prabhu kahe,—“sādhya-vastura avadhi’ ei haya
tomāra prasāde ihā jāniluṅ niścaya
‘sādhya-vastu’ ‘sādhana’-vinā keha nāhi pāya
kṛpā kari’ kaha, rāya, pābāra upāya”
rāya kahe,—“yei kahāo, sei kahi vāṇī
ki kahiye bhāla-manda, kichui nā jāni
tribhuvana-madhye aiche haya kon dhīra
ye tomāra māyā-nāṭe ha-ibeka sthira
mora mukhe vaktā tumi, tumi hao śrotā
atyanta rahasya, śuna, sādhanera kathā
rādhā-kṛṣṇera līlā ei ati gūḍhatara
dāsya-vātsalyādi-bhāve nā haya gocara
sabe eka sakhī-gaṇera ihāṅ adhikāra
sakhī haite haya ei līlāra vistāra
sakhī binā ei līlā puṣṭa nāhi haya
sakhī līlā vistāriyā, sakhī āsvādaya
sakhī binā ei līlāya anyera nāhi gati
sakhī-bhāve ye tāṅre kare anugati
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-kuñjasevā sādhya sei pāya
sei sādhya pāite āra nāhika upāya
Having heard Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya singing his own composition, Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “O Rāya, that is sufficient. You have described the topmost limit of sādhya-vastu, or the ultimate object of attainment. By your mercy (here Mahāprabhu reveals His humility), I have understood the different gradations of this subject matter. However without the appropriate sādhana, one cannot attain this rare sādhya. Therefore, please be kind enough to describe the method to achieve this goal.”
Hearing this, Rāmānanda Rāya said in great meekness, “I am only speaking those instructions which You desire me to speak. Among my statements I cannot discern what is good or bad. Who within these three worlds is so forbearing that he is not shaken upon seeing the drama enacted by Your illusory potency? You are the one who speaks from within my mouth, and You have also become the audience. Please now hear the discussion of this most confidential sādhana. These pastimes of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are extremely private. They are beyond the understanding of those associates of the Lord who have taken shelter of dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya rasa. Being inaccessible, they are extremely rare.
“These līlās come only within the jurisdiction of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s sakhīs, because mahābhāva is found exclusively within them. These pastimes develop only due to the sakhīs’ participation; the sakhīs alone have the right to taste them. Apart from those situated in this sakhī-bhāva, no other associates may enter into these līlās. Only the sādhakas who remain under the guidance of those with this sakhī-bhāva may enter the domain of ultimate attainment – rendering service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa within the groves of Vṛndāvana. Apart from this method, there is no other means to achieve this goal.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that only when Mahāprabhu had heard everything in full, does He affirm that the topic of sādhya has been discussed comprehensively. Now Mahāprabhu inquires, “What is the sādhana of achieving this ultimate goal? Please speak about that.” Śrī Rāmānanda reviewed the premise that those sādhakas who worship in the moods of dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya are unable to attain entrance into this most confidential subject matter. Only the sakhīs of Vraja are situated in mahābhāva; they alone have accepted this mood, and solely by the performance of sādhana under their guidance is it possible to attain the most brilliant, most confidential, most mysterious, and most intensely sweet goal – the kuñja-sevā of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. There is no other process to attain this goal.
No one except the sakhīs can enter this līlā. This infers that Lalitā, Viśākhā, and other sakhīs such as Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī are eternal associates of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s kuñja-sevā. It is thus essential to perform sādhana under their guidance (ānugatya).
Owing to a lack of association with pure saintly devotees, there remains present within the jīvas a wide variety of material desires such as a yearning for residence in the heavenly planets, the longing for liberation, and desires to attain the abodes of the other incarnations of Bhagavān. Śrī Bhagavān fulfills all of these desires, also. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the incarnation of prema (premāvatārī) and the combined form of rasa-rāja Śrī Kṛṣṇa and mahābhāva-mayī Śrī Rādhikā. It is He who distributed the glories of the pure prema of Vraja, and who tasted unnata-ujjvala-prema, especially the mādanākhya-bhāva of Śrī Rādhā. And it was He who, in order to bestow mercy upon the pure sādhakas, asked this topmost question, and also spoke these confidential and secretive truths from the mouth of Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. Only by the mercy of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and only by staying under the guidance of His devotees, can one understand the difference between loving sentiments for the Lord in awe and reverence (aiśvarya-prema) and sentiments for Śrī Kṛṣṇa predominated by feelings of sweetness and intimacy (mādhurya-prema).
