The following is an excerpt from Śiva-Tattva: Lord Śiva’s highest benediction by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
Lord Śiva eternally resides in Lord Kṛṣṇa’s abode, Vṛndāvana, where he manifests many forms to render devotional services to Him. The form of Gopīśvara Mahādeva* was manifested by Lord Kṛṣṇa’s desire. When Kṛṣṇa desired to perform His rāsa dance, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, the embodiment of His pleasure potency, manifested from His left side and Gopīśvara Mahādeva manifested from His right side. The form of Śiva who lives in Kāśī or Kailāsa in the material world is a partial manifestation of the original Sadāśiva in Vṛndāvana. The many other commonly worshiped forms of Lord Śiva are expansions of Sadāśiva. They are not the original. Partial expansions such as Pīppaleśvara Mahādeva, Bhūteśvara Mahādeva, Raṅgeśvara Mahādeva and so on cannot award the benediction that can be attained by the mercy of Gopīśvara – the highest perfection of love, namely gopī-prema.
Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has composed a prayer in his Vraja-vilāsa-stava:
mudā gopendrasyatmaja bhuja parisranga nīdhaye
sphurad gopirvrndair yam iha bhāgavatam pranayibhih
bhajadbhistair bhaktyās vamabhilasitam prāptam acirād
yamitire gopīśvaram anudinam taṁ kila bhaje
I daily worship Gopīśvara Mahādeva, who is situated on the bank of Yamunā. That very Gopīśvara was worshipped with deep devotion by the gopīs, and he quickly fulfilled their desire to attain a supremely precious jewel in the form of the embrace of the son of Nanda Mahārāja [Kṛṣṇa].
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, the great Vaiṣṇava saint who resided in Vṛndāvana near the old Śrī Madana-Mohana Temple, would go daily to see Śrī Gopīśvara Mahādeva at his temple. Once, in his older years, Sanātana Gosvāmī had a dream wherein Gopīśvara Mahādeva appeared and instructed him: “Now that you are old, please do not go through so much trouble to see me.” Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, “I will continue to come. I cannot change this habit.” Gopīśvara Mahādeva said, “Then I will come and stay very near to your residence, manifesting in Bankhandī.” The very next day, Śrī Gopīśvara Mahādeva appeared in Bankhandī, halfway between his orginal temple and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s residence. Seeing this, Sanātana Gosvāmī became overwhelmed with transcendental ecstasy, and from that day on he visited Bankhandī Mahādeva every day.
Wherever he was, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī could not live without his beloved Lord Śiva – Gopīśvara Mahādeva and Bankhandī Mahādeva in Vṛndāvana, and Kāmeśvara Mahādeva in Kāmyavana forest. In Govardhana he would stay near his very dear friend, Cakreśvara Mahādeva, who acquired the name when he served Govardhana Hill and the Vrajavāsīs by holding up his trident like a cakra (disc weapon), protecting them from the torrential deluge sent by King Indra.
Prior to this, Lord Śiva had asked Śrī Kṛṣṇa for the boon to witness His childhood pastimes. Kṛṣṇa ordered him to situate himself in Nandagaon in the form of a hill. Śiva followed this order and became Nandīśvara Hill, and he thus became known as Nandīśvara. (Lord Brahmā became Brahma-parvata, the mountain in Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s birthplace, Varṣāṇā. Because Brahmā is so near to Rādhikā, he is also our Gurudeva.)
We honour Lord Śiva as a great Vaiṣṇava and as Guru. We do not worship him separately. We observe Śiva-rātri, Lord Śiva’s appearance day, and we glorify him in connection to his relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has written in his Hari-bhakti-vilāsa that all Vaiṣṇavas should observe Śiva-caturdaśī (Śiva-rātri). Lord Śiva, in whom all good qualities reside, should certainly be honoured by the observance of this day.
We offer obeisance to Lord Śiva with prayers like this:
vṛndāvanāvani-pate! jaya soma soma-maule
prema prayaccha nirupādhi namo namas te
O Gatekeeper of Vṛndāvana! O Soma, all glories to you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon, and who is worshipable by the sages headed by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Nārada! O Gopīśvara! Desiring that you bestow upon me prema for the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava, who perform joyous pastimes in Vrajadhāma, I offer obeisances unto you time and again.
*In his original and most pure form, Śiva is eternally Gopīśvara Mahadeva. Yet, he performed the following human-like pastime in which he ‘became’ Gopīśvara:
“Lord Śiva wanted to become a gopī. He performed austerities, and when Paurṇamāsī Yogamāyā became pleased and appeared before him, he prayed to join Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-lila. Paurṇamāsī mercifully assisted him in dipping in Brahmā-kuṇḍa, and he immediately assumed the form of a teenage gopī. He then went to the place where rāsa-lila was being performed, and hid there in a grove.
“Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs sensed that someone of a different mood had come. They asked each other, ‘Why are you not so happy today? What is the matter?’After searching, they discovered the new gopī and asked ‘her’, ‘Who are you? What is your name? Who are your parents? What is your husband’s name? Where is your in-laws’ house?’
“When Śiva could not reply, they began to slap her so much that her cheeks became swollen and she began to cry, ‘Yogamāyā, Yogamāyā. Save me. I will never again come to Vṛndāvana, and I will never dare take part in rāsa-līlā.’ Paurṇamāsī arrived, and she requested the gopīs to show Lord Śiva mercy. ‘She is the object of my mercy,’ Paurṇamāsī told them.The gopīs then accepted her as a gopī and Kṛṣṇa named her Gopīśvara (she whose īśvaras, controllers, are the gopīs). He blessed her to become the guard of the rāsa-līlā and said, ‘Without the sanction of Gopīśvara, no one will be able to enter the rāsa-līlā.’ ” (Pinnacle of Devotion)
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