“The symbol of devotional service in the highest degree is Radharani. Krishna is called Madana-mohana, which means that He is so attractive that He can defeat the attraction of thousands of Cupids. But Radharani is still more attractive, for She can even attract Krishna. Therefore devotees call Her Madana-mohana-mohini-the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)
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When learning about a new spiritual discipline, people often immediately look to the restrictions to gauge whether a particular faith is suitable to them or not. “Okay, so what am I allowed to do and what can’t I do?” For serious followers of the Vedic tradition, those who want to be brahmanas, or the highest class of people, the first requirement is that one should abstain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. These restrictions alone may seem too difficult to abide by, so the inquisitive spiritualist may get turned off from the Vedas immediately. Regardless, every spiritual discipline is aimed at providing some type of personal benefit. In this way religion can be thought of as a self-help system. Of all the different ways of helping the self, there is one that stands head and shoulders above all others. This discipline, known as devotional service, is topmost because not only does it help the soul, but it even attracts God.
What types of spiritual disciplines are there besides devotional service? We are all familiar with the concept of religion, but that is more of a faith, something we can subscribe to one day and then renounce the next. Spirituality is the more accurate term to describe the discipline involving one’s attempt to reconnect with spirit. Why is spirit important? Spirit is the basis of our identity, the guiding force for all our actions. In the conditioned state, we neglect the interests of the spirit, caring only for the demands of the gross body. One day we’ll be interested in doing well in school, while the next we are focused on landing a good job. Once those issues are taken care of, we shift our attention to areas of sense gratification. “I want to lose weight; I want a better car; I want to marry a beautiful wife, etc.”
These issues are all certainly important, but they deal exclusively with matter. Even the interactions between men and women are considered material affairs because the focus remains on the bodily features of the other person. That is how attraction works after all. Spirituality is something which transcends all of these concerns. Spirituality helps us reconnect not only with our own spirit, but with the source of all spirit: God. The Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in existence, state that spirituality really means dharma, or one’s occupational duty. This duty applies to every single person, regardless of their age, gender, nationality, or race. This duty is also eternal because it relates to the soul, which itself is eternal.
How do we practice this occupational duty? Moreover, what does this duty entail? Dharma means abiding by a set of rules and regulations aimed at keeping us connected with the soul’s eternal companion, Paramatma, or God. While our individual soul is the driving force of all our actions, the Supersoul [Paramatma] is the driving force of the workings of nature. This Supersoul is an expansion of the original soul of the universe, Lord Krishna, or God. The Supersoul is so wonderful because it resides within the heart of every living entity. We can think of the Paramatma as a sort of neutral witness which is responsible for all activity, and yet still aloof from everything.
Dharma is the set of guidelines which keeps us acting in the interests of God. In this way, it is a much more complete definition for spirituality than is religion. The present problem, however, is that most of us are unaware of the presence of the Supersoul, and even of our own soul. So how do we rekindle this awareness? This is where yoga comes in. Yoga can be translated to mean plus or addition; it is the practice which aims to reconnect the soul with the Supersoul. Yoga is really the term to use when describing activity which has spirituality as its focus.
How do we practice yoga? There are generally four kinds of yogas. One type involves the performance of work, or fruitive activity. Known as karma-yoga, this discipline involves performing specific activities and then giving the results over to God. Another type is jnana-yoga, which is the linking of the soul with the Supersoul through the acquisition of knowledge – reading books, understanding the difference between matter and spirit, and realizing that every living entity is equal. A third kind of yoga is known either as dhyana or hatha. This yoga is what most of us are familiar with – awkward sitting postures, intense breathing exercises, and deep meditation. For this yoga to be practiced correctly, one must focus the mind on Lord Vishnu, the four-armed expansion of Lord Krishna. Vishnu is the all-pervading aspect of God, as evidenced by His residence in the heart of every living entity.
When a person takes up any of these three yoga systems and performs the related exercises properly, they can most certainly realize the presence of God, either in His feature as impersonal Brahman or the Supersoul. Another thing these yogas have in common is that they help the individual in some way. This should make sense because why would someone take up yoga if it didn’t provide some personal benefit? After all, self-interest is the driving force behind all of our activities. Yet there is a fourth type of yoga which not only helps the practitioner, but even goes one step further by attracting God. This wonderful system, known as bhakti-yoga [devotional service], gives pleasure to the soul and also to the source of the soul: Lord Krishna.