This mahābhāva is not found within the sentiments of dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya. And actually, the mādhurya-rasa or śṛṅgāra-rasa present in Vaikuṇṭha, Ayodhyā, Dvārakā, and Mathurā is called svakīya (when the hero and heroine are married), and is mixed with sentiments of awe and reverence (aiśvarya). Śrī Kṛṣṇa cannot be controlled completely by those moods. The fact that Śrī Lakṣmī-devī herself is performing austerities in Belvana (a forest within Vraja-maṇḍala) in order to achieve the transcendental amorous love of the gopīs, proves this. The sakhīs of Śrī Rādhā are the exclusive proprietors and presiding goddesses of this highest aspect of bhāva found in the nikuñja-sevā. Therefore, remaining under their guidance is the topmost sādhana for achieving service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
vibhur api sukha-rūpaḥ sva-prakāśo ’pi bhāvaḥ
kṣaṇam api na hi rādhā-kṛṣṇayor yā ṛte svāḥ
pravahati rasa-puṣṭiṁ cid-vibhūtīr iveśaḥ
śrayati na padam āsāṁ kaḥ sakhīnāṁ rasa-jñaḥ
“ ‘Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s bhāvas are self-manifest, unlimited, and composed of complete ecstasy. Even so, not even one iota of rasa can be experienced without the sakhīs, just as Iśvara, the Supreme Controller, is never manifested without His spiritual potencies or opulences. Therefore, what knower of rasa will try to enter these pastimes without taking the shelter and guidance of the lotus feet of the sakhīs?’
The bhāvas of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are exceedingly full of happiness; indeed, they are the very embodiment of the highest form of joy. A sādhaka of transcendental amorous love who is filled with this prema can automatically savor the sweetness of this rasa. By this sweetness he, also, is able to experience great happiness, just as a person automatically tastes the sweetness of sugar candy by keeping it within his mouth. However, without the grace of the sakhīs, the prema of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa cannot reach its fullest state of blissful completeness.
The question may arise: if this is so, then what is the necessity of mentioning the self-manifesting and unlimited nature of the love of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa? Svarūpa-śakti is unlimited, she is also completely spiritual (brahma-vastu), and her special play is prema, or bhakti. If prema, or bhakti, were not in fact unlimited, then how could she have brought the complete spiritual entity Bhagavān under her control? The Śrutis say, “bhaktir eva garīyasī – bhakti is indeed glorious” and “bhakti-vaśaḥ puruṣaḥ – the Supreme is controlled by bhakti.”
The ocean is an immeasurable body of water, and by the force of the wind, waves rise up, making it appear as if the ocean is leaping. Similarly, even though the oceanic prema of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is self-manifesting, still it is supported and nourished by the assistance of the wave-like sakhīs. In the axiom about the love of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, the sakhīs’ glories are extraordinary. Despite Himself being the unlimited, omnipresent, and self-manifesting Supreme Controller, His quality of being the controller is even further enhanced by the assistance of cit-śakti. Similarly, śrṅgāra-rasa is even more deeply nurtured by the ministration of the sakhīs. Prema and the sakhīs are not separate entities; indeed, the development of prema hinges on their participation. The sakhīs are prema-svarūpiṇī, meaning that they are composed of prema and they are also embodiments of prema, as well as expansions of the bliss potency (hlādinī-śakti).
sakhīra svabhāva eka akathya-kathana
kṛṣṇa-saha nija-līlāya nāhi sakhīra mana
kṛṣṇa saha rādhikāra līlā ye karāya
nija-sukha haite tāte koṭi sukha pāya
sakhī-gaṇa haya tāra pallava-puṣpa-pātā
kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta yadi latāke siñcaya
nija-sukha haite pallavādyera koṭi-sukha haya
“The nature of the sakhīs is unparalleled and indescribable. Never does the thought of finding their own happiness in an intimate meeting with Śrī Kṛṣṇa even appear within their minds. The happiness they experience by arranging the solitary meeting of Śrī Rādhikā with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, they accept as being millions of times greater than what they would experience by being with Śrī Kṛṣṇa directly. Śrī Rādhā is likened to the truly personified form of the wish-fulfilling vine of prema for Śrī Kṛṣṇa; and the various sakhīs are the leaves, twigs, and flowers that take shelter of this desire-fulfilling creeper. By sprinkling the creeper with the nectar of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, the sprouts, flowers, and leaves become happier than if someone sprinkles them directly.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura confirms that Śrī Rādhā is the transcendental wish-fulfilling vine of kṛṣṇa-prema, and all the various sakhīs are its leaves, buds, and flowers. When this vine in the form of Śrī Rādhā is watered, then the flowers and buds, who have taken shelter of the vine, are automatically nurtured. In the same way, the gopīs do not directly enjoy the happiness of meeting with Śrī Kṛṣṇa; rather by arranging Śrī Rādhā’s meeting with Śrī Kṛṣṇa they become joyful.
sakhyaḥ śrī-rādhikāyā vraja-kumuda-vidhor hlādinī-nāma-śakteḥ
sārāṁśa-prema-vallyāḥ kiśalaya-dala-puṣpādi-tulyāḥ sva-tulyāḥ
siktāyāḥ kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta-rasa-nicayair ullasantyām amuṣyāṁ
jātollāsāṁ sva-sekāc chata-guṇam adhikaṁ santi yat tan na citram
“ ‘The sakhīs of Vraja are similar to Śrī Rādhā. They are the essential parts of Vraja-kumuda-candra’s1 hlādinī, or pleasure potency, known as Śrī Rādhikā, who is the personification of His internal energy. She is the wish-fulfilling creeper of prema and the other gopīs are that vine’s buds, leaves, and flowers. When the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes is showered on the supremely blissful Śrī Rādhikā, all the gopīs experience the pleasure a hundred times more than if they were showered themselves. This is not at all surprising.’
