Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta (Nectar of Instruction)
Upadeśāmṛta Chapter Overview
Verse Ten (karmibhyaḥ parito hareḥ priyatayā vyaktiṁ yayur jñāninas) of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta (The Nectar of Instruction) describes the progression of devotees from jñanis to karmis to those who follow the path of bhakti infused with love for Kṛṣṇa, and eventually to the gopīs of Vraja. The pinnacle of this progression is Śrī Rādhikā, who is non-different from Śrī Rādha-kuṇḍa. Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja provides further insights into this.
कर्मिभ्यः परितो हरेः प्रियतया व्यक्तिं ययुर्ज्ञानिनस्तेभ्यो ज्ञानविमुक्तभक्तिपरमाः प्रेमैकनिष्ठास्ततः ।
तेभ्यस्ताः पशुपालपङ्कजदृशस्ताभ्योऽपि सा राधिका प्रेष्ठा तद्वदियं तदीयसरसी तां नाश्रयेत्कः कृती ॥ १० ॥
karmibhyaḥ parito hareḥ priyatayā vyaktiṁ yayur jñāninas
tebhyo jñāna-vimukta-bhakti-paramāḥ premaika-niṣṭhās tataḥ
tebhyas tāḥ paśu-pāla-paṅkaja-dṛśas tābhyo ’pi sā rādhikā
preṣṭhā tadvad iyaṁ tadīya-sarasī tāṁ nāśrayet kaḥ kṛtī
Word for Word
karmibhyaḥ – those that follow the path of karma; paritaḥ – in every respect; hareḥ – Lord Hari; priyatayā – more dear; vyaktiṁ – the distinction; yayur – attained; jñāninas – the jñānīs; tebhyaḥ – than them; jñāna-vimukta – abandoned knowledge; bhakti – the path of bhakti; paramāḥ – superior; prema – love for Kṛṣṇa; eka-niṣṭhās – exclusively; tataḥ – are; tebhyaḥ – than them; tāḥ – they; paśu-pāla – the cowherd women; paṅkaja – lotus; dṛśas – eyes; tābhyaḥ – even them; api – indeed; sā – She; rādhikā – Śrī Rādhikā; preṣṭhā – dear; tadvad – similarly; iyaṁ – this; tadīya – of Hers; sarasī – the lake of Rādhā-kuṇḍa; tāṁ – it; na – not; āśrayet – take shelter; kaḥ – who; kṛtī – do.
The jñānis have attained the distinction of being dearer to Lord Hari than those who follow the path of karma. Even dearer to the Lord are those who have abandoned knowledge, understanding that the path of bhakti is higher. Even more superior are those that have attained love for Kṛṣṇa. The lotus-eyed gopīs are most exalted of all, and amongst them Śrī Rādhikā is certainly the dearmost of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. And Rādhā-kuṇḍa is as dear to Kṛṣṇa as She is. Therefore, which fortunate soul will not take shelter of Rādhā-kuṇḍa?
When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was circumambulating Govardhana Hill in Vraja-maṇḍala, He intuitively discovered Rādhā-kuṇḍa concealed in a paddy field. At that time He was searching for Rādhā-kuṇḍa, but none could say where it was. Then suddenly He came out from His trance, went to a paddy field where there was some water, took the water on His head and began to chant the stotram of Rādhā-kuṇḍa as is mentioned in Padma Purāṇa:
yathā rādhā priyā viṣṇos tasyāḥ kuṇḍam priyaṁ tathā
sarva-gopīṣu saivaikā viṣṇor-atyanta vallabhā
Just as Śrīmatī Rādhikā is very dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, similarly Her divine pond, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, is also dear to the Lord. Of all the gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the dearmost consort of Lord Kṛṣṇa. (Padma Purāṇa)
From that time on, that place was understood to be Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Later Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī renovated the pond and lived there without any care in the world.
