Book excerptsSri Bhajana RahasyaAṢṬAMA-YĀMA-SĀDHANA. Rātri-līlā. Prema-bhajana sambhoga. Verses 21 - 25

AṢṬAMA-YĀMA-SĀDHANA. Rātri-līlā. Prema-bhajana sambhoga. Verses 21 – 25


Pride in one’s service is described in these words of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī from Sva-saṅkalpa-prakāśa-stotra (2):

navaṁ divyaṁ kāvyaṁ svakṛtam atulaṁ nāṭaka-kulaṁ
prahelī-gūḍhārthāḥ sakhi-rucira-vīṇā-dhvani-gatiḥ
kadā snehollāsair lalita-lalitā-preraṇa-balāt
salajjaṁ gāndharvā sa-rasam-asakṛc chikṣayati mām

Aho! When, in a secluded place, will I receive such fortune that Śrīmatī Rādhikā will, upon the request of Śrīmatī Lalitā-devī, affectionately and happily – yet shyly – teach me dramas composed by Herself, new poems, riddles with deep meanings, and melodies on the vīṇā?

svakṛta-nāṭaka āra navya kāvya-tati
gūḍhārtha-prahelī, divya vīṇā-rava-gati
lalitāra anurodhe snehollāse kabe
salajja gāndharvā more nibhṛte śikhābe


Śrī Gaurasundara entrusted Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī to Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara. In vraja-līlā Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara is Lalitā Sakhī. Under her guidance, Śrī Rādhā’s pālyadāsīs learn how to serve the Divine Couple, and they attain the good fortune of directly serving Them. Śrīman Mahāprabhu is absorbed in the mood of Śrī Rādhā. Here Śrī Dāsa Gosvāmī, keeping the desire to serve Śrīman Mahāprabhu in his heart, is begging at the foot-dust of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī for his cherished desires to be fulfilled. He wants to attain expertise in all varieties of fine arts that are useful for sevā.

In order to engage Śrī Rati Mañjarī in sevā to Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet, Lalitā Sakhī took her by the hand to Śrī Rādhā and made the following request: “O Rādhā, this incomparably charming and beautiful girl is very qualified to serve Your lotus feet.” Hearing this, Rādhā, feeling somewhat shy, spoke sweetly to Rati Mañjarī and embraced her to Her heart, moistening her with tears of compassion. Urged by the most charming Lalitā Sakhī, Gāndharvikā Śrī Rādhā, overwhelmed with great affection, instructed Rati Mañjarī on poetry, playing the vīṇā, drama, composing riddles and other arts. Śrī Rādhā is completely controlled by Lalitā Sakhī.

Vṛndāvana is the only subject matter of the new transcendental poetry that Śrī Rādhā teaches Rati Mañjarī. The nāyaka in this poetry is Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara and the nāyikās are the vraja-devīs, the embodiments of mahābhāva. In this transcendental flow of rasa there ripples an unbroken stream of waves. The movement of these waves is unrestricted and has an ever-increasing freshness.

As well as teaching poetry, Śrī Rādhā also teaches the art of acting in dramas and the art of composing riddles with deep meanings. The pālyadāsīs employ this training to stimulate śṛṅgāra-rasa in Śrī Rādhā-Mukunda. The sakhīs ask Śrī Kṛṣṇa, “O best among clever persons, what is young (bāla) and old, both bound and liberated, and pure but also in darkness?” Perplexed, Śrī Kṛṣṇa begins to think. After some time, He laughs loudly and says, “Śrī Kiśorī’s hair (bāla)!” at which point the sakhīs burst out laughing. The sakhīs please Śrī Kṛṣṇa with such riddles during rāsa-vilāsa, while roaming in the forest (vana-vihāra) and at other times. Śrī Rādhā, who is skilled in all arts, inspires Her sakhīs to please Kṛṣṇa in this way. Furthermore, when they play the captivating vīṇā, having learned the art from Śrī Rādhā, Śyāmasundara’s heartstrings resound.

The ācāryas give the following conclusion for sādhakas: attachment (āsakti), eagerness (utkaṇṭhā) and service filled with the relish of prema-rasa are attained by associating with rasika-bhaktas. In Prema-bhakti-candrikā Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says: “rasika-bhakta-saṅge, rahiba pirīti raṅge, vraja-pure vasati kariyā – one attains one’s cherished desire by associating with and serving rasika-bhaktas, and by taking shelter of the land of Vraja.”