Vraja-kumuda-vidhoḥ. Here it refers to none other than Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is just like the moon for the lotus-like gopīs of Vraja. The word vidhoḥ is given in the possessive case (ṣaṣṭhī, sixth conjunction indicating a relationship). Here vidhoḥ indicates Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s energy known as hlādinī. This is confirmed by use of the words prema-vallarī (creeper of love), which signify the essential principle of this hlādinī-śakti. The ṣaṣṭhī is again used for the noun sakhyaḥ-śrī-rādhikāyāḥ, with reference to the sakhīs of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. The phrase kisalaya-dala-puṣpādi-tulyāḥ describes the gopīs, who are likened to new leaves, sprouts, and flowers. Here sva-tulyāḥ refers to those gopīs who look like Śrīmatī Rādhikā and who are Her non-different expansions (kāya-vyūha-svarūpā).
Just as the night lotus blossoms naturally upon the rising of the moon, similarly the residents of Vraja, who are like night lotuses, naturally blossom once they obtain darśana of the moon of Vraja, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Of all the Vrajavāsīs, the gopīs especially become pleased. Thus Śrī Kṛṣṇa has been called vraja-kumuda-vidhu, or the moon for the lotuses of Vraja. The essence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency, or pleasure potency, is prema, and the vine of this prema is Śrī Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī Herself, Śrī Rādhā. The various gopīs are the newly blossomed sprouts, flowers, and leaves of this vine. These sakhīs are the beauty of this wish-fulfilling vine of prema, Śrī Rādhā. Her happiness, indeed, constitutes the happiness of these gopīs. If water is supplied to the actual root of the vine then all of the flowers, leaves, and twigs are also nourished; there is no need to water each part separately. In a similar manner, all of the other gopīs, who are compared to the leaves, sprouts, and flowers, automatically reap supreme satisfaction from Śrī Rādhā’s happiness.
yadyapi sakhīra kṛṣṇa-saṅgame nāhi mana
tathāpi rādhikā yatne karāna saṅgama
nānā-cchale kṛṣṇe preri’ saṅgama karāya
ātma-sukha-saṅga haite koṭi-sukha pāya
anyonya viśuddha preme kare rasa puṣṭa
tāṅ-sabāra prema dekhi’ kṛṣṇa haya tuṣṭa
sahaja gopīra prema,—nahe prākṛta kāma
kāma-krīḍā-sāmye tāra kahi ‘kāma’-nāma
“Although the sakhīs do not possess even the slightest desire to enjoy themselves with Śrī Kṛṣṇa directly, still Rādhikā makes an active effort that enables them to meet with Him. She sends the gopīs to Kṛṣṇa, employing a great variety of clever ruses, as well as inspiring His heart with a desire to meet them. At such times, She enjoys a happiness ten million times greater than the happiness She experiences when directly meeting with Him. Since the internal consciousness of Śrī Rādhikā and the gopīs is pervaded by viśuddha-sattva, or pure spiritual existence, Śrīmati Rādhikā always remains engaged in continuously bestowing happiness upon the gopīs, and vice versa. They are ever absorbed in nourishing, or expanding, sentiments of rasa. Upon seeing their mutual exchanges, Śrī Kṛṣṇa becomes most satisfied. The prema of the gopīs is completely natural. There is not even the slightest scent of profane lust within them. Due to its resembling mundane lusty affairs, this prema is often called kāma, or lust.
Even though the kāma of the gopīs and the kāma of this material world bear a resemblance to each other, factually the difference between them is like that of heaven and hell. In this aprākṛta-kāma, or transcendental (non-material) lust, there is not even a trace of desire for one’s own happiness; rather, the sole desire is an abiding, continuous thirst to bestow happiness upon one’s beloved. Thus this kāma is viśuddha (transcendentally pure) prema. The kāma of the material world is self-centered, performed for one’s own enjoyment, insignificant, detestable, and the path to hell.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that Śrī Rādhikā engages the sakhīs in the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the sakhīs find happiness in arranging for Her to meet with Him. People devoid of rasa and intelligence say that Śrī Rādhā and the gopīs desire to meet with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Is this a form of material lust, in which they are seeking their own enjoyment, or not? Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says, “No, no, it is not. Factually, intimately meeting with Śrī Kṛṣṇa or arranging for Śrī Kṛṣṇa to meet with others is performed only out of love for Him. Seeing Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure, the gopīs also feel happiness, and they think that their lives have become successful, being engaged in His service. The people of this material world cannot conceive of even a shadow of this prema, what to speak of approach it. Thus, due to their polluted tendencies, people see this completely pure and sacred prema to be the same as insignificant, profane lust.”
kāma ity agamat prathām
ity uddhavādayo ’py etaṁ
“ ‘The prema of the beautiful maidens of Vraja is known as kāma, or lust. However, by constitution that prema has no mundane lust in its makeup. It is for this reason that Uddhava and other devotees of the Lord also desire this prema.’
