Qualification to read Astakaliya lila

Asta-kaliya Lila are the divine erotic pastimes of Radha Krishna throughout the day .

Many of us have often come across the situation that when we read and hear Radha Krishna’s madhurya lila or discuss it with other devotees including the Glories of Srimati Radharani , we come across strong opposition “you are discussing madhurya lila but are you qualified to to so ? Are you qualified to take Srimati Radharani’s name directly ?”.

We may counter question ” When do we get the qualification? “.

The common reply “You don’t need to think about that. Just chant the Mahamantra and become purified of your lusty desires first else you will fall down

So some devotees quoting some references of some current prominent reformers set the benchmark of being purified first by chanting and then get the necessary qualification of reading Radha Krishna’s madhurya lila .

In the beginning these caution may look to be justified as one may think the pastimes of Radha Krishna to be mundane and fall down. It is true no doubt .

In Manjari Swarupa Nirupana, Srila Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaj quotes Srila Rupa Goswami form Bhakti Rasamrita sindhu  –

Three types of person are unqualified to hear about sacred erotic rapture. In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, the five chief types of sacred feelings with all their component ingredients are described in an comprehensive manner. Sacred erotic love (madhura rati) has there been characterized as standing above all other kinds of sacred attitude towards the Supreme; nevertheless, it was only summarized there briefly as Rupa reserved his extensive treatment of the subject for the exhaustive Ujjvala-nilamani. Rupa himself explains why:
nivåttänupayogitväd durühatväd ayaà rasaù |
rahasyatväc ca saàkñipya vitatäëgo vilikhyate ||

“Three types of person are unqualified to hear about sacred erotic rapture:
(1) renunciates who are excessively inclined to asceticism,
(2) others who are unable to distinguish between mundane sexuality and the divine eros,
(3) those who, though devotees, are indifferent(not interested) to the erotic mysticism of the Bhagavata-purana.
Since the subject is esoteric and rather difficult to understand, as well as being expansive, I have only given an abbreviated description of it here.”

Truly these three category of people are unqualified to read or hear about sacred erotic rapture and they have been warned . This is certainly the intention of those great reformers of current time and everyone respect them for their contribution. But that is not the end . The reformers certainly made way for further advancement and has mentioned it in their teachings but many of their followers stick to the basic teachings where they have warned . In this way many of the sincere devotees who are interested to progress in raganuga bhakti are also criticized by them.


But what about those devotees who are still affected by  anarthas and lust  but :

  • Are able to distinguish between mundane sexuality(lust) and the divine eros as they have read and learn about them from the books of previous acharyas  ?
  • Are naturally inclined and have the spiritual greed  to read these pastimes but are afraid as they have been warned ?

Are such  devotees unqualified to hear and read about madhurya pastimes ?

Many devotees will answer “Yes. certainly unless you become advanced in devotional practice ” .
We ask “Any sastric evidence ?”
They reply “Yes,my Gurudev says so .”
We ask “Fine but can you ask him or provide any accurate sastric evidence and not just self created logic ?”
No reply.
We say ” But we can provide sastric evidence where lust and anarthas have not been referred to as a hindrance in reading\discussing madhurya lila.”
They reply “This is sahajiya mentality.”

We ask  “Any sastric evidence or statement of previous acharyas supporting your statement that this is sahajiya mentality or do you consider the previous acharyas to be sahajiyas .”
They say “We just follow our gurudeva”

We say “It is very nice to follow gurudeva but one must understand why gurudeva says so and moreover gurudeva’s words may be suitable for that time depending on the the type of disciples but that does not makes it a universally accepted rule when the previous acharyas have already defined  the qualifications

They reply “we cannot just go beyond gurudeva’s words

We say “Is your gurudeva not following the previous acharyas ? Has your gurudeva banned you from following previous acharyas or read their books?

Their reply “Yes he has allowed . so what ? If you try to supersede gurudeva then you are committing aparadha to gurudeva.

We say “So by not following previous acharya’s instruction aren’t  you committing aparadha when your gurudeva himself follows them ?

They reply “certainly not as we are dedicated to our gurudeva’s teachings meant specifically for us 

We say “OK.Fine but does that give you the authority to criticize other paramparas who are following the instruction left by previous acharyas and their gurudeva ?

