caturbhiḥ puruṣārthaiś ca
caturbhir hetubhir vṛtam
śūlair daśabhir ānaddham
ūrddhādho dig-vidikṣv api
aṣṭabhir nidhibhir juṣṭam
aṣṭabhiḥ siddhibhis tathā
manu-rūpaiś ca daśabhir
dik-pālaiḥ parito vṛtam
śyāmair gauraiś ca raktaiś ca
śuklaiś ca pārṣadarṣabhaiḥ
śobhitaṁ śaktibhis tābhir
tat-paritaḥ – surrounding Gokula; adbhutam – is an astonishing; catur-asram – quadrangle; śvetadvīpa-ākhyam – named Śvetadvīpa; catur-asram – having four corners; catuḥ-kṛtam – it is divided into four parts; catuḥ-dhāma – which are the four abodes; catuḥ-mūrteḥ – of the four deities: Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha; caturbhiḥ puruṣa-arthaiḥ – with the four attainments of human life, namely religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation; ca vṛtam caturbhiḥ hetubhiḥ – and endowed with the four Vedas: Ṛg, Sāma, Yajuḥ and Atharva, which are of the nature of mantra; ānaddham api – and (that abode) is held; dik-vidikṣu – in all directions: east, west, north, south, north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west; ūrddha-adhaḥ – above and below; śūlaiḥ daśabhiḥ – by ten spears; juṣṭam – it is surrounded (in the eight directions); aṣṭabhiḥ nidhibhiḥ – with the eight jewels: mahāpadma, padma, śaṅkha, makara, kacchapa, mukunda, kunda and nīla; aṣṭabhiḥ siddhibhiḥ tathā – and with the eight perfections: aṇimā, laghimā, mahimā, garimā, īśitva, vaśitva, prāpti and prākāmya; paritaḥ – it is surrounded; vṛtam – and protected; daśabhiḥ dik-pālaiḥ – by the ten protectors of the directions (headed by Indra), who are of the nature of mantra; śobhitam – (that abode of Śvetadvīpa) is beautified; pārṣada-ṛṣabhaiḥ – by the Lord’s exalted associates; śyāmaiḥ – whose bodily hues are bluish black; gauraiḥ ca – and golden; raktaiḥ ca – and red; śuklaiḥ ca – and white; samantataḥ – and who are accompanied; tābhiḥ adbhutābhiḥ śaktibhiḥ – by their astonishing potencies (headed by Vimalā).
The identity of Gokula’s surrounding area is being presented. In the four directions beyond Gokula lies a wonderful, four-cornered place called Śvetadvīpa. Śvetadvīpa is divided into four sections in the four directions, and each section is the abode of one of the presiding deities: Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. These four abodes are adorned with the four objectives of life, namely religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation, and the causes of those four objectives, namely the four Vedas (Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva), which are composed of mantras. They are surrounded in eight directions and above and below by ten lances. The eight directions are ornamented with the eight jewels known as mahāpadma, padma, śaṅkha, makara, kacchapa, mukunda, kunda and nīla. Ten guardians in the form of mantras are present in the ten directions, which are all beautified by blackish, golden, red and white associates of Bhagavān, along with the host of wondrous potencies headed by Vimalā.
After the description of Gokula, its surrounding area is now being described in four verses. Beyond Gokula lies an exceedingly miraculous, four-cornered abode called Śvetadvīpa. Although only Śvetadvīpa is mentioned here, one should also understand it to be Goloka. Actually, Śvetadvīpa is also a term for Gokula. All places are within that region known as Śvetadvīpa or Gokula. The employment of yet another special nomenclature indicates that all locations are included within its jurisdiction. The interior region is Vṛndāvana. Different names such as Śvetadvīpa, Goloka, Gokula, Vṛndāvana, Vraja and so on are used because of the different meanings carried by the various names. This Śvetadvīpa which is the outer covering of Goloka is different from the Śvetadvīpa situated in Gokula, which will be described separately. Vṛndāvana-dhāma is within the quadrilateral realm.
For example, it is stated in Svāyambhuva-āgama: “dhyāyet tatra viśuddhātmā idaṁ sarvaṁ krameṇaiva – the sādhaka whose heart is pure will meditate on all of the following one after another.” Later, it is further stated: “vṛndāvanaṁ kusumitaṁ nānā-vṛkṣair vihaṅgamaiḥ saṁsmaret – one should meditate by remembering Śrī Vṛndāvana with its charming groves (kuñjas) and many varieties of trees. The trees are covered in fragrant, flowering vines and resound with the sweet singing of birds.”
Similarly, in the prayers of the personified Vedas to Śrī Bhagavān in the Vāmana Purāṇa, we find the following statement:
ānanda-rūpam iti yad
vidanti hi purā vidaḥ
yadi deyo varo hi naḥ
śrutvaitad darśayām āsa
gokulaṁ prakṛteḥ param
mātram akṣaram adhvagam
yatra vṛndāvanaṁ nāma
vanaṁ kāma-dughair drumaiḥ
“O Bhagavān, if You want to bestow a benediction upon us, then kindly grant us the boon that we may see the divine abode that the enlightened sages call ānandamaya-dhāma.”
Upon hearing this, Bhagavān blessed them with darśana of His supreme abode, Gokula, which is beyond the influence of material nature, known only by realization, and indestructible and absolute. In that supreme abode is a charming forest called Vṛndāvana, which is adorned with desire trees that completely fulfill all the desires of the devotees.
Beyond this Vṛndāvana is a four-cornered area divided into four sections, which are the individual abodes of the four forms known as catur-vyūha: Śrī Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. However, They are situated in aircraft above because They are performing pastimes that manifest Their divine opulence. Here hetu (the causes) indicates that They reign splendidly with dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, and that They are decorated with the guardians of the ten directions, headed by Indra, who are present in the form of their respective mantras. The four Vedas – Ṛg, Sāma, Yajur and Atharva – are also gracefully present in personified forms. That the Vedas have individual embodiments is confirmed by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, wherein it is stated that the personified Vedas offered prayers to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
In that abode Śrī Hari is resplendent with His sixteen potencies, headed by Vimalā-devī, as stated in Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta (3.129):
śrīr bhūḥ kīrtir ilā līlā
kāntir vidheti saptakam
The sixteen potencies are as follows: (1) Śrī, (2) Bhū, (3) Līlā, (4) Kānti, (5) Kīrti, (6) Tuṣṭi, (7) Gī, (8) Puṣṭi, (9) Satyā, (10) Jñānājñānā, (11) Jayā Utkarṣiṇī, (12) Vimalā, (13) Yogamāyā, (14) Prahvī, (15) Īśānā and (16) Anugraha.
Thus this planet is also called Goloka-dhāma. The following description can be found in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
nandas tv atīndriyaṁ dṛṣṭvā
kṛṣṇe ca sannatiṁ teṣāṁ
jñātibhyo vismito ’bravīt
te tv autsukya-dhiyo rājan
matvā gopās tam īśvaram
api naḥ svagatiṁ sūkṣmām
iti svānāṁ sa bhagavān
jano vai loka etasminn
na veda svāṁ gatiṁ bhraman
iti sañcintya bhagavān
darśayām āsa lokaṁ svaṁ
gopānāṁ tamasaḥ param
satyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ yad
yad dhi paśyanti munayo
te tu brahma-hradaṁ nītāḥ
magnāḥ kṛṣṇena coddhṛtāḥ
dadṛśur brahmaṇo lokaṁ
yatrākrūro ’dhyagāt purā
nandādayas tu taṁ dṛṣṭvā
kṛṣṇaṁ ca tatra cchandobhiḥ
When Nanda Mahārāja returned to Vraja from Varuṇaloka, he told his cowherd family and friends what had happened there. Hearing this incredible and astonishing account of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s greatness, they became extremely curious and amazed, and began to consider whether Śrī Kṛṣṇa could actually be the supreme controller, Parameśvara. They began to request Him to show them His incomprehensible transcendental abode.
Then Svayam Bhagavān, who sees everything, understood the desire of the cowherds and out of compassion He began to contemplate the fulfillment of their aspiration: “Conditioned souls take birth in higher and lower species such as demigods and animals as a result of the selfish material pursuits they perform out of ignorance. All these Vrajavāsīs are My nearest and dearest family members. Although they have descended to this material world, they consider themselves to be the same as the conditioned souls because they are totally absorbed in My sweet human-like pastimes. They are oblivious to their actual position.”
Pondering in this way, the immensely compassionate Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa granted the gopas a vision of His own realm, which is situated beyond the material nature.
This realm of Bhagavān is transcendental, immeasurable, real, self-effulgent, eternal and the embodiment of Brahman. Even the great sages who have attained a state of consciousness that is free from the three modes of material nature can see that place only in trance. Śrī Kṛṣṇa took the gopas to the place called Brahma-hrada, where Akrūra also had darśana of that supreme abode after immersing himself in the water. They saw that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was also there, and that the Vedas personified were offering prayers to Him. That loka was ultra-subtle, beyond mundane sense perception, and unintelligible to worldly thought processes. Upon seeing it, they were both utterly amazed and overwhelmed with joy.
In this narration, the word atīndriya means “that which has never been seen before.” The word svagatim means “His own abode,” which is thoroughly incomprehensible. Śrī Kṛṣṇa granted a vision of that otherwise incomprehensible realm. Why did He grant them darśana of this abode? Because the Vrajavāsīs are His nearest and dearest family members.
sārūpyaikatvam apy uta
dīyamānaṁ na gṛhṇanti
vinā mat-sevanaṁ janāḥ
Without service to Me, My devotees will not accept the forms of liberation known as sālokya (living on the same planet as the Lord), sārṣṭi (having similar opulence to the Lord), sāmīpya (always being near to the Lord) and sārūpya (having a similar form to the Lord) – what to speak of impersonal liberation – even if they are offered to them.
