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Prema-vilāsa-vivarta—Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s divine play with Śrī Rādhā – Part 2

Translated from Śrī Radha-Govinda-natha’s six-page Bengali commentary on CC Madhya 8.150 by Navadvipa Dasa

The inverted play (viparīta-vihāra) that is brought forth by self-forgetfulness (ātma-vismṛti)—or in other words, by the absence of the awareness of distinction (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya)—which itself arises from complete identification (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, is the true signifier (paricāyaka) of the state of the highest exultation of the glory of vilāsa. This is also understood from the description found in Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Gopāla-campu, in the prior division (pūrva-campu), Scene 33, which is entitled, “The Fulfillment of All the Heart’s Longings” (sarva-manoratha-pūraṇam). The scene described therein can be summarized as follows.

Being overcome by the most intense longing to facilitate Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure, the young women of Vraja remained immersed in divine play (vilāsa) with Him—their very life and soul (prāṇa-vallabha)—day after day without cessation. It was as though their innate longing for divine play (vilāsa-vāsanā) was not pacified even in the least. Rather, day after day it seemed to be exponentially increased. It was as though they, whose thirst remained ever unpacified (śānti-hīna), upheld as their life’s vow (vrata) the vilāsa that has as its one and only import the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The indomitability (uddāmatā) and progressively increasing ardor (autkaṇṭhya) of this innate disposition (vāsanā) for sevā is found to an all-surpassing extent in Śrī Rādhā alone, because the supreme manifestation of prema is present only in her. Rādhā’s supreme ardor (param-autkaṇṭhya), arising from her innate disposition (vāsanā) for sevā, gives rise in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart (citta) to the corresponding supreme ardor (param-autkaṇṭhya), arising from His innate disposition (vāsanā), to accept sevā. And Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s innate disposition to accept sevā is in reality simply the longing (autkaṇṭhya) in Him to extend love or pleasure (prīti-vidhāna) to Śrī Rādhā and the Vraja-sundarīs. This is due to the fact that the sole aim of all Kṛṣṇa’s līlās is to please the hearts of His devotees, as He Himself openly declares in the following statement: “I enact varieties of divine play simply for the delight of My devotees” (mad-bhaktānāṁ vinodārthaṁ karomi vividhāḥ kriyāḥ, Padma Purāṇa).

If at the root of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s innate disposition to accept the sevā of His devotees there lied concealed the desire for His own happiness (sva-sukha-vāsanā), there would be no glory at all in His acceptance of sevā. Then for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the acceptance of His devotees’ sevā could not be of completely splendorous glory (pūrṇa-aujjvalye mahīyān). When, however, Śrī Rādhā’s innate disposition (vāsanā) to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and His innate disposition to accept Rādhā’s service in order to please her, both attain complete indomitability (pūrṇa-uddāmatā) and are transformed into supreme longing (carama-autkaṇṭhya)—then only their prema-vilāsa can be elevated in its glory to highest degree of completion. In this manner, when the hero and heroine are carried along in the flow of the līlā under the compelling force of the most highly developed longing (caramatama-autkaṇṭhya), their amorous play (ramaṇa) is as described by Jīva Gosvāmī in the following passage:

“Every day, the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa would mutually proceed to a secluded place, meet together, embrace and kiss each other, play together, delight each other, speak of amorous affairs, order each other with the words, “Dress me nicely,” and also dress each other ornamentally. In this manner, they remained continuously immersed in varieties of amorous play (keli-vilāsa). Yet in doing so, due to their singularly focused identification (aikāntikī-tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, they had no cognizance (anusandhāna) whatsoever of “who is acting,” “who has acted,” and “who can act” (Gopāla-campu, Pūrva, 33.5).

In this passage, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s self-forgetfulness (ātma-vismṛti), or in other words, their absence of awareness of any distinction between them (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya), is indicated. By the word anyo’nyam, or “mutually,” it is also understood that in the acts of embracing and kissing, as well as in issuing the order to be clothed by the other, sometimes Kṛṣṇa takes the lead, and at other times Rādhā does so. It is specifically in this reversal of their roles, that the inversion of their play (vilāsa-vaiparītya), or vilāsa-vivarta, is indicated. “Who indeed is the hero (ramaṇa), and who is the heroine (ramaṇī)? Who is the beloved (kānta), and who is the lover (kāntā)?” Under the influence of complete identification (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, this type of awareness of distinction (bheda-jñāna) disappears from their minds. This is the essential import of Rādhā’s upcoming statement: “He is not the ramaṇa, and I am not the ramaṇī.”

When the hero and heroine are overcome by the very highest peak (carama-parā-kāṣṭhā) of prema’s unfolding, then, being irresistibly impelled by the innate longing (vāsanā) to please each other, they attain the state of inebriation (pramattatā) in their play (keli-vilāsa). At such times, their minds (citta), having attained complete identity (tād-ātmya) with the ceaseless longing (vāsanā) for keli-vilāsa, become as though one without distinction (abhinnatva). This is the import of the second line of Rādhā’s upcoming statement: “The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared].”

Although Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa directly participate in such forms of play (vilāsa), out of supreme longing (parama-autkaṇṭhya), it appears to them as if it all occurred in a dream (svāpnika). As a consequence of the all-surpassing ardor of prema, Śrī Rādhā perceives even her union with Śrī Kṛṣṇa as separation, separation as union, her home as the forest, the forest as her home, sleep as waking, waking as sleep, cold as heat, heat as cold, and so on. When this type of situation takes hold, an inversion (vaiparītya) occurs even in Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s respective instrinsic natures (svabhāva) as lover (kāntā) and beloved (kānta). In other words, the hero’s behavior is transferred into the heroine, and the heroine’s behavior is transferred into the hero—all of which occurs unknown to them. This is the inversion (vaiparītya) of vilāsa.

This inversion arises from the intrinsic constitution (svabhāvika-dharma) of prema that has attained to state of the highest exultation (caramotkarṣatā), which is to say that it is born of an ineffable and irresistible longing to extend love or pleasure (prīti-vidhāna) to each other. This inversion is but the outward manifestation (bahir-vikāśa) of the state of complete identity (eka-tanmayatā) with the bliss of vilāsa. Just as the perception of separation in union, or union in separation, is the external symptom of supreme longing (parama-autkaṇṭhya), so too, this inversion of vilāsa is also an external symptom of complete identity with the bliss of vilāsa impelled by the state of inebriation (unmattatā) arising out of supreme prema. By these very symptoms, Rāmānanda Rāya wished to make his intended object known. And his intended object (uddiṣṭa-vastu) was not merely the inversion of vilāsa, but rather, its cause—namely, the state of complete identity (eka-tanmayatā) with the bliss of the vilāsa arising from prema.

