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Srimati Radharani

Krishna, the Supreme Lord, being the source of everything, is fully independent. He is independent in His existence, His knowledge and His pleasure, for everything rests upon Him, as pearls are strung on a thread.

Krishna, has an infinite capacity and desire to enjoy loving exchanges. So He expands the potency or energy within Himself that gives Him enjoyment. This potency is a person. Her name is Srimati Radharani. They are indeed the same, just as musk and its scent are inseparable, or as fire and its heat are nondifferent.

Radha and Krishna are, in essence, a single entity - God - Who manifests as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal exchange.

Radharani, the feminine side of God.
Satyaraja Dasa.
From an article from the Back to Godhead magazine: July / August 2001.

Essence of beauty and relationship,
Quintessence of bliss and compassion,
Embodiment of sweetness and brilliance,
Epitome of artfulness, graceful in love:
May my mind take refuge in Radha,
Quintessence of all essences.

- Prabhodananda Saraswati.

My sister Carol has become a radical feminist in recent years. I watched this develop. As she devoured book after book on the failures of patriarchy and male-made societies, she came to see me - her broter, who worships a "male" God - as a victim of sexist philosophers, duped by men with little regard for women. In other words, she knew that I worshipped Krishna, who is clearly male, and this was enough to put me in league with those who belittled women. It confused her, though, to see that I was not full of macho, double-talk, that despite my worship of a male God, I was fair and even-minded - I didn't speak down to women. She decided I was bright enough to confront directly.

"Why do you worship that blue boy Krishna?" she asked. "Why see God as male at all? Why not envision God as female?"

"Well," I answered quickly and annoyed, as if a two-minute conversation can sum up a person's theological perspective. "He's God." "And besides," I added, "we don't 'envision' God as we like. We learn about him from authoritative sources, the scriptures, whether the Vedas, from India, or the Western scriptures, like the Bible or the Koran."

"But how do you know?" she asked. "Maybe those books are leading you on. I would say that God would have to be the ultimate female, with all the sensitivity and nurturing that implies".

"But isn't that sexism, coming from the opposite direction?"

I hoped the question would make her think twice.

"If God is ultimately the supreme female, wouldn't that leave men out of the equation? Wouldn't that be saying that the female form is better than the male form? You'd be guilty of the very thing you claim patriarchal religion is guilty of."

After a pause, she replied, "But you still say that God is male ..."

"First of all," I broke in, "according to Krishna consciousness, God is both male and female. Isn't that a more egalitarian vision of God?"

"Well, maybe - if it's true," she said, still skeptical of a tradition (and a brother) she had all but trained herself to see as sexist.

"Look," I said, "Krishna is described in the Vedic literature because He has all the qualifications of God. How do you know the President of the United States is the President? He has certain credentials. It's not that you can just 'envision' that somebody is the President and then-puff-he's the President. No. So if you study Krsna closely, you'll see that He is full in all opulences: strength, beauty, wealth, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. Anyone who has these qualities in full is God."

She was getting restless. She had heard this definition of God from me before and felt I was getting off the subject of God as female.

"But Krsna consciousness goes further," I continued. "Rddharani is the female manifestation of God. She is the ultimate female. So we see God as both male and female."

Carol smiled. She had something up her sleeve.

"If you acknowledge that God is both male and female, why does your central mantra - that prayer you're chanting all the time - focus on Krsna, the male form of God?"

What my dear sister didn't know was that the mahamantra is a prayer to Radha first, and Krsna second.

"Do you know the mantra I chant, the one you're talking about?"

She recited it: "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."

I was pleased to hear she knew it.

"Do you know what Hare means?"

"No," she admitted.

"It is a stong request to Radha. By chanting 'Hare,' we beseech Mother Hara, another name for Radha. Hare is the vocative form of Hara. Basically, the mantra is asking Mother Hara, Radha, 'Please engage me in the Lord's service."

"You mean the Hare Krishna chant is a prayer to the female form of God?"


That got her attention.

"Tell me," she said with growing curiosity, "what does the word Radha mean?"

"It means 'She who worships Krishna best.'"

"Aha!" my sister quipped. "Then Radha is not God. If She is His best worshiper, then She is obviously distinct from Him!"