Although both iron and gold are categorized as metals, there is an enormous difference between them. Likewise, both material lust (kāma) and pure love (prema) appear somewhat similar, but they are in fact totally distinct. Lust is a function of the illusory potency known as māyā, while prema is a function of the all-spiritual svarūpa-śakti. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura further says that there are various alluring desires presented in the Vedic scriptures such as the desire for elevation to higher worlds, the desire for progeny, especially sons, and the desire for material wealth and opulence.
These material desires give rise to worldly religiosity; the religious principles enunciated in the Vedas; the pursuance of religious principles according to one’s birth and body; desires for self-happiness in the form of mukti, or liberation; adherence to the path of elevated society; the maintenance of affection for one’s family members; performance of fruitive actions (karma); womanly shyness; patience; chastisement from family members and friends; and fear. All of these are self-seeking behaviors and forms of self-indulgence, performed for one’s own sense enjoyment and to fulfill one’s own desires. They are all material, and performed for one’s personal pleasure and success.2 There is a difference of heaven and hell between prema (love) and kāma (sacrilegious lust); the kāma of the gopīs is beyond material intelligence.
nijendriya-sukha-hetu kāmera tātparya
nijendriya-sukha-vāñchā nāhi gopikāra
kṛṣṇe sukha dite kare saṅgama-vihāra
“Kāma is the desire to give pleasure to one’s own senses. The topmost sentiment of the gopīs is called prema, and its only intention is to give pleasure to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. These gopīs never have any desire for their own enjoyment; all of their intimate meetings with Śrī Kṛṣṇa are only for the purpose of giving Him pleasure.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura explains that the tendency to perform the topmost service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is Himself the very embodiment of pure and complete spiritual knowledge (saṁvit-vigraha), can never be said to be kāma, or mundane lust. Rather, abandoning Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s happiness, to pursue other forms of enjoyment is called kāma. May one’s life be dedicated to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and may the service performed to Him be prema-mayī, or loving service, then Śrī Kṛṣṇa may be pleased. The sakhīs are entirely composed of these selfless desires, which are present within them to an unrestricted extent, and these gopīs, who are the embodiment of prema, remain committed to eagerly serve in this manner.
yat te sujāta-caraṇāmburuhaṁ staneṣu
bhītāḥ śanaiḥ priya dadhīmahi karkaśeṣu
tenāṭavīm aṭasi tad vyathate na kiṁ svit
kūrpādibhir bhramati dhīr bhāvad-āyuṣāṁ naḥ
“The gopīs, afflicted by feelings of separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa, lament, ‘Your divine feet, even softer than a lotus, we place upon our hard breasts – very timidly and very carefully, lest we hurt them. Those same soft lotus feet carry You through the dark forest. Are they feeling any pain, being wounded by pebbles and stones? Simply the thought of this sets our heads spinning, causing us to fall in a swoon. O Śrī Kṛṣṇa! O Śyāmasundara! O Prāṇanātha, O possessor of our lives! We live only for Your sake; we are Yours, we are Yours.’
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmīpāda explains that after this the gopīs began crying very loudly. They then became senseless and fell upon the ground. In this way, simply by the mere thought of the slightest pain to their beloved, the gopīs fell unconscious, whereupon Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared amongst them. Thus seeing their prāṇa-vallabha, their dear-most beloved, Śrī Śyāmasundara, whose beauty defeats that of millions upon millions of Cupids, the Vraja gopīs again took possession of their life airs, which returned to their bodies. All together they stood up and with loving glances from their blossoming eyes they looked towards Him in a mood of great happiness.
sei gopi-bhāvāmṛte yāṅra lobha haya
veda-dharma-loka tyaji’ se kṛṣṇke bhajaya
rāgānuga-mārge tāṅre bhaje yei jana
sei jana pāya vraje vrajendra-nandana
vraja-lokera kona bhāva lañā yei bhaje
bhāva-yogya deha pāñā kṛṣṇa pāya vraje
tāhāte dṛṣṭānta—upaniṣad śruti-gaṇa
rāga-mārge bhaji’ pāila vrajendra-nandana
“One who has developed greed to attain the gopīs’ nectarean prema completely abandons the regulative principles of Vedic life, such as the varṇāśrama system, as well as various materialistic goals such as attaining residence in the heavenly planets. Rather, the devotee completely surrenders unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa and performs exclusive bhajana to Him. Those devotees who are inclined towards the path of rāgānuga-bhakti, or spontaneous devotional service, adopt the sentiment of ānugatya, or remaining under guidance of superiors. They perform service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and in the holy abode of Śrī Vṛndāvana, they attain Śrī Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Whoever accepts one of the moods of the various eternal associates of Vraja-maṇḍala and performs bhajana following their moods of service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, after receiving an appropriate spiritual body (siddha-deha), achieves the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. The Upaniṣads and the Śrutis serve as testimony to those who achieved the service of Śrī Vrajendra-nandana by doing bhajana in the mood of rāga-mārga.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that the sixty-four limbs of bhakti are especially pertinent in vaidhī-bhakti. By performing these limbs of devotion with pure faith, or śraddhā, one receives the qualification to enter into bhakti. Sometimes, however, after appreciating the loving service combined with the natural anurāga, or deep attraction, that the residents of Vraja feel towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa, a greed may awaken in the hearts of some extremely fortunate persons to also achieve the same loving service towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa that the residents of Vraja have, and they will become fully dedicated to attaining that desire. This is the path of rāgānuga-bhakti. Greed to attain the nectarean moods of the vraja-gopīs bestows the qualification to enter the path of rāgānuga-bhakti. After entering the path of spontaneous devotion (rāga-mārga), and then performing this bhajana, attachment for the path of Vedic principles, such as the following of varṇāśrama, is automatically and easily dispelled.
