The Essence of Romantic Love – Lecture on CC Adi 1.6.
About the meaning of bhedabheda in terms of romantic love and the real oneness with another person which culminates in the love of Radha & Krsna.
This (Adi 1.6.) and the previous verse are very extraordinary. They establish some very crucial philosophical understanding and are very important. Verse 5 reveals the supreme instance of the philosophy of bhedabhbeda tattva.
The first statement about the identity of Lord Caitanya is that Radha is a transformation of Krsna’s love. She is His pleasure-giving potency.
eka-atmanau (two souls in one) is the essence of romantic love in its highest pitch. The acaryas use that analogy of the love between a young boy and girl. Especially romantic love creates this bhedahbeda – oneness and difference.
If two people feel deeply united psychologically, there is a collective consciousness.
The impersonal philosophy would be to say that there is nothing real about such romantic love. But if we see the reflection of a tree it gives us a very accurate picture of a real tree. When people in this world fall madly in love in this world it gives us an accurate picture of spiritual love, it is not merely illusion. If it had nothing to do with our pure state of consciousness and existence we could be impersonalists.
There is a connection between psychology (state of mind) and ontology (nature of existence apart from the state of mind we are in) in the sense that we are capable of the powerful experience of being united with someone so that there is a single consciousness which emerges out of two consciousnesses. This is possible because ontologically we really are one and different. So the psychological state is an awareness of a real state, namely that our existence is one with the existence of other people and one with Krsna. This is an insight about the objective nature of reality.
The problem in this world is that the experience of falling deeply in love only partially gives us an accurate picture of reality. The sense of oneness with another person is actually true and real – the notion that it is based on our bodies is false. In the material experience there is something true and something false. In the case of Radha and Krsna and in the case of pure souls who fall in love – which does happen according to our scriptures – it is all real, because the oneness is based on a correct understanding of who the other person really is. And it is not selfishness, doing business as love, it is actually love.
A Prabhupada story illustrates that love in this world is not simply false: In 1972 in New Vrindavan Srila Prabhupada was giving the Bhagavad Dharma Discourses. There were two kittens who formed a ball and rolled right unto Prabhupada’s lap. Back in those days as overzealous youths we thought that animals were hopelessly contaminated. I was horrified because I was lost in this bizarre religious consciousness, but Srila Prabhupada to my surprise acted like a normal human being, he reached down and started patting the kittens. He looked at me and said, “Just see, even here is love”. The kittens were absolutely fearless in his lap, so he said, “if I put my head on your lap and you cut my throat, that is the greatest sin.”
If we think of Arjuna’s dilemma who wanted to give up the act itself, Krsna told him, “ don’t give up the act itself which is born of your nature, give up a false state of consciousness which leads you to misinterpret the act”. Similarly, in an immature state of consciousness we think we have to give up the act itself, and that romantic love is false and bad. But actually the problem is not loving someone, the problem is mixing that love with a tablespoon of vanity. (I feel like my body is gorgeous) It is the self-centeredness, using what is ultimately the most beautiful powerful act of God’s creation which is romantic love for selfish purposes. Interestingly however, Krsna Himself affirms that the ultimate and highest act is romantic love. It is His central activity.
It is not our philosophy that romantic love is limited to two people, Radha & Krsna and their plenary expansions, and everyone else is eternal spectator. Certainly the highest state of the soul comes from appreciating Radha and Krsna. But what about Nanda and Yasoda, do they only ever shake hands or is it a business relationship? Do they really like each other? Or Nanda and Devaki and other residents of the spiritual world? It must be that some cowherd boys have a special relationships with some cowherd girls.
Srila Prabhupada said, in the spiritual word people are not blind, they notice that people around them are very good looking because that is Krsna’s creation. To be blind to what Krsna has done would be to ignore His creation. The difference is that in the spiritual world personal beauty is a manifestation of love of Krsna. People don’t get deviated by that love.
Back to CC. The essence of romantic love is not lust. The essence is two souls existing as one. Krsna Himself who is omniscient is pondering this extraordinary relationship and is asking Himself these questions. We could say these are pastime questions, or that there is some sense that these are serious questions. As stated Bhagavatam, there is no ignorance in Krsna. There is another statement that He is always expanding.
The analogy can be given of someone falling in love: Two people know each other on one level, but at a certain point they get to know each other better and their love is increasing. Even though they already know each other, they discover more. In the same way, Krsna Himself has ever-deeper experiences of His own glories. He can seriously ask these questions and experience ever-more deeply what He already knew.
In one sense there is no reason for Krsna to come to this world to experience this love, He could do it in the spiritual world (which He also does). So the desire to experience Radha’s mood doesn’t mean in and of itself that Krsna has to come to this world. The next point, even if He decided for some reason to come to this world, why come in Kali Yuga? Why experience the most intimate emotions in the most degraded age?
The reason why He chose is because He is in the mood of Radharani who doesn’t kill all of the losers of this age. When He came as Krsna tens and millions of people were removed from the planet, but when Lord Chaitanya appeared nobody got killed. The most violent Chaitanya lilaever gets is banging a Buddhist on the head with a tray. The reason why Lord Chaitanya is so merciful is because of the tender compassion of the Supreme Female. So there is a direct relation. Because He is in the mood of Radharani we are still here and getting another chance. He is experiencing internally what He wants to experience and at the same time in the mood of Radharani He is saving all of us.
Answers to questions:
– When we watch a movie we suspend our disbelief and voluntarily enter into the story, even though we know on one level that it is not really happening. In that sense we can imagine Krsna entering into a pastime and suspending His disbelief, like parents playing with a child. When some demons were attacking Krsna wasn’t bewildered, He knew and acted as God.
– In our relationships we enter into degrees of intimacy based on the trustworthiness of the person. Getting into an inappropriate level of trust causes trouble. Krsna is perfect, He puts Himself under the control of His devotees precisely to the degree that those devotees are controlled by their love and pure desire to please Krsna, so it is a precise reciprocation. To the extent that I am controlled by a loving desire to please Krsna to that degree Krsna puts Himself under my control.
– In a family you love all members of the family. Srila Prabhupada said that Krsna is more pleased when we love and serve His devotees. One of His supreme qualities is detachment. He is not a jealous god. In the spiritual world people love each other and some people have special affinities & alliances. Every soul is unique. They are real people – and we are one of them, but there in no lust and envy.
Right now your experience of a person is to some extent self-realization. It is not that when we become pure we see ourselves as something totally different than we are now. We are already experiencing our real selves to some extent. E.g. when your body is sick, it is still you, you are still experiencing yourself to some extent, but when you are healthy you are in a better state of consciousness, full of vigor and energy. That is the real person, the soul. We just do it much better when we become purified, free of lust, greed, and vanity. The notion that when I become pure I am something absolutely different than now is somewhat impersonal.
Exploitation can take place not only in a marriage relationship but also in a guru-disciple relationship. I can try to control disciples too much because of my own impurities. Disciples also can see the guru as the ultimate sympathetic listener. On both ends, if there is impurity we can use other people and not think what is best for them.
Marriage is one of the most important exercise machines, a wonderful opportunity of to advance in Krsna Consciousness if we envision it in that way. It brings out our impurities so we can work on them.
We have to include Krsna in our lives: “Good night, devi. Good night, prabhu. Good night, Krsna.”
Romantic love in this world is a perverted reflection of this love between Radha & Krsna.