Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Bhava Police, Revisited: I'm sensing a head-game
"Bhavas in Bhakti" by Sri Swami Sivananda is a very helpful guide to the various bhavas or moods that one can experience in their relationship with God.

However, my issue with it, as some may already be aware based on a couple of my previous posts, has to do with the typical red-flagging that occurs whenever one of the bhavas, madhurya, is handled. 

The irony is that one section of Sivananda's article on bhavas is even prefaced with the following statement:
"There are five kinds of Bhava in Bhakti. They are Shanta, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya and madhurya Bhavas. These Bhavas or feelings are natural to human beings and so these are easy to practice. Practice whichever Bhava suits your temperament."
Okay, so basically bhavas are natural, personality-driven things.  Nothing high or mighty about them requiring special secret knowledge or spending years in a monastery somewhere in the Himalayas, right?

So then the article goes into detail about the various bhavas:
"In Shanta Bhava, the devotee is Shanta or peaceful. He does not jump and dance. He is not highly emotional. His heart is filled with love and joy. Bhishma was a Shanta Bhakta.

Sri Hanuman was a Dasya Bhakta. He had Dasya Bhava, servant attitude. He served Lord Rama whole-heartedly. He pleased his Master in all possible ways. He found joy and bliss in the service of his Master.

In Sakhya Bhava, God is a friend of the devotee. Arjuna had this Bhava towards Lord Krishna. The devotee moves with the Lord on equal terms. Arjuna and Krishna used to sit, eat, talk and walk together as intimate friends.

In Vatsalya Bhava, the devotee looks upon God as his child. Yasoda had this Bhava with Lord Krishna. There is no fear in this Bhava, because God is your pet child. The devotee serves, feeds, and looks upon God as a mother does in the case of her child."
So far so good, right?  Now watch what happens when we get to madhurya bhava, which starts out calmly enough:
"The last is Madhurya Bhava or Kanta Bhava. This is the highest form of Bhakti. The devotee regards the Lord as his Lover. This was the relation between Radha and Krishna. This is Atma-Samarpana. The lover and the beloved become one. The devotee and God feel one with each other and still maintain a separateness in order to enjoy the bliss of the play of love between them. This is oneness in separation and separation in oneness. Lord Gauranga, Jayadeva, Mira and Andal had this Bhava."
Here's where the article's laid-back preface -- you know, the statement that says these Bhavas or feelings are natural to human beings, are easy to practice, and are based upon temperament -- is completely contradicted:
"A Caution: Madhurya Bhava is absolutely different from conjugality of earthly experience. One should not be mistaken for the other. Earthly conjugality is purely selfish and is undertaken only because it gives pleasure to one's own self."
Okay, let's stop there for just a minute.  First of all, since when is earthly conjugality only "purely selfish" and "undertaken only because it gives pleasure to oneself"?  Nice work making what is an otherwise mutually loving relationship look like one of the worst sins on earth.

Continuing on...
"But in love for God it is because it gives pleasure to God and not for the sake of the devotee. Divine love is not selfish. It is born of sattva. But earthly lust is born of rajas and attachment to bodies. Earthly conjugality is the outcome of egoisitc self-regarding egoistic feeling, while divine communion is the outcome of other-regarding feeling devoid of egoism."
And where was all this concern about the devotee also experiencing such pleasures as love, joy, and bliss in the other bhavas, above?  Why are those pleasures okay in the other bhavas, but not this one?

Obviously someone has a problem with conjugal types of relationships in general.  If a religious system is going to compare a human being's relationship with the Divine in romantic terms to begin with, that system has to take all that comes with such a relationship.

Now, maybe the ascetic hermits hiding in the mountains aren't aware of this, but, in a conjugal relationship, both parties are going to experience pleasure.  Just as in the other bhavas mentioned in the article, the individual, inevitably, is going to encounter joy and bliss in madhurya bhava, and that should be no more discouraged in madhurya than in any other bhava.  There are just as many opportunities for selfishness in the other bhavas as there are in madhurya, yet not a peep is made about that being a concern.  How strange.

Moving right along ...
"Strong selfishness is the root of worldly passion; divine love is the product of loss of egoism. This is the greatest difference between lust (kama) and divine love (prema). The two are related as darkness is related to light."
Again, "strong selfishness" isn't only to be found in the conjugal context, so why all the warnings about it are limited to just this one is beyond me.

