Understanding Rasa-lila 7 – Gopi-gita 3
[Bhagavatam class at ISKCON, Denver, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Understanding Rasa-lila 7 – Gopi-gita 3
In the last two sessions we discussed how the gopis are giving different reasons for begging Krishna to return. Here again the gopis refer to the lotus feet of Krishna. They will refer to the lotus feet again in the last verse which is the nineteenth verse, but the focus for reference is different. Here the gopis are saying, “Your lotus feet fulfil the desires of those who bow down to them, and this lotus feet are so glorious that even Brahmaji, the one who is born with the lotus flower worships them. These lotus feet are considered as the ornament of the earth, and when somebody is in distress, they are the appropriate object of meditation. This is because they can give the supreme satisfaction, and therefore O Lord, please offer those lotus feet to our hearts. Our hearts are filled with distress right now.”
Earlier the theme was: “Please offer our lotus feet to our hearts.” There it was, “If you think that there are any lusty desires in our hearts, those lotus feet will destroy them.” There the theme was the purificatory potency of the lotus feet. Here it is more of the desire-fulfilling potency of the lotus feet. The mood is similar in both; those who bow down, those who offer their obeisance’s, those who respect those who worship. There it is said that they destroy all sinful reactions. Here it is said that whatever is the desire, they fulfill that. Now it is clear for the gopis that their only desire is, “Krishna please come back, please appear before us.” And to reinforce their glorification of the lotus feet and their own conviction about the potency of the lotus feet, they are drawing from different sources, and they say that, “Actually, in this world we have different desire-fulfillers.” At one level it is said that the devatas are desire fulfillers, and that is why people pray to the devatas, but among the devatas, Brahmaji is considered to be the foremost; not in terms of administrative functionality – that is Indra – but in terms of seniority, maturity, sagacity etc. So, it is said that he is also appealed to whenever people are in distress. Whenever the devatas are in distress they go to Brahma and Brahma offers prayers to Vishnu. The gopis are saying, “The gods fulfill our desires but you fulfill the desires of the God’s, and thus your lotus feet are capable of fulfilling the desires of those who are desire-fulfillers. Similarly, another desire fulfiller in this world is the earth itself. In the first canto it is described that when Maharaja Yudhisthir was ruling, at that time, the earth was fulfilling all desires through abundant natural prosperity. So, Kama also is used in a positive sense, that we have natural desires in the world and these desires are fulfilled by the earth. But here it said that the very earth which provides us practically all the fundamental necessities also considers the lotus feet of the Lord as her own cherished monument or ornament or mandanam.
In the first canto again there is the description, “O Krishna! When you walk on this earth, at that time your lotus feet got imprinted on this earth, and not only did it beautify the earth for observers to see, but it also beatified the earth for earth herself. In the first canto the earth and dharma are talking as the cow and the bull. He says, “Who can tolerate separation from such a Lord that he has adorned me with his lotus feet?” That means that on the earth if there is a tree which gives a lot of fruits and there is spring or a fountain or anything which is very valuable, then we treasure that. Nowadays as we are more and more environment conscious, breaking down of trees is opposed. Certain areas in the nature are marked as preservation zones; something which is considered valuable and is preserved. But the earth considers the lotus feet of the Lord that it receives as its ornament and of unlimitedly more value than all the things of value that it produces. And this has another meaning specifically for Vraja also.
