Found in Sanga, Sanga 2004.

Q. The raga-marg, or path of spontaneous love, requires that the Godhood of Krishna be obscured in order to cultivate a special relationship with him. In Christianity we see that Mother Mary has a special relationship with Jesus in the parental mood (vatsalya rasa) and it seems that Catholic saints like Faustina and Theresa experienced a conjugal mood (madhurya rasa) of love for Jesus. Might then one cultivate a particular raga marg sentiment for Jesus as is done in Gaudiya Vaisnavism for Krishna?

A. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura specifically rejected this notion. He said that Jesus is the son and guru figure, not the Personality of Godhead. While there are certainly other ways to view Jesus, we follow his opinion and those of the Gaudiya parampara regarding the raga-marg.

The raga marg is defined as being in relation to the residents of Vrindavana, who love Krishna primarily in four spiritual sentiments such that his Godhood is obscured. Those sentiments are that of a servant (dasya rasa), friend (sakhya rasa), parent (vatsalya rasa), and lover (madhurya rasa). The residents of Vrindavana are known as ragatmikas, or devotees who have spontaneous love for Krishna. The path of raga means following the ragatmikas in their mood of love for Krishna. If we stretch this concept to make it generic, we must ask who are the ragamikas of Jesus that one is supposed to emulate and what particular pastimes, moods, feelings, and so forth do they exhibit on the eternal, transcendent plane of perfection.

Furthermore, making raga-marg universal and applicable to any manifestation of God is in a sense unnatural and defeats its purpose. There are many manifestations of the Divine and all of them have their purpose and sentiments in the grand scheme of the life of God. The beautiful and appropriate thing to do is to honor all of them for what they are, not to inordinately merge them together. This kind of merging is usually done to bolster one’s faith, but with regard to the raga-marg, faith in the uniqueness of the Vraja-lila of Krishna is central to its practice.

Ultimately, I think that under scrutiny it is apparent that the bride of Christ concept posited by Theresa and others is really not supposed to be taken as an ontological reality but as a psychological perspective from which to approach Christ. That is, I do not know of any Christian saint who taught that the goal of Christianity is to reside in the spiritual world as the eternal bride of Christ.

[Editor’s note: The Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of rasa and the path to divine rapture (raga-marg) is explained in Swami Tripurari’s book Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence.]

Q. Gaudiya Vaisnavism teaches that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna himself appearing as a devotee. On the Gaudiya path, one might follow the mood of Krishna’s father and mother to develop parental feeling for Krishna or one might worship Sacidevi, the mother of Sri Caitanya to develop vatsalya bhakti for Sri Caitanya. Why then can’t one follow Mother Mary and develop vatsalya bhakti for Jesus?

A. Your question implies that one can follow the ideal of Sacidevi and develop vatsalya bhakti for Sri Caitanyadeva. I think serious Gaudiya Vaisnavas would question this idea. Certainly there is no example of this. No siddhas have written about it, no sadhakas have been known to cultivate it. Sri Caitanyadeva, also known as Gaura, does reciprocate in vatsalya rasa with Saci, Malini, Sita Thakurani, and others, but these devotees are all manifestations of his svarupa-sakti (internal energy). They are his eternal associates in Krishna-lila. Sadhakas are in a different position. Gaura-lila grants entrance to sadhakas in dasya bhakti, from which they can also participate in Sri Krishna’s Vraja-lila in dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, or madhurya rasas. We should honor the Lord in terms of his particular mood in any of his appearances. No doubt Gaura-lila is fathomless, but any relationship with Gaura for the sadhaka other than dasya bhakti is for the most part off the books. Those empowered to teach about his lila are silent about—if not opposed to—any other suggestions.

Thus even within Gaudiya Vaisnavism we make certain distinctions between Gaura and Krishna, even though we teach they are essentially the same divine personality. Their lilas differ slightly, with Gaura-lila granting entrance to Krishna-lila. This being the case, it is questionable that God in the form of Jesus Christ entertains vatsalya bhakti with sadhakas who have the view to establish an eternal relationship with him in the mood of Mother Mary. In comparing this idea to the raga-marg of Sri Caitanyadeva, the question again is who are the ragatmikas of Jesus that one must emulate to attain perfection in the parental mood of Mother Mary? If one replies that Mary herself is a ragatmika in vatsalya bhakti, we must inquire further into the childhood lila of Jesus, for it is the childhood of Krishna that is central to Yasoda’s parental love for him. However, such information does not exist. Also, what sadhana has been established in the Catholic Church or otherwise in Christianity that teaches how to shed one’s material conception of self and enter into this mood? All considered, the Mother Mary or bride of Christ concepts are not the goal of Christianity and relate only vaguely to the raga-marg of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. I believe any Catholic theologian who is familiar with Gaudiya Vaisnavism will agree with this statement.