Just as the word janāḥ in the above verse is understood to mean nija-jana (His own people), similarly the word jana in the previously quoted verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.28.13) also indicates nija-jana. It would be inconsistent to accept the word to refer to anyone else. Above all others, Śrī Kṛṣṇa considers the residents of Vraja to be His kith and kin, and He has personally confirmed this fact (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.25.18):
tasmān mac-charaṇaṁ goṣṭhaṁ
so ’yaṁ me vrata āhitaḥ
This community of cowherds is under My shelter. I am the patron of these Vrajavāsīs. I personally use My own power and prowess to protect those whom I have accepted as My closest family members, intimate relatives and bosom friends. This is My steadfast vow.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa further considers, “Simply due to ignorance, the living entities in this universe, which is composed of five gross elements, attain various destinations in higher and lower species, such as demigods and animals. The Vrajavāsīs consider themselves to be in the same category, and thus they could not understand their own situation. They have forgotten their own constitutional status. Their knowledge of My opulence has become concealed because of their absorption in My unique, sweet human-like pastimes.”
This is also illustrated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.11.58):
iti nandādayo gopāḥ
kurvanto ramamāṇāś ca
Nanda Mahārāja and all the Vrajavāsīs always used to enjoy talking about Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. By doing so, they would become so overwhelmed with bliss that they never felt the distress of material existence.
Material qualities such as ignorance and self-centered fruitive activities could never touch the Vrajavāsīs, for the influence of ignorance is only exerted upon the conditioned jīvas who are indifferent to Kṛṣṇa, not upon the personal associates of Bhagavān.
From the expression gopānāṁ svaṁ lokam in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.28.14),13 it is clear that Śrī Kṛṣṇa had granted the Vrajavāsīs a vision of His divine abode, Goloka, which is beyond the illusory material nature in all respects. That abode is the manifest expression of the internal potency, which is indivisible and self-effulgent, and the eternally true embodiment of infinite existence, consciousness and bliss. Although it is extremely difficult to see this abode, Śrī Kṛṣṇa mercifully granted them a vision of it.
It is a matter of sheer wonderment to have such a darśana of Goloka while being in Vṛndāvana-dhāma on this earth. How was it possible? In answer to this question, it has been said that Śrī Kṛṣṇa had taken the Vrajavāsīs headed by Nanda Mahārāja to Brahma-hrada, otherwise known as Akrūra-tīrtha, and instructed them to immerse themselves in Brahma-hrada. They dipped under the water once. Then, on Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s request, they dipped under again several times, and each time Śrī Kṛṣṇa granted them darśana of a different loka. In the end He granted them a vision of Brahma-dhāma, His greatest transcendental abode, Goloka.
It is also stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.5.39): “mūrdhabhiḥ satyalokas tu brahmalokaḥ sanātanaḥ – above the head of Satyaloka lies the eternal Brahmaloka.”
Here one may raise the question, “Other sections of Vaikuṇṭha are also called Brahmaloka, so which Brahmaloka is this one?” In response to this it is said, “In Brahma-hrada, Akrūra had a vision of the Brahmaloka that is the highest abode of Goloka.14 Śrī Kṛṣṇa had granted the darśana of His supreme abode there especially to indicate the glories of that holy place of pilgrimage.”
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartipāda has expressed the following opinion in his commentary on the previously mentioned verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.28.10–17): “In order to make the Vrajavāsīs realize the superexcellent sweetness of the eternal abode of Vṛndāvana, the most compassionate Śrī Kṛṣṇa first showed them the realm of impersonal liberation, Brahmaloka. Then He granted them a vision of Vaikuṇṭhaloka, which is superior to that Brahmaloka. Finally, He granted them darśana of the superlative abode, Goloka-dhāma. In other words, Śrī Kṛṣṇa submerged those Vrajavāsīs in impersonal liberation by immersing them in Brahma-hrada, and from there He lifted them up to have darśana of the spiritual abode, Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma, by His inconceivable potency.”
In this way, the immensely merciful master of all saved His devotees from the dire calamity of impersonal liberation, and made them taste the happiness of Vaikuṇṭha. The feeling of loving happiness in Vaikuṇṭha is superior to the happiness derived from the impersonal Brahman, which is completely devoid of love. Furthermore, the love-laden happiness of Goloka surpasses even the happiness of Vaikuṇṭha.
