Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (68) describes an internal vision (sphūrti-darśana) of Kṛṣṇa:
māraḥ svayaṁ nu madhura-dyuti-maṇḍalaṁ nu
mādhuryam eva nu mano-nayanāmṛtaṁ nu
veṇī-mṛjo nu mama jīvita-vallabho nu
kṛṣṇo ’yam abhyudayate mama locanāya
Is this Cupid himself, or is it a halo of sweet effulgence? Is this the personification of sweetness, or the life-giving nectar of the mind and eyes? Is this the lover who loosens My braid, the beloved of My life, the youthful Kṛṣṇa, who has manifest before My eyes?
svayaṁ kandarpa eki, madhura-maṇḍala nāki,
mādhurya āpani mūrtimāna
mano-nayanera madhu, dūra ha’te āila bandhu,
āmāra nayana-āge, āila kṛṣṇa anurāge,
dehe mora āila jīvana
saba duḥkha dūre gela, prāṇa mora juḍāila,
dekha sakhi! pāinu hārādhana
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa disappears from the rāsa-līlā, the gopīs sing a piteous kīrtana filled with the mood of separation from Him. At that time, Kṛṣṇa, who is manmatha-manmatha, the bewilderer of the mind of Cupid, appears before them. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.32.2) Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī describes that unprecedentedly beautiful form of Kṛṣṇa: “tāsām āvirabhūc chauriḥ smayamāna-mukhāmbujaḥ – with a smile on His lotus face, Kṛṣṇa appeared before the gopīs. Wearing a flower garland and a yellow garment, He appeared directly as one who can bewilder the mind of Cupid, who himself bewilders the minds of ordinary people.”
Śauri Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who defeats even Cupid, appears before the gopīs. Upon seeing His beauty, Rādhā becomes perplexed and wonders, “Is Kṛṣṇa really present before us?” Confused, She says to Her sakhīs, “O sakhīs, is He who is standing before us Cupid incarnate, whose invisible form attacks everyone?” Here in this Text, the word nu (meaning “whether”) is used in the sense of reasoning. Again perceiving His sweetness, She says with astonishment, “That Cupid cannot be so sweet, so is this a halo of sweet beauty? This is also astonishing.
No, no it is not merely a halo of beauty, it is some kind of embodied sweetness. No other kind of sweetness can satisfy our eyes, but our eyes are satisfied with this darśana.” With great pleasure, She says, “Is this nectar itself? But sakhī, nectar does not have a form and this does, so it cannot be nectar.” Again She says, “Is it our beloved, who loosens our braids, who has come to us out of love?” Looking very carefully at Kṛṣṇa, She blissfully says, “O sakhīs, it is the love of our lives, the fresh, youthful dancer (nava-kiśora-naṭavara). It is He who gives pleasure to the eyes and who is our prāṇakānta.”
A description of the direct darśana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.32.2):
tāsām āvirabhūc chauriḥ
Just then, Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared in the midst of the gopīs. His lotus face blossomed with a mild, gentle smile. Hanging from His neck was a garland of forest flowers, and He wore a golden-yellow garment (pītāmbara). What was the nature of His beauty? That beauty stirs the mind of Kāmadeva (Cupid), who himself stirs the minds of everyone.
gopīra sammukha hari, dāṅḍāila veṇu dhari’,
vanamālī pītāmbara, manmathera manohara,
Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is ever-skillful in increasing His devotees’ prema, disappeared from the rāsa-līlā. Devastated by separation from Him, weeping, the gopīs arrived at the bank of the Yamunā. There they performed kīrtana, having exhausted all alternatives in their search for Him. Their voices were full of extreme feeling and they used metaphors with multiple meanings to express their sentiments. Restless in the pain of separation, the vraja-ramaṇīs’ tears, full of prema, flowed freely and continuously from their eyes. At that time, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, who was in the dense, dark forest, heard their weeping and suddenly appeared in their midst, manifesting His lustre.
In this Text, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī is thoroughly absorbed in mañjarī-bhāva and in anger, he has used the word śauri as an insult. Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared in a kṣatriya family within the Śūra dynasty, whose hearts were deceitful and hard. Śukadeva Gosvāmipāda was unable to tolerate Svāminī’s agony of separation from Kṛṣṇa, and he therefore saw Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s hiding as a defect. He thought, “The young girls of Vraja are simple lovers (premikās), and You become joyful by making them unhappy. Seeing the gopīs afflicted by grief, You display Your prowess (śaurya).” Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī felt that such so-called prowess was a disgrace: “If Your heart were truly honest, You would not have done such a thing.” These are examples of the defamatory remarks used in prema; only one whose prema is deep can speak like this.
Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, the crown jewel of all those skilled in amorous pastimes (vidagdha-cūḍāmaṇi), appeared in the midst of the vraja-devīs, displaying His unparalleled beauty. This beauty is described in this Text by the use of three adjectives: smayamāna, sragvī and sākṣān-manmatha-manmathaḥ.
Smayamāna – Although His face was radiant and smiling, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart was remorseful. Smiling is a characteristic of bhagavattā (the quality of being Bhagavān), but Kṛṣṇa’s smile before the gopīs was caused by the bhāvas He experienced upon seeing them. He smiled to remove their distress and console them. Darśana of His extremely enchanting lotus face removes all the gopīs’ sorrow. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa, wearing a pītāmbara (golden-yellow garment), heard the distress-filled cry of the vraja-devīs, He came swiftly, holding His pītāmbara around His neck, so that it would not slip off.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa had charmed the gopīs with the sound of His flute. All those gopīs had abandoned their families, morality, patience and shyness to arrive at Kṛṣṇa’s side. But on that day, Kṛṣṇacandra had abandoned the gopīs and disappeared. Upon His return, He held His yellow cloth around His neck as a gesture, in order to show that He was praying for forgiveness. Conscious that He had given great suffering to His dear ones, Kṛṣṇa admitted that He Himself was an offender, and He held His pītāmbara with His hands to beg forgiveness for His offence. Just as an offender clasps a piece of straw between his teeth, Kṛṣṇa humbly put His cloth around His neck, thus begging forgiveness. His hands held His pītāmbara, which He used to carefully wipe away the tears from the eyes of the vraja-devīs, who were grief-stricken in separation from Him. Vrajendra-nandana is also relating the following mood to the gopīs: “You are of golden complexion, so I have covered My body, heart and mind with the pītāmbara; My inner heart is also coloured by your golden anurāga.”
Sragvī – Leaving aside all other ornaments, Kṛṣṇa wore a fresh, radiant garland of forest flowers around His charming neck. He wore this garland of cooling lotuses only to remove the gopīs’ fire of separation. In doing so, He expressed the sentiment, “You are like the garland’s flowers; you are like My very heart. By embracing you, I am praying for forgiveness and beg you to soothe the heat of My feelings of separation from you. You strung this very garland yourself and garlanded Me with it. I am displaying My eternal gratitude by wearing it upon My heart.”
Sākṣān-manmatha-manmathaḥ – Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s extremely charming beauty, embellished by His being in the midst of the gopīs, churned the mind of Cupid. Vyaṣṭi-kāmadeva and samaṣṭi-kāmadeva are concealed in sākṣāt-manmatha, the original Kāmadeva. The vyaṣṭi-kāmadevas are the Kāmadevas that exists in different universes, samaṣṭi-kāmadeva is Pradyumna, and the original Kāmadeva is Nanda-nandana Himself. The material Madana (Kāmadeva) intoxicates all jīvas, but when this material Madana receives darśana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s form, which enchants the three worlds, he falls unconscious. Sākṣāt-manmatha-manmatha Kṛṣṇa, who is the transcendental Kāmadeva, manifested such a form to decrease the gopīs’ suffering.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes in the Krama-sandarbha that manmatha-manmatha signifies that person who infatuates even Madana. Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra displayed His Mohinī-mūrti and even bewildered Mahādeva in his form as Rudra.6 But actually, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s form as sākṣāt-manmatha-manmatha is only displayed in the rāsa-maṇḍala. This is confirmed in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.212–3):
rāsa-vilāsī sākṣāt brajendra-kumāra
manmatha-manmatha-rūpe yāṅhāra prakāśa
Madana-gopāla, the Lord of Vṛndāvana, is the enjoyer of the rāsa dance and is directly the son of the King of Vraja. He enjoys the rāsa dance with Śrīmatī Rādhikā, Śrī Lalitā and others. He manifests Himself as the Cupid of Cupids.
