Chapter Six from the book, Bhakti-rasāyana, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
After telling the story of Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Sanātana Gosvāmī is giving us some rasāyana, some nectar-tonic that is especially for those who have been freed from the disease, but who are still a little weak. By taking this medicine for some time, the body will again become strong, meaning that one will be able to progress in sādhana and one’s prema-bhakti will become steadfast. First he treated our disease, but just curing the disease is not everything because one still remains weak. After one’s faith (śraddhā) has increased and transformed into resolute determination (niṣṭhā), progressing from there he will face many, many impediments to spiritual advancement (anarthas). This nectar-tonic is especially intended for those at this stage. If in a regulated manner one hears these final verses and then deeply meditates on them, his love for Bhagavān will surely increase. But if after hearing these verses one doesn’t meditate on them, then at the time of chanting the holy name his mind will certainly be absorbed in thoughts of material enjoyment. While chanting his mind will be unsteady, and remembrance of events from the life he led before he began to follow the path of bhakti will awaken inside him. Various kinds of saṅkalpa and vikalpa, attraction and repulsion to material objects, will come to his mind, and he won’t receive the full benefit from this nectar-tonic. But if someone meditates on these verses while chanting the holy name, then his bhakti will surely increase. This is the method for increasing one’s devotion.
While we are dreaming, those things which occupied our minds and which we meditated on time and again while awake come to our vision. Sometimes things that are completely unrelated appear in our dream; it is all scrambled and there is not even any real continuity. If our minds are not controlled, then it will be the same when we chant harināma. For a certain amount of time each day we all hear some hari-kathā, but now consider what you are doing for all your remaining waking hours. If we fully meditate on Bhagavān during those remaining hours, then at all times the mind will remain absorbed in Him.
The focus of our minds will be determined by what we think about during our waking hours. If for those hours the mind is pondering over sense enjoyment, such as what arrangements we have made for eating and drinking and how we will solve all of our worldly problems – then how will we be able to steadily think of Bhagavān? Will our minds remain steady while chanting from our daily hearing of perhaps only one hour of hari-kathā? It will certainly be absorbed in what we have thought about during most of our waking hours, and even while sleeping we will remember those same things. But if one remains in sādhu-saṅga and during all his waking hours applies his mind to hearing hari-kathā, reading the scriptures, serving the Lord, and doesn’t worry about any other problems, then his mind will remain steady. Therefore the sādhaka who wants to elevate his mind should meditate on the pastimes described in these verses while chanting the holy name. We should make this effort, pushing away the thoughts of experiencing sense enjoyment and collecting good quality possessions, and gradually, in due course, our minds will remain steady in meditation on Bhagavān’s pastimes.
For this purpose the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu are supremely merciful and generous. When Mahāprabhu was in South India, He met with Rāya Rāmānanda, and their conversation, the Rāmānanda-saṁvāda, is unanimously appreciated by all the topmost devotees in this world. If you read it you will see why. There, with each verse they are unveiling the deepest of secrets, and while reading it, your heart will become so spell-bound that you won’t want to put it down. Therefore while chanting harināma, we should meditate on these types of narrations from the scriptures. But if we are inattentive while taking harināma, we will not be benefited. We should first try to attain niṣṭhā, and then ruci (taste) will come. After that āsakti (deep attachment) will come, and we should try to transform that into bhāva (ecstatic emotion). In the līlā-kathā that we are hearing here from Sanātana Gosvāmī, there are instructions for all levels of devotees. Those on the level of śraddhā will understand these verses in a particular way, and those who have niṣṭhā will understand them in a different way. Those in āsakti will understand them in a certain way, and those who are in bhāva will understand them in yet another way.
Speaking amongst themselves, the gopīs said that when all the plants, creepers and trees of Vṛndāvana were trembling in the breeze, it was as if they were experiencing ecstatic symptoms, and that they were drooping down solely to offer their everything to Kṛṣṇa as He passed by. A sādhaka should also try to offer his everything to Kṛṣṇa, and when he does, then it can be said that he is really engaged in sādhana. Then the gopīs remembered how the bees would sit on Kṛṣṇa’s garland of forest flowers and not leave Him, and how they would sometimes swarm around Him offering prayers.