As far as lust and divine love being related as darkness is to light, that can be read a couple of ways.  Either he's saying that there's no relationship between the two at all, or that there's an interplay between them.  I see it as the latter -- you can't have shadows (i.e., darkness) without a light shining somewhere.  Secondly -- and this is one of the benefits of not allowing only one religion to have a monopoly on the things of God -- the Christian scriptures indicate that God created both darkness and light, and that in Him there is no darkness at all

Another very important point is that some teachings say that lust is very much a part of madhurya.  The gopis themselves were said to have experienced it:
SB 7.1.31: "My dear King Yudhiṣṭhira, the gopīs by their lusty desires, Kamsa by his fear, Sisupala and other kings by envy, the Yadus by their familial relationship with Krishna, you Pandavas by your great affection for Krishna, and we, the general devotees, by our devotional service, have obtained the mercy of Krishna."
In a different part of the same source, lust is basically given the green-light:
SB 7.1.26: "Therefore by enmity or by devotional service, by fear, by affection or by lusty desire — by all of these or any one of them — if a conditioned soul somehow or other concentrates his mind upon the Lord, the result is the same, for the Lord, because of His blissful position, is never affected by enmity or friendship." 
Not to mention other statements made by the "experts" on the subject (see Vindication: I love how the Lord works!).  And I would not be the least bit surprised if lust were very much a part of the writings of such devotees as the article mentioned previously, above.  Read some of the poems by Mira or Andal (especially Andal) and tell me if there is not even the slightest  possibility of some form of lust factoring into their relationship at least to some degree.

On to the next:
"No development of earthly affection, however perfect it may be, can lead one to supreme joy of divine communion. Lust lurks in the heart due to the passion that burns in the core of things. Divine love is unknown to the man of the world, however religious he may be. The secret of divine love cannot be understood, and should not be tried to be understood, so long as man is only a man and woman only a woman. The austere transformation of the human into the divine is the beginning of true love for God."
This part makes it seem as though earthly affection and lust are immovable obstacles blocking our relationship to God.  Yet, again, this same individual started this section of the article off by saying:
"These Bhavas or feelings are natural to human beings and so these are easy to practice. Practice whichever Bhava suits your temperament."
That statement presumably includes the madurya bhava!  Yet suddenly all that is "natural to human beings", all that's "easy to practice", all that pertains to one's own "temperament" -- which would include the aforementioned "earthly affection and lust" -- are now a roadblock in this bhava only.

Now, obviously, Divine love is going to be God's area of expertise, being that He's ... y'know ... Divine and all.  Given that He is divine, any flaws on the human side of the relationship will, in due time, be addressed by Him.  Since we are talking about God Almighty here, if "lust" or "selfishness" or any other human character-flaw were to become problematic for Him (which apparently it won't, according to SB 7.1.26, above), it's well within His power to fix it.  Divine love fixes things.  We are His handiwork, and I doubt there's any religion out there that doesn't see one of God's roles as being improving us humans.  He finishes what He starts.

I personally don't think it's Lord Krishna who is freaked out over the perceived perils of madhurya bhava.  I think it's other people, who are one of a few things:
  • They may be simply afraid of it, or ...
  • They may have mishandled conjugal issues themselves somehow and therefore just assume no one else could do better, or ...
  • Because this bhava has been elevated above the others (for what reason I have no clue), they're just plain jealous and therefore want to ensure that those who may be experiencing this bhava don't fully rest in it.
All the writings that I have seen by the poet-saints who were  known to have had this bhava sound anything but uptight -- or secretive -- concerning their obviously romantic feelings towards God.  Those who seem not to have this bhava are the ones that insist that, as conjugally-oriented as this bhava is said to be, it's not really that way.  Those who wrote under the influence of their madhurya sentiments express it in ways that are strikingly similar to my experience of it.  Who am I going to believe?  Which assessment of France would you believe more -- a textbook written by those who have never actually been there, or the travel-journals of those who have been there? 

In closing, I have to say that I suspect something of a head-game going on with how madhurya is dogmatized upon.  It's said it's like the feelings one would have for one's lover, then it gets turned around by the insistence that we shouldn't have those feelings.

Look -- either it was meant to be that way or it wasn't.  If something wasn't meant to be understood in a conjugal sense, it should never have been couched in conjugal terms!  And if it wasn't meant for human consumption, then it should never have been served to humans for their consumption via human filters of perception!

If there were, originally, any concern about folks viewing God as Lover in a way that they would humanly understand, then I would think that the whole tradition of rasa lila, madhurya bhava, and all that comes with it would never have seen the light of day.  Whether Lord Krishna's romantic pastimes with the gopis was made up later or was something that actually took place, neither He nor those who wrote about them seemed the least bit worried that conjugal love between God and humankind might do what it do in the hearts of those so inclined! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary, My Sweet Lord!

Today, May 21st, marks one year since my 'rapture', when God clarified in my heart the image of His form as Lord Krishna, thereby merging and matching His external, physical attributes with what I had already believed regarding His inner substance  and character as the Savior of the (whole) World, King of Creation, Lord of Love, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Mighty God, King of Peace, the Alpha and the Omega, Divine Lover... I could go on and on.

