mahat-padam – the best of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abodes, the residence of go-gopa-gopī (the cows, cowherds and gopīs); gokula-ākhyam – called Gokula; sahasra-patra-kamalam – has the form of a thousand-petaled lotus; tat-karṇikāram – the pericarp, or central seed-vessel of that lotus; tad-dhāma – is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s internal abode, where Śrī Nanda-Yaśodā and the other gopas and gopīs reside; tat – this Gokula; sambhavam – is manifest; ananta-aṁśa – by a special manifesting power of Ananta, who is the plenary portion of Baladeva. (In other words the pericarp of the thousand-petaled lotus, which is the abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is manifest from Baladeva, who is called Ananta in His plenary expansion.)
Śrī Gokula-dhāma is the superlative realm of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It is eternally manifested by Śrī Baladeva, of whom Śrī Anantadeva is but a partial expansion. This eternal, transcendental abode of Gokula exists in the form of a divine lotus flower with thousands of petals. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s own residence is the pericarp8, situated in the center of the whorl of that lotus.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s qualifications as the supreme controller, the embodiment of bliss, and the cause of all causes have been described in the previous verse. Now in this verse, His own eternal residence is being described. This abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Gokula-dhāma, is exquisitely manifest in the form of a lotus flower with thousands of petals. The speciality of this place, which fulfills all desires like a wish-fulfilling gem, is that just as Śrī Kṛṣṇa is sac-cid-ānanda, this abode is also sac-cid-ānanda. Just as Śrī Kṛṣṇa is all- pervading, vast and all-illuminating, so this abode has similar qualities. This realm is called the supermost world of all, and it is also sometimes referred to as Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha.
In order that no one will harbor any doubts in this regard, it is said that the name of this abode is Gokula, or “the place that is inhabited by gopas and gopīs.” In this context, it is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.10.39): “bhagavān gokuleśvaraḥ – Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Gokula-pati, the Lord of Gokula.” The same type of description has been made in this second verse of Brahma-saṁhitā, and we will proceed to elaborate upon it from this point on. The expansive, internal realm where Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa eternally resides with His associates, such as His father Nanda Mahārāja and His mother Yaśodā, has been called Gokula-dhāma.
Thus, the abode where Śrī Kṛṣṇa resides along with all the inhabitants of Vraja is also described here. Then, to acquaint us with the constitutional nature of that abode, it is said to be manifested by Śrī Anantadeva, a partial expansion of Śrī Balarāma. Here in this verse, the word sambhava may be taken to indicate āvirbhāva-viśeṣa (the special appearance of the divine abode), in the sense that it is eternally manifested by a personal expansion of Śrī Baladeva. Following this understanding, anantāṁśa then refers to Ananta, the partial expansion of Baladeva. Alternatively, one may interpret this expression to mean “whose partial expansion is Ananta,” namely Śrī Baladeva. Thus the sense becomes, “That abode is the residence of Śrī Baladeva, who lives there along with Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
Goloka-dhāma or Gokula is not any kind of created material place. Rather, it is eternally manifest. This divine abode has been called anantāṁśa-sambhavam to indicate that it is manifest from the śaiṣī-śakti (Bhagavān Śeṣa’s potency) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is unlimited in nature. The purport is that this abode is manifested by Baladeva Prabhu, whose partial expansion is Anantadeva or Śeṣa Bhagavān. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastime expansion, Śrī Baladeva, is the reservoir or shelter of this śaiṣī-śakti, and all spiritual and material universes have manifested from Him.
Śrī Baladeva’s unlimited nature is exhibited in two ways: first, spiritual infinity manifest as unlimited transcendental abodes; and secondly, mundane infinity manifest as unlimited, inert material worlds. An analysis of the material worlds, which comprise one-fourth of Bhagavān’s opulence, will be presented later, in the appropriate place. The infinite spiritual manifestation with its unlimited transcendental worlds comprises three-fourths of Bhagavān’s opulence, and is untouched by lamentation, mortality and fear. It is fully illuminated, being entirely composed of completely pure, conscious existence. This manifestation of transcendental magnificence is called the immensely opulent spiritual realm, Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha or Paravyoma-dhāma. This Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma is completely beyond the purview of the inert material nature, and exists splendidly and forever in the midst of the transcendental effulgence (brahmajyoti) on the other side of the Virajā.
This transcendental abode also has two features, namely the upper and lower manifestations. The higher feature is the realm of human-like sweetness (mādhurya), and the lower is the realm of extraordinary opulence (mahā-aiśvarya). The manifestation that is characterized by sweetness is known as Goloka-dhāma or Gokula-dhāma. This divine abode, which is divided into various subsections according to specific devotional mellows, is exceedingly elegant and charming. It is also sometimes called Mahā-Nārāyaṇa-dhāma or Mūla-Nārāyaṇa-dhāma. Therefore, the Gokula aspect of Goloka9 is the most excellent abode of all. This one abode is resplendently situated in the spiritual realm in the form of Goloka, and in the material world in the form of Gokula. In his Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmipāda has written a śloka which reconciles the entire body of scripture:
yathā krīḍati tad-bhūmau
goloke ’pi tathaiva saḥ
adha urddhatayā bhedo
’nayoḥ kalpate kevalam
Just as Kṛṣṇa performs His playful pastimes in Gokula in the material universe, similarly, He also performs the same pastimes in the Goloka of the upper region. Therefore, there is no difference between Goloka and Gokula.
