Radha Kund, 2017.03.19 (Vishakha Dasi for VT): In part one of this series, Sage Narad journeyed to Eternal Vrindavan to experience the love of Shri Radha and Krishna. He also learned the secrets of worship from Lord Shiv and Vrinda Devi.
Sage Narad wanted to share the bliss he had found in Vrindavan with the world, and so he wrote the Narad Bhakti Sutra.
Narad Bhakti Sutra is comprised of 84 aphorisms on the sacred love of Braj. An aphorism is a short statement which has many layers of meaning. Commentaries help to unlock the meanings and make the core message more accessible.
The following is the commentary of Sutras 54 and 55 of the Narad Bhakti Sutra by Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami of the Shri Radharaman Temple in Vrindavan. By the blessings of Shri Giridhari, the commentary was published in the form of a book called Way to Love in 2013. Maharaj has written a touching article about how this book came into being; you can read it here.
I chose this particular excerpt because I feel that it captures the essence of the entire book.
गुणरहितं कामनारहितं प्रतिक्षण वर्धमानं अविछिन्नं सूक्ष्मतरमनुभवरूपम्
guṇarahitaṁ kāmanārahitaṁ pratikṣaṇa vardhamānaṁ avichhinnaṁ sūkṣmataram-anubhavarūpam
This sacred love is devoid of qualities, it is desireless and it increases with each moment. It is unbroken, is subtler than the subtlest and it is the form of innermost experience.
The Lord is described by the six main attributes He possesses: wealth, fame, strength, knowledge, beauty and detachment. Sacred love is a form of the Lord, and here, Sage Narad defines the six attributes of sacred love:
1. Devoid of Qualities
The following incident was published in a Spanish newspaper. A beautiful woman, with long silky hair and beautiful teeth, used to visit a bar regularly. One night at the bar, a man, who found her very attractive, approached her and started to compliment her splendour by telling her how luscious her hair was, how beautiful her teeth were and how stunning she looked. Whenever she would go to the bar, the same man would approach her and praise her beauty again and again.
One evening, she asked him, “Do you really admire my beauty?”
“I have never known anyone as beautiful as you. You are the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen,” he replied.
She said, “Come home with me.”
They went to her house and they sat down, and she asked him, “Can you please tell me again how beautiful I am?”
“I never saw such long and silky hair. It seems like God created you with His own hands,” he replied.
The woman took off her wig and said, “Seeing as you love my hair, let me give it to you and as you are very fond of my teeth as well, here, have them.”
She pulled out her false teeth and gave them to him. Seeing her without teeth and hair, the man was stunned and speechless and he left the house silently. In this situation, the love was dependent on the qualities possessed by the woman and not the woman herself.
People tend to love because they are either attracted towards the beauty, power, money, intelligence, humility or any other kind of quality which they find attractive in the person they desire. But they love only as long as these qualities exist in them. Many relationships end because what one perceives as love is actually a love of the qualities which exist in one’s partner and if those qualities fade or change with time or circumstances, the connection deteriorates. Sage Narad very clearly says that sacred love is devoid of qualities. One who pursues desires connected with the senses does so for self-satisfaction. Sacred love is not connected to the senses because without even seeing one’s Beloved, without hearing about the Beloved, without touching the Beloved, the love still blossoms in one’s heart.
Once, some friends asked Radha, “Why do You love Krishn even though He’s a thief?”
Radha replied, “I know His heart. He does not want that we should be defamed, so He tries to act like a naughty child. He steals butter from various houses so His elders will feel that He is not mature enough to do any chores. By being mischievous, He gets ample free time and gets the chance to meet Me.”
Radha loves Krishn regardless of his good or bad qualities. She loves Him for the sake of love and this is the first point of this aphorism.
There is a slight difference between love and desire. A particular desire can be quenched, for example by buying an object one craves. The urge leaves once the object is bought, but when one feels love, the feeling intensifies with each moment and there is no definitive end to the experience. There is a story which illustrates the nature of desire. A street performer wanted to impress a king, in order to acquire the king’s horse as a reward. So he sat in meditation and went into a deep trance. The king was really impressed and gave an order to his ministers to put him in a room. Time passed and the king died. Thereafter, a few generations passed, yet the street performer did not come out of his trance. One day, he emerged from his meditation and the first thing he said was, “Oh King! Are you impressed by my meditation? Will you reward me your horse?” Even after spending hundreds of years in meditation, his desire to own that horse was not satisfied.
Desire yearns to satisfy oneself, whereas love wants to satisfy one’s beloved. There are two types of devotees: one who is desirous and one who loves. If both of these devotees offer food to their Deities, the one who desires will offer what he really wants to eat that day, according to his taste and wants his Lord to be pleased with his choice. Yet the loving one will try to find signs, try to feel and understand what Krishn Himself wants to eat that day. Loving someone with desire is love offered on the basis of conditions; it is one where the motive is of mutual pleasure, not exclusive pleasure for the Lord. In this case, the feeling of dissatisfaction remains within, whether one’s desire is fulfilled or not. But love in its purest form loves the Beloved for His sake.
