5.Understanding Kama-rupa bhakti

The love of the gopis is known by the name of kama desire, or according to Rupa Gosvamin, by the longer term, kama-rupa ragatmika bhakti, passionate devotion which takes the form of [sexual] desire. This variety of devotion exists in the gopis alone.(BRS 1.2.284.) Jiva Gosvamin adds in his commentary that the word kama
usually refers to the desire for one’s personal sense gratification. Although it usually implies gross bodily activity, sensual desire has a subtle or psychological aspect also. The mentality of the gopis is, May Krsna get pleasure from me, and due to the intensity of that inner feeling, their external activities of kissing and embracing, etc., are also translated into genuine selfless acts of affection or love. This is the competence which earns it the title of samartha rati by which it has also become known.

The following is an example from Visvanatha’s Krsna-bhavanamrita, 9.65 . It is described that when when the Divine Couple first meet for their noontime dalliances, they embrace and begin to exchange kisses and caresses. These embraces and caresses begin to increase the beauty of their love just as the rays of the moon increase its loveliness without being something distinct from it. In other words, just as the moon and its cooling light are not different from one another, neither are Radha and Krsna’s love for one another and their expression of it in erotic activity. The moon and its rays may be distinguished for the sake of analysis, but actually one is simply the expression or by-product of the other; so too is it with the Divine Couple?s love and its expression in embracing, kissing, etc. The same applies equally to all the other girls of Vrindavan. By way of contrast, in mundane sexual affairs no such distinction between external expression and internal feeling can be made, for true selflessness in the carnal act is nowhere to be found.

In Rupa Gosvamin’s hymn containing Radha’s 108 names, he calls her Gokulendra-sutaprema- kama-bhupendra-pattanam: “the capital city of the king of lust-like love for the son of the king of Gokula.” When Radha feels lusty desire for Krsna, that should be known as pure love or prema and nothing else.

Krsna’s servants, friends and parents also feel passionate devotion for him (ragatmika bhakti). They also have an intense craving to unite their senses with his form, taste, touch, sound and smell. This they do in accordance with their own status and propensity. The distinct features of the gopis erotic desire is that, due to it, they crave for the touching of hearts as well as the union of every limb of their body with his. “My heart cries out for the touch of his heart” sings the gopi.
It can thus be concluded that spontaneous craving or passionate devotion for Krsna reaches its zenith in the mood of the gopis. Thus we conclude that there is no difference between the kama-rupa bhakti of the Bhakti-rasamaritasindhu
and the samartha-rati of Ujjvala-nilamani.

In the Priti-sandarbha also (367), srila Jiva Gosvamin has described samartha rati as being natural to the gopis. Though its external form is that of carnal desire, it is pure love or prema. The love that Radha feels for Krsna is spontaneous to the extent that she does not have to hear his name, what to speak of seeing him, in order to sense him within and without at all times. Radha’s love is self-manifesting (svataù siddhaù); it does not arise from any other source. Thus Radha and the gopis have an unconstrained, unlimited craving to experience Krsna’s bodily beauty and fragrance, the sound of his voice and flute, the taste of his lips and the feeling of his embrace all for his enjoyment alone! Thus the meaning of samartha rati and sambhogeccha-mayi kama-rupa bhakti is the intense desire for union of their every limb with his for his satisfaction.
Kamanuga bhakti and its two divisions:SAMBHOGECCHAMAYI,TADBHAVECCHATMIKA

Kamanuga-bhakti is that devotion, possessed by the gopis, which is based on a craving to have the sexual form of love(BRS 1.2.297-8.). This pursuant devotional practice is of two types. This is due to the two-fold nature of kama-rüpa bhakti itself(Ananda-candrika on UN 5.26.) These two types are defined in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.299:

“That devotion in practice which has as its goal the enjoyment of dalliance with Krsna is called ?[following] devotion
which desires [erotic] union.?That devotion which is filled with the desire to experience the sweetness of
the mistresses mood is called devotion desiring the mood.”

