What is Real Love?

Love in Separation

By Prof. N.K. Sanyal M.A.

As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)

Let us begin by examining the connotation of the word ‘love’. ‘Love’ is distinguished from ‘lust’, the latter meaning the sensual propensity which is purely an affair of the flesh. The word ‘love’ does not carry any such notoriety. It is distinguishable from ‘lust’ by the qualities of constancy to a particular individual and the subordination of sexuality to intellectual, moral and artistic considerations. It is, however, in its essence, the instinctive attraction between persons of opposite sexes, intensified and particularised. In a wider sense the word ‘love’ is also used to denote sentiment which is very similar to that of active friendship and good-will towards other entities irrespective of sex.


It is this uncertain connotation of the word ‘love’ that is often exploited for confusing the issue when the word is used as the synonym of spiritual activity. In the Vaishnava literature the corresponding word is ‘prema‘ which also does not always carry a distinct reference to the sex. But there is also the use of the word in the specific sense of sexual attraction. It is the purpose of this short paper to ascertain the exact sense in which the word ‘prema‘ and that form of it which is called ‘biraha‘ or love-in-separation is used in the Vaishnava literature.

The title of this article is “love in separation”. Taking the word love to mean sexual attraction of the refined type, the phrase indicates the condition of a lover separated from his sweet heart, or vice versa, by the interval of space. The phrase does not usually mean separation that is not due to interval of space but merely due to lapse of time. For example a widow is not considered to be in a state of love in separation from her dead husband. Love in separation, therefore, implies also the expectation as well as the possibility re-union. It is, of course, possible by faith in a corresponding eschatology for a widow to suppose that she will be re-united with her departed husband in the long run. But unless also the sexual expectation is encouraged by such eschatology, the condition of a widow should not properly be described as one of love in separation.

If we now turn to the use of the word ‘prema‘ in the Vaishnava literature, we are at once struck by a fundamental difference between the conception of love that is delineated in that literature and love in any of the forms that have been just described . For instance, if a person is told that singing the Name of Krishna is the same thing as practising amorous love towards one’s lover not in an allegorical sense but in the analogous sense of sexual activity in the flesh, such a statement would be ordinarily regarded as self-contradictory. What is unintelligible in such a statement is the fact that separation of space and time has been totally ignored. It may be an allegorical or a poetical realisation in the imagination, but it is logically absurd to accept singing as the substantive equivalent for the practices of amorous sex-activity. But this is the kernel of the teaching of Sree Krishna Chaitanya, the propounder of the Religion of Divine Love.

His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj has informed us that separation in love and consummation in love are simultaneous on the plane of Divine service, and that on that plane there is no experience other than that of unmixed joy . In this world it cannot be said that separation in love is simultaneous with consummation of sexual activity. Therefore, one has to be very cautious in indulging in uncritical speculation about the subject of love or prema as spiritual activity.

Amorous activity necessarily implies two persons of opposite sexes for its performances. It is also possible in a way to distinguish between the roles of man and woman in the same. In the Vaishnava literature all amorous activity is centred in Sree Krishna and Shree Radhika. Love in separation, preached and practised by Sree Krishna Chaitanya, represents the highest function of Sree Radhika. It is the highest form of spiritual worship. It is the unalloyed and perfect activity of the serving soul towards the Transcendental Lover. Sree Krishna is the only Lover. Sree Radhika is His only sweet-heart. Everything else is an extension of either.

In the account of the rasa dance in the Bhagabata there is no explicit mention of the name of Sree Radhika; but her personality is indicated by her function which is that of worship. She is the source as well as the figure of all worship. There, is, however, an alternative activity that has its source and figure in Maya or the measuring, dominating or enjoying power that is the antipode of the power of worship, the power of being measured, dominated and enjoyed by Sree Krishna.

The love and the lust, which are practised by man and woman in this world, belong to the jurisdiction of Maya. If we seek to measure, dominate or enjoy man or woman, we deprive ourselves of the power of being measured, dominated or enjoyed by Sree Krishna. We become opposed to the worship of Sree Krishna. If we do not worship Sree Krishna we become disposed to enjoy men and women and other enjoyable things of this world. Sree Krishna does not accept anything of this world, I e. anything belonging to the jurisdiction of Maya, for his enjoyment. It is the unalloyed soul that alone is acceptable to Him and pleasing in His sight. By the exercise of the measuring activities of other entities grossness, unwholesomeness and lovelessness are produced. By the unstinted exercise of the measuring activity of Sree Krishna transparency, wholesomeness and loving quality are ensured.

There is no bitterness on the plane of transcendental worship. Separation between sweetheart and lover by the interposition of space and time or misunderstanding is not any real fact in itself on that plane where there is no other substantive experience than that of unmixed joy and inseparable union. But there is apparent bitterness which is, however, a passing shadow, not a thing in itself, for embellishing the abiding fact of uninterrupted joy. Bitterness of that plane never breeds bitterness, but always grows into the substance of love . On the plane of the gratification of the senses of other entities, both pleasure and pain tend to ever-increasing bitterness and towards the state of the annihilation of joy and existence. This danger is inherent in the measuring process which is destructive of worship. The absence of the realisation of transcendence accentuates the impression of the temporal and leads to the vain measuring activity towards the unwholesome shadow of the reality.

Sree Radhika is plenary cognitive power and the concentrated essence of the power of ministering to the gratification of senses of Sree Krishna, in one. Neither Sree Radhika nor the extensions of her figure are subject to the influence of the measuring potency. The Absolute Integer, the only dominating Person, is always engaged in the activity of measuring, dominating or enjoying all spiritual entities. But the Divine Comedy is enacted by the plenary spiritual powers that are the extensions of Sree Radhika, as the principal ministrants. The function of the sweetheart gathers up and occasions all the other functions.

Vishnu and His spiritual power are distinct from the entities of the world in the same way as a thing is distinct from its reflected image. The latter is unwholesome and the source of all bitterness and ignorance. In the realm of the Absolute the seeming distinction between an entity and its reflected image is the cause of increased felicity. There is an apparent state of separation in the realm of the Absolute, but it tends to the opposite direction of that to which both union and separation in the so-called love of this world inevitably lead. A person who is anxious to apply his measuring power thereby falls into the danger of inviting the unwholesomeness which he wrongly supposes to belong to the Vaishnava conception.

It is the essential characteristic of the devotional aptitude of unfettered soul that it always realises the eligibility of the superior transcendental power, the extensions of the figure of Sree Radhika, as alone capable of fully serving Godhead. This cognitive realisation enables such unfettered souls to engage themselves in the service of Sree Radhika or the power who can alone minister to the gratification of the senses of Sree Krishna.

The model that was set by Sree Krishna Chaitanya for the regulation of the lives of the conditioned souls of this world is that of the service of Sree Krishna by the mode of love in separation. It is possible for the conditioned soul to practise love in separation under the guidance of the plenary power or the bona fide spiritual guide. This does not produce or encourage sensuous activity which can alone obstruct the practice of transcendental love.

Another point, which is liable to be overlooked, but which is very material, refers to the existence of specification in the transcendental activity. When the Absolute takes the initiative in measuring spiritual entities, it results in the manifestation of spiritual specifications and entitative distinctions, which is the enabling condition of the individual services of spiritual entities. There can be no specification in the mundane world unless the same already exists in its wholesome form in the realm of the Absolute. Sexual activity is not absent from the realm of the Absolute for this reason. But it has nothing in common with the sexual activity of this world or any similar activity that it conceivable by our measuring faculties.

Author: Cyiff

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