It’s the nature of spiritual practice, or sadhana, to move from head-to-heart to become harmonized. This is why it took me several years after I began my practice of Bhakti yoga, nearly fifty years ago, to really internalize certain concepts beyond theory and let them find a deep place in my being. This isn’t surprising since one such concept, and perhaps one of the most provocative, is that -according to Bhakti Theology- all souls (whether in a male or female body) are feminine!
Ironically, females were oppressed in the Bhakti community where I lived and in response, for a while, I tried to suppress my own femininity. Even though we had all been taught that we are not our physical bodies, gender seemed to become an issue in many Bhakti temples. Throughout those struggles I absorbed myself in japa and kirtan,the main practices of Bhakti yoga. Quietly to myself, and out loud in groups, respectively, I chanted the ancient Hare Krishna maha-mantra, which addresses the Supreme Divine as both male and female.
Although, at first my focus was on Krishna – the divine masculine – as my meditation progressed through the decades, Radha – the divine feminine and supreme Goddess—came to the forefront of my heart and awareness. Soon, pleasing her, serving her, and seeing her became my passionate, cherished goal.
As my practice continued, Radha revealed her beautiful qualities to me. She is patient, grave, affectionate, compassionate, gentle, grateful, merciful, respectful, etc. In fact, all souls possess the same goddess-like qualities at their spiritual cores. How I longed to awaken these within myself!
One text describes: “Radha is the full power, and Krishna is the possessor of full power.” Gradually Radha, the Divine Feminine, showed me the formidable power of the feminine, for her love conquers the all-powerful Krishna!
This divine vision of Goddess Radha overpowering God through love – knocking him off his throne – astonished me. I realized that the Goddess not only shares the throne at the summit of reality, she demurely controls it, as well as he who owns it! And she does so with the deepest compassion and pure love: a love that drives God mad.
Each day my relationship with Radha – and understanding how powerful the feminine can be – deepens. Meditating on Goddess Radha has unlocked transcendental reflections in me as I begin to understand the awesome implications in declaring all souls as feminine: that we all have these qualities and this power of spiritual love, regardless of our biological genders. What a different world it would be if all people imbibed these powerful, divine qualities!
We experience masculine and feminine in this world – however imbalanced – because they have a pure state in the spiritual world. Unfortunately, our experiences of masculine and feminine energies are but impoverished reflections of their spiritual source and oftentimes the world subjugates the female and accentuates the male.
The Goddess teaches us how to do away with inebriated concepts of gender by empowering ourselves with her divine qualities and her overpowering, pure love through service to our Divine Other.
This is the path of Bhakti, which I call “The Way of the Feminine Divine.” It is the means by which we achieve our full potential as spiritual beings. It is the way of the Goddess of Wise-Love, Radha, unto whom I offer my life each day in the service of helping others call Radha into their lives.
Goddess Radha is the exemplar lover and the shelter of all affection. For me, she’s the transcendent goal. Whether in a male or female body and whichever gender we identify with, in our spiritual perfection – according to Bhakti – we’re all servants of the Supreme Goddess Radha!
And what happens when we become servants of the divine goddess in the truest sense? We become spiritual lovers. We conquer God! We conquer our Divine Other with our love. Is there any greater potential for the soul? Not as I see it.
This essay was originally published in GODDESS, When She Rules: Expressions by Contemporary Women, (Golden Dragonfly Press, Jan.2018)
Pranada Comtois is a devoted pilgrim, teacher, and award-winning author of Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness. Her writing sheds light on bhakti’s wisdom school of heartfulness with a focus on how to culture wise-love in our lives and relationships so we can experience the inherent, unbounded joy of the self. At sixteen she met her teacher A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and began her lifelong study and practice of bhakti. The wisdom of her teaching grows from living for twenty years as a contemplative in bhakti ashrams, and another twenty years raising a family and running two multi-million dollar businesses. Pranada is an activist in women’s spiritual empowerment. She was the first to speak up for gender harmony in the modern bhakti tradition and successfully organized global steps against gender injustice. Her writing has appeared in Integral Yoga, Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, Tattooed Buddha, and the books Journey of the Heart, Bhakti Blossoms, and GODDESS: When She Rules. She is a featured speaker in the film Women of Bhakti.Her debut, award-winning book, Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness is available here. Connect with Pranada on her website here.