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


If someone is inimical to Bhagavān, then they will have to undergo much suffering and be very unhappy. They will have to take millions of births in the material world, and will never attain happiness in any birth. The jīva is a part of Bhagavān; his very intrinsic form is as a servant of Bhagavān. Abandoning this understanding, the living entity becomes opposed to Bhagavān and thinks, “I am the enjoyer of this world,” “I am the master of everything,” and “Everything has been created for my enjoyment.” This is the illusion of the opposed jīva. When Kṛṣṇa disappeared from the vision of the gopīs, in divine madness they went searching for Him. In reality He is never far away from them; but on the contrary we have made ourselves separate from Him. If in our search for Bhagavān we have the same kind of eagerness that the gopīs have, then we can meet Him. But without such eagerness, we will never meet Him.
   The gopīs possess an extremely intense eagerness to meet Kṛṣṇa, and if even a fraction of that arises within us, then it can be said that we are really searching for Kṛṣṇa in our sādhana-bhajana. But from where will this eagerness come? Kṛṣṇa and Śrīmatī Rādhikā both assume forms that are easily accessible to conditioned souls. For the purpose of bringing jīvas towards Himself, Kṛṣṇa has become the śālagrāma-śilā, and His dearest one has become tulasī. Kṛṣṇa has also entered this world in the form of Girirāja-Govardhana, and His dearest one has come in the form of the Yamunā. We can see how merciful Bhagavān is: so much so that He has made the arrangement for everyone to attain  Him. Govardhana is accessible for everyone, and is fully capable of bestowing Kṛṣṇa-prema. It has been said that he fulfils whatever desires people approach him with, and in this way has arranged a very nice trap for them. If anyone desires a son, wealth, to get their son or daughter married, a better job or whatever, they can go to  Govardhana, beg from him, and he will bestow those things. In this way, at first he slowly captures people by grabbing the end of their finger, and then he grabs the whole finger, next the hand, and finally he grabs everything.
   Those of you who have travelled on the trains in India have seen how they are very crowded and how no seats are available. So after boarding the train people first move near a bench, then place their hand down on it, then spread their hand out a little, and then begin to edge their way in until they have squeezed themselves into a seat. In the same way, Girirāja, the spiritual master and the Vaiṣṇavas gradually bring the conditioned soul towards bhakti.
   Having become separated from Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs are thinking, “Kṛṣṇa is everything to us, so how will we meet Him? We must get the mercy of a Vaiṣṇava, and who are the best Vaiṣṇavas? Yudhiṣṭhira, Uddhava and Girirāja-Govardhana; and amongst them, Girirāja is the best. Going to Yudhiṣṭhira or Uddhava won’t be fruitful; they cannot give us what we desire. Only Girirāja can give it.” In this way, if we really feel that Bhagavān is our only necessity, we will have such eagerness. Then our eagerness will lead us to ask a Vaiṣṇava, “How can we meet Kṛṣṇa? How can we overcome all of our despair?” This is where we recognise our necessity for a guru. For obtaining any material object a guru is not necessary, but in spiritual matters approaching a  guru is necessary. Girirāja will give mercy, Yamunā-devī will give mercy, Vṛndāvana-dhāma will give mercy, and we should pray to all of them.
   Here the gopīs, through the eyes of vipralambha-bhāva in separation from Kṛṣṇa, are seeing prema in all the residents of Vṛndāvana but themselves. This is the symptom of an uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava. There are three levels of Vaiṣṇava. The first is the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, and his symptoms are that even though he offers pūjā to the deity and accepts that the water of holy places and the water that has washed the deity is sacred, he does not detect the presence of Bhagavān within the hearts of other living entities. He considers the body to be the self, and has no respect for the devotees of Bhagavān. He doesn’t believe that the spiritual master knows all; he thinks that the guru may possess more knowledge than he does, but that he certainly doesn’t know everything. Therefore he feels that there is no real necessity of taking advice from the guru. Upon not obtaining the material things that he desires from his practice of bhajana, he may become disgusted and even abandon his bhajana.
   The symptoms of the madhyama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava have been told to be that he has love for Bhagavān, he has friendship with other devotees, he is merciful to those who are faithful and he remains indifferent towards those who are opposed to Bhagavān. He wants to give mercy to everyone, but it is not possible to love everyone; it is inappropriate. One cannot show love to a snake or a tiger – they will only attack you. Therefore he behaves suitably towards others according to their qualification.
   The uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava sees the presence of his master in the hearts of all jīvas, and believes that they all have the same feelings for Bhagavān that he does. Prahlāda Mahārāja saw that his worshipful deity was in the hearts of all living entities, and that even the trees had the same feelings of śānta- and dāsya-rasa towards Bhagavān that he did. Similarly the gopīs saw their own sentiments sometimes within Girirāja, sometimes within the deer of Vṛndāvana and sometimes even within the clouds. And they also saw that just as Kṛṣṇa loves them, He also loves all the other residents of Vṛndāvana in the same way. Therefore the uttama-adhikārī doesn’t see anywhere in the world a living entity who is not engaged in bhajana and who doesn’t have the same sentiment for Kṛṣṇa as he himself does.

