Gopis’ Love For Sri Krishna
By Hanumanprasad Poddar.
©1980 The Laughing Man Institute.
First English edition: 7/80.
[ First edition in Hindi as Gopi-Prema
by Motilal Jalan, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India. ]
(out of print)
The heart of Hinduism is God-Love, or devotional worship
of the Divine Person. And such worship finds its greatest raditional expression
in the devotional love relationship between Krishna, the Avatar or Divine
Incarnation, and the gopis, the cowherd-maidens of the village of Brindaban.
Krishna, the very embodiment of Bliss and Love on Earth, is said to have
lived in ecstatic play with hundreds of gopis for a number of years. As
their spiritual master and lover, he taught them the esoteric practices
of yoga, won their hearts with the charm of his flute playing, stole their
clothes and teased them, and embraced them in love. Yet all of Krishna’s
play with the gopis only served to intensify their attachment to him as
the Divine Person, and it created the necessary devotional fervor to move
them into ecstatic Communion with God.
From the basic story, which is contained in an ancient
text named the Bhagavata Purana (also known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam),
have sprung an endless stream of legends, poems, songs, and spiritual discourses
on the Divine Play between Krishna and his lovers. This book, Gopis’ Love
for Sri Krishna, is perhaps the most informed, charming, and descriptive
text available in English from this lineage. It contains the essence of
the devotional path of God-Love.
Hanumanprasad Poddar, 1892-1971, the author of this book,
is little known in the West. In his native India, however, he was greatly
revered as a saint and a scholar whose love for the spiritual writings
of Hinduism had a far-reaching effect. For forty-five years he edited the
Kalyan, a renowned Hindi religious journal, while also guiding the work
of the Gita Press. This publishing house is well known throughout India
for providing well-edited, low cost editions of the most important and
spiritually relevant Hindu texts. We are deeply grateful for the work of
Hanumanprasad Poddar, the Gita Press, and the Sri Radha Madhava Seva Sansthan
who made this edition available to us. We have edited it slightly to conform
to more modern Western usage.
It is no use enjoying pleasure after pleasure and possessing
immense wealth nor is it any use becoming a great ascetic besmearing the
body with ashes.
It is little use surrounding oneself with fires on all
sides and sitting under the sun in summer, or acquiring the power of floating
in water, or extending one’s dominion across the seas.
You may repeat sacred formulas times without number, practice
austerities and exercise control over body and mind, observe fasts for
any number of days, undertake pilgrimage to a thousand sacred places; but
who cares for all these?
He is really an uncultured boor who loves not, nor enjoys
the blessed company of the beloved child of Nanda. 1
You may possess a number of mansions cast in gold, the
splendor of which dazzles the eyes, and which are perpetually illumined
by rows of bright rubies and other precious stones.
To mention only a single fact indicative of worldly greatness,
you may have a regular troop of guards waiting at the door all the twenty-four
hours to regulate the entry of visitors.
Nay, you may throw pearls to the crowd in charity after
taking a plunge in the Ganges, or chant the Vedas twenty times or engage
in meditation of the Lord.
All of this is of no use, says Rasakhan, if you have not
been able to love the yellow-robed Sri Krishna by offering Him the heart!
It is presumptuous of me to attempt to write anything
on the Love of the Gopis. 2 The truth about that Love may be known to a
certain extent only by such lovers and devotees of the Lord. To them the
truth may be revealed in all kindness by the Blissful Aspect of the Lord
embodied as Sri Radha, and by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna himself, the
transcendent ocean of Bliss and Love, the embodiment of Truth, Knowledge,
and Bliss. One who knows the truth about this Love cannot, again, speak
or write about it, inasmuch as the sports of the Lord at Brindaban, through
which that Love is revealed, cannot be expressed through words. It is something
beyond human conception, transcendent, supernatural. The inhabitants of
Vraja of the time of Sri Krishna were none other than the eternal associates
of the Lord, who came from beyond the region of Maya, and manifested themselves
on earth in order to participate in the boyish sports of the Lord under
the direction and guidance of His Divine Energy, Sri Radha. Even the creator
of the universe, Brahma, soliciting the dust of the feet of these Mahatmas
(great souls) that manifested in Vraja, said:
O Lord, may I have the rare good fortune of being enlisted
as a servant of Thine either in this very birth or even through birth in
one of the lower species of animals, so that I may be able to serve Your
sacred feet. Enviable is the lot of Nanda and the other cowherds of Vraja,
who have got Thee, the Supreme Eternal, Blissful Lord, for their friend.
It is a great privilege to be born in Vraja, and more particlarly in Gokula,
even as an insect that crawls on earth, for that may afford one an opportanity
of sanctifying one’s head with the dust of the feet of any of the blessed
inhabitants of Vraja. 3
How great were the inhabitants of Vraja, the dust of whose
feet was sought by Brahma himself! Spurning liberation, they have gone
far beyond that state in spiritual realization. Even Brahma admitted this
when He said, “Lord, You vouchsafed salvation even to Putana, the demoness,
who came with the evil intention of killing You, painting her breasts with
deadly poison. Will You confer the same thing on these lovers of Yours?
Nay, You will have to remain bound in perpetual debt to them.” The Lord
Himself acknowledged this in the following memorable words addressed to
O dear ones, you have shown your Devotion to Me by snapping
off the strong ties of the family and of relations. lt is not possible
for Me to repay the debt of this sacred Devotion of yours even if I serve
you for the whole lifetime of a celestial being. You alone can discharge
me from this obligation through your own generosity.
Although as Lord and ruler of the universe He keeps all
beings, gods, demons, Gandharvas (demi-gods) and men alike, perpetually
bound by the fetters of Karma, he allows Himself to be tied to the husking-stand
by the milkmaid Yashoda [Krishna’s mother]. The Lord of Maya, who makes
the entire creation dance to the tune of His Maya [Play of Illusion], loses
the game in favor of His playmates, and as a condition of the game plays
the horse and carries the cowherd boys on His back! Blessed are those men,
women, and children of Vraja! It happened, one day, that Devi Yashoda was
engaged in some household duties when the child Sri Krishna became obstinate
and asked the mother to take Him in her arms. The mother turned a deaf
ear to His importunities. This upset the child, who began to weep and roll
on the floor of the courtyard. Just at that moment appeared on the scene
Devarsi Narada [a sage], who had felt an impulse in his heart to witness
the boyish sports of his beloved Lord. He found that the Lord of entire
creation, the Abode of Supreme Bliss, was rolling on the ground and clamoring
for being picked up by the mother. The celestial sage was driven into raptures
at this unprecedented sight, and addressing Yashoda, he exclaimed:
Your fortune, O Yashoda, is indeed incomparable. I wonder
how many sacred places you visited and what virtuous deeds you performed
in your previous births! Wonder of wonders! The Lord, Creator, and Sustainer
of the Universe, whose grace even great gods like Indra [Lord of Heaven],
Brahma [Creator], and Shiva [Destroyer] find difficult to obtain, that
Supreme Brahma is rolling in dust seeking to obtain a seat in your arms.
God, the embodiment of supreme Knowledge and Bliss, who
makes the whole creation dance like a puppet tied to the strings of his
Maya, Himself dances in the courtyards of the Gopis enchanted by their
Love. Who can adequately praise their lot or describe the greatness of
their Love? Says Rasakhan:
Shesha (the serpent-god), Mahesha (Shiva), Ganesha (the
elephant-god), the Sun-god and lndra, on whom all these gods constantly
meditate, Whom the Vedas describe as eternal, infinite, partless, indivisible,
Whose Name and glories are incessantly sung by Rishis
[sages] like Narada, Shuka, and Vyasaeven they cannot exhast his glories
and themselves feel exhausted: Him the cowherd girls get to dance before
them over a cup of buttermilk!
Praising the lot of the Gopis, Sri Shukadeva, who had
supreme indifference to the enjoyments of the world and had established
his absolute identity with Brahma, said:
Neither Brahma, nor Shiva, nor even Sri Lakshmi [goddess
of Fortune], who constantly resides in the heart of the Lord, could obtain
that rare and incomparabe boon (of Love) from the Lord, the dispenser of
salvation, which fell to the lot of these supreme lovers, the cowherd-maids
Similarly says Sri Uddhava [a disciple of Krishna], foremost
among men of wisdom:
The rarest boon (of Love) that fell to the lot of the
damsels of Vraja, who during the Rasa dance had the rare good fortune of
clasping the arms of the bessed Lord to their bosom and had all their desires
fulfilled thereby, was neither obtained by Lakshmi, who resides permanently
on the bosom of the Lord, nor by other goddesses who possessed the grace
and fragrance of a full-blown lotus.
In one of his memorable songs, the celebrated poet-saint
The Gopis of bessed memory enjoyed the childish sports
of Sri Hard [Krishna] to their hearts’ content as a matter of course; Lakshmi
Herself was not privileged to obtain this favor even in her dreams.