Next the gopīs describe how the birds are even more elevated, and how they reacted to the sweet melody emanating from Kṛṣṇa’s flute. There are birds such as peacocks, parrots, pigeons and koels that live on land, but first they describe the birds that reside on water:
harim upāsata te yata-cittā
hanta mīlita-dṛśo dhṛta-maunāḥ
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.35.11); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.114)
[The gopīs said:] It is very astonishing that Kṛṣṇa steals away the hearts of the swans, cranes and other water birds in such a way that they approach Him, sit down and worship Him with their eyes closed, and fully concentrate their minds on Him.
In this verse from the Yugala-gīta, the gopīs are saying, “Forget those bees; more intelligent than them are these birds who reside on the water.” When Kṛṣṇa arrived in the forest, what astonishing thing happened? Hanta means “amazed”, and being wonderstruck the gopīs are now marvelling at seeing these birds. “When the cranes and swans on the pond heard the beautiful song Kṛṣṇa was playing on His flute, they became completely spellbound! Through the medium of their ears they held Kṛṣṇa within their hearts. Ordinarily, when they see someone, they immediately flee; but instead they quickly came near to worship Kṛṣṇa.” Upāsata means worshipping with the mind, body and words all at once. As long as a jīva is conditioned, he is not capable of performing real upāsana. He can only be endeavouring for upāsana, because it means being near Bhagavān, in His personal presence. When we offer pūjā to the deity it is called upāsana, but is it really upāsana? Where is the deity, and where are we? We are conditioned souls, and He is all-pervading, the solidified form of sac-cid-ānanda. Therefore we are not able to really be near Him, but when our hearts are pure enough and we attain a spiritual form, then we can go near Him and it can be called upāsana. But as long as we are conditioned souls full of anarthas, we cannot really offer Him arcana.
So from faraway these birds approached Kṛṣṇa with yata-cittāḥ, their minds fully controlled, but in our present condition our minds are not controlled. In meditation, there are the stages of yama (control of the senses), niyama (control of the mind), āsana (bodily postures), prāṇāyāma (breath control), pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the mind from sensory perception), dhāraṇā (steadying the mind), dhyāna (meditation) and finally samādhi (trance), and when one has achieved this state, then his meditation can be called real upāsana. So when those birds heard Kṛṣṇa playing the flute and saw His exquisite form, they became yata-cittāḥ – fully self-controlled. This is one symptom of a sādhu, and two more are described in this verse: mīlita-dāśaḥ – they closed their eyes, and dhāta-maunāḥ – they became silent. Ordinarily they were always making their chirping sounds, but instead they became silent.
Speech is the cause of so many faults. If someone speaks in a deceptive or unbeneficial manner, his mind will be contaminated and therefore become restless. But if one’s speech is controlled, then he will never offend any Vaiṣṇava. Fighting and quarrelling – uncontrolled speech is the cause of all this. Therefore in the Upadeśāmṛta the first of all instructions given to us is vāco-vegam – our speech must be controlled. So here it says dhāta-maunāḥ – the tongues of the water birds, which ordinarily make so many sounds, at once became silent. If someone desires to engage in bhajana, then they should practise silence, which means not speaking anything besides Kṛṣṇa-nāma or Kṛṣṇa-kathā. Then it will really be sādhana-bhajana. And also mīlita-dāśaḥ – those birds closed their eyes. They took a look at Kṛṣṇa and then immediately closed their eyes: what does that mean? Through the medium of their eyes they took Kṛṣṇa into their hearts, and then they had no desire to see any worldly object. And yata-cittāḥ – remaining silent with their eyes closed, their minds became fully controlled. From looking here and there and speaking in an unregulated manner, one’s mind becomes restless. For this reason Bilvamaṅgala plucked out both of his eyes and became silent except for speaking Kṛṣṇa-kathā; but without harming our eyes or tongue we should simply control them, and then automatically our mind will become controlled.