Q. Gaudiya Vaisnavas teach that outside of Vrindavana and Navadwipa pure vatsalya rasa isn’t possible, so even the “parents” of other manifestations of God don’t have pure vatsalya bhakti. But isn’t the mood of the parents of other manifestations of God considered some form of mixed vatsalya/dasya and can’t other devotees attain that? Or is it only open to the eternal associates of God (nitya-siddhas)? For example, in Rama-lila aren’t there many devotees with a mixed vatsalya/dasya relationship with Ramacandra? The following quote from Sanatana Goswami’s Brhad-Bhagavatamrta seems to remotely support this idea:

“The Personality of Godhead is a vast ocean of many different moods of loving exchange. His various devotees respond to His various pastimes by developing individual varieties of ecstasy, and the Lord reciprocates with these ecstasies by showing himself in different ways. His devotees are concerned with him alone, and therefore whenever a devotee becomes extremely anxious to see him in a particular form, the Lord at once shows that form to the devotee.”

A. In this case the quote you have cited from Sanatana Goswami refers to dasya bhakti in Vaikuntha. The dasya bhaktas there can change forms (not rasas) to serve Narayana. If they desire to see Narayana in one of his many avatara forms, he grants them that darsana.

According to Gaudiya acaryas, it is possible to attain dasya rasa in Rama bhakti. Sri Rama-lila is unique in Vaikuntha in that he has a mother and father. Other forms of the Lord in Vaikuntha all have their Laksmidevi and dasya bhaktas bordering on friendship, but Ramacandra also tastes vatsalya bhakti. However, you are correct in saying that the vatsalya there is not pure vatsalya, in the sense that it is not exactly the same as Yasodamayi’s motherly love. Yasodamayi’s love for her son Krishna is free from maryada, or awe and reverence. In fact, all the ragatmikas of Vrindavana love Krishna free of awe and reverence. This is what the raga-marg is all about. Rama-lila is maryada, steeped in awe and reverence, which is the opposite of raga.

There is a sect that pursues all rasas with Sri Ramacandra, including madhurya. As far as we Gaudiya Vaisnavas are concerned, the practices and theology of this sect are very questionable. They have practically rewritten the essence of the Bhagavatam and put Rama’s name in place of Krishna.

See also:
Rama and Raganuga-bhakti

Q. I do not understand the statement made in Caitanya-caritamrta by Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami that Krishna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appear on earth only once in a day of Brahma, which is said to be millions of years. Although we may therefore feel very fortunate, it doesn’t explain why Krishna doesn’t reveal himself in all the other maha-yugas. Indeed, why would he withhold his mercy for such a long time?

A. I have never found a scriptural reference to support the statement of Sri Krishnadasa concerning the rarity of Krishna and Mahaprabhu’s appearance. Otherwise, the reason for the rarity of their appearance is that they are giving something very rare. Krishna is giving it by way of manifesting his lila and speaking Bhagavad-gita, and Mahaprabhu is giving it by exemplifying how to follow Sri Krishna’s teaching in the Gita.

Why not give it more readily? How much more readily can you give it than by giving it freely to unqualified people? In previous yugas people were said to be more spiritually qualified, but their qualification makes it difficult for them to relate to the ease of nama-dharma. Furthermore, the highest reach of nama-dharma (nama srestam) as taught by Sri Caitanyadeva, the divine son of Saci, is so high that it turns the religious world on its head.

It is difficult for sophisticated, pious people to relate to the idea of dealing with God in the way that the residents of Vrindavana do, which is the ideal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In religion, reverential love is the norm. Devotion in intimacy, Vraja bhakti, is the exception. In this kind of love, God becomes completely subordinate to his devotee. This love is given to the world in a moment of God’s spiritual madness—when Vrajendranandana Krishna goes mad upon seeing the extent of Radha’s love. At this time the secret realm of Vrindavana bhakti becomes available to the world through Sri Caitanya. He is Vrajendranandana Krishna in desperation—desperate to taste Radha’s love. This is the primary reason for the descent of Sri Caitanyadeva. His distribution of Vraja bhakti is the byproduct of his spiritual madness.

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