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May 8, 1999   VNN3823  

Sri Gita: 'The Door Of Vraja Bhakti'


EDITORIAL, May 8 (VNN) — (from Sanga wfd@efn.org)

"Worship of God is never transcended in the Gita, rather it takes the form of unalloyed devotion, transcending even knowledge of the soul and the Godhood of Godhead. It brings us to the door of Vraja bhakti."

From the Introduction to the 'Bhagavad Gita: It's Feeling and Philosophy' by Swami B.V. Tripurari.

Sri Gita, whose study spans centuries and whose wisdom is identified with the perennial philosophy, lends itself to interpretations of all variety: academic, ecological, psychological, sociological, political, and popular.

The Song of God indeed speaks on many levels to its varied congregation, primarily about its ultimate necessity Ñ self-realization, more so, God-realization.

Krishna's speech is called 'vavaduka', (1) ambrosial and pleasing to the ears. It is also said that his words are satyavak,(2) they never prove false. In his conversation with Arjuna that makes up the Bhagavad-gita, these two qualities of his speech are apparent. It is no wonder that his words have been immortalized in human society, where he descends to express himself in the fullness of love.

Although devotees have tried to establish the historicity of Krishna's appearance five thousand years ago, as well as everything in relation to itÑsuch as the Gita's Kurukshetra War Ñ they have not gotten far in documenting these events. What they have done, however, is document the extraordinary experience of mystic devotees of Krishna, and this human society must reckon with, giving serious consideration to its theological and philosophical ramifications.

Krishna represents the love life of the Absolute. While Buddha teaches wisdom leading to the cessation of suffering and Christ salvation through love, Krishna is God in love, living in eternity with his devotees who embody five basic varieties of love. Devotees of Krishna love him passively (santa rasa), as servitors (dasya rasa), as friends (sakhya rasa), as well-wishers (vatsalya rasa), and as lovers (madhurya rasa). These five basic expressions of devotional love (bhakti rasa) may also overlap, and there are varieties of each of them. Arjuna of the Gita loves Krishna as a friend with a mixture of servitude. His friendly love is called 'pura sambandhi', a friendly relationship with Krishna in his city lila (pastime), as opposed to his more intimate pastoral Vraja lila. Among all of Krishna's city friends, Arjuna is most prominent.

Before coming to the big city of Mathura and later establishing his capital at Dvaraka, Krishna was raised in Vraja. The setting of Vraja represents the beauty of simplicity, the beauty of nature and the natural environs.

Krishna's father was a herdsman, and Krishna himself a corroder. Decorated with ornaments of the forest flowers, leaves, multicolored clays Ñ and crowned with the conjuror's peacock plume, this Krishna, his only weapon the flute, is said to be Krishna in his fullness, 'svayam bhagavan'. He is God when God wants to be himself, relaxed with intimates, even forgetful of his own Godhood to facilitate intimate loving relationships with his devotees. This Krishna is the connoisseur of love, yet subjugated by his lover Radha.(3) In the language of India's aestheticians, Vraja Krishna is the perfect 'dhira lalita nayaka',(4) and in no mood to speak Upanishadic wisdom.

Krishna of the Gita, while the same person, is in a different mood than Vraja Krishna. As with all of his moods, his emotional makeup in his Bhagavad-gita lila is relative to the nature of his accompanying devotees' love. Once leaving Vraja on a mission to establish dharma,(5) Krishna is surrounded by devotees who have a greater sense of his Godhood. This sense distances them from him slightly, introducing formalities into the relationship that are not found in his relationships with the devotees of Vraja. In the city, Krishna, the village adolescent, matures into eternal youthfulness.(6) He becomes a judicious princeÑ peaceful, humble, and wise.

This Krishna, who in the aesthetic language of Bharata (7) is the perfect 'dhira prasanta nayaka',(8) speaks Gitopanisad, the Bhagavad-gita.

>From the Bhagavad-gita we come to know of the Godhood of Krishna. In light of this, his village life takes on new meaning. The informal simplicity of the Vraja lila is like the black backdrop that causes the valuable jewel of Krishna to shine that much more. When God acts like a human to the extent that he falls in love, as does Krishna with Radha, this is indeed a sweet and charming expression of divinity, one that gives us a clue as to how to approach the Absolute such that we can easily access him. Overcome by love, Krishna manifests a transcendental need, one that arises not from his inadequacy, but from the fullness of love, for love causes one to feel both full and in need of sharing one's fullness. To one acquainted with the inner necessity of Krishna, he is most accessible. It is to this that Sri Gita ultimately points, such that all souls might know the sacred secret of the Upanishads. In establishing dharma in general, Krishna reveals the glory of 'prema dharma',(9) the dharma of love itself.