Sva-saṅkalpa-prakāśa-stotra (6) expresses the acceptance of Viśākhā Sakhī, whose beautiful voice defeats the sound of the cuckoo bird, as śikṣā-guru:

kuhū-kaṇṭhī-kaṇṭhād api kamala-kaṇṭhī mayi punar
viśākhā-gānasyāpi ca rucira-śikṣāṁ praṇayatu
yathāhaṁ tenaitad yuva-yugalam ullāsya sagaṇāl
labhe rāse tasmān maṇi-padaka-hārān iha muhuḥ

May Viśākhā, whose voice is sweeter than the cuckoo, teach me the captivating art of singing. With that singing, I will please the youthful couple Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa during the rāsa dance and will receive from Them gifts, such as jewelled lockets and necklaces, again and again.

kuhū-kaṇṭha-tiraskarī viśākhā-sundarī
gāna-vidyā śikhāibe more kṛpā kari’
sei gāne rādhā-kṛṣṇe rāse ullasiba
maṇi-padakādi pāritoṣika pāiba


In this Text, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī prays to receive training in singing from Śrī Viśākhā-devī. With this training, Rati Mañjarī considers herself blessed to sing songs that are endowed with a variety of rasa and fragrant with cleverness in amorous rasa. She sings these songs to please the Divine Couple during the rāsa-līlā, the crown jewel of all pastimes, and thus receives many kinds of gifts from Them. Rati Mañjarī knows the desire of Śyāmasundara and, on the direction of Svāminī, she sings wonderfully melodious songs with her sweet, pleasing voice. She has learned to sing so beautifully from Viśākhā, whose soft, pleasant voice defeats the attractive kuhū-kuhū sound of the cuckoo bird. During the rāsa dance, which is filled with an abundance of tasteful mellows, Rati Mañjarī sings intoxicating, sweet notes in harmony with Viśākhā. Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava become overjoyed by this and give Their priceless necklaces and other ornaments to her as gifts. This remuneration makes the heart of Rati Mañjarī’s guru, Viśākhā-devī, blossom with joy. Understanding that her efforts have been successful, Viśākhā-devī profusely praises Rati Mañjarī.

Viśākhā, who is both dear to and non-different from Śrī Rādhā, is zealous in Her service. She is extremely clever in the art of speaking, and she even defeats Śrī Kṛṣṇa in that art. Kṛṣṇa is also pleased by her smiling and laughing. Śrī Dāsa Gosvāmī, fixed in his svarūpa as Rati Mañjarī, is eager to learn speech that is full of joking, full of clever rasa and cooling like camphor. Therefore, to learn to speak in this supremely relishable, intoxicating way that is related to mādhurya-rasa, he accepts Viśākhā as guru.


Śrī Gīta-govinda (1.12) describes the ecstasy of the rāsa dance, the eternal rāsa-vilāsa of Kṛṣṇa and the vraja-sundarīs:

viśveṣām anurañjanena janayann ānandam indīvara-
śreṇī śyāmala-komalair upanayann aṅgair anaṅgotsavam
svacchandaṁ vraja-sundarībhir abhitaḥ pratyaṅgam āliṅgitaḥ
śṛṅgāraḥ sakhi mūrtimān iva madhau mugdho hariḥ krīḍati

O sakhī, He who gives pleasure and bliss to all the gopīs; whose limbs are bluish-black, very soft and resemble blue lotuses; whose qualities awaken the festival of Kandarpa (Cupid) that lies dormant within the gopīs’ hearts; and who is embraced by each and every limb of the gopīs – that Kṛṣṇa is sporting like amorous love personified in the spring season.

madhu-ṛtu madhukara-pāṅti
madhura kusuma madhu-māti
madhura vṛndāvana mājha
madhura-madhura rasa-rāja
madhura-madhura rasaraṅga
sumadhura yantra-rasāla
madhura-madhura karatāla
madhura naṭanī-naṭa-raṅga
madhura-madhura rasa-gāna
madhura vidyāpati bhāṇa


The crown jewel of connoisseurs of mellows, dhīra-lalita-nāyaka Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, appears as Kāmadeva personified and relishes śṛṅgāra-rasa with the vraja-devīs. One sakhī informs her friend that in a nearby forest of kuñjas, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is absorbed in rāsa-vilāsa with the young gopīs. She says, “Look sakhī, look! Just see how Kṛṣṇa, possessed by an eager desire for captivating amorous sports, is bound by the embraces of the young women of Vraja.” One gopa-ramaṇī is lovingly embracing Śrī Kṛṣṇa and sweetly singing.