Within the realm of Vraja are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s servants Raktaka and Patraka, His friends Śrīdāma and Subala, and His parents Nanda and Yaśodā. They naturally serve Him according to their particular moods. Although one may have great enthusiasm to perform this vraja-rasa-bhajana (devotional service in the mellow of Vraja), still one will have a special greed for a particular rasa. And it is in accordance with that particular greed that one will receive a completely spiritual body that is also compatible to one’s mood. In this way, at the time of attaining perfection, one achieves Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Upaniṣads and the Śrutis give evidence of this. The Śrutis have expounded that one cannot attain the qualification to perform bhajana of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Vraja without being under the guidance of the vraja-gopīs. In this consideration, the Śrutis too accepted the supervision of the vraja-gopīs, and by following the path of rāga-bhakti in their spiritual forms as gopīs, the Śrutis served Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that one should take shelter of the lotus feet of the vraja-rasa-rasika Vaiṣṇavas, who are expert in tasting the rasa of Vraja. Accepting both initiation (dīkṣā) and instructions (śikṣā) from such personalities, one should reside in Vṛndāvana under their guidance, and perform bhajana according to the principles of rāgānuga-bhakti. Additionally, in one’s bhajana one should follow the guidance of a specific, eternally perfected associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Thus, one should perform mānasī-sevā (service performed in the mind). More precisely, by serving internally with one’s eternally perfect spiritual body (siddha-deha), one should thus follow the associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa such as Śrī Rādhā, Lalitā, Viśākhā, and Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. One should also serve as a sādhaka by one’s physical body, following the example set by devotees such as Śrī Rūpa, Śrī Sanātana, and other residents of Vraja.
It is only in the Lord’s absolutely perfected eternal associates (nitya-siddha-parikaras) that rāgātmika-bhakti is found. This pure devotion is always present within their hearts. Wholly perfect, absorption in one’s desired object is called rāga. Those persons in whom this rāga naturally resides are called rāgātmika devotees. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has explained all this:
iṣṭe svārasikī rāgaḥ
tanmayī yā bhaved bhaktiḥ
sāt ’ra rāgātmikoditā
“Rāga is the unquenchable loving thirst for the object of one’s affection, which gives rise to spontaneous and intense absorption in that object. Rāgamayī-bhakti is the performance of sevā, such as stringing garlands, with such intense rāga.”
yā sā rāgānugocyate
“Devotional service imbued with spontaneous, profound love and attachment (rāgātmika-bhakti), is vividly expressed and manifested by the eternal residents of Vṛndāvana. Devotional service that follows their devotional mood is called rāgānuga-bhakti, or devotional service following in the wake of the rāgātmika associates of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja.”
The following evidence shows that the personified Vedas performed bhajana in rāga-mārga:
nibhṛta-marun-mano ’kṣa-dṛḍha-yoga-yujo hṛdi yan
munaya upāsate tad arayo ’pi yayuḥ smaraṇāt
vayam api te samāḥ sama-dṛśo ’ṅghri-saroja-sudhāḥ
“The personified Vedas are praying, ‘O Lord! Greatly learned sages and yogīs, having conquered the life-airs, mind, and senses by strictly practicing the mystic yoga system and worshiping the impersonal Brahman effulgence, have ultimately achieved the position of nirvāṇa, or liberation. But even Your enemies have attained that position, simply by thinking of You in enmity and always desiring Your ruination.
‘Śrī Rādhikā and Your other eternal beloveds place Your nectar-filled lotus feet on their firm breasts, being attracted and bound by the beauty of Your supremely soft, rounded, elongated, and nicely decorated arms, which are like the king of serpents. We have also tasted the nectar of Your lotus feet in exactly the same way as have Your eternal beloveds, the gopīs, by following in their footsteps.’
In this verse, the word arayaḥ indicates the enemies of Śrī Kṛṣṇa such as Kaṁsa, who always thought ill of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or to be precise, who always thought of Him in fear. By remembering Him in this way, His enemies achieved liberation, or brahma-sāyujya, the very same destination achieved by yogīs and saints after millions of years of extremely difficult austerities. That is the first astonishing thing.