This edition of the Bhagavad-gita follows the tradition of Gau¶iya Vedanta.

It is the Gau¶iyas, disciples of Sri Caitanya, who first conceived of explaining the subject of the Upanishads in the language of aesthetics.

Drawing on the Taittareya Upanishad's voice, 'raso vai sah' (the absolute is aesthetic rapture), Rupa Goswami proceeded to elaborate on the heart of the Absolute, Godhead's life and love. He envisioned the Absolute as the perfect lover, the irresistible Krishna of the sacred literature, and with startling insight explains this complex theological personality. To date no one has even attempted to tell us more about the personality of Godhead.

His successors have followed his lead and offered a wealth of literature on the subject, including commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita.

Krishna of Vraja is the acme of God's incarnation, the purna avatara, and thus the Gau¶iyas, who focus primarily on this feature of God, in which all others are included, have mostly written about him. Their commentaries on the Srimad Bhagavatam are well known, as are many of their original compositions. However, they have also written on the Upanishads, where the love sports of Krishna are, if present, well concealed.

Baladeva Vidyabhusana wrote Govinda Bhasya, the Gau¶iya commentary on the Vedanta sutra of Badarayana Vyasa that seeks to demonstrate the concordance of 'sruti', the Upanishads. He also wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, as did his predecessor, Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.

Before them, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami cited the Gita more than thirty times in his classic Caitanya-caritamrita, and his predecessor, Jiva Goswami, cited it more than one hundred times in his seminal Sat-sandarbha.

Thus 'dhira prasanta'[ Krishna is quite relevant to devotees of 'dhira lalita' Krishna.

Vishvanatha Cakravarti was the first in the Gau¶iya lineage to write an entire commentary on the Gita. He is most well known for his highly esoteric explanations of the inner significance of Krishna's lilas of love with the gopis of Vraja. Yet it would seem that he found it important to remind us that gopi Krishna is, after all, God, even while suppressing this aspect of himself for the sake of his intimate lilas. We must first understand the truth (tattva/philosophy) concerning Krishna as the source of the world and all souls before we forget the world, lost in divine love of Krishna. There is no better book among the sacred texts of the Hindus to learn this from than the Bhagavad-gita.

Known also as Gitopanisad due to its having been spoken directly by God himself,(10) Bhagavad-gita is the essence of the Upanishads. If one wants to understand the entirety of the Upanishad's thousands of verses, one need only understand the seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad-gita. While the Upanishads are often thought to be more philosophical than religious, it is significant that the Gita is not so. Although it is philosophical, it is also suprareligious, positing a religio/philosophical metanarrative in which religious life emerges out of a firm philosophical foundation.

Worship of God is never transcended in the Gita, rather it takes the form of unalloyed devotion, transcending even knowledge of the soul and the Godhood of Godhead. It brings us to the door of Vraja bhakti.


1. Brs. 2.1 230

2. Brs. 2.1.23

3. Radha is Krishna's primal shakti. She is the shine of the sun of Krishna. He is the supreme object of love and she the abode of supreme love. As all avataras of Godhead issue from Krishna, similarly all of their counterwhole consorts emanate from Radha and partially represent her.

4. There are four basic hero (nayaka) types in classical Indian drama/poetry. The dhira lalita nayaka is described in Sahitya Darpana 1.68 thus: "Carefree, ever gentle, devoted to the artsÑlet this be the dhira lalita." In secular drama/poetry, Cupid is considered such. Brs 2.1.230 describes him as "a person who is very cunning and always youthful, expert in joking and without anxiety, and who is always subjugated by his girlfriends, is called dhira-lalita nayaka."

5. Here dharma refers to the mission of the avatara to establish the scriptural codes. See Bg. 4.7Ð8

6.This is the fourth of three "ages" in which Krishna appears. It is known as nava yauvana. The other three are kumara (infancy), pauganda (childhood), and kishore (adolescence). All of these ages are eternally existing, just as all phases of time exist somewhere yet from our perspective seem to disappear.

7. Here Bharata refers to the founder of Indian aesthetic theory, the legendary author of Bharata Natya.

8. The dhira prasanta nayaka is described in Sahitya Darpana 1.69 thus: "Possessing largely the generic good qualities of a hero (liberal, learned, of good family, graceful, with the ardor of youth and beauty, clever, a general favorite, and possessed of spirit wit and virtue), a brahmana or the like, let this be the dhira prasanta nayaka." Brs. 2.1.232 describes him thus: "Peaceful, tolerant of miseries, judicious, and humble, such is the dhira prasanta nayaka."

9.This term refers to the love exhibited in Krishna's Vraja lila.

10.The Upanishads are thought to have issued directly from God.

'The Bhagavad Gita: It's Feeling and Philosphy' is scheduled for release in Spring, 2000.

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