Another gopī is pressing against Śrī Kṛṣṇa with her uplifted, hard breasts. One gopa-ramaṇī with heavy hips is blooming with prema. On the pretext of whispering into His ear, she fulfils her heartfelt wish by kissing Him. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is also increasing the love of the beautiful women of Vraja by embracing and kissing them and pleasing them with His smiling sidelong glances. Śrī Hari, not considering right or wrong, displays His charming pastimes with the gopa-ramaṇīs in the spring season. He creates a great festival of Cupid by awarding the rasa longed for by the vraja-sundarīs with His soft, bluish-black limbs, which resemble a blue lotus. He is freely embracing and touching the vraja-ramaṇīs, thus manifesting Himself as the personification of śṛṅgāra-rasa.

The word indīvara in this Text indicates “coolness”, the word śreṇī indicates “relishing ever-fresh mellows”, śyāmala indicates “beauty” and komala indicates “extreme softness”.


Jagannātha-vallabha-nāṭaka (3.11) describes the happiness the gopīs feel upon attaining Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s darśana after being separated from Him. In other words it describes the condition of the gopīs when they are meeting with Him:

yadā yāto daivān madhu-ripur asau locana-pathaṁ
tadāsmākaṁ ceto madana-hatakenāhṛtam abhūt
punar yasminn eṣa kṣaṇam api dṛśor eti padavīṁ
vidhāsyāmas tasminn akhila-ghaṭikā ratna-khacitāḥ

[Śrī Rādhā said:] From the moment Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of the Madhu demon, unexpectedly came before My eyes, wicked Cupid stole My heart. Nonetheless, if He will come within My vision again, I will decorate those moments with jewels.

ye kāle vā svapane, dekhinu vaṁśī-vadane,
sei kāle āilā dui vairī
‘ānanda’ āra ‘madana’, hari’ nila mora mana,
dekhite nā pāiluṅ netra bhari’
punaḥ yadi kona kṣaṇa, karāya kṛṣṇa daraśana,
tabe sei ghaṭī kṣaṇa-pala
diyā mālya-candana, nānā ratna-ābharaṇa,
alaṅkṛta karimu sakala


This Text, written by Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda, describes Śrī Rādhā’s deep attachment for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which She expresses to Her intimate friend Madanikā. Madanikā consoles Her, saying, “Why are You so sad? Just see! The captivating fragrance of the newly blossomed ketakī flowers attracts the bumblebee from afar. But if the bumblebee finds no honey in the flower over which it hovers, doesn’t it abandon that flower? Similarly, You became attracted by seeing Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus face, but in Kṛṣṇa there was no prema. And even if Kṛṣṇa has prema, He has no understanding of how much prema You have, so it is only appropriate to give Him up.”

Śrī Rādhā contained Herself and then said, “All right, I will now give Him up.” She shuddered, Her heart full of fear, and then, with a trembling voice, said, “O sakhī, I have given Him up as you told Me, but I cannot give up My memories of His beauty and qualities. As much as I try to forget Him, to that degree memories arise in My mind of His gentle, soft, smiling lotus face and His reddish bimba-fruit-like lips on which the vaṁśī splendidly rests. When I receive this enchanting darśana, two enemies, madana (Cupid) and ānanda (joy), appear and obstruct My vision.”

Saying this, Śrī Rādhā lost external consciousness and fainted. Such a condition resulted from Her increased longing to have Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s darśana. This longing caused an inexpressible happiness to arise in Her heart, and She was overwhelmed by a deep yearning to serve Kṛṣṇa with Her body.

Later, Śrī Rādhā said to Madanikā, “O sakhī, if Kṛṣṇa gives Me His darśana now, I will not let these two enemies, madana and ānanda, enter My heart, and I will take darśana of Him to My full satisfaction. I will decorate the moments that give Me darśana of My beloved with garlands, sandalwood paste and various jewelled ornaments.”