Śrī Rādhā’s meeting with Kṛṣṇa in Nava-Vṛndāvana, Dvārakā, and an expression of a desire for vraja-bhāva, is described in Lalita-mādhava (10.260):
cirād āśā-mātraṁ tvayi viracayantaḥ sthira-dhiyo
vidadhyur ye vāsaṁ madhurima gabhīre madhu-pure
dadhānaḥ kaiśore vayasi sakhi tāṁ gokula-pate
prapadyethās teṣāṁ paricayam avaśyaṁ nayanayoḥ
[Śrī Rādhā said:] O Śrī Kṛṣṇa, for a long time, persons with fixed intelligence have sustained their lives with the hope that You will one day return. You reside in Madhupurī, which is filled with profound sweetness. O master of Gokula, the adolescent sakhās are patiently gazing at Your return path. Therefore, You must give us Your darśana without fail.
gabhīra-mādhurya-maya, sei vraja-dhāma haya,
tathā yata sthira-buddhi jana
cira-āśā hṛde dhari’, tomāra darśane hari,
basiyāche se saba sajjana
tomāra kaiśora-līlā, hṛdaye varaṇa kailā,
ebe se savāre kṛpā kari’
nayana-gocara haiyā, līlā kara tathā giyā,
ei mātra nivedana kari
Suffering pangs of separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Rādhā desires to bring Him back to Vṛndāvana, which is filled with sweet memories. Lalita-mādhava (10.261) states:
yā te līlā-rasa-parimalodgāri-vanyā-parītā
dhanyā kṣauṇī vilasati vṛtā māthurī mādhurībhiḥ
saṁvītas taṁ kalaya vadanollāsi veṇur vihāram
Near the highly praised Mathurā is that land of Vṛndāvana, which is full of forests that emit the sublime fragrance of the mellows of Your pastimes (līlā-rasa), and which is made splendid with sweetness and beauty. With a smiling face and playing the flute, please sport in that Vṛndāvana with those whose hearts are infatuated with capricious and unpredictable gopī-bhāva.
mathurā-maṇḍala majhe, mādhurī-maṇḍita sāje,
tāhe tava nitya-līlā, parimala prakāśilā,
acintya-śaktite kṛṣṇa tumi
gopī-bhāve mugdha yata, tomāra śṛṇgāra-rata,
āmā ādi praṇayī-nicaya
āmā-sabe la’ye punaḥ, krīḍā kara anukṣaṇa,
In his Lalita-mādhava, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī gives the following narration. In one kalpa Śrī Rādhā was so unable to tolerate the affliction of separation from Kṛṣṇa after He had left for Mathurā, that She jumped into the Yamunā. Yamunā, the daughter of Sūryadeva, then took Śrī Rādhā to her father. Sūryadeva entrusted Her to his friend and devotee, Satrājit, who was childless, and told him, “Her name is Satyabhāmā. Consider Her to be your daughter.” Later, upon the instruction of Nārada, King Satrājit sent Satyabhāmā to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s inner quarters in Dvārakā. The wife of Sūrya, Saṁjñā, was the daughter of Viśvakarmā. Through her father, Saṁjñā had previously created the captivating Nava-Vṛndāvana for Satyabhāmā (Śrī Rādhā) in Dvārakā. Rukmiṇī, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s principal queen, kept the extraordinarily charming and beautiful Satyabhāmā hidden in Nava-Vṛndāvana, so that Kṛṣṇa would not see Her. In due course, however, Satyabhāmā did meet with Kṛṣṇa, and the secret that Satyabhāmā is actually Rādhā and Rukmiṇī is actually Candrāvalī was revealed. Thereafter, Rukmiṇī arranged for Satyabhāmā’s marriage to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. At the time of the wedding, Yaśodārāṇī, Paurṇamāsī, Mukharā and other Vrajavāsīs were present in Dvārakā.
One day, in this Nava-Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa said to Rādhā, “O Dearest, what more can I do to make You happy?”
Śrī Rādhā replied, “Prāṇeśvara, all the sakhīs of Vraja, My cousin-sister Candrāvalī, Mother Vrajeśvarī and everyone else came here, and I met with them. Nonetheless, My earnest request to You is to please leave this abode of opulence, Dvārakā, and in Your form as a fresh, youthful, expert dancer, wearing the attire of a cowherd boy, sport with Me in the kuñjas of Vraja-dhāma, the renowned land of eternal pastimes.”
