3.Development of the highest love depends on the receptacle

Madhurya is the essence of the Lord’s divinity. It has its ultimate realization in his form as Sri Krishna when he adopts the pose of a charming and flirtatious gallant (dhiralalita). A leading man (nayaka) of this type is considered by the poeticians to be the best of the various types of romantic hero. In the Stavavali, Radharani is described as having performed austerities in order to have Krishna’s playful dhira-lalita disposition increase.
Rupa Gosvami characterizes this charming gallant in the following manner(BRS 2.1.230.):
The charmer is suave, youthful, clever at amusing flirtations, always carefree and usually dominated by his mistress.

Rupa lists sixty-four of the Lord’s qualities in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu; these attributes are appreciated by devotees of all the five inclinations. Of these sixty-four, however, only twenty-five are considered to be stimuli for the erotic mood. The Caitanya-caritamrita(CC 2.19) confirms this when it is said, The gopis’ ears are enlivened by hearing about each of the twenty-five qualities of the Lord that are dominant in madhura-rasa.

The Lord has unlimited qualities and it is through an attraction to these qualities that the devotee’s love develops. In his Priti-sandarbha 92, Sri Jiva categorizes these qualities as the causes of particular changes or developments in the heart of the devotee (bhakta-cittasa àskriyä-viçeñasya hetavaù) or the root causes of a devotee’s particular self-conception(abhimaan).

In the erotic relation, some of the Lord’s attributes enliven the devotee’s (the gopi’s) heart, thus elevating her to the point of bhava, feeling. The appreciation of the Lord’s further qualities create in her the spirit of possessiveness, which is the dominant characteristic of prema, love. Other qualities melt the heart completely, bringing her to the point of sneha, affection. Further qualities strengthen the gopi’s self-assurance in her loving relationship with the Lord and she thus rises to the next stage called mana, jealous pride. Those qualities that awaken a sense of intimate trust elevate her to pranaya, confident love. Others create the intense desire or attachment that is the symptom of raga, passionate
love. Finally, some of the Lord’s attributes madden the devoteee with their unequalled marvels .this is the platform of maha-bhava, great feeling. These different levels are the higher stages of the sthayi-bhava.(Priti-sandarbha, 84.)

Of course, the appreciation of the different attributes of the Lord depends a great deal on the nature of the devotee and the intensity of her emotion: not all devotees appreciate all of God’s qualities. Those qualities which enmadden due to their unequalled marvels (asamordhva-camatkäreëonmädayati) are appreciated by the cowherd beauties of Vraja alone. As a result of this, the highest devotional mood known as maha-bhava, not found in any other devotee, appears in them. The qualities of Krishna which awaken this mood are only perceived and relished by them and thus they are the only ones who have a proprietary claim on them.

Different devotees experience and express different spiritual emotions; and just as there are such different devotees, there are corresponding manifestations of the Lord. In the Priti-sandarbha, Jiva Gosvamin makes the following comment on the relation between a devotee’s particular devotional attitude and the Lord’s revelation of his qualities:

It is said that during the predominance of the Svati asterism, pearls are produced from the rainfall; however, this rain-water does not produce pearls everywhere, but only in those special receptacles known as oysters. Similarly, although it is quite within Krishna’s capabilities to awaken devotional sentiments up to the point of maha-bhava [in any-one at all], not everyone’s love is developed to that extent. The development of the highest love depends on the receptacle. [This is the unique achievement of the Vrindavana gopis.]

Certain indicators (anubhavas) of maha-bhava, such as intolerance of even the momentary interruption to the vision of Krishna’s face caused by the blinking of the eyelids, are to be found only in the gopis.

Jiva further states in the Priti-sandarbha that the first development in the process of the growth of this erotic love is the perception of a certain form of the Lord equipped with particular qualities. The experience of such a form produces a particular sense of self awareness in the devotee, which later develops into an attachment or loving possessiveness.
The first manifestation of the Lord’s specific form depends on the association of devotees attached to such a form. For example, let us say that Lord Krishna has a certain devotee known as Krishna Dasa with whom he deals as a friend. Another person named Hari Dasa is bereft of such good fortune until he is one day blessed with Krishna Dasa’s company. Then he develops a similar sentiment for the Lord. Not only that, but the Lord also starts thinking of Hari Dasa as a friend. As a result, the quality of devotion known as sakhya-rati develops in Hari Dasa.

As stated in Caitanya-caritamrita, the basis of the birth of sacred love for Krishna is the association of saintly persons.(CC 2.22.83) Still, it should be remembered that one’s devotional sentiment would necessarily be the same as that of the company one keeps.

According to the extent that the Lord’s different devotees perceive his qualities which are related to the erotic mood, they come to different conceptions of self-identity. The Supreme Lord and his devotees attract each other like a magnet and iron filings. As a result of this essential characteristic, the devotee’s specific sense of identity is also brought into being by the eternally true nature of the Lord. Thus, according to the particular form and nature the Lord reveals in certain times and places, a corresponding sense of identity is born in the devotee who experiences him. This is the source of the relative superiority or inferiority of devotional moods or sthayi-bhavas. This shows that the sense of self identity or abhimana and the feeling of devotional passion (raga) are mutually interdependent, each being nourished by the other.

They therefore appear simultaneously. Although the various senses of self-identity are many in number, there are only four dominant types in Vrindavan those of servitude, friendship, guardianship or parenthood and mistress-hood, which, as has already been stated, is supreme amongst them all.
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From Manjari Swarupa Nirupana

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