4.Causes for the birth of the gopi’s feelings.

The original cause of Krishna and the doe-eyed damsels engagement in the eight types of union (sambhoga), beginning with meditation and viewing, is the amorous feeling which dwells in those damsel’s heart. That feeling guarded within them, which has Krishna as its object, reaches rapturous fulfillment (rasatva) and is then relished by both parties. This amorous affection [here called priyata] is also known by the name of madhura rati. Its symptoms or manifestations are unlimited; they include sidelong glances, eyebrow movements, sweet words, smiles, etc(BRS 2.5.36)

What is the cause of the eight types of union? Jiva writes in his commentary on this verse that it is the desire for such union, i.e. the strong desire of each party to encounter the other in every possible way.

When and why does such a desire awaken? For Krishna and the gopis, it is eternally existant. Even so, the pastimes of the Lord are all performed in a human-like way, as stated in both the Caitanya-caritamrita, the Lord has human-like amusements and is totally absorbed in human activites and the Vedanta-darsana (2.1.33): lokavat tu lila-kaivalyam, the Lord is, like a human being, absorbed exclusively in his own play. This means that, as with human beings, the gopis and Krishna’s love for each other develops in a sequential fashion, as though they had had no prior relationship.

In this connection, it is especially important for the devotional aspirant to concentrate on knowing the original causes for the birth of the gopis feelings for Krishna; the causes for the manifestation of Krishna’s feelings are less important.

The first manifestation of romantic feeling is called bhava. Although the gopis have a general feeling of love for Krishna, only when they reach the age of puberty does Cupid makes his appearance and their feelings take on specific, erotic characteristics. Only at that time does their love become qualified as romantic or madhura rati.

Bhava has been characterized in the Ujjvala-nilamani(UN 11.6) in the following manner:
“The first transformation symptomatic of the awakening of romantic feelings in the theretofore unchanged and simple mind is called bhava.

In this connection, Visvanatha Cakravarti has commented that Rupa Gosvamin in BRS 2.5.9. has given the name samanya-rati, an unspecific, general feeling of love to the eternally self-manifested love of the gopis for Krishna as it exists from the time of their birth until puberty When, during the time of the manifestation of Krishna’s pastimes in the material universe, the gopis reached adolescence, then erotic feelings for Krishna appeared and they developed the desire to please him by giving their own bodies to him to enjoy. It is only at the attainment of such a metamorphosis that their sentiment is graced by the name of madhura rati.

The definition of bhava given above is found in the chapter on anubhavas, or following emotions, in the Ujjvala-nilamani. It is there defined as an ornament or alamkara. It specifically refers to the first external manifestation of feeling [by which the word bhava is more accurately translated] when Cupid makes his entrance on the stage of adolescence, as has been described by Vidyapati:

How youth has bloomed! Radha’s eyes
are casting wistful glances:
her shyness has developed and her smile has become sweet.
Now she takes the mirror to dress and decorate herself
as she inquires from her girlfriends
on the modalities of amorous sport.

The dominant mood of erotic sacred rapture is also given the name of SAMARTHA RATI (competent affection). Krishna is the greatest lover in the supernatural affaires-de-coeur of the sacred land of Vrindavan and there, the supreme amongst his lady-loves are the cowherd girls. Here Visvanatha Cakravarti makes some relevant comments about samartha rati in his commentary on Ujjvala-nilamani:
This samartha rati is extremely potent and exists eternally in the gopis; it does not depend therefore on any other causes such as hearing Krishna’s qualities, etc. It is present in them even prior to their attainment of adolescence, first in a general or indistinct (samanya) way. Even so, they loved Krishna with all their hearts, and all the activities of their senses were for his satisfaction only. Afterwards, in the manifest lila, when they came of age and sexual desire emerged, they developed a specific affection for him. In their minds arose the desire for physical association with Krishna, which was similarly for his satisfaction exclusively. Therefore, no difference whatsoever exists between their personally craving erotic contact with him and their love for him; the two had merged into a single identity. Such a fusion of these two spirits is possible in the Vrindavan gopis and cannot exist elsewhere. This is the sign of their competence and makes their love for Krishna worthy of the name samartha rati. From the time of their reaching maidenhood, they desired to serve the Lord through this gift of their own bodies that was their vow; this love of theirs is thus known as madhura rati.(Ananda-candrika commentary , 14.50)

Again, in the same book, commenting further on UN 14.51, Visvanatha expands on the meaning of the term samartha rati:
Because the gopis desire for erotic love has fused with their selfless affection for Krishna and has not the slightest hint of egocentricity to it, it is called competent affection. Competent in what respects? First of all, it is competent to tame their lover, the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, and bring him to complete submission. Secondly, it gives them the competence to fully relish his form, qualities, talents and sweetness in a way that no one else can. Third, it is competent to bewilder and astonish Sri Krishna, even as he himself bestows appreciation of himself on them. Fourth, it is so potent that it causes Krishna’s already extraordinary qualities, forms and talents, etc., to take on newer and newer freshness and thus causes the increase of even their unlimited excellence. Therefore the name of competent affection or samartha rati is exceedingly fitting.

In the Bhagavata Purana, 10.47.61,81 Uddhava states that because they had reached the highest degree of attachment for Krishna, the Vraja milk-maids were competent (or capable) to give up their relatives as well as the path of conventional morality despite the difficulties involved in such abnegation.
Adopting this path of extreme attraction, they found an unexcelled process for attaining Mukunda, the giver of liberation. This unexcelled process has been searched for by the Srutis, the more ancient portion of the scriptures, but they have not yet been able to discover it. In other words, such an intensity of passion is outside the regular standards of behaviour found in the Vedas. Nevertheless, that which is the object of the search of the scriptures is certainly going to be the supremely ecstatic, eternally spiritual truth and not otherwise.

The definition of samartha rati as given by Rupa Gosvamin is as follows(BRS 1.2.284):
According to the school of æsthetics, the affection known as samartha rati is characterized by a superiority to all other affections such as sadharani and samanjasa because of its spontaneous and self-manifesting character. It is competent to control Krishna because of its intensity; it brings sensuality into its tow and unifies it with selfless love. It bursts into existence on the slightest contact, either with other mistresses of the Lord or the sound of his name, etc. Even the slightest fragrance of this samartha rati causes one to leave aside the considerations of family, religion, composure or modesty, and to become oblivious to any obstacles to such renunciation. It is the most intense kind of love, to the extent that no other affection can coexist with it.
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From Manjari Swarupa Nirupana by Srila Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaj

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