Whose true nature the Vedas are trying to determine though
with little success, whom Sri Shiva is constantly engaged in studying and.whom
Shesha himself is trying hard to fathom but in vain;
Who eludes the gaze even of ladies belonging to the Kinnara,
Gandharva, and Naga classes (the leading types of demi-gods). The damsels
of Vraja catch hold of the self-same Lord (now disgised as a cowherd boy)
and make Him dance like an ape to the tune of their clapping. Addressing
words of endearment, they smilingly gaze on His charming contenance and
then clasping Him within their arms they engage in sport with Him. Forgetting
all their household work, the bessed ladies follow the two brothers (Krishna
and Balarama [Krishna’s older brother]) wherever they go. Having heard
the sweet nectarlike stories of the Uplifter of hill (Sri Krishna) all
other nectar appears inferior in taste,
Who will covet the other trivial pleasres of the world,
when even the joy of liberation appears as unpalatable as salt?
Addressing Uddhava, whose one ambition was to be born
as a creeper or a shrub or an herb in Vraja in order that the sacred dust
of the feet of the Gopis may fall on his head, and who having assimilated
the discipleship of the Gopis had assimilated the lofty sentiment of the
Gopis, the Lord said:
O Uddhava, neither Brahma, nor Shiva, nor Sankarshana
(Balarama), nor again Lakshmi, nay, not even My own soul is so dear to
Me as are devotees like you.
This may have given the reader some idea about the spiritual
greatness of the Gopis. How it is possible for a humble mortal like me
to describe that Love which made the Gopi the dearest object of the Lord
Himself? The eligibility for this Love is attained only after one has developed
supreme indifference to the enjoyments of the world, and it is only through
the grace of those exalted souls who have direct experience of the transcendent
region that a devotee may expect to tread the thorny path of Love and obtain
a taste of that nectar. For this, however, one is required to pursue a
course of spiritual discipline. Through mere study or book-learning, it
is not possible to reach that height of spiritual experience. An attempt
is, however, being made here to give a gist of what I have been able to
gather from various sources through the grace of God. Those blessed and
revered souls, who are steeped in this Love, will kindly excuse this guilt
and impudence of mine.
Before attempting to probe into the mystery of the Gopis’
Love, it is necessary to discuss at some length the philosophy of Love
itself. In reality Love is not something which can be expressed through
words; that which can lend itself to description is the grossest and most
external form of Love. The seat of Love is the heart; it transforms the
lover into Love itself.
Bhagavan Sri Rama sent the following message of Love to
O dear, the truth about the Love betueen You and Me is
known only to My mind and that mind constantly stays with You. Know You
that herein lies the essence of Love.
In Love there is no room for self-interest. Where there
is any desire for return, there the purity of Love is stained by lust,
or desire for self-gratification. In Love there is giving and giving alone;
the thought of taking or receiving never occurs to the mind of the lover.
Love, again, always tends to grow. A lover can never believe that his is
a fully developed love; he always sees his own limitations, and keeps the
needle of his heart directed exclusively toward the beloved. Love that
hinges round some virtue, or expects something in return, diminishes, or
disappears as soon as it notices a decline in the virtues of the beloved,
or apprehends loss of expectation. Love of this type is not love in the
proper sense of the term. It is love of self or desire for self-gratification
that masquerades as love in that case.
Now that which swells up and the very next moment ebbs
low is not Love: That alone which is firmly rooted in the heart and knows
no ebbing should be given the name of Love.
Again, it is said:
An attraction between lovers, which knows no extinction
even in the presence of factors favorable to such extinction, is called
For instance, suppose the object of our love loses his
wealth, his beauty fades, his virtues give place to vices, he ceases to
reciprocate our love or show regard to us, snubs us at every step, offers
insult to us and shows respect to others in our very presence, or manifests
thousands of evil tendencies. Under such circumstances our love, for our
beloved, is sure to disappear. This is our experience of love as it is
known in the world. True love is that which does not diminish even in such
conditions, but goes on increasing every day.
That Love is the fountain of all sweetness which is not
dependent on youth, virtue, beauty or wealth, nor tainted by self-interest
or thoughts of personal gain, and which is pare and free from desire (of
Very subtle, very soft, very slender, very remote, Love
is the hardest of all, constant, unvaried in sweetness, brimful.
All-sweetness, spontaneous, disinterested, unwavering,
sublime, unvaried in sweetness, constantly growing, such is pure love,
A poet says:
Love constantly grows like the waxing moon, Only there
is no full-moon here, hence it never reaches the point where it may be
said to be full.
This type of Love can grow only in the heart of the devotee
in relation to God. Devarshi Narada, while describing the nature of this
The nature of Love cannot be described in words, like
the experiences of a dumb person. This Love manifests itself in some rarely
fortunate and qualified medium (namely, a devotee who has developed supreme
indifference to worldly enjoyments).
This Love is beyond the range of the three Gunas, is untainted
by desire, constantly growing, ceaseless in flow, and very subtle; it can
be understood only by experience. A devotee who attains this sees only
this Love, hears only this, and thinks of this and this alone.
There remains no distinction between the lover and the
beloved in this state. For, as the poet says:
Love is the essence of God and God is the embodiment of
Love. Though one in essence, they appear as two, like the sun and the sunshine.
Below are the utterances of some Hindi poets regarding
the condition of the Gopis, who attained this highest stage of Love.
In whichever direction I look, I find the landscape full
of Shyama [Krishna] (dark blue). The bowers and groves are dark, the water
of the Jamuna is dark, the sky and clouds are dark. All the colors are
merged in the dark color, people say this is something novel.
Am I mad, or are the dark pupils of the peoples’ eyes
changed? The heart of the Moon and the scion of the Sun are dark, the musk
is dark, as well as Cupid, the conqueror of the world. The neck of the
blue-necked Shiva is also dark, as if the dark color has been broadcast
all over the earth. The letters of the Vedas appear dark; the point of
the tapering light is also dark. Not to speak of men and gods; the Formless
Brahma itself has assumed a dark Form.
The ears went ahead of all and lost themselves in the
stories of His glory. Then the eyes departed and lost themselves in the
nectarean beauty. So did the mind lose itself in the smile in the dance,
in the furtive glance, in the mirth, in the symmetry of Form and in the
sweetness of disposition, even as water mixes with milk.
Enchanted by that Supreme Enchanter, my mind has identified
itself with the Enchanter Himself and no distinction, says Harichand, is
now visible between the two. Krishna has entered into my very life-breath,
and the breath is surcharged with Krishna. It cannot be perceived now whether
it is life that pulsates within, or Krishna that is throbbing in the heart.
Wherever I turn my eyes, I find Shyama [Krishna] and Shyama
alone visible everywhere. In the streets, on the bathing ghats, in the
alleys, in the orchards, in the trees, in the creepers, in the gardens,
in the groves, in the doorways, on the walls, on the thresholds, on the
windows, in the gardens, in the diamonds, in the necklaces, in the body,
in the woodlands, in the bowers, in the Gopis, in the cows, in the herds
of cattle in Gokula, in the lightning, and in the clouds. It is Krishna,
again, who has occupied my mind and eyes.
This love of Shyama is something which cannot be expressed
through words. The sky, water, earth, animate and inanimate creation, all
that is perceived is nothing but Shyama. Brahma has vanished: Maya, too,
has disappeared: no Jiva (embodied soul), no time: Even one’s own self
has been forgotten. If anything remains, it is the darling of Nanda.
There is no one left to confide the secret of his heart.
As a matter of fact, no such secret is left, to whom and in what manner
shall it be confided? While gazing on Hari, the heart got stolen. Now it
is Hari and Hari alone who is seen on all sides.
Narayana says, in whose heart Shyama resides. In branch,
leaf, flower and fruit I see Him and nothing else. Doors and walls have
been transformed into mirrors. In whichever direction I look I find Thee
and Thee alone. Pebbles, stones, and broken pieces of earthenware all have
turned into so many looking-glasses.
The following is an anecdote connected with the Gopis,
who saw Krishna permeating the whole universe. One of these Gopis asked
another in the course of their talks about Krishna, in which they remained
engaged all the twenty-four hours”Sister, here is a puzzle for me. The
blessed Nanda has got a fair complexion, Queen Yashoda is fair, even Balarama
is fair-complexioned; while all members of the family are fair, is it not
strange that Shyamasundara [Krishna] alone should have been dark-complexioned?”
Hearing this the other Gopi, who beheld Krishna everywhere, replied”Sister,
what a shame? Don’t you know even this?”
He stays day and night within our eyes painted black by
collirium.4 0 friend, it is due to this that the body of our dearest is
dark in color.
