The gopīs therefore waited one day, two days, three days, four days, one year, two years, three years, four years, five, ten, fifteen, fifty – but Kṛṣṇa never returned. Why? Sometimes He may have come to see the gopīs in the form of a bumblebee, sometimes in a dream, and sometimes in any manifestation. When He did so, they thought, “Oh, we are seeing Kṛṣṇa in a dream. Actually, He has not really come.” Sometimes they were so deeply in love that they never thought that Kṛṣṇa had even gone to Mathurā. Rather they considered, “Kṛṣṇa is in Vṛndāvana and has gone to graze the cows. In the evening Yaśodā takes an ārati tray and gets everything ready for His and Baladeva’s arrival.” Yaśodā may have stood there the whole night, but Kṛṣṇa never returned. There was no cooking done at all and no birds sang. You cannot imagine the condition of Vraja.
Now [in this connection] I will tell a worldly story.
Once, when I was in Italy, I went with two others to walk on the beach by the ocean. After the walk, we returned to our car. A very beautiful old dog came over to us. His eyes were full of mud, and there were some signs that he had been weeping. At once he came over and smelled us, looking at us quite pathetically. Then, another car drove in and the dog went over to it, still looking sad. He was an Alsatian dog (a German Shepherd). A very good dog.
I asked Vrajanātha Prabhu and Līlā-puruṣottama Prabhu [who lived locally], “Is this dog waiting for his master, who is perhaps walking here and there?” They replied, “People come to the sea shore for holidays and sometimes leave their dogs behind for various selfish reasons.”
This dog had previously belonged to a wealthy person and had been with him for several years. His master used to take him in his car wherever he went, bathe him and show him so much love and affection. In this way, many years passed and the dog was so happy, always serving his master.
After some time that dog began to get old. One day, he came to the beach with his master and saw a she-dog. When he got out of the car, he went off with that she-dog. His master thought, “I will have to take a new dog. What will I do with this old dog?” He then left him there, quickly went to his motor car and drove back to his house. He never cared for that dog again. He neglected him after that.
After some time that dog returned and looked for his master. “Where is my master? Where is my master?” He searched every car, here and there. After that, he did not eat anything. He just always looked for his master. One year, two years passed. His master never returned, but the dog never stopped looking for him. Now there was no one to wash the mud from his body or wipe away the tears from his eyes, and there was no one to give him anything to eat. He always wept for his master, and thought, “Oh, my master must surely come.” For that, the dog continued to live in the hope that “Today, or one day, my master will come.” He simply waited and waited.
This dog’s master may have been cruel, but Kṛṣṇa is not cruel. The dog remembered his master, thinking, “He will come. He is just now coming. Oh, perhaps now he is coming.” He went up to anyone and again saw, “Oh, this is not my master,” and then he began to weep and became sad. Then he sat and waited in hope. That dog may have been remembering, “One day my master took me on his lap, washed me with his own hands, and gave me sweet things to eat. That which he was going to eat, he gave to me instead. And sometimes he used to take me in his bed.” Thinking like this, the dog wept.
Now, if a dog can do this, why can we not do it? This is just an example and is a mere shadow of the gopīs’s separation. A devotee can also be like this, always remembering the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs remembered, “How Kṛṣṇa was dancing with us, how He used to put His betel nuts in our mouths, how He loved us, and how He was sometimes singing with us. He would boast, ‘Oh, I can sing in the fifth note,’ but we gopīs sang in the seventh note, and He praised us. ‘O sādhu, sādhu, sādhu! Very good, well done!’ But now who will praise us?” In this way they were simply remembering and weeping.
This is aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā (the eternal eightfold daily pastimes of Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa). Devotees can remember all these things, and thus their minds will not wander here and there. Kṛṣṇa tells the gopīs, “You should remember Me,” but the gopīs sadly look towards Kṛṣṇa and reply, “Oh, we want to forget You, but we cannot. Although we want to forget You, all remembrance of You comes one pastime after another, like a chain. If You can forget us, why can we not forget You? This is our situation; we cannot forget You.”
The gopīs’ lamentation is something like that of that dog, but not really the same. What I told you about the dog is only perhaps a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of the gopīs’ lamentation. The gopīs are only keeping their life because Kṛṣṇa has told them that He will return. This is their only āśā, hope. Without this hope, they would die. They are burning in the fire of separation, but yet they do not want to die.
―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja