Awakening to Feminine Spirituality

     Lord Chaitanya appeared in the 15th century in West Bengal, India[1] to reveal the essence of scripture is to relish a loving relationship with God. Based upon the teachings of Srimad Bhagavatam, he declared that love for Krishna is the highest goal of life[2].

Even though Lord Chaitanya was in a male body, he experienced the feminine mood of Krishna’s beloved, Radha, especially her romantic love for Krishna. This mood is known as madhurya bhava. ‘Madhurya’ literally means sweet and specifically refers to the intimate and charming mood (bhava) of lovers.

                                  Lord Caitanya

                                  Lord Caitanya

This was an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of religion. For thousands of years, religious traditions followed the practices of austerity and sacrifice, but now with the advent of Lord Caitanya, feminine qualities are being given prominence and that also in an amorous mood.

Lord Caitanya propagated madhurya bhava which is the feminine mood of the soul toward God. It is spirituality imbued with a feminine heart-a transcendental mood of love completely different to the emotions of love that we see in this world.

Even though transcendental love and material love seem to share similar characteristics, they are different in nature. The first one is an offering of love for the pleasure of the Lord and the second is a source of one’s own enjoyment[3].

At the same time, by experiencing the human emotions of love is a very important medium through which we can understand the transcendental emotions of madhurya bhava. It is for this reason that in Sanskrit literature, emotions are described in a detailed analysis. It focuses mostly on women because in matters of love their emotions are more deep and variegated than those of men.

 

Women in Love Described in Indian Scriptures

Indian wisdom reveals how ‘women in love’ can manifest eight different moods toward their beloved[4]. Being the descriptions of worldly women in love, one may wonder why scripture portrays them and that also in a very detailed analysis.

However, the behavior and language of such worldly women in love reflect the spiritual journey of humanity–the soul’s longing for oneness with the divine. Whatever we see in this world is merely a semblance of the spiritual world. It is an important semblance because it gives us an insight into our own spiritual emotions.

Women’s emotions in love have been described endlessly in scriptures. The reason is twofold. Firstly, it creates an awareness of the emotional needs of women as they are the foundation of society. Secondly, it reveals that the highest fulfillment of human beings is to have a loving relationship with the Lord in madhurya bhava.

This principle is also explained in the Bhagavad Gita[5] where Krishna says that he is the Beloved and we are all his lovers, whether we are men or women[6].

This concept of a male God and a feminine creation resonates with the principle of feminine spirituality, which is not about women per se: It is about both men and women who have accepted their feminine stance of being parts of a higher Reality.

Feminine Spirituality Beyond Gender

Feminine spirituality is about making everyone aware of the feminine principles in spiritual life. Both men and women have the capacity to experience feminine spirituality, i.e. to discover their inner woman to rise above material nature and to access the divine. The purpose of Indian scriptures is to bring out the inner woman in everyone. Numerous descriptions on the surrender and devotion of ‘women’ in the scriptures can be properly understood in their extended meaning of the ‘feminine principle’ which symbolizes the soul’s surrender to God. Indeed, when scripture speaks of surrender to the husband, it is alluding to how the inner woman, in both men and women, can find fulfillment only in surrender to the divine.

Confidential Message of Lord Chaitanya

In harmony with this confidential teaching of the scriptures, Lord Chaitanya revealed how devotion to the Lord in the mood of the cowherd damsels of Vraja is the highest spiritual attainment.

Feminine spirituality is the hidden and confidential message that Lord Chaitanya revealed in his manifest lila. When Lord Chaitanya’s heart speaks out to his Beloved we recognize it as a feminine mood which has never been demonstrated before.

“Krishna may embrace me in love or break my heart by hiding Himself from me. Let him do whatever He likes, but He will always be the only Lord of my life[7].”

 

[1] Lord Caitanya was born in 1486 AD in Nadia, West Bengal, India.

[2] premapumartho mahan.

[3] CC ādi 4.165.

[4] Bharata Natyasastra chapter 24, verses 210-220.

[5] BG 13.22.

[6]In his Paramatma Sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami refutes the idea that individual souls are not different from the Supreme. The individual souls are the fragmental parts of the Supreme while the Supreme is the complete whole within which the parts are contained. Their relationship is to be fragmental parts of the Supreme Whole and is the foundation of eternal happiness and love. Krishna is the only male in the spiritual realm and everyone else, whether they have a male or female form are considered female because the underlying mood of the spiritual realm is feminine–an affectionate mood toward the beloved that desires to please. All of Krishna’s attendants have male forms but are feminine in their mood of service while all of Radha’s attendants are female both in their form and mood.

[7] Sikshastakam.