What a sentiment of deep spiritual significance. In the
painted eyes of these Gopis resided Sri Krishna alone and nothing else;
their eyes beheld nothing else in this wide world. There are some people
who hold that the Gopis never believed in the all-pervading nature of the
Lord. This is quite true, inasmuch as these Gopis saw their beloved Sri
Krishna alone, and nothing else. When in their eyes nothing besides Sri
Krishna existed, then what would He pervade?
Bowing again and again to the sacred feet of these Gopis,
who are merged and lost in this Divine Love of Sri Krishna, we proceed
to the next stage of our discussion.
In the love of the Gopis, there is no absence of passion;
of course, that passion has withdrawn itself from all other objects
of worldly attraction, and crossing the barriers of all allurements in
the shape of liberation and worldly enjoyments, which are so difficult
to surmount, has centered round Sri Krishna alone. The mind, the senses,
the vital energyall that the Gopis possessedbelonged to Sri Krishna.
Whether in this world or in the next, the Gopis knew no one else than Sri
Krishna. Whether awake or asleep, at work or at recreation, whether engaged
in dressing, toilet, in music, or in conversation, they thought of nothing
else but making Sri Krishna happy. It is only when they found Sri Krishna
pleased and gratified that these Gopis, who had no personal desires, enjoyed
a delight whose sweep was almost infinite. The Lord Himself said:
O Arjuna, the Gopis take care of their bodies simply becase
they regard them as instruments of service to Me. Besides the Gopis there
is none who is the object of My secret and profound Love.
The question may be raised here”What is the meaning
of rendering happiness to God, who is Himself the ocean of happiness, who
is solidified Knowledge and Bliss? Does God derive His happiness only through
the Gopis? Is not God Himself the source and fountainhead of all happiness?
No doubt He is. And Sri Radha is nothing else than the embodiment of the
Bliss aspect of the All-powerful God, who through the music of His flute
draws that Aspect of His own, separated for sport, towards Himself. This
aspect (Bliss) of God attended by Her subordinate forces is constantly
being drawn towards the Lord, who tasting that Bliss distributes the same
among those very forcesHis beloved devotees. When the music of the flutethe
Master’s Callenters the ears of the devotee, he forgets his hearth and
home, and sacrificing every interest that may bind him runs like one possessed
and intoxicated to make his beloved Lord happy. The Lord accepts this offering
of his Love, and sanctifying it with His Divine touch returns it to the
devotee. When a person goes before a mirror after beautifying his person,
the beauty reflected in the mirror is not retained by the mirror but always
comes back to the person, and he himself becomes the enjoyer of that beauty.
In a similar way the All-Beautiful Lord accepts the offering of beauty
of the Gopis and gives satisfaction to their desire, namely that He should
accept their physical service and make Himself happy through sports of
Love with them. God enjoys that bliss Himself and returns it to them as
His own offering after augmenting it to an enormous extent. The Love of
the Gopis had the distinction that they possessed not the slightest desire
for self-gratification. They did not entertain the thought of personal
happiness even in imagination. Finding Sri Krishna happy through their
association they remained merged in the ocean of bliss, whether awake or
in sleep. There was not stain of lust in this pure Love of the Gopis; it
was as spotless as the sun in a cloudless sky; it was purely Divine and
supernatural. Bringing out this difference between Kama (lust) and Prema
(Love) Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita says:
The object of Kama is enjoyment through gratification
of the senses, while Prema has the pleasre of Sri Krishna for its object.
Social conventions, scriptural injunctions, and other Karma (activity),
sense of decorum, patience, comfort of body and happiness of mind, renouncing
all these, they take to the worship of Sri Krishna. They (the Gopis) pursue
this Prema for the pleasures of Sri Krishna (not for their own gratification).
Therefore, there is a world of difference between Kama and Prema. Kama
is pitch darkness, Prema is the brilliance of the sun in a cloudless sky.
This difference between Kama and Prema is very wide and
vital. We mortals, deluded by the attraction of the senses, forget this
vital difference and, mistaking Kama for Prema, fall an easy prey to our
propensities. Kama is honey mixed with poison, while Prema is Divine, celestial
nectar. While Kama gives place immediately to pain, Prema through every
experience of its pang gives the taste of nectarean bliss. In Kama there
is satisfaction and gratification of the senses, whereas in Prema there
is absorption of Self, and an evergrowing desire for seeing the beloved
happy. The gratification of senses through satisfaction of Kama (lust),
though appearing sweet in the beginning, is painful in consequence; whereas
Prema (Love), though it knows no satiety, is the source of eternal and
Supreme Bliss. Kama is intermittent and spasmodic, while Prema is continuous
and uninterrupted. Kama has a tendency to subside, but Prema grows eternally.
There is thirst for sense-enjoyment in Kama, while in Prema the senses
and their enjoyments are entirely forgotten. The object of Kama is gratification
of.the lower self through sense-enjoyment, while in Prema there is complete
renunciation of the world and complete forgetfulness of self.
True Love itself kills the lustful propensity. Although
the devotee who has realized this Love would look upon his eagerness to
see the Beloved happy as an expression of desireand the senses, mind,
and intellect being all directed towards Love, such eagerness naturally
goes by the name of desireyet this type of pure and unadulterated Love
has no tinge of carnality about it. The Gautamiya Tantra says:
Although the love of the Gopis goes by the name of Kama
(lust), in reality it is not so. Great devotees and Mahatmas like Uddhava
yearn for this Love, miscalled Lust.
For the Gopis had absolutely no desire for gratification
of their own senses. Knowing Sri Krishna to be God Himself, they sought
to make Him happy by offering their entire being to Him. Referring to these
Gopis, who had absolutely no attraction for worldly enjoyments and who
had merged their very existence in Sri Krishna, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita
The object of Kama is to gratify one’s senses. To render
happiness to Krishna is the object of the adorable sentiment of the Gopis.
The Gopis have no desire of happiness through gratification of senses;
it is for the happiness of Krishna that they engage themselves in sports.
The consideration of their own happiness or suffering does not weigh with
the Gopis at all; what they do, they do for the sake of happiness of Sri
Krishna. Renouncing everything else, they cherish stainless Love for the
happiness of Sri Krishna.
One who entertains pure love for Sri Krishna for the sake
of His happinessregarding his body, mind, wealth, beauty, youth and all
that is enjoyable in this world and the next as objects of Sri Krishna’s
enjoymentis said to have attained Gopi-consciousness. The sentiment of
sweetness is predominant in this Gopi-consciousness. The Rasas (sentiments)
are five in number(1) the sentiment of quietism, (2) the sentiment of
service, (3) the sentiment of friendship, (4) the sentiment of parental
affection, and (5) the sentiment of wifely love. Each of these is of two
kindsworldly or Divine. That is to say, worldly sentiments are five in
number, as stated above, and Divine sentiments are likewise five. Among
these, the sentiment of wifely love is the highest; for the four other
sentiments, namely, those of quietism, service, friendship and parental
affection, are covered by this. Inasmuch as it is the noblest of all sentiments,
it is the most delicious, hence it is called “sweet.” Even so, among Divine
sentiments the sentiment of wifely love is the foremost of all. In the
sentiments of quietism and service, the prevailing idea of the devotee
is, “God is great and glorious, while I am humble and poor. God is the
Lord and Master, and I am His slave.” There is some amount of aloofness
in this sentiment as well as an element of shyness and fear. But in the
sentiments of friendship, parental affection, and wifely love, our relation
with the Divine is progressively more and more intimate. He is our darling,
our most beloved Lord. The Lord here forgets His supreme greatness, casts
a veil over his Divinity and is always present before the devotee either
as friend, son, or the beloved Lord. In these sentiments there is no place
for prayer, no expectation of return. How can there be any prayer before
one who is dearest and nearest to us? All that belongs to Him is our own.
Even among these, the sentiment of wifely love is supreme. The two other
sentiments of friendship and parenthood are fully represented therein.
Here there is unremitting service of the Lord, so unremitting that the
devotee never feels tired of it; for that service is not rendered to the
Lord and Master, but to the dearest object of one’s heart. In the happiness
of the beloved the wife feels infinite joy. She never feels that she has
rendered enough service to her Lord; for the greater the happiness of the
beloved, the greater becomes the joy of the devoted wife who contributes
to that happiness.
