Understanding Rasa-lila 6 – Gopi-gita 2
[Bhagavatam class at ISKCON, Denver, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Understanding Rasa-lila 6 – Gopi-gita 2
We are continuing our discussion on the Gopi Gita. In various ways the gopis are begging to Lord Krishna to reappear in front of them. Here they are offering their prayers in a way that might appear sensual but is actually transcendental. The gopis in the previous verses prayed to Krishna, “If you think that we are proud, then just your appearing before us and revealing your smile to us can destroy our pride.” Then the gopis say to Krishna, “If you think that we have come to you because of lust and our own desire for pleasure and not out of a desire to serve you, then also O Lord, you have to power to remove that lust from our hearts.” Then the Lord says, “O part! Why should I remove it.” The gopis said, “Because you have that potency. That whatever sinful reactions or desires are there in a person’s heart can be removed by offering obeisance’s to your lotus feet.” So, pap can refer to sinful desires or sinful actions, and it can also refer to sinful reactions. All of these can be removed by the Lord if we surrender to him. That is the potency of his lotus feet. So, the gopis said, “You have the potency.” And they say, “It is so amazing that this lotus feet are actually following the cows.” The cows when they go to the forest, Krishna goes after them. So, the gopi’s are contemplating that those lotus feet which has such potency of freeing everyone from sinful reactions, they are acting as simply the servants of the cows and following the cows. Krishna is the cowherd; not that he takes the cows but the cows also take him. When the cows want to go in a particular direction for grazing and if there is no danger, then Krishna allows them to go there. That they are following the cows. There can be so many cowherds in the world. What is so special about Krishna being a cowherd? Because he is Sriniketanam; he is actually the Lord of the goddess of fortune. Those lotus feet are marked by the symbols of the goddess of fortune. It is he who is so opulent that he is doing this humble act of following the cows and of herding the cows, and we may say that the cows are devotees of Krishna, and that’s why Krishna is following them. The logic is, “Krishna please come back.” So, the gopis are saying, “Krishna! Please come back. If at all there is lust in our hearts you remove that lust.” Krishna says, “Why should I remove it?” then the gopis say, “Because you can purify us, and you give mercy even to the cows when you follow them, although you are the Lord of the goddess of fortune. The gopis said, “The cows are great devotees. O Krishna, it is you who give your lotus feet even to those who are not devotees; that you offered your lotus feet to the serpent Kalia.” It is interesting that Kalia didn’t feel that what was being given to him was like an offering, but it was like a thunderous assault on his many fangs. But the gopis are seeing in a devotional way. Actually whether Krishna’s lotus feet are placed gently on someone’s head or they are stamping on someone’s head, still it is the lotus feet that is touching somebody’s head, and that person is being benedicted. So, although Krishna danced on the hood of Kalia, and for him it was painful, but still it was also a great blessing. The gopis pray, “So, even if being as envious as a snake, you gave your lotus feet to Kali, then why don’t you give it to us O Krishna! You feel that our hearts are filled with lusty desires for you? Please place your lotus feet on our heart and all that lust will be destroyed. Krishna! You are so merciful that you mercifully purify even the envy in the hearts of the envious beings like the snake Kalia. Then please purify the lust that is there in our hearts. Therefore, please appear.” So, the Lord has the potency to purify everyone, and if his presence is invoked, then whatever impurity is there within us will get purified. Krishna gives his mercy to everyone. Generally, Krishna is referred to as Bhaktavatsala or one who is the lover of his devotees. But Prahlad Maharaj refers to the Lord also as Kripan Vatsala; Kripa are those who are miserly, materialistic and ignorant. Krishna loves even them. He is the lover of everyone. He is Kripanavatsala. Therefore, he can; even if we are unqualified and are having our worldly desires, still Krishna has the potency to purify us. So, our worldly desires don’t necessarily keep us away from Krishna if we don’t keep him away. That means that we may have our worldly desires, but still we should pray to Krishna, “Krishna, please I want to love you and serve you, please purify me.” Our worldly desires can’t keep us away from Krishna as long as we don’t keep him away from us. If we make our worldly desires such that because of them we go away from Krishna, then it becomes a problem. Now of course the gopi’s do not have worldly desires because they are transcendental, but they are just using different forms of rhetoric over here to say to Krishna, “Please come back.” Like we discussed earlier, the gopis don’t even have pride, but the gopis are saying, “If we have pride