How does this work exactly? What does bhakti involve? To find the answers to these questions, we need only look to the greatest bhakti-yogini, Shrimati Radharani. Who is Radharani? The Vedas, being the original scriptures, tell us that God is God for everyone. This means that one’s religious beliefs are not important. Whether one believes in God or not, or whether they call Him by a specific name is not really important. God is always God, and His love is available for every single person. Since the term “God” is a little vague, the Vedas kindly expand on the term. They tell us that God has an original form, from which all other forms of the divine emanate. This original form is known as Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This description is a little more accurate than the term “God”. Krishna is supreme because there is no one else above Him. He is a personality in that He is purusha, or spirit. He has thoughts, activities, likes, and dislikes. He is not a mortal person like us, but He is nevertheless a separate entity with His own intelligence guiding His activities. He is the source of Godhead, which means that God can take many forms. This doesn’t mean there are many Gods, but rather many different forms of the original Lord. These forms exist for the purposes of carrying out specific activities and also to attract different kinds of devotees. Some people are attracted by God’s opulence, so they choose to worship Him in a reverential manner. To allow such people to serve Him, the Lord expands Himself into Lord Vishnu, who has four arms, immense beauty and opulence, and lives with the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi.
As most of us find out through experience, the strongest emotions in life come from romantic love. These emotions are natural, for no one has to teach a man and a woman to be attracted to one another. This type of emotion can also be directed at God. Since it is the highest emotion in the material world, it also represents the topmost emotional exchange in relation to spiritual life. Those who view God in a romantic way, an entity which provides the most pleasure to the soul, can worship the Lord in His original form as Krishna.
The word “Krishna” means all-attractive. Lord Krishna is so kind that He comes to earth in every millennium to annihilate miscreants and enact pastimes for the pleasure of His devotees. When Krishna comes to earth, He brings His spiritual home to this world, along with all His associates. The area of land known as Vrindavana is where Krishna enacted His childhood pastimes when He appeared on earth some five thousand years ago. This same place, Vrindavana, exists in the spiritual world, and it is where Krishna lives eternally. He never leaves Vrindavana. Even if He has to go somewhere else, He always keeps His original form in Vrindavana.
Great sages documented the activities which Krishna performed in Vrindavana five thousand years ago. From these descriptions, we get an idea of what the Lord looks like. He is described as Shyamasundara, meaning a beautiful person with the complexion of a dark rain cloud. He is eternally youthful, so His beauty never diminishes. The great sages tried their best to describe God’s greatness, so as a result, the Vedic texts are quite voluminous. A great way to accurately describe something is to use comparison. In this regard, the sages used Cupid as a way to describe Krishna’s attractiveness. Most of us are familiar with the concept of Cupid, a god of love who is attractive in his own right and can also induce others to become attracted to other people. In the Vedic tradition, Cupid is known as the demigod Madana, or Kamadeva. Kama is sense gratification and deva means a demigod. A demigod has extraordinary powers and is godlike, but is still not equally as potent as God. Madana is the authority on love, sex, and general sense gratification. Lord Krishna is so attractive that His attraction exceeds that of Madana, hence one of His names is Madana-mohana. Mohana means an enchanter, thus Krishna is an enchanter of Madana.
These descriptions give us an idea of Krishna’s greatness and His attractiveness. Shrimati Radharani is Krishna’s eternal consort, the eternal pleasure potency of the Lord. More than just a wife or girlfriend, Radha gives Krishna the greatest pleasure. She is a pure devotee, meaning she only practices devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. What’s even more amazing is that she has no idea what bhakti-yoga is, or at least she pays it no attention. Her devotion is pure and spontaneous, so she has no desire for liberation or the practice of any religion. She is always thinking about Krishna and how to make Him happy. The reason she is the perfect devotee is that not only does she always think about Krishna, but Krishna always thinks about her. As attractive as Krishna is, Radharani is so beautiful that she even attracts Krishna. Hence she is also known by the name of Madana-mohana-mohini.
Why is this important? While we are jumping from different kinds of yoga and even different religious faiths, the key to perfection lies right in front of us in the form of Radha-Krishna. They are considered one entity, and are worshiped together in temples around the world. Radha-Krishna is the meeting of the energetic, Krishna, and the energy, Radha. We need only look to their example to see how to achieve perfection in life. Krishna is so nice that He can accept unlimited numbers of devotees and enjoy with them in any manner they choose. Radha is also extremely kind in that she is more than happy to recommend devotees to Krishna. This is yet another reason for her attractiveness; she is the most unselfish person in the world.
The best reason to take up devotional service is that it will attract Krishna. Who could imagine such a thing? You’re practicing religion and you’re attracting the mind of the Supreme Lord at the same time! The key ingredient in devotional service is love. The sentiment must be genuine. As long as the desire is to please the Supreme Lord, He will make sure that success will be achieved. Any person can practice bhakti-yoga by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This sacred formula is the greatest prayer because it is a kind petition to Radha-Krishna to allow us to engage in their service for eternity. This chanting is the topmost occupation for the soul, the purification of all religious practice.