I thank Him for all the love He has shown me not only in the past year, but all my life leading up to it.  He's my true Love, and He caught me up at a time in my life when I needed Him the most.   May He continue to lead me in His eternal Divine Dance!

To Him belongs the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, Forever and Ever.  

Happy Anniversary, my Sweet Lord!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Preach it, sister!

"This infamy, O my Prince,
is delicious!
Some revile me,
others applaud,
I simply follow my incomprehensible road.
A razor-thin path
but you meet some good people,
a terrible path
but you hear a true word.

Turn back?
Because the wretched stare and see nothing?
O Mira's Lord is noble and dark,
and slanderers
rake only themselves
over the coals."

~ Mirabai

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dreams say so much

divine danceI think I have figured out what a dream I had a few months ago was conveying to me.

By way of background, I was wrestling with some rather uptight doctrinaire claims by a particular religion with regards to the 'proper' way to approach God.  Being very unorthodox myself, my counter-arguments to those claims got some petticoats in a pinch.  

So one night during that time, I had a dream that I was running around in a house trying to close as many windows and doors as I could, because there were several skunks trying to get inside. 

Yes, they were very cute.  But they were skunks. 

I think the dream symbolized protecting oneself against the stink raised by black-and-white thinking!  

Pretty wild, eh? 
b-6.png Divine dance

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eureka! It wasn't a "religion" after all!

I had a full-on eureka-moment the other day, when it occurred to me that the reason why I was having such a hard time defining my relationship with Krishna in religious terms, is because what I've got going on here was never a "religion" in the first place.   It's a Relationship!

It was apples and oranges ... I was foolishly trying to describe an orange using terminology exclusive to apples! No wonder I was wracking my head, trying to determine where I fit into the religious spectrum, tipping sacred cows and up-ending cherished apple-carts in the process. 

Turns out I was religion-free all along, and simply immersed in a love-relationship with Love Himself. The realization of this was like having a dislocated shoulder suddenly pop back into place.  The need to know where I was supposed to fit in some religious spectrum vanished.  What I have here is not supposed to look like Hinduism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, or even Pastafarianism. :) It's a different thing entirely.
In a way, I feel as though I had been insulting this blessed gift of relationship with the Divine by calling it mere "religion". Kind of like the guy in the humorous old Polaner All-Fruit commercial, when he would offhandedly refer to the product as simply "jelly". Religion might be "jelly".  But this here is All-Fruit, baby! 

This would explain also why I refuse to see the Lord as little more than a ticket out of "samsara" or even "hell".  As the Song of Songs 2:16 puts it, He's my Beloved... and I am His. Period. 

"Religion" never had anything to do with it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Krishna Love

"Krishna Love" by MC Yogi with Jai Uttal

Sri Krishna
You're pure charisma
Your flute playing
is so intoxicating
Singing Your song
down in Vrindavan
Enchanting the Gopis
and all Your devotees
Filling the hearts
of all the bhakti yogis
In a trance You dance
the divine romance
of the Rasa Lila
with Radharani
In the Bhagavad Gita
You teach us bhakti
Your divine pass times
are so sublime
They open the heart
and reassure the mind
Providing shelter
when the monsoon enters
Balancing a mountain
on the tip of Your finger
You're the sweet butter face
called Baby Gopala
The lover of Radha
and the killer of Kansa
To You dark blue
 just like the ocean,
I offer my devotion
with all of my emotion
Hare Krishna!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Keep Doing That

You have wrecked my body.
Keep doing that.

I am more well with this deep ache
of missing You

than content with the
physical wonders
You can pacify us with.

~ Mirabai ~

Monday, April 9, 2012

A note of caution

I think I’m understanding a little better the whys and wherefores of a recent run-in I had with an ISKCON cult member after reading about the experiences of another former member of the group (link is at the end of this post).

I had put aside my anti-cult-watchdog tendencies awhile ago – and I want to be sure this blog doesn't become more about what I'm against  than Who I am for – but  I think I may need to revive them just a bit, at least in this case; I feel twice as responsible with regards to ISKCON, since my Krishna-centric postings might inadvertently encourage people to look further into Krishna via that organization, since it's easily one of the first places one would look to learn more about Him, and/or to connect with other devotees. 

Since I personally link Krishna with Christocentric Universalism more than I do with ISKCON or Hinduism, I feel it’s only right that I make my reservations about ISKCON more clear if I'm going to continue bringing Him up as I do.

So, on occasion, I'll be posting some things pertaining to ISKCON that folks might want to be aware of. PLEASE NOTE: While to say that ISKCON is an "evil" organization might be overkill, it does have its dark side, and, at the very least, involvement in it could take over one's life, becoming a substitute for a relationship with God if one isn't careful. And if I thought that the things I post about Krishna ultimately led someone into that sort of existence, I would feel terrible.

