Chapter Five from the book, Bhakti-rasāyana, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
paśu-pākhī jhure, pāṣāṇa vidare,
śuni’ ĵā̃’ra guṇa-gāthā
Upon witnessing the pastimes of Mahāprabhu, the birds, animals and insects would melt in divine love. When Mahāprabhu was in Ālālanātha, upon hearing His crying the stone there melted, and His footprints and imprints from where He fell unconscious were easily indented there. When Śrī Rāmacandra and Bharata met at Citrakūṭa, upon feeling the mutual love of the two brothers, the stone there melted. When Kṛṣṇa played the flute at Caraṇa-pahāḍī in Kāmyavana, the stone melted and He left fifty or more footprints there. These footprints are certainly His – they were not made by anyone else. So even stones, clouds, trees and animals can melt in emotion, but we have not yet become melted in emotion. We haven’t yet developed the intense eagerness that “I will certainly engage in Kṛṣṇa-bhajana.”
In the verse we began describing in the last chapter we find the line vana-latās taravaḥ, meaning “the creepers and trees in the forest”, but why have the creepers been mentioned before the trees? It would seem that it would be proper to mention the trees first because they are primary, and without them the creepers would have nothing to climb up. But the creepers are of the same gender as the gopīs, and their sentiment is similar. “These creepers are female just as we are, and men don’t have as much sentiment as we do.” Thinking like this, the gopīs first mentioned the word latā in this verse, and then taravaḥ. They say ātmani viṣṇum, which means “He who is pervading everything”, referring to bhakta-vātsalya Bhagavān. Vyañjayantyaḥ means “revealed in a special way to this Nanda-kiśora, Yaśodā-nandana, Kṛṣṇacandra or Gopī- kānta”. These creepers had a treasure hidden in their hearts, but upon hearing the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute they immediately revealed it in the form of fruits and flowers. Bowing down to Kṛṣṇa’s feet, they offered the treasure of their hearts as praṇāma.
There are two ways of offering praṇāma to someone. Someone who has very little faith will apathetically offer praṇāma with his hands only one time and then leave. But someone who has strong faith will bow down and offer praṇāma time and again with great love and humility. He will look towards his master with great affection, desiring his blessing. The trees offered praṇāma to Kṛṣṇa in this way, with great prema. Kṛṣṇa came, they offered praṇāma, and even after Kṛṣṇa left they remained bowing down because there was so much prema in their hearts.
Being submerged in the ocean of unhappiness of separation from Kṛṣṇa, how did the gopīs pass the day? After cooking for Kṛṣṇa at the home of Yaśodā and seeing that Kṛṣṇa has taken the cows to the forest to graze, the gopīs return to their homes, and those sakhīs who are svapakṣa (belonging to Rādhikā’s own group) remain with Rādhikā. When someone is happy, it seems to them that the whole day passes in one minute; so in separation from Kṛṣṇa, how will the gopīs manage to pass the day? It says here that they engaged in kīrtana – singing these verses that we are reading – but did they pass the day in happiness or unhappiness? They were remembering the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa by describing them, and were revealing their inner feelings to one another, but were they feeling happiness or unhappiness? Hearing the descriptions of His pastimes, they became absorbed and felt that they were actually seeing Him, but when the excitement from that diminished, they were plunged into the depths of despair.
For the gopīs, happiness and unhappiness became one ocean. It says in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, “viṣāmṛte ekatra milana – poison and nectar became one.” I am not able to explain this in such a way that you will understand this, or even to fully understand it myself. Because we are presently standing on the platform of māyā, wrapped up in material enjoyment, we cannot understand this. Then why are we hearing of it? It is like a coating of wax. If you are placing candles here and there, then a little wax comes off on your hand and creates a coating. Similarly, if a sādhaka reads, hears and speaks about these topics, then certainly something will rub off: a little feeling of bhāva will come. Then, practising sādhana more and more, after some time this feeling will become so strong that it will never be interrupted.
Here the gopīs are mutually hearing and describing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, and as remembrance comes, they are seeing Kṛṣṇa with the eyes of bhāva. It appears that they are suffering due to separation, but inside them is great happiness.
evaṁ vraja-striyo rājan
remire ’haḥsu tac-cittās
O king, during the daytime the ladies of Vraja took pleasure in continuously singing about the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, and their hearts were fully absorbed in Him.
The ladies of Vraja had offered their hearts to Kṛṣṇa. We see in the Gopī-gīta [chapter 31 of the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam] and in the Veṇu-gīta that the gopīs are absorbed in spiritual ecstasy: even in separation from Him they remain happy by meditating on His pastimes. Yet in another place it is written that being very unhappy, they passed the day singing about His pastimes. They took shelter of only one thing – singing about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes – otherwise they would have been unable to pass the day. So are the gopīs happy as they sing about His pastimes, or unhappy? It is harmonised in this way: if we see a person really crying and wailing in separation from Kṛṣṇa, just as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu did, what feelings will arise within us? Will we think that, “I never want to be like this!”? Rather we will think that if even a small fraction of that bhāva enters us, our lives will be completely successful. As peculiar as it seems, we actually desire to cry in this way. The verses in the Bhāgavatam describing the crying of the gopīs will be those most read by a rasika devotee. In the Bhramara-gīta [chapter 47 of the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam] the gopīs are in vipralambha-bhāva, and speaking to a bumblebee they are expressing their suffering. It is a very sad thing, but devotees enjoy it very much.
The Veṇu-gīta, Gopī-gīta, Yugala-gīta, and other chapters in the Bhāgavatam all focus entirely on the topic of separation from Kṛṣṇa. Devotees find all of this tasteful, even though they are crying; they like crying also. Therefore here happiness is included within crying, and the gopīs are described in this verse as mahodayāḥ – experiencing a grand festival. Singing about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes during the day, they were supremely happy. Meeting Kṛṣṇa at night they were fully gratified, and in meditation during the day their minds raced after Him as He wandered in the forest. This is the meaning of bhajana. If a devotee is absorbed in meditation on Kṛṣṇa-līlā, then that meditation is bhajana. “How will I meet Kṛṣṇa? So many lives have passed, and still I have not found Him.”
Although externally that prema appears to be unhappiness, inside their meditation is immeasurable happiness. When Kṛṣṇa leaves Vṛndāvana and goes to Mathurā or Dvārakā, and at Nandagrāma or Uddhava-kyārī the gopīs are crying in sadness, why won’t they abandon their meditation on Kṛṣṇa? Are they able to abandon it? Sūrya dāsa has written that the gopīs placed Kṛṣṇa’s foot-dust all over their sārīs and their limbs, and when the tears related to Kṛṣṇa fell from their eyes and mixed with that, they became very dirty; but would any of them change their sārīs? So this meditation is actually full of happiness, but yes, externally it seems to be unhappiness. It is written in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta that the happiness felt by one person meeting Kṛṣṇa exceeds the happiness felt by the residents of millions of material universes combined, and the unhappiness felt by the residents of Vṛndāvana exceeds the pain caused by the most potent poison. Therefore Sanātana Gosvāmī, Jīva Gosvāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura have written in their commentaries that in this state of separation, happiness and unhappiness are the same.
At the end of his explanation of this verse, Sanātana Gosvāmī says that in this way Kṛṣṇa is the very embodiment of the topmost ecstasy (paramānanda): He is the very embodiment of rasa, He is the possessor of all potencies, He is all-pervading, He knows the minds and hearts of all, and He is the foundation of all rasa. He is both the rasa itself and the taster of rasa. He performs pastimes that establish Him as the very embodiment of paramānanda. There is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His pastimes, just as there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His name. Being merciful, when Kṛṣṇa-līlā sees that there is bhāva in our hearts, then it will appear to us. By thousands of our own efforts it will not appear, but when it is merciful to us, at that moment it will appear of its own accord.
Just as Kṛṣṇa is supremely independent, His līlā is also supremely independent. It will know if a recipient is qualified or not. If it sees that one’s prayer is full of humility, then no matter what one’s qualification may be, it will appear. It may appear in the hearts of qualified people like the four Kumāras, or in someone with a sinful background like Bilvamaṅgala. Līlā manifested in his heart and Kṛṣṇa Himself came to help him walk to Vraja and to listen to his sweet singing. Therefore Sanātana Gosvāmī is saying that just as Kṛṣṇa is the very embodiment of the supreme spiritual ecstasy, so are His pastimes. If one is simply hearing narrations of Kṛṣṇa-līlā, then for him there is no necessity of practising renunciation or anything of the kind.
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām
sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir
ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
Bhagavān is unconquerable by anyone within this world. Yet if someone faithfully hears hari-kathā, even while remaining within his established social position, then the disease of lust and all impediments to spiritual advancement (anarthas) will vanish from his heart and he will overpower that unconquerable Bhagavān – such is the potency of līlā-kathā. But since this līlā-kathā is the very embodiment of the topmost spiritual ecstasy (paramānanda), then what necessity will the gopīs feel to meet Kṛṣṇa? Won’t they be satisfied just by this? They won’t be satisfied. Why? Sanātana Gosvāmī gives his opinion that although Kṛṣṇa and the narrations of His pastimes are one, the gopīs won’t be satisfied by just engaging in līlā-kathā. Their prema is such that it can never be restricted in any way, and they will never be fully pleased, fully satisfied or receive the full taste from only engaging in līlā-kathā without meeting Kṛṣṇa. They desire to enter directly into pastimes where Kṛṣṇa will express similar sentiments towards them as He did in the rāsa-līlā.
Hari-kathā by itself won’t satisfy the gopīs, but a sādhaka should always continue hearing narrations of the Lord’s pastimes, understanding that the unhappiness which the gopīs experienced while engaged in hari-kathā was merely a manifestation of their indescribable happiness. It is written that when līlā-kathā enters the ears of a sādhaka, it enters his heart, snatches away all inauspiciousness and makes his heart completely pure. Then it takes him to the place where he can relish a life of serving Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa with the sakhās and sakhīs; in this way Kṛṣṇa and the narrations of His pastimes are supremely merciful.
Next comes this verse:
ete ’linas tava yaśo ’khila-loka-tīrthaṁ
gāyanta ādi-puruṣānupathaṁ bhajante
prāyo amī muni-gaṇā bhavadīya-mukhyā
gūḍhaṁ vane ’pi na jahaty anaghātma-daivam
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.15.6); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.113) [Śrī Kṛṣṇa said to Balarāma:] O Ādi-puruṣa, although you are keeping your opulences hidden and are performing pastimes as a young boy here in Vṛndāvana, still the sages, who are among the best of your devotees, have recognised you. Not wanting to be separated from you for even one moment, they have assumed the forms of bees and are worshipping you by constantly singing your glories as the purifier of this world.
Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva Prabhu have taken the cows out for grazing, and using the presence of Baladeva as a pretext, Kṛṣṇa is actually praising Himself in His speaking of this verse. Here He praises Baladeva as being ādi-puruṣa, the original personality in all of existence, but that is actually Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is describing so many of the glories of Baladeva here, but they are actually His own glories. He says, “The buzzing of the bees in this forest is actually the chanting of Vedic mantras. The bees are actually munis, but in the form of bees they are glorifying you with poems and prayers as they follow you along. You are wearing a vaijayantī-mālā that is comprised of many different kinds of flowers and tulasī buds also. There is nectar within these buds, so sometimes these bees are sitting on the buds, sometimes on the other flowers of the garland, and sometimes they are swarming around you offering prayers. They are actually sages who after performing austerities for thousands of years have attained perfection. Being munis, they are able to discern that you are actually the ādi-puruṣa, even though you remain hidden in your form as a young boy at the conjunction of the paugaṇḍa and kaiśora ages. Therefore they are unable to abandon your company and are following behind you offering prayers.”
What is the nature of their prayers? There are so many different kinds of poems and prayers that can be offered to Kṛṣṇa, but amongst them, which are the topmost? There are countless mantras within the Vedas, and their personifications pray, “Although we are the mantras of the Vedas, up until today we have been performing austerities for the purpose of attaining and becoming absorbed in the bhāva that You share with the gopīs. Please be kind and make that bhāva arise within our hearts.” There are so many types of prayers one can offer to Kṛṣṇa, but if someone prays for the bhāva of Vraja, then He is more pleased. And especially if someone prays for the bhāva of the gopīs, that will please Him the most.
Grandfather Bhīṣma prayed, “O Lord, out of friendship You are driving the chariot of Arjuna, and Your blood is flowing from the wounds made by my arrows. At this time I remember You in Vṛndāvana as Your soft body may have been pricked by thorns, and blood is coming from those wounds. Seeing You in this condition, that bhāva is coming to me.” In Vraja, Kṛṣṇa’s skin may have been pricked as He was playing with the sakhās, but really Bhīṣma is remembering Kṛṣṇa with His skin having been scratched by the gopīs in their amorous pastimes. In describing that bhāva, Sanātana Gosvāmī has quoted this verse of Bhīṣma here in his commentary and given a very beautiful explanation. This kind of prayer is the topmost. If we pray, “O Lord, Yaśodā has scolded You and You are crying. I offer praṇāma to You in this condition time and again,” then Kṛṣṇa will be pleased. But above that, if we pray, “O Lord, You are very rasika. In Vṛndāvana, when the gopīs are fatigued, You massage their feet and appease them. I offer praṇāma to You time and again,” then there will be no need to say anything more. Being very pleased, Kṛṣṇa will give Himself to someone who offers such a prayer. He is more pleased by those who pray with this elevated bhāva than He was even by the prayers of Brahmā.
The descriptions of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are referred to here as akhila-loka-tīrtham – they are the saviour and purifier of the entire world. One may be purified by repeatedly bathing in holy places, but hearing hari-kathā from an elevated devotee will purify one for all time, and make one qualified to purify others as well. Acting as guru, this līlā-kathā is the purifier of everyone, whether they are qualified or not by other considerations. It is the bestower of the knowledge of Bhagavān’s glories, and the very thing that takes us across the ocean of material existence. Singing about Bhagavān’s pastimes will purify oneself and the entire world also.
Holy places become very contaminated and even begin to desire that sinful people will not bathe in their waters, but if someone hears hari-kathā from Nārada, will Nārada ever become contaminated? Whoever asks him questions and whoever hears his answers will become purified. He is always singing the glories of Bhagavān’s pastimes, and sometimes even creates some pastimes himself, such as when he went to Dvārakā accompanied by Uddhava and the construction of Nava-Vṛndāvana was arranged. He inspires many different kinds of pastimes, and then he sings about them. No one knows the glories of līlā-kathā better than Nārada. If anyone hears and chants such descriptions, especially the descriptions of līlā found in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, then certainly Kṛṣṇa, accompanied by His associates, will appear in that person’s heart.
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