3. Sacred love increases with each moment
In India, the river Ganga starts from Gomukh. The Ganga emerges as a stream at the origin, and the more she flows, the more she increases in width. At the end, where she meets the sea, she is known as Ganga Sagar. Here, she is very wide. People say that the breadth of the Ganga River at Ganga Sagar is more than 40 kilometres. The nature of love is also like this; it expands with time.
A lover always feels that his love is inadequate, and this inspires a deep yearning in him to use every effort to increase the level of his affection towards his Beloved. This sentiment develops sacred love in him. From one day to the next, this pristine love grows rapidly.
prem sadā baṛhibau karai jyo sasikalā subeṣh
pai punau yāme nahῑ, tāte kabahu na seṣh
“Sacred Love grows eternally like the waxing moon,
but this moon is never full and its waxing never ends.”
4. It is an unbroken inner experience
Sacred love is never broken. There are people who show intense love, but as a result of jealousy or heartache, triggered by an action from their beloved, they end the relationship. Or they show anger and start to behave negatively and walk away. This is not the nature of sacred love. Sacred love is never broken, even if a lover hears something bad about his Lord. Once one starts to love Lord Krishn, it becomes difficult for even the Lord Himself to break that connection. For example, in the Srimad Bhagwatam, the gopis came to Krishn to take part in the Raas Mandal, and He asked them to go back to their houses, but they refused. By this instruction, Lord Krishn was testing how eager the gopis were to be with Him, and when they melted His heart with their unflinching devotion to Him, He accepted them into the Raas Mandal. He did not break the devotional connection that the gopis had started.
Many canals originate from a river. In the beginning these canals are very broad, but they trail off before reaching the ocean. The same can be said about people who show intense love in the beginning but whose love fades with time and without reaching the ocean of sacred love. In the devotional world, there is one type of devotee who is like a river; his love always increases and is never broken. Equally, there is another type of devotee whose love can be compared to a flowing canal. He shows so much love in the beginning but when he finds that his desires are not fulfilled by the Lord or when he does not find his desired connection with the Lord, he feels like he is wasting his time in the relationship. Sacred love is not like this. It is an unbroken chain which connects one to the Lord with the mood of complete devotion and without any preconceptions or expectations.
5. Subtler than the subtlest
Once the gopis asked Brahma, “Please transform us into divine dust of Vraj so that a potter may collect it and make a clay cup for Krishn, and maybe Krishn will fill the cup with water or milk and kiss it with His beautiful lips. We know that it is hard for us to be with Him but by becoming subtle like Vraj dust we can be with Him always.” A lover tries to be in his Beloved’s service in every way. He does not try to present his offering as a gesture to impress his Lord. The lover just tries to be at his Lord’s service and endeavours to make Him happy.
6. Form of innermost experience
There is a difference between knowledge and love. In love, even if the beloved is physically far away, the lover experiences that his beloved is present with him. The nature of this relationship is such that even if the couple have disagreements or see flaws in each other, it does not impact the love they feel for each other or their experience of that love. The love transforms the beloved’s imperfection into perfection. This affection even keeps the beloved alive when he or she is physically deceased. But when one is drawn to the path of knowledge, one feels the actual reality. If someone is physically far, he is far. If someone is not beautiful, he is not beautiful and if someone is dead, he is dead. The nature of love has the power to make a stranger into one’s dearest. The particle bhav in the word anubhav means that which changes constantly. The anu particle transforms the meaning of bhav into: that which never changes. And love is anubhav, that innermost experience. Everything changes over the course of one’s life such as one’s body, religion, relationships, and so forth, but what remains unchanged is anubhav: one’s innermost experience with the Lord.
Once, one of the closest associates of Radha, Lalita, asked Her, “What is the nature of Your relationship with Krishn?”
Radha replied, “Whatever you feel defines Our relationship, give it that name.” Her response showed that a relationship is not bound by a name. All relationships are dependent on love, but love is not dependent on relationships.
Lalita replied, “You are His Beloved and He is Your Beloved.”