They reply “This gopi bhava club is bogus. They are not following acharyas .

We say “All we can say to you is to read the books of acharyas. If not others then at least the books of Bhaktivinode thakura. All your misunderstandings will be gone. At least we all can try to live in harmony with love

They say “We have to protect our institution from the infiltration of sahajiyas. We are the purest parampara. We don’t want our mission to be compromised. If we allow it most of the devotees will leave the institution and go to babajis. We cannot allow that.

We say “ You think that  actual sahajiya teachings and the teachings of acharyas who promoted raganuga bhakti(in manjari bhava) are the  same. In this way due to  lack of understanding you are creating an institutional boundary of hatred and above all insulting your beloved gurudeva.”

“We believe if pure harmony is maintained with no boundary then no one will leave your institution . Diksha is a matter of personal choice . Even if one takes diksha from others may not leave your institution unless you start discriminating them as bogus or sahajiyas.”

“Our goal is not to increase our institutional members but to live in complete harmony and love with the teachings of Mahaprabhu(raganuga bhakti) in middle.  We must not become jealous and forget sikshaastakam.  

Reading the asta kaliya lilas and meditating on that in the siddha deha is the most important internal aspect of raganuga bhakti and is in sync with the teachings of Mahaprabhu and all the acharyas.

We should not misunderstand the mindset of great reformers like Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Swami Maharaja. We must understand why they have cautioned us. 


[Note: the above play may be an act but the incidents are true.]

We understand that presenting such arguments is not recommended or harmonious  but it is essential to understand the reality and wherein lies the problem . Those who consider themselves to be unqualified for or deprived from such a powerful devotional practice, although they have in principle taken shelter of the path of yugala bhajana, the worship of Radha-Krisna, are understood to be simply unfortunate .

In words of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

“Similarly, other false devotees think that studying books of the previous acaryas is unadvisable, like studying dry empiric philosophies. But Srila Jiva Gosvami, following the previous acaryas, has inculcated the conclusions of the scriptures in the six theses called the Sat-sandarbhas. False devotees who have very little knowledge of such conclusions fail to achieve pure devotion for want of zeal in accepting the favorable directions for devotional service given by self realized devotees. Such false devotees are like impersonalists, who also consider devotional service no better than ordinary fruitive actions. (Cc. Adi 2.117 purport). 

One can worship Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa by the process of vidhi-mārga, worshiping the Lord with regulative principles according to the instructions of the śāstra and the spiritual master. But the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, cannot be directly worshiped by this process. The dealings between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs are devoid of the opulences of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa. The process of vidhi-mārga, following the regulative principles, is utilized in the worship of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa, whereas the process of spontaneous service — following in the footsteps of the gopīs, who are the denizens of Vṛndāvana — is transcendentally more advanced and is the process whereby Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are worshiped. One cannot attain this elevated position while worshiping the Lord in His opulence. Those attracted by the conjugal love between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa must follow in the footsteps of the gopīs. Only then is it possible to enter into the Lord’s service in Goloka Vṛndāvana and directly associate with Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. CC, 2.8.230.purport.


This topic of qualification  is explained by various acharyas like Srila Jiva Goswami , Srila Vishwanath Chakravarty and Srila Narottama Das Thakura. To begin with let us see what Srila Narottama Das Thakura has to say in Prema Bhakti Chandrika text 105.
sarthaka bhajana patha, sadhu sange avirata,
smarana bhajana krisna katha
prema bhakti hoy yadi, tabe hoy manaù Suddhi
tabe yay hridayera vyatha (PBC 105)

Translation: “The path of bhajana is successful when one always associates with the devotees, engaging in remembering and glorifying topics of Krishna. When loving devotion is attained the mind will become purified and all heartaches will disappear.”

In the commentary of this verse  Srila Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj explains as follows  —

In this tripadi Srila Thakura Mahasaya gives instructions on how the path of bhajana can be fulfilled and how a devotee’s life can be blessed with the ripening of prema. First he says: sarthaka bhajana patha, sadhu sange avirata, smarana bhajana krisna katha “The path of bhajana is successful by always associating with the devotees, engaging in remembering and glorifying topics of Krisna.” Those who transmit the message of devotion and come to the doors of the conditioned souls, are overcome with compassion towards the souls who have fallen into the ditch of sense enjoyment and are locked up in the shackles of illusion. Those who shower the conditioned souls with a stream of ambrosial topics on the Supreme Lord, thus cooling them off and lifting them out of the well of household life with the ropes of their compassion, eager to take them to the Lord — these are the truly saintly maha purusas. Association with such great souls is as valuable as a touch stone. Just as iron turns into gold due to contact with a touch stone, similarly by the association of great saints the hearts of mankind, that are polluted by lusty desires, become shining like gold with devotional aspirations. Just as by the association and the grace of the saints mankind becomes inclined towards Godhead and takes to the path of bhajana, similarly by the constant association of sadhus the practitioner’s seal of bhajana becomes brightened he and swiftly develops prema, since the constant association of sadhus bestows the good fortune of engagement in hearing, chanting and remembering topics of Krisna. The devotees who are fixed in raganuga bhajana cannot find relish in anything but kirtana and smarana.

At the end of Sri Haribhakti Vilasa by Sanatana Goswamipad (20.382) it is written —

evam ekantina prayaù kirtana smarana prabhoù
kurvata parama pritya krityam anyan na rocate

Exclusive raganuga devotees are engaged in smarana and chanting with paramount love— then they loose taste for any other activity.“(Note: first engaging in smarana and after that losing taste from material desires)

Hence Srila Thakura Mahasaya says:

smarana bhajana krishna kotha- prema bhakti hoy jadi, tabe hoy mana Suddhi, tabe jay hridayera byatha.

Through the process of hearing, chanting and remembering topics of Sri Krishna, loving devotion swiftly awakens within an offenseless heart. When loving devotion has appeared the mind and heart are purified and all the miseries due to conditioned life are destroyed

In the devotional scriptures it is seen that in the stage of anartha nivritti (cessation of personal vices) the heart of the practitioner is purified and when the purified heart experiences its constitutional position all heartaches are destroyed. The purified heart will gradually cross over the following stages of nistha, ruci, asakti and rati and then prema will awaken.
Nonetheless Thakura Mahasaya speaks here of the heart getting purified after the awakening of prema, and the destruction of all heartaches coming after that.
The purport of this is that when one attains the good fortune of constantly engaging in hearing, chanting and remembering the topics of Krishna in the company of the sadhus, prema will awaken within the practitioner’s heart so swiftly that it seems as if prema first awakens within the heart which is not yet purified, thereafter the heart is purified, and then the heartaches due to ignorance are destroyed.

In the same manner Sri Suka Muni has offered the following benediction at the end of his description of the Rasa Lila, the crown jewel of all lilas in Srimad Bhagavata —
vikridita vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoù Sraddhanvita nu’Srinuyed atha varnayed yaù
bhakti para bhagavati pratilabhya kama hrid rogam aSv apahinoty acirena dhira

Anyone who faithfully hears and describes (and afterwards recollects) the Rasa- and other erotic pastimes of Lord Visnu (Krishna) with the ladies of Vraja (the gopis) will become calm, attain supreme devotion to God, in the wake of the love of the Sri gopikas, in a form which is ever-fresh, and will swiftly become free from the heart’s disease of lust.”

In this verse also the attainment of paramount devotion in the wake of the gopikas is mentioned first and after that the destruction of the heart’s disease of lust and the attainment of equilibrium is mentioned. Sri Jiva Gosvami comments as follows on this:
atra tu hrid-rogapahanat purvam eva parama bhakti praptiù tasmat parama balavad evedam sadhanam iti bhavaù (Laghu Tosani Tika):
“Normally the destruction of the heart’s disease of lust as a result of the practice of bhajana is mentioned before the awakening of prema, but the fact that the attainment of the highest bhakti is mentioned before the destruction of lust shows that hearing and chanting of the Rasa-pastimes of Krisna and the gopis is the most powerful spiritual practice.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada has written — para prema laksana prapyeti ktva pratyayena hrid roga vatyapy adhikarini prathamata eva premnaù praveSas tas tat prabhavenaivacirato hrid roga naSa iti premaya jnana yoga iva na durbalaù paratantraS ceti bhavaù (Sarartha DarSini)
“Devotion is characterised by prema. The suffix ktva shows that prema first arises in the hearts of the practising devotee devotees who are not yet free from lust, and that on the strength of this prema lusty desires will swiftly vanish (just as the darkness is destroyed after a lamp is kindled). Hence the practice of bhakti is completely independent, it is not weak or dependent like the practice of jnana and so.”