This sentiment of feminine love that one bears towards
the Lord has two varieties(1) the love of the wedded wife, and (2) that
of the paramour. In the worldly sphere the love of the paramour is deprecable,
detestable; for the same is contaminated by lust or a craving for physical
union and gratification of the senses, and the object of love is an erring
human being. But in the Divine sphere, i.e., when the object of love is
the Divine Himself, that type of love is not only worth cultivating but
it is considered even superior to the love of the wedded wife. There is
no grossness in this love, no craving for physical union or gratification
of the senses. The object of love in this case is no human being transgressing
the moral code, but the soul of the Universe, God Himself, the Oversoul,
who is the soul alike of the devotee’s husband and children, and even of
the devotee herself. It is in this sense that the love of the Gopis is
regarded as belonging to the latter type, the love of the paramour. Although
a devoted wife surrenders her allher personal and family names, her wealth,
her life, nay, her very faith to her husband, and does everything for the
sake of the husband, there are three points of exceptional merit in the
love of a paramour. These are: (1) constant thought of the beloved, (2)
an insatiable longing to meet the beloved, and (3) complete blindness to
the faults of the beloved. Since the wedded wife remains under the same
roof with her husband all the twenty-four hours, none of these things is
present in her. No doubt the Gopis used to see the Lord every day; yet
since the sentiment of a paramour was predominant in their love, a moment’s
separation would appear unbearable to them. They would curse the Creator
for covering their eyes with eyelids; for had there been no eyelids at
all, the eyes could remain eternally open and drink the nectarean beauty
of the Lord without any interruption. They said to their beloved Lord:
Dring the daytime when You go to the forest (to tend the
cows), Your alsence maker each moment appear to us as long as an aeon.
And when You return from the forest in the evening and we see Your blessed
countenance adorned with the side-locks of curly hair, the Creator Brahma,
who created the eyelids to cover the eyes with, appears to us no better
than an awkward fool. That is to say, our failure to see You even for a
moment makes us uneasy.
To have their minds constantly fixed on the Lord, to feel
great agony on their failure to see Him even for a moment, and to have
surrendered themselves completely to the Lord without the least grudgethese
were the natural characteristics of the Gopis. In comparison with the service
of their dearest Lord, they attached no importance to any other duty. In
their Love for Sri Krishna they had set at naught the restrictions imposed
by society and the scriptures. Worldly enjoyments and salvation appeared
to them as trivial and worthy of being rejected. The Lord Himself said:
O Uddhava, the Gopis have dedicated their heart and soul
to Me, snapping for My sake all their physical ties. I sustain those who
renounce for My sake all worldly enjoyments and their means. A devotee
who has thus surrendered his whole being to Me covets not the position
of Brahma, the position of lndra, the position of an Emperor, sovereignty
over the nether regions, the eight Siddhis (mystic powers) of Yoga, nay,
not even salvation, in which there is no return to this world, apart from
Now mark what the Lord says with reference to devotees
of this type:
To sanctify Myself with the dust of their feet, I constantly
follow the footsteps of such devotees.
That is the reason why the author of the Gita-Govinda
made the Lord appear as yearning for Sri Radha’s sacred feet and utter
the words “Give Me the privilege of touching Thy gentle feet.” It is on
the basis of this very utterance that the renowned devotee Rasakhan, who
had drunk deep of this sweet sentiment, wrote:
I sought the Divine (Brahma) in the Puranas and songs
and listened with still greater fervor to the hymns of the Vedas: But nowhere
did I perceive Him, or hear what His true Form is, and what His nature.
I got tired through this search, yet no man or woman could furnish any
clue to Him, says Rasakhan. At last I found Him seated stealthily in a
bower shampooing Sri Radha’s feet.
Of course, the devotee never desires that his beloved
Lord should shampoo his feet; but here there is complete identity between
the lover and the Beloved. No question of superiority or inferiority arises
there. In the Mahabharata we find Sanjaya describing at the Kaurava Court
the unique behavior of Bhagavan Sri Krishna towards His devotee-friend
Arjuna. When such was the behavior of the Lord towards Arjuna, what could
He not do in relation to devotees of the type of the Gopis, whose love
towards the Lord was unparalleled? The love of the Gopis was supermundane.
Men of the world whose mind and senses are completely under the influence
of worldly enjoyments are unable to grasp the true significance of the
lofty sentiments of the Gopis and smell carnality in their love due to
their own sensuality. In reality the love of the Gopis reached the highest
stage of perfection. All the five Rasas (sentiments) were brought into
play there, although the sentiment of love was predominant. This sentiment
of love gradually develops into fondness, affection, anger, passion, and
fully developed love and reaches the highest stage known by the name of
Bhava (ecstatic love). The perfection of this last stage is called supreme
ecstasy of love. This supreme ecstasy of love was manifested in the blessed
Gopis alone. The All-Blissful Lord enacted this absolutely Divine and transcendent
sport of Love in Vraja in order to satisfy the heart’s desire of His devotees
who sought nothing but Love from their Beloved. He did not enact this sacred
Lila for the sake of enjoyment or for the satisfaction of the sexual desire
of the Gopis. There could be no desire for enjoyment in the All-Blissful
Lord, nor could there be any trace of lust in the Gopis. Nay, this Lila
was enacted in order to destroy the seed of lust in the hearts of worldly
While concluding the description of the Rasa-dance in
the Bhagavata, the great ascetic Shukadeva said:
Men of wisdom who hear or read this story of love-sport
of the damsels of Vraja with Bhagavan Vishnu 4 (Sri Krishna) will soon
attain supreme devotion to the Lord and will be rid of the disease of the
heart known by the name of lust.
That the sport of the Lord in Vraja was most sacred is
very well known to all devotees following the path of Love; that was the
reason why a celestial sage like Narada and the greatest of gods, Shiva,
were initiated into the Gopi-consciousness to participate in that sport.
The great sage Shukadeva narrated the story of this to king Parikshit,
who was awaiting his death, in order to enable the latter to attain this
transcendent devotion without much difficulty and realize God after knowing
the ultimate truth about Him. Bhagavan Sri Krishna, while describing the
stages of Knowledge finally leading to transcendent devotion, also says:
When man endowed with pure Reason, dwelling in solitude,
abstemious in food, with mind, speech and body subdued, firmly established
in dispassion, constantly fixed in meditation, controlling the self by
firm determination, renouncing the object of the senses, such as sound,
etc., having abandoned the feelings of attraction and repulsion and shaken
off egoism, violence, arrogance, lust, anger, and the instinct of possession,
regards nothing as his own and becomes tranquil, then he becomes qualified
for realization of Brahma. Thus attaining Brahma, he is always cheerful.
He neither grieves nor craves for anything and beholding the Lord equally
in all beings, is bessed with supreme devotion to Me. Through that devotion
he knows the reality about Me, as to who and what I am in essence. Having
known the truth about Me through that transcendent devotion, he gets absorbed
On a careful examination, all the above stages will be
found in their complete state of development in the Gopis. There can be
no better proof of the purity of their Reason than the fact that their
Reason was constantly attached to Sri Krishna. Dwelling in solitude, not
only physically but also mentally, with a view to obtaining the contact
of Sri Krishna; forgetting even food and drink; withdrawing the mind, speech,
and body from worldly objects and applying them to the service of the Beloved
Lord; absence of attraction for objects of enjoyment remaining constantly
engaged in meditation of the beloved Sri Krishna keeping the heart full
of Sri Krishna by installing His image therein; renunciation of all objects
of senses excepting those connected with Sri Krishna; absence of attraction
for and repulsion from objects in the worldly sense; laying down egoism,
violence, arrogance, Iust, anger, and the sense of possession at the feet
of Sri Krishna; absence of attachment not only for the hearth and home,
but even for heavenly bliss and final beatitude; fixing the mind in Sri
Krishna’s Form and restraining it from running after worldly objects; and
pining for union with Sri Krishna, knowing Him to be an incarnation of
Brahmaall these were found manifested in every single moment of the life
of the Gopis. Apart from this, it is also well known that they were always
immersed in an ineffable joy and did not lose their balance of mind through
gain or loss of worldly objects, and that they saw Sri Krishna in every
creature on all sides. All these virtues which may be acquired by an aspirant
after a long course of strenuous discipline were found in a state of a
natural development in the Gopis; that is why Bhagavan Sri Krishna revealed
His whole secret to them, manifested His true Form before them and, engaging
in a Divine sport with them, gave them His own Form. The difference between
this state of the Gopis and the state of the Jnani (one who has obtained
enlightenment through Knowledge) lay in this, that while the realization
of the latter is based only on pure Reason, in the case of the former all
their experiences were based on direct perception through the senses. The
Supreme Brahma of the Jnanis assumed a supremely beautiful and enchanting
Form possessing two arms, and holding the flute in one hand danced with
His devotees. Stealing the heart of His devotees by His transcendent Beauty
and drawing them by the music of the flute, He called them unto Him and
blessed them in every sense. A well-known Mahatma, who had been blessed
with Divine vision and had entered into the spirit of the Gopis, said:
O friend, hear a strange story. Today I saw Brahma, the
highest truth of the Vedanta, dancing in the courtyard of Nanda, besmeared
all over with dust raised by the hoofs of cows.
