Chapter Two from the book, Bhakti-rasāyana, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
After preparing lunch for Kṛṣṇacandra and Baladeva, Yaśodā along with Nanda Bābā follows them for a great distance as they take the cows out to graze for the day. Finally, after bidding them farewell for the day, they return home. After cooking for Kṛṣṇa, Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Her sakhīs return to Yāvaṭa. As Rādhikā’s sakhīs sit near Her, each of them in their own specific parties as taṭastha (neutral), svapakṣa (belonging to Rādhikā’s own group) and suhṛt (friendly), they all begin to meditate on Kṛṣṇa. They become deeply spellbound, and when He sometimes appears to their internal vision, they become enthralled in the mellow of divine separation (viraha-rasa). Seeing how Rādhikā is especially immersed in viraha-rasa and oblivious to all external considerations, the sakhīs call out to Her and bring even more remembrance of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes to Her by speaking this verse:
vṛndāvanaṁ sakhi bhuvo vitanoti kīṛtiṁ
govinda-veṇum anu matta-mayūra-nṛtyaṁ
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.10); Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.7.108)
O sakhī Rādhā, Vṛndāvana is more glorious than the heavenly planets, Vaikuṇṭha, and even more glorious than Ayodhyā and Dvārakā-purī, because it has been graced with the footprints of the son of Devakī. And only in this Vṛndāvana are the peacocks dancing in rhythm to the flute melody of Govinda. Hearing the sound of the flute and seeing the peacocks dancing, all of the birds, animals and other living entities have become stunned.
Here “Devakī” refers to the other name of Yaśodā, so in this verse devakī-suta means Yaśodā-nandana Kṛṣṇa, and His footprints are beautifying Vṛndāvana. When Akrūra and later Uddhava went to Nandagrāma, they saw these footprints everywhere. Seeing them, Akrūra fell down to offer obeisances and rolled on the ground, and crying profusely said, “Today I am so fortunate to have the darśana of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet!”
Playing very deep notes on the flute, Govinda enters the forest near Govardhana. Immediately all the peacocks approach Him making the ke-kā sound, and they see that He appears like a dark raincloud. Because He uses the end holes of the flute to produce very deep notes, His playing of the flute is like thunder, and His yellow cloth is like lightning. The peacocks become maddened, and forming a circle around Kṛṣṇa, they begin dancing with great bhāva to the flute melody. Hearing the sound of the flute, all sattva – meaning “living entities” – become stunned and abandon their usual course of activities; animals such as tigers and bears even abandon their violent natures. Sattva can also mean that everything in the spiritual world is viśuddha-sattva, comprised of pure spiritual energy. There is not a touch of mundane qualities of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) or ignorance (tamas) in that realm. There are so many objects in Vaikuṇṭha, and they are all viśuddha-sattva. Especially it is known as the essence of the hlādinī and saṁvit potencies combined, which is found in the hearts of the eternal rāgātmikā devotees there. If greed arises in the heart of a living entity for the sentiment of those devotees and he performs bhajana following in their footsteps, then when even one molecule of their devotion reflects into his heart, it can be called sattva. There are three kinds of sattva: viśuddha-sattva, sattva and miśra-sattva [miśra means “mixed”]. Miśra-sattva exists within the conditioned souls, sattva within the liberated souls who have not yet developed bhakti, and viśuddha-sattva within the dhāma and Bhagavān’s eternal associates.
Here, with some jealous anger, the gopīs are revealing the feelings of their hearts: “All of the animals, birds, insects and everything of Vṛndāvana has become fortunate. In an independent way Kṛṣṇa is bestowing His touch on everyone and everything in Vṛndāvana. When He climbs the hills His feet are placed here and there, and even the trees and flowers are receiving His touch. But there is no possibility of us receiving this benediction, and therefore in Vṛndāvana we are the most unfortunate people.”
