When one cultivates this kind of devotion, bhāva will gradually arise and dāsya-rati will naturally awaken within him. This is evident in Vṛtrāsura’s prayer in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.11.24):
ahaṁ hare tava pādaika-mūla-
dāsānudāso bhavitāsmi bhūyaḥ
manaḥ smaretāsu-pater guṇāṁs te
gṛṇīta vāk karma karotu kāyaḥ
The living entity is Your eternal servant, but by the misuse of his free will, he has forgotten his position of eternal servitude. Consequently, he is caught in the snare of māyā and endures many kinds of afflictions in this material existence. Moreover, the desire to become the servant of Your servant can only be fulfilled by the causeless compassion of guru and Vaiṣṇavas. This mood of servitorship can only be obtained by performing bhakti. O Lord, please bestow such mercy upon me, that in my next birth I may obtain the opportunity to exclusively serve the servants who have taken shelter of Your lotus feet. May my mind always remember Your all-auspicious qualities, my speech always chant the glories of these qualities, and my body always remain engaged in Your service.
chinu tava nitya-dāsa, gale bāṅdhi’ māyā-pāśa,
saṁsāre pāinu nānā-kleśa
ebe punaḥ kari āśa, haiyā tava dāsera dāsa,
bhaji’ pāi tava bhakti-leśa
prāneśvara tava guṇa, smaruk mana punaḥ punaḥ,
tava nāma jihvā karuk gāna
kara-dvaya tava karma, kariyā labhuk śarma,
tava pade saṁpinu parāṇa
By nature the living entity is the object to be enjoyed (bhogya-vastu) and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the enjoyer (bhoktā). By performing bhajana in the association of rasika-bhaktas, the desire to serve Śrī Rādhā, who is permeated with transcendental bliss, becomes strong, and the loving sentiments of the gopīs (gopī-bhāva) awaken. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.29.38) states:
tan naḥ prasīda vṛjinārdana te ’ṅghri-mūlaṁ
prāptā visṛjya vasatīs tvad-upāsanāśāḥ
taptātmanāṁ puruṣa-bhūṣaṇa dehi dāsyam
[Attracted by the sound of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s flute, the gopīs approached Him and said:] O You who remove suffering, we have given up our homes, family members and relatives, and we have come to Your lotus feet only because we desire to serve You. O jewel among men, be pleased with us. O best among men, Your sweet smile and attractive glances have set our hearts ablaze with a burning desire for intimate meeting with You. Every pore of our bodies burns with this desire. Please accept us as Your maidservants.
tava dāsya-āśe chāḍiyāchi ghara-dvāra
dayā kari’ deha kṛṣṇa, caraṇa tomāra
tomāra kaiṅkarya deha praphulla-vadane
Immersed in the mood of the gopīs, Śukadeva Gosvāmī uttered this verse. Hearing the sound of the flute, the vraja-gopīs go to the rāsa-sthalī where they come face to face with Kṛṣṇa. Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara, the ocean of all nectarean mellows, then begins to joke with them in order to taste the sentiments hidden within their hearts. The gopīs’ retorts are full of sarcastic humour.
The general meaning of this verse is that the gopīs are praying to become the maidservants of Kṛṣṇa – dehi dāsyam. Kṛṣṇa begins by saying, “O you who are intoxicated with your fresh youth (nava-yauvana-pramattā), it is extremely rare to attain service to Me.”
The gopīs reply, “O Śyāmasundara, You fulfil the desires of those who are surrendered unto You. Your beautiful smiling glances have set intense lust ablaze in our hearts and this is tormenting us. Nevertheless, we want no kind of compensation for our suffering. Please, just give us service to Your lotus feet.”
Or the gopīs say, “O Śyāmasundara, we are young women and we want to create happiness for You with our bodily limbs. We want to worship You through the ‘paraphernalia’ of accepting Your blooming smiling glances and the nectar of Your lips. O ornament amongst men (puruṣa-bhūṣaṇa), we are fair-complexioned (gaurāṅgī) and You are like a sapphire (indra-nīlamaṇi), so You are the natural ornament for our bodily limbs.”
Or the gopīs say sarcastically, “We are not praying to obtain the dust of Your lotus feet. You are making us suffer from moral guilt and unhappiness – You are certainly living up to Your name Vṛjina-ardana (vanquisher of distress)! We have heard from Paurṇamāsī that even Lakṣmī, who enjoys pastimes on the chest of Śrī Nārāyaṇa, comes to take shelter of Your lotus feet – te ’ṅghri-mūlam – but we are not Lakṣmī. We have just come here out of curiosity to view the natural beauty of Vṛndāvana on a moonlit night. So give Your shelter to Lakṣmī of Vaikuṇṭha, not to us! You should remember, though, that not even Lakṣmī and others would completely accept servitude to You. O best amongst men, You so eagerly desire to attain the young brides of Gokula that You even adorn the sakhās, like Subala and others, in gopī dress. O ornament of men, the male gender has been defamed by this nature of Yours. Don’t think we are suffering from lust. And we are not Your ‘beloveds’ – this is only Your imagination.”
