Chapter Fourteen from the book Bhakti-rasāyana, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja


gopīnāṁ paramānanda
āsīd govinda-darśane
kṣaṇaṁ yuga-śatam iva
yāsāṁ yena vinābhavat

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.19.16); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.133)

[The young gopīs took the greatest pleasure in seeing Govinda come home, since for them even a moment without His association seemed like a hundred ages.]

The vraja-gopīs would enjoy supreme pleasure from receiving the darśana of  Śrī Govinda, but they would consider even one moment of His absence to be like one hundred yugas.

Kṛṣṇa and the sakhās had taken the cows out to graze in the Muñjāraṇya forest when a fire started, and like a chariot driver the wind carried that fire until it surrounded the boys and cows on all sides. Then the sakhās called out, “Kṛṣṇa! Baladeva! Save us!” Seeing that they were threatened, Kṛṣṇa said, “Just close your eyes!” and He opened His mouth and consumed the fierce fire. Then He told them that they could open their eyes; if they had witnessed His swallowing that great fire they would have been terrified. But the sakhās saw that everything was just as it was before and that the cows were calmly resting under the Bhāṇḍīra tree. They thought, “How is it that we are here? Everything was just burning! Was that just a dream, or was it real?” And then they all began blissfully taking their lunch together.

In the same way, when by the cultivation of bhagavad-bhajana and the mercy of the spiritual master and Bhagavān we become free from the burning suffering of the material energy, we will think, “Was it just a dream, or was it real?” Upon the eradication of that pain which had been tormenting us since time immemorial, we will think, “Where has it gone, as if in the snap of a finger? Was it real?” We really won’t be able to remember.

After this Kṛṣṇa led the cows back to Vraja, and the gopīs were thirsty for His darśana, and that is the time being described in this verse spoken by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. When He came before them, their ānanda increased. Although they had not yet established a relationship with Him through either seeing Him or hearing about Him, they were very attracted to Him, and this is called pūrva-rāga. It can exist in both the viṣaya, the supreme object of love, Kṛṣṇa, and in the āśraya, the supreme receptacle of love, the gopīs.

To feel this pūrva-rāga in the stage of sādhana is not easy; the pūrva-rāga that has been described in the writings of Vidyāpati, Caṇḍīdāsa and in the Gopī-gīta and other places in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam cannot be attained by an ordinary sādhaka. Only when one has attained svarūpa-siddhi – meaning when in the stage of bhāva one attains perception of his eternal identity – will such restlessness for the sight of Kṛṣṇa be felt. Only a very few devotees, like Bilvamaṅgala, have felt this kind of sentiment in the same lifetime. But kṣaṇaṁ yuga-śatam iva – feeling a moment of Kṛṣṇa’s absence to be like millenniums – what is the nature of this sentiment? Although here it is pūrva-rāga, it can also be mahābhāva, as in this verse:

yugāyitaṁ nimeṣeṇa
cakṣuṣā prāvṛṣāyitam
śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ
govinda-viraheṇa me

Śrī Śīkṣāṣṭaka (7)

[“ ‘My Lord Govinda, because of separation from You, I consider even a moment a great millennium. Tears flow from My eyes like torrents of rain, and I see the entire world as void.’]

O sakhī, in separation from Govinda, even one second seems like millenniums. Tears flow from my eyes like clouds showering torrents of rain, and the entire world appears empty.

This is also mahābhāva; it is not an ordinary sentiment. The poet Caṇḍīdāsa has written:

sai, kevā śunāila śyāma-nāma
kānera bhitara diyā, marame paśila go
ākula karila mora prāṇa

Although outwardly it is on the order of Nanda and Yaśodā that Kṛṣṇa joins the other boys to take the cows out to graze for the day – He knows this is the dharma for those of His class – it is actually with immense bhāva that He joins His friends. He has just passed His paugaṇḍa age and is entering His kaiśora age. Kṛṣṇa is speaking with Subala or some other cowherd boy, and the sakhīs are conversing amongst themselves. Sai is a very simple and sweet word for sakhī. They say, “Sai, why have we been made to hear the name of Śyāma? Entering through our ears, it has touched the core of our hearts and confounded our very lives.”

