The following is an excerpt from a lecture given by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja at Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Mathurā, India on the evening before Rādhāṣṭamī, 27 August, 2009, published in Śrī Rādhā – Our Supreme Shelter, First Edition 2016

T omorrow we will celebrate Rādhāṣṭamī. Although today is actually Aṣṭamī, it is mixed with some part of Saptamī. This is why we call it saptamī-viddha aṣṭamī. So instead of today, we will consider the fraction of Aṣṭamī that appears tomorrow and will do Rādhikā’s abhiṣeka at six in the morning. After singing prayers to Rādhikā and performing kīrtana, we will speak something in Her honour, and do Her abhiṣeka (bathing ceremony). After the abhiṣeka, brahmacārīs and sannyāsīs will go and bring cāva (gifts for Rādhārāṇī, which are carried on the head of the devotees) from Kailāśa-nagara and other areas. Then again we will gather at five or half-past five in the evening and explain rādhā-tattva to you all.
   At the beginning of creation, in the last phase of Dvāpara-yuga, Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared at Vaṁśīvaṭa, the place of the rāsa dance, in Vṛndāvana. But He was not feeling happy, so He simultaneously manifested two forms. In order to enjoy the pleasure of līlā-vilāsa, sweet pastimes, He manifested Śrīmatī Rādhikājī from His left side, and He manifested Śaṅkara (Śiva), Śrī Gopīśvara, from His right side as guru-tattva. Rādhā, filled with great pleasure, ran towards Kṛṣṇa. Rā means anurāga  (deep spiritual loving attachment), and dha means dhavati  (to run quickly and with great eagerness). She ran toward Kṛṣṇa, and that is why She is called “Rādhā”. Also, at that time, Kṛṣṇa worshipped Her (kṛṣṇena ārādhita), and so She was named “Rādhikā”.
   When Kṛṣṇa first appeared in Gokula, Nārada Ṛṣi came, took darśana of Kṛṣṇa and thought, “Kṛṣṇa can never appear alone. His hlādinī-śakti must have appeared somewhere else [in this world].”
   At that time, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja was staying in Rāval. Fifteen days after Kṛṣṇa’s birth, Nārada reached Rāval and inquired from Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, “Do you have any children?”
   Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja replied, “Yes, we do.” He called for Śrīdāma, who offered his obeisances to Nāradajī.
   Nārada  then blessed  Śrīdāma and asked Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, “Has a child been born to you in recently, in the past ten or fifteen days?”
   Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja replied, “Yes, a little while before, a daughter has appeared to us.”
   In regard to Rādhikājī’s birth, we have also heard that daily, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja took bath in the Yamunā River, which was flowing nearby. One day, he saw a fully blossomed hundred-petalled lotus in the river. In the middle of that lotus, there was an extremely beautiful baby girl who was sometimes sucking Her toe, sometimes moving Her hands and legs and sometimes playing in various ways. Seeing Her, Bābā, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, lifted Her up, took Her in his arms and brought Her into the palace, where he placed Her on Kīrtikā’s lap. Very few people know Rādhikā as “Kīrtikā-kumārī”, the daughter of Kīrtikā-devī. Because it was Vṛṣabhānu Bābā who took  Her from the Yamunā River and brought Her to the palace, She is called “Vṛṣabhānu-dulāri” or “Vṛṣabhānu-kanyā” – the dear daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja – and so on.
   Nārada asked Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, “May I see your daughter? I will do Her birth chart and bless Her. I will describe Her future qualities.” [Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja  then bought out his baby girl.] Nārada requested, “In the meantime, please gather candana (sandalwood), dūrvā  grass, akṣata  (whole grains of rice), roli (sacred thread), Yamunā water and other paraphernalia, so that I can perform  a ceremony  to bless Her.”
   Vṛṣabhānu Bābā went inside a room and in the meantime, Nārada  Ṛṣi entered a  trance. While he was meditating, that baby girl transformed into an exquisite youthful (kiśorī) form. Lalitā and Viśākhā appeared there. Lalitā said, “What is your meditation? Arise, arise. Offer your obeisances to Her lotus feet and ask Her for a boon.”
   The moment Nāradajī opened his eyes, Rādhikājī gave him a momentary darśana of Her kiśorī form, and then again appeared before him [as a baby]. But because his thirst to see Her was not quenched, he went to Govardhana, to a place that is now named after him: Nārada-kuṇḍa. There he performed austerities for thousands of years, without eating or drinking. He meditated on Her and continuously chanted the rādhā-mantra. After thousands of years, Nāradajī became Nāradī Gopī. At that time Rādhājī appeared and gave Nāradī Gopī service to Her. We have learned these details from śāstra.
   Some people say that the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states, “Ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam – Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead,” and that the aim of the author, Śrīla Vyāsadeva, in manifesting Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, was to describe Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes only. But the viewpoint of our ācāryas, like Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, is that rāsa-līlā, the most exalted pastime in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, was performed for the sake of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Kṛṣṇa personally told Her, “Tuhũ binā kāhāra rāsa? tuhũ lāgi’ mora varaja-vāsa – Without You, what is the question of performing rāsa? Only because of You do I reside in Vraja.”

śata-koṭī-gopī mādhava-mana
rākhite nārilo kori’ jatana

Śata-koṭī Gopī (1)

[Millions of lovely cowherd damsels are unable to keep Mādhava’s attention, despite their great endeavour to do so.]

   When Rādhikā disappeared from rāsa-līlā, Kṛṣṇa saw that even millions of gopīs could not attract His mind. Lamenting and crying out, “Rādhe Rādhe!” He left to find Her. Although in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, it is not mentioned clearly in this way, the commentators have extracted the meanings of ślokas only in this way. Kṛṣṇa did not disappear from there alone. Rādhārāṇī first disappeared from the rāsa-līlā, in māna, then after, Kṛṣṇa left the rāsa dance to search for Her. Very worried and crying, “Rādhe Rādhe,” He finally found Her.
   The other gopīs, who had left the rāsa dance to search for Kṛṣṇa, now saw two sets of footprints. One set was Kṛṣṇa’s footprints, and the other, in the middle of His footprints, belonged to a lady. They thought, “These footprints belong to Kṛṣṇa, but whose are these other, smaller and delicate footprints, endowed with such beautiful markings?”
   Since Lalitā, Viśākhā and the other gopīs in Śrī Rādhā’s party had been serving Her feet, they knew that this second set of footprints belonged to Her, and they felt very pleased. “Oh, Kṛṣṇa has not gone alone,” they thought. “He has taken our prāṇa-priya (dearmost) sakhī with Him.” At the same time, they felt sad. “Now we cannot serve Them while They are meeting.”
   Other gopīs, those who were vipakṣā, or not in Rādhā’s party, said:

anayārādhito nūnaṁ
bhagavān harir īśvaraḥ
yan no vihāya govindaḥ
prīto yām anayad rahaḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.30.28)

[Surely this gopī (Śrīmatī Rādhikā) has truly worshipped (ārādhito) Bhagavān Śrī Hari, the supreme autocrat. Otherwise, why has Govinda left us all and only taken Her with Him?]