To take shelter of the perfect sentiments of the gopīs (siddha-gopī-bhāva) is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.29.39):
vīkṣyālakāvṛta-mukhaṁ tava kuṇḍala-śrī-
dattābhayaṁ ca bhuja-daṇḍa-yugaṁ vilokya
vakṣaḥ śriyaika-ramaṇaṁ ca bhavāma dāsyaḥ
[The gopīs said:] Priyatama, after seeing Your beautiful lotus face, decorated with glossy black curling tresses; Your beautiful cheeks, upon which enchanting earrings (kuṇḍalas) radiate Your boundless loveliness; Your sweet lips, whose nectar defeats all other nectar; Your charming glance, which is made radiant by Your slight smile; Your two arms, which liberally give the charity of fearlessness to surrendered souls; and Your chest, beautified by Lakṣmī who resides there as a golden line, we have all become Your maidservants.
o mukha alakāvṛta, o kuṇḍala-śobhā
abhaya-da bhuja-yuga, śrī-sevita-vakṣa
dekhiyā halāma dāsī, sevā-kārye dakṣa
The gopīs’ internal bhāva is present within this verse. When a transcendental revelation (sphūrti) of siddha-gopī-bhāva appears to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, he remembers and utters this verse. Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara is rasika-cūḍāmaṇi, the crest-jewel amongst those who relish rasa. Concealing His own submissive mood (dākṣiṇya-bhāva), He expresses a mood of indifference towards the vraja-devīs, saying, “O vraja-devīs, why are you trying to attain the position of being My unpaid maidservants?”
The gopīs meekly reply, “O Śyāmasundara, it is impossible to describe the value of the payment You have given us.”
Smiling, Śyāmasundara asks, “What was that payment?”
The gopīs reply, “You have given all us ramaṇīs the naturally perfect nectar of Your lips, the touch of Your alluring arms and other limbs, and the embrace of Your chest, which is the shelter of Śrī Lakṣmī. Our eyes, which are fickle like the movement of khaṣjana birds, have been imprisoned by the net of Your face, which is encircled by Your curly hair. Those curls are not actually hair, but a snare, and both Your earrings are traps. The nectar of Your lips is the lure for our khaṣjana-bird-like eyes and Your smiling, restless glances are well-bred and trained to capture our eyes. Your alluring arms and Your chest, which bestow rati, calm our hearts. O Kṛṣṇa, even before we attained our adolescence, You called us to Your kuṣja-mandira through Your enchanting sweetness, gave us darśana of the wealth of Your earrings and other ornaments made of precious stones (nīla-nidhi and padma-nidhi) and of the best gold (jāmbu-nada-svarṇa), and fed us the nectar of Your lips. Such enticements have forced us to hanker to become Your maidservants.” With loving anger the vraja-devīs then say, “O Kṛṣṇa, upon seeing the unequalled wealth of Your beauty, we have developed the desire to become Your maidservants, but if this desire is not fulfilled, it will change into hopelessness.”
Or the gopīs shake a chastising finger at Kṛṣṇa and say, “O crest-jewel of religious personalities (dhārmika-cūḍāmaṇi), we know very well about the nature of Your dharma; You always flirt with the wives of other men. You also keep the ramaṇīs of Vaikuṇṭha upon Your chest for amorous dalliance. You can be forgiven by Nārāyaṇa, but not by us, and not by our husbands. Rather, after our husbands complain to the mighty Kaṁsa, You will be punished. We are chaste women from good, noble families, and the idea of having a paramour is extremely contemptible for us. You cannot make us into Your maidservants by showing Your beauty and sweetness.”
How the gopīs became the maidservants of Kṛṣṇa after seeing the unprecedented beauty of His form is described by the crest-jewel of those who relish vraja-rasa, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura:
Śyāmasundara says to the gopīs, “I did not purchase you with any payment, so how have you become My maidservants?”
