In his Gopāla-campū, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī describes the pastime of the gopīs’ performance of Kātyāyanī-vrata and their meeting with Kṛṣṇa. This is known as vastra-haraṇa-līlā, the pastime of stealing cloth.
Every morning from six to nine, by Kṛṣṇa’s desire, Snigdhakaṇṭha and Madhukaṇṭha, who were previously Nalakuvera and Maṇigriva, speak hari-kathā before an assembly of Vrajavāsīs in eternal Vraja. One day Snigdhakaṇṭha will speak and Madhukaṇṭha will question, and the next day they will change roles.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī describes that Snigdhakaṇṭha speaks first on vastra-haraṇa-līlā and Madhukaṇṭha listens. What is the meaning of vastra, cloth? All embodied souls have two coverings, or vastras. They have one external covering, the physical body, comprised of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and one subtle covering—the mind, intelligence, ego, and heart. The soul is pure consciousness and is part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. But when conditioned in material nature, the soul misidentifies itself with its two external coverings. In this pastime, we hear how to shed our material coverings and be intimately connected in our perfected spiritual forms to the service of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja.
Snigdhakaṇṭha explains that the Vraja kumārīs in this pastime are sādhana-siddhas. The ṛṣis of the Daṇḍakāraṇya, the sruticaris, smrticaris, and upanisadcaris, and the golden murtis of Sita made by Ramacandra, they all became gopis in Vraja during Krsna’s pastimes in Dvapara-yuga.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī told Parīkṣit Mahārāja, “I told the glories of many devotees and many incarnations of God, and how Dhruva, Prahlāda and many others met with God. I also spoke about the character of many other devotees. But without Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, one cannot be allowed entrance into Vraja-maṇḍala. They may meet with the incarnations of God and have relation with Them. But how can they come nearby Kṛṣṇa in Vraja-maṇḍala? Therefore Kṛṣṇa arranged this nice program. What is this līlā, how is this līlā?
If one desires to enter Vraja-maṇḍala, it is not possible to do so with the physical body, mind, senses, or with one’s own understanding, attachment or sādhana-bhakti. Our sādhana, mantra, will never give entrance into Vṛndāvana, Vraja-maṇḍala.
Sanātana Gosvāmī wrote in Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛtam (2.3.158):
tan-nāma-saṅkīrtanam eva mukhyam
tat-prema-sampajjanane svayaṁ drāk
śaktaṁ tataḥ śreṣṭhatamam mataṁ tat
Of the many types of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, the kīrtana of His name is primary. Because it is capable of bestowing the great wealth of pure love for Him very quickly, it is considered the best.
Mantra is only until Vaikuṇṭha, not beyond that. Only Kṛṣṇa’s holy name which is Vraja-sambandhi, related to the Vrajavāsīs, gives a chance for entrance into Vṛndāvana-dhāma, Vraja-maṇḍala. But vraja-sevā and relation with Vrajavāsīs—is this possible very easily? No. Therefore Kṛṣṇa first checked and tested, and then He gave them chance and entrance.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī told Parīkṣit Mahārāja, “Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇa is Gopāla, only a small kid. He goes with the cows and calves from morning to evening, and plays and wrestles. He is naughty, clever, and is a thief, He has many glories like this, but this is not everything. How did the sādhana-siddha Vraja-devīs come in Vraja-maṇḍala and how did they meet with Kṛṣṇa? Therefore Kṛṣṇa performed a very strong and strange līlā.
Test came for Draupadī. Duryodhana tried to steal her cloth, making her naked. Then she prayed, “Oh Govinda, please save me. Now I am alone, no one is my helper. My husband, my father-in-law, Guru, grandfather, mother-in-law—everyone is here, but no one is helping. All are neglecting me. You are my everything.” Then Kṛṣṇa gave her a lot of cloth. But here, Kṛṣṇa Himself stole all the gopīs’ cloth. What is this meaning and matter? Therefore Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and Kavi Karṇapura Gosvāmī, in Gopāla-campū and Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū, described this pastime.
In the eternal world, Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs are also present in this assembly hall, where Snigdhakaṇṭha is speaking. Nanda Bābā, Yaśodā Mātā, Subala, Śrīdāma, and all the mañjarīs and gopīs also hear. While in this world, Śukadeva Gosvāmī explains this līlā to Parīkṣit Mahārāja.
In Vraja-maṇḍala, Gargācārya is respected. Vraja-maṇḍala has many religious programs and Gargācārya is the priest and advisor. He gave an order, “Vraja-maṇḍala has many girls that are getting young. Before their youth, arrange their marriage ceremony. This year is very good. If you don’t give them in marriage this year, then the following years will not be as auspicious as this one.” He went and explained this everywhere.