Without further ado, below is an incredibly informative and helpful article, "On Leaving ISKCON", by someone who was with the organization for 17 years:

On Leaving ISKCON, by Steven J. Gelberg

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Blue God"

The following is my Bohemian Vaishnava version of the song, "Rock God", by Selena Gomez and Katy Perry, containing some modifications which reflect my relationship with Lord Krishna,  and the reactions it has caused.
(Click here to listen to the original).

●♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥●•٠·˙Blue God˙·٠•●♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥

Preacher man got inside my head and he said,  he said,
Hey girl, don't throw those doctrines away!
Pastor don't mourn 'cause I've given my heart to the
Blue God and the flute that He plays
And the Lord has blessed my bohemian ways.
Oh I'm so possessed by the music
The music He plays


I can't stop my feet from dancing
To the sound of His flute
Oh no,
I fell in love with my Blue God
I can't keep my hips from swaying
To His sweet melody,
you see...
I fell...
in love...
with my True Blue God

Guru man got inside my head and he said, he said,

Hey girl, your views on God ain't right!
Swami, some things for me have come to light
Don't cast the first stone cause I'm not alone
And I still believe that God is the One.
And the Lord has blessed my so-bohemian ways.



No, I wouldn't change a thing even if I could
Cuz' I chose a path and I'm not looking back
And I'm sorry if I left the Saintly crying over me


Preacher man, preacher man

Guru man, guru man
(Forgive me but I don't know what I do)
Pastor man, pastor man
(Teacher man, why don't you understand)
Clergy man, clergy man

Cause I'm gone, gone,

gone, gone-gone-gone
Yeah I'm gone, gone, gone
With my True Blue God!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Discovering Divine Meaning in the Daily Mundane

I love finding hidden meanings in everyday things.   

In this case, it has to do with a simple car logo, specifically the one belonging to the Mercedes.  

I’ve always liked the name Mercedes because it means “merciful”, a characteristic I immediately associate with God. 

On top of that, the Mercedes logo looks similar to the Celtic triquetra or trinity-knot, which is spiritually symbolic for me as well.  I have long seen it as more representative of God than even the traditional cross would be. 

So, while most would see the logo as a symbol of material affluence, I’m busy coming at it from a totally different angle.  I know, I know ... I can be such a flake!
Well, another layer of meaning made itself evident to me the other day as I was gazing at the logo on a Mercedes in front of me in traffic.  I noticed that, in a basic geometric sort of way, the logo resembled (as the trinity-knot would also do) two hands put together in the Namaste position.  
I was floored – not a good thing to be while driving, so don’t try this at home! 

Now the logo has yet another level of significance that helps keep my mind on my sweet Lord. 
Did I mention I love finding hidden meanings in everyday things? 

Divine Dance


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Condemnation: Breaking the Chains Thereof

"A respected person is one who does his duty, and such a person, even though he may not be a leader, is considered to be glorious. On the other hand one who does not know his duty, or knowing his duty does not execute it is condemned, much like Krishna is condemning Arjuna in this verse. Not knowing one's duty means that a person is responding to the impulses from past sinful activities. Thus every one must clearly understand the duty of the human form of life ' self realization. This is the first important point regarding dharma made in the Bhagavad-gita by Krishna. The conception of what you do must be based on the soul and not the body." 

I'm on a Krishna-related online group and receive messages via email from them every day or so.  Some are helpful, others basically require that I forget the  liberty we now have in  Yeshua, which (by the grace of God) is not gonna happen.  After reading the above commentary on a part of the Bhagavad Gita, I  have this to say:   

The above quote gives some good advice; if I'm understanding it correctly, it advises us to live by the spirit and not the flesh, not letting our body's natural impulses get us into trouble over and over again (in the event that they even were).  Nothing wrong with that.   

However, I object to the condemnatory terms inserted in there.  I believe any religious system that continues to speak  condemnation on the soul today is ignorant of what it was that Yeshua accomplished through his sacrifice on the cross.  If there is indeed only one God, which I believe  to be the case, then anyone who believes in Him (regardless of what name they give Him) cannot ignore offhandedly what He did  through Yeshua and expect to be taken any more seriously than they take Yeshua.  Yes, before Christ,  God may  have handled things differently, but whether that was God Himself actually doing things differently or just people's perception of Him at that particular time in history, His son Yeshua came along and made some major changes.  

According to the new Covenant,  there is now no condemnation for those who are in  Yeshua (Romans 8:1);  in the same way all had died in Adam, now all are made alive in  Yeshua (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Do what you believe to be the right thing --  because even  the most religiously uptight individuals are going to differ on just what the heck that is anyway -- but don't let fear of Divine Condemnation be the  motivating factor, because it is, imo, unfounded.  At this juncture, it's nothing more than a lie perpetrated by the power-hungry to keep people in check.

