Aradhana means worship. It is the source-word for Rhadarani’s name. How shall anyone surrender to the Lord? Unconditionally and whole heartedly, as Radha did. Could there be anything unconditional, as one is always expecting some form of prasada, isn’t it? Surrender does not purport abiding to the person Krishna but to the Self. Merging in the Self is pure. She had no illusions about her devotions as she grasped the Self in Him to be the Self in Her. She is the perfect embodiment of devotion. Come what may, she excelled in worshipping Krishna. She knew the end and the separation but still no one can be a greater bhakta than Radha. As Madana-mohana, the Lord is the attractor of Cupid but it was Radha who turned out to be the ‘attractor of the attractor of Cupid. Sri Krishna, who does not need material opulence of any form, finds Radharani irresistible. Together, they become One.
The Vrindavan gopis’ story is told in the Bhagavata Purana. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu hails Radha as Shakti and Jaya Deva in his Gita Govinda sings praises of her love towards Krishna in a romantic setting. Skanda Purana, mentions 16,000 gopis and that reduced to 108 culminates the eight principal gopis. Of this, Radharani and Chandravalli are close to Sri Krishna. Finally it is Radharani who is spoken for her ‘parakiya-rasa’ or eternal mental love. Jaya Deva’s Gita says this all so poetically.
Radha, the milkmaid, was given in marriage to Rayana. But her heart belonged to the Gokula cowherd, Sri Krishna first and their relationship is esotric. On the moonlit nights did Krishna’s flute send the divine invitation of sweet melody. She would leave the house, risk infamy and ignore danger just to be with the Lord by the banks of the Yamuna river. Together, they become one to dance and sing in the flowery meadows of Madhuvana. Finally and one day, Krishna had to leave. Radha is left with his flute as she would not live without His melody. Radha and Krishna were perfect examples of the longing for man’s insatiable desire to become one with the divine. ‘Atma Tu Radhika Tasya’ – Radha you are His Soul; Aradhyate Asau itii Radha – Radha is a devotee, worshipper of Krishna but she is also the worshipful, devoyed by Krishna. Indeed Radha, the Sarva-kanta Shironmani – the crown jewel of Krishna’s gopis, can be said to be the Goddess of Devotional Service.
There is a story told of Krishna hiding from the gopis of Vrindavana. He disguised himself as the four armed Narayana and hid beneath a bush. The gopis respectfully paid obeisance and moved. They did not find Narayana that attractive. Indeed the gopis prayed to him for the benediction of Krishna’s eternal association! In playing this lila, Krishna was cooly maintaining his Narayana status while the gopis set out to search their lover-boy, Sri Krishna. Now, Radharani passed by. Krishna tries to hold poise but was unable to do so, He kept slipping back to His original Krishna form. There was no way He could disguise as Narayana.
The story is told to illustrate the great influence of pure transcendental love. The Lord reciprocates according to the mode and degree of surrender. This reciprocation of divine love between Radharani and Sri Krishna is the fundamental essence of spiritual love. Krishna is the origin of everything including love. The more Radharani tries to love and please Him, the more He reciprocates to please her. Therefore although the Lord is unlimited, both He Himself and His pleasure potency are always increasing. This is very much the blissful reciprocation of the love-life of Radha and Sri Krishna. And she was in control of her devotional service without expecting returns, not even a future life. Sri Krishna states “endeavouring with great determination, bowing before Me, these great souls perpetually worship me with devotion” – Gita 9.14. Radha maintained this spiritual balance and bowed to Him unconditionally. By bowing and prostrating to Him, she gave herself over to Him; and by worshipping Him, her individuality got merged in Him. Om Rahdaye Namaha.