At once the gopīs became perplexed in the eagerness to attain Kṛṣṇa, and this is the very purpose of hearing the scriptures. By hearing the glories of our worshipful deity through the medium of our ears, our heart should become so attached to Him that day and night we will do nothing besides meditate on His sweetness. The gopīs have not just come to the end of sādhana by attaining svarūpa-siddhi, but they are actually manifestations of the hlādinī-śakti. This meditation is not possible for ordinary people. But as men who work in an oil factory will certainly develop a coating of oil on their hands, similarly when a sādhaka hears and speaks about these topics, “his hands will become coated”, meaning that a little bhāva will arise in him by which his life will become successful.

Our spiritual sentiments should be so deep that we won’t be able to forget them even for a moment, but regrettably, we have become accustomed to generally doing precisely the opposite. We hear these topics, but it seems as if immediately afterwards, remembrance of material enjoyment consumes us. We are chanting the holy name, studying ślokas and giving scriptural readings, but where are our minds? Just as when we place an empty pot in a river it immediately fills up with water, immediately after hearing some of this bhagavat-kathā our minds will again become filled with thoughts of the sense enjoyment that we have been experiencing since time immemorial. We must try to keep the mind free from these thoughts, even though it may not always remain steady. We should go to wherever hari-kathā is being spoken and completely fill our minds with it, leaving no room for thoughts of sense enjoyment.

Indeed, there is nothing more favourable for us than hearing hari-kathā, and it should be our food. We should have love for hari-kathā, and if not, then we should at least consider it our duty to hear it, understanding that it will bestow upon us our ultimate good fortune. Those whose hearts have been thoroughly purified, who never think of sense enjoyment – when they hear such kathā, deep sentiments that touch the very core of their hearts arise, and they remain absorbed in those sentiments day and night.

In another place Caṇḍīdāsa writes that the young kiśorī daughter of Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu sits alone, completely perplexed, not speaking to anyone, and one of Her elders says to Her, “My child, what are You doing? Why are You sitting there like that? Come over here and do this task.” But She doesn’t listen; She is unable to comprehend what has happened inside Her. Her eyes are open, which is a symptom of consciousness, but She isn’t looking at anything. She saw Śyāma one time, but He left, and now She just remains silent and motionless. She has no desire to eat, and She is wearing red clothes – why? To help Her forget His bodily complexion so that She won’t become more dazed and Her condition won’t then be detected by Her elders. With a hair-band She has tied white flowers onto Her hair so that its dark shade will not remind Her of Śyāma, but since He has already captured the core of Her heart, how can She possibly prevent remembrance of Him from coming?

Then She began gazing at a cloud that possessed the same complexion as Śyāma. Sometimes She enters the house and sometimes She comes back out; She takes long breaths and Her mind is not steady on anything. Then an elder says to Her, “Why did You go there? What was the necessity? Beware! Don’t ever look in the direction of that boy again! Don’t focus Your mind on Him for even one moment, or You won’t be able to perform Your household duties! You are not listening to me, so have You now lost the fear of Your elders as well? Has some ghost or demigod possessed You?” Not aware of anything, She falls down, and when they lift Her up and place Her somewhere else, She falls down again. Because She has lost Her fear of Her elders, they even abandon the idea of finding a husband for Her. But Caṇḍīdāsa says, “Yes, I understand: She is not mad, not possessed, nothing of the sort, but She has simply fallen into the trap of that black snake Śyāma.” This is pūrva-rāga.

But how can a sādhaka experience this? Generally our minds are full of unlimited varieties of material desires, but when none of these desires remain, meaning when one obtains the company of an exalted guru and receives the unconditional mercy of Bhagavān, then some shadow of bhāva will come. By chanting the extraordinarily beautiful śyāma-nāma and the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, Rūpa Gosvāmī, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and Nārada all went mad in ecstasy, so tell me then – how much bhāva must be contained within it? And Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura also has written so many lines that are saturated with bhāva, like:

vibhāvarī-śeṣa, āloka-praveśa,
nidrā chāḓi’ uṭhô jīva
bôlô’ hari hari, mukunda murāri,
rāma-kṛṣṇa hayagrīva (1)

The night is over, and the light [of dawn] is coming. Arise, O jīva, and give up your sleep! Chant the names of Hari, Mukunda, Murāri, Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, and Hayagrīva!

nṛsiṁha vāmana, śrī madhusūdana,
vrajendra-nandana śyāma
pūtanā-ghātana, kaiṭabha-śātana,
jaya dāśarathi-rāma (2)

[Chant] Nṛsimha, Vāmana, Śrī Madhusūdana, Vrajendra-nandana, and Śyāma—the killer of Pūtanā and the destroyer of Kaiṭabha. All glories to the son of King Daśaratha, Lord Rāma!

yaśodā-dulāla, govinda-gopāla,
gopī-priya-jana, rādhikā-ramaṇa,
bhuvana-sundara-vara (3)

He is the darling son of Yaśodā and the protector and maintainer of the cows, their pastures, the gopas, and the gopīs. He is the king of Vṛndāvana, the dearmost beloved of the gopīs, and the consort of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. In the entire world, His beauty is unsurpassed.

rāvaṇāntakara, mākhana-taskara,
vrajera rākhāla, gopa-vṛnda-pāla,
citta-hārī vaṁśī-dhārī (4)

He is the killer of Rāvaṇa, the butter thief, the stealer of the young gopīs’ garments, the protector of the cows of Vraja, the guardian of the gopas, and the flute player who enchants the minds of all.

yogīndra-vandana, śrī nanda-nandana,
navīna nīrada, rūpa manohara,
mohana-vaṁśī-bihārī (5)

He is the object of great yogīs’ worship, the beautiful son of Nanda, the remover of fears from the residents of Vraja, and a fresh rain cloud. He possesses a form that enchants the mind and He wanders about, playing the flute and charming everyone.

yaśodā-nandana, kaṁsa-nisūdana,
kadamba-kānana, rāsa-parāyaṇa,
vṛndā-vipina-nivāsī (6)

He is the darling son of Yaśodā, the heroic killer of Kaṁsa, the performer of nectarean pastimes in the pleasure groves of Vraja, the enjoyer of the rāsa dance in the arena of the kadamba forest, and the resident of the Vṛndāvana forest.

ānanda-vardhana, prema-niketana,
phula-śara-ĵojaka kāma
samasta-guṇa-gaṇa-dhāma (7)

He is the enhancer of bliss and the abode of prema, and He is the transcendental Cupid who aims His flower arrows [at the gopīs, and thus awakens transcendental desires in them]. He gives pleasure to the hearts of the gopīs and He is the abode of all good qualities.

yāmuna-jīvana, keli-parāyaṇa,
nāma-sudhā-rasa, gāo kṛṣṇa-ĵaśa,
rākhô vacana mana mora (8)

He is the life and soul of Yamunā, He is absorbed in amorous pastimes, and He is the moon of the gopīs’ minds, which are like cakora birds, subsisting only on moonlight. O mind, always heed my words and sing Kṛṣṇa’s glories in the form of these holy names, which are full of nectar.

Kalyāṇa-kalpataru (Nāma-kīrtana 2, Vibhāvarī-Śeṣa)

This refers to meditating on the pastimes that Kṛṣṇa performs at the end of the night while ordinary jīvas remain sleeping. And in the same song, phula-śara-jojaka kāma: “Śrī  Kṛṣṇa utilises flowered arrows to increase the gopīs’ desire.” He won’t understand this line until one understands the conception delineated in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi well. Or if the kāma-gāyatrī reveals itself to someone, then that person will understand something of its meaning, but without the mercy of the kāma-gāyatrī it cannot be understood. The bhāva of a mahā-bhāgavata Vaiṣṇava comes within this line, but even though we sing this line every morning, what do we accrue from it? Therefore the difference between a sādhaka’s chanting of the holy name and a perfected soul’s chanting of the holy name is like the difference between the land and the sky. When one has fully realised the sweetness of harināma, then his tongue will not be able to stop chanting it. For example, when Caitanya Mahāprabhu would go to pass water, He would firmly grasp His tongue with one hand. Seeing this, His young servant Gopāla asked, “O Lord, why are You doing this?”