God is Love.  Here is what Love -- also known as "God" -- is like, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Under the weight of the following words, most of what religions use to keep their adherents in bondage could be neutralized:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails." 
Notice that Love (God) keeps no record of wrongs.  This phrase alone pulls the rug right out from under the "do this or else" attitude behind most religious dogma!  If God's not keeping track of our human failings -- at least not for the purpose of whacking us over our heads with them down the road -- how can such failings land us in a place called "Hell"  or an endless cycle of birth-death-rebirth?  Frankly, I think those two concepts are man-made.  They're just the sorts of petty, punitive things humans would come up with to control people.  An Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent God whose very essence is Love doesn't need such things to bring us to Himself.  A  lesser god might need  'em, if such a god existed,  but not The God.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Dark One is Krishna

What's kinda wild is that later the same evening in which I pulled together the above graphic, we did have our first real thunderstorm of the year. :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sometimes ya just gotta scream

Divine Dance

So help me .... if I come across one more holier-than-thou pontification written by some celibate ascetic trying to tell me how to go about loving God, or saying how I can't possibly understand a bhava I happen to be experiencing first hand, I'm gonna scream.  

I feel like Radha must've felt when her mother-in-law, Jatila, would try to get between her and Krishna.  Kindly step aside, sir and/or madam, you do not want to get between me and my God.  

As if that were even possible... lol!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's All Good!

In light of all the drama I put myself through over the last few days concerning the ‘proper’ feelings to have in relating to God, it occurred to me this morning that there is an awesome song that deals with this very thing, and which encourages  us to experience our emotions as they are and not hold back.

The song is by Michelle Tumes, and is called “Feel”.  Lyrics are to the left of this beautiful video.  

Hark! The wind of passion
Swiftly weaving over your soul
Bless the surge of thunder
Rolling onto your shore
Greet the deep emotion
That sleeps beneath the ocean floor
Watch elation bound
Release its furious roar

Feel! Feel! Feel!
Feel what you long to
Feel! Feel! Feel!
Feel what you long to feel

Pound the sands of courage
Reach for clouds that cover the foam
Dance with bold expression
Leaping from silent abodes
Face the wild commotion
Free restraint and struggle no more
Let the moon raise all that
Dwells in the tides of your core


Weep, sigh, laugh, cry
Flee from the snares that wish to deny how you feel
Hope, live, love, yearn
And feel,
feel what you long to


"In whatever way we approach Krishna, He will accept us."
~ Raja Vidya, Chapter 8

"God is willing to reveal Himself according to our expectations. All rasas are there in Krishna. We can enjoy loving pleasure with Krishna in any rasa, and Krishna is ready to respond in any rasa."
~Srila Prabhupada
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  
~Hebrews 4:16

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vindication: I love how the Lord works!

Divine dance

Below are a couple of refreshing (and faith-saving) quotes, from sources who would be considered knowledgeable in the field.  They came to my attention after I had received a little bit of a backlash from more conservative voices over a previous post which I have since removed and which was something of a knee-jerk reaction on my part against writings which I felt were nothing more than dogmatic attempts at micro-managing which emotions are acceptable in one's individual approach to God.
"If we make our friendship with Krishna, it will never break. If we make our master Krishna, we will never be cheated. If we love Krishna as our son, He will never die. If we love Krishna as our lover, He will be the best of all, and there will be no separation. Because Krishna is the Supreme Lord, He is unlimited and has an unlimited number of devotees. Some are trying to love Him as lover or husband, and therefore Krishna accepts this role. In whatever way we approach Krishna, He will accept us." —Raja Vidya, Chapter 8

"God is willing to reveal Himself according to our expectations. All rasas are there in Krishna. We can enjoy loving pleasure with Krishna in any rasa, and Krishna is ready to respond in any rasa. The gopis came to Krishna out of lust, but their lust became purified. Try to approach Krishna in some way or another. Kamsa was also Krishna conscious, but he thought of Krishna as an enemy. Nonetheless he was liberated. So what to speak of those who are in love with Krishna?" ~Srila Prabhupada
In the event that knickers end up in a twist over this, all I can ask is the same question Paul asked in Romans 14:4:
"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)
Besides, nobody should have to be apologetic for experiencing a rasa (also known as a bhava) that is said to be the highest of all of them:
"The last [of the bhavas] is Madhurya Bhava or Kanta Bhava. This is the highest form of Bhakti. The devotee regards the Lord as his Lover. This was the relation between Radha and Krishna. This is Atma-Samarpana. The lover and the beloved become one. The devotee and God feel one with each other and still maintain a separateness in order to enjoy the bliss of the play of love between them. This is oneness in separation and separation in oneness. Lord Gauranga, Jayadeva, Mira and Andal had this Bhava." ~ Sri Swami Sivananda
This comes as good news not only to me, but surely for any others out there who can relate to the likes of Mirabai, Jayadeva, or Andal.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Puritanical Bhava? Never heard of it.

