s this that appears before me
nothing other than play possessing a body?
Or is it the art of erotic love, yielding its gifts?
Or is it the pleasures of love,
taking effulgent form?
Or is it only the science of Cupid’s wondrous weaponry?
Or perhaps it is Shyamasundara’s life energy embodied:
I do not know. It is Sri Radha,
who is dallying with Hari day and night
with eternally increasing intensity in Vrindavan.
kiṁ krīḍaiva śarīriṇī ? smara-kalā kiṁ dohinī ? kiṁ ratiḥ
svābhā mūrtimatī ? kim adbhuta-manojanmāstra-vidyaiva vā ?
kiṁ vā jīvana-śaktir eva satanuḥ śyāmasya ? na jñāyate
sā rādhā vijarīharīti hariṇā vṛndāvane’har-niśam||2.20||
This verse follows the formula of sandehālaṅkara, based on doubt. One speculates about the nature of the object being perceived by pointing to its qualities and those things to which they can be compared. In this case, it is the third kind of sandehālaṅkara called niścayānta, in which the doubt is resolved at the end of the verse.
Perhaps the most famous example of this rhetorical device is found in Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta and quoted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (2.2.75)–
mādhuryam eva nu mano-nayanāmṛtaṁ nu |
veṇī-mṛjo nu mama jīvita-vallabho nu
bālo’yam abhyudayate mama locanāya ||
Is this Cupid himself?
Or is it the moon, a halo of sweet effulgence?
Is it the very embodiment of sweetness?
Or is it an immortal ambrosia for the eyes and mind?
Or is it the loosener of my braid,
Or perhaps the lover of my heart?
This boy arises auspiciously before my eyes! (KK 68)
The commentators are pressed to ask why the doubt arises and why it is rejected, as follows:
Is this Cupid himself? If not, then how can he create such lusty feelings in my heart when he appears? No, no, it can’t be Cupid, for though Cupid may be able to stir the mind, he does not have so much splendor, and this one here has literally waves of splendor! Then is it some kind of halo? But how could that be? There is light in a halo of course, but not so much sweetness! Then is this sweetness personified? No, for that does not have this nectar, that is relishable for the mind and the eyes! Then is it some fresh nectar for the eyes and mind? No, no, for there is an indescribable ocean of relish here that far transcends that! Is he, then, my Mādhava, the one who loosens my braid? Could it be my Prāṇa-vallabha Sri Krishna who has finally come to delight my eyes? It can only be he.
Such examples abound in the texts of the poets of Radha Krishna lila. As this example shows, there is a kind of hierarchy of guesses that progress until the only possibility left is the supreme object of love. It is a poetic figure that is used usually upon first seeing him or her, or upon seeing him or her after a long absence.
It is Radha
Here, Prabodhananda Saraswatipada follows on from the previous verse in which he gave a hierarchy of spiritual realities, concluding with Vrindavan, which lies within that realm that is the inner light of immeasurable transcendental bliss. And suddenly, there in Vrindavan, he sees the source of all this effulgence: it is Radha.
But before he can fully see Radha, first her qualities manifest before him, her tattva manifests, her effulgent beauty manifests.
kiṁ krīḍaiva śarīriṇī ? Is this verily play itself that has taken form? The potency that brings joy to Krishna, the hlādinī śakti is first and foremost his līlā śakti, but to say that his energy is play alone does not give us enough information about what that play is. And so Saraswatipada asks,
smara-kalā kiṁ dohinī ? Is it the wish-fulfilling heavenly surabhi of the erotic arts, bearing fruit for Krishna by manifesting a form? Yes, but this too is inadequate because it reduces her power over Krishna to external technique alone. And so he asks further,
kiṁ ratiḥ svābhā mūrtimatī ? Is she beautifully effulgent lovemaking taken form? Or kim adbhuta-manojanmāstra-vidyaiva vā ? the weapon that Cupid uses to magically bring the Supreme Male to his knees? These are all externals, is she not śyāmasya satanur jīvana-śaktir eva ? Shyamsundar’s life energy itself ambulating before him?
Whoever she is or whatever she is, she constantly, eternally plays here, day and night, without cessation, in Vrindavan. This is why Radha is at the very heart of existence, because she is the very soul of the Supreme Deity, therefore she brings light and life to him, for what is light and life but love?
Therefore, Prabodhananda’s hope lies in Vrindavan, because Vrindavan is the abode of such an effulgent gem as Radha. The author of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi therefore says,
yatrāsti prema-mūrter nahi mahima-sudhā
nāpi bhāvas tadīyaḥ |
kiṁ vā vaikuṇṭha-lakṣmyāpy ahaha paramayā
yatra me nāsti rādhā
kintv āśāpy astu vṛndāvana-bhuvi madhurā
What is the meaning to us of all these beautiful scriptures,
or of the paths of sādhana they prescribe
and which are followed by the saints
if in them there is no nectar-like glorification
of this form of prema, nor any feeling for her?
And of what use is even the supreme Lakshmi,
for Radha is not there in Vaikuntha, either.
May I therefore be blessed with the sweet hope
to be born in Vrindavan,
even if that should only come
after a million births. (RRSN 217)