The vraja-ramaṇīs reply, “You have given us a payment which is millions and millions of times more than enough. If You want to know what that priceless treasure is, then listen. Ever since the very beginning of our adolescence, You called us into Your kuṣja-mandira and gave us darśana of Your beautiful face, covered with falling locks of curling hair. When You wrap a tilted turban on Your head, we get darśana of Your lotus face through the lattice made by Your curly tresses. Then, with Your small delicate finger, You push those curling locks into Your turban and Your beauty is thoroughly revealed. Your curling tresses also hang loose when You tie a centred turban, and when You untie Your turban to take rest, Your locks of hair fall over Your face. In this way, Your lotus face is sometimes uncovered, sometimes slightly covered and sometimes completely beautified by these curly locks. When You laugh and joke, Your earrings swing to and fro to kiss Your cheeks. By the impressions resulting from this meeting, Your most attractive cheeks emanate an unprecedented beauty. In this way, by seeing Your moonlike face, the lotuses of the gopīs’ hearts blossom. You have purchased us, with the incomparable sweetness of Your form as payment.”
Kṛṣṇa may say, “I am devoted to religious principles, and you are the wives of other men. How can I make you My maid-servants?”
Upon hearing this, the gopīs shake a finger at Him and reply, “O best of the followers of dharma, You keep Lakṣmī, the wife of Nārāyaṇa of Vaikuṇṭha, upon Your chest where, in front of us, out of shame, she is present merely as a golden line. In private, though, she enjoys amorous sports with You. Can any woman in the three worlds reject You? None can. By giving us darśana of the priceless treasure of Yourself, You are compelled to make us Your maidservants.”
The superiority of paramour love (parakīya-bhāva) is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.29.33):
kurvanti hi tvayi ratiṁ kuśalāḥ sva atman
nitya-priye pati-sutādibhir ārti-daiḥ kim
tan naḥ prasīda parameśvara mā sma chindyā
āśāṁ dhṛtāṁ tvayi cirād aravinda-netra
[The gopīs said:] O Paramātmā, the great personalities, who are the well-wishers of everyone’s soul, direct their love to You because You are the soul of all souls. What is the use of loving or serving husbands, sons and so forth, who are temporary and sources of misery? Be pleased with us and give us Your mercy. O lotus-eyed one, please do not cut the flourishing creeper of our desire to serve You, which we have nourished for such a long time.
tumi priya ātmā, nitya ratira bhājana
ārti-dātā pati-putre rati akāraṇa
baḍa āśā kari’ āinu tomāra caraṇe
kamala-nayana, hera prasanna-vadane
After the living entity attains self-realisation, his material relationships, such as those with wife and children, do not remain. He understands the futility of material existence and naturally becomes immersed in deep attachment for Kṛṣṇa. At this stage, the jīva is no longer under the jurisdiction of rules and regulations. Engaged in rāga-mārga-bhakti, he performs exclusive bhajana of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
At this point in the conversation between the vraja-devīs and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs say to Him, “We have forevermore given up our relationships with husbands and everyone else, and have now come here before You. The love that appeared in our hearts as a sprout has since become a vine of desire that has grown very large. We have been attached to You since childhood and have sincere love and affection for You. Please do not cut down this creeper of affection.”
Or the gopīs say, “Our hearts have become naturally delighted by seeing Your reddish lotus eyes, and we have already become Your unpaid maidservants.”
The vraja-devīs say with rebuking words, “O lotus-eyed one, as lotus flowers close at night time, Your eyes are also half-closed, and You are therefore deprived of the darśana of our youth and bodily beauty. So Your having eyes is useless.”
Or they say, “We have understood Your inner heart’s desire. It is right for us to desist from taking part in Your improper activities, so we will not stay here long. Please give up whatever desire is in Your heart.”
The necessity of taking shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā is expressed by Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in his Sva-saṅkalpa-prakāśa-stotra (1):
anāśritya vṛndāṭavīṁ tat-padāṅkām
kutaḥ śyāma-sindho rasasyāvagāhaḥ
How can a person become immersed in the ocean of ecstatic mellows of Śyāma (śyāma-rasa-sindhu) if he has never worshipped the dust of Śrī Rādhā’s lotus feet; if he has never taken shelter of Her pastime-place Śrī Vṛndāvana, which is marked with the impressions of Her lotus feet; and if he has never served the devotees whose hearts are already submerged in Her profound sentiments? It will never be possible.
rādhā-padāmbhoja-reṇu nāhi ārādhile
tāṅhāra padāṅka-pūta-vraja nā bhajile
nā sevile rādhikā-gambhīra-bhāva-bhakta
śyāma-sindhu-rase kise habe anurakta?
While remembering this stotra, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura yearns to attain the wonderful and astonishing service of Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava.