In Vrindavana wherever and whenever Krishna walks into the forest actually nobody else walks on his footsteps. But they want to preserve his footsteps because it is a beautiful sight which everybody wants to see. So, even when they are going on a narrow path, Yogamaya arranges for them to walk in such a way that they don’t step on Krishna’s foot because they consider it be a monument to be preserved. So, either way the point is, “This lotus feet are precious and when we are in distress, then they are the fit object of meditation.” At one level we could say that Krishna’s lotus feet are the object of meditation always, and that’s why the mood of bhakti is – “It has to be performed constantly.” That is true, but in the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam also it is described that Bhisma Pitama, who is the great general who fought hundreds of wars and had spoken on hundreds of subjects, in the end of life retrieved his mind and focused entirely on Krishna. So, we want to always be thinking of Krishna, but normally in the routine course of our life we think of Krishna by focusing on our purpose to serve Krishna. So, it is not always normally possible for us to be directly thinking of Krishna constantly. We think of Krishna by thinking of our purpose of serving Krishna and we think of Krishna by our service to Krishna. However, because that service is in the material world, often the thoughts may go in the material direction also. But when distresses come, and especially when the distresses are of such magnitude that we can’t deal with them ourselves, then we just withdraw our consciousness from all of them and draw it within and offer it to Krishna. So, when there is great adversity that comes upon us, at that time if we keep thinking about the problems, it will simply worsen our predicament. Life determines our problems; we determine the size of the problems. The problems are going to be there in our life, but when the problems comes and the more we think about it, the bigger and bigger it becomes. In problem-solving if don’t think about the problem at all, then also it is a problem. But if we think too much of the problem that also is a problem. It is like driving. If you are driving and you don’t think about where we are driving and who all are there in the traffic, that is dangerous. But if we start imagining that this or that may go wrong, that is also unhealthy. So, there is a sense of balance that is required when we are contemplating problems for solving them. If we think too little, we don’t do our part responsibly and we don’t analyze intellectually coming up with a solution. If we think too much, then the problem weighs us down and burdens us. Therefore, it is our practice of bhakti which makes our consciousness attached to Krishna, and then it becomes possible for us that when the problems are coming – often the problems come with something that seems to be like an inbuild glue to them or a mental glue. That means that when the problem comes, the problem just fixes itself to our mind and we start thinking, “Why did he speak like that, why did she do like that, what did this happen?” and it just holds on to us. So, if we have cultivated a strong enough attachment to Krishna or at least to some aspect of Krishna through the practice of bhakti, then, when the problem hooks on to our mind, at that time we can pull our mind away and fix it on Krishna. So, Krishna is the appropriate object of meditation; Krishna’s lotus feet which are non-different from Krishna are the appropriate object of meditation for those who want to face distress. “Not just go through problems, but grow through problems.” Why is that? Because his lotus feet give great satisfaction. So, it is interesting.
Normally we think that when we are facing problems, the problems have to be removed and then we will feel peaceful and satisfied. Yes, that is also true, but Krishna consciousness is so wonderful that it can give us not only release from problems but also relief amidst problems. Release from problems means the problems goes away; relief amidst problems means that the problem is there but it doesn’t dominate us so much. Just like sometimes it is oppressively hot. Now release from heat would mean that the season changes and the heat goes away, but release amidst problems means that we come to an air-conditioned room where we get relief. So, often when we are praying to Krishna and we are chanting Hare Krishna we expect the season to change and the heat of the problem to go away. Yes, that will also go away, but that will happen in its own due course. What Krishna can give us is relief amidst problems. If we just absorb ourselves in Krishna, the problem might be there but we won’t be within the problem; we will be within Krishna. So, the gopis are saying, “We are afflicted in separation from you. O Krishna! Please return.” The gopis are not simply asking for relief amidst problems, but they are asking for release from problems. For them the problem is separation from Krishna. They say, “O Krishna, your lotus feet are so glorious. Please come and bless us with those lotus feet so that we can become free from distress.” In this way the gopis are reiterating their prayer to Krishna, “Please come, please return.”
