Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, stands on the bank of the River Yamuna with Srimati Radharani, His eternal consort, in this scene in Goloka Vrndavana, the Lord’s spiritual abode. The prancing peacock’s jubilant calls, the fragrance of the lotus and jasmine spreading on the cool, soughing breezes, the fresh springtime atmosphere-all lend the perfect touch to this most exalted spiritual event: the meeting of Radha and Krsna.
Because the spiritual love epitomized in Their meeting resembles the attraction between a young man and a young woman, it is generally misunderstood by those who try to fathom it without reference to the Vedic sastra, or revealed scriptures. These books draw a sharp distinction between love of God and what passes for love between ordinary human beings. “The desire to gratify one’s own senses is lust [kama],” writes Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja in his 16th-century devotional classic Caitanya-caritamrta, “but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krsna is love [prema]. . . . Therefore lust and love are quite different. Lust is like dense darkness, but love is like the bright sun.”
Our original nature is to dwell in the “bright sun” of love of Krsna in the spiritual world. But somehow we become envious of Krsna in His position as supreme enjoyer, and with that envy our love for Him turns to lust and we enter the darkness of the material world. Thus it is lust that brings us to this world of forgetfulness of God, lust that keeps us here, and lust that prevents us from knowing Lord Krsna as our eternal master, guide, friend, and lover. Only when we transmute that lust back into love for Krsna can we realize that we are His eternal servants and that our real happiness lies in serving His senses, not our own.
Bhakti-yoga, the practice of Krsna consciousness, or devotional service, changes lust into love of God. The first step is hearing-hearing the name of Krsna in the Hare Krsna mantra and hearing the teachings about Krsna given through the revealed scriptures by the great devotees of the Lord and the Lord Himself. But all-important in this process is that the sound we hear (or the words we read) come from the right source, a pure devotee of God. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes this way about hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krsna: “It is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that one who hears the pastimes of Krsna with the gopis [the cowherd girls in the spiritual world, of whom Srimati Radharani is the foremost] will attain the highest platform of devotional service and will be freed from the lust that overwhelms everyone’s heart in the material world. In other words, by hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krsna, one can get rid of all material lust. . . . Unless one hears from the right source, however, one will misinterpret the pastimes of Radha and Krsna, considering them to be ordinary affairs between a man and a woman. In this way one will be misguided.”
So let us not be misguided. Krsna is God, the all-powerful, all-perfect creator, maintainer, and destroyer of everything, and Srimati Radharani is His most beloved worshiper (Her very name means “one who worships Krsna best”). Since we are all servants of the Lord, each of us has some role to play in His eternal pastimes of love. But we can discover that role, our original spiritual identity, only if we carefully follow the instructions of those exalted souls who have realized God and whose only motivation is compassion for those of us suffering in this material world, far from our spiritual home. If we follow their instructions, we will one day realize the truth of the unlimitedly sweet pastimes of the Lord-and this will be the perfection of our lives.