Mahāprabhu replied, “My tongue doesn’t obey Me. One shouldn’t take the name of Govinda in a contaminated place, but it won’t obey Me.”

Gopāla replied, “But my Lord, at the time of dying one may pass stool and urine, and if we don’t chant the holy name at that time, our lives will be spoiled!”

Being pleased, Mahāprabhu said, “As of today you have become guru. Yes, the holy name should be taken at that time also.” So He released His tongue and chanted at all times, even when going to the bathroom. During the night, Mahāprabhu’s servant Govinda dāsa thought that He was merely sleeping, but He would remain awake chanting kṛṣṇa-nāma, crying and sometimes rubbing His face on the wall. And when Rāya Rāmānanda and Svarūpa Dāmodara would come, Govinda dāsa would become very unhappy and think, “Why have they come? They will make Him cry and He will not be able to sleep tonight.”

When this high type of intense bhāva comes while chanting the holy name, then one’s composure will be destroyed and he will think, “Without seeing  Kṛṣṇa I cannot live any longer! How can I meet Him? What will I do?” Then one’s fear of elders, fear of being disgraced in society, and self-restraint are all lost. There are certain inhibitions that restrain love, but when they are all broken down, one’s self-restraint is lost. Even Rukmiṇī and Satyabhāmā are not capable of this, so what to speak of others? The night before her proposed marriage, through a brāhmaṇa Rukmiṇī sent a message to Kṛṣṇa saying, “Tomorrow I will be married. If You don’t come and save me from this, I will give up my life. Shamefully I am writing this to You; a cultured girl should not write like this, but shamefully I am writing to You because otherwise a jackal will snatch away the lion’s share.” So even though Rukmiṇī is expressing these deep sentiments, she feels some shame, but the gopīs feel no such shame, and therefore their bhāva is so much deeper. When the gopīs would see Kṛṣṇa returning from taking the cows out to graze, they would gaze upon Him with greedy eyes and their ānanda would increase. But when they couldn’t see Him, even a moment seemed like millions of yugas that would never pass. This is pūrva-rāga, and countless beautiful sentiments are included within it.

The gopīs felt that the time which elapsed during the blinking of their eyes was like an infinity, and they have themselves described this in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.31.15):

aṭati yad bhavān ahni kānanaṁ
truṭi yugāyate tvām apaśyatām
kuṭila-kuntalaṁ śrī-mukhaṁ ca te
jaḍa udīkṣatāṁ pakṣma-kṛd dṛśām

[When You go off to the forest during the day, a tiny fraction of a second becomes like a millennium for us because we cannot see You. And even when we can eagerly look upon Your beautiful face, so lovely with its adornment of curly locks, our pleasure is hindered by our eyelids, which were fashioned by the foolish creator.]

When Kṛṣṇa would spend the day wandering in the forest with the sakhās, the gopīs, unable to see His beautiful face adorned with lovely locks of hair, would be anguished in separation from Him. And what to speak of that, even when Kṛṣṇa was before them, they considered the tiny fraction of time that elapsed in the blinking of their eyes to be like millenniums, and they cursed the creator Brahmā as being foolish for having created eyes that must blink. Our time is mainly spent joking around, but in comparison what kind of bhajana was performed by these great personalities?

We have read that only once in his entire life did Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī laugh. While he was reading Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Vidagdha-mādhava-nāṭaka, his tears were falling on the hand-written pages and smearing the ink. Seeing this, Rūpa Gosvāmī asked for it back, but Raghunātha dāsa clutched it to his heart and refused to return it. Therefore Rūpa Gosvāmī composed the Dāna-keli-kaumudī very quickly, and after reading only a few verses of it, Raghunātha dāsa began laughing. Otherwise he remained crying for Kṛṣṇa throughout his entire life. If there is such crying for Kṛṣṇa, then that is real sādhana and one will certainly receive His darśana, just as in the case of Bilvamaṅgala. Presently we may be engaged in only the semblance (ābhāsa) of real sādhana, but if even in this stage of sādhana-ābhāsa we feel so much joy by hearing and speaking this kathā, then just imagine how blissful we will feel when we enter into real sādhana!


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Unless indicated differently, all verse translations and quotes are from the books by Śrīla Prabhupāda (

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