In the previous verse we talked about Krishna’s lotus feet and lotus lips. Again, the same thread of thought comes over here which talk about Krishna’s lotus feet and the lotus lips again. The gopis are saying, “O Krishna, please come to us and distribute the nectar coming from you lips. You distribute this nectar to even those who are not qualified, or rather you distribute it freely to everyone.” First, they speak about the potency and they then speak about whom all they will give it to. So, they are saying, “The flute that you play comes in contact with your lips so frequently. You distribute the nectar of your lips to your flute.” It is interesting that there are different musical instruments that produce different sounds, and if the instrument is not good, then sometimes the proper sound doesn’t come from it. But if the instrument is good and the player is not good, then also the sound that will come will not be very sweet. The best is when the instrument and the player are both good. Now in Krishna’s case his flute is also his associate. So, the flute is perfect and Krishna is also perfect, and when Krishna plays the flute it captures the hearts of everyone. Ananda Vrindavan Campu describes that even the celestial residents were astounded to hear the sweetness of the flute of Krishna. The gopis were saying, “Krishna, you give the nectar of your lips to the flute and this nectar actually enhances the flavor of amorous love, and when this nectar is experienced, then one feels that there is nothing else that matters; that everything else that is relishable, one forgets that.” Actually, this is one of the tests of devotion. The Bhagavagatam also in conclusion says that once we develop a taste for the Bhagavatam then we will not have a taste for anything else. So, the Bhagavatam is also non-different from Krishna and the gopis are saying, “Actually, with your lotus lips which share the nectar that makes us forget everything else – and therefore please come and bestow this nectar upon us. Again, here the theme is, “Krishna! Nothing else will satisfy you.” Earlier the theme was, “Krishna! Please come and with your lotus lips you speak sweet words and revive us.” Here the idea is, “This satisfies us in a supreme way and nothing else satisfies us, and you give this even to the flute. So, why don’t you give it to us? Please O Krishna give us this nectar. And in this way when we have this nectar, then and then alone we will be contented.
Actually, in bhakti there is an intense desire for Krishna, and there is a willingness of the devotee to give up anything for attaining Krishna. Where did this strong desire come up from? Because the devotee experiences such an indescribable and ineffable taste in Krishna. Now the gopis take another line of thought in the subsequent verse. They talked earlier about how Krishna when he goes out – here the argument is, Krishna might say, “I was with you just now, you have seen me, you have heard my voice, you have had my association and you have it regularly. So, what is the big deal?” And now this is the famous verse. This verse and the tava kathamritam verse which I quoted yesterday are the two most quoted verses from the Bhagavatam over there. The gopis are praying over here that, “Brahmaji is so foolish that he has made our eyes that blink. He has made the eyelids to close periodically and because of that even when Krishna is present before us, we can’t see him.” To build this case the gopis say that, “Actually for most of the times although we live in the same place we don’t get to see you. When you O Krishna go out in the daytime to the forest, one moment appears to be like a millennium. In triyugayate, triti is time which is about one divided by seventeen thousand seconds. It is infinitesimal. We can’t even notice it. Every moment is so unbearably long for us when you are away, and then when you come back also, then we can’t see you continuously. Your beautiful face which is having locks of hair all around it, we just can’t relish it. Why? Because Brahmaji is jada or so foolish that he has created eyelids that blink.” Suppose in the past the internet or the broadcasting networks were not very strong; I remember in the 1980’s and 1990’s when we would watch cricket matches in India. At that time when the streaming would be going on it would break. When it would break a standard notice would come, “Interruption caused is regretted.” And everybody would get so angry at that time. They would yell, scream, curse and rant. Or suppose somebody is going for a movie in a theatre and then suddenly the screen goes blank and it just doesn’t function; then we can’t see the movie. Sometimes when we are talking some very important conversation and the network is patched, then we hear for a few minutes and then suddenly it goes off and something comes back. Then we get annoyed. This annoyance is just a small fraction of the kind of irritation and frustration that the gopis were experiencing. Once I was coming out of the airport – in many public places in India if there is a major cricket match is going on, then they have a public T.V. which has a large screen. Maybe some company or some shops want to create some goodwill among people. This is considered a very popular social service to have a big T.V screen where cricket matches are being displayed – so, I was coming out of the airport and the screen was there and the path was in between. To go through the path, it hardly takes any time; just like now when we were reciting the verses a devotee came in between and offered me a garland. In that case what happens is, for one moment we may not be able to see the screen. There people were watching a cricket match, and in a match, it is not that every moment is an action, but all the people were so eager that actually I had to wait for several minutes before they would allow me to walk through. At that time I was remembering this verse. In a perverse or distorted way it reflects the kind of absorption that the gopis have in Krishna; that even for one moment they can’t tolerate separation. We can actually become conscious of Krishna in the things that can make us unconscious of Krishna. It means that we can become conscious of Krishna through the things that makes us unconscious of him. That means that if some people are so attracted to cricket or any other sport, the important thing is, what is in the sport that is so captivating? What is that makes people so mad for the sport? Even if we don’t consciously perceive it, we can understand intellectually that though this sport people are experiencing a spark of Krishna’s attractiveness. Everything attractive manifests a spark of Krishna’s splendor. So, through whatever people are so captivated with, they are experiencing a spark of Krishna’s splendor and they are not ready to give it up. If a spark can captivate so much, then how much can the whole captivate? Normally this verse is quoted for this point that the gopis criticize Brahmaji for having made eyelids that blink. So, the idea is that, we become very annoyed with anything that deprives us of something that gives us great satisfaction. The material world is such a place where we can never satisfy everybody. Even Brahmaji who is the creator and is specifically empowered by the Lord; even his creation cannot satisfy the topmost devotees. That is often the predicament of those who are managers. We have finite resources and we just can’t satisfy everyone because some people will be always be dissatisfied, and that is the way it is.