The Jnani, having established his identity with Knowledge,
is absorbed in Brahma, whereas the devotee in the path of love withesses
the sweet sports of the Lord. To the Jnani, Sri Hari is unfathomalle, an
embodiment of Truth, Knowledge, and Bliss; With the loving devotee He constantly
plays as the sportive Lord, the embodiment of Love and Bliss. The Jnani
is always replete with the Bliss of God-consciosness, whereas the loving
devotee beholds the rare beauty of Sri Hari, possessed only of stainless
wisdom. The enlightened sage, renouncing the pride of his position, aspires
for the enviable state of the loving devotee, which is not difficult to
The Charm of Sri Krishna’s Beauty
Who can properly describe the transcendent charm of Sri
Krishna’s beauty? On whomsoever He cast even a single love-laden glance,
on him He showered the nectar of Love which has made him immortal; he would
remove all his attraction for the world, and plant him into the region
of His love. Says Sri Jagannath, the celebrated Sanskrit poet of the Moghul
O my Self! in your own interest I give you this warning.
Never make the mistake of cultivating friendship with that child, the cowherd
of Brindaban, who possesses the hue of a newly-formed cloud; bewitching
you by His playfal smile which showers nectar in the form of an ethereal
beanty, He will rob you in no time of all your beloved objects of the world.
Even Madhusudana Saraswati, the celebrated author of the
Advaita-Siddhi (which contains a masterly exposition of Advaita philosophy),
had to fall from his high pedestal of Self-sovereignty (the state of Jivanmukti,
living freedom from worldly bondage) fascinated by the transcendent glow
of that unearthly beauty. He says:
Respected and adored by the followers of the path of Advaita
and having obtained a passport to ascend the throne of Self-sovereignty,
I was made to surrender my all (though much against my will) at the feet
of that urchin who constantly follows the footsteps of the cowherd-maids
Afraid of the bewitching beauty of the child Krishna,
the famous devotee Lilashuka warns people against His magic in the following
O Wayfarer! Do not go that way. That lane is a terrible
lane. The naked child standing there resting His hands on His hips, possessing
a hue similar to that of the Tamala leaves, only appears like an ascetic;
in truth He is a great robber who robs every traveller passing that way
of his heart.
Entering into the spirit of the Gopis, Sah Kundanlal,
under the assumed name of Lalitakishori, says:
I make an offering of these eyes to His moon-like face,
as the Chakora bird (famos for its love for the moon) offers itself to
I offer life itself to the sweet smile and beautiful teeth
of the darling to His slanting glances and the corners of His eyes. I offer
the mind to the beautiful Forms of Shyama and Shyama (the Eternal Pair),
to their meeting in the inner chamber, and the rapid movement created by
the rhythm of their Rasa-dance.
Supremest Beauty shines in the Form of this Darling with
three carves in the Body. I offer my all to the beautiful bend of His neck.
Even though all that the devotee possesses is offered
to Him, yet He will continue to inflict wounds on a loving devotee through
the spear of His oblique glances. And stealing Looks at him, again and
again, He goes on sprinkling salt on the wound by His sweet smile.
Lalitakishori further says:
Look here, friend, this wayward lad of Nanda goes hurling
His darts in the shape of His obique glances. Seeing me wounded, cruel-hearted,
He merrily smiles. Says Lalitakishori, He sprinkles salt on the wound of
This wound of the devotee’s heart inflicted by the oblique
glances of Shyama never dries up. It remains ever green, and the acute
pain he feels every moment gives him greater joy than even the bliss of
absorption in Brahma. This wound was very deep in the hearts of the Gopis.
They are, indeed, supremely lucky who get this wound which goes on gaping
more and more as the days pass and which does not heal up even when the
swarthy-complexioned Lord appears in person and offers His services as
a surgeon. The sight of the Blue Beauty, instead of healing the wound,
makes it greener, but His disappearance also becomes unbearable. He is
the only doctor who can heal the wound; but instead of healing it He makes
it greener than ever. It is pleasanter to have this wound ever green: Hence
to suffer acutely from the pain of this wound and repeatedly to do things
which may cause it to grow becomes a part of the daily life of the devotee
following the path of Love. He derives supreme joy even from this suffering.
Equally fascinating is the magic flute of the Lord. When
it sounds, even the trance of Yogis established in the highest state of
abstract Samadhi is disturbed, to say nothing of ordinary souls.
As soon as the sound of this magic flute breaks forth
it infuses life into dead matter and stupefies living beings. A Gopi, while
singing the glory of the flute, once sarcastically said:
O Murari, pray spare me the melody of Your magic flute
at least for the time I am busy in the kitchen. For as soon as those dulcet
notes enter the kitchen, the dry pieces of wood that I use as fuel become
wet and begin to drip with water, so that the fire is extinguished and
I am undone.
Hearing the flute sounding at a distance, one Gopi says
Do you hear it, friend, haste back home, (else) you will
be pierced by the darts from His eyes; this flute, says Niwaj, is full
of poison and injects poison into the heart; O innocent lady, you forget
yourself hearing the sweet music. lf you want to save the family honor,
put finger into both your ears.
The treatment of Gopis’ love will remain incomplete without
some reference to the Divine Flute and the Rasa-dance in which the Gopis
participated. We propose, therefore, to deal with these two points now.
On the day the Lord granted the boon to the Gopis who
had worshipped Goddess Katyayani with the object of attaining utmost nearness
to Sri Krishna, the Lord tested the purity and exclusiveness of the Love
of the Gopis by robbing them of their garments, thus divesting them of
all sense of separateness and finding them worthy of treading the path
of stainless Love. He gave them assurance of union. To scent sin in his
sport is an indication of the sinful condition of the mind which scents
it. The individual soul (Atma) cannot afford to have any privacy with the
Oversoul (Paramatma). The veil between the individual soul and the Paramatma
exists only in Maya [Illusion]. Who would like to conceal his parts from
the Lord Himself, who is the Soul of all souls? So long as one attempts
to do so, he does not recognize the ubiquity of the Paramatma, and is therefore
anxious to preserve intact his consciousness of individuality. This delusion
of the Gopis was dispelled by the removal of their clothes. They recognized
Sri Krishna as the Paramatma. At once removing the veil of their separate
individuality and shaking off the cloak of Maya, the Lord brought them,
in their naked purity, face to face with the Soul of all that exists.
Some time after this incident the autumnal full moon appeared
on the eastern horizon. The appointed time for meeting the Lord drew near.
The cool and delightful autumnal night, blooming flowers, and the nectarean
silvery rays scattered by the orb of the full moonall these combined
to excite a hidden desire in the hearts of the Gopis, and they began to
crave for something which is ordinarily unobtainable. This craving was
for union with Sri Krishna.
Just then the maddening flute of Sri Krishna sounded.
The blessed and delightful music evoking Love that enchants the universe
started its career from the sweet flute of the Enchanter, delighting in
the Self, completely gratified and eternally young, the Lord of the lords
of Yoga, the transcendent Dancer. The great sage, Sri Shukadeva, says:
As soon as that love-exciting music (exciting desire for
union with Sri Krishna) entered their ears, the minds of all the damsels
of Vraja became full of Krishna. They immediately left their work and started
to meet their dearest Sri Krishna. On account of excessive eagerness, none
of them attemptd to seek the company of fellow-girls during this night’s
excursion. (Forgetting everything else, they ran posthaste individually
from whatever condition they were in at that time.) They ran so quickly
that all the way the beautiful rings in their ears shook and moved.
On their love being excited, why did the Gopis make for
Sri Krishna instead of approaching their respective husbands? There was
reason for this. The love of theirs was not sexual love as it is ordinarily
known in the world. They had the overpowering desire, rare even amongst
Yogis, to meet Sri Krishna, which compelled them in spite of themselves
to run towards Sri Krishna. The sound of the flute was an irresistible
invitation sent by God for conferring on them the transcendent unbroken
bliss. How could they ignore it? No one has the power to ignore it. How
did the Flute sound? What was the sweep of its note?
The sacred Divine music of that Flute, flooding the whole
of Brindaban with its soul-enthralling nectarean melody, rose to the heavens
and arrested the motion of the clouds, reaching Indra’s paradise, it startled,
again and again, Tumburu, the chief musician of the Devas, in the abode
of Brahma (Brahmaloka). It disturbed the trance of great sages like Sanandana
and surprised Brahma Himself. Thus having conquered the whole of the upper
regions it descended to the nether world aizd startling King Bali, the
Lord of the nether world, it thrilled the Divine Lord of serpents, Ananta
or Shesha, who began to shake His thousand heads. Thus penetrating the
whole of this universe, the music of Sri Krishna’s flute spread throughout
But all this notwithstanding, the call of invitation was
heard only by the devotees, who ran forthwith following the track of the
sound. This Flute of Shyama (Krishna) sounds even now, and devotees in
the path of Love hear the music even today.
The Poet-saint Sri Nandadas says:
Hearing (the call), the damsels of Vraja started following
the track of the sound. Houses, walls, trees, bowerynothing could stop
their onward corse. This path of nectarean sound is blissful, yet very
narrow. The damsels of Vraja alone follow this path; none else is qualified
to follow it.