The second amazing point is that the same destination is achieved by both saintly personalities through their constant meditation upon Bhagavān and those demons who also think incessantly of Bhagavān. Third, saintly persons who faithfully worship Bhagavān with full devotion and knowledge achieve the same destination as the enemies of the Lord who consider Him to be an ordinary human and even harbor feelings of hatred and violence towards Him. There is another utterly remarkable concept in the words “uragendra-bhoga-bhuja-daṇḍa-viṣakta-dhiyaḥ – the hearts of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds were attracted by His charming arms which, being soft, rounded, and elongated, resembled the body of the king of snakes.” Those gopīs who were embraced by His arms, and who considered the all-pervading Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be limited, clasped His soft lotus feet to their breasts. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart, burning with the fire of lust, thus became supremely cool.
In this context samā refers to following the gopīs, and by so doing, the personified Vedas achieved the bodies of gopīs, and received the nectar of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Here is one more point that merits deeper thought – the eternally perfected gopīs considered Śrī Kṛṣṇa as their upapati, or unwedded lover, and they also regarded His form to be localized, or limited. The Śrutis, however, considered Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme Truth and therefore they accepted Śrī Kṛṣṇa as all-pervading and unlimited. Hence the Śrutis offered prayers and attained the bodies of gopīs, the accomplishment of which is extremely hard. Only by virtue of being under the guidance of the gopīs did it become possible.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the gopīs are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal beloveds; therefore it is completely natural for them to hold His lotus feet to their breasts. The Śrutis, however, are not Śrī Rādhā’s kāyavyūha-rūpā (bodily expansions) and not His eternal beloveds; still they, too, held Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet upon their breasts, which is very rarely attained. The Bṛhad-Vāmana Purāṇa testifies that the Śrutis had been praying unto Bhagavān for a long time. This pleased Bhagavān, and when He asked them to choose a benediction they replied, “We want to perform loving service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the vraja-gopīs do.” Bhagavān said, “O goddesses, this desire of yours is very difficult to fulfill, however your desire shall certainly come to pass.” At that very moment, by the mercy of Bhagavān, the Śrutis achieved birth as gopīs in Vraja, and attained the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the mood of aupapatya-bhāva, or unwedded relationship.
‘sama-dṛśaḥ’-śabde kahe ‘sei bhāve anugati’
‘samāḥ’-śabde kahe śrutira gopī-deha-prāpti
‘aṅghri-padma-sudhā’ya kahe ‘kṛṣṇa-saṅgānanda’
vidhi-mārge nā pāiye vraje kṛṣṇacandra
“The phrase sama-dṛśaḥ means to accept the ānugatya (guidance) of the vraja-gopīs and to perform bhajana following their moods. Thus these words signify the acceptance of aupapatya-bhāva, or the mood of the gopīs as being in an unwedded relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Use of the word samāḥ specifies that by bhajana the Śrutis attained beautiful bodies just like those of the vraja-gopīs, thus they are called samāḥ, which means ‘the same,’ or ‘equal.’ The words aṅghri-padma-sudhā mean ‘the nectar emanating from the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’ or ‘the happiness generated by the service or the intimate association with Him.’ The Śrutis accepted the guidance of the vraja-gopīs, and did bhajana, taking on the gopīs’ bhāva towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They received accordingly the bodies of gopīs in Vraja and it was in these bodies that they obtained the intimate association of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the ecstasy of His service. By contrast, one cannot attain Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa by practicing vidhi-mārga, the path of devotion according to regulative principles. Only those who practice rāgānuga-bhakti, or spontaneous devotional service, like the personified Vedas, can achieve that.
In support of this, the following verse is quoted:
nāyaṁ sukhāpo bhagavān dehināṁ gopikā-sutaḥ
jñānināṁ cātma-bhūtānāṁ yathā bhakti-matām iha
“Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī is saying to Parīkṣit Mahārāja, ‘Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Mother Yaśodā, is easily attained by those devotees engaged in spontaneous loving service, but He is not as easily accessible to the performers of severe austerities who remain attached to the body, or to the mental speculators, the jñānīs, who are striving for self-realization, or to the seers of the self.’