In the previous verse the longing of the gopis was, “Krishna, we hardly ever get to see you, and even when we get to see you we can’t see you continuously. So, we are by no means satisfied. So, please come back and let us behold your beautiful form. Separation from you is intolerable for us. Please come back and let us behold your beautiful form.”
The gopis are praying here, “Krishna! We gave up everything to come to you. We gave up our husbands, relatives, our elders and our brothers; all of them we gave up to come to you. They were obstructing us, but somehow or other we overcame those obstacles and came to you, and why did we come to you? You know the purpose why we have come to you.” The gopis don’t explicitly express but they say, “Krishna, you know it because it was you who played the flute to invite us. The loud sound of the flute is what captivated us.” It’s an interesting glorification of the flute sound. If say there is a kirtan festival, and after the festival somebody who was not there for the festival asks us, “How was the kirtan?” and if we say, “It was loud.” “Loud” would not sound like a glorification. Yes, we may say that it is ecstatic or it is sweet. So, normally if anything is loud that is not really a glorification on that. The sound of flute is sweet. So, why the gopis say that the flute sound is loud. It is because for them it sounded so loud that they couldn’t hear anything. Say, when a mother is at home and she has a small child or a baby in another room; there may be many things going on in the home and there maybe many noises there. But if the baby makes a slight noise, the mother because of her love for the baby is tuned to the sound from the baby. If any noise from the baby seems to be the cause of concern, immediately the mother will rush there. Similarly, because there is love for Krishna our perception is shaped by love. When somebody we love speaks even in a soft tone, we hear their voice, and even if there is a lot of other sound going on, still their words are what we focus on. So, for the gopis, when Krishna played the flute, although the sound of the flute was soft and melodious, but the flute sound came all the way from the forest to them and grabbed them by the ears. For example, sometimes a hunter casts a net. The net is big and the hunter throws the net to some fish that is far away. Similarly, it is said in the Caitanya Caritamrita that when Krishna plays his flute, then through the sound of the flute a net is cast, and that net goes and catches the hearts of the gopis, and they are pulled by that. “Udgita Mohitaha” – “By the loud sound the gopis get completely bewildered and they could not think of anything else.” The gopis say, “And now that we have left everything and come to you, O Krishna, please accept us. We are women, we are all alone in the night; in the dark forest we came to meet you, how can you leave us and go away? How can you abandon us?” One way of making a point is by telling a point; another way making a point is by making a rhetorical point or a question whose answer is obvious.