Following the sound of the Flute they started like so
many possessed souls and finally reached of Sri Krishna’s sacred feet.
There the love of the Gopis is again tested. Two things had to be specially
examined: (1) whether there was left any trace of attachment for any worldly
object in the heart of the Gopis, and (2) whether they understood that
Sri Krishna was God Himself. Therefore, addressing them in the first instance,
the Lord said
O blessed girls, welcome to you all. Pray let Me know
if I can be of any service to you. Is it all well with Vraja? May I know
the reason for you coming here at this odd hour?
Hearing this from the lips of the Lord the Gopis only
smiled; they did not give any reply. The Lord again said:
Look here, lasses, the night is dreadful. Many ferocious
animals roam about at this hour. Therefore, haste back to Vraja forthwith.
It is not proper for women to tarry here for long.
Even now the Gopis did not give any reply. The Lord again
Missing you at home, your parents, sons, brothers or husbands
must be looking about for you. Tarrying here, do not make your relations
Reminding them of their nearest relations, the Lord sought
to test whether the Gopis entertained any attachment for, or fear of, relations,
whether they had lived within the region of Maya, or whether they had their
faces turned towards God. The Gopis emerged successful out of this test.
The wives of the Rishis had failed on this very point and returned to their
homes. The Gopis did not give any reply this time either. The mention of
their kith and kin did not arouse any attachment in their hearts for the
worldly relations. They had completely merged themselves in the transcendent
Love of Sri Krishna, the Divine Himself.
The Love of the Gopis for Sri Krishna was roused by the
beauty of the moonlit night. Was this an earthly or a Divine impulse? In
order to test this, the Lord again said:
You have seen the charming beanty of Brindaban illumined
by the silvery beams of the queen of the Night and adorned by beautiful
lilies and new leaves shaken by the mild, cool breeze coming from the Jamuna
[a sacred river]. Now, O virtuous ladies, tarry not. Quickly return to
Vraja and engage yourselves in the service of your respective husbands.
Your children and the small calves may be crying for you: Go, give the
children suck and milk the cows.
What work can be more important for a virtuous woman than
service of her husband? Addressing them as “virtuous ladies,” the Lord
reminded them of their husbands. Children to their mothers, and calves
to milkmaids, are generally very dearthe Lord reminded the ladies of
these also in words of tender emotion. He said all this in order to test
whether they were still attached to their families, or, having snapped
all worldly ties, they had their minds fixed only in Him, the Divine Himself.
The Gopis did not utter a word even now. This time, showing the glory of
the Beauty of His Formin order to test whether the Gopis were simply
charmed by His Beauty or recognized Him as God Himselfthe Lord said:
Or, if you have come to see Me through affection and attachment
for Me, there is nothing wrong in this; for all beings are gratified when
they see Me.
O blessed ladies! The highest duty of woman is to serve
her husband and his friends with sincere heart and nurse her children.
A woman who desires a higher life after death should never abandon her
husband who has not fallen from the path of virtue, even if he is ill-tempered,
unlucky, old, ignorant, poor or is suffering from some malady. It is in
every sense despicable for a woman of noble birth to serve a paramour.
Such a conduct does not lead to heaven; on the contrary it leads to infamy.
It is something extremely loathsome and reprehensibe.
The Iord told them everything plainly. If taking Him to
be a human being they had approached Him to satisfy their lust, they would
go down to hell and would expose themselves to infamy in the world. For
such is the moral code laid down in the Vedas. These words of advice also
could not dislodge the Gopis. Then, with a view to testing them further,
the Lord said:
(Even if you have come with a sense of My Divinity then
I may tell you) Love for Me does not grow by closer proximity to Me as
it does through hearing of My glory, obtaining My Darshan (sight), meditation
on My Form and loud chanting (Kirtan) of My Names. Therefore, go back to
Hearing similar words from the Lord, the wives of the
Rishis had returned to their homes. The latter had doubtless realized that
Sri Krishna was God Himself; but they still had attraction for their homes.
The Gopis, however, had completely detached themselves from the world and
were fully cognizant of the Lord’s greatness. They knew the Lord was the
soul of the whole universetheir own soul, the soul of their husbands
and their children, the soul of all. The idea of illicit love cannot be
conceived in relation to God, the soul of creation. The all-knowing and
all-blissful Lord, who is sought by the greatest of sages and seers, ascetics
and saints, for whose sake they snap all ties of the world and become indifferent
to the pleasures of the world, that Paramatma Himself is directly present
before them in the Form of their dearest Love and they have placed themselves
at his sacred feet. Would it not be an act of sheer folly to leave Him
and go elsewhere? Therefore, the Love-intoxicated Gopis, with tears in
their eyes, sobbing through Love-anger, said:
O All-pervading Lord! These harsh words do not befit You.
Renouncing everything else our hearts have now become solely attached to
Your sacred feet. Therefore, just as the prime Purusha Sri Narayana [the
god Vishnu, the Preserver] takes all seekers of salvation under His protection,
please accept us in the same way. Do not leave us in the lurch, O Krishna.
You know the essence of virtue. (Is it not the greatest of virtues to take
shelter under Your feet, being a knower of the essence of virtue, how dare
You ask us return?) You told us just now that the principal duty of a woman
was to serve her husband, children, and other relations; let this instruction
remain with You, who are God Himself; You are the source of this instruction
and the final goal of all virtues. You are the dearest friend and souI
of all embodied creatures, including our husbands and children. Surely
You are not the mere child of Yashoda. You are the witness of the heart
of all embodied beings. O Friend, at the invocation of Brahma, You have
incarnated Yourself in the clan of Yadu for the protection of the world.
Pray do not try to deceive us. You are the Paramatma Himself.
Withot Thee none can existneither husband nor children nor anyone else.
Refuge of all, end of all, substratum of all virtues, Lord of even the
highest Devas, where shall we go leaving Your sacred feet? Why should we
The Gopis knew that Bhagavan Sri Krishna was the fullest
manifestation of the supreme being, a compact mass of Knowledge and Bliss,
the soul of the universe, God Himself. He is the soul within the soul,
the final resort of all; having attained Him, why should they leave His
side? They said:
Those who know the Shastras concentrate all their Love
on You, the eternally beloved soul of all. Of what use are husband and
children to them, who make them taste only the sufferings of the world.
Therefore, O Supreme Lord! be propitious to us. Do not uproot the plant
of our hope which we have nourished for such a long time. We can no longer
go back to our homes now. Our hearts, which were so fondly attached to
our homes, You have easily stolen, the hands that were engaged in household
work have now become useless for work, and our feet no longer feel disposed
to take a single step aside from Your sacred feet. How shall we return
home and going there what shall we do?
God tested His devotees. They came out successful in the
test. Then the boon sought for by them was granted to them. The Divine
Lord of the Masters of Yoga, though rejoicing in Self, sported with the
Gopis. Then for a time the Lord disappeared from the scene, and the Gopis,
sorely missing the Lord, began to look about for Him and lament in various
The Poet-saint Nandadas says:
From bower to bower they roamed aboat in quest of the
merciful Lord. Failing to discover the Lord of the heart, the damsels of
Vraja were sore distressed. Smitten by pangs of separation they all began
to question the creepers and trees of the forest. Parted lovers are unable
to distinguish the animate from inanimate creation.
O Malati, 0 Jati, 0 Yuthika, 5 ye are our friends; listen
attentively. Did you perceive on this side our Darling, the uplifter of
the Govardhana Hill, who has stolen our hearts and humbled our pride? O
Ketaki, did you observe our angry Lord anywhere this way? Or has the gentle
smile of Nanda’s darling stolen your heart?
O Muktaphala plant, bearing a wreath of pearl-like flowers!
Did you see Nanda’s child, the Enchanter, possessing large eyes? O generous
Mandara! 6 Heroic and magnanimous Karavira! Did you see anywhere Balarama’s
heroic brother, the stealer of our hearts possessing a gentle gait? O Sandal,
banisher of pain! You cool everyone’s heat. Pray tell us the whereabouts
of Nanda’s darling to whom the world pays its homage.
O friends, ask the creepers which are blossoming profusely,
without the touch of our handsome Lord such flower cannot appear! Hallo
friend doe. Aye, why don’t yon ask these does? Their bright eyes indicate
that they have seen Hari somewhere just now. O the delicious fragrance
of the forest trees wafted by the mild breeze!
It appears that our dear Lord, who is the abode of Bliss
and the allayer of pain, has cast His looks at them. 0 booming Champaka,
you possess a rare charm! Pray, let us know where is Hari who sports in
the bowers? 0 Kadamba, Nimba, and mango trees, have you taken a vow of
silence? If so, why? O exalted Banyan! Pray furnish a clue to that handsome
hero. O Ashoka, remove our sorrow and tell as where is or dear Lord, the
jewel among men. 0 breadfruit tree, blessed and sweet! Give these dying
women nectar to drink.
