Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (SB 10.30.34) says, in the context of romance, that men are pathetic (dainya) and women are wicked (durātmā). Even more surprisingly, it says that Krishna and Rādhā display (darśayan) the same traits! This is a difficult statement to understand, but is extremely profound. First lets understand why men are “pathetic” and women “wicked misers.” Then let’s ask why Rādhā and Krishna would actually like that dynamic and display it themselves.
Men are Pathetic
In romance, men are pathetic because they are so hungry for what the woman possesses. It makes them extremely weak and manipulable, and makes them do humiliating, “pathetic” things in the attempt to convince a woman that she should give him what he so desperately wants.
Women are Wicked
In romance, women are “wicked” (“miserly” – not magnanimous or compassionate) because although they posses everything the man needs to end his pathetic condition, they withhold it and refuse him. In fact they taunt the man to want it even more, but keep it out of his reach and make him belittle himself for even the smallest morsels of what he seeks.
And the Supreme Man and Woman…?
Now let’s ask the more baffling question: Why would Rādhā and Krishna themselves enjoy this male/female dynamic.
The verse itself explains (with words like ātma-rata, and ātmarāma) the key distinction between the actions (karma) of self-ignorant entities and the play (līlā) of pure consciousness: Ignorant entities act out of need. Perfect consciousness, on the other hand, acts out of joy. Ignorant men and women do what they do because they are empty inside and believe they can fill that emptiness by acquiring better things and better situations. They dedicate their unique strengths only to achieving this goal.
The male strength is muscle and ambition, with which he boldly contests with others to win the objects he desires. How pathetic indeed that he is conquered by delicate creatures with no muscle at all!
The female strength is beauty and subtlety. With these she can control even the male muscle and thus be the superior gender (with not only her beauty and wit, but also the male muscle and ambition working for her interests).
In the realm of pure consciousness, however, neither masculinity nor femininity has any emptiness, or need to fill. There is only joy to express.
The joy (hlādinī) of the Absolute Consciousness (advaya-jñāna) exists in the form of the most desirable and enchanting woman, the Supreme Woman, Śrī Rādhā. Krishna expresses and experiences his own joy by celebrating and experiencing her. To celebrate her, he manifests the “pathetic” male dynamic by humbling himself before her and begging for her compassion to quench his “burning lusts.” Rādhā in turn, does not easily give Krishna what he wants. She withholds compassion for Krishna’s desires, and thus displays the quality of “wickedness” and “miserliness.” Why does she do this? Because things which come easy and cheaply are not valued as dearly as things that require great effort and high price. Rādhā increases Krishna’s appetite for the joy that she embodies by withholding it in just the right measure. She gives just enough, then taks away, leads on, smiles, but then frowns, looks at him, but then looks away, teasing, taunting, heightening his appreciation for her. Breadcrumb by breadcrumb.
This “miserliness” is an expression of her joyful devotion. Those who do not know much about the art of romance may not get it, but those who have some grasp of the art form understand this truth right away. It is her joy to increase Krishna’s appetite, and thus increase and extend his eventual enjoyment of the “meal”!
Everyday romance has the same shape as Rādhā and Krishna’s romance, because everyday romance is a product of the same “stuff” that Rādhā and Krishna’s romance is a product of: consciousness. Everyday romance, however, is a product of consciousness in ignorance, while Rādhā and Krishna’s romance is a product of consciousness in perfect joy (brahma-nirvāna). Therefore everyday romance is literally a contest between the pathetic and the wicked. Rādhā and Krishna’s romance, however, is an ever-expanding, ever-intensifying expression of divine joy, which utilizes the vehicles of begging and witholding as the means to effect that ever intensifying expansion.
– Vraja Kishor