For many years I’ve been familiar with the following verse and pondered its meaning and implications. It seems that this verse specifically tells about the process of a soul’s awakening to its real form and relationship with Kṛṣṇa. The topic is a difficult one as it is not really a subject of the mundane mind and intelligence. It is only by the Lord’s potency, specially his potency of pleasure, that any living being can have an initial awakening to reality, and a continual unfolding of that reality. Let’s look at this verse which explains the hlādinī, or pleasure energy. We immediately notice that this energy is identified with prema, love. The reason is that only love brings full pleasure, and only love–in an infinite number of forms–is the basis of the eternal spiritual identity of each of us souls.
Cc Ādi 4.68:
hlādinīra sāra ‘prema’, prema-sāra ‘bhāva’
bhāvera parama-kāṣṭhā, nāma—‘mahā-bhāva’
hlādinīra—of the pleasure potency; sāra—the essence; prema—love for God; prema-sāra—the essence of such love; bhāva—emotion; bhāvera—of emotion; parama-kāṣṭhā—the highest limit; nāma—named; mahā-bhāva—mahābhāva.
The essence of the hlādinī potency is love of God, the essence of love of God is emotion [bhāva], and the ultimate development of emotion is mahābhāva.
The product of the hlādinī-śakti is love of Godhead, which has two divisions—namely, pure love of Godhead and adulterated love of Godhead. Only when the hlādinī-śakti emanates from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and is bestowed upon the living being to attract Him does the living being become a pure lover of God. But when the same hlādinī-śakti is adulterated by the external, material energy and emanates from the living being, it does not attract Kṛṣṇa; on the contrary, the living being becomes attracted by the glamor of the material energy. At that time instead of becoming mad with love of Godhead, the living being becomes mad after material sense enjoyment, and because of his association with the qualitative modes of material nature, he is captivated by its interactions of distressful, unhappy feelings.
While working on publishing a new translation of Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī’s Manah-śikṣā, I was studying a paragraph in Bhaktivinoda’s commentary to verse 8. Therein he writes:
Śrī Śrī-Gāndharvā bhajana:
The infinitesimal living being in its limited capacity to experience bliss may sometimes experience brahmānanda, the bliss of realizing Brahman, or ātmānanda, the bliss of knowing oneself to be a spiritual soul. However, without the mercy of the internal pleasure potency no one can ever experience transcendental ecstasy called paramānanda, the supreme bliss of loving service. One gets that mercy when, after hearing about the eternal loving emotions of the vraja-vāsīs, the eternal residents of vraja-dhāma, a greed may awaken in the heart of the practitioner to achieve that very same devotional sentiment. In this way the sincerity to beg and pray for that sentiment will begin. After this, by the grace of a sakhi, one takes the shelter of one of the sakhis or mañjarīs, the girl friends or assistants of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, and serves her, from which one gets the eligibility to serve the divine couple. With the gradual mercy of the sakhis, one obtains the mercy of Śrī-Rādhā. With the increase of such mercy, hlādinī-śakti proportionally manifests in the heart, making the proper spiritually blissful service to the divine couple available eternally to the soul.
It is clear that Bhaktivinoda is giving an explanation of a gradual process of a soul’s awakening. He writes that a particular greed, or desire, for service, wakes up in the heart of a practitioner upon hearing about specific residents of the spiritual world and their flavor of service to Kṛṣṇa. However, he is clear that such an inclination is not something intellectual, logical, and so forth on the part of the soul. It is a process of mercy. The way in which that mercy works is that the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa enters the heart of a devotee. That potency is full of light. As it is said in Bg 10.11:
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
teṣām—for them; eva—certainly; anukampā-artham—to show special mercy; aham—I; ajñāna-jam—due to ignorance; tamaḥ—darkness; nāśayāmi—dispel; ātma-bhāva—within their hearts; sthaḥ—situated; jñāna—of knowledge; dīpena—with the lamp; bhāsvatā—glowing.
To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
When the pleasure potency lights up the heart of devotees, those devotees can see, can feel, can know, “I have this kind of love for Kṛṣṇa.” As those devotees meditate on their individual love, the pleasure potency in the form of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates aid in further and further realization and progress until the devotees are fully and completely reinstated in their original position of service. The process is something like the sunrise, which gradually reveals more and more of the surroundings and oneself, until one really knows who one is, and starts doing one’s activities.
As noted in the purport to the original verse quoted, it’s important to distinguish between the light of potency that emanates from Kṛṣṇa, and the reflection of light that an illusioned living being can emanate. If we try to reach the Lord and the spiritual sky by our own efforts, we will simply fall more into illusion. On the other hand, if a soul does the basic practices of bhakti, that soul becomes open and receptive to the light of the Lord.
Radha, the Lord’s hladini sakti
three divisions of the Lord’s potencies
Scroll down on this page to find where to purchase Manah Siksa where the rays of the hladini shakti entering the heart is discussed in Bhaktivinoda’s commentary to verse 8.