A NOTE OF CLARIFICATION: In thinking back on this topic, there is something I probably should clarify here, right up front, and that is that what I understand to be "lust" and what more conservative religionists call "lust" could be two different things. Especially as it pertains to bridal mysticism/madhurya bhava.

The kind of lust that the gopis were said, by some, to have had for Krishna was, I would imagine, dominated by love primarily; it goes through the heart before it goes anywhere else. It's the sort that a girlfriend would have for her boyfriend or a wife for her husband -- it's what's called "chemistry". And in the context of it involving God, there's something in the "texture" of it that's somehow purer, higher, cleaner, than the sort between two humans. God brings a depth to it because of His eternality that isn't there in the context of human mortality.

By contrast, the kind of lust that religious conservatives are warning against is likely the kind that is purely physical for it's own sake.  It doesn't go through the heart, in love, at all.

The ideal kind of "lust", if it must be called that, is more along the lines of Love, with lusty undertones, with the ultimate goal being that of Ultimate Union and not just merely to relieve an "itch". :)   
I hope all that made sense.  Please also note that I was feeling a tad ... annoyed ... when I wrote the following, so the tone is a bit sardonic in places.  
And now, on to the main post...
~ * ~ ~ * ~ ~ * ~ ~ * ~
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." 
~ Matthew 23:13 ~

I was reminded of the above verse in researching the subject of lust as it relates to the devotional mood of madhurya-bhava (romantic love for God, a.k.a. "bridal mysticism").

It would seem that, in Hinduism, there's this mixed-message being delivered when it comes to Lord Krishna's exchanges with the cowherd-girls in Vrindavan. The loving exchanges are sexual in context, though there's a deeper message to it than just that. However, there seems to be what can only be described as 'damage control' by some religious leaders in the field who insist that, as provocative as the presentation of Krishna's pastimes may be, one must not have lustful feelings for the Lord, because, in spite of what it may look like, the cowherd-girls didn't have such feelings.

Let me say up front that I'm not the sort who feels the need for everything to be about physical relations. Quite the opposite — I would be happy as a clam if I were to spend the rest of my years living a nun's life. So, for anyone concerned that the following material is presented by someone interested in maintaining a life of raunchy carnality, it ain't.

Now, perhaps we should establish the meaning of the term "lust". The following is from

As you can see, while "lust" can refer to an overabundance of sexual desire, it can also mean merely "intense" sexual desire. Frankly, I think "intense sexual desire" is a redundant term. Sexual desire is, by nature, intense. So, rather than insisting there be no lust (or sexual desire) in madhurya-bhava, perhaps it should be modified to say that such desire should not be out-of-control. After all, too much of anything, even if it's basically good, isn't good for you.

Madhurya-bhava is a romantic mood. It's like that found between lovers. As such, it will necessarily contain sexual desire or lust. That's what distinguishes it from the other, more platonic, modes of relating to God.

Let's examine some of the more puritanical sound-bytes floating around out there concerning this mood as it relates to God:

"Thus there is not the slightest taint of lust in the gopīs' love. Their relationship with Krishna is only for the sake of His enjoyment." CC Ādi 4.172

Personally, I think such statements as the above derive their inspiration more from male-dominated cultural norms than from Divine decree. A deity who is made to appear as though He is perfectly comfortable mingling with the ladies the way He is said to have done is not going to be uptight about such things as lust. The above attitude seems to be saying "God forbid the woman enjoy herself in the area of romantic relationships!" Maybe it's this attitude that influenced how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was said to be eternally virgin. It's almost as though women are expected to undergo a spiritual form of female circumcision. Can't have the ladies enjoying these things! Heck no.

Here's a gem, from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) — an institution that, in spite of being all about lust-free living, struggles with sexual scandal itself:

"First there must be no lust or sex desire, otherwise you go to hell. To think of Krishna while lusting for sex is sahajiya life. This contamination comes from the babajis in Vrindaban. No devotee should wander around Vrindaban apart from our organized program. If this sahajiya nonsense continues, then all preaching will stop." ~ Srila Prabhupada, ISCKON and Madhurya-Rasa

I'm sure they're learning the hard way, through the aforementioned scandals, that what we resist persists. It reminds me of the Catholic Church, which also tries to stamp out natural desires in it's followers and only winds up with more scandalous issues as a result. I would also have to ask why Prabhupada is playing the "hell" card; I was under the impression that such a place wasn't part of that belief system. It's certainly not a part of mine.