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa allowed Mother Yaśodā to experience indescribable joy in considering Him to be an ordinary child, as she witnessed His childish restlessness and bound Him with a rope. This joy is not possible for anyone other than those in Śrī Yaśodā’s own group. Such inexplicable joy is unavailable to those who perform great austerities, all the while identifying with the body. The performer of austerities may receive some minute realization of Śrī Kṛṣṇa if any mahā-bhāgavata bestows mercy upon him and then offers those endeavors to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Again, by the mercy of association with devotees, both he who is ātma-bhūta, meaning “free from identifying the body as the self,” and he who considers himself to be non-different from the Supreme, may also partially realize the svarūpa of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the formless impersonal Brahman. The performers of austerities and the jñānīs never directly realize Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s saviśeṣa feature, full of all transcendental attributes. Without following the vraja-gopīs, even Brahmā, Śiva, and Lakṣmī herself are unable to achieve the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of the King of Vraja. In this way, Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī has glorified to Parīkṣit Mahārāja the transcendental, natural quality of the rāgātmika-bhakti of Mother Yaśodā and the other ladies of Vraja, with which they can easily bring Śrī Kṛṣṇa under their control.
ataeva gopī-bhāva kari’ aṅgīkāra
rātri-dina cinte rādhā-kṛṣṇera vihāra
siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tāṅhāñi sevana
sakhī-bhāve pāya rādhā-kṛṣṇera caraṇa
gopī-ānugatya vinā aiśvarya-jñāne
bhajileha nāhi pāya vrajendra-nandane
tāhāte dṛṣṭānta—lakṣmī karila bhajana
tathāpi nā pāila vraje vrajendra-nandana
“Only on the path of rāgānuga-bhakti, or spontaneous devotional service, does one achieve the service of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. That same achievement is not possible on the path of vaidhī-bhakti, or regulative devotional service. Therefore the sādhaka should submit himself to the mood of the gopīs, and day and night always think of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes that occur at that time of the day. Holding in mind the spiritual body that one has received from the spiritual master, and being endowed with the moods of the sakhīs, one should perform service via the appropriate, internally conceived spiritual form (mānasī-sevā) to the feet of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, according to the appropriate place and time that their pastimes are being performed.
“One can only attain service to the Divine Couple’s lotus feet by adopting the mood of the sakhīs. Without accepting the guidance of the vraja-gopīs, and being endowed with the moods of awe and reverence instead, despite being engaged in devotional service, a person will be overcome by knowledge of the Lord’s opulence and will not be able to attain the prema-mayī sevā of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī-devī, who worships the Lord in the mood of awe and reverence, could not, despite performing very severe austerities and worship, achieve loving service to Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa like that of the gopīs of Vraja, without becoming subservient to them.
By the mantra and bhāva3 received from the guru who is expert in tasting the mellows of Vraja, and by following the appropriate sentiments of one’s particular relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one should become absorbed day and night in the remembrance of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā, Their eternal pastimes performed throughout the day.
Externally, by the sādhaka-deha, one should follow the limbs of bhakti such as singing kīrtana, chanting a fixed number of holy names daily, and offering prostrated obeisances [to the deities, the Vaiṣṇavas, and to the Lord’s dhāmas, associates, and pastime places]. Internally however, in one’s mentally conceived spiritual body, one should remain absorbed in the eight-fold daily pastimes of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa so that one may achieve perfection. If one does not accept the ānugatya of the mood of the gopīs, and remains fixed in the concept of awe and reverence, thinking, “Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayam Bhagavān, the Supreme controller, the Lord of unlimited universes, and I am a most insignificant jīva,” then even despite performing bhajana, one can never achieve Vrajendra-nandana. Being attracted by that service rendered by the Vrajavāsīs, particularly by the gopīs, even Lakṣmī-devī, who is worshipful for everyone, came to Vraja to serve Śrī Vrajendra-nandana; yet because of her knowledge of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s opulence (aiśvarya-jñāna) and because of her not coming under the guidance of the vraja-gopīs, she remains cheated of that service to this very day.
In his commentary on Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta called Śrī Anubhāṣya, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda has stated that beyond the present gross and subtle material bodies exists the spiritual body appropriate for the service of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, which is called the siddha-deha. As a result of mundane fruitive activities, the jīva receives a material body, which due to desires for gross material enjoyment, eventually transforms into the attainment of yet another material body. The jīva becomes covered by a subtle body, the mind, by desiring to enjoy materially, and then uses the mind to accomplish this; thereafter, upon death, he achieves another gross body.
In this way, under the influence of his lusty material desires, the pure spirit soul accepts birth in this material world, temporarily taking on both gross and subtle bodies. However, when the nature of his desires changes, the happiness of Śrī Kṛṣṇa becomes everything to him, and he receives an eternal spiritual body in Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka-dhāma, in which he performs transcendental service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. For the subtle material body, it is impossible to comprehend an object that is beyond either matter or the purview of its own enjoyment. Therefore, only the devotee who is beyond the influence of the three modes of material nature, being attracted by Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental qualities, becomes situated in his own appropriate spiritual body. Assisted by his transcendental senses, he contemplates that object, which is non-material. He performs transcendental service under the guidance of the transcendental moods of the sakhīs to achieve, at last, transcendental service unto the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
Without the ānugatya of the vraja-gopīs, one does not achieve the service of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, despite performing bhajana with a mood of great awe and reverence. The verse mentioned below from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam proves this:
nāyaṁ śriyo ’ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ
sa-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto ’nyāḥ
rāsotsave ’sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-
labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-sundarīṇām
“ ‘At the time of the festival of rāsa-līlā, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa enfolded His arms around the necks of the gopīs of Vraja and fulfilled all of their desires. The mercy and prema that He bestowed upon those gopīs was never enjoyed even by the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī-devī, who is the eternal loving consort of Bhagavān and who always resides on His chest. Nor was such a boon achieved by the most beautiful heavenly damsels, whose bodily luster and aroma are like a lotus flower, what to speak of the beautiful women of this world.’ ”
The vraja-gopīs are glorified everywhere because of their above mentioned adhirūḍha-bhāva, yet for Śrī Lakṣmī-devī, who always resides upon the chest of the Lord of Vaikuṇṭha, Śrī Nārāyaṇa, there is no such example of this exalted good fortune. In the same way, despite being the source of all incarnations, Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed actions which society and the common man regard as low-class, such as cow-grazing, eating with monkeys and cowherd boys, stealing butter and yoghurt, and clutching at and stealing the clothes of young girls. Yet, still, He is glorified everywhere and has achieved the utmost limit of exaltedness. Likewise, although the vraja-gopīs are non-different from Bhagavān’s own self, being the crown jewel of His pleasure giving potency (hlādinī-śakti), they are renowned as ladies of the forest-dwelling cowherd community who decorate their bodies with the harsh words used against them by society, which [because they gave up their marriage vows] regards them as being of low character.