In order to be submerged in the ocean of śyāma-rasa (śṛṅgāra-rasa, or the amorous mellow), it is absolutely essential to worship the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, who is the personification of hlādinī; to worship Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, Her place of playful, amorous pastimes (keli-vilāsa-sthala); and to worship Her dearmost devotees. Besides this method there is no way to attain the service of Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava. Considering there to be another way is only a vain and useless hope. Śrī Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (80) confirms this:
rādhā-dāsyam apāsya yaḥ prayatate govinda-saṅgāśayā
so ’yaṁ pūrṇa-sudhā-ruceḥ paricayaṁ rākāṁ vinā kāṅkṣati
Those who endeavour to attain the association of Śrī Kṛṣṇa but reject rādhā-dāsya are like people who endeavour to see the full moon when it is not a full moon night.
Stavāvali (Sva-niyama-daśakam (6)) states:
ya ekaṁ govindaṁ bhajati
tad abhyarṇe śīrṇe kṣaṇam
api na yāmi vratam idam
I will never go near a hypocrite who worships Govinda alone [without Rādhā]. This is my vow.
If Śyāma is directly the emperor of all transcendental mellows (rasarāja) and the embodiment of the amorous mellow (śṛṅgāra-rasa), then Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the form of madanākhya-mahābhāva. Śrīmatī Rādhikā, with Her śṛṅgāra-rasa, feeds Śyāma honey in the form of Kandarpa (Cupid):
kṛṣṇake karāya śyāma-rasa madhu-pāna
nirantara pūrṇa kare kṛṣṇera sarva-kāma
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.180)
Śrīmatī Rādhikā makes Kṛṣṇa drink the honey of the amorous mellow (śyāma-rasa). She is therefore engaged in satisfying all of Kṛṣṇa’s lust (kāma).
Śṛṅgāra-rasa is also called śyāma-rasa. This is the opinion of Śrī Viṣṇu-daivata, found in Sāhitya-darpaṇa: śyāma-varṇo ’yaṁ viṣṇu-daivataḥ.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings in his song Rādhikā-caraṇa-padma:
rādhikā ujjvala-rasera ācārya
ye dharila rādhā-pada parama-yatane
se pāila kṛṣṇa-pada amūlya ratane
rādhā-pada vinā kabhu kṛṣṇa nāhi mile
rādhikā dāsīra kṛṣṇa sarva-vede bole
Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the ācārya of the mellows of amorous love (ujjvala-rasa). The pure love between Rādhā and Mādhava is meant to be discussed and contemplated. Those who place Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s lotus feet in their hearts and worship them with great care obtain the priceless jewel of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Without taking shelter of the lotus feet of Rādhā, one can never meet Kṛṣṇa. The Vedic scriptures declare that Kṛṣṇa is the property of the maid-servants of Śrī Rādhā.
Vṛndāvana-dhāma is the place of Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava’s various amorous pastimes (līlā-vilāsa). Śrī Yugala-kiśora roam here performing Their pastimes, and the land of Vṛndāvana is marked with the impressions of Their lotus feet, as Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings in Rādhikā-caraṇa-padma – rādhā-padāṅkita-dhāma vṛndāvana yāṅra nāma.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.30.28) states:
bhagavān harir īśvaraḥ
yan no vihāya govindaḥ
prīto yām anayad rahaḥ
[The gopīs said:] Most certainly She is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s worshipper. Therefore, being pleased with Her, Śyāmasundara has left us and taken Her away to a solitary place.
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa disappeared from the rāsa-sthalī (taking Rādhā with Him), the gopīs who were searching for Him saw His footprints in the forest, along with Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s. Praising Her good fortune they said (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.30.27)): “kasyāḥ padāni caitāni yātāyā nanda sūnunā – here are the footprints of some gopī who was walking with the son of Nanda Mahārāja.”
All of Vṛndāvana, including Govardhana and Rādhā-kuṇḍa, is the abode of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s keli-vilāsa and is marked with Their footprints. Jāta-rati-sādhakas have internal revelations (sphūrtis) of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in Vṛndāvana’s bowers. Here the meaning of taking shelter of Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma is to remember the various līlās performed there and to be absorbed in the sentiments of those līlās. But such realisation can only be obtained by the association and mercy of great personalities who are like-minded, affectionate towards oneself, more advanced than oneself, and who taste vraja-rasa.
In Prema-bhakti-candrikā (9.9) Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings:
tāṅra bhakta saṅge sadā, rāsa-līlā prema kathā,
ye kare se pāya ghanaśyāma
By staying in the company of devotees who always discuss the sweet, nectarean pastimes of the rāsa dance, one is sure to attain Ghanaśyāma.
The sweetness of the rasa of Śrī Rādhā-Śyāmasundara’s pastimes can only be relished through association with and service to the great personalities who taste rasa and who are submerged in the waves of this endless and eternal ocean of sweetness.