taṁ vaikuṇṭha-lokaṁ dṛṣtvātu paramānanda-nivrtāḥ vaikuṇṭhīya-golokasya vṛndāvanasya vṛndāvana-sādharmyaṁ darśanād iti bhāvaḥ
Those Vrajavāsīs saw Vaikuṇṭhaloka and felt the highest bliss, because the Vaikuṇṭha planet of which they had darśana was actually the Goloka of the Vaikuṇṭha realm or spiritual sky. This seems to be the same as Vṛndāvana, due to the features that they have in common, but they are not one and the same place. A millionaire becomes severely aggrieved upon losing his wealth, and overjoyed if he somehow retrieves it again. Similarly, the Vrajavāsīs were restless in Brahmaloka and Vaikuṇṭhaloka, because they were unable to see their Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose face is like a lotus flower, and to whom they offer ārati with the lamp of their lives millions of times over. Calling out, “Where, oh where, is our darling Kṛṣṇa?” they were becoming increasingly anxious. However, when they came to Goloka, they did see Kṛṣṇa there. “Aho!” they exclaimed, “There’s Kṛṣṇa!” They began to approach Him, but what they saw when they drew nearer to Him took them by surprise. “Aho! What kind of place have we come to? There are radiant, divine beings here offering reverent hymns to Kṛṣṇa. They look just like our old acquaintances, but we cannot call to mind exactly who they are. We also feel hesitant to inquire from them. The most surprising thing is that Kṛṣṇa, who is sitting in their midst, is not expressing His mood of childhood as He did before. Even upon seeing His father and elder relatives, He is not coming to us and putting His arms around our necks. And what’s more, we are also hesitant to go to Him and take Him in our laps. Why is He not feeling any hunger and thirst today? How will His mother live without feeding Him?”
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa saw their reactions, His pastime potency inspired Yogamāyā to lift the depressed Vrajavāsīs up from that realm of Goloka, and deliver them back to Vṛndāvana (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.28.16–17).
Furthermore, it is stated in the Harivaṁśa, in the narration concerning Indra (2.19.29):
svargād ūrdhvaṁ brahmaloko
tatra somagatiś caiva
jyotiṣāṁ ca mahātmanām
nighnatopadravān gavām… etc.
In the celestial sphere above Svarga lies the world called Brahmaloka, which is attended by the sages known as brahmarṣis. That place is the destination of Candra and the powerful mahātmās. Above that region lies the planet of the cows, Goloka, which is protected by perfected personalities. That great, all-pervading realm is situated in a vast sky. Your (Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s) radiant refuge is considered to lie even above that. Although we inquired from Pitāmaha Brahmājī about this radiant refuge, we are still incapable of knowing it. Personalities who are endowed with qualities such as control of the mind and senses, and who are dedicated to pious activities, attain Svargaloka. The adherents of impersonal knowledge, who are incessantly engaged in the austerities associated with the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth, attain Brahmaloka. However, it is extremely difficult to ascend to the planet of the cows, Goloka. O almighty Śrī Kṛṣṇa, O self-manifest and equipoised Lord, You are capable of accomplishing anything. When this world was in a crisis, You upheld it and relieved the cows from their calamity.
In this context, if we take the meaning of “calamity” in the general sense, it would be unreasonable to interpret Brahmaloka as the planet that lies above Svargaloka. After deep deliberation, it must be understood that the Brahmaloka described in this quotation is in every way transcendental to the three mundane planetary systems. The moon has no access to that realm, what to speak of the other celestial bodies that are all situated beneath Dhruvaloka. Furthermore, the phrase sādhyāḥ pālayanti indicates that this Brahmaloka is protected by perfected personalities (sādhyas). However, this is also unreasonable because the sādhyas are included within the species of demigods. The sādhyas cannot even protect Svargaloka, so how can they protect Goloka? From every angle this interpretation is impossible.
This passage continues, “The aforementioned planet, which is also famous by the name of Surabhīloka, is all-pervading.” This statement also seems to be inappropriate. Just as Śrī Bhagavān’s form is all-pervading by the power of His inconceivable energy, similarly His planet is also all-pervading. This is not possible for any planet other than the planet of Bhagavān. Here in the statement of Indra, pṛcchanto ’pi, the word api has been used to indicate extreme astonishment: “Aho! How amazing it is that, although we inquired about this subject from Pitāmaha Brahmājī, we still cannot understand it.” Surabhīloka is said to be within the universe, and hence it is neither fully transcendental, nor can it be the topmost planet. Therefore the Surabhīloka in this world is distinct from Goloka, which is transcendental to everything material, being the superexcellent form of Śrī Bhagavān’s planet. In the Mokṣa-dharma-nārāṇanīya-upākhyāna, Śrī Bhagavān Himself states:
evaṁ bahu-vidhai rūpaiś
brahma-lokaṁ ca kaunteya
golokaṁ ca sanātanam
O son of Kuntī! I wander upon this earth in many forms. In addition to this, I also roam perpetually in the eternal abodes, Brahmaloka and Goloka Vṛndāvana.