SAMBHOGECCHAMAYI:(Not to be followed by gaudiya vaishnavas but need to be understood in order to understand the mood of their nayika Radha)
The word sambhoga (union) refers to the affection which Radha and Krsna’s other mistresses feel for him, with its concomitant expression in physical love. Those endowed with such feelings are called nayikas and their devotion is called SAMBHOGECCHAMAYI.

TADBHAVECCHATMIKA:(Practice of gaudiya vaishnavas)
The girlfriends of the nayika, or leading lady-love, are called sakhis. They include Lalita and Visakha as well as Rüpa Manjari and Rati Manjari. The sakhis are not so much concerned with direct bodily association with the Lord, but prefer to assist in his intrigues with Radha, their dearmost friend. In this they find an indescribably greater happiness. The
mood of friendship which they feel is attractive to both parties and is called TADBHAVECCHATMIKA (i.e., desiring for the conjugal happiness of the nayika).

In the Priti-sandarbha (365), this same division is made. In section 375, Jiva subdivides sambhoga into four types: union through sight, conversation, touch and actual sexual union .

Krsna has two kinds of lady-love: those who are his (svakiya) and those who are another’s? (parakiya).

The svakiya sweethearts are those to whom he is married, the queens in Dvaraka. They are not of the kamanuga devotional category, because, for the queens, their relational status as wives and queens has predominance over desire and its
manifestations within the relationship.

The parakiya mistresses of the Lord are the beauties of Vrindavan. They belong to the kama-rupa devotional category. These girls are seemingly married to other men in Vraja; this status produces certain distinctive emotional characteristics in them which have been pointed out by Rüpa Gosvamin as the marks of the superiority of their love.
They are: the necessity to conceal their affection, the presence of many obstacles which must be overcome before they can meet, as well as social disapproval; all these feed the fire of their love.

Therefore Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvamin says in the Caitanya-caritamrita 1.4.46-7:
“So this love has been given the name of madhura-rasa; it has two divisions, svakiya and parakiya. Of these two, the relation of the paramours is filled with unique blissfulness. It has no existence anywhere outside of Vraja.”

Understanding the mood of SAMBHOGECCHAMAYI
In the Ujjvala-nilamani, the following example is given of the leading ladies of the sambhogecchamayi love.
“One day, one gopi was remembering the previous night’s rendez-vous with Krsna and was becoming quietly excited and enthusiastic to meet with him again. Still, due to shyness, she suppressed her display of emotion and spoke to her bosom friend as follows: O friend! My mind is constantly searching out the memory of those amorous experiences, that drama directed by Cupid. What a wonderful night we had! Both of us were fearless and bold; both of our bodies were decorated with the scratch marks of our passionate fingernails. His peacock feather, both our garlands, dress, decorations and makeup were scattered and spoiled, what to speak of his necklace of guïja berries and mine of pearls! That love tore the bracelets from my hands and was made even more beautiful by the erotic murmuring sounds emitted by us both.”

In another verse from Ujjvala-nilamani 7.87, srimati Radharani sends Visakha to Krsna to act as a go-between (duti) on her behalf, saying:
“You are my life air externalized; you are my other self! How great are your qualities and capabilities, your eloquence! Please, dear friend, so that I don’t dwindle into complete insignificance, go today and somehow or other interest Madhava in me.”

Visvanatha’s commentary on this verse elaborates Radha’s instructions to Visakha in the art of acting as a go-between and her fantasy of the conversation which will take place between her friend and Krsna as she tries to interest him in Radha:

Dear friend, you are my life externally manifested, therefore I have unlimited faith in you. What is more, you are very clever and glib of tongue, therefore I am requesting you to go into the forest with a friend on the pretext of picking flowers and, as you are wandering there, approach Krsna. Act as if you don’t see him but all the while, talk about me with your friend in a loud voice so that he is sure to hear you. Speak about me in such a way that my beauty, qualities and love for him are described as being greater than anyone else. When he hears that, he is sure to come and say to you, O, hey! What unparallelled and amazing beauty is that you are describing there?’

