“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who is like a Chakora bird that drinks the beauty of the moonlike face of Shrimati Radharani, who steals away the calmness of all the gopis, and who is expert at dancing gracefully and following the meter known as charchari.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 2)
cāruto jayati kuñja-vihārī
An earnest turn towards spiritual life naturally gives rise to a desire to please the Supreme Lord. “What will make God happy? How do I serve Him? I’ve heard of devotional service, but what is it exactly?” The devotion itself is what pleases the Supreme Lord, and that devotion in its purest form, practiced at the highest levels, is seen in Shrimati Radharani. She is the perfected energy of the Supreme Lord, and in addition to pleasing the origin of matter and spirit with Her transcendental qualities, she is kind enough to grant others the benediction of devotion to her beloved. This feature makes her all the more endearing.
To serve God is the opposite of serving the senses. In the absence of the knowledge of the personal aspect of the Supreme Absolute Truth, the material creation and all that it has to offer are seen as vehicles for personal enjoyment. “God gave me this body and this land for me to enjoy. Man has dominion over the animals so it is okay for me to exercise that power. It is also okay for me to drink wine, gamble, and have intimate relations with the opposite sex simply for the purpose of pleasing my senses. I’m not harming anybody with this, so why should I unnecessarily punish myself with restriction?”
Actually, upon only a cursory review, it is seen that the lack of regulation in these activities leads to perpetual misery instead of happiness. In addition, resources are limited, so there must be competition. I may try to enjoy without harming anyone else, but what if my enjoyment conflicts with someone else’s? The Olympic athletes vie for just one gold medal in a specific individual competition. Absent a rare case like a tie in time, you cannot share this top prize with others. There is only one winner. The winner of the gold medal enjoys and the losers feel the sting of defeat.
Another issue is the varying levels of satisfaction. One gold medal to someone who has never won anything means so much, but to someone who is accustomed to winning, losing one competition is the cause of great sorrow. They may even win a few gold medals in their time in the Olympics, but since they were expected to win more, they aren’t happy in the end. This same problem exists across all spectra. One person has sufficient food to eat and a comfortable home to live in, but when they see someone else who is wealthier, they get jealous, feeling defeated.
The Vedas reveal that the root cause of the misery is a false identification, which then causes the incorrect pursuit. I am a spirit soul, but I don’t own anything. The body is available for a temporary lease, as are the possessions gathered during the stay within the body. The aim of life is not to enjoy personally, but to rather satisfy the senses of the master of all senses, Hrishikesha, which is another name for God.
Devotional service brings the pleasure that everyone naturally seeks. We are meant to serve, but we falsely think we are meant to enjoy. The proper role of servant is seen in Shrimati Radharani, who has a moonlike face. The Chakora bird is known for only staring at the bright moon. It is so devoted to the moon that it won’t look anywhere else. This is the level of devotion that exists in Shri Krishna, who drinks up the spotless beauty of the fair-skinned Radharani, the beloved daughter of Vrishabhanu.
In his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, Shrila Rupa Gosvami pays obeisance to Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by describing His various features. Krishna is compared to the Chakora due to His affection for Radharani. She only thinks of Krishna as well, and her service is in the mood of conjugal love. The playground for the couple’s pastimes is the Vrindavana forest, which is illuminated in the night by the full moon shining bright. Its soothing light allows Krishna to gaze upon His beloved’s face, and she knows just what facial expressions to make to increase His pleasure.
For the individual souls trying to break free of the “I” and “Mine” mentalities, the quickest way to please God is to chant His holy names. The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, addresses both Radha and Krishna, as Hare refers to the energy of God. “O Shri Krishna and His energy, please allow me to continue in devotional service. Remove my impediments and personal misgivings born of ignorance,” is the purport to the prayer.
The names are so powerful that one needn’t be conscious of the purpose in the beginning. Shrimati Radharani shares her moonlike radiance with the devotees of her beloved, providing them future conditions auspicious for their devotional practices. The more that devotion is practiced, the more the pastimes of the divine couple are relished and the more the mind eagerly anticipates glorifying them. Shrila Rupa Gosvami kindly composed his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam for the purpose of keeping that divine couple within his mind, adoring the play they enjoy in the forest of Vrindavana.
The night that follows the day,
Offers chance for lovers to play.
With her spotless beauty she does amaze,
Her beloved Krishna, at her moonlike face to gaze.
With His spiritual passions stirred,
Krishna like devoted Chakora bird.
Chant maha mantra and devotion receive,
With Radha’s blessings, highest state achieve.