Therefore the verse svargād ūrdhvaṁ brahma-lokaḥ, nighnatopadravān gavām is properly understood as follows. The word svargāt in this verse refers to Goloka Vṛndāvana. In the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhūrloka, Bhuvarloka and Svargaloka are described as the lotus feet, the navel and the head, respectively, of the imaginary universal form. From Svarga to Satyaloka there are five planetary systems: Svarga, Mahar, Janas, Tapas and Satya. Above these five planetary systems is the chief Svarga, or in other words the spiritual Brahmaloka, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge and bliss that lies beyond the insentient material energy. The term Brahmaloka is used to indicate the planet of Bhagavān. It is also stated in the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that the eternal Brahmaloka lies above the head of Satyaloka, the topmost planet within this material world. Therefore the correct interpretation of the term Brahmaloka in this context is “the eternal and primeval Vaikuṇṭhaloka.” It is not a material place within this created universe.
This is confirmed in the śruti. This Brahmaloka is also known as Ātmaloka, the eternal planet of Bhagavān. It is served by the brahmarṣis including Brahmājī, the personified Vedas, the ṛṣis headed by Nārada, Śrī Garuḍa, and the Lord’s other associates headed by Viṣvaksena. This description of the personalities who are eternally sheltered there acts as an indication of the qualifications required to go to that realm. The Soma who resides there is not the moon; rather, this Soma refers to Śrī Śiva. This place is his desired destination, because Śrī Śiva himself states in the Rudra-gītā of the Fourth Canto, “That person who performs his dharma unflinchingly for one hundred births attains the position of Brahmā. Those who have performed even more pious activities can attain my position, the position of Śiva. But a living entity born in an ordinary family who renders service to Bhagavān even for a very short time becomes a Vaiṣṇava, and attains the supreme abode that I desire to attain after giving up this position of Śiva.”
The word jyotiṣām in the previously quoted verse from the Harivaṁśa refers to that Brahman into which persons desire to merge. This Brahmaloka is extremely difficult to attain, even for liberated saints who have realized Brahman. That abode is only attained by great souls such as the four Kumāras headed by Sanaka, as well as other jñānīs who have attained prema-bhakti, all of whom render devotional service to Bhagavān with an utter disregard for impersonal liberation. For example, it is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.14.5):
muktānām api siddhānāṁ
koṭiṣv api mahā-mune
O great sage, one among many millions of liberated persons may attain perfection, and among many perfected beings, one may become fully devoted to Nārāyaṇa; and among billions of such personalities one who is fully peaceful and self-satisfied is extremely rare.
Bhagavān has also stated in Bhagavad-gītā (6.47):
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
Amongst all yogīs, the best is he who is fully dedicated to Me, Śrī Vāsudeva, and who serves Me with great faith. This is My definite opinion.
Herein we find described the greatness of those devotees who render loving service with immovable faith. The word mahat (in the verse from the Harivaṁśa) refers to those personalities who are possessed of the highest prema. Only they attain Goloka.
Above Brahmaloka is gavāṁ loka, in other words Goloka-dhāma. It is said that this planet is served by sādhyas. Here sādhya refers to the original forms upon which the forms of the demigods within the material world are based. They are eternal associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa who serve in Goloka in the capacity of guardians of the directions.
It is also confirmed in the śruti that this excellent place is known as Svargaloka, and that it is the residence of all the sādhyas and devatās. In this case, Svargaloka refers to Goloka-dhāma, where all the original forms of the demigods reside and render service to Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It does not refer to the mundane Svargaloka where Indra and other demigods reside.
In Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, in a description of Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha Goloka-dhāma, it is stated that this supremely glorious Goloka-dhāma is the residence of the eternal devatās, viśvedevas and sādhyas, who have immense beauty, and whose sight invokes auspiciousness.
In Brahmājī’s prayers in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.34), we find that he also hankers to take birth in Gokula: tad-bhūri-bhāgyam iha janma kim apy aṭavyāṁ yad gokule ’pi. Great devotees of the caliber of four-headed Brahmā also take birth there as immobile trees or creepers, and pray to receive the foot-dust of the gopas and gopīs. Therefore Goloka-dhāma is famous for being superior to all other abodes. Just as Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa exists everwhere, Goloka-dhāma is also all-pervading, for it simultaneously pervades all material and spiritual universes. It is also mentioned in śāstra that the attainment of Goloka is the final destination among the progressive stages of liberation.
It is described in the Second Canto that Brahmā, who sits upon a lotus flower, saw Vaikuṇṭhaloka. Similarly the Vrajavāsīs also saw Goloka in which opulence predominates. This Goloka-dhāma is great; indeed, it is a form of Bhagavān, as stated in śruti, mahāntaṁ vibhum ātmānam.
This deliberation arises because several terms – such as mahākāśa, brahma and paravyoma – have been used in descriptions of Goloka. For example, Goloka has been described as mahākāśa (the great sky) in the Vedānta-sūtra code ākāśas tal-liṅgāt.