Here the gopīs are saying, “This is a very astonishing thing! These birds who ordinarily chirp day and night have today become silent, and closing their eyes they have taken Kṛṣṇa into their hearts. Now automatically their minds have become controlled, and they have no remaining desire in this world.” If someone desires to engage in bhajana, then they must be like this. This instruction is for all levels of devotees, and according to one’s level one will be able to do this. Yet in the Yugala-gīta we find, “Aho sakhī! We are unable to do this! Day and night our minds are restless. We are not able to keep our eyes closed, and we are also constantly conversing; we are unable to remain silent. The swans and cranes can go near Kṛṣṇa and receive His direct darśana, but we cannot get such a good opportunity. They are certainly of a higher class than us.” This is the gopīs’ uttama-adhikārī vision: even though their eyes remain open solely because they are always searching for Kṛṣṇa, and even though they are unable to remain silent solely because they are always speaking about Kṛṣṇa, they are considering everyone else to be more fortunate than themselves, and they are taking instruction from everything and everyone.
Sanātana Gosvāmī also gives another meaning to this verse being discussed. These birds, being attracted by the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, came near Him, but then they too could not remain silent. Very softly they chanted, “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa.” And although they closed their eyes, their minds could not be controlled because waves of ecstasy were flowing inside them. When Kṛṣṇa attracted the gopīs in the night by playing the flute, they stood before Him silently. Some of them may have even closed their eyes, but does that mean that their minds were peaceful? On the contrary countless varieties of bhāva were churning in their hearts! If anyone goes near Kṛṣṇa, will they be able to remain silent? All the time they will be singing either Kṛṣṇa-kathā or Kṛṣṇa-nāma – and will they be able to keep their eyes closed? They will be looking here and there to find the place from which the hypnotic flute sound has come. And will their minds remain steady? Their minds will certainly become even more restless in a state of divine ecstasy!
Next comes this verse:
prāyo batāmba vihagā munayo vane ’smin
kṛṣṇekṣitaṁ tad-uditaṁ kala-veṇu-gītam
āruhya ye druma-bhujān rucira-pravālān
śṛṇvanti mīlita-dṛśo vigatānya-vācaḥ
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.14); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.115)
O friend, the birds of Vṛndāvana are actually sages. They have taken positions on the branches of trees, which have new and fresh leaves, from where they can easily have darśana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Sitting there and hearing the sweet vibration of His flute, they close their eyes and become immersed in divine bliss.
Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva were decorated as if they were dancing actors entering an arena to give a performance. They were adorned with forest flowers and jumped about like young deer. This verse says vigatānya-vācaḥ – the birds became silent – which corresponds to what was mentioned in the previous verse. Kṛṣṇa played the flute very beautifully, and at once all the peacocks gathered together. They were sitting in the kadamba trees at the top of the mountain, but at once they came down to the meadow to be near Kṛṣṇa. Then so many different varieties of birds came near and watched as Kṛṣṇa was playing the flute and the peacocks were dancing. At that time, seeing through the eyes of bhāva, the gopīs spoke this verse. In great astonishment they said prāyo batāmba. The word amba generally means “mother”, but does that mean they were speaking to Yaśodā? Will all of these sentiments come to them when they are before Mother Yaśodā? No, that bhāva would be constrained. The sentiments of vātsalya and mādhurya are completely opposed to one another, and neither can remain in the other’s presence. So here amba means they are addressing another sakhī. “O sakhī, the birds of this forest are actually munis because upon hearing the sweet melody Kṛṣṇa is playing on the flute, they have closed their eyes and are simply remaining silent. They have descended to the trees of the meadow and are sitting on the branches in such a way that there is no obstacle to their seeing Kṛṣṇa, and where Kṛṣṇa can also glance at them affectionately.”