As we mentioned before, there are thorns in Vṛndāvana also, but before Kṛṣṇa steps on them they become softer than butter. Experiencing the touch of His feet, they melt in divine bliss. With jealous anger the gopīs are saying, “As of yet our hearts have not become similarly melted in kṛṣṇa-prema; therefore if we could become thorns or blades of grass in Vṛndāvana, our lives would then become successful. For us there are so many obstacles. We are not able to go before Him and touch His feet and speak with Him. We are not able to fan Him or serve Him in any way during the daytime; there are so many restrictions upon us, but there are no such restrictions whatsoever for all of the other living entities in Vṛndāvana. If we were to become blades of grass, or thorns, or vines, or ponds, or the dust of Vṛndāvana, we could receive His touch; but in this form it is not possible.” Here, in expressing their jealous anger, they are describing the good fortune of the land of Vṛndāvana. They go on to say that Bhagavān is also present in heaven in the form of Vāmana, in a form with thousands of heads and in other forms also. Although he is also present in these forms, they are partial forms; all incarnations are not equal. Those incarnations that possess more of the Lord’s qualities, potencies and rasa are superior. Kṛṣṇa, Rāma and Nṛsiṁha possess more of these in comparison to other incarnations, and are therefore known as parāvastha-avatāras. But of these three, Kṛṣṇa is avatārī, the source of all incarnations, and the very basis of all rasa – raso vai saḥ. So because He is sporting there, Vṛndāvana is the most glorious place.
In his commentary on this verse, Sanātana Gosvāmī says that Kṛṣṇa played mṛdu-mandra on the flute. What is the meaning of mṛdu-mandra? When rainclouds begin to gather, the sky at once becomes dark, and very softly and slowly thunder comes. When the clouds clash violently it produces loud thunder and lightning also, but at first they produce a very soft and deep thunder, and that is called mandra. Kṛṣṇa produced a similar sound on the flute, but with mṛdu, sweetness. The nature of the peacock is such that when it sees the sky darkening and hears thunder, it begins dancing madly. When Kṛṣṇa entered the forest, what did He see? Girirāja-Govardhana was resplendent with creepers, blooming flowers and ripe fruits. The breeze was blowing very gently, seemingly unable to carry the full weight of the flowers’ fragrance. Seeing this natural splendour, the desire for enjoyment arose in Kṛṣṇa, and He played the flute very softly. Hearing this deep vibration, the peacocks went mad, dancing in rhythm with their tail feathers fully spread out. Then all of the animals, birds and insects of Vṛndāvana congregated in the meadows of Govardhana to witness the performance.
The peacocks thought, “He is playing such a beautiful melody, and dancing to that we are feeling great joy, but we have nothing to offer Him in return.”
After professional actors enact some of Bhagavān’s pastimes, they place a deity of Kṛṣṇa or Rāmacandra on a plate and approach the audience for contributions. Seeing that others have placed some money on the plate, everyone feels obliged to give something. There is some intimidation or psychology used in this method. But when someone wants to give of their own free will because they genuinely appreciated a performance, they will reach in their pocket and no matter what note they first pull out – whether it is two rupees, five rupees or ten rupees – they will give it immediately. So one of these peacocks was thinking, “I have nothing valuable to offer Him – no golden necklace around my neck or any valuable ornaments. I am simply an animal, but the feathers of my tail are very valuable! There is nothing in this world that can compare to their beauty, and upon seeing them everyone becomes pleased. With their seven colours they are so attractive, so is there any reason why I shouldn’t offer Him one?” Therefore he left behind one of his feathers.
Seeing it Kṛṣṇa thought, “This peacock is very loving; he has fully appreciated My flute-playing and offered Me one of his valuable feathers. There is nothing artificial in this offering.” Lifting the feather up and placing it on His head, He thought, “Just as the flute is dear to Me, this peacock feather has now become dear to Me. While walking, resting, dreaming, standing or sitting, I will never abandon it. Wherever I may go in Vraja, I will never abandon the flute or this peacock feather.” This is the origin of the peacock feather becoming Kṛṣṇa’s most celebrated ornament.
The peacock saw, “Oh, I left that feather for Him, but He didn’t merely put it in His pocket! He has placed it on His head, the most valuable of all His bodily parts! Today my life has become completely successful.”
If we desire to offer a gift to our spiritual master, to a Vaiṣṇava or to Bhagavān, but upon receiving it they were to say, “What need do I have for this? I have millions of good quality things,” we would feel pain in our hearts. But instead they accept it and say, “Oh, what a beautiful thing you have brought me!” and then we feel very pleased. Similarly Sudāmā Vipra brought Kṛṣṇa some uncooked low-grade rice, and honouring his offering, Kṛṣṇa snatched it from him saying, “Oh, such a nice snack you have brought Me!” And even though it was uncooked, dry and tasteless, He immediately chewed it up and said, “Rukmiṇī and Satyabhāmā have never offered Me anything this nice!” Hearing this, how did Sudāmā Vipra feel? “Today I have become fully gratified.”