Then you will reply, acting all the while as if anxiety-ridden and afraid, I wasn’t talking about anyone. Then he will say, Dear friend, what is there to be afraid of? There is no harm in telling me, is there? Even if you don’t tell me, I’ll find out anyway.
Then you will say, Madhava, what need do you have to know about whom I am talking? Then he will answer, It’s a secret!’
Then you will say, Look, move aside, I’m picking flowers. You and she are of entirely different natures. You should have nothing to do with her. Hearing that, he is sure to say, Tell me, what difference is there in our natures that cannot be overcome?
Then you will answer, Madhava, you are a debauche! She is a chaste and religious woman. You are wanton and irresponsible, whereas she is very calm and serious. You are unregenerate and irreligious, while she is always absorbed in worshipping the gods. You are unclean, while she bathes thrice daily and puts on clean clothes and ornaments after each bath! How could there be any harmony between such incompatible persons?

After hearing this, Krsna will surely say, Visakhe! I am also a celibate. Did you never hear what Durvasas Muni said about me? He described me as a brahmacarin in the Gopala-tapani Upanishad. And you say I’m irresponsible. That’s a wild accusation if I ever heard one! Why I held up Govardhana for an entire week without even moving an inch; that’s hardly the symptom of someone with a flickering mind! And why do you say that I am irreligious? I took initiation in the Visnu mantra from Bhrigu Muni on my father’s order. You can ask Gargi, Nandimukhi or Paurnamasi, any one of them can confirm it for you. As far as my being unclean is concerned, I’ll have you know that I am purity personified Of that I am sure you have personal experience!

After that you should say, Madhava, even so, you are a man and she is the daughter of a respectable household, a chaste married woman. She will never look at you. He will answer, Friend! She may never look at me, that’s alright. If I know who she is, then at least I will be able to look at her from a distance and fulfill my life by seeing such a pious and saintly woman.
You should say, What chance is there of ever seeing her? Then Krsna will say, There is one chance, listen! Today I will go to Govardhana and prepare an altar and deity for worshiping the sun god. After purifying it with my own hands, I will go and hide myself at some distance. It will be a most gorgeous arrangement. You should bring her to see it. Then, when she sits down to perform the worship, I will achieve the perfection of my eyes simply by seeing her back! Afterward, if you are
merciful and allow me to do it, I will come quietly and unobserved by her and, just once, touch the sole of her foot.
Then, Visakha, you should say, Madhava, what will I get out of all of this? Are you going to offer me anything?

Then he will surely respond by saying, What, are you asking me for a reward? I’m ready to give you my very soul, what to speak of anything else!
You should then answer him, Alright, take it easy, Madhava, I’ll make all the necessary arrangements to fulfill your desires. Then you should immediately run here and take me to the trysting place at Govardhana!

In this way, Radha reveals her desires to Visakha.


Ordinarily, in the judgement of the writers of Indian æsthetics, it is considered contrary to the principles of rapture for a woman to blatantly reveal her erotic desires. This is not the case, however, for the girls of Vrindavan who are possessed of the competent affection. As a matter of fact, it is considered to be even more pleasing and relishable because the purpose of that brazenness is the satisfaction of Krsna. As previously explained, there is not the slightest trace of egocentric sensuality in their desires.

In his ananda-candrika commentary on the Ujjvala-nilamani verse quoted above, Visvanatha confirms the same point:

For those possessed of the devotional affection known as samartha rati,even the intense enthusiasm for sexual contact is to be understood as being completely for the pleasure of the Lord. Therefore, in this verse too, it is not illogical that the desires of the mistress for union with the lover is for his pleasure and not otherwise.

