Perfect love and the perfect object of love.
By Pranada Devi Dasi
Narada prayed: “O you who are the life force of my Lord Krishna! You are the supreme goddess of bhakti, divine love, and you bewilder even Govinda with your charm.”

Excerpted from Bhakti Shakti: Goddess of Divine Love, by Pranada Comtois. Copyright © 2022 Pranada L. Comtois. All rights reserved. This excerpt, the first part of Chapter Six, retains the book’s style for Sanskrit and other considerations.

The printed book is available from the Krishna.com Store and Amazon.com, where the Kindle version can also be found. Audible.com has the audio version.

Chapter Six

Perfect Love and the Perfect Object of Love

In times past, Vrisha-bhanu Maharaja, a village king, left his home to walk to the Yamuna River to take his midday bath in the peaceful flow of its sacred waters. In the fields he passed on his way, cows lowed and peacocks cooed as if they were expressing relief that the summer’s oppressive heat was finally abating. On this half-moon day of Bhadra (August-September), Vrisha-bhanu was charmed by the beauty around him. The earth was bursting with green in all shades, nourished by the recent monsoons.

As he neared the water, he saw a dazzling light in the middle of the river. He stared at it until he made out a glowing golden lotus flower. Actually, he wondered, is it a large lotus or a sun blazing brighter than a thousand suns?

Astonished, Vrisha-bhanu waded into the sparkling river. He saw that the petals of that breathtaking lotus cradled a beautiful baby girl with a complexion of molten gold. His eyes widened and he gasped. Everyone had said that the girls in his village were exceptionally beautiful – like the goddesses of heaven – but the beauty of this delicate girl was unsurpassed. With great care he scooped her gently into his arms and took her home. The baby neither opened her eyes nor made a sound.

His wife, Kirtida, was overjoyed at the unexpected arrival of the baby. The couple named her Radha. Each feature of the child’s face, every one of her limbs, was so stunningly beautiful that no one could take their eyes off her.

But there was sadness, too. Even days later, the child still had not opened her eyes or made a sound. Would this special child of extraordinary birth be blind and dumb? As this question piqued the sorrowful hearts of the villagers, the great sage Narada Muni, sweetly strumming his vina, came to King Vrisha-bhanu’s home. The grieving monarch explained the situation and, knowing of Narada’s ability to perform miracles, placed his exquisite daughter in the sage’s lap.

As soon as the child touched him, Narada was overwhelmed by ecstasy. The hairs on his body stood on end, tears gushed from his eyes, and he steadied himself so he could remain sitting upright. Sobered, the sage was stunned into silence.

Then Radha decided to reveal her identity to the saint, who she knew had developed great love for her by practicing yoga sadhana. So in a divine vision no one but Narada could see, Radha appeared to him, sitting on a gem-studded throne under a wish-fulfilling tree with thousands of goddesses surrounding and worshiping her. A shimmering glow softened the air around her, and the ecstasy he was feeling, Narada realized, was Radha’s divine love entering his heart.

Narada then closed his eyes and silently offered prayers: “O you who are the life force of my Lord Krishna! You are the supreme goddess of bhakti, divine love, and you bewilder even Govinda [Krishna] with your charm. All the demigods headed by Brahma and Shiva meditate on your lotus feet. You expand into Maha-Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, but you are the adi-shakti, the original goddess, the source of all material and spiritual goddesses.”

When the vision dissipated, Narada handed Radha back to her father, who looked at the sage apprehensively.

“Your daughter will fill everyone with bliss, and your glory will spread far and wide.”

“But will she open her eyes?” Vrisha-bhanu wanted to know.

“She does not wish to see, hear, or speak about anyone or anything of this world. Don’t worry. One day very soon everything will become clear.”

In the meantime, Vrisha-bhanu and Kirtida decided to arrange a festival to celebrate Radha’s birth. On the day of the event, guests assembled and the celebrations began. Then Nanda and Yashoda arrived from nearby Gokul, with Rohini and their small boys, Krishna and Rama.

Kirtida told Yashoda how happy she was to be blessed with a daughter, but explained that Radha appeared to be deaf, dumb, and blind. While the two mothers spoke, Krishna, who had just passed his first birthday, crawled around the courtyard. Arriving at Radha’s crib, he pulled himself up and peered in at her beautiful moonlike face. As soon as Radha smelled the exotic fragrance of Krishna’s transcendental body, she opened her eyes and looked directly at him. Krishna smiled ecstatically, and Radha let out a joyful cry. It was her first sound, and a delighted Vrisha-bhanu and Kirtida rushed to her crib to find her beautiful blue eyes wide open.

Principal Shaktis and What They Reveal

The story I tell above comes from the Padma Purana, told by Shiva to his wife, Parvati (Durga). In this story we hear one of the many statements from a sacred text that speak of Sri Radha as the adi-shakti, the original energy. Her preeminent position at the apex of the spiritual and material universes highlights love’s unique position as the original and primary power. Doesn’t that make abundant sense? What is more primal, more significant, or more meaningful than love?

As we learned earlier, yoga philosophy states that there are unlimited shaktis. The yoga world in the West is becoming increasingly aware of iccha-shakti, jnana-shakti, and kriya-shakti, the energies of will and desire, knowledge, and action. But there are many, many more shaktis.