The midnight pastimes (rātri-līlā) are described in Govinda-līlāmṛta (22.1):

tāv utkau labdha-saṅgau bahu-paricaraṇair vṛndayārādhyamānau
preṣṭhālībhir lasantau vipina-viharaṇair gāna-rāsādi-lāsyaiḥ
nānā-līlā-nitāntau praṇaya-sahacarī-vṛnda-saṁsevyamānau
rādhā-kṛṣṇau niśāyāṁ sukusuma-śayane prāpta-nidrau smarāmi

At night Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, who are very anxious to see one another, finally meet. Their dear gopīs worship Them by performing many services. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa become exhausted from roaming in the forest, singing, dancing in the rāsa-līlā and performing other pastimes with these most beloved sakhīs. Their group of loving maidservants then serve Them by fanning Them, offering Them camphor and tāmbūla, massaging Their feet and so forth. Then the Divine Couple go to sleep on a bed of flowers. I remember that Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.

vṛndā-paricaryā pāñā, preṣṭhāli-gaṇere lañā,
rādhā-kṛṣṇa rāsādika-līlā
gīta-lāsya kaila kata, sevā kaila sakhī yata,
kusuma-śayyāya dūṅhe śuilā
niśā-bhāge nidrā gela, sabe ānandita haila,
sakhī-gaṇa parānande bhāse
e sukha śayana smari, bhaja mana rādhā hari,
sei līlā praveśera āśe


The sakhīs return to Jāvaṭa-grāma from Nanda-bhavana with various kinds of food preparations, given by Dhaniṣṭhā or Kundalatā, that are mixed with Kṛṣṇa’s adharāmṛta, the nectar of His lips. By the beauty and fragrance of these preparations, the eyes and nose of Svāminī and the other sakhīs are satisfied. The sakhīs also bring some indication of the place of rendezvous (abhisāra). At night, when everyone is sleeping, the sakhīs dress and decorate Śrī Svāminī with clothes and ornaments suitable to the phase of the moon, and take Her for abhisāra. Svāminī meets Her beloved at the designated place and They relish joking, playing dice, rāsa-līlā and other pastimes. The young couple then rest on a bed of flowers, which has been prepared by the sakhīs. At the end of the night, They awaken, much to the happiness of the sakhīs.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s concluding words to Śrī Bhajana-rahasya

sādhanera saha aṣṭakāla-līlā-dhana
cintite cintite krame siddha bhāvāpana
svarūpa-siddhite vraje prakaṭāvasthāna
guṇamaya gopī-dehe līlāra vitāna
kṛṣṇa-kṛpā bale guṇamaya vapu tyaji’
aprakaṭa vraje gopī sālokyādi bhaji
nitya-kāla śuddha-dehe rādhā-kṛṣṇa-sevā
sthūla-liṅga-saṅga-bodha āra pāya kebā
‘hare kṛṣṇa’-nāma gāne nitya-mukta-bhāve
pūrṇa-premānanda-lābha anāyāse pābe
dekha bhāi! sādhane siddhite eka-i bhāva
kabhu nāhi chāḍe nāma svakīya prabhāva
ataeva nāma gāo, nāma kara sāra
āra kona sādhanera nā kara vicāra

The rāgānuga-bhakta, and especially the rūpānuga-bhakta, remember Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala’s night pastimes, and while chanting the holy name, they humbly pray, “When will I attain service in these pastimes?”

The sādhaka remembers these pastimes in the association of rasika-bhaktas and gradually attains perfection. Upon attaining svarūpa-siddhi, he takes birth in a gopī’s house in prakaṭa-līlā by the arrangement of Yogamāyā. There, under the guidance of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates, his sevā in the pastimes matures. He gives up his attachment to family etc. and attains the body of a gopī in the aprakaṭa-līlā of eternal Vṛndāvana. There, he is forever absorbed in serving Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in his perfected body. At the time of sādhana, the gross and subtle bodies are obstacles in attaining one’s eternal service. However, constant performance of Hare Kṛṣṇa nāma-kīrtana manifests the sādhaka’s pure identity (śuddha-svarūpa). The sādhaka-bhakta who follows rāga-mārga, the path of spontaneous devotion, remembers pastimes by means of his internally contemplated body. The bhāvas upon which the sādhaka meditates at the time of sādhana will be attained by him at the time of perfection.

Thus ends the Aṣṭama-yāma-sādhana,
Rātri-līlā, of Śrī Bhajana-rahasya.
Thus ends Śrī Bhajana-rahasya.

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