With the intent to bring to light this unprecedented uniqueness (apūrva-vaiśiṣṭya) of Śrī Rādhā’s prema, Mahāprabhu first caused the uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) of prema’s object (viṣaya), Śrī Kṛṣṇa, to be broadcast through the mouth of Rāmānanda Rāya. In this respect, He made known that Kṛṣṇa is the embodiment of the bliss of all rasas, the personification of the emperor of all rasas—namely, the amorous sentiment (śṛṅgāra)—the direct enchanter of Cupid (sākṣāt-manmatha-manmatha), the ever newly blossoming transcendental Cupid (aprākṛta-navīna-madana), and He who steals the minds of all, even to the very core of their being (ātma-paryanta). Next, Mahāprabhu made known the uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) of prema’s subject (āśraya), Śrī Rādhā. Through the mouth of Rāmānanda Rāya, He disclosed the fact that she is the embodiment of mahābhāva, essentially constituted of bliss and consciousness (ānanda-cinmaya-rasa), that her body and senses are permeated (vibhāvita) with prema, that she is a mine of the gems of pure prema for Kṛṣṇa, and intrinsically endowed with unexcelled beauty (saundarya), mellifluousness (mādhurya), supreme fortune (saubhāgya), and all other divine qualities.

In this manner, having made evident the all-exceeding preeminence of prema’s object and subject, Mahāprabhu then felt the uprising of the intent to make known the glory of the vilāsa of Śrī Nanda-nandana and Śrī Bhānu-nandinī—the former being the embodiment of the complete charming hero (akhaṇḍa-rasa-vallabha), and the latter that of the complete charming heroine (akhaṇḍa-rasa-vallabhā). The fortunate Rāmānanda Rāya, being thus impelled by Mahāprabhu’s indication, became engaged in describing the glory of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa. In the course of describing Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s feature as dhīra-lalita, he made known, by way of indication, that the culmination (paryavasāna) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s above mentioned uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) is this very dhīra-lalita feature. He also made known that by specifying Śrī Kṛṣṇa as dhīra-lalita, it is evident that the complete range of qualities appropriate for the supreme exultation of the unique marvel (vaicitrī) of their vilāsa is gloriously present in Him. After this, Rāmānanda Rāya became silent.

Vilāsa is possible only by the involvement of both the hero and heroine (nāyaka-nāyikā). Consequently, if the complete range of qualities appropriate for vilāsa’s supreme exultation is present only in the hero (nāyaka), then the glory of vilāsa cannot attain its ultimate completion (pūrṇatā). The corresponding range of qualities must also be present in the heroine (nāyikā). Yet up to this point, Rāmānanda Rāya did not disclose whether or not all these qualities are present in the heroine Śrī Rādhā, nor did he make evident where lies the culmination (paryavasāna) of Her previously mentioned uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya). He made it appear as though whatever he had intended to say was then concluded.

Assuredly, Rāmānanda Rāya did previously speak of one characteristic of Śrī Rādhā’s uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya), when he said: “Even amidst hundreds of millions of gopīs, the fire of Kṛṣṇa’s longing (kāma-rūpa-agni) [to relish the prema of His lover (kāntā-prema-āsvādana-vāsanā)] could not be extinguished. By this alone, the quality of Śrī Rādhikā’s prema can easily be inferred” (CC 2.8.88). Hearing this, “Prabhu replied, that for which I have come to your place is precisely this knowledge in which is contained all the essential truths concerning the transcendental entity (vastu) known as rasa” (CC 2.8.89). Yet Prabhu’s longing was not satisfied even in this, as expressed in His next statement: “I wish to hear something more beyond this” (CC 2.8.90).

Thereafter, Rāmānanda Rāya spoke openly of Śrī Rādhā’s uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) along with that of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He also made evident where lies the culmination (paryavasāna) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s vaiśiṣṭya. Yet, without having said anything regarding the culmination point (paryavasāna) of Śrī Rādhā’s vaiśiṣṭya, he appeared as if having adopted a vow of silence. If Rāmānanda were to have said: “I have already spoken of Śrī Rādhā’s unprecedented uniqueness (apūrva-vaiśiṣṭya) in my earlier statement [CC 2.8.88 cited above]. What more remains to be said beyond this?” To this, Prabhu replied: “There yet remains something more to be said.” Rāmānanda’s statement [CC 2.8.88] can be interpreted to mean: “That which cannot be found in hundreds of millions of gopīs is present in Śrī Rādhā.” By this statement, he gave an indication of Śrī Rādhā’s all-exceeding prema. Yet, he did not fully disclose to what ultimate state of being (avasthā) Śrī Rādhā’s all-exceeding prema can lead her, or what supreme exultation (paramotkarṣa) it can impart to her.

Just as there is a necessity (prayojana) for the hero (nāyaka) to manifest His dhīra-lalita feature in order for the glory of vilāsa to reach its highest peak (parā-kāṣṭhā), so too there is a necessity for the heroine (nāyikā) to manifest her feature of svādhīna-bhartṛkā, or “the heroine who keeps the hero constantly under her control (svāyattāsanna-dayitā bhavet svādhīna-bhartṛkā, Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi 5.91). The svādhīna-bhartṛkā heroine can intrepidly order her lover: “Draw a beautiful musk picture on my breasts and a sandalwood sketch on my cheeks. Place this girdle around my waist, decorate my braid with a flower garland, and adorn my arms with bracelets and my feet with anklets” (Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi 5.93). In the statements of Gopāla-campu, an account can be found of Rādhā’s condition (avasthā) when her svādhīna-bhartṛkā feature reaches its highest peak of intensity out of the completely evolved state (paripāka) of her prema.

Up to this point, however, Rāmānanda Rāya said nothing in particular regarding the question, “in what extremity does Śrī Rādhā’s svādhīna-bhartṛkā feature culminate under the astonishing influence of her mādanākhya-mahābhāva?” At the very beginning of the indication of this ineffable uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya), having arrived at the doorstep of an unprecedented storehouse of mystery (apūrva-rahasya-bhāṇḍāra), Rāmānanda suddenly came to a halt. It is understandable that it must have been a quandary for Rāmānanda to know whether or not it was Prabhu’s intention to proceed further beyond this point. After all, the matter at hand was supremely confidential (parama-rahasyamaya). In the Gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa specified His final instruction to Arjuna as “the foremost of all secrets” (sarva-guhyatamaṁ vacaḥ). Yet prema-vilāsa-vivarta is many, many times more confidential than the latter. For this reason, Rāmānanda Rāya was hesitant to disclose it. When, on perceiving his reluctance, Prabhu said: “This is excellent, but please do go on,” then only did Rāmānanda disclose this secret.

Such being the case, Rāmānanda Rāya spoke openly of prema-vilāsa-vivarta—Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s divine play (vilāsa) with Śrī Rādhā. Śrī Rādhā is the essential embodiment (svarūpa) of mahābhāva. The foremost manifestation of mahābhāva is called mādanākhya-mahābhāva, which is present only in Śrī Rādhā. The supreme manifestation of the uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) of mahābhāva is found exclusively in the state of mādana. Where the supreme manifestation of prema is present—there only the unsurpassed marvel (vaicitrī) of prema-vilāsa is manifested, there only is found the foremost manifestation of the glory of vilāsa. Prabhu’s final question to Rāmānanda Rāya was regarding the glory of vilāsa. Rāmānanda’s reply attained completion in his song, beginning with Rādhā’s words: “At first, my irrepressible, ever-expanding love (rāga) arose of its own accord in the mere twinkling of an eye. Expanding day after day, its end was never reached” (CC 2.8.152).