Some persons think that “This benediction is only meant for those with firm faith, not for an ordinary audience with feeble faith; after all, the original text says Sraddhanvita? But this is not what the Gosvamis are saying. Sri Jiva Gosvami has written:

Sraddhaya visvasenanvita iti. tad viparitavajnarupaparadha nivrittyartha ca nairantaryartha ca “Here the word Sraddhayanvita is used to indicate the cessation of offences that are adverse to faith and the constancy in the process of hearing and chanting.” In other words, a person who disrespects these pastimes, taking them to be mundane dalliances between ordinary heroes and heroines and who cease to continuously hear and chant these pastimes, will not have faith in these pastimes.

Those who consider themselves to be unqualified for or deprived from such a powerful devotional practice, in the name of this word Sraddhanvita, although they have in principle taken shelter of the path of yugala bhajana, the worship of Radha-Krisna, are understood to be simply unfortunate.

Srila ViSvanatha Cakravartipada has written: ataeva Sraddhanvita iti SastraviSvasina namaparadhina premapi nangikarotiti bhavaù — “prema never accepts those who do not have faith in the scriptures or who commit offences to the holy name.”

Therefore those who chant the holy name must have faith in the scriptural judgement that these holy names and pastimes are transcendental. In this way they avoid offending the holy name and by chanting the holy name of Sri Krishna are able to attain prema . Therefore those who make the improper noises: “(I am) Unqualified! (You are) Unqualified!” while the Rasa Lila is being discussed, and thus instill fear within the hearts of those who wish to hear these topics with faith, is to be known as simply unintelligent and unfortunate.
Anyway, hearing, chanting and remembering the pastimes of the Divine Pair Sri Radha-Krisna is considered the most powerful practice. Thus Srila Thakura MahaSaya first mentions the attainment of loving devotion and after that the purification of the mind and the destruction of heartaches. (Commentary by Srila Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj ends)

In another place in Ragavrtama Chandrika Srila Vishvanatha Chakravartipad has something interesting to say:

“bhaktes tu ‘vikriditam vrajavadhubhih’ ityadau— bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam hrid rogam asvapahinotyacirena dhirah (bhag. 10.33.39) ityatra ‘ktva’ pratyayena hrid rogavatyevadhikarini paramaya api tasyah prathamam eva pravesas tatas tayaiva parama svatantraya kamadinam apagamas ca. tesham kadacit sattve’pi ‘api cet suduracaro bhajate mam’ iti ‘badhyamano’pi mad bhakta’ ityadibhis ca tadvatam na kvapi sastreshu ninda leso’pi. ajamilasya bhaktatvam vishnudutair nirupitam. ‘sanketa bhagavannama putra snehanushangajam ityadi drishtya tad abhasavatam apyajamiladinam bhaktatvam sarvaih sangitam eva’ tad evam karma yogadinam antah karana suddhi dravya desa suddhyadayah sadhakas tad vaigunyadayo badhaka bhaktis tu prana dayinyeveti. sarvatha paratantryam eva tesham. nahi svatantrah kenapi sadhyante badhyante veti.

TRANSLATION: “Although lust is also considered a fault on the path of bhakti, one can still enter the devotional path, despite being still afflicted by lust and other material desires. Srimad-Bhagavata (10.33.39) says: “A person who faithfully hears or describes the Lord’s pastimes of rasa-lila with the gopis of Vraja attains supreme devotion of the Lord. He quickly becomes steady and conquers over the senses, giving up lust, the disease of the heart.” In this text “after attaining supreme devotion” is an unfinished act showing that bhakti can be attained even though one has lusty desires. This shows the most independent nature and power of bhakti to destroy lusty desires. Sometimes lusty desires exist even while practicing devotion. From verses like, “If the most sinful person worships Me exclusively…” and “Though my devotee is afflicted by lusty desires…” it is clear that though lusty desires may exist in a devotee, still he is not condemned even slightly.”

