Paramārādhyatama Śrīla Gurudeva was profoundly grave and sometimes harder than a thunderbolt, but he was also softer than a flower. He was highly expert in tasting spiritual mellows (rasika) and always deeply immersed in ecstatic sentiments (bhāvuka). He was harder than a thunderbolt towards those who were opposed to bhakti, such as the impersonal monists and the followers of pseudo-devotional sects, such as smārtas, jāti-gosvāmīs, jāti-vaiṣṇavas and prākṛta-sahajiyās. Yet to sincere godbrothers and disciples who were steadily engaged in guru-sevā without duplicity, he was much softer then a flower.
After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s entrance into aprakaṭa-līlā, [Ananta Vāsudeva] Vidyābhuṣaṇa and [Sundarānanda] Vidyāvinoda were influenced by undesirable association and became staunch opponents of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Gurudeva’s blood brother Śrīmad Bhakti Kevala Auḍulomi Mahārāja followed in their footsteps, but Śrīla Gurudeva vehemently opposed their ideas. Although Śrīmad Auḍulomi Mahārāja was his brother and godbrother, Śrīla Gurudeva objected to his ideas without compromise and said, “I do not want to see the face of anyone who is opposed to Śrīla Gurupāda-padma. Auḍulomi Mahārāja is my brother from my previous āśrama and in spiritual life he is my godbrother. Even so, from now on I have no relationship or connection with him whatsoever.”
Whenever anyone opposed jagad-guru Śrīla Siddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda’s conceptions, Śrīla Gurudeva would smash their objections to pieces by the strength of undisputed logic and steadfast scriptural evidence.
We will now present a few examples of how he was also bhāvuka and rasika.
(a) During his manifest presence, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja used to go to Śrī Dhāma Māyāpura every year at the time of Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā. He would begin to describe the glories of his most worshipful gurudeva at the place of his gurudeva’s samādhi, in the presence of thousands and thousands of faithful pilgrims. On recollecting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s glorious and transcendental qualities, he would become so emotional that his throat would become choked, he would burst into tears, and all aṣṭa-sāttvika bhāvas would be clearly visible on his body. Incapable of speaking any further, he would somehow indicate that we should say something.
(b) Once Śrīla Gurudeva was sitting on the veranda of his bhajana-kuṭī at Śrī Uddhāraṇa Gauḍīya Maṭha in Chuṅchurā, chanting hari-nāma. A few maṭhavāsīs were sitting near him and he was explaining to us about the madhura-bhakti of Vraja. He said that only the vraja-ramaṇīs are actually associates (parikāras) of madhura-rasa, and they are all in parakīya-bhāva. Although there are many varieties of vraja-ramaṇīs – defined according to their different moods – still, they are all parakīya-nāyikās (paramour heroines) in madhura-rasa.
The mahiṣīs, or queens, of Dvārakā-purī, Śrī Rāmacandrajī’s wife Sītā-devī, and Mahā-lakṣmī of Vaikuṇṭha are not heroines in madhura-rasa. They are all maidservants in dāsya-rasa.
In the course of this explanation I [the author] posed a question: “Rasācārya Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described three types of nāyikās in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, namely sādhāraṇī, samañjasā and samarthā. Kubjā of Mathurā is in the category of sādhāraṇī; the queens of Dvārakā such as Rukmiṇī and Satyabhāmā are known as samañjasā; and the vraja-gopīs are called samarthā. Among these heroines, the queens of Dvārakā have been called associates in the svakīya aspect of madhura-rasa, and the vraja-ramaṇīs have been called associates in the parakīya aspect of madhura-rasa. So what harm is there in accepting Sītā-devī and the queens of Dvārakā to be associates of svakīya madhura-rasa?”
Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “You do not have the capacity to assimilate these profound conceptions at present. This will not be accessible to you now, even if I tell you. Wherever there is affection imbued with aiśvarya-bhāva, a mood of awe and reverence, only dāsya-prema predominates. Pure mādhurya-prema is completely bereft of aiśvarya-bhāva and appears to resemble the love between bosom friends in this world (laukika sadbandhu-vat). The affection of Lakṣmī, Sītājī and the queens of Dvārakā for their respective iṣṭadevas is imbued with the highest aiśvarya-bhāva. They have no pure mādhurya-prema and are always in sambhrama-bhāva, a mood of awe and reverence. Thus, although the affection (prīti) of the mahiṣīs is somewhat more elevated than that of dāsya-bhaktas such as Hanumān, Arjuna and Uddhava, their bhāva cannot be called pure mādhurya-bhāva. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura have presented a beautiful assessment of this subject in their respective commentaries.
“This is why Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta has emphasized the special importance of gopī-prema. Only when one has performed bhajana for some time under the guidance of pure Vaiṣṇavas can one realize these profound subject matters by their mercy.”
(c) Once, during the month of Kārtika, Śrīla Gurupāda-padma had brought his noble presence to Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha. One day, he was sitting in his bhajana-kuṭī and chanting harināma, absorbed in transcendental emotions. I had sat down nearby and was silently reading the chapter on śrī dāmodara-bandhana from Śrī Gopāla-campūḥ. I became so attracted to Jīva Gosvāmī’s ideas that I could not check myself. Taking the book in my hand, I came right in front of Śrīla Gurudeva and said, “In his time, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was a great mahāpuruṣa with immense knowledge of all philosophical principles. Yet at the same time he was also a transcendental rasika poet. The combination of vast spiritual erudition with poetic artistry is extremely rare in this world. But when we read the episode of dāmodara-bandhana-līlā in Gopāla-campūḥ, we can see how Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī combined these two attributes in an astonishing way.” Then I began to read aloud from Gopāla-campūḥ for Śrīla Gurudeva to hear:
Yaśodā-maiyā ran very quickly after Bāla-kṛṣṇa, who had fled onto the main road. She caught Him with one hand, took a small stick in the other, and began to scold Him. “I’ll give You such a beating! I know You go from house to house stealing. You are a thief (cora)!”
Kṛṣṇa: O Maiyā, don’t beat Me! No Cora has ever appeared in My father’s dynasty. They only appear in your father’s dynasty. I’m not a thief.
Maiyā (smiling): How was the churning pot of yoghurt broken, then?
Kṛṣṇa: Well, that is the punishment given by the Supreme Lord.
Maiyā: And who fed the butter to the monkeys?
Kṛṣṇa: He who has made the monkeys feeds the monkeys.
Maiyā (angry, but laughing): Now tell me the truth. How did the butter pot break?
Kṛṣṇa (crying): You jumped up in a hurry to pacify the milk that was boiling over, and you were so flustered that your heavy anklets struck the pot and it broke. So tell Me, how am I to blame for this?
Maiyā: Okay. In that case, tell me how You come to have butter on Your face.
Kṛṣṇa: O Maiyā, every day a monkey comes and puts his hand in the pot to eat the butter, but today I caught him. He pulled out his hand and began to run away, but the butter on his hand got smeared on My face. Tell Me honestly, am I at fault in this? But still, you call Me a thief and want to beat Me.
Maiyā: O You who are the king of those skilled in argument! O friend of the monkeys! Now I shall punish You by binding You and Your ally, the grinding mortar, together.
After a great deal of endeavour, by the mercy of Bhagavān, she tied Kṛṣṇa to the grinding mortar and went inside to get on with her household duties. Dragging the grinding mortar with His little friends, Bāla-kṛṣṇa began to crawl through the gap between the twin arjuna trees, which stood before the entrance of the house. At the mere touch of the grinding mortar, both trees came crashing down with the most terrific thundering sound.
All the Vrajavāsīs, wherever they were, heard the sound and came running. Nanda Bābā and Yaśodā-maiyā also arrived there, and when Yaśodā-maiyā saw her son between the two fallen trees, she became speechless. Nanda Bābā was struck with wonder. He approached his son and took Him in his lap. Seeing His father, Kṛṣṇa began to weep loudly. Nanda Bābā gently caressed Kṛṣṇa’s head and limbs with his hands. Patting Him and kissing His face he said, “Lālā, who bound you like this?” Kṛṣṇa was crying and did not answer. Nanda Bābā asked again and again. Finally, Kṛṣṇa whispered in Bābā’s ear, “Maiyā did it.” Nanda Bābā became very grave. “Maiyā did it? Your mother is so cruel!” He then fell silent.
