Sri Radha: Indirectly the Absolute

According to Sri Caitanya’s followers, the Bhagavata speaks only of Sri Radha. This opinion is strikingly in contrast with not only the advaitins, but other prominent Vaisnava schools as well. The Sri (Ramanuja) and Brahma (Madhva) sampradayas do not see Sri Radha anywhere in the Bhagavata!

Neither does Sridhara Swami, whom the Gaudiya tradition so reveres, even mention Radha in his Bhagavata commentary. Although Sri Radha is mentioned in other Puranas, her name is not uttered directly even once in the Bhagavata. Yet the Gaudiyas make much of an indirect reference to her, which Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his “Bhagavata-arka marici-mala” envisions was spoken by Candravali gopi, Sri Radha’s transcendental competitor.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura differs in his opinion from other commentators. Others reason that the gopi in rasa-pancadhyaya who identified Radha’s footprint next to Krsna’s was able to do so because she knew the footprint of Radha, being her maidservant. This would not have been possible for Candravali. However, the sense that, according to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Candravali has spoken the verse anayaradhito nunam… is significant, for it says in no uncertain terms that no one but Sri Radha can fully satisfy Sri Krsna.

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The Poetry of the Bhagavatam

Q. You once said that sometimes poetic descriptions are used in the Bhagavatam. For example, a man with a thousand arms may be a poetic way of describing a big person. How then should we approach the sacred literatures: literally or symbolically?

A. How can a book of poetry be without this? We should try to find the philosophical message in each episode of the Bhagavata first. Later we may live in the poetic Bhagavata world. For preaching it is important to focus on the tattva of the treatise. If people are not able to fathom descriptions of persons with ten heads, and so on, we should not be concerned as much about convincing them of this as we are about other philosophical issues like sense control, the primacy of consciousness, etc.

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