Srila Narottam Das Thakura Mahasaya states in Prem Bhakti Chandrika Text 109

tara(Radha) bhakta sange sada, rasa lila prema katha,
ye kore se pay ghanaSyama
ihate vimukha yei, tara kabhu siddhi nai,
nahi yeno Suni tara nama 
“Anyone who associates with Sri Radha’s devotees and speaks about Her rasa, Her pastimes and Her love, will attain GhanaSyama (Krisna), but anyone who is against this will never attain perfection. Let us not even hear these people’s names.”

Srila Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj comments on the above verse-
Hearing and chanting of Sri Radharani’s lila katha, that is, the most succulent topics of Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava’s erotic pastimes, and the loving topics of Sri Radharani, that is, Her topmost display of mahabhava, which is the paramount essence of prema, both in meeting and in separation, in endless varieties of manifestation like mohana, modana and madana bhava, in the company of exclusively and whole heartedly dedicated surasika Radha-bhaktas, is most relishable and succulent. By living in Vraja and hearing and chanting such confidential topics in the company of like-minded saints that are more advanced than oneself and that are exclusively fixed in Radha’s lotus feet (that conceive of themselves as Sri Radharani’s maidservants in spiritual bodies) is the most confidential form of worship for the raganugiya bhakta and is most coveted by the raga bhakta. What to speak of the devotee — when the Original Godhead Sri Krisna accepted the feelings of Sri Radha and descended as Sri Gauranga he was immersed in relishing Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava’s rasa katha and prema katha in the company of rasika devotees, day and night.
candi dasa vidyapati, rayera nataka giti,
karnamrita Sri gita govinda
svarupa ramananda sane, mahaprabhu ratri dine
gaya Sune parama ananda
“Day and night Mahaprabhu was most blissfully engaged in singing and hearing the songs of Candidasa and Vidyapati, the drama of Ramananda Raya, Krisna Karnamrita and Sri Gita Govinda in the company of Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya.”
Then the blessed author states: ihate vimukha yei, tara kabhu siddhi nai, na Suniye tara jeno nama “Whoever is against this will never attain perfection — let us not even hear their names”. Srila Thakura Mahasaya has already properly outlined that whoever takes shelter of Sri Radha’s lotus feet and exclusively worships Sri Radha will justly attain GhanaSyama Sri Krisna. Now he says: “Those who desire or attempt to relish Sri Krisna’s sweetness while being averse to worshipping Sri Radha or taking shelter at Her lotus feet, will never attain perfection”; in other words, they will never be fortunate enough to relish Sri Krisna’s sweetness. The best means to attain Sri Krisna and to relish Him as the embodiment of deep erotic flavours is to worship Sri Radharani. No one can find other means to relish Sri Krisna’s sweetness than this. We will have nothing to do with those who attempt to relish Sri Krisna’s sweetness while ignoring or slighting Sri Radharani. What to speak of conversing with them or touching them — let us never even hear their names — na Suniye tara jeno nama. Srimat Raghunatha das Gosvamipada has written in his Svaniyama DaSakam Stotra (6):
anadrityodgitam api muni-ganair vainika mukhaiù
pravina gandharvam api ca nigamais tat priyatamam
ya eka govinda bhajati kapati dambhikataya
tad abhyarne Sirne ksanam api na yami vratam idam
“Not even for a moment will I go near that impure place where a proud hypocrite worships Govinda alone without worshiping His most expert lover Sri Gandharva (Radha), whose glories are sung by the Vedic scriptures and great sages like Narada Muni, who carries the Vina. That is my solemn vow!”

However the shelter of a sad Guru is essential.Srila Jiva Goswami says in his Bhakti Sandarbha that hearing about the pastimes from the lips of a realized soul is extremely powerful. On his/her own, the sadhaka is not able “to digest” lila-katha. If the sadhaka reads the pastimes of Radha and Krishna in anugatya of his Gurudeva, it is extremely beneficial for the sadhaka´s bhakti. Without studying under a qualified guru it is not possible to have proper understanding of śāstra.

In Chandogya Upaniṣad (6.14.2) it is emphatically said, that only a person who studies from a teacher acquires the proper knowledge “acaryavan puruso veda”.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. shyamsingla
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 20:41:08

    An extremely important article which dispells all misgivings about radha krishna lilaas pre conditions.


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