The gopīs were disturbed and they requested their parents. “We are very young, this is not the age to marry.” Why? They had knowledge of their past lives. They chanted gopāla-mantra and had relation with Gopāla—they did not like any other. Therefore they requested and deeply chanted mantra that anyhow Kṛṣṇa would be their all and all. They had no desire for anything or anyone else. They chanted this gopāla-mantra with deep prayer.
Then Kṛṣṇa gave inspiration to Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī. “This mantra is not so helpful. This mantra may send them to Vaikuṇṭha, but above Vaikuṇṭha, it doesn’t have power. In Vraja-maṇḍala, one cannot make relation with Me by this mantra. You are Guru, Ācārya, help them.”
Kṛṣṇa gave this inspiration. Then devī Paurṇamāsī came to the bank of the Yamunā. She has a straw hut on the bank of the Yamunā, and a small boy, named Kusumāsava, the dear friend of Kṛṣṇa. She thought, “How will the vraja-gopīs have even more eagerness. If they don’t pray and cry more intensely, I can’t go and help them. Otherwise if I go, they will neglect my help. If they have deep eagerness and desire and are suffering, then help will be very tasteful and sweet.”
She told, “Kusumāsava, go and tell Kṛṣṇa that, ‘You are now four, soon you will be five. But You haven’t learned anything. You should learn something.’”
“Oh Paurṇamāsī, what should Kṛṣṇa learn? What is helpful?”
Then she said, “Give Kṛṣṇa a flute.” Kṛṣṇa has many instruments to play with. After Kṛṣṇa’s birth, Yaśodā Mātā gave Kṛṣṇa a flute. This is called vaṁśī. Later she gave another one, this is called veṇu. Later she gave another and it was called Muralī. When Kṛṣṇa goes with the cows in the forest he takes the Muralī. He uses the veṇu secretly and rarely. But the vaṁśī is used more generally.
Paurṇamāsī gave flutes now, one was Ānandinī and one is Vraja Raṅginī and another Mohinī. She said, “Tell him to play this Mohinī and send Mohana mantra and people will be attracted and come nearby Him. Otherwise if they are with their body, then problem comes. This Mohinī mantra has a lot of power.”
Kusumāsava took Mohinī and came near Kṛṣṇa.
Kṛṣṇa loves him so much. He said, “Dear friend, you have come in the morning, what is the news?”
“Paurṇamāsī, the respected Guru of Vraja, has sent something for you. This is very powerful.”
“What?” “One flute.”
“I have three flutes. Do I need more?”
“No, this is very special, devī gave it with a mantra. This flute is named Mohinī. Chant your Mohana mantra, if you chant this for any group, this Mohinī will send the message and catch and arrest people and bring them nearby you. Anyone you like, whether the demigods, Brahma, Viṣṇu, Shiva, anyone!”
Kṛṣṇa thought, “Yes, I like this. I once went past Varsānā and saw a worshipable group. They were bright, light and golden and wearing many ornaments and jewels. From a distance I saw them on top of a hill and was surprised, ‘This group is very wonderful!’ I will use this Mohinī and will call to see if the mantra works.
Then He thought, “If they all come to me, I will be disturbed. I have many sakhās, they will insult Me. Saying, ‘Oh Kṛṣṇa, what are You doing? You are a kid, You are calling and bringing the gopī’s near You, this is not good for You. All elders will criticize. Kṛṣṇa thought, “I will make a plan, first I will test this.”
Like in the Mahābhārata, Kuntī-devī got a boon and tested it. She was unmarried. She chanted the mantra and Sūrya devatā came from the chant of Sūrya mantra. He said, “I came; now I won’t leave without fulfilling the boon. I will give you a son.”
She was very shy and scared, “I am too young. If you give me a son, I will be insulted and will have lost my character. Please don’t give.’
“No, I came. You called me, and I will give.”
Then he gave a son by force. As soon as he was born she put him in a basket in the river and he floated downstream and went to the family of charioteers and they named him Radheya.
Now Kṛṣṇa thought, “If I call the gopīs it is not good. If I use Mohana mantra with Mohinī it is not good.” Kṛṣṇa thought, “Okay, I will only give one word of the mantra and will shoot this like an arrow. It will go and make them restless, then I will understand if how my mantra works.” On the other side, Kṛṣṇa had desire; without Kṛṣṇa’s attraction, no one will come to Kṛṣṇa or meet with Him. All the gopīs were present, but they had not met with the nitya-siddha eternal gopīs. They had no relation. Then how could they understand Him and come near Him? Therefore there were many pastimes to fulfil. Paurṇamāsī knew everything, therefore she sent this Mohinī.