After hearing this song, Prabhu did not ask any further questions regarding the glory of vilāsa. Rather he declared: “This indeed is the limit of the ultimate object of attainment. By your grace, I have come to know of this beyond all doubt” (CC 2.8.157). In this moment, Prabhu’s yearning to discover the essential truth regarding the ultimate object to be realized (sādhya-vastu-tattva) attained complete fulfillment. Additionally, His longing (vāsanā) to know the glory of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa was also completely fulfilled. From this, it can be understood that the glory of vilāsa attains its supreme manifestation only in prema-vilāsa-vivarta. Consequently, the foremost manifestation of prema, and the foremost manifestation of the uniqueness (vaiśiṣṭya) of mahā-bhāva—or in other words, the supreme manifestation of mādanākhya-mahābhāva—is also the supreme manifestation of the glory of Rādhā’s prema.

The essay on prema-vilāsa-vivarta provided in the introductory volume of this series can be consulted for a detailed discussion regarding prema-vilāsa. Therein it is shown that the highest exultation of the glory of vilāsa occurs only in the supreme manifestation of mādanākhya-mahābhāva. In the same essay, it is also pointed out that the absence of awareness of distinction (bheda-rāhitya) spoken of earlier is not that of the sādhakas who adhere to the path of jñāna with the intent to realize their conscious identity with nondual (nirbheda) Brahman.

Previously it was discussed that in the completely evolved state (paripakāvasthā) of prema-vilāsa, under the influence of perfect identity (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, there is an uprising of perplexity (bhrama)—meaning self-forgetfulness (ātma-vismṛti), or the absence of awareness of distinction (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya)—and inversion (vaiparītya). It was also pointed out that bheda-jñāna-rāhitya (or perplexity, bhrama) and inversion (vaiparītya) are both external symptoms (bahir-lakṣaṇas) of the completely evolved state (paripakvatā) of prema-vilāsa. Additionally, it was demonstrated that among these two, inversion (vaiparītya) is not the prime characteristic of prema-vilāsa. On the other hand, the absence of awareness of distinction (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya) is the prime characteristic (viśeṣa-lakṣaṇa) of the completely evolved state (paripakvatā) of prema-vilāsa.

In Kavi Karṇapūra’s previously cited verse, he has referred to this bheda-jñāna-rāhitya as “the state of supreme oneness” (paraikya), signifying, the state of absolute oneness (sarvato-bhāve ekatā), or the unity of essential being (eka-rūpatā), of the minds of Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Under the influence of prema, the minds of the two lovers are liquefied and melded together to become one, attaining the state in which the delusion of the distinction between them is cast aside (nirdhūta-bheda-bhramam), as described in the upcoming verse [śloka 2.8.43 or text 2.8.199 in the continuous series], cited from Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi:

[In a forest grove on Govardhana Hill, while Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa were immersed in tasting each other’s sweetness (mādhurya), their bodies became decorated by the inflamed symptoms of the pure emotions that possessed their hearts, impelled by the transformations of divine love (uddīpta-sāttvika-bhāvas). Seeing this, Vṛnda was elated by the delightfulness of their supreme love (mahābhāva) and spoke the following words to Śrī Kṛṣṇa:] O King of elephants who sports in the bowers of Govardhana Hill! That highly skilled artist, “Amorous love” (śṛṅgāra), has slowly melted the shellac of the hearts of both You and Rādhā with the heat of Your perspiration, thus liquifying them into a unified substance bereft of the delusion of any distinction between You (nirdhūta-bheda-bhramam). Into this melding of Your hearts, he himself is blending a profusion of the bright red vermillion (hiṅgula) of Your newly intensified love (nava-rāga) in order to paint an extraordinary picture on the interior walls of the palace of this universe. (Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi 14.155)

In this verse it is said that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s minds become one, just as two pieces of shellac merge together under intense heat. This very condition is the state of supreme oneness (paraikya) of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa; this indeed is the absence of awareness of any distinction between them (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya). By stating that there was no distinction (bheda) between their two minds (mana), it is already implied that there was also no distinction in their awareness (jñāna). Assuredly, their separate existence (pṛthak-astitva) is real because it is eternal. Yet in this state, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa have no awareness of each other’s separate existence. Moreover, they have no awareness (jñāna), or direct experience (anubhuti), even of their own existence.

At this point, it may be questioned that if the state of supreme oneness (paraikya-avasthā) is the prime characteristic of prema-vilāsa-vivarta, then why is it that in the final verse of Rāmānanda Rāya’s song, Rādhā speaks of their separation (virāga, or viraha), in the words: “Now, He [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] must have withdrawn His love (virāga, i.e., anurāga-śūnya) [otherwise, if His anurāga for me was as before, He could never have gone off to Mathurā without returning]. You are my messenger (dūtī) [whom I must now send to Him]. So tell me, does this manner of behavior befit the love (prema) of a cultured man (supuruṣa) [meaning, that of the foremost charming hero (uttama vidagdha-nāgara)]?” (CC 2.8.156).

Additionally, it must also be asked how the awareness of separation (viraha) can be present at all in the state of supreme oneness (paraikya-avasthā). These two questions are answered as follows. First of all, it is most likely the case that the first part of Rāmānanda’s song, in which is found the words, “He is not the ramaṇa, nor I the ramaṇī,” is an indicator of the state of supreme oneness (paraikya) or of prema-vilāsa-vivarta. On the other hand, the final part of his song is understood to be an indicator of separation (viraha). In the state of separation, Rādhā speaks with anguish of their previous state of supreme oneness (paraikya) arisen from complete identification (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone. By speaking of the unequalled and unsurpassed bliss that was relished in the state of union, the fiercely intense insufferability of the agony of separation is made evident.

The same conclusion can be inferred from the following passage of Kavi Karṇapūra’s Caitanya-Candrodaya-nāṭaka (7.16-17): “Śrī Rādhā said to Śrī Kṛṣṇa—‘When You were in Vraja, and we enjoyed the state of union, there was no awareness that I was Your lover (kāntā) and You my beloved (kānta). At that time, the mental modification (mano-vṛtti) [that is the source of the awareness of distinction (bheda-jñāna-mūla)] had dissolved. Even our conception of “You” and “I” was completely removed. But now, the recognition has dawned that You are my master (bhartā), and I am Your mistress (bhāryā). In spite of this, however, my life still somehow quivers in this body. What else could be more astonishing than this?’”

The first three sentences of this translated passage speak of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s state of supreme oneness (paraikya). This segment discloses the import of the nā so ramaṇa verse (CC 2.8.153) from Rāmānanda’s song. The remaining part of the passage speaks of the state of separation (viraha) in remembrance of their earlier time together. This entire statement from Kavi Karṇapūra’s nāṭaka is the Sanskrit translation of Rāmānanda Rāya’s Bengali song.