So questioning the trees near the Jamuna, they became
utterly despondent, and said, “Friends, why should these hard-hearted souls
give us the desired information, living as they do in a place of pilgrimage.
O Jamuna, though knowing and realizing our woes you scrupulously observe
strict reticence. The water which redeems the world, you carry openly in
your bosom. O Earth, you have surely concealed somewhere the stealer of
butter, who has stolen our hearts. Pray give us a clue to or dear Lord.
O holy basil, bessed plant, dear always to Govinda’s feet. Why don’t you
tell Nanda’s child all about our woes? When He approaches the bowers and
thick shades of trees He brightens up the forest by the glow of His moon-like
The Gopis said:
The dust of the lotus-feet of Sri Govinda is bessed indeed.
Even gods and goddesses like Brahma, Shiva, and Lakshmi place the particles
of this dust with reverence on their heads; let as also do the same.
So saying they completely merged their consciousness in
Sri Krishna and began to imitate the various sports of Sri Krishna.
After this the Lord appeared on the scene again, and manifesting
as many forms as there were gopis, He danced simultaneously with every
one of them.
The first verse describing the Rasa-dance runs as follows:
The Lord sought to enjoy Himself with the help of His
Yogamaya (the Lord’s own eternal Divine energy).
Then we find in the Shrimad Bhagavatam expressions like
“though delighting in Self, He sported,” “one who enamors Cupid himself,”
“who has obtained all his desires,” “one who has all his desires fulfilled,”
“Lord of the Masters of Yoga,” which prove definitely that this sport of
the Lord was supremely Divine. There was not the least trace of carnality
in this sport. The word Bhagavan itself shows that the paramour-idea cannot
be associated with the Lord, who is the Self of all beings; for the word
Bhagavan denotes One who possesses the six superhuman powers, such as assuming
the size of an atom, etc., and who is an infinite and inexhaustible storehouse
of Righteousness, Glory, Prosperity, Dispassion, and Knowledge.
Carnality and illicit love cannot be conceived to exist
in one who possesses these Divine qualities. The Lord enacted the whole
of this scene through the help of His Yogamaya. The Lord is eternally pledged
to fulfill the desires of His devoteesthrough His Yogamaya things appeared
to each one of His devotees as he or she would have them. It is through
the power of this Yogamaya that the Lord, though unattached, carries on
His sports of creation, preservation, and destruction. Just as a magician
hypnotizes his spectators at will and conjures up scenes of his own choice
before them, in the same manner the Lord enacted various sports through
Yogamaya. Sri Radha was the embodied form of Yogamaya. In another instance
He sent Yogamaya ahead of Himself to inform Kamsa [the enemy of Krishna]
about His advent, and through her help subsequently the Lord enacted the
whole drama of Divine sports in Vraja. When Brahma stole the cowherd boys
and calves, Sri Krishna, who was then to all appearances a child of five,
assumed Himself, through the power of this Yogamaya, the forms of those
cowherd boys and calves, together with all their paraphernaliaÑclothes,
horns, sticks, etc. At the age of six, through the power of the same Yogamaya,
He subdued the terrible snake Kaliya and drank off the forest conflagration.
At the same age He enacted the sport of stealing the robes of the cowherd-maids
of Vraja (who sought Sri Krishna as their husband) in order to lift the
veil of Maya that screened them from the Lord and develop their capacity
for complete surrender. It was through the influence of His Yogamaya that
Sri Krishna, when He was only a child of seven years, appeared as a grown-up
lad to the eyes of the damsels of Vraja. It was through the power of this
Yogamaya, again, that the Lord appeared as sporting within the ring of
the Rasa-dance. It was through this Yogamaya that each Gopi in the ring
perceived the Lord of Gopis beside her. Just as a child plays at its will
with its reflection in a mirror, even so, with the help of His Yogamaya,
Bhagavan Sri Krishna sported with the Gopis who were like so many shadows
of His own form.
And it was through the action of the same Yogamaya that
the husbands of the girls, who had gone to join the Rasa-dance, found their
wives sleeping beside them.
It was through the influence of the Yogamaya, again, that
Sri Krishna, a child of only eleven years, appeared differently to different
persons when He entered the open court of Kamsa. To the wrestlers He appeared
as hard as the hardest stone, to the citizens of Mathura he appeared as
a superman, to women He appeared as the God of Love Himself, the Gopas
saw Him as their kinsman, the wicked kings as their chastiser, His parents
saw Him as their darling, Kamsa saw Him as death itself, the ignorant regarded
Him as a monster, the Yogis saw Him as the Supreme Reality, and the Yadavas
saw Him as the supreme deity.
It was a Divine sport of Love between God Himself, who
is all-sufficient and all-powerful, who is the Lord of the masters of Yoga
and possesses the six Divine attributes, who is the director of Yogamaya
(who is capable of bringing the impossible into the region of possibility),
the master of supreme bliss, and a veritable wish-yielding tree, on the
one hand, with His devotees, who were his own shadows, on the other.
In reality, Sri Krishna is always inseparable from Sri
Radha. Sri Radha is Sri Krishna’s own bliss aspect, which assumes a separate
body in order to enjoy the transcendent love and beauty of the Lord and
the Gopis, who are the eternal friends and associates of Sri Radha and
who are none else than so many manifestations of a particular class of
infinite energies (Shaktis), whose office is to help and supplement His
bliss aspect. These Gopis, again, are subdivided into various groups or
orders such as friends, associates, companions, messengers, and maids.
Sri Krishna embodies supreme Beauty and supreme Love. Therefore, He is
known as the Lord of Rasa (sweetness or joy), the Charmer of Cupid, one
who puts to shame thousands of Cupids in loveliness of form, the original
seed or progenitor of the god of love, the Divine and eternally fresh source
of delight, solidified Knowledge and Bliss, and the Supreme Purusha (Person).
And Sri Radha is Sri Krishna’s transcendent Energy charmed by Sri Krishna’s
beauty and love, the embodiment of devotion to and attachment for Sri Krishna.
Sri Krishna enjoys His own Beauty and sweetness through this, His own Energy.
This is the basis of Love between Sri Krishna the Lord of Rasa, and Sri
Radha, who enjoys that Rasa (sentiment of joy and sweetness). This is not
earthly love; it is never revealed in the region of ordinary mortals. That
is why Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita says:
In the paramour-sentiment, Rasa (the feeling of joy and
love) is strung to the highest pitch. Except in Vraja, it is nowhere revealed.
“Vraja” here means the Divine region of Goloka, which
is sustained on the sentiment of Love for Sri Krishna. It is therefore
that the Lord of Vraja and the Master of Rasa, Sri Krishna, never goes
even a step beyond the boundary of this transcendent Brindaban.
Bhagavan Sri Krishna is pure Consciousness, pure Bliss,
pure Iove, pure Rasa (enjoyment), and these Gopis, the beloved of Sri Krishna,
are nothing but embodiments of consciousness, bliss, love and emotion in
their purest forms. By Gopis are meant Sri Radha, or the bliss aspect of
Sri Krishna, and Her companions, who are eternally engaged in bringing
about the union of Radha and Krishna, and who through that effort enjoy
happiness that is even more intense in experience than the bliss enjoyed
by Sri Radha. The Gopis do not possess earthly bodies of the type we mortals
possess, made of flesh and blood, conceived in Prakriti and created out
of its elements, which take birth as a result of past Karma. They are eternal;
although manifested in creation and sporting in the world of Death, they
live in the state where death is transcended. Their Divine forms and their
eternal Rasa-dance can be perceived only by Divine eyes through which overflows
the purest sentiment of Love.
In the Padma-Purana the Lord Himself says to Sri Mahadeva
with reference to Sri Radha and the Gopis:
Sri Radha is My belovedknow Her to be the supreme Goddess.
Surrounding Her and behind Her are lakhs [millions] of Her female companions.
Just as my own form is eternal, they too are eternal. My parents, friends,
the cows and cowherds of Brindaban and Brindaban itself are eternal and
made of the purest elements of Consciosness and Bliss. Know this Brindaban
of Mine to the the very essence of Bliss.
In the Rasollasa Tantra Sri Shiva says to Devi Parvati
[his consort] referring to the Rasa-dance:
Just as there are the gross, subtle, and causal bodies
of men, even so there is a forth species known as the Bhava-Deha (body
made of the purest Love); this body is attained through God’s grace, and
is easily obtained from birth to birth through His grace. This Bhava-Deha
is generally possessed by liberated souls who have the privilege of eternally
waiting upon the Lord, or by the Lord’s own representatives whose function
it is to carry out God’s purpose on earth. Or occasionally, O supreme Goddess,
this body may be attained by a soul even by spiritual discipline. This
Bhava-Deha is neither subject to Gunas [forces of nature] nor is it beyond
the Gunas [unmanifest], it is a body purely Divine in essence, which is
found only in Brindaban and nowhere else. The Gopis attained their object
through their union with Sri Krishna; this union was neither actuated by
Iust, nor was it entirely free from desire. It was a union brought about
by the instrumentality of the Bhava-Deha.