mama vartmānuvartante
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ

Bhagavad-gītā (4.11)

Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pṛthā.

   The highest devotees really see that everyone is serving Bhagavān – don’t think that this statement is an exaggeration. The gopīs actually see that, “Just as we love Kṛṣṇa, all of the trees, creepers, birds, mountains and rivers of Vṛndāvana are fully conscious and are serving Kṛṣṇa.” They are planning to go to Govardhana on the pretext of going to bathe in Mānasī-gaṅgā and having darśana of Harideva because nearby there, Kṛṣṇa is taking the cows out to graze, and then they will surely receive His darśana. In this way, with his eyes closed and chanting the holy name, an uttama-adhikārī similarly meditates on the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, especially His eternal eightfold daily pastimes (aṣṭakāla-līlā). Meditating more and more, eventually the object of his meditation appears to him, and he becomes absorbed in that flow: “I am at Govardhana, and I am doing my service.” When his vision begins to dissipate, he begins to lament, “Hāya! Hāya! ” And here, as the day progresses and the gopīs are sitting in their homes and conversing, their absorption in the previous bhāva begins to diminish, and one sakhī says to Rādhikā:

dṛṣṭvātape vraja-paśūn saha rāma-gopaiḥ
sañcārayantam anu veṇum udīrayantam
prema-pravṛddha uditaḥ kusumāvalībhiḥ
sakhyur vyadhāt sva-vapuṣāmbuda ātapatram

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.16); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.110)

Seeing Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma playing their flutes in the afternoon sun and taking the cows and calves out for grazing, the clouds burst with divine love, and like an umbrella shield their friend Śrī Kṛṣṇa from the sun while showering tiny drops of rain that are like a shower of flowers.

