Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyā


Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyā

▪ Hindu cult
      member of an esoteric Hindu cult centred in Bengal that sought religious experience through the world of the senses, specifically human sexual love. Sahaja (Sanskrit: “easy” or “natural”) as a system of worship was prevalent in the Tantric traditions common to both Hinduism and Buddhism in Bengal as early as the 8th–9th centuries. The divine romance of Krishna and Rādhā was celebrated by the poets Jayadeva (12th century), Caṇḍīdās, and Vidyāpati (mid-15th century), and parallels between human love and divine love were further explored by Caitanya, the 15th–16th-century mystic, and his followers. The Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyā cult developed from the 17th century onward as a synthesis of these various traditions.

      The Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyās elevated parakīyā-rati (literally, “the love of a man for a woman who legally belongs to another”) above svakīyā-rati (conjugal love) as the more intense of the two. Parakīyārati, it was said, was felt without consideration for the conventions of society or for personal gain and thus was more analogous to divine love. Rādhā is conceived as the ideal of the parakīyā woman, and the Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyās never attempted (as did some sects of Vaishnavism) to depict her as the wife of Krishna.

      The Vaiṣṇava-Sahajiyās were looked upon with disfavour by other religious groups and operated in secrecy. In their literature they deliberately employed a highly enigmatic style. Because of the extreme privacy of the cult, little is known about its prevalence or its practices today.

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Universalium. 2010.

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