The gopīs’ intense longing to receive Śrī Kṛṣṇa in their own home, Vṛndāvana, is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.82.48):
āhuś ca te nalina-nābha padāravindaṁ
yogeśvarair hṛdi vicintyam agādha-bodhaiḥ
gehaṁ juṣām api manasy udiyāt sadā naḥ
[At the meeting in Kurukṣetra, Śrī Rādhikā and the prominent gopīs said:] O Kamalanābha (You whose navel is like a lotus), great yogīs who possess profound intelligence meditate upon Your lotus feet in their hearts. Your lotus feet are the only means of escape for those who have fallen into the well of material existence. O Lord, please give us the benediction that, even when we perform household work, Your lotus feet shall always reside in our hearts and we shall never forget them, even for a moment.
agādha-bodha-sampanna, yogeśvara-gaṇa dhanya,
tava pada karuṇa cintana
saṁsāra-patita jana, dharu tava śrī-caraṇa,
kūpa haite uddhāra kāraṇa
āmi vraja-gopa-nārī, nāhi-yogī, na-saṁsārī,
tomā lañā āmāra saṁsāra
mama mana vṛndāvana, rākhi’ tathā o’caraṇa,
ei vāñchā pūrāo āmāra
At the time of their meeting in Kurukṣetra, Śrī Kṛṣṇa tried to console the vraja-gopīs, who had been agitated in separation from Him, by instructing them on brahma-jñāna and yoga. He said, “I am all-pervading; I am never separated from you all. Endeavour to see Me in your hearts through devout meditation.”
Hearing their priyatama’s instructions on brahma-jñāna and yoga, the gopīs became somewhat angry and said, “O shining sun of tattva-ācāryas! Give these instructions on jñāna-yoga somewhere else; we very simple and ignorant gopīs cannot understand them. It is commendable to give an instruction that is suitable to the listener. When we hear these instructions, our hearts begin to burn. Prāṇanātha, it is true that the hearts of others are the same as their minds, but our hearts are the same as Vṛndāvana, so if You go to Vṛndāvana, we shall consider that You have entered our hearts. Only this will be Your complete mercy, nothing else. Vraja is not only our heart, it is also our home. Unless we meet You there, our life-airs will certainly leave our bodies.
“First, You sent Uddhava to instruct us on yoga and jñāna, and today You are personally giving us this same instruction. You are rasika and supremely compassionate, and You also understand the feelings in our hearts, so why do You speak like this? You know we want to remove our affection for You and place it in worldly enjoyment, but even after a hundred thousand such attempts, we have been unable to do so. Now You are instructing us to meditate upon You. Can You not even slightly consider the persons You are instructing? We gopīs are not great yogīs, and we can never be satisfied by meditating on Your lotus feet. Hearing You talk like this makes us very angry. O simpleton, where is the possibility of a well of material existence, and desire for deliverance from it, for those who cannot even recall their own bodies? We are always drowning in the deep waters of separation from You, where the crocodiles of lust swallow us. O Prāṇanātha, please save us!
“O wealth of our lives, have You forgotten Vṛndāvana, Govardhana, the banks of the Yamunā, and the rāsa-līlā and other pastimes that took place in the kuñjas? Aho! It is surprising that You have forgotten the sakhās, Your parents and all the other Vrajavāsīs. It is our misfortune. We are not unhappy for ourselves; we are unhappy for Vrajeśvarī Yaśodā-maiyā. It tears our hearts apart to see her so forlorn. We may or may not have a relationship with You, but You are related to Yaśodā-maiyā by blood, as Your body is made of her blood. You may forget that relationship, but it cannot be removed. Whether You come to Vṛndāvana or not is up to You, but why have You kept the Vrajavāsīs alive? Is it just to make them suffer again and again? Yes, if You want to keep them alive, then quickly come to Vṛndāvana. This royal attire of Yours, the elephants and horses, Your association with the officers of the king of this place, and this foreign land, do not slightly befit the Vrajavāsīs. Although we are unable to abandon Vṛndāvana, we could not remain alive without seeing You. You are the life of Vraja, the wealth of Vrajarāja’s life and also the very life of our lives. Quickly return to Vṛndāvana and protect the lives of everyone.”