you come and destroy the pride. If we have lust, then you come and destroy the lust.” So, here the gopis are acknowledging the immense purifying potency of Krishna; that he can purge us of all our lower desires. And now they talk about the beauty of Krishna, “Krishna! Your voice is very sweet and even the words that you speak are very charming.” There are two distinct attributes: some people may have a sweet voice but the content of their speech maybe very harsh. Some people maybe speaking very sweetly but they may have a grating harsh voice. But Krishna has a sweet voice and what he speaks with that sweet voice is also sweet. Some people are said to be sweet talkers. That means that they talk sweetly and they deceive others, and people who are not very careful or intelligent are taken away by the sweet talkers. But Krishna is not like that. Krishna’s sweet talking is such that not just foolish people get attracted to sweet talkers who are deceptive; that even the wisest get attracted to Krishna. The wisest people who long to hear a few nectarlike dropping from Krishna’s mouth – the words of the Bhagavad-gita have been cherished by some of the greatest and scholars in the bhakti tradition because such is the potency of the words coming from Krishna. So, when we take darshan of Krishna, and especially say if we memorize some verses from the Bhagavad-gita – by taking darshan of Krishna we can visualize that it is same lips through which Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna says, “Sarvadharman paritajya mam ekam sharanam vraja.” So, it was the same Lord, and with these very same lips he spoke these words calling us to surrender to him. He charmed the hearts even of wise people. The gopis say “Not only is your speech beautiful, but your eyes are beautiful O lotus eyed Lord, and therefore your speech is so great.” Then they say, “O my dear Lord, this nectar that you distribute from your lips; please come and distribute it to us so that we will be revived.” When we love someone, we long to hear even their voice. Sometimes when we have very close relationship with some devotee or friend and they are very far away from us, and we call them and we talk with them, just hearing their voice itself is so pleasing. So, they are saying, “Krishna, please come back. Let us hear your voice, let us hear your speech, that will revive us.” This is the way they are telling Krishna, “We are longing for you. Without you we cannot live. If there is any other reason because of which you have gone away – if it is because of our lust or pride or if there is some other reason you come and tell us that reason. You come and you speak. Your voice and your words will revive our life. O Krishna, please come back, come back, come back.” That is the intense prayer.
Arrows can go in different directions, whereas a spiral moved round and round and moves towards a particular point. So, these prayers of the gopi’s are like a spiral which is moving forward. They are using different forms of reasoning and arguments but different specific arguments are advancing towards one particular line of thought, “O Krishna! Please come back.” They are saying, “Krishna! Your voice alone can revive us. Nothing else can. Please come back.”
There is a famous verse which Caitanya Mahaprabhu would like to hear and it was quoted by Ramananda Roy. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in the Ratha Yatra resting, they are saying, “Your words and your pastimes are like a nectar and we are all burning and afflicted in the material existence. Normally if it is very hot and if we are in a desert, then our throat will be parched and we will be desperately longing for some water. If at that time somebody comes and gives us some water it so relishing, but if somebody gives us nectar, that it is even more relishable. Nectar means that we will feel so satisfied.”
Mukunda Mala Strotra is a book composed by the great devotee king named Kulasekhar Maharja, and in that the king says, “That tongue which glorifies Krishna showers nectar wherever it goes; that tongue is like a cloud. He says, “Cloud showers down water. Similarly, the tongue that glorifies Narayan showers down nectar on everyone.” So, we see that the connection with this verse with the overflow is a little intricate. Let’s look at the verse first – “Those who are suffering in the material existence, when they hear about your katha, then their longing, craving and distress goes away, because hearing of Krishna gives us such sublime joy that we feel that we don’t need anything else. Then all the cravings and worries go away. So, the great sages transmit this Krishna Katha. That means that Krishna Katha is like a treasure and Prabhupada gives the example, “I am simply a postman and I am simply delivering the cheque to you. That is meant for you.” Similarly, Krishna katha is innately nectarine and those who speak about it are transmitting it – Kavhi bhir. The great saintly teachers in the Bhakti tradition have generation after generation transmitted this supreme Krishna katha, and kalmashapaham- this Krishna katha has the potency to destroy all the contaminations in the heart and it is filled with auspicious power.