Kṛṣṇa was alone, He thought, “I will chant this mantra alone. I will send it to the sādhana-siddha gopīs.”
The gopīs were in the garden picking flowers to make into garlands. Sometimes they went for Sūrya pūjā, sometimes Gopeśvara pūjā, or to Nanda-bhavana, Girirāja Govardhana, or other places in Vraja-maṇḍala.
They were in the garden when Kṛṣṇa started playing on His Mohinī. What did He begin? He checked to see the result, playing only the kliṁ bīja mantra. Klim—one small note, one syllable. He played kliṁ on the Mohinī flute and sent it over Vraja to the sādhana-siddha gopīs, the 60,000 ṛṣis that had gotten birth in Vraja-maṇḍala. They had chanted Gopāla mantra, but now in Vraja-maṇḍala, Kṛṣṇa sent this new mantra. The gopīs were surprised, “Where did this arrow come from?” It went inside and made them restless.
When sādhus, brahmacārīs, or devotees perform sincere bhajana, first a Brahma mood comes.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj-jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate
“Those who know Absolute Reality describe that ultimate non-dual substance as the Supreme Truth. Some know this same advaya-jñāna-tattva by the name of Brahma, some by the name of Paramātmā and others by the name Bhagavān.”
If you try to do bhajana, then first Brahma mood will come. All viṣaya, enjoyment, attraction and attachment will be cut off from this mundane realm, you will have power to give it up and you will be like brahma-bhūta prasannātma.
brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parā
“A person thus situated in Brahma becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires anything. Being equally disposed to all beings, he attains bhakti to Me, which is blessed with the symptoms of prema.”
You will not be māyā-bhūta, not any ordinary person influenced by maya. You will be brahma-bhūta. First Brahma mood comes, this means that one will be strong and fearless. No māyā or mundane things will be able to touch you. Like Girirāja Govardhana is outside stone, very strong; not soft and sweet. Similarly, sādhakas must first be very strong, otherwise it is not possible to cross māyā. If you are soft, all will come and dig inside you are, making holes. This is sahajiyā or sakhī-bekhī. If you give a small chance, then all will come. But rocks can’t be dug into so easily.
First make relation with Brahma, let brahma-bhāva come. Then Paramātmā. Like Dhruva only remembered Lord Nārāyaṇa. He had darśana of Him within and then prayed, “Please come out and give darśana directly.” Then Bhagavān.
aiśvaryasya samagrasya vīryasya yaśasaḥ śrīyaḥ
jñāna vairāgyayoś caiva ṣaṇṇām bhaga itīṅganā
Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.74
“One who is complete in the six opulences of wealth, power, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation is known as Bhagavān.”
God has six opulences to the absolute degree. If the devotees get relation and understanding of this, then they will have no problem.
The gopīs heard kliṁ from Kṛṣṇa’s flute and they forgot where they were, or what they were doing—they forgot the flowers, fruit, and their house and relatives. A big pain came in their heart. Deep separation came in their heart, as if they had lost something very valuable. They were as if alone, there was no more sweetness in the world. Their house, gardens, animals, family and friends—they forgot everything. This is the blessing of God, and attraction to God. Without this attachment and attraction it is not possible to cross māyā and enter Vraja-maṇḍala.
mīyate anayā iti māyā
“Māyā is all that is material and measurable.”
Everything in this world is temporary, like an illusion, but the living entities have too much attraction for it. Nothing is mine, but I think, “This is mine, this is mine.” This is called māyā. Now when God’s attraction came, the Vraja-devīs forgot all and became very strong. But in their heart they felt deep pain and began to weep. They thought, “Where should we go? How can we meet with Nanda-nandana?”
This is the sprouting of the bīja-mantra. This śakti is working. Gurudeva gave us mantra and we are all chanting, but now this mantra is not working. Why not? Why doesn’t it help? How do the mahā-bhāgavata siddha-puruṣa Divine Masters chant?
Mantra has śakti. Guru-pāda-padma chants and his followers hear. Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Svāmī Mahārāja called everyone in the early morning, “Please come and sit with me.” He would chant and all his disciples chanted behind him. Then the mantra śakti went inside the hearts of his disciples.
Otherwise, it is impossible for ordinary people to chant mantra and attain mantra-śakti. The mantra itself will not appear there. The heart is full of anarthas, offences and bad desires, it is dirty, therefore the mantra will not appear there. Therefore it must come from a realized soul.