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.82.40) describes Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s conversation with the gopīs that occurred in a solitary place:
bhagavāṁs tās tathā-bhūtā
prahasann idam abravīt
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa saw that the gopīs had attained oneness (tādātmya) with Him, He went with them to a secluded place. After embracing them to His heart and inquiring about their well-being, He laughed and spoke as follows.
vivikte laiyā, gopī āliṅgiyā,
preme marma-kathā kaya
kṛṣṇa gopī prīti, mahiṣīra tati,
dekhiyā āścarya haya
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa heard Śrī Rādhā’s anguished talks of separation, He remembered His unlimited, honest love for the Vrajavāsīs and became very restless. Considering Himself indebted to them, He began to console them by addressing Śrī Rādhā. “Priyatamā, accept the following as truth. Remembering You, I burn day and night in a fire of separation. No one knows the extent of My unbearable pain. The Vrajavāsīs, My parents and the sakhās are My very life, and among them, the gopīs are directly My life. And You are the life of My life. What more can I say? I am always subservient to Your unconditional love. Misfortune is very strong, and no one can do anything about it. This misfortune has separated Me from You, keeping Me in a distant country.
“It is true that the beloved cannot remain alive without the association of the lover, and that the lover cannot live without the beloved, but neither will die because each thinks, ‘If I die, his condition of separation will be the same as mine.’ Aho! The faithful beloved and the truly affectionate lover think of each other’s welfare even in separation. They never think of their own sorrows and sufferings, but always want their beloved to be happy. This kind of loving couple meet each other again very quickly.
“You do not know that daily I worship Bhagavān Śrī Nārāyaṇa to protect Your life. By His potency, I come to Vṛndāvana from this distant country every day to meet with You and sport with You in various ways, but You think this is only a vision. Beloved Rādhā, it is My good fortune that Your love for Me is unlimited and incomparable. This prema will quickly pull Me back to You in Vṛndāvana. In just a few days, after killing the remaining enemies of the Yādavas, I will return to Vṛndāvana. Consider that I have already come.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke the following words to give the gopīs consolation. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.82.44) states:
mayi bhaktir hi bhūtānām
diṣṭyā yad āsīn mat-sneho
Sakhīs, it is greatly fortunate that you have developed prema for Me, by which one can attain Me. Loving devotional service unto Me qualifies living entities to attain My supremely blissful eternal abode.
āmāte ye prema-bhakti parama amṛta
tava snehe niravadhi tava dāsye rata
After a long separation, the gopīs met with Śrī Kṛṣṇa at Kurukṣetra. There, in a solitary place, Śrī Kṛṣṇa consoled the beautiful, lotus-eyed women of Vraja by embracing and kissing them, wiping the tears from their eyes, and inquiring about their health and well-being. He said, “O sakhīs, in this long separation you have remembered Me! You are convinced that I am ungrateful, but you do not consider Me cruel, do you? Without doubt, Bhagavān is the cause of the living entities’ meeting and separating. Just as blades of grass, cotton fluff and granules of dust meet and again separate due to the wind, similarly everyone meets and separates according to the desire of Īśvara, the Supreme Controller. If you say that I am that Īśvara who arranges meeting and separation, then there is no reason for your sorrow, because by good fortune you have achieved that prema by which I can be attained. Devotion performed unto Me is capable of giving living entities the eternal supreme abode, but your loving affection for Me makes Me unable to remain far away from you. Rather, it attracts Me to you.”
In his Krama-sandarbha commentary, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmipāda says, “Through the practice of sādhana-bhakti, the living entity can attain the dhāma of Bhagavān according to his desire and constitutional nature. Being pleased with such devotees, Śrī Kṛṣṇa accepts their service. The sneha, rāga, anurāga and mahābhāva of the vraja-devīs assume the highest excellence and therefore Śrī Kṛṣṇa is controlled by the gopīs. Pure devotional service and affection etc., which are endowed with possessiveness, attract Śrī Kṛṣṇa. One should understand that affection for Bhagavān is the topmost way to attract Him.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa again speaks. “The sky and the other four primary elements are in all material objects in their beginning, middle and end stages. Similarly, I exist in the beginning and end of all objects, and inside and outside of them also. I am not, therefore, separated from you in any way. You are suffering from a false pain of separation – due to a simple lack of discrimination. Your bodies and life-airs are all situated in My svarūpa. Try to realise this truth and meditate in your hearts as yogīs do, then your pain of separation will be removed.”
Upon hearing this spiritual teaching from the lotus mouth of their prāṇa-vallabha Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs began to speak, their lips quivering in anger born of affection. “O Nalinanābha (one with an extremely beautiful lotus-like navel), You want to please our hearts by instructing us in knowledge of bhagavat-tattva, but this knowledge does not enter our ears. We are already engaged in relishing the nectar of Your beauty through our eyes. Where is the time to hear these tattvas?”
