In India, a land rich in traditions and spirituality, every day is marked with one festival or another. With countless incarnations (avatars) of God taking place here and numerous great souls gracing our nation, the diversity of festivals is boundless. Amidst the vibrant and diverse celebrations, Sharad Purnima is the ultimate embodiment of Divine Bliss. While some may consider Janmashtami or Holi as the most significant festivals, Sharad Purnima holds a special place in the hearts of the devotees of Shree Krishna. The glory and significance of Sharad Purnima is beyond measure. On this sacred day, some five thousand years ago, the Purna Purushottam Bhagwan Shree Krishna manifested his Divine Love and grace through the 'Maharaas' (mahārāsa/महारास), offering the blessed souls the ultimate Bliss of his Divine Love.
The Meaning of Rasa: Nectar of Divine Bliss
The term 'Raas' (rāsa/रास) is rooted in the word 'Rasa,' (rasa/रस), which means nectar.
रसानां समूहो रासः
rasānāṁ samūho rāsaḥ
Meaning: Group of rasa (nectar) is raas.
In the realm of divinity, the nectar known as ‘Rasa’ is truly infinite. Above this divine essence is the exquisite experience known as ‘Raas,’ a divine dance, a rapture reserved for those select souls, the ‘adhikari jeevas,’ who have worshipped Lord Krishna with profound and selfless devotion.
In addition, the term "rasa" also represents God's divine and boundless Bliss and God (Brahman) Himself. The Vedas suggest:
रसो वै सः। रसं ह्येवायां लब्ध्वाऽनन्दी भवति।
Raso vāi saḥ. Rasaṁ hyevāyāṁ labdhvā'anandī bhavati
Taittiriya Upanishad, 2-7
Meaning: He (God/Brahman), the highest self, is bliss in itself. The individual soul becomes blissful only after attaining that bliss.
God is the divine nectar or the Rasa. He is the infinite bliss (Anand).
आनन्दो ब्रह्मेति व्यजानात्। आनन्दाध्येव खल्विमानि भूतानि जायन्ते। आनन्देन जातानि जीवन्ति। आनन्दं प्रयन्त्यभिसंविशन्तीति।
ānando brahmeti vyajānāt| ānandādhyeva khalvimāni bhūtāni jāyante| ānandena jātāni jīvanti | ānandaṁ prayantyabhisaṁviśantīti
Taittiriya Upanishad 3-6
Meaning: ‘Anand’ is 'Brahman'. All these beings have arisen only from 'Anand', and after being born, they survive only through Anand and after leaving, they get absorbed in 'Anand' only.
The Levels of Bliss: From Formless Brahman to Bhagwan with Form
However, there are various classes or variations in Rasa, as indicated in the Vedas:
स एष रसानाँ रसतमः परमः
Sa eṣa rasānāṁ rasatamaḥ paramaḥ
Meaning: He is the supreme essence of all essences.
The Rasa or the bliss of the formless Brahman is called Brahmananda, which the gyanis (jñānīs/ज्ञानी) receive after lifetimes of tapasya. This Bliss is infinite and boundless and never goes away once received. However, among the various levels of bliss, the Brahmananda of the gyanis is the lowest.
Above the Bliss of Nirgun Nirkar formless Brahman (God without form and Attributes), the Bliss of Sagun Sakar Bhagwan (God with Form and Attributes) is much sweeter. The Bliss of Sagun Sakar Bhagwan also has various levels – from a peaceful feeling of love (shānta bhāv/शान्त भाव) to a servile affection (dāsya bhāv/दास्य भाव), a companionship-based love (सख्य भाव/sakhya bhāv), and the sweetest affectionate love (mādhurya bhāv/माधुर्य भाव). These levels of Bliss reflect how a soul can express its devotion towards God and receive the Bliss of God in return.
In the madhurya bhav also there are classes- Sadharani rati (sādhāraṇī rati/ साधारणी रति), Samajasa rati (samajsa rati/ समज्सा रति) and Samartha rati (samarthā rati/ समर्था रति).
Sadharani rati means 'ordinary love' and denotes the love for Shree Krishna, which is usually less intense and often arises upon direct encounter with Him, rooted in selfish desires. For instance, the love of Kubja is in the category of Sadharani rati.
Samanjasa rati means 'conventional love' and is sometimes tinged with desires for personal enjoyment. This affection springs from learning about Shree Krishna's divine qualities. The wives of Shree Krishna fall under this category.
Samartha rati embodies a love for Krishna that is pure and unselfish, solely dedicated to His delight, devoid of any personal expectations or desires. This level of devotion stands as one of the loftiest expressions of Bhakti, highlighting the importance of wholehearted surrender and a selfless, profound affection for the divine. The Gopis of Braja (Vrindavan) exemplify the essence of Samartha rati. A devotee of Samartha rati desires nothing but the happiness of Shree Krishna, often expressed as ‘tat sukha sukhitvam’ (तत् सुख सुखित्वं).
So ‘rasatamaḥ parama’ḥ means that the Rasa, which is of the highest level, that is, the Rasa of Samartha rati, was distributed by Shree Krishna to the selected souls (adhikari jeevas) in the form of 'Maharaas' on the blissful night of Sharad Purnima.
Sharad Purnima: The Divine Appearance Day of Jagadguruttam Shree Kripaluji Maharaj
For the devotees of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, Sharad Purnima is a day of immense spiritual significance. It is a day when our beloved Gurudev descended upon the earthly realm, gracing us with his divine presence. Born on this auspicious day in 1922, Shree Kripaluji Maharaj embodied love, compassion, and wisdom who illuminated the path of Divine Love for all of us.
Through his divine teachings, Shree Kripaluji Maharaj inspired countless souls to embark on spiritual awakening and attain the highest form of devotion. He showed us how to achieve the devotion that equals that of the Gopis of Braja, whose love for Shree Krishna is unparalleled. He wrote:
रति समर्था की गोपी बना दे, रास में नाम मेरा लिखा दे।
rati, samarthā kī gōpī banā de, rāsa mē' merā naam likhā de
Meaning: A soul asks Shree Krishna, "Make me a Gopi of Samartha rati, enrol my name in the Raas."
Thus, Sharad Purnima is not just a historical event but a day of deep spiritual resonance that fills the hearts of devotees with awe and reverence. It is a day of profound devotion, a reminder of the divine love and guidance that flows through us, connecting us to the eternal love of Radha and Krishna.
On this sacred day, let us offer our heartfelt gratitude to Jagadguruttam Shree Kripaluji Maharaj and seek his blessings to continue on the path of spiritual enlightenment. Let us dedicate ourselves to selfless service and spiritual practice to realise our highest spiritual potential and attain the ultimate goal of life, which is to be immersed forever in the divine love and service of Radha and Krishna.