If say there is a financial recession in a country and then we ask, “Are you happy, are you well to do, are you comfortable?” If someone wants to make a point that the government is mismanaged and because of that the recession has happened – everyone knows that we are not better off than we were five years ago. So, a rhetorical question can make the point even more emphatical. So, the gopis are making this rhetorical point. “Kastya genishi – How could you abandon us?” and they are actually giving four reasons why Krishna’s abandoning is outrageous for them. Later on, in the next chapter we will see that they are angry with Krishna. First, they say “Tava mohitaha udgita – You called us O Krishna, it is you who has called us here and we left everything to come to you.” If somebody is just a neighbor and wants to meet us, we may say that we will meet later. But if we know that someone has come from another continent to meet us, or if somebody has come to meet us after taking a lot of difficulties, then we will not dismiss them. It will be very impolite, insensitive and uncultured if we neglect a person like that. So, the gopis say, “You called us, we overcame so many difficulties to come to you, and we are women, and this is night. So, how can you abandon us like this? Therefore, O Krishna, please come back.” Now love can be seen in multiple ways. Love is seen in two broad ways: what we can give to our beloved and what we can give up for our beloved. In love we may want to give the best of what we have; on the other hand, it may also be that we want to give up the other things which are not favorable. So, both what we give to our beloved and what we give up for our beloved demonstrate what love is. So, the gopis are saying, “We have given ourselves to you and we have given up all our family members for you and yet how can you abandon us?” So, Kasta Genishi is a rhetorical question which drives over the point that, “Krishna you cannot abandon us like this.”
There are three more verses.
Rahasi Sambidham… In this verse the gopis are primarily describing the supreme desirableness of Krishna. The gopis are saying, “O Krishna, “We have such beautiful private talks.” If somebody we admire a lot gives us private time or exclusive one to one time, then we appreciate that much more. So, the gopis are saying, “O Krishna, you had confidential conversations with us. Now this has caused the desire that is there in our hearts to arise remembering the beautiful conversations that we had.” Normally the rising of desires in our consciousness is considered to be inauspicious, because the desires often drag us in unwanted directions, but the rising of the desire for Krishna is supremely auspicious. The gopis say, “Your face has such a sweet smile, your glance is so attractive.” In the Gopal Campu there is beautiful verse which says, “For the yogis the beautiful side glance of Krishna is the end of sastra.” That means that it is the ultimate perfection of scriptural study to behold the beautiful side glance of Krishna. But that same side glance of Krishna for the gopis is the end of sastra. Sastra is a weapon. When Krishna glances at the gopis and goes away, they feel unbearable pain. They are eager to get more of his association. The gopis say, “When will we get more of his association? That your chest is broad, and not just broad, many people have broad chests, but on your chest is the mark of the goddess of fortune, there is a Srivatsa. A strong desire awakens within us, and because of that we have become bewildered, and we can’t think of anything else.” For us desires are also of different levels. Sometimes a small circumstantial desire comes along and we tolerate it, but if there is a strong overpowering desire, others also understand that this is a strong desire and we have to do it.
Sometimes desire in spiritual life has a negative connotation, but something is like a calling. “This is what I think is a call to you.” And when we use the word calling for something. Then we say, “This is calling for me and I am ready to give up everything for this.” So, there are degrees of desires and when some desires are extremely strong, at that time, we easily understand that we have to respond to that desire. So, the gopis are saying, “Krishna, this is such an overpowering desire that we can’t do anything.” There are some desires which come and go, but some desires are constantly there. The gopis are saying, “This is a constant desire. We long for your association O Krishna. We find that to tolerate this desire is unbearable. Therefore, O Krishna please come.” Here the vision is becoming more and more intimate and personal. There is a blend of philosophical reasons of Krishna’s glories, but there are also the personal attributes of Krishna, and through this the mood is, “Krishna, please return.”
In the next verse we will talk about how it is Krishna’s association which is the medicine for their affliction. They use a medical metaphor over here: Swaja ridrujam – swajan: Your own devotees – ridrujam: that which afflicts their hearts; this is the medicine for that. And they are describing the potency of this medicine of Krishna’s appearance, “It is described that all of Vrindavan blossoms when you appear. Vrindavan is always very beautiful, but when Krishna is passing through the forest of Vrindavan, the beauty of that forest multiplies much more, and Krishna, you bring beauty to not just the forest of Vrindavan, you actually remove the distress of everyone in the universe and bring auspiciousness in their hearts. There are three areas: the forest of Vrinavan, the whole world and our heart. So, just as you O Krishna bring joy to the forest of Vrindavan and the world, similarly, you bring joy to our hearts. Our hearts are tormented by the desire for you, and without fulfilling those desire and without having your association, there is nothing else that can fulfil those desires. Sometimes there are diseases which may have multiple medicines. Say if you go to a doctor and take prescription, and then you go to another country and that medicine is not available; then if you call the doctor. He may prescribe you another medicine which is equivalent to that medicine. But there is some illness for which there is only one cure or one medicine available. If the disease is very serious, then people will be ready to spend any amount of time, money and effort to get that medicine. So, the gopis are saying, “For the affliction of our hearts the only medicine is your association. Therefore, O Krishna, please come back. Then we come to the last verse today.