Generally hearing Krishna katha has two things for us: it removes our attachment to this world and it increases our attachment to Krishna, and in this way, it has auspicious powers. And those who wander across the earth speaking this Krishna katha, they are showering nectar on the parched desert like hearts of people who are living with a materialistic consciousness. By so doing they are actually bringing the greatest auspiciousness and doing the greatest welfare work. The verse itself seems to be saying that Krishna katha is extremely potent and purifying and those who transmit this Krishna katha across the world are great well-wishers of every one. What has this got to do with the context of this verse? That is, the gopis are praying to Krishna, “Please come back.” In the previous verse they said, “Please revive us with the nectar coming from your lips.” But here they are saying, “O Krishna, just as your devotees revive those who are afflicted by speaking your katha, similarly you O Lord, manifest and revive us.” The gopis are saying here, “If your katha is so purifying and so potent, then how much more potent will your personal presence be? Therefore, O Krishna, please come before us and purify us.” Prabhupada explains that Krishna is manifested through Krishna katha; that Rukmini used to hear about Krishna regularly, and by hearing about Krishna, her attraction for Krishna grew, and as her attraction to Krishna grew, then gradually her desire for having her Lord became so strong that there was nothing that could stop her from calling out to Krishna, and there was nothing that could stop Krishna from responding to her call. Such was her great devotion. This great devotion arises simply by hearing. Here the gopi’s also describe in the previous chapter that when Krishna went away from them, at that time, the gopis started imitating Krishna’s pastimes so that they could feel Krishna’s presence. One gopi got on another gopi and said, “O wicked demon, I am going to suck your life air and kill you.” They were enacting the pastime of Putana. Another gopi got on top of another gopi and said, “I will dance on your head and crush your evil heads.” She was remembering the pastime of Kalia being crushed. Like that the gopis were performing pastimes of Krishna and feeling his presence. So, the word Krishna Consciousness has many different meanings. One understanding of Krishna Consciousness is specially applied to sadhakas in our Gauria Vaisnava traditions. That is to be conscious of Krishna in his absence; that though Krishna is present in everyone’s heart, still we don’t perceive his presence right now. But although he is not present, but if we feel his presence in our consciousness by our longing for him – that is how we are Krishna Conscious. Now, just as Krishna is potent, similarly, Krishna Katha is potent. The Bhagavatam itself demonstrates this point that when Parikshit Maharja was cursed to die in seven days, at that time he didn’t have Krishna with him because Krishna had come almost two generations before and he had departed from the world. So, he heard about Krishna, and by hearing about Krishna, he got the same benefit that he would have got by the personal presence of Krishna. So, here the gopis are praying, “O Krishna! Just as your presence is made manifest by the great sages who speak about you – and they are speaking about you because they are your devotees. Just as they are merciful to the fallen souls, you please be merciful to us and please come back.”
“Prahasitam Priya” – as the gopis are meditating on Krishna – they talked about Krishna’s lotus feet before, then they talked about Krishna’s lips which speaks such beautiful messages, and now they are talking about Krishna’s personality – “What Krishna did with his personal presence with them?” When Krishna would be with them, he would smile lovingly; he was very dear to them. There are smiles which are plastered on some people’s faces. They smile formally for the sake of smiling whereas they are not happy. It is called “Secretary smile.” This is very artificial kind of smile, but when somebody genuinely cares and are happy; when the see someone smile and have affection, then it is a different kind of smile. The gopis say, “Krishna! You are so dear to us and we were so dear to you that when you saw us and smiled at us, then that smile won our hearts.” When we go to meet someone, at that time how they greet us – especially if we have a lot of emotions and lot invested in that relationship, then how they greet us is very important for us. If they smile we will feel relieved, but if they are very grave and frowning, then we will feel a little concerned. So, when Krishna called the gopis, and the gopis left everything, all their relatives were chastising them, “Where are you going?” and when they went to Krishna, Krishna was sweetly smiling over there. Krishna’s smile conveys his affection, and Krishna conveys his affection not just through his smile, but also through his glances.
Krishna would glance beautifully at the gopi’s. He would glance at each gopi one at a time. Everyone of the thousand gopi’s that were there were benedicted by Krishna’s glance, and Krishna’s glance was filled with love – prema vikshanam. The gopis said, “We performed various lilas and various pastimes. We played in this forest and actually your beauty, you love and your activities are very auspicious (Dhyana Mangalam) Meditating on them can bring great auspiciousness, joy and great purification, but however, you not only glanced, smiled and sported with us but you spoke words in confidence with us. In the groves and privacy of Vrindavan you spoke sweet and endearing words of affection to us, and thus our hearts were deeply touched. So, Krishna spend time alone with them, he glanced lovingly at them and he spoke words of affection with them. All this they are remembering, but when they are remembering the gopis say, “However our minds are getting agitated.” and they are using a very strong word to refer to Krishna over here, which is “Kuhako.” “Kuhako” means a cheater. The gopis say “You who have stolen what was so Nectarian for us and was such a treasure for us; that Lord who showed so much love on us, he just went away. How could you do this. We are agitated by this. O Krishna! You showered so much love on us, now how can you be cruel to us?” Suppose we are taking prasad and somebody is serving us very lovingly; then they serve some very delicious food like halwa or some sweet rice or whatever, and then we are drinking it. It is so tasty that we are just closing our eyes to savor it. We take spoon, and then when we want to take another spoon, we find that the whole pot has disappeared. Then we say the person who is so lovingly glaring at us, “Just now you were so lovingly serving us the food, but now what has happened to you? Why did you go away suddenly like this? Why did you take it away?” So, for the gopis, they were relishing Krishna’s love for them and suddenly that Krishna disappeared. When they are talking about this, it was just a short while ago. At that time Krishna was with them, glancing them and offering them his love, and now what happened, how did that love go away. The gopis say, “O Krishna! You are a cheater. How can you cheat like this?” So, the gopis in their own transcendental affection often use negative words, and those negative words to describe the supreme positive reality, Krishna are an expression of their immense affection. We have in the last verse of Caitanya Sikshastam also; at one level Caitanya Mahaprabhu who is manifesting the mood of Srimati Radharani over here is saying, “Whatever you do I will stay surrendered.” But he also uses a strong word “lampata” – “you are unfaithful, you are an infidel, you just abandon us and go away to someone else. How can you do that?” this are words which are spoken out of affection. When there is no affection, even praise sounds like flattery. If somebody doesn’t know at all and he starting speaking a lot of high-sounding words for us – generally if somebody who we know is inimical to us and they start suddenly praising us, we start thinking, “What does this person want? He wants something from us and that is why he is speaking so sweetly with me.” So, if there is no affection, even praise sounds bitter because we think that there must be some ulterior motive behind this praise. And when there is affection, even criticism sounds sweet. So, when the gopis criticized Krishna they use the word “Kuhako – O cheater” So, because there is affection, even their criticism sounds sweet to Krishna’s ears; without affection, even praise will sound bitter like flattery. There are sycophants who just praise people or flatter people so that they can get something done out of them. In the first canto purport, Srila Prabhupada writes that for Krishna the chastising words of the gopi’s are sweeter for him than the most perfect chanting of the Vedic hymns in praise of him. That is because often those Vedic hymns are chanted in a mood of reverence. But the gopis had so much love for Krishna that out of that love they are chanting. Here the mood is, “O Krishna, you showered so much love on us earlier. The same Lord who was so loving, how can you now become so cruel, and how can you abandon us and go away like this?” Now, they talk about how daily they have an agony, and how that agony is resolved by Krishna and only by Krishna.
Text 11 – The gopis say “Every morning when you go out of Vraja for grazing the cows, at that time we think that O Krishna, your lotus feet are so soft and tender, they are like the most exquisite, gentle lotuses, and we think that when those lotus feet will touch the ground of Vrindavan. In the forest of Vrindavan there are thorns, pebble and also sharp grass. This will cut your feet, and thinking of the small cut on your feet our hearts are being torn apart. O Krishna, our hearts are tearing apart.” In Vrindavan there is a “lok katha – a story told by the vrajavasis” that how when Krishna grew up and he used to go to the forest, mother Yasoda made some footwear for him. She said, “The thorns in the forest of Vrindavan will cut you feet.” Then Krishna said, “I am the servant of the cows. If you are going to give me shoes, then you have to give shoes to the cows also.” Now Nanda Maharaja has thousands and thousands of cows. So, Yasoda Mai started thinking, “There are thousands and thousands of cows and each one of them have four feet. Where will I get so many shoes?” She said, “I don’t have so many shoes.” Krishna then said, “I will also not wear shoes.” Yasoda mai said, “No, your feet will get hurt.” Krishna said, “What if the cows feet get injured? If I am going as a caretaker of the cows and the calves, at