Even so, the good fortune that the vraja-gopīs have attained is still far more exalted than that of Lakṣmī and other beloveds of Bhagavān. Despite being the one and only beloved of Śrī Nārāyaṇa, and always situated upon His chest, Lakṣmī is still not able to receive the good fortune of the vraja-gopīs. If even Lakṣmī cannot achieve such good fortune, then what to speak of the wives of other incarnations of Bhagavān, such Śrī Upendra, who have attained great beauty and good fortune, and whose bodily fragrance and luster are just like those of the lotus flower? In the rāsa-līlā festival, the vraja-gopīs, when embraced by the arms of Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, became exclusive recipients of the utmost limit of exalted and merciful good fortune.
eta śuni’ prabhu tāṅre kaila āliṅgana
dui jane galāgali karena krandana
ei-mata premāveśe rātri goṅāilā
prātaḥ-kāle nija-nija-kārye duṅhe gelā
vidāya-samaye prabhura caraṇe dhariyā
rāmānanda rāya kahe vinati kariyā
“more kṛpā karite tomāra ihāṅ āgamana
dina daśa rahi’ śodha mora duṣṭa mana
tomā vinā anya nāhi jīva uddhārite
tomā vinā anya nāhi kṛṣṇa-prema dite”
prabhu kahe,—“āilāṅa śuni’ tomāra guṇa
kṛṣṇa-kathā śuni, śuddha karāite mana
yaiche śuniluṅ, taiche dekhiluṅ tomāra mahimā
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-premarasa-jñānera tumi sīmā
daśa dinera kā-kathā, yāvat āmi jība’
tāvat tomāra saṅga chāḍite nāriba
nīlācale tumi-āmi thākiba eka-saṅge
sukhe goṅāiba kāla kṛṣṇa-kathā-raṅge”
eta bali’ duṅhe nija-nija kārye gelā
sandhyā-kāle rāya punaḥ āsiyā mililā
anyonye mili’ duṅhe nibhṛte vasiyā
praśnottara-goṣṭhī kahe ānandita hañā
prabhu puche, rāmānanda karena uttara
ei mata sei rātre kathā paraspara
After hearing this most unprecedented rasa-siddhānta, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu became overjoyed and embraced Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. Each embraced the neck of the other, and both of them began to weep. They passed the entire night in this manner, absorbed in discussions and overwhelmed by ecstatic prema. In the morning they departed, so as to tend to their respective duties.
When it became time to part from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Śrīman Rāmānanda Rāya caught hold of the Lord’s lotus feet and spoke with extreme humility, saying, “O Lord, You have come here just to bestow Your mercy upon me. Therefore, please stay here for at least ten days and purify my polluted mind. Other than You, there is no one who can deliver this jīva, and You alone can give love of Kṛṣṇa.”
Upon hearing Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya’s humble and love-filled words, Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “Having heard about your good qualities from the mouth of Śrī Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, I have come here to hear about Kṛṣṇa from you and thus purify My mind. Now I am seeing your glories, which before I had only heard about. You are the most learned in the tattvas of Śrī Rādhā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, prema, and rasa. What to speak of ten days, I will not be able to leave you throughout My whole life. We will remain together in Jagannātha Purī, where we shall spend our time happily, completely delighted by speaking kṛṣṇa-kathā.”
Speaking thus, they both went away to perform their respective duties, and again at dusk, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya came to meet with Śrīman Mahāprabhu. After greeting each other, they went to a solitary place and sat down. With great happiness, they began to ask each other questions and receive the answers. Śrīman Mahāprabhu asked the questions, and Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya answered them. In this way the entire night passed in discussion.
When the passage explains that they were weeping, it actually means that both were affected by sāttvika-bhāvas. For that reason their throats were choked, and because their discussions were full of prema, both of them began to cry. Here goṣṭhī, or meeting,