So the peacock saw that he had offered Kṛṣṇa such a trivial gift, yet Kṛṣṇa had taken it and placed it on His head. Then Kṛṣṇa played the flute with so much prema that He became maddened along with the peacocks. The words anu matta in this verse generally refer to the peacocks becoming intoxicated, but it can refer to Kṛṣṇa as well. Then He played the flute with even more prema, and the peacocks became more maddened, Kṛṣṇa also became more maddened, and in this way there was a competition between them. If someone offers something with prema, and it is also accepted with prema, then both parties become the tasters of that prema, and that is precisely what happened here.
While Kṛṣṇa was playing the flute in this way and the dancing was going on, all of the sattva, meaning the birds and animals, became motionless and watched and listened. But don’t consider them to be like the birds and animals of this world; the birds and animals of Goloka are all viśuddha-sattva, and there is no trace of tamas, rajas or material sattva in them. Even when the living entity becomes very elevated, perhaps just before liberation, still there is some trace of material sattva in him. But in this world most people are tamasika, which means they are affected by lower attributes such as hatred, envy, anger and the cheating propensity. Then there is rajasa, which is characterised by intense greed for enjoyment. So even when sattva comes, at first it will be mixed with tamas and rajas. In the case of Hariścandra Mahārāja,* he gave away a great amount in charity, which is sattvika, but it was mixed with rajas. Karṇa was very charitable, always spoke the truth and did good to others, which are all sattvika qualities, but he was affected by anger, envy and the tendency towards violence, so it was mixed with tamas. Bharata Mahārāja** showed affection for an animal, which was sattvika, but still it was not śuddha-sattva. Only after the jīva attains svarūpa-siddhi and will imminently enter into vastu-siddhi can it be said that he is in viśuddha-sattva. Bhagavān and all of His devotees in Vaikuṇṭha, whether they are peacocks or monkeys or whatever, are situated in viśuddha-sattva.
In order to watch Kṛṣṇa playing the flute and see the dancing of the peacocks, many other birds gathered in groups on the branches of the trees of Govardhana. Below in the forest the deer were also watching, but with their eyes closed, as if in meditation. How could they be watching if their eyes were closed? By sañcārī, which means that they were internally experiencing the particular sthāyibhāva, permanent devotional sentiment, that they were situated in. There were a great many species of birds and animals watching from the meadows of Govardhana, and they all displayed the natures of sages. Govinda-veṇum anu matta-mayūra-nṛtyam – the name Govinda comes from the words go and indate. Go means the gopas, gopīs, cows and calves. It can also mean Veda, brāhmaṇa, knowledge, the senses and many other things. Indate means indra, which means master. So Govinda means “the one who increases the ecstatic joy of everyone in Vraja by the notes He plays on the flute”. Hearing this divine sound, all living entities forget their normal course of activities. At this time of the day, the birds generally make different sounds in their chirpings such as che-cha and kala-rava, but all of these activities stop, and everyone forgets even their own bodies. This is the meaning of avaratānya. In this way everyone stands motionless, just listening and watching, thinking, “Aho! This can only be found in Śrī Vṛndāvana! Bhagavān is also present in Vaikuṇṭha, but there the sound of the flute cannot be heard. In Ayodhyā and Dvārakā one won’t see peacocks dancing like this. This can only be found in Vṛndāvana, and nowhere else.” Vitanoti means that Vṛndāvana is more glorious than the heavenly planets or even Vaikuṇṭha. There Kṛṣṇa exhibits four special qualities: rūpa-mādhurī (His extraordinary beauty), veṇu-mādhurī (the sweet, mellow sound of His flute), līlā-mādhurī (His supremely captivating pastimes) and prema-mādhurī (the especially sweet love that His companions in Vraja have for Him). Because Govinda is playing the flute there, the splendour and glories of Vṛndāvana are being proclaimed as the best of all.