A second possibility is to interpret Rāmānanda Rāya’s entire song as illuminating the topic of prema-vilāsa-vivarta. In that case, we may refer to a statement from Gopāla-campu (Pūrva, 33.13) in which one of the symptoms of the state of inversion (vaiparītya) is the perception of separation (asaṁyoga) while in the state of union (saṁyoga). An illustration of this is given in the final verse of Rāmānanda Rāya’s song (CC 2.8.156). This is not real separation (vāstava viraha or asaṁyoga) but merely the mistaken perception (bhrānti) of separation. The feeling of separation is also present in the state of union that pertains to mādanākhya-mahābhāva.

Among these two resolutions (samadhāna) of the above question, however, the first is understood as intended by Kavi Karṇapūra as well, as evidenced in the above cited verses (Caitanya-Candrodaya-nāṭaka 7.16-17). Then, in regard to Prabhu’s lovingly covering Rāmānanda Rāya’s mouth with His hand (described in CC 2.8.151), Kavi Karṇapūra writes as follows: “Unconditional love (nirupādhi-prema) does not tolerate any limiting condition (upādhi). Consequently, when Prabhu heard of the unconditional love (anupādhi-prema) of the twofold Supreme Reality (bhagavatoḥ), Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Rādhā, He recognized this indeed as the supreme object of human attainment (puruṣārthī-kṛtam). He thus covered Rāmānanda Rāya’s mouth to prevent him from disclosing its mystery” (Caitanya-Candrodaya-nāṭaka 7.17).

The meaning of this statement is explored further in the commentary on the next payāra (CC 2.8.151). From this statement of Kavi Karṇapūra’s nāṭaka, it can be understood that the first part of Rāmānanda Rāya’s song is indicative of the state of supreme oneness (paraikya), which is bereft of all limiting conditions (nirupādhika) and hence the supreme object of human attainment (parama-puruṣārtha). On the other hand, the second part of the song is indicative of the awareness of the distinction between the two lovers (bheda-jñāna), which involves a limiting condition (sopādhika) and is thus bereft of the immediate perception of their supreme oneness (paraikya-jñāna-hīna). The commentary on CC 2.8.151 can be consulted for further discussion of this point.

Here you can download the complete text including the footnotes:

Prema-vilāsa-vivarta_CC, Madhya 8.150


Prema-vilāsa-vivarta—Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s divine play with Śrī Rādhā – Part 1

At the request of a friend, Babaji’s editor and co-author Navadvipa Das Ji, translated Śrī Radha-Govinda-natha’s six-page Bengali commentary on the eighth Chapter of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, Text 150 (191 in the BBT edition), dealing with prema-vilāsa-vivarta. We are sharing it in two installments. Here is the first part, beginning with text 149.  

prabhu kahe – ei haya, āge kaha āra

rāya kahe – ihā va-i buddhi-gati nāhi āra

Mahāprabhu said: “What you have said [regarding the vilāsa of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa] is perfectly appropriate. If anything more lies beyond this, please disclose it.”

Rāmānanda Rāya replied: “Beyond this, there is nothing that lies within the scope of my intellectual grasp (buddhi-gati).” (CC 2.8.149)


            It is due exclusively to the overpowering influence of prema—here signifying, the innate disposition (vāsanā) to please Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every possible manner—that the root longing (vāsanā) for the intuition of vilāsa was awakened [in Mahāprabhu], and on the pretext of this awakening of vilāsa, the glory (mahimā) of prema became manifested. On this account, Prabhu wished to hear the glory of the vilāsa of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. In the course of describing the glory of vilāsa, Rāmānanda Rāya spoke of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s feature as dhīra-lalita, “a hero in the aesthetics of amorous seduction.” All of the characteristics of the dhīra-lalita feature described by him are indicators of the glory (māhātmya) of the vilāsa arising from Rādhā’s prema.

            In examining the question of just how great (mahān) is the transcendental entity (vastu) known as vilāsa, it must first be emphasized that its influence was exerted on none other than He who is omnipresent (sarvaga), limitless (ananta), omniscient (vibhu), the womb of all existence (sarva-yoni), the ground of all being (sarvāśraya), the Source of all potencies (sarva-śaktimān), the propounder of all the Vedas, and He of infinite glory, the end of which is never reached even by the Śrutis themselves, in spite of proclaiming them continuously throughout ceaseless revolutions of the cosmic ages (yuga-yugānta). It is in this Śrī Kṛṣṇa-candra Himself, who is the Supremely Independent Reality (parama-svatantra), the Supreme Absolute (parama-brahma), and the transcendentally qualified Personal Absolute in His ownmost original identity (Svayam Bhagavān), that vilāsa impelled an irresistible urge (loluptā) for rasa and compelled Him to come under the control (vaśyatā) of His preyasīs. Having awakened the most profound state of enthrallment (mugdhatva) in this crown jewel of Omniscience (sarvajña-śiromaṇi), vilāsa bound Him, although He is the All-pervading Reality (sarva-vyāpaka tattva), to remain day and night in the secluded groves of Vṛndāvana out of greed (lobha) for the company of His preyasīs. Who then can describe the greatness of the transcendental entity (vastu) known as vilāsa and the magnitude of its majestic power (śakti-mahīyasī)?

            The glory (mahimā) of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa that was disclosed by Rāmānanda Rāya was of such unfathomable import, yet Prabhu remained unsatiated even by this and wished to hear something more. Effectively, Prabhu said to him: “Rāmānanda, there is no doubt that in your discussion, the extraordinary glory (asādhāraṇa-mahattva) of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa is certainly disclosed. Yet, I wish to know all the truths regarding the glory of vilāsa of which you have not yet spoken as well as whatever confidential mystery (gūḍha rahasya) there may yet be. Please continue, Rāmānanda.”

            Hearing this, Rāmānanda Rāya replied: “Prabhu, there is nothing beyond what I have spoken that lies within the scope of my intellectual grasp (buddhi-gati).” In reality, there is not even a single topic regarding the existential truth of the aesthetics of transcendental play (līlā-rasa-tattva) that is accessible to anyone’s intellective capacity (buddhi-gamya). Such topics can be immediately intuited (anubhava-gamya) only by the grace of Bhagavān.



ye vā prema-vilāsa-vivarta eka haya

tāhā śuni tomāra sukha haya ki nā haya

Rāmānanda Rāya then said to Mahāprabhu: “There is, however, one other essential truth, known as prema-vilāsa-vivarta. Please hear of it and decide whether or not it meets with Your pleasure.” (CC 2.8.150)



Hearing Prabhu’s words, Rāmānanda Rāya said: “Prabhu, it is true that the confidential mystery (gūḍha rahasya) of the glory of vilāsa is beyond the purview of my intellect. Yet by Your grace, I have at once realized the truth that the glory of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa is the most confidential mystery (gūḍhatama rahasya). In the song of my own composition, I will endeavor to provide an indication of this mystery. I will sing this song and thus enable You to hear it. The mystery that is indicated in this song is known as prema-vilāsa-vivarta.”