Nanda Bābā then took both Kṛṣṇa and Baladāū in his arms and went to take bath in the Yamunā. He employed brāhmaṇas to recite auspicious mantras (svasti-vācana), distributed cows, etc. in charity, and then returned home. Somehow Rohiṇī-maiyā engaged some gopīs in cooking and serving food to Rāma, Kṛṣṇa and Nanda Bābā. After honouring prasāda in silence, Nanda Bābā went with his two sons to take his seat in the community council. In the evening, he came to the gośālā where he fed Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva with rock candy and squirted warm milk into Their mouths, directly from the udder of a cow until Their bellies were full.
When Vrajarāja had finished taking his evening meal in the company of his two sons, the older gopīs of the community all came before him, bringing Rohiṇījī with them. The two children were sitting in Bābā’s lap.
Rohiṇījī said, “O King, Kṛṣṇa’s mother has not taken her meal. She is sitting in a corner as silent as a stone. All the gopīs in the house are so sad. They are also sitting silently without eating or drinking.”
With mixed feelings of sorrow and amusement, Vrajarāja said, “What can I do? She should realize that this is the fruit of anger.”
Tears flowed from the eyes of the older gopīs as they said, “Oh, no, Yaśodā is so soft, inside and out. You should not call her cruel. It’s not right to use a word like that for her.”
Hearing this Vrajarāja became even more emotional. Smiling, he asked, “Lālā, will You go to Maiyā?”
“No, no! I will only stay with you,” replied Kṛṣṇa.
Upānanda’s wife laughed and said, “You may stay with Bābā, but who will breastfeed You?”
Kṛṣṇa: “Bābā will squirt warm milk into My mouth from the udder of the cows and feed Me miśri.”
“Who will You play with?”
“I’ll play with Father and My elder brother.”
Vrajarāja said, “Why don’t You go to Rohiṇī-maiyā?”
Kṛṣṇa sobbed and said angrily, “I was calling out to My elder Maiyā to save Me, but even she didn’t come.”
Hearing this, Rohiṇī-maiyā said softly with tears flowing down her face, “Lālā, don’t be so cruel-hearted. Your mother is crying for You.”
Kṛṣṇa’s eyes, too, brimmed with tears when He heard this. He turned around and looked at His father. At the same time, Rohiṇī-maiyā gestured to Baladeva to bring Kṛṣṇa to His mother. Baladeva caught hold of Kṛṣṇa with both hands and began to drag Him towards Rohiṇī-maiyā, but Kṛṣṇa shook Him off with a jerk and wrapped His arms tightly around Bābā’s neck. A shower of tears began to fall from Bābā’s eyes as well. Raising his hands he said, “Lālā, should I slap Your mother?”
Bāla-kṛṣṇa could not tolerate this and caught hold of His father’s hands tightly. At that moment, Bābā remembered the anguish within Yaśodā’s heart, and said to Kṛṣṇa, “Lālā, what if Your mother should…” He paused and motioned with his hand, meaning “if she should die, then what will You do?”
As soon as He heard this, Kṛṣṇa loudly cried, “Maiyā! Maiyā! Maiyā!” He stretched out His arms in the direction of His elder mother [Rohiṇī-maiyā], and of His own accord He ran to sit on her lap.
Rohiṇī-maiyā was in tears. She picked up Kṛṣṇa, who was also crying, and entering the ladies’ inner chamber of the house, she put Him down in Yaśodā-maiyā’s lap. Yaśodā-maiyā covered Kṛṣṇa with her veil and began to weep like a kurarī bird. Kṛṣṇa, also, began to shed floods of tears. All the gopīs who had assembled in the ladies’ quarters began to cry as well, and Nanda Bābā was crying in the meeting room. The whole atmosphere became submerged in vātsalya-rasa.
As soon as Śrīla Gurudeva heard this narration, he began weeping. An incessant flow of tears flowed from his eyes and other bodily transformations (aṣṭa-sāttvika bhāvas) were also clearly visible. I have only seen such an expression of extraordinary spiritual emotions once or twice in my life.