How did Kṛṣṇa appear to the peacocks as He was playing the flute? He had the peacock feather placed in His crown, and He was standing in His threefold-bending posture with His right foot wrapped around His left. Seeing this, at once the joy of the peacocks increased. Kṛṣṇa was adorned with a garland of guñja flowers, which also included kadamba flowers and tulasī buds, that hung down to His knees. A mild fragrance was coming from it and bees were swarming around it. He was wearing bracelets on His wrists, and on His limbs were paintings of spiders. In this way Nanda-nandana was decorated in His forest attire, and He was holding the flute, which has been called His dear sakhī, in His hands. He will never abandon it; it always remains with Him. Sometimes for increasing the waves of līlā and for the pleasure of the gopīs, He enters a kuñja and “falls asleep”. Knowingly He allows the flute to hang loosely in His hand – He is not really sleeping. And seeing Him from a hidden position and thinking that He is sleeping, the gopīs say, “Now we should take the flute!”
Then Rādhikā says to the other gopīs, “Who is prepared to do it? If He awakens He will grab you!” Then everyone becomes afraid. In pretending to be asleep, Kṛṣṇa certainly has some special intention. If there is any person who can take the flute, it is Rādhikā. All the gopīs propose that She do it, and She agrees. Smiling and watching Him very carefully, She approaches stealthily like a cat. Standing over Him, She looks carefully to see if He is really sleeping; then She snatches the flute and quickly departs the kuñja. Then Kuṇḍalatā comes and scolds Kṛṣṇa, “Your everything is gone, and You are sleeping?” Getting up and looking around, Kṛṣṇa says, “Hey! Where has My flute gone?” Very perturbed He says, “Who took it? Did you see who took it?” Then He approaches the gopīs, and as if He knows nothing, says, “Have you seen My flute?” In this way He knowingly allows the flute to be taken in order to taste some special rasa; otherwise He would never abandon it. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it says that the flute is His dearmost companion. The vibration of this flute can melt anything, even rugged mountains, and it is also capable of entering devotees’ bodies and stealing their hearts. If the flute were not there, then so many of His pastimes (līlā) and sportive merriment (vilāsa) would be meaningless; such is the importance of the flute. Being held to His lips it drinks the rasa there and becomes intoxicated, inspiring the gopīs to say in the Veṇu-gīta, “This inanimate stick of bamboo is relishing that which is our property – the nectar of Your lips!”
In the verse we are explaining here, the name Devakī-suta has been used. Once, Devakī-suta, Dvārakādhīśa, went to the heavenly planets; Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa didn’t go there. Dvārakādhīśa went there to acquire the pārijāta flower to appease the heart of Satyabhāmā, and approaching Indra, He said, “Dear brother, you are always very affectionate towards Me; therefore please give Me one pārijāta flower.” When Indra refused to give Him even one flower, Kṛṣṇa uprooted the entire tree, and sitting along with Satyabhāmā on the back of His carrier Garuḍa, prepared to leave there. Indra and the demigods tried to stop Him, and after defeating them He returned to Dvārakā and planted the beautiful pārijāta tree in Satyabhāmā’s garden. This was Devakī-suta, Dvārakādhīśa-Kṛṣṇa, who bestowed the touch of His feet on the heavenly planets, but there you won’t find peacocks dancing. He doesn’t play the flute there; if there is anything to be found in His hands there, it will be the conch shell and disc. He didn’t play the flute there or exhibit the four special aspects of sweetness that are found only in Vṛndāvana. Therefore the fame of Vraja is greater than that of the heavenly planets, Vaikuṇṭha or Dvārakā.
In Vaikuṇṭha, Lakṣmī receives the touch of Nārāyaṇa’s feet. Nārāyaṇa is an extension of Kṛṣṇa who possesses all six opulences, but the four kinds of mādhurī are not present in Vaikuṇṭha. There you won’t find the peacocks dancing to the melody of the flute. Therefore when the word devakī is used in this verse, we can understand it to be another name for Yaśodā, because it is Vṛndāvana-Kṛṣṇa, or Govinda, who played the flute. And when He played the flute, all living entities forgot their normal course of activities and stood silently and motionless, listening. How did the gopīs hear the flute and witness the dancing of the peacocks? Sitting in their homes, they heard and saw it all in meditation. They said, “Look! The peacocks are descending to the meadow to dance to the melody of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, but can we go there? We also desire to sing and dance with Him, but there are so many restrictions upon us. Our elders are watching over us, so it is not possible for us. Therefore we are greatly unfortunate.”
*The story of Hariścandra Mahārāja is narrated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Ninth Canto, Chapter 7.
**The story of Bhārata Mahārāja is narrated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Fifth Canto, Chapters 7–8.
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