We will now comment on Rāmānanda’s statement: “Please hear of it and decide whether or not it meets with Your pleasure” (tāhā śuni tomāra sukha haya ki nā haya). Rāmānanda said: “Yet, Prabhu, in this song of my composition, I do not know whether or not I will be able to convey the true significance of this indication, and whether or not I will be able to bring about the disclosure of the most confidential mystery of the glory of vilāsa. If I am not able to do so, then You will derive no pleasure by hearing my song. Or, if in my song there is no indication of the mystery You wish to uncover, then also it will not meet with Your pleasure—then Your root longing (vāsanā) will not be satiated. Hence, the doubt has arisen in my mind, Prabhu, as to whether or not You will be pleased by hearing my song. Nonetheless, I myself will sing my song and thus enable You to hear it. Please hear it, Prabhu, and see whether or not it contains the transcendental entity (vastu, i.e., vilāsa) that is the object of Your longing (abhilaṣita).”

This song is cited in payāras 152-156. In the midst of this song, Śrī Rādhā says: “He [Kṛṣṇa] cannot be identified as my lover (ramaṇa), nor I as His beloved (ramaṇī). The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared]” (CC 2.8.153). The most confidential mystery of the glory of vilāsa is implicit in this verse. But what exactly is this mystery? In order to uncover this mystery, it will be helpful to first examine the meaning of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta.

The term prema-vilāsa means “the divine play (vilāsa, i.e., kheli) arising from prema.” The word prema means “the innate disposition (vāsanā) to please only the object (viṣaya) of one’s love, without the faintest trace of desire for personal happiness (sva-sukha-vāsanā).” On this basis, prema-vilāsa means “the divine play (vilāsa) brought into unification (saṅghaṭita) by the impelling force (preraṇā) of the innate disposition (vāsanā) arising from such prema.” This is not the vilāsa that is incited by the desire for personal happiness. Such self-interested enjoyment is known as kāma-vilāsa, which is comparable to the enjoyment of animals. Not only is it devoid of all glory, but it is also a matter of abhorrence. The word prema in prema-vilāsa refutes any possibility that the reference could be to kāma-vilāsa. Syntactically, the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta thus means “the vivarta of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema.” But what is the meaning of the word vivarta? The word vivarta is filled with the most profound significance (viśeṣa-gurutva-pūrṇa) and imbued with inscrutable mystery (rahasyamaya).

In his commentary on this payāra, Śrīpāda Viśvanātha Cakravartī has glossed the word vivarta as viparīta, meaning “inverted” or “reversed.” In his commentary on Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi, Uddīpana-vibhāva-prakaraṇa, verse 37, Śrīpāda Jīva Gosvāmī has glossed the word vivarta as paripākaḥ, meaning “fully ripened,” “completely evolved,” or “uniquely transformed” (i.e., viśeṣeṇa vṛttaḥ), in his comment on the phrase bakārer mādhurīṇāṁ nava-vivartaḥ, “the ever-newly completely evolved state of Bakāri’s [Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s] mellifluousness.” In addition, one common meaning of the word vivarta that is known to all is bhrama, or “perplexity.”

Consequently, the word vivarta is understood to have three meanings—namely, “inverted” (viparīta) or “inversion” (vaiparītya); “completely evolved” (paripāka) or “complete evolution” (paripakvatā); and “perplexity” (bhrama) or “confusion” (bhrānti). In the context of the analysis of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta, these three meanings all have utility (upayogitā) and significance (sārthakatā). Among these three meanings, the sense of the word vivarta as “completely evolved” (paripāka) certainly carries the primary (mukhya) utility and significance. The meanings of vivarta as “inverted” and as “perplexity” carry concomitant (ānuṣāṅgika) utility and significance. They are external symptoms (bahir-lakṣaṇas) or indicators (sūcakas) of the primary meaning (mukhya-artha) as “completely evolved” (paripāka). The meaning as paripāka is thus the whole (aṅgī) of which viparīta and bhrama are its component parts (aṅga).

If we take the primary sense of the word vivarta, the meaning of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta would be “the complete evolution (paripakvatā), or in other words, the state of the highest exultation (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā), of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema.” In this state of supreme exultation, two symptoms (lakṣaṇas) are manifested—namely, “perplexity” (bhrānti) and “inversion” (vaiparītya). An object (vastu) that is imperceptible (alakṣya) by the cognitive senses can be recognized by its external symptoms (bāhira-lakṣaṇas). The state of the highest exultation (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā) of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema is imperceptible by the cognitive senses. Its presence can be inferred only by all those symptoms (lakṣaṇas) that are manifested externally. Consequently, Cakravartipāda specifies one of these symptoms as “inverted” (viparīta) or “inversion” (vaiparītya). An additional symptom is “perplexity” (bhrānti), which gives rise to the state of inversion. How this is so will now be examined.

In the fourth Ullāsa of Kāvya-Prakāśa, in the commentary on the verse dhanyāsi yā kathayasi, it is written: “The supreme state (caramāvasthā) of amorous play (kāma-krīḍā) is the state of complete identity or oneness (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone.” The state of the highest exultation of vilāsa, or in other words, of complete oneness with vilāsa alone, is one in which the lovers have no occupation (vyāpāra) whatsoever other than vilāsa. Moreover, the hero and heroine (nāyaka-nāyikā) are devoid of cognizance (anusandhāna) even of their own existence (asthitva). When this state arises, the object of the lovers’ remembrance (smṛti) and cognizance (anusandhāna) is nothing other than vilāsa. The one and only object of their attention (anusandhāna) is how the systematic unfolding (pāripāṭya), or the unique marvel (vaicitrī), of vilāsa can be brought to consummation—how the bliss (ānanda) of vilāsa can be further augmented. Moreover, when in the act of attending (anusandhāna) exclusively to vilāsa, the lovers are bereft even of the awareness (anubhuti) of who is doing so—then, under the influence of progressively evolving supreme longing (carama-utkaṇṭhā), inversion (vaiparītya) of the hero and heroine’s actions becomes possible.

An indication of this inversion is found three verses later in Rādhā’s song: “He [Kṛṣṇa] cannot be identified as my lover (ramaṇa), nor I as His beloved (ramaṇī). The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared].” In glossing the word vivarta as viparīta, Cakravartipāda might well have had this specific instance of inversion (vaiparītya) in mind. The immediate cause of this inversion is the state of perplexity (bhrānti)—the state of forgetfulness of themselves (ātma-vismṛti) as hero and heroine (nāyaka-nāyikā). This state of perplexity (bhrānti) is itself the result of complete identity (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone. Thus, perfect identification with vilāsa alone is that by which the state of the highest exultation of vilāsa is recognized. Because this state is imperceptible to the senses, it is understood by the perplexity (bhrānti) that arises from it, and by the inversion (vaiparītya) of action that arises out of perplexity. In this respect, the three previously mentioned meanings of the word vivarta are admitted. The primary meaning is “complete evolution” (paripakvatā) or “the state of supreme exultation” (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā). “Perplexity” (bhrānti) is its consequence, and “inversion” is the result of the latter.

This inversion of action (vaiparītya), or inverted play (viparīta-vihāra), is, however, only an external symptom (bāhira-lakṣaṇa) of the state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa. Of its own accord, it is not the state of highest exultation. Moreover, this type of inversion is not even the prime symptom (viśea-lakṣaṇa) of prema-vilāsa-vivarta. This inversion does not indicate the state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa in all situations. If this inversion occurs through active involvement of the will on the part of the hero and heroine, then it is not an indicator (paricāyaka) of the state of the highest exultation of vilāsa. Rather, if this inversion (vaiparītya) manifests of its own accord (svata sphūrta) unknown to the lovers under the influence of complete self-forgetfulness (sampūra ātma-vismti), or in other words, out of the perplexity (bhrama) that arises from the state of perfect identity or oneness (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, then only inversion (vaiparītya) is a true indicator (paricāyaka) of prema-vilāsa-vivarta, and not otherwise. In the introductory volume of the six volume edition of Caitanya-caritāmta (p. 222-237), there is an elaborate essay on the topic of prema-vilāsa-vivarta, which may also be consulted. The nature of this inversion (vaiparītya) will be described a little further ahead with reference to the statements of Gopāla-campu.

In the state of the highest exultation of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema, due to the compelling force of complete identity with vilāsa alone, the crown jewel of heroes (nāyaka-śiromaṇi), Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the crown jewel of heroines (nāyikā-śiromaṇi), Śrī Rādhā, have only one root longing (vāsanā) in their hearts—namely, the longing to expand the bliss of vilāsa. At such times, their two minds become as if one. This is the import of Rādhā’s upcoming statement (verse 153): “The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared].”

In stating that their two minds had become one, the implication is that they no longer held any awareness (jñāna) of the distinction (bheda) between them. The state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa occurs only in the absence of the awareness of this distinction (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya), which itself arises out of complete identification (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone. Śrīpāda Kavi Karṇapūra has also confirmed the same point in his Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Mahākāvya: “Having disclosed the state of the highest exultation of prema implicit in the exceptionally skilled hero and heroine (vidagdha-nāgara-nāgarī) [Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa], Rāmānanda Rāya sang a song that is relished by their love-laden companions (sarasāli-pītam) and that brings to light the state of supreme oneness (paraikya) of the two lovers” (Sarga 13.45).

End of part 1. Translation by Navadvipa Das

No Jñāna Without Bhakti

 Every school of thought has some distinctive principles that make it different from other schools. In the Gaudīya school, one such principle is that bhakti is the only means of fully realizing the tattva (Reality), which manifests in triplicity as Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. Specifically, our school asserts that any endeavor devoid of bhakti will fail to grant realization of that tattva, while bhakti self-sufficiently grants all realizations obtainable by any other means. 

Certainly, the adherents of other paths may scoff at this as “bias,” but it is firmly based on scriptural authority, and thus should not be hastily written off as the opinion of some subjective practitioner, sādhu, or ācārya.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī demonstrates this in Bhakti Sandarbha, giving scriptural references which explain that jñāna-yoga grants realization of Brahman, but cannot do so without the grace of bhakti. The reason is that jñāna-yoga is based on detachment and control of the mind and senses, which are related to sattvaguṇa and thus cannot grant a result transcendent to the three guṇas. 

He says that the jñāna-yoga practitioner can transcend sattva-guṇa only by recourse to bhakti, because bhakti is transcendental to the guṇas. This conclusion matches what Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā (18.54-55). He begins by saying:

“O son of Kunti, learn from Me in brief how a person who has attained the perfection of freedom from consequential action realizes Brahman, which is the highest culmination of knowledge (jñāna).”

And he concludes:

“The best realization of self-satisfied Brahman is through bhakti for me. By bhakti am I best understood.”

One may contend that sattva leads to jñāna (sattvāt sañjāyate jñānam, Gītā 14.17) which in turn bestows realization of Brahman (sattvaṁ yad brahma-darśanam, SB 1.2.24). However, one must note that brahma-darśana does not come directly from sattva (as the word “sattvāt” would indicate), but from something facilitated by sattva (hence, “sattvaṁ yat”). Additionally, one should note that “brahma-darśana” may indicate an initial vision of Brahman, which may not be identical to the complete realization exclusively bestowed by bhakti (as mentioned in Gītā 18.55 and SB 1.7.4). 

Sūta Gosvāmī explains this clearly in the second Chapter of the  Bhāgavata: First he explains (in 1.2.11) that tattva manifests as a nondual trinity—Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān:

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti
bhagavān iti śabdyate

He then states (in 1.2.12) that, “Sages with resolute faith can directly perceive it in their own selves by bhakti imbibed through hearing and invested with knowledge and detachment:”

tac chraddadhānā munayo
paśyanty ātmani cātmānaṁ
bhaktyā śruta-gṛhītayā

The word ātmā (in 1.2.12) can refer to all three manifestations. Accordingly, the word munayaḥ, “the sages,” (in SB 1.2.12) can be understood to refer to the three corresponding varieties of realized practitioners, namely the jñānīs, yogīs, and bhaktas. Bearing this in mind, Sūta’s statement thus implies that the tattva, referred by the word atmā in 1.2.12, is self-disclosed to all three categories of seekers—each according to their respective faith— only through bhakti 

Following up this statement, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī tenders the example of great sages of past: “Consequently, from time immemorial the sages worshiped Bhagavān [Kṛṣṇa], who is superlative to sense perception (adhokṣaja) and the direct embodiment of unalloyed being (viśuddha-sattva). Those in this world who follow in their footsteps also become eligible to attain the ultimate good. (SB 1.2.25)”  

The same is also confirmed by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in response to Arjuna’s question about the means to transcend the material guṇas:

māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

A person who serves Me alone through unswerving devotion completely transcends these guṇas of nature and becomes eligible to realize Brahman. (Gītā 14.26)

 Earlier in the Gītā, Kṛṣṇa also asserted that only those who surrender to Him can cross over the three guṇas. (7. 14) From these statements of Sūta Gosvāmī and Kṛṣṇa, it is clear that it is not possible to realize Brahman without bhakti. The reason behind this is the fact that bhakti is the essence of Bhagavān’s svayaṁ-prakāśa svarūpa-śakti and is thus beyond the three guṇas. As such, it is the agent affecting self-disclosure of the Absolute. 

This turns the radical nondualist view of jñāna-yoga on its head. Proponents of that school believe that bhakti is a concession for the less intelligent so that they can fix their concentration without a tangible, external form of God. They believe this will eventually allow the less intelligent practitioner to finally meditate on and realize their absolute identity with Brahman. This claim may make sense to some but is without scriptural basis. Moreover, it actually contradicts the words of śāstra, as explained above.

This opinion also doesn’t look good in the light of logic, as elaborated below.

As conclusively established in Bhagavat Sandarbha, Brahman is the unqualified manifestation of tattva. In other words, Brahman is the manifestation of the Absolute that keeps Its own intrinsic potency concealed and hence shows Itself devoid of uniquely identifiable qualities. Bhagavān, in contrast to this, is the same tattva, but manifest without any concealment of those unique, identifiable qualities—which are intrinsically self-endowed by Its own potency. From this perspective, Brahman is the partial or concealed view of the tattva, whereas Bhagavān is Its utterly complete manifestation. Such being the case, how can devotion to Bhagavān be for the less intelligent?