   “Oh, this girl who has gone with Kṛṣṇa is so fortunate. Kṛṣṇa has taken Her to a secluded place and has thus broken the pride (saubhāgya-mada) of millions of us gopīs.” They understood that the gopī Kṛṣṇa took with Him is superior to them. “She has surely served Nārāyaṇa and pleased Him, and due to His benediction, Kṛṣṇa took Her alone.” In this way, the supremacy of Rādhājī was revealed to the world. As soon as She disappeared from the rāsa dance, Kṛṣṇa left to find Her. Rādhikā is therefore topmost among all of Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds, and rāsa-līlā was performed exclusively to establish Her superiority. Kṛṣṇa performed it for Her pleasure only. He displayed the supremacy of the gopīs, by saying:

na pāraye ’haṁ niravadya-saṁyujāṁ
sva-sādhu-kṛtyaṁ vibudhāyuṣāpi vaḥ
yā mābhajan durjara-geha-śṛṅkhalāḥ
saṁvṛścya tad vaḥ pratiyātu sādhunā

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.32.22)

“O gopīs, for My sake you left your husbands, worldly religion, shyness, the instructions of your superiors and your lives as householders, all of which were meant to keep you bound. The duties of household life never come to an end. It is a śṛṅkhalā, a chain binding the hands and legs. What is that chain? The instructions of superiors. You shattered that chain and came to Me. How can I ever repay you? Oh, you are sādhus, saints. By your saintly nature you may free Me from My debt, but I can never repay you.”
   The supremacy of the gopīs, and among the gopīs, the supremacy of the gopīs who are Rādhikā’s bodily expansions, is thus shown. Our ācāryas have written:

agha-ripur api yatnād atra devyāḥ prasāda
prasara-kṛta-kaṭākña-prāpti-kāmaḥ prakāmam
anusarati yad uccaiḥ snāna-sevānu-bandhais
tad ati-surabhi-rādhā-kuṇḍam evāśrayo me

Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍāṣṭaka (3)

[For the pleasure of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, even Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, yearning to attain Her merciful sidelong glance, performs difficult austerities at the very precious and fragrant  Rādhā-kuṇḍa, regularly bathing and carefully observing all the appropriate rituals. May that supremely enchanting Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter.]

   Rādhājī was in māna, sulky anger, and became Māninī. Her māna had no cause. Rādhikā’s māna is of two types: hetuka māna and ahaituka māna, sulky anger with or without any cause. The vipakṣā (rival) gopīs headed by Candrāvalī criticized  Her, saying, “Does Rādhikā not feel ashamed to do māna? She becomes obstinate when She is in māna. I do not want to see Her face.”
   On the other hand, Rādhikā says, “Candrāvalī knows nothing about the nature of prema. She does not know how to please her beloved. I do not want to see her face.”
   The sneha, affection, of Rādhikā and Candrāvalī is different. Candrāvalī’s affection for Kṛṣṇa is ghṛta-sneha, very smooth, while the affection of Rādhikā and Her sakhīs is madhu-sneha, like madhu, honey, which is smooth and also sweet. Candrāvalī’s affection is compared with ghee, which needs sugar to become sweet, but honey is sweet on its own. This is the difference between them.
   In Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described Rādhājī’s astonishing moods, especially sneha, māna, praṇaya, rāga, anurāga, bhāva, mahābhāva, rūḍha, adhirūḍha, mohana, mādana. Kṛṣṇa Himself does not have mādana-bhāva, so, in order to relish the mādana-bhāva of Rādhājī, Kṛṣṇa appeared as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, along with His associates. There, His desire was fulfilled. For a person to fulfil his desire, he needs a guru. For this same purpose, Mahāprabhu went to see Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda at Godāvarī and asked him many questions. Why did He do so? In Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, Rāya Rāmānanda is Viśākhā-devī, Rādhikā’s gopī friend who understands  all of Rādhikā’s moods. There, in Godāvarī, Mahāprabhu displayed to Rāya Rāmānanda all the moods of Rādhikā, even His form as rasarāja-mahābhāva. This very same Viśākhā, in the form of Rāya Rāmānanda, trained Mahāprabhu in realizing these moods. After their meeting, Mahāprabhu told him, “I am so pleased. This is why I came. My desires are now fulfilled. Please help Me to relish rādhā-bhāva, the moods of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Please come to Jagannātha Purī and help Me there.” Rāya Rāmānandajī then came to Jagannātha Purī.

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