From these words of Sri Shiva it is quite evident that
the love between Sri Krishna and the Gopis was purely Divine in its nature.
The union of the Gopis with Sri Krishna was not of the earthly, gross,
or physical type. There was not the least play or exercise of the organs
of sense in the union. Therefore, it is a heinous crime to detect sin in
this Divine sport of Love.
It has to be specially borne in mind that none else than
the Lord Himself can conduct this sport. The privilege of worshipping God
through the sentiment of the Gopis is open to all Jivas who have developed
dispassion and pure Love. It is not confined to women alone, nor is it
necessary for men who desire to cultivate this love to dress themselves
as women. What is necessary is to accept the Gopis as the model of this
love, and to stimulate within one’s heart the kind of love possessed by
them. It is the proper attitude of mind and not a particular form of dress
that counts in this form of worship. He alone that possesses this Divine,
disinterested, and undivided Love, may worship God through the sentiment
of the Gopis. Of course, the object of worship would be none else than
Those who worship God through the sentiment of the Gopis
recognize all beings through their Bhava-Deha as females, and the only
male, the transcendent, ever-youthful captivator of their hearts, is the
child of the Lord of Vraja (Nanda) who is the sole husbandthe Supreme
Lord of all. They cannot conceive of any other male than the Darling of
Nanda. A supremely faithful wife, says Goswami Tulasidas [a famous poet],
knows of no other male than her own wedded husband. In the region of this
Divine Love, no other male than Sri Krishna and no other female than the
devotee, whose thoughts are immersed in the nectar of Love for Sri Krishna,
is privileged, or has the capacity, to enter the gate of this Divine temple
of Love inhabited by the blissful Energy of the Lord. It is totally closed
to ordinary men and women of the world. One who seeks to enter this transcendent
region has to show his permit to the Divine lady who keeps watch at the
gate. This permit, again, which is nothing else than an intellect immersed
in the nectar of Sri Krishna’s love, can be obtained by him alone who surrenders
his body, mind, and possessions to the beloved Lord, who renounces all
his desires, who has subdued all his passions such as lust, anger, greed
and so on, and clothed with dispassion and adorned with Divine virtues,
offers himself as sacrifice at the altar of Love. A Hindi poet says:
First he offers his head, then he enters, such a noble
lover alone can enter this region.
Therefore, no human being can even play the role of Sri
Krishna in this Lila [Divine Play], no matter if he is believed to be a
great religious preceptor, teacher or devotee, a liberated soul, or one
possessing the Divine sentiments. If, therefore, anyone assuming Sri Krishna’s
role calls upon others to worship him according to the spirit of the Gopis,
one should keep at a respectable distance from such a pretender. Especially
one who suggests that women should worship him in the way of the Gopis
should be treated as a rake and a debauchee.
This type of Love is so rare that even gods are not eligible
for it. The nectar of this sublime Love is drunk only by those devotees
who take delight in the sentiment that reigned supreme in Vraja, whose
hearts beat in unison with the feeling that predominated in Vraja, who
possess the Divine Love which was once manifested in Vraja. It is only
by dedicating oneself at the feet of the blessed Gopis and attuning oneself
with the sentiment of the Gopis that one can attain this rare Divine Love,
which does not possess the least trace of lust or desire for the object
and embodiment of this Love, the swarthy complexioned Sri Krishna of rare
beauty. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita says:
One who seeks to possess this nectar-like sentiment of
the Gopis, spurning the Vedic laws, he worships Krishna. He alone who worships
Him through Love and attachment, gets in Vraja the company of the Darling
of the blessed Lord of Vraja.
The poet says that a true lover does not repudiate the
Vedic laws; on the contrary, when Divine Love manifests itself in him,
the Vedic laws themselves leave their hold on him, knowing that he has
attained that Love in which lies their supreme fulfillment. He who deliberately
repudiates the Vedic laws is bound to suffer a spiritual fall.
There is one law governing this Love, namely, that laws
no longer bind the votary. But he who repudiates the laws knowingly does
not possess this Love.
This path is not for those who hanker after sensual pleasures,
nor is it meant for those who simply put on the garb of a devotee. This
sacred path is trodden by those selfless souls who, having conquered the
attractions of the world and curbed all desires, seek to worship God alone.
Any attempt to tread this path on the part of those who entertain in their
hearts the craving for enjoyment, would be as dangerous as to leap into
a blazing fire or to put one’s finger into the mouth of a deadly snake.
The poet again says:
One who seeks to drink the nectar of Love and is yet attached
to the enjoyments of the world will find that the poisonous effect of this
attachment spreads throughout his system, burns his heart, and shatters
his whole frame.
That is why Sri Shukadeva warns all against this danger
when he says:
Sri Shiva drank off the deadly poison, everyone cannot
do it, in the same manner God Himself enacted this sport (of the Rasa-dance).
Man can never imitate this act of His. A frail mortal shold never therefore
even think of imitating this sport. Anyone attempting this through foolishness
will surely perish. God is the Soul of the Gopis as well as of their husbands,
nay of all embodied beings. He dwells in the heart of everyone as the witness,
it was by way of sport that He appeared on this earth in human form, and
in order to shower His grace on the mortals inhabiting this globe enacted
these supernatural sports through that Divine Body so that men may get
devoted to Him by dwelling on those sports in their minds.
Therefore, instead of imitating these supernatural sports
of the Lord one should place before him the ideal of the Gopis, and, offering
his all to God, should serve him through the intellect, the mind, and the
senses, and lovingly remember Him at all times. He should aspire to become
a devotee of God, and not God himself
The soul is a fragment of God; therefore, it contains
the element of blissit is a part of the bliss aspect of God. Should one
withdraw this particle of joy from the transient and ephemeral objects
of enjoyment, which through error or judgment appear pleasant to us though
rooted in sorrow, and direct it towards the everlasting beauty and sweetness
of God, he can attain that eternal and unlimited joy, the joy of Divine
Love, in place of the transitory, illusive, and trivial sense-enjoyment.
When this faculty of joy possessed by man gets purified and elevated, it
assumes its real character and is freed from the taint of desire, and begins
to long for a taste of the nectarean beauty and sweetness of Sri Krishna:
So long as this faculty of joy remains merged in the enjoyments of the
senses, it does not turn its face towards Sri Krishna. Therefore, shaking
off all attachments for worldly enjoyments one should constantly hear and
sing with greatest reverence the story of the sports of Sri Radha and Sri
Krishna, and accepting any one of the female companions of Sri Krishna
as his preceptor should meditate according to her directions on Sri Krishna’s
sports until one loses consciousness of his body and mind and gets absorbed
in Divine Love.
This exposition of the Love of the Gopis is based on facts
collected from the scriptures and is full of the delicious juice of Divine
sentiments. What it moves us to is to adore the sacred feet of the blessed
Gopis, who are love incarnate, and to beg of them the gift of this Love,
and to fulfill our human birth through chanting the Name and singing the
glory of the Lord. Says Sri Lalitakishori:
Damn all other work if your hands are not kept busy in
decorating the Divine Forms of Shyama and Shyama (Radha-Krishna).
If you have never had the good fortune of washing the
sacred feet of the blessed couple and drinking the water so used, damn
all other cold drinks.
If you have never had the opportuiiity of rambling in
the avenues and bowers of Brindaban, accursed be the joy of having a pleasure-drive
in other gardens.
Accursed be this life itself, if throughout its long years
these eyes have not been able to behold the blessed form of the Beloved
of my heart.
The Lord is present even today. His sports also are eternal.
But how shall we get to see him? How can we earn the proud privilege of
washing His sacred feet? The method is to utter His Name constantly and
lovingly, to sing His glories, to associate with His devotees, to act in
conformity with His wishes, to obey His commands, to acquiesce in His dispensation,
to conquer the attractions of the world, and to learn to sacrifice oneself
at the altar of His beauty and sweetness, to meditate on His sports and
to weep for His Darshan from the bottom of of the heart. If you really
want Him then renounce all worldly attachments and adopt the methods indicated
above. Through constant practice the sentiment will grow, and you will
realize Sri Krishna as the be-all and end-all of your life. Glory be to
the Gopis, and blessed be the dust of the lotus-feet of the Lord!
1. The foster father of Krishna.
v. The cowherdmaids of Brindaban, in Vraja, India.
3. For the most part (unless otherwise attributed), quotations
found in this book that are indented were taken from the Srimad Bhagavatam
(also known as the Bhagavata Purana) esteemed as the most complete and
authoritative exposition of ancient knowledge in the literature of the
Hindu tradition of spirituality.
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