   Now it is afternoon time, and taking the cows out to graze accompanied by Baladeva and the gopas, Kṛṣṇa has entered the forest. Desiring fresh grass to eat, the cows grazed on and on until they reached the rocks of Govardhana. The rocks were very hot in the afternoon sun, and the sand and soil below their feet were also very hot. Thinking that the cows and His friends were feeling some pain due to this, Kṛṣṇa played the flute in such a way that at once the clouds gathered and began to shower soft rain.
   In India there are many rāgas that are well-known for producing different effects. Once there was a guru named Haridāsajī who was a master of rāgas, and he had two disciples named Baijubāvara and Tanasena. Tanasena was a singer in the court of the king, and it was his policy that if anyone came to Delhi to sing, they were obligated to challenge him in the royal court – and if they were defeated, they would have to face punishment from the king. Hearing of this, Baijubāvara went to  Delhi and began skilfully singing different melodies, and a large crowd of people gathered to hear him. The news of this reached the king, who said, “Who is this person daring to sing here? This is a great insult to Tanasena!” So he called for Baijubāvara and said to him, “You must have the proper qualification; otherwise you are not allowed to sing in Delhi.”
   Baijubāvara said, “All right, we will have a competition. Where will it be held?”
   “It will be held in the royal assembly.”
   “Then who will decide the winner? Who will decide whose singing is the sweetest and the most beautiful?”
   “All of my queens here will decide.”
   “No, I can’t trust them. I want the animals of the jungle to make the decision, and then I will accept it. The queens will all certainly be prejudiced. Therefore we should go to the jungle and see whose singing pleases the animals most.”
   “All right, so it shall be.”
   The entire assembly went to the jungle, and first Tanasena sang. Then Baijubāvara sang, and groups of deer immediately gathered there. These deer became so absorbed in his singing that he reached over and placed a flower garland around the neck of one of them. Then as soon as he stopped singing, all of the deer ran off very quickly. Baijubāvara said, “If Tanasena is a better singer than me, then he should call all of these deer back with his singing, and once they are again absorbed, he should reach over and retrieve the garland.” Tanasena stood and began singing, and he sang with such effort that he was perspiring heavily, but still the deer didn’t come, and he couldn’t retrieve the garland. Then Baijubāvara sang again, and this time even more deer came and at once again became absorbed in his singing. With one hand he reached over and took back the garland, and then when he stopped singing, all the deer ran off again. In previous times there were singers and musicians like this who could also produce effects like bringing rain or even starting a fire without the use of any matches or other such things. Therefore we can scarcely conceive of the effects Kṛṣṇa’s flute-playing is capable of producing.
   After entering the forest, Kṛṣṇa played the flute in such a way that it bewildered everyone, and the clouds saw that, “Our friend has come! We should show some respect to our friend.” Why was there friendship between them? Because they were of the same darkish blue (śyāma) colour. The afternoon sun had made the rocks and the soil underfoot very hot, and when Kṛṣṇa played this particular rāga on the flute, wherever the sakhās and cows were standing they became stunned and just listened, and the clouds began to gather in groups. But they didn’t only come for Kṛṣṇa: wherever there were gopas, cows or calves standing, the clouds desired to render service and they covered the sun with their own bodies like an umbrella. As they rendered this service, it increased their prema, and tears of joy came to their eyes. These tears took the form of cooling drops of rain, and they fell softly from the sky like an offering of flowers.
   The gopīs are saying, “These clouds are so fortunate! We cannot be equal to them; we cannot render even a little service to Kṛṣṇa. No one is as unfortunate as us.” Sādhakas should also feel like this – “Everyone is serving Kṛṣṇa, but I am not.” If a sādhaka feels this way, then he will surely make progress in his sādhana. Otherwise, if he sees the faults in others, then all of those faults will in return come within him. Therefore we should never see the faults in other devotees, but should always make an effort to recognise only their good qualities.
   Next comes this verse:

nadyas tadā tad upadhārya mukunda-gītam
āliṅgana-sthagitam ūrmi-bhujair murārer
gṛhṇanti pāda-yugalaṁ kamalopahārāḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.15); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.111)

O sakhīs, when the rivers of Vṛndāvana headed by the Yamunā hear the vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, their currents completely stop, and their waters begin to swirl as if they are overcome with desire. With their arms in the form of waves they reach out to touch and offer lotus flowers to His lotus feet.

