15.10.3 : RASA LILA OF KRISHNA P.3
To continue our story. The Gopis keep roaming about in the woods, searching for Him. In the process of this roaming, they identify the footsteps of their Lord and try to follow those footsteps. Lo and behold! They do not find their Lord but they find one more pair of footsteps side by side with the Lord’s footsteps! And they look at it carefully. They recognise it as a woman’s footsteps. Their jealousy knows no bounds. How come! One of their own group, has found it possible to be with the Lord and is now enjoying the privilege of His company all alone! What a supreme fortunate circumstance for her! She must be the most beloved of Krishna among all of them!
On the other hand that single gopi who was with Krishna had an interesting experience. She certainly enjoys the company of the Lord, all alone. But that very enjoyment puffs up her head and she tries to aspire for more of the Lord than the others. Instead of walking up along with the Lord, she suggests to Him that He may carry her on His shoulders, and to her great satisfaction the Lord agrees to do that. He says “Alright, get up on my shoulders” and he poses for her. But when she attempts to climb up on His shoulders, He is no more there – He has vanished! That was the end of her puffed up pride! And the rest of the company joins her now and together they all search for the Lord.
Incidentally, this single gopi is perhaps the Radha of later literature. The name Radha does not occur in the Bhagavatam.
When finally the moon went behind the clouds and there was no more moonlight, they all returned to their starting place and spent their time talking about Krishna. Their minds absorbed in thoughts of Him, they conversed about Him, acted out His pastimes and felt themselves filled with His presence. They no more remembered their homes as they loudly sang the glories of Krishna's transcendental qualities: The shloka which says this, namely,
tad-guNAn-eva gAyantyaH nAtmAgArANi sasmaruH // X-30-43
is one of the most famous quotes from Shrimad Bhagavatam, because it characterises the supreme prema-bhakti of the Gopis. It is considered to be at the apex of all bhakti forms. In fact, it reflects exactly what Krishna himself describes in the Gita (V-17):
gacchanty-apunar-AvRttiM jnAna-nirdhUta-kalmashhAH // meaning,
Those who have their intellect absorbed in That, whose Self is That, who are steadfast in That, who have That as their supreme Goal-they attain the state of non-returning, their dirt having been removed by Knowledge.
This kind of total absorption in God is the ultimate in Bhakti.
That is why the Gopis are cited as the supreme example of self-effacing bhakti. There have been several types of devotees all over time and all over the world. But the Lord values only such selfless bhakti. The bhakti of the gopis is unique in all of history, because, they did not achieve that kind of superlative approbation from the Lord by any of the usual means of spiritual living, namely, charity, ritual sacrifice, ritualistic vrata, religious discipline, penance, philosophical speculation, or yogic practice. None of these they had.
None of these can give that kind of union with the Lord as the constant mental association with Him that they did have. (Narayaneeyam: 94-10):
aikyaM te dAna-homa-vrata-niyama-tapas-sAnkhya-yogair-durApaM
tvat-sangenaiva gopyaH kila sukRti-tamAH prApur-Ananda-sAndraM /
bhakteSh-vanyeShu bhUas-svapi bahu-manuShe bhaktim-eva tvam-AsAM
tan-me tvad-bhaktim-eva dRDaya hara gadAn kRShNa vAtAlayesha //meaning,
That state of supremely blissful union with Thee, which is difficult to obtain through (disciplines like) charity, (ritual) sacrifices, observance of vows, self-control, austerities, knowledge (sAnkhya), and yoga, was attained by the blessed gopikas of Brindavan, through just personal attachment to Thee as their own beloved. Numerous are Thy other devotees, but it is this loving personal devotion of the gopikas that has received Thy highest appreciation. Therefore Oh Krishna, Oh Lord of Guruvayoor, May Thou strengthen devotion in me and destroy my ailments.
In fact this underscores the importance of personal involvement with the Lord in intimate terms, from the heart of hearts. All the formalities of our religious observances pale into insignificance before such a personal relationship with God. Whatever we may do, we must strive to see that this innate feeling of love for the Lord becomes the undercurrent. This is the only thing He asks from us. More than intellectual understanding of the various nuances of scriptures and philosophy, what He expects from us is this self-negating love for Him and all that stands for Him, namely, the universe.
One may recall here Gita IX – 34:
manmanA bhava madbhakto madyAjI mAM namaskuru /
mAmevaiShyasi yuktvaivaM AtmAnaM mat-parAyaNaH //
meaning, Saturate your mind with me; be devoted to me; work for me; bow down to me; having thus united your whole self with me, taking me as the supreme Goal, you shall come unto me. This self-negating love has been defined by Narada in his bhakti-sutra, as follows (Sutra 54):
guNa-rahitaM kAmanA-rahitaM pratikShaaNa-vardhamAnaM
avicchinnaM sUkShma-taram anubhava-rUpaM.
Meaning, (This pure love is) without attributes, without the poison of desire, every moment increasing, unbroken, subtlest, and of the nature of sheer immediate experience.
In fact almost every exponent of bhakti says the same thing.
Let us come back to the story. The Gopis, having lost track of Krishna in the physical world, spend their time now singing about Him in all ecstasy. This singing as told in 18 delightful verses of Shrimad Bhagavatam is called “gopikA-gItaM”. It is chapter 31 of Skanda 10. In traditional India these 18 verses are usually taught to young girls for them to obtain the fullest grace of God, particularly with respect to their marriage. Jayadeva’s Gita Govindam derives inspiration from this. Let us see just three shlokas out of the 18. In the practical performace of the dance of gopikA-gItaM it is common to use the word ‘kRshhNa’ repeatedly to keep the beat:
jayati te’dhikaM (kRshhNa) janmanA vrajaH
shrayata indirA (kRshhNa) shashvad-atra hi /
dayita dRshyatAM (kRshhNa) dikshhu tAvakAH
tvayi dhRtAsavaH (kRshhNa) tvAM vicinvate // (X-31-1)
O beloved, Your birth in the land of Vraja has made it exceedingly glorious, and thus Indirâ, the goddess of fortune, always resides here. It is only for Your sake that we, Your devoted servants, maintain our lives. We have been searching everywhere for You, so please show Yourself to us.
na khalu gopikA (kRshhNa) nandano bhavAn
akhila-dehinAM (kRshhNa) antar-Atma-dRk /
vikhanasArthito (kRshhNa) vishva-guptaye
sakha udeyivAn (kRshhNa) sAtvatAm kule // (X-31-4)
You are not actually the son of the gopî Yas'odâ, O friend, but rather the indwelling witness in the hearts of all embodied souls. Because Lord Brahmâ prayed for You to come and protect the universe, You have now appeared in the Sâtvata dynasty.
tava kathAmRtaM (kRshhNa) tapta-jIvanaM
kavibhir-IDitaM (kRshhNa) kalmashhApahaM /
shravaNa-mangaLaM (kRshhNa) shrImad-AtataM
bhuvi gRNanti te (kRshhNa) bhuridA janAH // (X-31-9)
The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one's sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. They are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead must have been munificent.