It is true that the non-intellectually oriented can perform bhakti more easily than undertaking the rigorous course of study and detachment required for the path of jñāna-yoga, but that in itself does not imply that bhakti is only for the less intelligent. It is the universal characteristic of bhakti that it is joyfully executed irrespective of the caliber of the practitioner. For this reason, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes in Anuccheda 67 that bhakti is easily perfected, sukha-sādhyatvam. Moreover, bhakti bestows knowledge and intellectual intuition of the Absolute, jñāna-janakatvam, which includes the immediate intuition of Brahman, the aim of jñāna-yoga. The comparative ease with which bhakti-yoga is executed and perfected is evidence of its superiority, not its inferiority, to jñāna-yoga.

This is why Śrī Kṛṣṇa begins to instruct Uddhava in bhakti-yoga after concluding His instructions on jñāna-yoga. He begins his discussion of bhakti-yoga by saying: “If a person has thoroughly studied the Sonic Brahman [i.e., the Vedas], but has not brought attention to bear on the Transcendent Brahman, his effort results in nothing but the labor itself, like milking a dry cow” (SB 11.11.18).

This implies that one should first studies śāstra and becomes profoundly versed in its philosophical conclusions (śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāta). This should lead to immediate intuition of the Transcendent Brahman (para-brahmaṇi niṣṇāta). If this intuition does not occur, Kṛṣṇa asserts that one’s effort to comprehend the philosophical conclusions of the Vedas was pointless. 

Śrī Jīva makes another critical observation in Anuccheda 67 that illustrates bhakti’s unique status and ease of practice. He boldly states that although Parabrahma is the subject delineated in the Upaniṣads, firm faith (niṣṭhā) in Parabrahma is not evoked in the practitioner even by deliberating on the Upaniṣads millions of times. This niṣṭhā is evoked only by focusing attention on those parts of the śabda-brahma that delineate Bhagavān’s līlā. Indeed, we often find jñānīs and yogīs listening to or taking about Kṛṣṇa’s stories while re-interpreting them in accordance with their respective points of view. Rarely do we find jñānīs and yogīs giving public discourses purely on the principles pertaining to their respective paths, without including references to Bhagavān’s līlā.

Validating his observation about the connection between niṣṭhā in Parabrahma and the līlā portions of the śabda-brahma, Śrī Jīva cites the concluding statement of Śrī Śuka’s discourse to King Parīkṣit: “For a person tormented by the forest fire of multifarious miseries and aspiring to cross the insurmountable ocean of material existence (saṁsāra), there is no vessel other than absorption in the aesthetic rapture (rasa) of the narrations of the divine play of Bhagavān Puruṣottama [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] (SB 12.4.40).”

Satyanarayana Dasa


Kāma-sūtra: Transcending Through Lust

by Jaya Devi

Contrary to popular understanding, the Kāma-sūtra is not a manual exclusively for sensual enjoyment between lovers – a topic covering only twenty percent of the book. The remaining eighty percent of the Kāma-sūtra is a guide for a charming and delightful life. It discusses the nature of love, family life, how to maintain good relationships. It also describes the various sensual pleasures of humanity, such as the performance of arts, attending festivals and cultural events.

Kāma means ‘desire’ in Indian literature. Even though kāma often signifies sensual passion between lovers, it more broadly refers to any desire, wish, longing, aesthetic enjoyment, affection or love, with or without physical intimacy.

Historic background of Kāma-sūtra

Kāma, sensual enjoyment, is an important part of life. It is similar to earning wealth and following certain principles to lead a virtuous life. This ‘down-to-earth’ truth has existed in India since the beginning of creation when Prajāpati, the Creator, pronounced one hundred thousand chapters on tri-varga, a treatise on the three goals of life, dharmaartha, and kāma, meaning virtuous living, earning wealth, and enjoying the senses, respectively. The aim of tri-varga is to ensure the happiness of people in society.

This treatise on tri-varga was immense. In order to simplify its meaning, Manu, the original law-maker of mankind, selected the dharma-part to compile the Dharma-Śāstra which describes the duties of various classes of people. Br̥haspati, the guru of the devas, collected the artha-part to compile Artha-Śāstra, the science of earning wealth, including polity and economy. Nandi, the sacred Bull and doorkeeper of Śiva, extracted the kāma-part to compose the KāmaŚāstra in one thousand chapters.

In the eighth century BC, Śvetaketu, a teacher of philosophy, compressed these thousand chapters into five hundred chapters. Later, a great scholar named Babhru along with his followers, known as the lineage of Babhravya, summarized the vast work of Śvetaketu into 150 chapters and divided it into seven parts, which are:

1. General Observations and Lifestyle

2. Different Types of Sensual Enjoyment

3. Selection of a Life Partner

4. Wives

5. Extra Marital Relationships

6. Courtesans

7. Ways to Increase Physical Attraction and Sensual Pleasure


Vātsyāyana, Author of Kāma-sūtra

Between the third and first centuries BC, several other authors wrote treatises based on different parts of this work of Babhravya. Unfortunately, it rendered the text fragmented and scattered.

When Vātsyāyana, a brāhmaṇa and great scholar who lived in the city of Pataliputra in the fourth century BC, saw how the various works belonging to KāmaŚāstra had become difficult to access,  he collected and summarized them into his Kāma-sūtra.

This is what Vātsyāyana writes about himself at the end of his Kāmasūtra: “After studying the works of Babhravya and other ancient authors and contemplating on the meaning of the rules given by them, this treatise was composed according to the precepts of dharma for the benefit of the people by myself, Vātsyāyana, situated in samādhi, while leading the life of a brahmacārī (religious, celibate student) at Benares.

One should not view this work merely as an instrument for satisfying one’s desires. A person who realizes the true principles of this science, who preserves his dharma (virtuous living), artha (acquisition of wealth), and kāma (sensual enjoyment), and who respects the traditions of the people, will surely obtain mastery over his senses. In other words, an intelligent and wise person following dharma, artha, and kāma without becoming the slave of his passions, will be successful in everything he may do.”

Accordingly, Vātsyāyana began his treatise with an explanation of dharma, artha, and kāma and ends it with his assurance that a wise person who follows the rules and principles described in the Kāma-sūtra can regulate his sensual desires.

It is within this kind of freedom from desires that sensual enjoyment can become an expression of love—such love being the purpose of creation.

Tradition of Kāmasūtra:

Kāma-sūtra Diagram.

Was Cāṇakya a Male Chauvinist?

by Jaya Devi

Cāṇakya, a great scholar of polity whose theories of administration are unparalleled anywhere in the world, has often been criticized for his demeaning references to women. While exploring if this criticism is justified, we need to consider two factors:

  1. Time and Circumstance

Chanakya Pandit
Chanakya Pandit

Cāṇakya was a mendicant brāhmaṇa and erudite scholar of political science. He lived in India in the 4th century BCE, a gloomy era of foreign invasions that were gradually defeating the Aryan kingdoms. Well-known for his great command in the fields of economics, ethics, philosophy, and politics, he was appointed as the chief administrator of Emperor Chandragupta (reign: 321–298 BCE), who was the founder of the Maurya Empire in ancient India.