Radha replied, “O friend! You do not know anything. You only know the surface of love.”
nā so ramaṇ nā hām ramaṇῑ,
duňhu mana manobhav peṣhala jāni
“He is not the Lover, nor I the Beloved. Both of Our hearts are One.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrit 2.8.194)
For this reason, this love is the innermost experience. If a devotee experiences his Beloved, then his Lord is the Enjoyer and the devotee is the one being enjoyed, and the pleasure experienced by his Lover is the innermost experience for the devotee: in other words, the internal bliss felt by the devotee when his service fills his Lord with joy. In his poetry, the great devotee Rasakhan reflects the essence of this aphorism:
binu jovan gun rūp dhan, binu svārath hit jāni
suddh kāmanā te rahit, prem sakal rasakhāni
ati sūćham komal atihi, ati pataro ati dūr
prem kaṭhin sab te sadā nit ikras bharpūr
rasamay svābhāvik vinā svārath achal mahān
sadā ekras baṛat nit suddh prem rasakhān
“That love which cares not for looks, money or age, which is pure and beyond the touch of selfish wanting, is a treasure-trove of pure sweetness. It is exceedingly subtle and tender, very delicate and very distant. It is also the most difficult of all, overflowing with eternal and unchanging ecstasy. That sacred love is naturally delectable, selfless, unwavering, always rapturous and ever-increasing – so says the poet Rasakhan.”
तत्प्राप्य तदेवावलोकयति तदेव शृणोति तदेव भाषयति तदेव चिन्तयति
tat prāpya tadevāvalokayati tadeva śrṇoti tadeva bhāṣayati tadeva cintayati
After the attainment of sacred love, the devotee sees nothing but love, hears only about love, speaks only of love and thinks only of love.
Here, Sage Narad describes how the nature of a devotee blossoms when he is in a loving relationship with the Lord. As a lover, he sees his Beloved everywhere and in everything. He thinks about and only sees His Love. Even with the external worldly distractions, his mind is constantly meditating on his Lord and relentlessly remembering Him. The devotee fails to see and enjoy objects disconnected from his Beloved.
A gopi once said:
jit dekhauň tit syāmamaῑ hai
syām kuñj ban jamunā syāmā, syām gagan ghan ghaṭā ćhaῑ hai
sab raṅganmeň syām bharo hai, log kahat yaha bāt naῑ hai
maiň baurῑ kῑ loganhῑkῑ syām putariyā badal gaῑ hai
chandrasār ravisār syām hai mṛgamad syām kām bijaῑ hai
nῑlkanṭhko kanṭh syām hai mano syāmatā bel baῑ hai
śrutiko acćhar syām dekhiyat dῑpsikhāpar syāmataῑ hai
nar devankῑ kaun kathā hai alakh brahm ćhabi syāmamaῑ hai
“Everything I see is saturated with Shyam. The bower is shyam, the cloudy sky is shyam, the Yamuna River is shyam. All the colours are imbued with shyam. People are telling me this is something strange! Have I gone insane, or have the pupils in everyone’s eyes become shyam? The sun and moon are shyam, all the musk is permeated with shyam. Lord Shiv’s throat is shyam [from swallowing the poison after the churning of the milk ocean]. The vine of love growing in my heart is shyam. The letters of the scriptures are definitely shyam and the wick of the candle is also shyam. What to speak of men and gods, even the formless Absolute looks like shyam to me!” (Brajwasi Poetry)
The poet Thakur captures the very essence of a devotee in this state:
kānan dūsro nām sunai nahi ekahi raňg rańgo yaha ḍoro
dhokhehu dūsro nām kaṛhai rasanā mukh bāńdhi halāhal boro
ṭhākur chittakῑ vṛtti yahai ham kaisehu ṭek tajaiň nahi bhoro
bāvarῑ ve ańkhiyāń jari jāyń jo sāvaro ćhaańḍi nihārati goro
“Our ears refuse to hear any name but His, for the thread of our fate is dyed in Shyam’s colour alone. If we were to say any other name, it would be like pouring poison on our tongues and binding our mouths shut. The poet Thakur says, ‘Our hearts and our entire minds, even the subconscious mind, are so overtaken by Him, we can never, even unconsciously, act otherwise. If our crazy eyes try to give up Shyam to behold any other colour, burn them and let us go blind.’”
In this state of being, every sound that permeates the lover’s ear is nothing but the sweetest melody of his Beloved’s love-song. He never tires of praising Him because in every word that he speaks, he enjoys the incomparable flavour of the nectar of sacred love. All the limbs of his body feel only the presence of his Beloved. The lover’s heart is unable and unwilling to expand for anyone else. His love transforms into the reflection of his Beloved.
Drowning in the ocean of love is an indescribable feeling, and it is the highest state of infinite bliss. Hence, the Chandogya Upanishad (7.24.1) mentions, “The state of the Infinite is the state in which nothing else is seen, nor heard, nor thought of. That which is Infinite is immortal and that which is finite is mortal.” This is sacred love. It is whole and it intensifies with each passing moment. The flow is unbroken, subtler than the subtlest, and therefore, it cannot be defined.
 This poem is a play on words. The word shyam can mean dark or more specifically, lovely and black with a bluish tinge. Shyam is also one of Krishn’s most prominent Names.