that time I cannot take any more privilege than what these cows and the calves are having.” In the meanwhile, as Yasoda and Krishna were speaking, the cows were in the cowshed nearby and they heard, and as they heard, they became very concerned. This was the first time. Krishna was a small boy who would play in home, but when he grew up and when he came to a particular age – there is a festival called Gopaashtami. That was the age when Krishna was given the charge of the calves; the cows were taken care by the cowherd men, whereas the calves were to be taken care of their children. So, when Krishna was given that charge, then next day mother Yasoda wanted him to wear shoes, but when he refused, then the calves were hearing. That night the cows became so concerned thinking, “What will happen to Krishna. His feet will get hurt.” That night because of their concern Yogamaya arranged that the ropes which were tying their calves opened up and all the calves went to the forest. Wherever they found any sharp object, be it stones or sharp twigs or thorns, they used their sharp hooves to pound on those objects, and by pounding on those objects the ground of Vrindavan was made into soft dust so that nothing will even hurt Krishna. So, this is the love of the Vrajavasis. At the same time gopis are not thinking that everything is fine. They think, “This is a forest and in the forest there will be so many sharp objects. O Krishna! They will tear your beautiful lotus feet. And thinking of this our heart is torn apart. Even in the daytime when you go into the forest, we are afflicted thinking that our feet will be torn. But now it is night time. In the daytime you can at least see where you are going and you can avoid putting your foot on sharp objects. In the night time you can’t even see that. So, Krishna, just as our hearts are afflicted in the daytime, now they are afflicted at the night. So, Krishna please come back. Our hearts are ripped apart thinking that your beautiful lotus feet are being hurt by the ground of Vrindavan. Therefore, O Krishna, please come back. Please don’t hurt this lotus feet, please don’t hurt our hearts, please come back. Then the other gopis are describing as they are remembering Krishna their daily routine. In the morning when Krishna goes out they are very much afflicted by separation from Krishna, but at the end of the day it is like an exam and a torment for them. They are constantly thinking, “When will the day end? When you will come back? Then we will behold your beautiful form. Your lotus face is like a beautiful lotus flower growing in the forest. We see that your beautiful face is covered by locks of your hair. When people want to do make up to be attractive, they put some powder on their face. So, Krishna, when you go into the forest, the dust of Vrindavan is raised by all the calves moving around in the Vrindavan forest, and that dust rises and settles on you face. Normally if dust is settled on somebody’s face, they look unattractive, but Krishna is so transcendentally attractive that the whole of Vrindavan is made for the service of Krishna so that when the dust settles on his face, at that time he appears to be ornamented by the dust. The dust is like a beautiful powder for him. The gopis rare saying, “In our minds at that time we are beholding your beautiful form, a great longing comes to behold you, to love you, to serve you and to be with you.” So, here what the gopis are saying is, “Krishna! This longing is being tormenting us for so long. At the start of the day when you go, we long when you will come back and we will see you, but when you come back, we see you but only for a brief time. Everyday when Krishna comes back from Vrindavan the gopas come and they wait thinking, “When is Krishna going to come back?” The gopis go upto the terrace, and as Krishna passes through the various houses to his father’s house which is in the center of Vrindavan, at that time the gopis behold Krishna form. There the gopis say, “We can behold your form for such a short time, and just seeing you even briefly there is such a deep desire within us that being without you is impossible. O Krishna. Therefore, please come back. So, time and time again the gopi’s are reiterating the same message, “Please come back.”
I will summarize:
Here the gopis are continuing their reasoning, begging Krishna to come. First, they say, “Krishna if you think it is because of lust in our heart that you have gone away, then please come and offer your lotus feet on your chest, and thus all oust lust will go away because your lotus feet have the potency. And you are so merciful that you bestow this mercy on innocuous creatures like cows and envious creatures like Kalia. So, please bestow your mercy on us also.” Then they say, “Krishna! Just as you can destroy the lust within our hearts, similarly, you can also destroy the affliction that has come upon us. Your sweet speech, words and your personal presence – all this will uplift us. Please come back. Then the famous tava katahmritam comes up where the gopis says that, “Just as your great devotees glorify you and free people from material existence and miseries, similarly, you please appear and allow us to do pastimes with you and thus we will be free from misery.” In the last few verses we discuss how the gopis are meditating on Krishna in different phases. First they say, “Krishna, you speak your sweet words and revive our lives.” Then they say, “Krishna, you manifest your personal presence.” And then they say, “Krishna, your lotus feet can purify us of all distress. Therefore, please come back.” How gopis fervent prayers reaches Krishna’s heart and how he reciprocates we will discuss in tomorrow’s session.
End of transcription.