   These verses describe the sentiment of elevated devotees, but they may not even come to all elevated devotees; they are exclusively the sentiments of the gopīs. So why have they been given in the Bhāgavatam? These verses are there for the benefit of those sādhakas who have a similar type of hankering as the gopīs do. By remembering these verses more and more, someday, in some lifetime, this beautiful bhāva of the gopīs’ eagerness to meet Kṛṣṇa will enter their hearts. As the gopīs are sitting in their homes, one bhāva arises within them, and then as it diminishes, another immediately arises. This is called bhāva-śābalya, where one bhāva is fully relished and then another comes. The meaning of this verse is that as the gopīs were looking towards the Yamunā, they said, “O sakhī, hearing the flute-song of Mukunda, the river is carrying all the lotuses like gifts in her thousands of arms and offering them as puṣpāñjali to Kṛṣṇa’s feet. The waves of the river have stopped flowing, and a whirlpool has been created. This whirlpool is a symptom of manobhava, the river’s love for Kṛṣṇa.”
   Who is the husband of the Yamunā, Mānasī-gaṅgā and the other rivers of Vraja? The ocean, because they all flow towards him. But these rivers don’t flow easily towards their husband. The best of these rivers is the one who is the dearest to Bhagavān: Kālindī, she who springs forth from the  Kālinda Mountain. Kālindī is the one whose water, from receiving Kṛṣṇa’s touch or from the añjana of the gopīs, has assumed Kṛṣṇa’s śyāma colour. Having had her heart stolen by the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, the waves of her bhāva were like her hands, and taking a gift of lotuses – kamalopahārāḥ – in these hands, she offered them to the feet of Kṛṣṇa. Kamalopahārāḥ can also mean Lakṣmī, which means splendour. What is the splendour of a river? The lotus; so it can also mean taking that splendour and offering it to Kṛṣṇa’s feet. The waves have been said to be Kālindī’s long, long arms, and there were not just two of these arms, but thousands and thousands of waves surrounding Kṛṣṇa’s feet. Why? For grasping His feet so He wouldn’t be able to go away from there. In this way, after offering a gift of all her splendour – the lotuses – she submerged Kṛṣṇa’s feet in her waves as if grasping them, thereby placing them in her heart.
The gopīs are saying, “How can we go and grasp the feet of Kṛṣṇa in this way? We are very afraid of being disgraced in society, and therefore we cannot go. We are unable to abandon our present circumstances to meet with Kṛṣṇa. But this river is indicating to us, ‘You are unable to do what I have done? Being attracted by Kṛṣṇa’s flute you are not able to leave everything – as I have stopped flowing towards my husband, the ocean – and place all of your splendour at His feet? You do not have that much courage? You are so afraid of being disgraced in society?’ But we are unable to do it, and therefore if there is anyone in this world who is unfortunate, it is us. Having taken birth in these circumstances, we are unable to meet Kṛṣṇa, speak with Him or serve Him, because we are always busy with our household affairs. But this river has abandoned everything, even its fierce flow, and embraced the feet of Kṛṣṇa.”

   It is the same for us; we are unable to engage in sādhana-bhajana. In the same way as the river offered the gift of lotuses to Kṛṣṇa’s feet, we should offer our very hearts to the spiritual master and the Vaiṣṇavas. We may have everything – the association of guru and the Vaiṣṇavas – but as yet we have no such eagerness by which we can turn the tendency of our minds away from material enjoyment and exclusively towards Kṛṣṇa. This is the message being carried by the river, and the instruction is given here through the medium of the gopīs.
   Next comes this verse:

vana-latās tarava ātmani viṣṇuṁ
vyañjayantya iva puṣpa-phalāḍhyāḥ
praṇata-bhāra-viṭapā madhu-dhārāḥ
prema-hṛṣṭa-tanavo vavṛṣuḥ sma

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.35.9); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.112)

Look how the creepers and the branches of the trees of Vṛndāvana are drooping down due to their weight! They must have also taken Śrī Kṛṣṇa within their hearts, because tears of love in the form of streams of honey are dripping from them, and the emergence of their fruits and flowers bear witness to their ecstatic rapture.