Kṛṣṇa sent this mantra and it began its work. The gopīs became restless and could not understand what to do. They desired, “May we have permanent place in the home of Nanda-nandana. Nanda and Yaśodā will be our father and mother-in-law, and Kṛṣṇa will be our beloved. No other will be our lover. They had this strong desire. This is the power of the mantra.
How could they make relation with Kṛṣṇa? They prayed to all demigods and moved in the forest. They prayed to all demigods and all elders and seniors. After hearing this mantra, this desire sprouted and was very strong. It was not temporary.
Babies cry and say, “Give me a ball, give me chocolate, give me a toy.” But later, they soon forget their desired object. Now, new sādhakas sometimes dance, chant, eat, and stay with devotees, but a little later they forget everything. They watch cricket and play games or movies and play chess, fight on computers and do this and that. Why? They have no taste for bhakti. They have not gotten this mantra śakti. But how was the gopīs’ position?
Like on a full moon day, the rays of the moon cool everything. Hearing this mantra, Mohinī stole the hearts of the gopīs. Then they prayed, “May Nanda-nandana be our beloved husband, and Nanda and Yaśodā our in-laws.” This was their feeling. Before they only thought of Kṛṣṇa. Now also they thought of Nanda, Yaśodā, Nanda-bhavana and their family.
They moved here and there, but did not tell or discuss their heart with others. They were too young and were very shy, how could they tell each other, “I want to marry Kṛṣṇa.” Not one gopī had this desire, all the sādhana-siddha gopīs had this desire. Due to the separation, tension and pain in their heart, they went to the bank of the Yamuna. They sat there and cried, thinking, “Nanda-nandana is a prince, Nanda Bābā will arrange His marriage with only one. I am not beautiful, or rich, why will Nanda Bābā choose me for Kṛṣṇa? It is not possible. I am not qualified. I am foolish.” They all were suffering thinking of their shortcomings. Then they thought, “I will pray and chant mantra and do austerity that anyhow Kṛṣṇa will be my husband and lover.”
One girl came and then another gopī and another gopī. Quickly many thousands had arrived, like students come to a gurukula. Now many gopīs were present on the bank of the Yamunā.
They met together and said, “Who will help us? Where should we go? Who will understand the pain in our heart?” They all had the same problem; therefore they were helpful for each other. How? If all are crying and suffering, then they are in one group and have sympathy for each other. They held hands and hid their heads under shawls and wept. But they did not ask each other the cause. Their pain was too great, how could they express it?
The gopīs’ heart has this desire very secret and hidden. How could they tell it externally? If one person is suffering so much, if he takes all his pain out, explaining it, then he feels a little better. If one person is very sad, and then cries a lot, then he feels relief. But the gopī’s pain and separation only increased.
They could also not hide their tears. They did not eat, sleep, talk, or meet with anyone. They only ran and hid in corners and wept. They would remember the beautiful face of Kṛṣṇa and suffer even more. Looking at the sky, clouds, Tamāla trees, peacock feathers, they suffered more and more. Seeing any peacock, all things in Vraja gave them uddipana of Kṛṣṇa and increased their separation.
After many days suffering on the bank of the Yamunā, one day they fell senseless. Like a snake had bitten them, all became senseless by the poison.
Seeing the position of the Vraja-kumārīs, Kṛṣṇa understood. He had sent this Mohinī and made them restless. All others were peaceful in Vraja-maṇḍala. They were too shy to come to Nanda-bhavana. Before they would come and play and be restless. But not any more. Then Kṛṣṇa understood that His mantra was working. Then Kṛṣṇa told Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī’ “I am missing something. You gave these things, but I only sent Mohinī, a little, and all have become like mad and are suffering, unconscious and like senseless. Please arrange some medicine. I don’t know how to bring them back and relieve them. Without any consideration I sent this message and now all are suffering.”
Then Paurṇamāsī-devī said, “I will go myself and check their condition, how much pain they have and how much desire, then I will give them good treatment, help and sympathy and will take care of them.”
āmi—vijña, ei mūrkhe ‘viṣaya’ kene diba?
sva-caraṇāmṛta diyā ‘viṣaya’ bhulāiba
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.39
If anyone worships Kṛṣṇa and likes Kṛṣṇa, and chants Gopāla mantra or Kāma-gāyatrī and has desire for palanquin, car, chariot, garden, building, disciples, temples, opulence, then Kṛṣṇa willsay, “I can’t give you? Never! Why should I give you? Why should I cheat you? I will give my caraṇāmṛta.” This is not only foot-wash water; this is His nectar and love. He will keep you nearby Him and you will be His good and dear friend. Kṛṣṇa thinks, “Why should I give mundane things and keep one distance or send one to Vaikuṇṭha?”
