Universalist Radha Krishnaism

In recent years calls have been made by influential and academic Vaishnavas for a reform of Vaishnavism, particularly, but certainly not solely, as it is practiced in the West. Following Prabhupada’s success in introducing Westerners to the Radha-Krishna-centered Vaishnavism of Chaitanya, many people have yearned for a Radha-Krishna-centered form of spirituality that can be adapted to work in the Western philosophical, intellectual, and cultural context. Many Westerners, in particular, find this form of Vaishnavist religiosity to be compelling and attractive but have been discouraged by the strict literalism and fundamentalism of its representatives.

Steve Bohlert (Subal Das Goswami) has been inspired, under the influence of the work of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and his son Lalita Prasad Thakur, to formulate a modern vision of Radha-Krishnaism that can satisfy both the intellectual and spiritual needs of people in our modern and scientific age.

To that end I will be asking Subal Das a number of questions to facilitate the expression of his views of a modern Radha-Krishna form of spirituality. We encourage anyone interested in this project to contribute thoughts and ideas.

My name is Dr. Michael Valle, and I teach philosophy and religion at the college level. I am interested in this project both professionally and personally, as I have found Chaitanya’s vision of spirituality to be compelling and inspiring. My area of expertise is the philosophy of religion as it relates to arguments for and against God’s existence, which was the context of my doctorate work. I have also deeply studied the work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who has led me to a deeper appreciation for the human condition. My path of study eventually led me to the work of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and thereby to the work of Subal Das.

I will ask questions from the general to the specific. We will begin with general questions about God and move to more specific questions about Radha-Krishna, metaphysics, scriptural authority, and so forth.

MV: Subal Das, your system seems to presuppose the existence of God (or God-dess). What follows are some general questions about God.

First, do we have reason to think God-dess exists, and what might it be?
Can we prove it, or do we need some faith?

SD: There are plenty of reasons to think God-dess exists. First, just look around and see the beautiful, intricate designs everywhere in nature, both in organic and inorganic matter. See how life springs forth in such abundance. These designs do not simply happen by chance. When we see something of great design, such as the pyramids, we wonder who built them. We do not think they just happened by themselves. When we look at the solar system, we see the perfect order of the planets. and we realize that if the earth were just a little bit closer or further from the sun, life on earth as we know it would not be possible. Very intricate, complex laws of nature govern everything. These laws did not just happen by chance. Rather, an intelligent creator put them in motion along with the act of creation itself.
Similarly, life comes from life. Persons come from persons. We are living persons because the Ground of All Being is a living person. We are part and parcel of that Original Person just as each piece of a hologram contains the full image. We are who we are because God-dess is.

Second, the longing and hunger for God-dess is so strong in human consciousness over the ages. We long and hunger for food because food exists. The same with our longings for home, security, love. We may not have these things, but we know they exist, and that is the basis of our longing. This longing for God-dess is an inherent part of our nature because we are part of God-dess and feed our hunger by serving her just as the hand feeds the whole body to gain its nourishment.

Third, there is the testimony of scriptures and saints through the ages who claim to have revealed experience of God-dess. This forms a huge database of evidence for the existence of God-dess.

Fourth, there are the philosophical and theological systems that developed out of these revelations that argue to prove the existence of God-dess. The best of these make a rational and convincing case for the existence of God-dess.

Fifth, there are our own insights, inklings and revelations of God-dess that we should learn to trust more.

Ultimately, however, there is no way to prove the existence of God-dess. God-dess is beyond time, space, reason and conception. So, it does come down to faith.

MV: Second, why do you use “God-dess” instead of “God”?

SD: It is a matter of truth, justice and love. The divine is both feminine and masculine, and this is most beautifully symbolized by Radha Krishna, the Divine Couple, joined by their love. In the Judeo-Christian West, it is easy for men to be seen as bearing the image of the patriarchal God Yahweh, but women are often not seen as being in the image of God, and therefore, inferior.

In the progressive, Protestant wing of the Christian church, there is a strong effort to use inclusive God language which often takes the form of Mother/Father God or he/she. Yet this often leads to inadequate, cumbersome language. Actually there is no English word for God which is inclusive of male and female. So, I made one up.

I define God-dess as Radha Krishna, the Divine Couple, the Ground of All Being, the Cause of All Causes. It is not meant to stand alone as a concept. Rather it is meant to replace the terms God, Godhead, etc. so one need not repeat Radha Krishna again and again or resort to the thousands of other names they have which only tend to confuse the average Western reader or hearer.

While feminist Christian theologians have to struggle to make a case for the feminine aspect of God, the Father, Yahweh, Universalist Radha Krishnaism (URK) is a natural fit with Radha, the Supreme Goddess, and Krishna, the Supreme God, joined together as one by their love. Hence, God-dess. We are all embodiments of Radha Krishna. Men have a predominance of Krishna and women a predominance of Radha, but each contains the other as well.

MV: Third, why do you envision God-dess principally in the form of Radha and Krishna rather than in alternative forms?

SD: Because Radha Krishna are the most attractive forms of God-dess due to the sweetness of their love. Their loving relationship is extensively described by Krishna Chaitanya and his followers in their writings in a way that attracts the mind and enables one to meditate on them constantly. They use a highly developed sense of aesthetics to accomplish this. They also supply an elaborate theological system that satisfies the intellect and provides a rationale for the strong emotional feelings devotees develop.

When I think about how I would like to spend eternity, I can think of nothing better than being a confidant of Radha and helping arrange her union with Krishna. Since eternity is a dimension of here and now, I meditate on this along with seeing them in everyone and everything, including myself. Radha Krishna are inclusive enough in their manifold forms to be both transcendent and immanent. There is nothing but Radha Krishna in a panentheistic way. As the Ground of Being, they do not exist as the created things of this world exist, but they are existence itself expanding their love play through all creation.

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