The phrase tad-gataḥ indicates the attainment of one’s spiritual form, and consequently the attainment of this supreme abode. For example, Ajāmila also attained Vaikuṇṭha after being awarded his spiritual form. The significance is that Bhagavān’s names, form, qualities, pastimes and abode are all transcendental. Consequently, upon attaining one’s svarūpa, one also attains Bhagavān’s abode.
In Goloka-dhāma, which shines victoriously far above all other planets, Śrī Kṛṣṇa sports in the form of Govinda. The place wherein Śrī Kṛṣṇa revels in His pleasure pastimes in the form of Govinda is by no means ordinary; it is tapomayī. The word tapaḥ (austerity) should be accepted in the sense of boundless and indivisible opulence. The same interpretation of the word tapaḥ is found in the commentary on Śrī Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma-stotram in relation to the phrase paramaṁ yo mahat-tapaḥ. The śruti statement satayo ’tapyata pertains to Parameśvara. Its meaning is, “That Parameśvara has manifested aiśvarya.” Therefore Goloka is extremely difficult to attain, even for Brahmā.
This planet has been described in various places as Brahmaloka, Vaikuṇṭha, Mahā-Nārāyaṇaloka, Paravyoma, Mahākāśa and so on, which are all originally names only for Goloka. Just as the attainment of Brahmaloka is possible only for a person whose mind is perfectly controlled, similarly only a premamaya-bhakta (one who worships Śrī Viṣṇu – meaning Śrī Kṛṣṇa – with undivided attention) can know this planet Goloka. Śruti also confirms this: yasya jñānamayaṁ tapaḥ. Here the word Brahmaloka means Vaikuṇṭha, the word parā means “transcendental to material nature,” and gavām refers to all the residents of Vraja including the trees, vines, cows, cowherds and gopīs. Moreover, nighnatopadravān gavām means that Kṛṣṇa dispels all the miseries of the residents of Vraja. What are their miseries?
They are described in the Yugala-gītā of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.35.25) by the gopīs in their mood of separation: “mocayan vraja-gavāṁ dina-tāpam – our dearmost Śyāmasundara is returning to drive away the intolerable affliction of separation that all the residents of Vraja have suffered throughout the day in His absence.” This is the meaning of His dispelling the calamities that befall the Vrajavāsīs. The Vrajavāsis’ affection for Śrī Kṛṣṇa is natural. One who is inspired by their loving moods must practice sādhana continuously in order to attain an emotional attachment just like theirs. Only then can this extremely rare loving attachment that is found in Vraja be attained. Thus, such a destination is extraordinarily uncommon.
After the description of Goloka, now in the phrase beginning with sa tu, there is an explanation of the non-difference between Goloka and Gokula: “He protected the Vrajavāsīs by holding up the mountain Govardhana.” The same version is found in Śrī Nārāyaṇīyopākhyāna of Mokṣa-dharma, wherein Śrī Bhagavān personally states, “O son of Kuntī, I wander throughout the universe in many forms. I roam throughout Brahmaloka, eternal Goloka, and also in Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana Gokula.” It is also stated in the Mṛtyuñjaya-tantra: “According to His own independent desire, He established Vaikuṇṭha from the Mahākāśa (spiritual sky) upon the surface of the earth in the form of Gokula, and made successful very great festivals such as the rāsa-līlā with the gopīs. This type of festival is the very heart of bhakti, and it bestows pure transcendental love upon the faithful.”
Nārada-pañcarātra contains the following description in the history of Vijaya: “In Goloka-dhāma, which exists above all other abodes, the incomparable supremely blissful hero known as Govinda delights in the abode of Gokula.” This is also confirmed in the Ṛg Veda (1.154.6) as follows:
tā vāṁ vāstūny uśmasi gamadhyai
yatra gāvo bhūri-śṛṅgā ayāsaḥ
atrāha tad urugāyasya kṛṣṇaḥ
paramaṁ padam avabhāti bhūri
In the first line the word tāḥ means “all,” vām means “of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa,” vāstūni means “the pastime places of Gokula,” gamadhyai means “to attain,” and uśmasi means “we desire.”
What is the nature of those līlā-sthalīs? Very excellent and beautiful horned cows are found there. Here the word bhūri not only means that the cows have very excellent horns; it also means that they are endowed with great prosperity. These cows, which are endowed with all auspicious symptoms, are kāma-dhenus, who are capable of satisfying all desires of all people. The word ayāsaḥ found here is defined in the Amara-koṣa as meaning “auspiciousness,” and devāsa as meaning “you are.” Thus Goloka is renowned in Bhū-maṇḍala, in Vaikuṇṭha and in the Vedas. This Goloka-dhāma is in many ways as famous and as transcendental to the material nature as the much-famed Śrī Bhagavān.
In the śruti, the mādhyandinīya portion of the Yajur Veda mentions: “dhāmāny uśmasīti iti viṣṇoḥ paramaṁ padam avabhāti bhūri – we desire to attain that Goloka-dhāma, which is the svarūpa of Śrī Viṣṇu’s supreme abode.” In addition there are many other statements from the śāstra that establish the same essential conclusion.
