Tag Archives: manjaris

Mañjarī Puzzle

One of the most popular questions I receive concerns the mañjarīs in Kṛṣṇa-līlā. There seems to be an ongoing debate amongst the devotees, with one group saying that the mañjarīs do not have physical association with Kṛṣṇa, while another group argues the opposite. Many others inquire about mañjarī-bhāva, mañjarī-bhāva-sādhanā, the mañjarī-svarūpa, the mañjarīs’ relationship with Kṛṣṇa, etc. Frankly speaking, I rarely talk about the subject because I do not consider myself suitably qualified. Therefore, I generally do not respond to such questions but defer to devotees who may be experts on the topic.

Here I will relate an analogy that may be helpful to such inquirers. About twenty-five years ago, one evening two residents of our Institute were walking to our Guru Mahārāja’s āśrama at Kalidaha. It was a good twenty-minute walk from our Institute. In those days, Sheetal Chāya, where our Institute is located, was open land with only three houses. Bushes and trees covered the land, so cows and goats grazed there during the day while pigs slumbered in the drains. One could see snakes slinking in the grass during the summer and rainy seasons; the land was infested with snakes. I have encountered snakes in our library, kitchen, and even my third-floor balcony. I have also seen snakes hanging on trees in our garden. 

So it was no big surprise that these two students saw a snake on the side of the road at Sheetal Chāya when they returned to the Institute. Later that evening, we met at dinner, and they related their experience. However, they disagreed about the color of the snake. One said it was a black cobra, while the other said it was a brown viper. Both were quite certain about their observations, so I let them argue. After listening for some time, I informed them that they were both wrong. They looked at me in surprise. I told them it was not a snake; it was a rope! I had seen it because I also went to Kalidaha that same afternoon, and I clearly remembered the rope on the side of the path at the exact place where they had seen a “snake.” They did not believe me. I told them they could see for themselves the following day. To their utter astonishment, they found out that I was right. So there was no real snake, only a rope, and they had argued about something they had misapprehended.

This debate about the mañjarīs having or not having association with Kṛṣṇa is similar. It is rooted in a misunderstanding of what a mañjarī is. The most important thing is to understand mañjarī-bhāva. In my opinion, such a question would not arise if we understood the definition of uttamā-bhakti given by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11): 

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṃ jṣāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam |
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṃ bhaktir uttamā || 

“The continuous enactment (anuśīlana) of favorable service meant exclusively for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, that is devoid of all predilection toward ulterior desire, and that is unobscured by strivings for jñāna and karma, is called paramount devotion (uttamā-bhakti).”

Therefore, it is crucial to study this definition before one delves into the topic of the mañjarīs. If one does not have a clear understanding of the definition of uttamā-bhakti, then one will never understand the secret (rahasya) behind the mañjarīs’ relationship with Kṛṣṇa. 

The definition of uttamā-bhakti seems simple and straightforward, but it is not so. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti have written elaborate commentaries on this verse. It is impossible to grasp the meaning without studying these commentaries. Therefore, one must study these commentaries carefully and deliberate on them. In a way, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has churned the whole Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa and extracted these two lines. Thus by grasping the meaning of these two lines, one can understand the mystery