Luckily, all shaktis fall within three broad categories of existence, making it easier to understand them. These are jiva-shakti, maya-shakti, and bhakti-shakti. We’ll define and explore these in the next three chapters.

When we understand this shakti triad, a veil of illusion is withdrawn and the behind-the-scenes workings of the world and our own minds are revealed – sometimes with surprising clarity. Aspects of our self, psychology, material nature, and more, which were clouded in mystery, suddenly become self-evident, even common sense. Perhaps we’ll find ourselves more able to identify the mysterious at play in our lives, or understand what has been causing discord. My readers often explain how they become empowered to effect positive change when they begin to see with the light of this knowledge.

Especially important for realizing the self and claiming our identity is understanding our relationship with the two shaktis personified as Durga Maa and Sri Radha. Before we learn about the shakti triad, though, let’s explore the source of shakti, the shaktiman.

Shaktiman

Shaktis don’t exist independently. They don’t spring from nowhere; shaktis come from an energetic source and cannot exist without that source. The substratum of an energy is called the shaktiman in Sanskrit. The suffix man in shaktiman indicates an unbreakable relationship: shakti is possessed by the shaktiman. Shakti is never independent. Where there is shakti, there is shaktiman.

For instance, the sun’s rays are the shakti of the sun, which is the shaktiman. A song is the shakti of a musician, who’s the shaktiman. There are no rays, there is no song, without their energetic source, the sun or a musician.

While we can’t imagine the sun without its rays, and so we think of the rays as synonymous with the sun, the rays and the sun are different. The sun’s rays depend on the sun for their existence – if there were no sun, there could be no sunshine. The sun and its rays are therefore one and different simultaneously.

So we can say that an energy is one with and different from its shaktiman at the same time. Shaktis have their own existences, yet they’re dependent on their shaktiman. Where there is shakti, there must be shaktiman.

In the yoga philosophies, the one Absolute is the Shaktiman of all energies. This nondual Reality, the substratum of existence and all shaktis, manifests in three unique features. To understand something about these three manifestations of Shaktiman, we’re helped by reflecting on how reality at the microcosmic level mimics the macrocosmic.

We are a unit of spirit/consciousness; Shaktiman is supreme spirit/consciousness. As the self is a combination of the three features of spirit (sat-chit-ananda) – being, knowing, and loving – so too is Supreme Consciousness.

Supreme Consciousness manifests a unique form for each of these three characteristics of spirit, known as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan.

Most traditions recognize the first two of these three features, though they are known by different names. One feature of the Godhead (Supreme Consciousness) is predominantly being, one predominantly knowing, and one predominantly loving. In other words, the one Godhead manifests to our vision in the manner we wish to see it. Reality shows himself in three features in response to how we approach him.

Consider when we look at an object in this world. We can’t see any object fully. For example, when I look at the monitor on my desk, I see the screen, but I can’t see all the sides of the monitor from where I sit. If this is true for a small object in this world, how much more does it apply to our vision of the unlimited? When you’re very close to an object, you see it one way, and when you’re very far away, you see it differently. In other words, the same object appears differently according to our position in relation to it. In this example, we’re speaking about physical position; in regard to the Absolute, we’re speaking about conceptual position. Based on your concept of Reality, Reality reveals itself accordingly.

This is another way of saying that because Reality comprises three features of spirit/consciousness, when we glimpse Reality our vision will be occupied by one of these three features that constitute the totality of Reality. We’re not shaping the Supreme but seeing him from a particular angle.

Brahman corresponds with the being feature of Shaktiman.

Paramatma corresponds with the knowing feature of Shaktiman.

Bhagavan corresponds with the loving feature of Shaktiman.

We’ve discussed how loving is the most whole state of the self because it includes being and knowing. The same applies to the Godhead: its loving feature is the fullest expression of the Absolute. Bhagavan is the source of both Brahman and Paramatma and all shaktis.

Here’s another way of identifying these three features of the one Reality: Brahman is the featureless Absolute devoid of shaktis. Paramatma is the Absolute with shaktis. He governs and enforces cosmic laws, thus engendering awe and reverence toward him. Bhagavan is the Absolute with shaktis who is a playful, carefree youth arousing our feelings of sweet affection.

One of the many names of Bhagavan is Krishna. Krish means “existence,” and na means “bliss.” Krishna is an ocean of good qualities and the very form of blissful existence. In contrast to our bodies, which are made of material elements, Krishna’s body is made of condensed bliss and love, or ananda; he is the very form of bliss. Thus in his association we experience the highest happiness. Sri Krishna’s humanlike (but not human) manifestation is the Absolute’s original form – his form when he’s fully himself.

The name Bhagavan literally refers to the “possessor of all shaktis in full.” He is the Absolute endowed with complete omniscience (jnana-shakti), omnipotence (kriya-shakti/aisvarya), influence (iccha-shakti/virya), prosperity of all kinds (sri/lakshmi), fame (yashas), and the detachment from all material products and phenomena (vairagya).

And here we’ve come back around to shaktis. In yoga philosophy, understanding the relationships between the shaktis and Shaktiman is called sambandha. Accurate sambandha enables us to proceed to abhidheya, or a practice, which leads us to the prayojana, or goal.