The supreme abode, Gokula, is the prominent seat or shelter of prema-bhakti. Therefore all the places of the manifestation of Vraja in the material world (Bhauma-Vraja), such as Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Govardhana and the Yamunā, are gracefully present there. Besides this, the complete opulence of Vaikuṇṭha expands to the fullest extent in all directions. The original quadruple pastime expansion called ādi-catur-vyūha (Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha) and other such manifestations are present there in their appropriate situations. This catur-vyūha is partially manifest as the catur-vyūha of Vaikuṇṭha, who in turn manifests the unlimited realm of Vaikuṇṭha. The liberation attained in Vaikuṇṭha, and the three objectives attained in the material world – namely religiosity, economic development and sense gratification – are also appropriately situated in Gokula (Goloka) in their original root forms. The Vedas are present there in their personified forms as well, and are deeply absorbed in singing about the qualities of the master of Gokula.
The endeavors of those who try to attain that Goloka-dhāma solely by their own contemplation and meditation, without attaining the favor of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, are utterly futile. This is because it is surrounded on all sides by ten formidable spears to check anyone from entering. These ten spears bestow hopelessness on those desiring to enter illegally. Proud persons who attempt to go to that topmost planet by means of the paths of yoga and jñāna are also pierced by those spears, and are forced to return defeated. Nirvāṇa is worthy of a position in Brahma-dhāma (the destination of impersonal liberation), but not in Goloka. This impersonal liberation has been called the spears (śūla) which form the outer covering of Goloka. The meaning of the word śūla comes from triśūla, or trident. Triśūla is comprised of the three material qualities and also the three divisions of time: past, present and future.
In this way, whatever aspirations the aṣṭāṅga-yogīs and the monistic brahma-jñānīs hold for progress toward Goloka are cut to shreds on the tridents situated in the ten directions, and they fall into the ditch of unmitigated dejection. When those traveling in the direction of Goloka along the path of bhakti in the mood of opulence make some progress on their journey, they see the eight perfections of mystic yoga headed by aṇimā-siddhi, and the treasures headed by mahāpadma, and they become attracted to them. Thus, they stop in Vaikuṇṭha, which is of the nature of an outer covering of Śrī Goloka. Those whose intelligence is even less refined are defeated by the guardians of the ten directions who exist in the form of mantras, and return again to the seven planetary systems within the material universe.
Therefore, Goloka-dhāma is an incomprehensible and impenetrable realm, which is easily accessible only through pure prema-bhakti. The preacher of yuga-dharma, who is the sum total of all avatāras of Bhagavān, remains there eternally in order to bestow mercy upon the devotees who arrive there after traversing the path of śuddha-prema-bhakti. There He is surrounded by eternal associates in accordance with His complexion, mood and other specific features. That dhāma in Gokula (the inner region of Goloka), called Śvetadvīpa, is His abode.
For this reason, Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, who is the incarnation of Vyāsa, has described Śvetadvīpa thus: “śvetadvīpa nāma, navadvīpa grāma – the pastimes of Navadvīpa-dhāma, which are supplementary to gokula-līlā, are eternally present in the center of that Śvetadvīpa.” Therefore Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, Vraja-maṇḍala and Goloka are one undivided reality. They are perceived in a variety of forms only because they are illuminated by an unlimited number of special ecstatic sentiments arising from the variegated nature of prema.
There is yet another confidential truth that is understood directly only by the most realized premi-bhaktas, through the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In the mundane world there is a sequence of upper and lower planetary systems totaling fourteen in all. The householders who are dedicated to prescribed duties performed for the sake of fulfilling material desires transmigrate within the three planetary systems Bhūr, Bhuvar and Svar. Peaceful personalities who are fixed in their great vows of celibacy, austerity and truthfulness are elevated to the spheres of Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka and up as far as Satyaloka, by engaging in their duties without any desire to enjoy the fruit of their activities. In the highest part of that planetary system is the planet of the four-headed Brahmā, and above that lies the Vaikuṇṭhaloka of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. The paramahaṁsa sannyāsīs and the demons killed by Bhagavān Śrī Hari cross beyond the Virajā; that is, they cross beyond the fourteen planetary systems of this mortal world, and attain monistic liberation by immersing the individual existence of their selves in the light of Brahma-dhāma.
The jñāni-bhaktas, who are fond of Bhagavān’s supreme opulence, the śuddha-bhaktas, premi-bhaktas, premapara-bhaktas and premātura-bhaktas attain positions in Vaikuṇṭha, which is the transcendental abode of Nārāyaṇa also known as Paravyoma.17 The only devotees who attain Goloka-dhāma are those who are absorbed in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s supremely sweet, human-like feature, following the mood prevalent in Vraja. By the influence of His inconceivable potency, such devotees who are fully intent on entering these sweet, humanlike pastimes are situated in different positions corresponding to the gradations found between the individual rasas.
The devotees who exclusively follow the pure and transcendental mood of Vraja make their residences in Kṛṣṇaloka, while those who exclusively follow the mood of Navadvīpa make their residences in Gauraloka. The devotees who are equally dedicated to the bhāvas of Vraja-dhāma and Navadvīpa-dhāma take up residence simultaneously in both Kṛṣṇaloka and Gauraloka, and attain the happiness of divine loving service in both places at once. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has stated in Śrī Gopāla-campū:
yasya khalu lokasya golokas tathā go-gopāvāsa-rūpasya śvetadvīpatayā cānanya-spṛṣṭaḥ parama-śuddhatā-samudbuddha-svarūpasya tādṛśa-jñānamaya-katipaya-mātra-prameya-pātratayā tat-tat-paramatā matā, parama-golokaḥ paramaḥ śvetadvīpa iti.
That supreme planet is called Goloka because it is the residence of the cows (go) and the cowherds (gopa). This is the prominent location of the rāsa-līlā, which is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s very self. That topmost realm is also known as Śvetadvīpa in the form of the primary place for relishing the rasa of several varieties of spiritual sentiments, which are of exactly the same sort of inconceivable nature. It is an exceptionally pure manifestation, for it is untouched by associates possessed of other types of bhāva. Thus, these two svarūpas of Parama-Goloka and Parama-Śvetadvīpa exist in the undivided form of Goloka-dhāma.
The fundamental purport of this statement is that, even after tasting His own pastimes in the form of vraja-līlā, Kṛṣṇa had not attained the happiness derived from relishing rasa completely. Therefore, Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa accepted the internal mood and golden luster of Śrī Rādhikā, who is the supermost abode of kṛṣṇa-rasa. The compartment (prakoṣṭha) of Goloka where He eternally manifests the pastime of completely tasting rasa to the superlative degree is called Śvetadvīpa. The special bhāva mentioned here has been described thus:
śrī-rādhāyāḥ praṇaya-mahimā kīdṛśo vānayaivā-
svādyo yenādbhuta-madhurimā kīdṛśo vā madīyaḥ
saukhyaṁ cāsyā mad-anubhavataḥ kīdṛśaṁ veti lobhāt
tad-bhāvāḍhyaḥ samajani śacī-garbha-sindhau harīnduḥ
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.6)
“How great is the deeply intense love (praṇaya) of Śrī Rādhā? What is the nature of My astonishing sweetness, which She alone relishes? And what special kind of happiness does She experience on tasting My sweetness?” A greed to taste these three things arose within the heart of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and to fulfill that intense desire, He took birth from the womb of Śrī Śacīmātā like the moon appearing from the ocean.
Thus, the profound intention hidden within the aforementioned Gopāla-campū verse of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has been illuminated in the above verse. In the Vedas it has also been stated:
“rahasyaṁ te vadiṣyāmi” – jāhnavī-tīre navadvīpe golokākhye dhāmni govindo dvi-bhujo gauraḥ sarvātmā mahāpuruṣo mahātmā mahāyogī triguṇātītaḥ sattva-svarūpo bhaktiṁ loke kāśyatīti. tad ete ślokā bhavanti – eko devaḥ sarva-rūpī mahātmā gaura-rakta-śyāmala-śveta-rūpaś caitanyātma. sa vai caitanya-śaktir bhaktākāro bhaktido bhakti-vedyaḥ
Listen! I am about to disclose a deep mystery to you. In that Navadvīpa-dhāma, also known as Goloka, on the bank of the Jāhnavī River, Gaura-Govinda, the two-handed embodiment of pure existence, manifests pure bhakti for the sake of delivering the living entities who are ensnared in the chain of repeated birth and death. He is all-pervading and beyond the influence of the three modes of nature. He is the Supreme Personality, the best yogī and the greatest ātmā. That one divinity, the embodiment of all divine forms, the Supreme Soul, appears as the golden, red, black and white yuga-avatāras. He is the complete consciousness, and He is endowed with spiritual potency. He appears in the form of a devotee, He bestows bhakti and He is understood only through bhakti.
There is much scriptural evidence that establishes the non- difference of Śrī Gauracandra (Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu) and Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra: e.g. āsan varṇās trayaḥ, kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇam, yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇam and mahān prabhur vai. In His eternal form as Śrī Gaurahari in Navadvīpa, He is absorbed in tasting the rasa of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s Goloka pastimes. This has been certified by the Vedic mantras cited on the previous page. Just as by the influence of Yogamāyā, the original form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa takes birth in the earthly Gokula and performs pastimes of infancy, boyhood and adolescence, so the original form of Śrī Gaura is similarly endowed with such pastimes in the earthly Navadvīpa, beginning with His birth from the womb of Śrī Śacīmātā. This fundamental truth is an axiomatic principle realized by the faculty of pure transcendental cognition. It is not a figment of the imagination, or a contemplation induced by the illusory energy.