The gopis are actually expressing concern not just for themselves but also for Krishna. Their love is selfless. If they are saying to Krishna, “O Krishna, we are in such distress, come for us.” that is also good because that is at least going towards Krishna. Somehow or the other to connect the mind with Krishna is great, but here they say, “Krishna, your lotus feet are so soft that when we think of those lotus feet, we feel that even our chest is too hard for you to put your lotus feet on it. It is so tender and so soft, and yet those lotus feet are now wandering in the forest and all the harsh objects of the forest are piercing the lotus feet. Krishna we can’t tolerate this. So, even if you are upset with us please don’t hurt your lotus feet. Come back not for our sake but at least for the sake of your own lotus feet that are so tender that they cannot tolerate the pain of the harsh objects. They conclude by, “Krishna! You are our Lord. We are always dedicated to your service. Our life is meant for you, for serving you and for pleasing you. If for some reason we upset you because of which you are gone away, then please come back and give us an opportunity to serve you, please give us an opportunity to message your lotus feet that might have been hurt by the sharp objects of the forest of Vrindavan, and we live for this alone. Serving you is our life, you O Lord are our life.” That is the conclusion of the gopis, “You are our life. Without you our life has no meaning.”
Thus, we conclude this section of the gopi-geet wherein through various angles the gopis are begging Krishna to come back. And today we discussed several angles how the gopis say that, “Your lotus feet alone fulfill all desires and we have a desire for your association. Your lotus feet fulfill the desire of even those who fulfill the desires of the people – the earth and the God’s. So, please! we worship your lotus feet, fulfill our desire of getting your association. O Krishna! Your lips shower such nectar that makes one forget everything else. O Krishna! Please. You gave this nectar of your lotus lips even to the flute. So, please give us the nectar. Please come back.” And then they say, “O Krishna! We never have enough of your association. All day we are out. Even when we come back our eyes blink and we can’t see you. So, we long for this association. Every moment is unbearable like a millennium. Therefore, please come back.” Then they say, “O Krishna! You actually bring auspiciousness for everyone. You bring auspiciousness to the heart, to the world and to Vrindavan. Please give auspiciousness to our heart also.” Before that there is a prayer in which they give four reasons: Krishna you called us, we left everything for you, we are women, this is night, how can you abandon us?” this are strong rhetorical questions to pull Krishna so that he comes back. And then they conclude, “Krishna, if not for us, it is for your sake, it is for your lotus feet which will be hurt by the sharp objects of the forest of Vrindavana. Please come back so that we can serve we. You O Lord are our life.” Such is the exalted mood of the gopis of Vrindavan when they are reciting the Gopi geet.
Someone asked Srila Prabhupada, “What is the summary study in the Krishna book?” Prabhupada laughed and said, “Summary study means I do whatever I want.” What he means is that, “Ultimately it is what Krishna wants or whatever is good for the readers.” So, what does Prabhupada do in the translation of the Gopi Geeta? He translates the verses and says, “In this way the gopis chanted- Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” A sceptic may ask, “Did the gopis actually chant Hare Krishna?” In teaching it is not just to get the thing right. The point is to get it across and to make sure that the message is understood. So, the mood of calling out to Krishna which the gopis are having – for us, we can call out to Krishna through our chanting of the holy names. And as Krishna appeared in response to the gopis, he will also appear one day in our lives if we keep calling out to Krishna.
Thank you very much.
End of transcription.