On August 29th Radhanath Swami spoke at the Bhakti Centers second Annual Pearl Festival, a celebration of Radhastami, the appearance od Srimati Radharani. Below is an excerpt of his talk.
Somehow or other this is called the Pearl Festival and everyone will offer pearls to Srimati Radharani. These pearls are jewels. They are something extremely precious. And how a pearl comes to be is very symbolic of the path of bhakti. Because there are these little people called oysters that live in the water and pearls just don’t grow in them. Something irritates the oyster, some sort of bacteria gets in there and itches. Or some sort of sand gets in there and it can’t get it out. And in response to that irritation these different layers of calcium and other such minerals are produced to build around that irritant and it becomes a precious pearl. So for those who are on the path of devotion or bhakti the difficulties that come upon us in this world are actually impetuses for the jewel of our love to grow.
nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-prema ‘sādhya’ kabhu naya
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya
Pure love for Kṛṣṇa is eternally established in the hearts of living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, the living entity naturally awakens. – Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya, 22.107
Love for Krishna is inherit within every living being and our essential nature. The atma, the living force, the soul within every living being is eternal, full of knowledge and happiness. And for the soul, no profit, adoration, distinction, or sensual objects can give pleasure to it. Because the soul is spiritual and eternal, rather than material it is looking for something that will give eternal happiness. And premā pumartho mahān. That love for Krishna is that highest happiness that is within us all. It simply needs to be awakened. It is our greatest potential. And It grows especially when we are in difficult situations, in other words, when we are irritated and disturbed.
tat te’nukampāḿ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaḿ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti pade sa dāya bhāk
One who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim. – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam10.14.8
Now the way material nature works is that we can’t always select the kind of disturbances that we prefer. Because then it is not really a disturbance. But when things are out of our control they strike just where we don’t want them to strike. One great devotee, Kunti, who is the mother of the Pandava’s, prayed “Let calamities come again and again because when those calamities come I remember you my beloved Lord. And when I remember you I rise above all the disturbances and fears of creation.”
So our tendency in this world is that we want to find some cheap happiness and we become quite complacent with it – some comfort zone. But one of the great blessings of creation is that it doesn’t let anybody do that for very long. Because whoever we are, whether we are billionaires or little swami’s, things are going to happen. Irritants, like in that little oyster – you can’t get it out and find a material solution to it. And in that situation we realize we need the help of a higher power than ourselves and we humble ourselves to that higher power. We take shelter of that higher power which creates within us that pearl of love. Its a process.
Just like Srila Prabhupada explained that we should chant God’s names like a baby crying for its mother. When a baby cries for the mother it’s not that the baby can figure it out for him or herself. It needs the help of a higher power. We are all babies within this material creation. Old age, disease and death come upon all of us. And adhyatmika, adhibautika and adhidaivika miseries: miseries caused by one’s own body and mind, miseries caused by other people or living beings, and miseries caused by natural forces – they are impending in every situation. But on the path of bhakti what apparently is a curse is transformed into a blessing. Because those very irritants, those very disturbances help us to understand the necessity of taking shelter of a higher power. Not just as a hobby or for our entertainment, but as a necessity. The pearl forms out of serious necessity through a natural process. Bhakti is that natural process in which the pearl of prema or true happiness develops in the form of love of God. That love is manifested just as it is stated in the Bhagavatam – when you put water on the root of a tree, it extends to every part of the tree. When love of Krishna awakens in our heart, it naturally expands to love for every part of Krishna. Aham bija-pradah pita, Krishna says “everyone is coming from me, I am the father and mother of all”. That love is what the heart is yearning for.
Bhakti, the path of devotion, means connecting to divine grace. That grace of the Supreme is the manifestation of the feminine energy of the Supreme.
radha krsna pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad / ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha bhedam gatau tau
The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. – Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 4.55
The Absolute Truth is one God, and as the Gita states, this one God has appeared in many different incarnations throughout humanity.
aham sarvasya prabhavo / mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam / budha bhava samanvitah
I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. – Bhagavad-gita 10.8
That one Supreme Absolute Truth is the source of all worlds, everything emanates from the one God who has many names. But that one Supreme Absolute Truth eternally is two. The sakti and saktiman. The Supreme Energy and the Supreme Energetic Source. The female and male aspects of the one God. Radha Krishna, Sita Rama, Laxmi Narayana in their various manifestations.
Sri Radha is the source of all the energies of the Lord. She is the asraya vigraha, the supreme lover, the ultimate abode of love. And Krishna is the visaya vigraha, the supreme object of love. So Krishna is the supreme beloved and Sri Radha is the supreme lover. As we are all part and parcel of Krishna, our capacity to love is part and parcel of Sri Radha’s love. And she is the complete whole of that love. Her motherly lovingly grace is always there for all of us when we call out her names, offer her prayers and engage in the service of the service of the service of her servants.
In bhakti we are very much trying to connect ourselves to the grace of Sri Radha. That grace forgives us of our transgressions, overcomes our shortcomings and empowers us to do things unimaginably greater than the capacity that we are otherwise able to do. That is grace. It is by humbling ourselves to that grace when difficulties come, by chanting these beautiful names of God, by understanding the opportunity to serve in these situations, and through our prayers and taking shelter, that our love grows into a pearl. So this concept of a pearl, this jewel of love of Godhead and how it manifests in difficult circumstances is really the secret of real happiness.
When you want to share Radha’s love with everyone, that is spiritual love. Material love is a selfish thing that can create things like envy and competition. But spiritual love is when we understand that God loves everyone. What makes Krishna happy is to see everyone love Him and awaken that love for Him. The characteristic of a person who is actually connected to grace is that they are beyond envy and arrogance, and is truly self satisfied. Then they see everyone as God’s children and want to share that joy with all. In other words, when we realize that jewel, that pearl within our own hearts, we want everyone to enjoy that pearl. That is compassion and beyond sectarian concepts. Its true, real and who we really are.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, when he first met Srila Prabhupada in 1922 in Calcutta, he said the only real problem is that people have forgotten who they really are and have lost their Krishna consciousness. The only real solution is for people to find the satisfaction of love within themselves so they want to share it with everyone.
Radha and Krishna become two for the sake of rasa, or spiritual loving relationship. But the loving relationship of God with Himself or Herself, is all encompassing and includes everything and everyone. But then Radha and Krishna became one again in order to spread this love throughout the world, and that is Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. That is Lord Krishna with the love and complexion of Sri Radha who has come to give her love to us to share her love with us through the chanting of God’s holy names. This kirtan that we are performing is beautiful music that charms our minds and hearts, but most important is that it develops that pearl of devotion of happiness within us. It awakens the prema that we are all yearning for.
This chanting of God’s names is such a great blessing and to associate with people who have this faith is such a great blessing for all of us. So Radhastami is the day when we appreciate that grace and understand the necessity in our life for that grace. And we cry out for that grace and we want to share that grace with each other.
When we learn bhakti from the true lineages, and with the right aspiration are seeking the highest truth, then real love awakens within us. And when we are on that path, with that supporting association then even when the inevitable difficulties come – happiness/distress, pleasure/pain, honor/dishonor, success/failure, victory/defeat, heat/cold, all these dualities, whichever side may manifest, they only help us to go deeper, to take shelter of that grace in a higher way. And we realize the blessing of life that is being given to us at all times. Srila Prabhupada came to share the pearl with all of us. Today we offer the pearl of the prayer of that love, that service. Its not the pearl that Krishna wants, its the intentions of our hearts that will give him happiness.
I wish you a happy Radhastami.