One should simply understand that whatever is situated in Goloka-dhāma in the spiritual realm is also splendidly present in Gokula, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s place of pastimes within the material universe.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has written in the glossary of Ṣaṭ-sandarbha: “goloka-nirūpaṇaṁ; vṛndāvanādīnāṁ nitya-kṛṣṇa-dhāmatvaṁ; goloka-vṛndāvanayor ekatvaṁ ca – Goloka and Gokula are non-different, but by the influence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s inconceivable potency, Goloka is situated in the highest territory of the spiritual universe, and the Gokula that is located in Mathurā-maṇḍala is situated in the mundane universe of the one-fourth manifestation that has arisen from the material energy.” If the transcendental abode is of the three-fourths manifestation, how can it be situated in the inferior material world of the one-fourth manifestation? This cannot be understood by the meager intelligence of a conditioned soul; one can only become acquainted with this truth by the influence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s inconceivable potency. Gokula is a transcendental abode, so although it is manifested in this universe of five material elements, it is not confined by any kind of limitation that might be imposed by mundane time and space. Its unlimited, radiant existence is the supreme principle of Vaikuṇṭha, but the material senses and intelligence of the conditioned soul perceive the transcendental Gokula in a mundane way, because the conditioned soul is always absorbed in the inert material nature.
A cloud may cover the eyes of an observer, but it cannot cover the sun. Still, a person in the shade of that cloud sees, by ordinary vision, that the sun is covered by a cloud. Similarly, the conditioned soul, whose senses and intelligence are covered by material defects, inevitably superimposes the qualities of the material nature upon the transcendental abode of Gokula. Only one whose relationship with material nature has already been completely severed as a result of extremely good fortune can have a vision of Goloka in Gokula, and of Gokula in Goloka. The impersonal knowledge that is derived from the philosophical process of the gradual elimination of the material (neti-neti), gives rise to satisfaction in the self, but such enlightenment can never afford one a vision of the transcendental realm that is situated above the non-differentiated Brahman. The impersonal Brahman is only a limited feature of the knowledge (cit) aspect of sac-cid-ānanda.
Thus, it is impossible to see Goloka or Gokula through the endeavor for impersonal knowledge because, in their search for the Absolute Truth, the adherents of such dry knowledge rely on their own subtle power of vision, rather than depending on the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, which is imbued with inconceivable potency. The endeavors for knowledge of the nature of the self are also useless in the matter of attaining Goloka Vṛndāvana. Similarly, endeavors in the yoga system, which comprise a limb of karma, also do not deserve Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Thus, these two types of endeavor cannot give rise to realization of the transcendental pastimes, which are situated above the oneness of impersonal liberation, and are separate from it. Only those who take exclusive shelter of the process of pure, unalloyed devotional service (śuddha-bhakti) are competent to receive Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, which is endowed with inconceivable potency. One’s relationship with material nature is dispelled only by Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Then the good fortune to have a vision of Gokula will arise.
The perfection of bhakti is also of two types: svarūpa-siddhi and vastu-siddhi. In the stage of svarūpa-siddhi, Goloka is seen in Gokula, and in the stage of vastu-siddhi Gokula is seen in Goloka. This is an extremely confidential mystery. The attainment of the first rays of the sun of prema is called svarūpa-siddhi. After svarūpa-siddhi, both the gross and subtle material coverings of the sādhaka-jīva are removed by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, and he then takes birth as an associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the place of His pastimes. This is called vastu-siddhi. Whatever one’s level of realization may be, as long as one has not attained perfection, Gokula will be seen as different from Goloka. Śrī Gokula, the unique seat of transcendental pastimes, is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal abode, which is replete with endless varieties of enthralling features, and is fashioned in the shape of a lotus with thousands of petals.
Brahmājī has defined the intrinsic form and nature of the transcendentally sportive Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and now he is describing Gokula, the supramundane seat of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Śrī Gokula-maṇḍala, whose svarūpa (intrinsic form) resembles a thousand-petaled lotus flower, is the eternal adode of Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja. The soil there is made of desire-fulfilling gems (cintāmaṇi), so Gokula has the form of a lotus made of cintāmaṇi. It is called mahat-padam, which means “the greatest or most excellent place of all.” Alternatively, the word mahat (great) can indicate that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Mahā-Bhagavān, the ultimate feature of God. His pada (abode) is the topmost portion of Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha. This is the sense of the word mahat.
One may object, “But the word pada can be interpreted in so many ways.” In order to dispel this doubt, it has been stated definitively by the use of the adjective mahat that this pada (abode) is called Gokula. Here, in the conventional sense the word gokula means the abode of the gopas, or cowherd community. According to the logic of rūḍhir yogam apaharati, wherein the conventional meaning steals usage from the other legitimate interpretations, the word gokula is understood to mean the abode of go and gopa (the cows and cowherd community); however, other interpretations are not invalid. With this intention, it has been stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.10.34): “bhagavān gokuleśvaraḥ – Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of Gokula.” Thus, it is appropriate that such an explanation has also been made in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, a favorable scripture that was manifest later. Gokula-dhāma is a worthy residence for Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs such as Nanda and Yaśodā, and that is why the word mahat has been used.
Now the meaning of mahat-pada is being explained in terms of its svarūpa (intrinsic form and nature). Gokula can be called the mahat-pada because it is manifested from Ananta, an expansion of Śrī Baladeva, or because it has arisen from an intensified portion of spiritual effulgence. Alternatively, Gokula-dhāma may be called mahat-pada because it is the residence of Śrī Balarāma, of whom Ananta is a mere part. Gokula has also been called mahad-dhāma because of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s appearance in the pericarp of that thousand-petaled lotus.