Having been brought up with the hell-fire doctrines of Christianity, I daresay that clinging to God in a spirit of lusting after Him is far superior to doing so out of avoidance of supposed eternal hellfire, the latter which involves fear and not attraction per se.

One of the beauties of God being the focus of any supposedly-inferior emotion (such as anger, lust) is that He at least has the power to transofrm it into something positive. Anger and lust aimed at fellow humans just doesn't work out so well, since other people cannot get inside your head and heart and rewire those emotions (if necessary) the way God can. In fact, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam says as much:
SB 7.1.26: "Therefore by enmity or by devotional service, by fear, by affection or by lusty desire — by all of these or any one of them — if a conditioned soul somehow or other concentrates his mind upon the Lord, the result is the same, for the Lord, because of His blissful position, is never affected by enmity or friendship."
SB 7.1.31: "My dear King Yudhiṣṭhira, the gopīs by their lusty desires, Kamsa by his fear, Sisupala and other kings by envy, the Yadus by their familial relationship with Krishna, you Pandavas by your great affection for Krishna, and we, the general devotees, by our devotional service, have obtained the mercy of Krishna."
Oh, so now we're told that the gopis did have lusty desires! Imagine that!
For a belief system which presents God as coming to earth and romancing more than one girl (at the same time!), and which exalts such writers as Mirabai, Andal, and Vidyapati, to turn around and say that no trace of lust is appropriate is quite disingenuous. Such a system is reminiscent of a woman who deliberately dresses provocatively and then smacks a guy upside the head for having the audacity to appreciate her efforts! It is a head-game at best and I see right through it.

It's been said that such prudery wasn't around at first, but gradually came into the picture after Islam and Christianity influenced things. According to an Indian art site, "The ideal of the Rasa Lila is very popular in contemporary India, despite the tendency to more puritanical religious modes of expression. Spiritual sensuality has, in general, been repressed in the East, largely because of the influence of Muslim and Christian invaders." If that is indeed the case, I think it's time folks stopped listening to the invaders and started reclaiming their original position on these things. Maybe the outrageously-ironic sex-scandals will even decrease as a result, because instead of lusting after each other, they'll be lusting after God again, in Whose hands such strong emotions are, obviously, far safer!

Consider the following:
"Devotee: 'Are you therefore saying that sex when aimed at God is pure and when aimed at another human body is impure?'
"Gurudev: 'Yes, exactly. Normal worldly lust for another person in another body is called Kaam but lust directed towards God is called NishKaam. When NishKaam awakens in the heart, it very quickly pulls the devotee to God. This was the attitude of the gopis of Vrindavan.'" — Om Sripada Bhaktivedanta Tripurari Swami, website, "Sanga: Q & A"
Here's a doozy:
"The spiritual kamadeva [Krishna, as the god of lust], who establishes a relationship with the soul, defeats Cupid [ananga, who is invisible] through the means of Cupid's own flower arrows of form, taste, touch, smell, and sound. Govinda (Krishna, who gives pleasure to the senses) engages the soul's senses in experiencing him, and thus establishes himself as the transcendental Cupid, with whom the soul can experience eternal love." — Swami B.V. Tripurari from Aesthetic Vedanta: the Sacred Path of Passionate Love, p. 44

Yeah, you read that right ... Krishna is referred to as the god of lust. The Puritanicals must love that!

Here's another, which essentially blows the whistle regarding from whence lust comes:
"When a living entity comes in contact with the material creation, his eternal love for Krishna is transformed into lust, in association with the mode of passion....Therefore, the origin of lust is also in the Supreme. If, therefore, lust is transformed into love for the Supreme, or transformed into Krishna consciousness—or, in other words, desiring everything for Krishna—then both lust and wrath can be spiritualized. Hanuman, the great servitor of Lord Rama, engaged his wrath upon his enemies for the satisfaction of the Lord. Therefore, lust and wrath, when they are employed in Krishna consciousness, become our friends instead of our enemies." — His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Purport to Ch. 3, Text 37, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, pp. 204-205

Makes sense — we come from God, so anything that is part of us will, by extension, also come from God. Including lust.

Then there's the following from Swami Tripurari:
"Q. In your book 'Aesthetic Vedanta: The Sacred Path of Passionate Love' you mention the Kama Sutra. Doesn't the Kama Sutra depict material physical sexual acts of exploitation? How can this be spiritual?

A. Actually, Krishna employed the Kama sutra in rasa lila, as did Balarama in his rasa krida. About Balarama's rasa lila, Sanatana Goswami says in his Vaisnava Tosanai commentary, 'Because he is ramah, he is expert in conjugal affairs. He is also the Supreme Lord, so he is very expert in in the various types of conjugal pastimes mentioned in the Kama-sutras.'