On the other side, Kṛṣṇa says,
kṛṣṇa yadi chuṭe bhakte bhukti mukti diyā
kabhu prema-bhakti nā dena rākhena lukāiyā
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 8.18
Many demons come and Kṛṣṇa gives them bhukti and mukti, bhoga and mokṣa, without ever giving Kṛṣṇa prema. On one side, bhoga and mokṣa, and the other side there is vraja-prema. For whom does Kṛṣṇa give Vraja bhakti and for whom does he neglect by giving sense gratification or liberation?
By the advice of Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī, Kṛṣṇa gave this Mohinī mantra and now checked the position of the Vraja-devīs. He saw that all Vraja-maṇḍala was quiet and peaceful; only the young vraja-gopīs were sitting on the bank of the Yamunā. In many groups, millions were sitting together and crying without any helper. They all sat together bathing themselves in their own tears.
Paurṇamāsī-devī first thought, “I will arrange program. I will bring Vraja-rāja Kṛṣṇa here and let Him meet with everyone— this is good.” Then she thought, “No, first I will not call Kṛṣṇa. I will increase their anurāga to the pinnacle and then call Kṛṣṇa. I will let them progress higher and higher. Then in the end, I will call Kṛṣṇa to come and give them darśana. But now I have other programs.”
Paurṇamāsī-devī thought, “I will give them anurāga; this anurāga is not possible to achieve by any other process. It is not available in this world. It is present with me.” Svarūpa-śakti gave this anurāga for Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī and Vṛndā-devī. It is stocked there with them.
Like Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu wrote, tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī. Where will you find anurāgi? Kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhavitā-matih. Where will you find them? Krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ’pi labhyate. Where will you purchase this? Where is it available? Now Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī said, “This is available with me; if I don’t give this to anyone, how can they achieve it? This anurāga is not available in the market; it is priceless.” The gopīs said, “We are your aśulka dāsikā, unpaid maidservants.” Where does this anurāga come from? How does it come? Who gives it? Tad-anurāgi janānugāmī. How can we follow this?
Ordinary people think, “I can get this anurāga from my lovers, friends, parents, or animals.” Therefore they run for anurāga to all the mundane living entities. They take a dog puppy in their lap and smell its hair, kiss its face and wash with shampoo, and play with it on a swing. Why? They have desire for this anurāga. They play with small kids, or young boys play with young girls, waiting for this anurāga, begging, “Please give me a drop of love.” But this is not anurāga, it is just the display of material desire. These are ordinary, temporary, mundane things. This is not anurāga, this is collecting poison to further suffer with.
Where will anurāga come from? Can demigods give?
It is not possible. Can Brahmā or Shiva give this anurāga? No. It is very rare. They do not give. But today Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī decorated the gopīs with this anurāga. She came with this anurāga and she gave bless with her hand. Seeing their condition, did she give them anurāga? No. She told the process to attain anurāga.
All saw Bhagavatī and offered her obeisance with their hidden desire, “I offer myself, my heart and everything, please fulfil my desire. Give me this anurāga.”
How is Kṛṣṇa?
indranīla-maṇi-mañjula-varṇaḥ phulla-nīpa-kusumāñcit karṇaḥ
kṛṣṇalābhir akṛśorasi hārī sundaro jayati kuñja-vihārī
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī
“All glories to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who enjoys transcendental pastimes in Vṛndāvana forest. His complexion is as splendid as sapphires. He wears kadamba blossom earrings, and his broad chest is decorated with a garland of guñjā berries.”
May Kṛṣṇa’s beauty and glory come in my heart. They all offered namaskāra to Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī and prayed for her blessings that their heart’s desire could be fulfilled.
Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī said, “I stay in the forest and saw that you were suffering, crying and weeping in great pain, therefore I came here to help you. I have a siddha-mantra, I know siddha-praṇālī—I have this knowledge. My mantra is perfected. If you chant this for one month, it will fulfil your desire and give you everything. Chant this continuously, then the mantra’s devatā will come and give you darśana. I chanted this mantra for a long time.”
Śukadeva Gosvāmī said, “Oh Mahārāja Parikṣit, how can one enter Vraja-maṇḍala and attain vraja-sevā and anurāga?” This siddha mantra was given to the Vraja-devīs by Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī. Also hear this. Meaning, also follow this. Then vraja-bhakti, vraja-vāsa will be possible.
Excerpted from the up and coming Bhakta Bandhav Publication “Śrī Kātyāyanī-vrata”
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]