Again, in another place in the same work, Visvanatha further elucidates the same point:

“In this verse, Radharani clearly states, I loosened the bonds of modesty, nay, gave them up entirely, just to enjoy the pleasure of sitting on his lap’ This seems like a direct expression of an egocentric sensual desire, but it should be known that all of the gopis are possessed of samartha rati, which means that they have a subtle, and yet overpowering mental undercurrent to all their acts which can be expressed as follows: “I must see that Krishna’s pleasure is increased in a new and special way“.

When this is true of all the gopis, then how much more so it must be true in the case of Radha herself! Nevertheless, this subtle mental undercurrent is not always revealed in their speeches, but is kept hidden in the treasury of their hearts and they speak as if they are desiring egocentrically. Krishna is the supreme sovereign amongst the perceptivesurely he is able to detect their true motives. If it were not the case that they sought his pleasure, he would not be influenced or conquered by their love. The evidence that he is so influenced is provided by the Bhagavata verse (10.32.22) where Krsna states that he is eternally indebted to the gopis on account of their selfless love for him. Therefore, we have no other alternative but to make such a conclusion.”

By way of contrast, he writes further in the same section:

“On the other hand, the beauties of the city of Dvaraka, who are possessed of SAMANJASSA rati, even though they also have no desire for their own happiness, do have a slight and subtle proclivity for thinking, Krsna will make me happy by touching me, etc. Krsna is aware of such a tendency in their minds. This has to be concluded as the corollary to the previous arguments, for in the Bhagavata Purana (1.11.36), srila sukadeva clearly states that although Krsna’s queens tried to attract his senses repeatedly with sidelong looks, etc., they were not able to make much progress.”

Visvanatha again elaborates on the same point in his Sarartha-darsani commentary to the Bhagavata Purana:

“Because the gopis are possessed of competent affection, it can be concluded that they are filled with exclusive and selfless love for Krsna; they have no consciousness of the destruction of their own distress or the attainment of their own happiness. Their every action, whether mental, verbal or physical, is for the exclusive purpose of pleasing him. When such gopis make a direct appeal to Krsna for cohabitation as they do in this verse, it should be interpreted that they are doing so to arouse his desires and consequently, his pleasure. They are very expert in romantic dealings and therefore do not lighten their love by expressing it vocally. They keep their love hidden while externally verbalizing their feelings of sensual desire, thus indirectly minimizing it. As an example, we can cite the person who sees that his friend is hungry and so carefully prepares a variety of sweetmeats with which to feed him. Seeing the elaborate preparations, the friend asks him what he is up to, in response to which his host disguises his actual intentions and says, I am preparing all of these things for myself, not you! I was preparing them for a special event which was to take place today, but you just happened to turn up. By dissimulating it in this way, the value of his love is actually increased. If he were to say the truth, I am doing all this for you and not for myself, I have no need to do this, etc. then his love would be devalued.”

To further strengthen his point, Visvanatha quotes from his own work, Prema-samputika:

Love’s candle burns bright in the lovers’ hearts
To set aglow those chambers’ darkest parts;
If one should bring it out the verbal door,
Pride’s wind will blow and it shall glow no more.

Govinda Das Kaviraj has also written a nice song in this vein:

O friend!
What a beautiful young man I have seen
at the foot of the kadamba tree!
Seeing his youthful loveliness, I could only stare.
Was it a black tamala tree or lightning-filled night sky?
I could not make out if he was black or gold.
The movements of his body, the movements of his eyes
were all crooked and sly;
his lips were smiling and he held a flute in with his hands.
A peacock feather rested horizontally on his crown.
How many young girls have become lusty by looking at him?
My lips yearn for the nectar of his kiss;
my heart craves for the touch of his heart;
my life wants to be merged in his life;
this body seems to exist only for association with his.
What can I do to resolve this dilemma?
On the one hand, I am but a lone girl
whose sister-in-law is a black-hearted woman;
Fate has made me a wife with a respectable position.
How can I live while suffering such unhappiness?
I shall drown this miserable body in the Yamuna,
so says Govinda Das

From Manjari Swarupa Nirupana by Srila Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaj.


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