Druma-bhujān means “the branches of trees”, and can also refer to the “tree” of the Vedas. The Vedic tree has thousands of long branches, and seated on certain branches according to their classification are karmīs, jñānīs, yogīs and tapasvīs. The vulture is seated where there are no leaves, and the koel is seated where the mango buds are drooping. Eating these soft buds and leaves, it sings, “ku-hu, ku-hu”. The peacocks mostly sit in the tops of the kadamba trees, and they are very beautiful in appearance and very good dancers. Among the Vedic branches are also seated various kinds of munis. Seated on one branch is Patañjali Ṛṣi, on another is Jaimini Ṛṣi and on another is Gautama Ṛṣi. But the birds of Vṛndāvana are different from them, and are sitting on which branch of the allegorical Vedic tree? The branch where the fruit that has no pit – the ripened fruit of the Purāṇas and all scriptures – can be found. That ripened fruit is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and sitting on this branch they can taste the Bhāgavatam, have darśana of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa can affectionately glance at them.
So the gopīs are saying, “Certain munis have become birds in Vṛndāvana, and upon hearing the beautiful melody from Kṛṣṇa’s flute, these munis have become silent and are sitting quietly with controlled minds. Just see how fortunate they are, and how unfortunate we are. Being birds they can hear the melody of Kṛṣṇa’s flute and approach Him and feel so much ānanda, but we can’t listen to His flute or go near Him. If we could become koels or parrots or any other bird and go to hear Kṛṣṇa playing the flute at Govardhana and see the peacocks dancing, then our lives would be meaningful.”
Next is this verse:
dhanyāḥ sma mūḍha-gatayo ’pi hariṇya etā
yā nanda-nandanam upātta-vicitra-veśam
ākarṇya veṇu-raṇitaṁ saha-kṛṣṇa-sārāḥ
pūjāṁ dadhur viracitāṁ praṇayāvalokaiḥ
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.11); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.116
These ignorant deer are also fortunate because accompanied by their husbands they are standing motionlessly and listening to the vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s flute. It is as if they are offering pūjā to the gorgeously attired son of Nanda with their loving glances.
The gopīs’ meditation became diverted, and again their internal vision was directed toward another group of living entities. They classified the bees as more fortunate than themselves, the swans and cranes as superior to the bees, the birds who reside on land as more fortunate than the water birds, and the deer as superior to the birds. “Most fortunate of all are these deer, because not only have they at once approached Kṛṣṇa, and not only have they received His loving glance with their eager eyes – but in their exchange of glances was the most affection.” Mūḍha-gatayaḥ – people call deer foolish. Because the deer easily fall into traps, they are considered foolish as a species. With some simple allurement they can be easily captured. We have heard that sometimes hunters have someone play the flute very sweetly, and being attracted the deer come near and fall into a trap. But the gopīs say, “We don’t consider the deer to be foolish at all! Hearing the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute and seeing His gorgeous dress, they have approached Him.” Upātta-vicitra-veśam means Kṛṣṇa is decorated with forest flowers and leaves such as the fragrant mango leaf. He is adorned with red powder in various places and has the designs of spiders drawn on His cheeks, and upon the body of Govardhana He appears more beautiful than millions of ornaments. Saha-Kṛṣṇa-sārāḥ means the female deer were searching here and there for Kṛṣṇa, and their husbands were following behind them to protect them. Pūjāṁ dadhur viracitāṁ praṇayāvalokaiḥ means that they gazed towards Kṛṣṇa’s beautiful face with great love, and it was as if they were offering pūjā to Him with their sidelong glances. Upon seeing this, and how affectionately Kṛṣṇa also glanced at them – seeing how much mutual love there was between them – the gopīs said, “They have received such a wonderful opportunity, but where is such an opportunity for us? Can we approach Kṛṣṇa and offer arcana to Him with our eyes? We are not so fortunate. If after leaving these bodies we could become female deer, then we could receive such an opportunity and our lives would be meaningful.”
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