“Shrimati Radharani received from Durvasa Muni the benediction that whatever She cooked would be sweeter than nectar. That is the special feature of Her cooking.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 6.116)
In bhakti-yoga there is no prerequisite of a specific ability or social status. This is in contrast to other kinds of yoga. Intelligence is required in jnana-yoga, renunciation and peace in meditational yoga, and the ability to perform a specific kind of work in karma-yoga. Yet in any social status, at any age, and in any circumstance one can be connected to the Supreme Lord in a mood of love. Love is the universal language, and so it is never bound to a specific condition. Divine love exists to the highest degree in Shrimati Radharani, and so the anniversary of her appearance day is celebrated with great pomp by Vaishnavas, to whom she is very dear.
Radharani’s good qualities are too many to count and their magnitude so high that measurements don’t exist to accurately describe them. She is God’s pleasure potency, known as the hladini-shakti. There is the original God and then there is His energy. We are also part of His energy, and being technically part of the marginal aspect we have a choice in masters. Just as the free woman has a choice in suitors, the living entity can choose in favor of either material nature or the divine energy. Material nature has an illusory effect, so whatever it reveals to influence the individual soul’s choice is not what it seems. On the other hand, the divine energy is the truth; it is real. The individual’s true calling is association with the divine energy.
As the embodiment of the devotional attitude, Radharani never chooses in favor of the material energy. Instead, she uses her abilities to please the Supreme Lord in His original standing as Shri Krishna, the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. He holds a flute in His hands, wears a peacock feather in His hair, and sports an enchanting smile that never leaves His face. These attributes combine to make a vision that never changes, meaning that service to it as a means of worship can take place at any time.
In exercising her choice to give pleasure to Krishna, Radha engages with her beloved in amorous sports. There is a sportive tendency within the divine, and when acting on that tendency there is the ideal playing field that is Vrindavana-dhama. The pleasure groves of that sacred land is where Radha and Krishna play, where they derive tremendous enjoyment from each other’s company. The contact is so blissful that anticipation of it is considered more enjoyable than the actual meeting.
In Vrindavana, Radha offers service to Krishna in other ways as well. As a beautiful young woman, one of her skills is cooking. She was once blessed by the famous Durvasa Muni that whatever she would cook would taste like sweet nectar. Cooking is an art form, and some are naturally very talented in it. They know how to combine ingredients in such a way that tasty dishes result. They have the patience and the creativity to make preparations that everyone will enjoy.
Radha has this ability in full and she offers it as a sacrifice to her beloved. Krishna’s foster mother in Vrindavana, Yashoda, calls Radharani over to cook for her boy, for she knows that He enjoys her preparations the most. Yashoda is a coordinator in this way, taking the knowledge of Radharani’s culinary abilities and steering them in the right direction. Another one of Radharani’s qualities is shyness, so she is not always so willing to openly show her love for Krishna. To cook for Him is a subtle way to offer service, and rather than volunteer right away, she waits until Yashoda calls upon her. This way it doesn’t appear to others that she is openly desirous of pleasing Krishna, a subtlety which actually makes her love more endearing to Yashoda’s son.
In bhakti-yoga, one can use whatever abilities they have to please the Lord. Cooking can be done for Krishna’s pleasure by offering preparations first to the Vaishnava spiritual master, who then passes the offering up the chain of spiritual masters until it eventually reaches Krishna. Radha is the topmost servant, so if she sees sincerity in devotional service, she recommends the devotee to Krishna. And her favor is very easy to win, as she is tenderhearted by nature. Therefore followers of bhakti-yoga always pray for Radharani’s blessings, and with great pomp they celebrate occasions relating to her.
Radha uses all of her qualities for Krishna’s pleasure, and so one can use any of their skills to remain connected to the divine. Some are skilled in writing and others in talking. Some are naturally people-friendly, while others work better in seclusion. Something as simple as attending a gathering of devotees celebrating Shri Krishna is a way to offer service, as we influence people more with our example than with our words.
On Radhashtami we celebrate the occasion when Krishna’s dearly beloved appeared on this earth to delight Him with her pastimes. She is not specifically qualified in Vedanta, nor does she sit quietly in meditation. Instead, she sacrifices all of her time, dedicates every ability and quality that she possesses, for the Supreme Lord’s pleasure. She sets the perfect example in this regard, and she shows that bhakti-yoga cannot be checked by any condition. Devotion offered to her is as good as worshiping Krishna, and so the truly wise saints chant the names of both the energetic and the energy found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
In favor of devotion she chooses,
All of her abilities she uses,
For Krishna’s pleasure to see,
So that happy both will be.
From Durvasa blessing in cooking she takes,
So nectarean food for Krishna she makes.
On this blessed Radhashtami day,
Name of Krishna’s beloved let me say.