Or by use of the word nalinanābha the vraja-devīs insinuate, “O Kṛṣṇa, a lotus has grown from Your navel. This is a good thing, but just as the root of the lotus is connected with water and mud, Your intelligence has also become soiled. Please give these instructions to ignorant persons only, not to us. Does one give the food of animals to human beings? Now You are claiming Yourself to be Bhagavān. If the Vrajavāsīs hear this, You will become a laughing stock. Agādha-bodhair yogeśvarair hṛdi vicintya. Please give this jñāna-yoga to profoundly intelligent yogīs, endowed with tattva-jñāna, who are unable to meditate on Your feet.”
Or the gopīs speak reproachfully, saying, “O Kṛṣṇa, we have heard from Paurṇamāsī that Brahmā was born from the lotus emanating from Your navel. By the association of that jñānī, Brahmā, Your intelligence has also greatly decreased.” (“Yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁso maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ – a person develops the qualities of the company he keeps, just as a crystal reflects the colour of those objects which are brought into its proximity.”)
Or the gopīs angrily say, “O Kṛṣṇa, only great yogīs endowed with profound intelligence are capable of meditating on Your lotus feet. We are ignorant cowherd girls with restless minds, and it is impossible for us to meditate on Your lotus feet.”
Or the gopīs reveal the inner feelings of their hearts to Śrī Kṛṣṇa: “O Kṛṣṇa, what to speak of meditating on Your lotus feet, now the mere memory of them distresses us. We fear placing Your lotus feet, which are softer than a newly-blossomed lotus, on our hard breasts.
yat te sujāta-caraṇāmburuhaṁ staneṣu
bhītāḥ śanaiḥ priya dadhīmahi karkaśeṣu
tenāṭavīm aṭasi tad vyathate na kiṁ svit
kūrpādibhir bhramati dhīr bhavad-āyuṣāṁ naḥ
[The gopīs said:] A fear has arisen in our minds that Your very soft lotus feet may be pained by being placed on our hard breasts. Our minds are agitated by such thoughts, as if tormented by a stinging scorpion.
Or they say, “O Kṛṣṇa, the nineteen signs marked on Your lotus feet have appeared on the screen of our hearts, reminding us of our previous pastimes in the kuñjas. The flag on Your lotus feet reminds us of Your defeat by Śrī Rādhā in amorous sports (keli-vilāsa). You said that You would take Her victory flag on Your shoulder and wander here and there. The sign of the goad on Your feet reminds us that Śrī Rādhā, who is likened to an elephant-driver, brings such an intoxicated elephant as You under Her control with Her goad of prema. You Yourself have admitted, ‘Na pāraye ’haṁ niravadya-saṁyujām – O gopīs, I cannot repay you.’ ”
Or the gopīs say, “You assumed Your form of Mohinī to cheat the demons out of nectar, and then You arranged for the demigods to relish it. Similarly, by instructing the yogīs on meditation, You deprive them of the secret of love. But we are not like the demon or yogī who is deprived of the confidential secret of prema-tattva.”
Saṁsāra-kūpa-patitottaraṇāvalambaṁ te padāravindam – With affectionate anger, the gopīs say, “O Kṛṣṇa, You also sent Uddhava to Vraja with Your collection of tattva-jñāna, but instead of alleviating our pain of separation, Your message simply increased it. And now You again are giving us that same ridiculous instruction, which is suitable for a child. Brahmā and other great yogīs can be delivered from this material existence by meditating on Your lotus feet, but we have not fallen into the well of material existence. Rather, we have fallen into the ocean of separation from You and cannot even recollect our own bodies. We gave up attachment to our homes for Your happiness. How, then, is it possible for us to have fallen into the well of material existence? Rather, we have fallen into the ocean of separation, and the timiṅgila fish of lust wants to swallow us. Therefore, O crown jewel of experts in amorous sports (vidagdha-śiromaṇi), do not instruct us on jñāna-yoga. Please just give us the pleasure of Your association to deliver us from this ocean of separation. Our hearts run towards Vṛndāvana, because Vṛndāvana’s trees, creepers, fruits, flowers and every particle of dust are inseparably studded with memories of You. If Your lotus feet appear in Vṛndāvana, they will also appear in our hearts.”