   The previous verses were all from the Veṇu-gīta of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [chapter 21 of the Tenth Canto], but this verse is from the Yugala-gīta [chapter 35 of the Tenth Canto]. What is the meaning of the Yugala-gīta? The gopīs are singing to each other concerning their separation from Kṛṣṇa. In the Veṇu-gīta there was more pūrva-rāga, preliminary attraction, but here, after meeting with Kṛṣṇa, they are speaking about their agitated state of vipralambha-bhāva. One who has such eagerness as the gopīs are expressing here will be able to meet Kṛṣṇa and His dearest ones.
   The system for spiritual enlightenment is arranged by Kṛṣṇa alone. Here someone may ask, “There are so many jīvas in the world, so are they all in mādhurya-rasa? There are numerous devotees performing bhajana in the sampradāyas of Nimbārka, Rāmānuja and Viṣṇusvāmī, and there are others such as yavanas who perform no bhajana at all. Why is it that they don’t all come towards mādhurya-rasa?” The answer is that Bhagavān is so merciful that all the systems in this world are in His hands; according to a person’s particular actions, a certain fruit is bestowed upon them. Every jīva certainly has a particular intrinsic rasa. Five primary sentiments have been described: śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya, and every jīva falls within one of these categories. Yet from time immemorial he has been taking birth, dying, sometimes attaining the higher planetary systems and then again returning here, wandering in all directions.
   Those who were more fortunate took birth in Satya-yuga, where most people worshipped Bhagavān through śānta-rasa, as the four Kumāras and the Nara-Nārāyaṇa ṛṣis did. After this Śrī Rāmacandra came and emphasised the glories of dāsya-rasa, and for preaching this ideal, Hanumān remained in this world after the disappearance of Rāma. Then Kṛṣṇa came at the end of Dvāpara-yuga and gave prema even to the creepers. He performed such pastimes that simply by hearing and chanting about them, especially through the medium of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, a jīva could be attracted and gradually attain that bhāva. But there were some jīvas who were contemporary with Kṛṣṇa yet could not understand His pastimes. Śiśupāla, Kaṁsa, Duḥśāsana and Jarāsandha criticised this bhāva: “Oh, in Vraja this boy of no particular caste has appeared, no one even knows for sure who his real mother and father are, and now he has become a king in Dvārakā and will rule over us?”
   In the Bhāgavatam it is stated that Kṛṣṇa is Svayam Bhagavān, and all bhāvas are included in Him, yet the bhāva He showed in Vraja was not shown anywhere else. But very few people outside of Vraja actually accepted that bhāva at that time and just criticised Him for it. For this reason Kṛṣṇa inspired Śukadeva Gosvāmī: “You please manifest the shining sun of  Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. No one else is capable; you are līlā-śuka, the expert narrator of our pastimes.” Then on the pretext of Parīkṣit Mahārāja being cursed to die by the bite of a snakebird, the Bhāgavatam was manifest by Śukadeva Gosvāmī; but at that time very few people were actually qualified to accept it. Then Śaṅkarācārya came, then Madhva, then Rāmānuja, and other ācāryas came and gave dāsya-rasa, and maybe a little sakhya-rasa. Finally Caitanya Mahāprabhu came with His eternal associates, and through the medium of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam validated that special vraja-bhāva and gave prema to the world. Meeting the incarnation of Bhagavān who goes by the name Vrajendra-nandana is the ideal that is being described in these verses from the Bhāgavatam.
   The gopīs, being extremely agitated to meet Kṛṣṇa, have even forgotten their bodies. Which Kṛṣṇa are they desiring? Sakhā-Kṛṣṇa, the Kṛṣṇa who is so dear to them. If anyone becomes similarly agitated to have Kṛṣṇa as their friend, son or dear one, and goes to an elevated devotee and hears Kṛṣṇa-kathā from him, then easily he can attain Kṛṣṇa-prema. Otherwise there is no way to attain it; Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself came and showed the way. And who was accompanying Him? Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāya Rāmānanda, and Rūpa, Sanātana and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmīs. He bestowed all of His mercy on Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāya Rāmānanda by relishing kathā with them night after night, but He invested His potency (śakti) directly into the hearts of Rūpa at Prayāga and Sanātana at Vārāṇasī. Through them this bhāva was manifest in the world, and everyone was drowned in the ocean of bhakti-rasa. Before the appearance of Mahāprabhu these things were not known; no one could even imagine them. Whenever Mahāprabhu saw a forest, He considered it to be Vṛndāvana, whenever He saw a body of water, He took it to be the Kālindī, and whenever He saw any elevated land, He took it to be Govardhana. This is the bhāva of an uttama-adhikārī.
   So in this verse the gopīs are saying, “Aho! Kṛṣṇa has continued on His way playing the flute, and it seems that all of the trees, creepers and mountains of Vṛndāvana are revealing their hearts to Him. The creepers have very large flowers and the trees have very large fruits, and it seems that upon seeing Kṛṣṇa they have begun laughing in great ecstasy. The prema within them has manifested externally in the form of their ripening fruits and blossoming flowers. And when Kṛṣṇa passes by them, those trees and creepers bend over, and those fruits and flowers that are normally at the height of His head are offered to His feet as puṣpāñjali. And expressing their prema for Him, there is an incessant flow of streams of honey emanating from them. But we are so unfortunate; we are unable to meet Kṛṣṇa. These creepers and trees have so much prema for Kṛṣṇa in their hearts, and it is manifesting in the form of all the fruits and flowers and streams of honey, which are like tears flowing from their eyes. But can we take any fruits and flowers to Kṛṣṇa? What would people say? Because of our fear of being disgraced in society we are unable to go. But maybe if in our next lives we assume the form of trees and creepers, then we will also be able to serve Kṛṣṇa.”

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