"That's not true," I said. "God is the person who does everything best. As Krishna says in the Gita, He is the first and best in all fields. Of mountains He's the Himalayas, of bodies of water He's the ocean, and so on. So, of worshipers of Him, He's also best. Who could worship Krishna better than He Himself? No one. Therefore, He manifests as Radha, His female form, and shows that He is His own best worshiper. As Radha He is God the worshiper, and as Krsna He is God the worshiped. Both par excellence."

"Hmmm. Tell me more," she said.

"OK, but this may get a little technical," I said. "From the Vaisnava, or Krishna conscious, point of view, th divine feminine energy sakti) implies a divine energetic source (saktiman) So the goddess as she manifests in the various Vaisnava traditions always has a male counterpart. Sita relates to Rama; Laksmi corresponds to Narayana; Radha has Her Krishna. As Krishna is the source of all manifestations of God, Sri Radha, His consort, is the source of all saktis, or energies. She is thus the original Goddess.

"Vaisnavism can be seen as a type of saktism, wherein the purna-sakti, the most complete form of the divine feminine energy, is worshiped as the pre-eminent aspect of divinity, eclipsing even the male Godhead in certain respects. For example, in Sri vaisnavism, Laksmi (a primary expansion of Sri Radha) is considered the divine media-trix, without whom access to Narayana is not possible. In our Krishna conscious tradition, Radha is acknowledged as the Supreme Goddess, because She controls Krishna with Her love. Perfect spiritual life is unattainable without Her grace.

"In traditional Vaisnava literature, Krsna is compared to the sun and Radha to the sunshine. Both exist simultaneously, but one is coming from the other. Still, to say that the sun exists prior to the sunshine is incorrect - as soon as there is a sun, there is sunshine. More important, the sun has no meaning without sunshine, without heat and light. And heat and light would not exist without the sun. So the sun and the sunshine co-exist, each equally important for the existence of the other. It may be said that they are simultaneously one and different.

"Likewise, the relationship between Radha and Krishna is that of inconceivable identity in difference. They are, in essence, a single entity-God-who manifests as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal exchange.

Let me read you something about this from the Caitanya-caritamrta [Adi lild 4.95-98]:'Lord Krsna enchants the world, but Sri Radha enchants even Him. Tberefore She is the supreme goddess of all. Sri Rddha is the full power, and Lord Krsna is the possessor of full power. The two are not different, as evidenced by the revealed scriptures. They are indeed the same, just as musk and its scent are inseparable, or as fire and its heat are nondifferent. Thus, Radha and Krsna are one, although they have taken two forms to enjoy a relationship.",

"But Krishna is still the source. He predominates."

"Only in a sense," I said. "In terms of tattva, or 'Philosophical truth,' He predominates. But in terms of lila, or 'divine loving activity' Radha predominates over Him. And lila is considered more important than tattva.

Carol was enthralled.

"I had no idea," she said.

"Few people do," I told her. "That's why devotees work hard to distribute Prabhupada's books-we want this knowledge to get out to people."

Carol promised me she would start experimenting with the maha-mantra and would never prematurely judge a religion again, especially Krishna consciousness. In addition, she asked me for a prayer that focuses on Radhardni's supreme position, something she could chant as a reminder that Krishna consciousness recognizes-even emphasizes-a female form of God. I thought for a moment, and then I shared with her a mantra composed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great spiritual master from the early twentieth century:

atapa-rakita suraja nahi jani
radha-virahita krsna nahi mani

"Just as there is no such thing as sun without heat or light, I do not accept a Krishna who is without Sri Radha!"

(Gitavali, Radhastaka 8)

Carol was thrilled. She confided in me that she had long prayed for a religious tradition that was not sexist, one that recognized a feminine form of the Divine. Ofcourse, she wasn't fully convinced that this was it, but she was not willing to listen, to give an open ear to Krishna Consciousness. She was willing to start with some rudimentary practices, such as chanting and reading Srila Prabhupada's books. Here was a tradition that definitely seemed to fit the bill, to address her needs as a feminist. Radharani was my sister's dream come true - an answer to a feminist's prayer.

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