The author of Kama sutra was a disciple of Gauttama, a very sober sage. The sutras are concerned with the art of love making. Krishna employed this art without any material selfishness. This is rasa lila, and this is the difference between mundane and spiritual life. However, one cannot remain in the bodily conception of life and experience the full measure of selflessness, and I don't think many people today properly understand the Kama sutra." (
That last part seems to be saying that, while utter selflessness is the ideal, it is an established fact that those still in their mortal bodies are not going to be able to measure up to that ideal. And that's okay! I figure if God has a serious problem with that, He can easily extract us from our mortal bodies and place us where we no longer struggle with such mundane things. Evidently, the way things are set up around here, it's not a problem for Him; on the contrary, it's all by His design.

Here's another exchange — somewhat surprising to me considering his more reserved stance pertaining to madhurya-bhava — between Srila Prabhupada and a young lady, which I found on a website dealing with Bhakti Yoga:

"But sometimes, Prabhupada said surprising things. In Mayapur, there's this young girl in the early days, and Prabhupada said,
'So, are you attracted to Krishna?'
She said, 'Yeah! Yeah!'
Prabhupada said, 'Krishna is a young boy,'
he then said:
'He might even kiss you!'
He just said it like that! She went all red and everything!"

Of course — and unfortunately — the site from which the above is shared is quick to add that things pertaining to Krishna's loving affairs are "very difficult to understand" and how one must be "pure from lust to understand". No, I think the young lady understood perfectly, unless the whole thing is just one big bait-and-switch scheme: lure 'em in with the ooh-la-la's and then, once they're in the fold, smother the life out of 'em with priggish prudery.  Seriously, if God didn't want people to view Him in such a sensual light, He would have gone about it a completely different way, one which would not so easily suggest the suggestive. He's pretty smart like that.

A couple of other interesting tidbits I have found which touch upon other areas of sexuality as it relates to the Divine, and which the puritanical set would likely shun. First off, a Wikipedia entry about Mohini, which is Vishnu in His female form, yields this startling little bit of trivia:

"The rare instance where an 'explicit, male homosexual act' is suggested is in a Telugu text where when Shiva is busy lovemaking with Mohini-Vishnu, the latter returns to his original form and still the lovemaking continues." (source: Splitting the difference: gender and myth in ancient Greece and India by Wendy Doniger, p.265)

Okay, so, anyone bashing homosexuals for being somehow spiritually inferior can stop right now. It's official. Vishnu and Shiva evidently didn't have a problem with it.

Here's another one, on a somewhat related note considering how such things apparently can go, in the Sri Ujjvala-nilamani by Srila Rupa Gosvami, which seems to suggest that ... how do I put this delicately? ... when it comes to loving exchanges, three is not a crowd:
"Describing the activities of Sasikala and Kamala (two friends of rangadevi), Rupa-manjari said to Rati-manjari: 'Kamala said: O Sasikala, I shall go now and leave you in Krsna's hand. Sasikala replied: Why do you speak these lies. I am your servant and messenger. It is I who should go, and you who should stay. Look! Krishna has become charmed by the sweetness of the extraordinary love these two gopis bear for each other. Simultaneously He embraces them both to His chest, and passionately enjoys amorous pastimes with them both."

"Krishna addresses the two gopi-messengers Madhavi and Malati: 'Madhavi, where are you going with My Malati? And you, Malati, where are you going with My Madhavi? My dear extraordinary beautiful and qualified girls, the dark-complexioned young bumble-bee of Krishna shall now take you both to a secluded place, drink the honey of your kisses, and enjoy transcendental amorous pastimes with you.'"

"The intimate, sweet, rare friendship existing among the sama-madhya-sakhis is very difficult to understand. Only those learned in the intricacies of transcendental love can understand it.

"Krishna said to gopi-messenger Mandaraksi: 'I am very glad to tell you that your friend Radharani said to Me: Mukunda, follow Mandaraksi and quickly bring her to Me in the cottage of creepers in this forest-grove. Appearing like a moon standing between two stars, Krishna then enjoyed transcendental pastimes with Radharani and Mandaraksi."

Now, I see it as being one of two things: Those Hindu writings which seem to support lust, homosexuality, and the occasional threesome can be considered either as divinely-inspired/canonical, or they simply represent a form of what is now known as "slash fiction", written by devotees who are at least as qualified to speak on the subject as any die-hard celibate experts in the field.

Perhaps my objection to the staunchly puritanical approach to loving God puts me squarely in the left-handed path along with the Vaishnava-Sahajiyas, but as Galileo once said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." I figure that goes for any other human characteristic as well. It's not that they should never be used, but simply used wisely.
And when directed towards God, who is an expert in the field of our self-improvement, it's all good!

"To the pure, all things are pure." ~ Titus 1:15a