Acting as the emperor’s counselor and adviser, he was instrumental in helping Chandragupta overthrow the powerful Nanda dynasty at Pataliputra, in the Magadha region. Dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of the citizens, Cāṇakya was able to convince the ruling kings to make war against the invaders and drive them off the sacred soil of Bharat–India.


Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I.
Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I.

In order to protect their kingdom from rivals, kings appointed spies to find out the secrets and weaknesses of other rulers. Since women are the greatest attraction for men, they were often engaged as spies who could easily influence the rulers and consequently cause the destruction of the state government.

Therefore, many verses spoken by Cāṇakya are pieces of advice to ruling kings. Cāṇakya gives his firm counsel not to trust women whose power of seduction can influence the king and cause his defeat to other rulers. Cāṇakya’s intention is not to criticize women, but to remind the male rulers of their strong attraction for women.

  1. Different Types of Women

Women are of different types. The scriptures describe various types of women such as, sādhvī, virtuous women whose lives are inspired by sattva-guṇabhogyā, women predominantly influenced by rajo-guṇa who like to enjoy; and kulaṭā, women mainly influenced by tamo-guṇa who go from one man to another.

Women do not form a single standardized group. Therefore, to apply a particular claim upon all women as a homogeneous group is a major misapplication that carries with it far reaching consequences, both socially and spiritually. It is important to understand verses within the context and the intention of the writer. Otherwise, they are bound to be misunderstood.

Explaining Cāṇakya

By explaining Cāṇakya’s verses, taking into consideration the goal of this great visionary and expert on polity, we can become aware of his profound wisdom.

In Cāṇakya-Nīti-Śāstra, there is a description of a woman who embraces one man, looks at another, and thinks of still another. Without reading the commentary, the reader will more than likely conclude the nature of every woman is being described. They will feel it is an unfounded and unjust criticism or use it to put down all women as being of such a character.

However, Cāṇakya’s intention was quite different. It was to warn kings not to associate with immoral women (kulaṭā), for they are the ones who could be spies and find out the secrets of the state administration, causing the downfall of the king and the whole kingdom.

“Untruthfulness, rashness (starting a work without giving it any thought), cleverness, stupidity, greed, impurity, and cruelty are a woman’s seven natural flaws.” “What is man’s greatest fascination? It is a woman. She is the hub around which his mind revolves. A man is powerfully influenced by her captivating, coquettish ways. She soon succeeds in confining him to a prison of passion and irrational behavior.”

Such are the qualities of kulaṭā, women who are expert in utilizing men’s weakness for feminine allure, which can easily be turned into a fatal attraction. Cāṇakya is warning the kings against such women who have the power to disrupt their state government. Cāṇakya says that man’s greatest fascination is women. He knows men’s weakness and warns them about it.

The same applies to verses such as, “Courtesy should be learned from princes, the art of conversation from scholars, lying should be learned from gamblers, and deceitful ways should be learned from women.”

“Fire, water, women, a fool, a snake, and the royal family – beware of all these. They can prove fatal.”

“Sagacious people never act upon a woman’s advice, for women are the cause of all disputes. They are also responsible for instigating all felonious wars and sinful deeds. This is why saintly people refrain from even viewing the reflection of a woman.”

“It is ruinous to be too familiar with the king, fire, the guru, and a woman. To be altogether indifferent to them is to be deprived of the opportunity to benefit ourselves. Hence, our association with them must be from a safe distance.”

This verse clearly says that kings, fire, gurus, and women are valuable, but we need to be aware of their power as well. Besides their beneficial qualities, kings have the power to punish, fire can kill, gurus can curse, and women can destroy their intimate ones who have disclosed their secrets to them.

“The eating of tundi fruit deprives a man of his sense, while the vacha root administered revives his reasoning immediately. A woman at once robs a man of his vigor, while milk at once restores it.”

All these verses describe kulaṭā, women under the sway of tamo-guna who go from one man to another. When a verse describes the behavior of kulaṭā, those not well versed in Śāstra will think it is describing all women. Therefore, it is important to understand the context of the original text.

Cāṇakya’s Praise of Women

There are also verses by Cāṇakya defining the characteristics of excellent women. This shows that his opinion about women is not biased. He defines a good woman as one who is pious, expert in household chores, true, and faithful to her husband.

“Only a chaste, intelligent, virtuous, and endearing woman, who remains faithful to her husband, truly deserves his patronage. Such a wife is a godsend to any man. Blessed is the man who has found such a woman to be his wife.” Elsewhere he says, “A good wife is one who serves her husband in the morning like a mother, loves him during the day like a sister, and pleases him at night like a courtesan.”

Another verse by Cāṇakya that is often misunderstood, says, “Women have hunger two-fold, intelligence four-fold, endurance six-fold, and desires eight-fold as compared to men.” Even though this verse is usually quoted to disparage the nature of woman as lustful, Cāṇakya’s intention is actually to praise the nature of women. Women carry the responsibility of nurturing the family unit and thus, by extension, society as a whole. This obviously requires more material facilities.

The meaning becomes clear when we understand the author’s intention. Extra facilities are afforded to women to honor and facilitate the special duties she bears in caring for others. Women eat twice as much because pregnant women eat for two, not one. They have four times more intelligence (buddhi) because it is their intelligence and wisdom that cultivates the intelligence and moral character of children, family, and society. They also need intelligence to know of the dangers in this world and how to act in any given situation to protect themselves and their dependents.

They have six times more courage (sāhasam) because the inherent nature of women is to give of herself to others for their benefit, especially to her children. The last line of this verse states that women have eight times more desires (kāma). These desires are not just for herself but are also for the facilities she needs to provide for her dependents. Still, the last line is often misinterpreted to say that women have eight times more sexual lust. However, the word kāma here does not mean sexual lust but refers to general desires. Married women have more needs because they are responsible for taking care of more people, their family members, and the household.

Single women also need more facilities. While men can move around in the world and easily take care of themselves without concern over their safety, women have to take extra precautions against the ever-present dangers of being attacked, raped, and the other ways they can be exploited. They need extra facility for their protection and also to provide for themselves in a world where the material resources and earning capacity is controlled mostly by men.

A Hidden Message for Men

Scriptures instruct in different ways, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. If one doesn’t know the hermeneutics, one will misinterpret what the scriptures are actually saying. This misunderstanding will lead to an incorrect application of scripture, which is what is happening here.

Moreover, the scriptures do not directly reproach men for their innate weakness for women, but instead speak indirectly. Pointing out the characteristics of kulaṭā is an indirect way of reminding men of their strong attraction for women and the dangers this presents for their social, political and/or spiritual wellbeing. Men have a stronger sexual appetite and that creates the need for a stronger message.

Unfortunately, people today do not understand this esoteric approach of the Śāstra. This is obvious from the fact that these verses are being misinterpreted to denigrate women instead of revealing the lesson they contain for men. The intention is not to criticize women but to warn men.

See also:

Please note: Jiva Institute Vrindavan now has a Center for Feminine Spirituality!