance at Him.
Śrī Rādhā is the embodiment of mahābhāva, and the only function of mahābhāva is to incite happiness in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart. Here, mādanākhya-mahābhāva incited countless indescribable, transcendental sentiments in the heart of akhila-rasāmṛta-mūrti Śrī Kṛṣṇa, thus silencing His boastfulness. Śrī Kṛṣṇa became submerged in a swoon of bliss, pierced by the arrow of Śrīmatī’s crooked sidelong glance. On a battlefield a hero faints when struck by an arrow, and his bow, arrows, crown, clothes, ornaments – everything – become scattered. Similarly, in this battle of Cupid, the strike of one arrow-like glance makes the flute fall from the hand, the peacock-feather crown fall from the head and the yellow cloth fall from the body of the transcen-dental young Cupid – and He faints. That person whose crooked sidelong glances strike the vraja-sundarīs like Cupid’s arrows has now fallen to the ground. Only by Śrī Rādhā’s sidelong glance does He who bewilders Cupid fall unconscious. That flute by whose very sweet sound hundreds and hundreds of vraja-sundarīs become stricken with restlessness, like deer struck by arrows, now falls to the ground from a trembling hand. Mādhava’s peacock feather crown, which is an emblem of the pastimes of Vraja and which enamours the minds of the gopa-ramaṇīs, now rolls in the dust as a result of Śrī Rādhā’s crooked sidelong glance. That yellow cloth (pītāmbara) which like a lightning bolt from a fresh thundercloud emanates splendorous beauty and upon seeing which the vraja-ramaṇīs gave up the honour of their lineage, has now also fallen down. This condition of the dhīra-lalita-nāyaka is all due to the crooked sidelong glance of Śrī Rādhā.
The embodiment of ānanda-rasa has fainted by the arrow of Śrī Rādhā’s sidelong glance. Although Śrīmatī makes many attempts to break this swoon of bliss (ānanda), it cannot be broken. Now the service starts for the rasa-kiṅkarīs. With a sweet voice, a maidservant sings a madana-rāga (a melody of Cupid), which she learnt from Śrī Svāminī. The kiṅkarī breaks the swoon of the hero (nāyaka) who has fainted in prema, and thus facilitates Śrī Svāminī’s meeting with Her beloved. This is the maidservant’s rasa-paricaryā, her service that enhances rasa: to arrange for the sweet pastime of the Divine Couple to begin. Then, at the end of Their pastime, the maidservants desire to attain the good fortune of serving Them by offering cool water, betelnuts, garlands, a fan and so forth.