Anguished that their blinking prevented them from seeing Kṛṣṇa when they were taking His darśana, the gopīs curse the person who created eyelids. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.82.39) describes this condition of the gopīs at their meeting with Kṛṣṇa in Kurukṣetra:
gopyaś ca kṛṣṇam upalabhya cirād abhīṣṭaṁ
yat-prekṣaṇe dṛśiṣu pakṣma-kṛtaṁ śapanti
dṛgbhir hṛdī-kṛtam alaṁ parirabhya sarvās
tad-bhāvam āpur api nitya-yujāṁ durāpam
[Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who was experiencing the mood of the gopīs when they saw Śrī Kṛṣṇa at Kurukṣetra, said:] The vraja-sundarīs, who cursed the Creator for making eyelids that obstructed their darśana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, now saw Śrī Kṛṣṇa again after a very long time. They took Him from the path of their eyes into their hearts and tightly embraced Him there. They attained that rare absorption that cannot be attained either by yogīs or by Rukmiṇī and the other queens of Dvārakā, who are always with Him.
cira-dina kṛṣṇa-āśe, chila gopī vraja-vāse,
kurukṣetre prāṇanāthe pāiyā
animeṣa-netra-dvāre, āni’ kṛṣṇe premādhāre,
hṛde āliṅgila mugdha haiyā
āhā se amiya bhāva, anya jane asambhava,
gopī vinā ei prema, yena viśodhita hema,
lakṣmī-gaṇe cira asambhava
At the time of the solar eclipse, all the Vrajavāsīs arrived at Kurukṣetra, eager to see and meet with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. When the vraja-ramaṇīs saw Kṛṣṇa after being separated from Him for so long, they became radiant with bliss, and their hearts and eyes did not move. Those vraja-gopīs had been unable to tolerate even a moment’s separation caused by the blinking of their eyes, and had thus cursed the creator of eyelids. Who can describe their ecstasy when they again saw Śrī Kṛṣṇa after burning in a raging fire of separation from Him?
The Śrutis say it is impossible to describe in words the happiness derived from merging into Brahman (brahmānanda); no one is able to determine the extent of it. This brahmānanda, however, is like a firefly before rasānanda, the bliss attained by the mahābhāva-vatī gopīs in their prema-filled service to Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs’ bodies are composed of anurāga, which is caused by the great depth of their relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Anurāga is a function of the hlādinī-śakti when it is endowed with saṁvit. This state is called sva-saṁvedya, which means that it can only be known by the person who experiences it.
According to the intensity of anurāga, prema is determined as perfect (pūrṇa), more perfect (pūrṇatara) or most perfect (pūrṇatama). Compared to the pūrṇatama anurāga of the gopīs, the bliss of the service performed by Lakṣmī, who sports on the chest of Nārāyaṇa, and also the skill of the queens of Dvārakā in the art of various loving sports, are bland and insipid. Although they exhibit various extraordinary moods, enchanting and beautiful smiles, and so on, they cannot bring Kṛṣṇa’s heart under their control. The vraja-gopīs, however, who are coloured with dense anurāga, as well as with prema imbued with madīya-bhāva (a feeling that “Kṛṣṇa belongs to me”), control Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart through their crooked, sidelong glances. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmipāda’s reference to the gopīs’ extraordinary prema in this Text is a sharp cue meant for the jñānīs, who meditate on Brahman. In effect he is saying, “O jñānīs performing arduous sādhana! Fie on you! If you want to make your lives successful, then surrender at the lotus feet of these gopīs, who are endowed with prema.”
Darśana of the vraja-gopīs’ prema-mādhurya also makes Uddhava yearn to attain it: vāñchanti yad bhava-bhiyo munayo vayaṁ ca (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.47.58)). Enchanted by this prema-mādhurya, the queens of Dvārakā, who always accompany Kṛṣṇa, pray to attain the fragrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet, which are coloured with kuṅkuma from the gopīs’ breasts.
One unprecedented experience of ecstasy in separation is called divyonmāda. This ocean of prema stirs enormous waves that inundate every universe. Its current bewilders the heavenly damsels, whose lustre is like the lotus. It stirs the hearts of earthly beings, invades Satyaloka, and even rebukes the beauty of the land of Vaikuṇṭha. Uddhava, Nārada and others are astonished to see the prema engendered by the gopīs’ mahābhāva, which even stuns the hearts of Rukmiṇī and Satyabhāmā. Despite performing several arduous practices, the yogīs are unable to establish in their hearts so much as the effulgence of the nails of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. The gopīs, however, very easily and directly adorn their breasts with the lotus feet of youthful Kṛṣṇa, who is the essence of all beauty and lustre, and thus they pacify His fire of lust. Blessed are these masterful gopīs.