Gehaṁ juṣām api manasy udiyāt – Distressed, the vraja-devīs say, “O Kṛṣṇa, we have again met with You here at Kurukṣetra, and our meeting with You is like a first meeting, but our minds are stolen away by memories of Vṛndāvana. Here there is lokāraṇya, a “forest” of people, and the uproarious sounds of elephants, horses and chariots. In Vṛndāvana there is puṣpāraṇya, a forest of flowers, where only the sweet sounds of bumblebees and cuckoos are heard. Vṛndāvana is very pleasant and filled with music and song. It resounds with the sweet sounds of śukas, sārīs, peacocks and cuckoos. Here in Kurukṣetra, You are dressed in royal attire and are accompanied by kṣatriya warriors who are adorned with a variety of weapons. In Vṛndāvana, however, where You wore the attire of a gopa, You held a beautiful flute to Your lips. On Your head was a peacock feather crown, on Your ears were earrings made from the buds of campa flowers, and You were decorated with creepers, leaves and minerals like gairika (red ochre).”
Śrī Rādhā says, “O lotus-eyed one, the hearts of others are non-different from their minds, and they are unable to separate their hearts from their minds. But My mind is Vṛndāvana. They are one; there is no difference between them. Being Vṛndāvana, My mind is the sporting ground for My prāṇakānta. Previously, as the topmost connoisseur of mellows (rasikendra-śiromaṇi), You performed playful pastimes, filled with the sweetness of rasa, with Me there. My mind is eager to meet with You again in that Vṛndāvana.”
prāṇanātha, śuna mora satya nivedana
vraja – āmāra sadana, tāhāṅ tomāra saṅgama,
nā pāile nā rahe jīvana
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 13.138)
[Śrī Rādhā said:] Prāṇanātha, hear My true submission. My home is Vṛndāvana, and I wish to have Your association there. If not, it will be very difficult for Me to maintain My life.
Pastimes during the first part of the night (pradoṣa-līlā) are described in Govinda-līlāmṛta (21.1):
rādhāṁ sālīgaṇāntām asita-sita-niśā-yogya-veśāṁ pradoṣe
dūtyā vṛndopadeśād abhisṛta-yamunā-tīra-kalpāga-kuñjām
kṛṣṇaṁ gopaiḥ sabhāyāṁ vihita-guṇi-kalālokanaṁ snigdha-
yatnād ānīya saṁśāyitam atha nibhṛtaṁ prāpta-kuñjaṁ smarāmi
In the evening, Śrī Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī cooks some preparations and sends them with Her sakhīs to Nanda-bhavana. Yaśodārāṇī is very affectionate and loving to Śrī Rādhā’s maidservants. She feeds these preparations to the two brothers, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa, as well as to the other family members. Maiyā places the remaining prasāda in the hands of the maidservants to give to Śrī Rādhā. Kundalatā or Dhaniṣṭhā indicate the whereabouts of that night’s meeting place to the maidservants, who give Śrī Rādhā the news from Nanda-bhavana as well as the remaining prasāda. They tell Her, “Svāminī, Your priyatama lovingly ate the manohara-laḍḍu You made.” Describing the mood with which Kṛṣṇa took each preparation, the sakhīs serve the rest of the prasāda and prepare Svāminī for Her rendezvous (abhisāra).
rādhā vṛndā upadeśe, yamunopakūladeśe,
sāṅketika kuñje abhisāre
sitāsita-niśā-yogya, dhari’ veśa kṛṣṇa-bhogya,
sakhī-saṅge sānanda antare
gopa-sabhā-mājhe hari, nānā-guṇa-kalā heri’,
mātṛ-yatne karila śayana
rādhā-saṅga soṅariyā, nibhṛte bāhira haiyā,
prāpta-kuñja kariye smaraṇa
In accordance with Śrī Vṛndā-devī’s indication, Śrīmatī Rādhikā goes to a keli-kuñja on the bank of the Yamunā for Her abhisāra with Kṛṣṇa, bringing a few faithful maidservants or some priya-narma-sakhīs with Her. These most beloved sakhīs dress Kiśorī in black cloth on dark nights and in white on moonlit nights, and then they very carefully and blissfully take Her for abhisāra.
At that time, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is watching a charming performance of music, singing, magical tricks, drama and other arts in the assembly of the cowherds. Later, He hears Yaśodā-maiyā sing Him a lullaby and He feigns sleep. Then, to attain the association of Kiśorī, He slips away from the royal palace and proceeds alone to the kuñja where They will meet.
The qualified sādhaka, while performing harināma-kīrtana, will lovingly remember these pastimes of the seventh yāma.
Thus ends the Saptama-yāma-sādhana,
Pradoṣa-kālīya-bhajana, of Śrī Bhajana-rahasya.