One day, while going through Vṛndāvana, Sanātana Gosvāmī saw Raghunātha Dāsa sitting under a tree near the bank of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and taking kṛṣṇa-nāma. Then suddenly one tiger came there, drank some water and went away. Raghunātha was undisturbed as he was deeply engaged in chanting the Holy Name. Sanātana approached him and told, “This is the fact – one tiger came to drink water and you were exposed here under the tree. It is my request to you that you please construct a thatched cottage.” Raghunātha managed to construct a small hut there and he used to stay there for his whole life. In his last days sometimes he would take only a leaf-cup of buttermilk and go on with chanting the Holy Name. He would chant one lakh of the Holy Name daily and he would offer his obeisances a thousand times to different Vaiṣṇavas. When he was about eighty, he would crawl on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa chanting, “Jaya Rādhe! Jaya Rādhe! Jaya Rādhe!” In this way he passed his days. At Rādhā-kuṇḍa he was going through the writings of Rūpa Gosvāmī and he also began to write literature, inspired by the divine works of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Raghunātha also composed some verses that give us a clear idea about rādhā-dāsyam. Though we find this in the writings of Śrī Rūpa, it is even clearer in the writings of Raghunātha Dāsa. It is as if he is giving a challenge to Kṛṣṇa that, “If we do not find Rādhārāṇī with You, we want to avoid You! We want Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa together and if Rādhārāṇī is not with Kṛṣṇa, we don’t want to approach that Kṛṣṇa. Rather, we shall serve Rādhārāṇī alone.” This is clearly stated in his writings and that is considered to be the highest acme of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology.
āśā-bharair amṛta-sindhu-mayaiḥ kathañcit
kālo mayātigamitaḥ kila sāmprataṁ hi
tvam cet kṛpāṁ mayi vidhāsyasi naiva kiṁ me
prāṇair vrajena ca varoru bakāriṇāpi
Oh Varoru (Rādhā), I am passing my days with great difficulty with an intense desire to attain the ocean of nectar. If You do not give me Your mercy, then of what use to me are my life, the land of Vraja, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Baka? (Vilāpa-kusumāñjali 102)
This śloka has given us the conception of our highest attainment in the school of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Dāsa Gosvāmī is addressing Rādhārāṇī – “O my Goddess! O Queen of Vṛndāvana. Āśābharair – for a long, long time I have waited with great patience to have Your mercy. Amṛta-sindhu-mayaiḥ – and that is so sweet to me that I cannot avoid it. It is melting my heart, it is attracting my heart, and it is gracing my heart. It touches me so deeply that I can’t avoid Your service connection. Kālo mayāti gamitaḥ – somehow I have managed to come after such a long time. I am an impatient man – please be gracious! Tvam cet kṛpāṁ mayi vidhāyasi naiva – if You are not propitiated and not gracious with me, then I have got no hope in my heart. I have come to the end of my present life. It is finished here. Kiṁ me prāṇair – what is the utility of my life even? It is useless. It will come to end. No utility. Vrajena – what shall I do in this Vṛndāvana? Vṛndāvana is of no use to me. It is also not helpful in my life. I can’t love this Vṛndāvana which is associated with this līlā. Bakāriṇāpi – what to speak of that, I can’t even relish the company of Kṛṣṇa without You. Without You, even Kṛṣṇa has no meaning to me. I can’t tolerate my life, neither can I relish this environment, and if Kṛṣṇa Himself comes to grace me, I can’t relish that without Your connection. So please be gracious to me. You are all in all to me. To achieve Kṛṣṇa consciousness without You is no Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Your position is such. It is so great and so beautiful. You are the centre of the līlā of Kṛṣṇa. I surrender to You for Your grace, my Supreme Goddess.”
Sometimes our Guru Mahārāja used to explain this śloka amongst select disciples, and he became full of emotion. His face became red and sometimes tears came to his eyes. When he used to explain this śloka, we could trace that he was quite at home – that he has come to his own plane, he has come home.
We are not Vaiṣṇavas We are Śuddha-Śāktas
One time at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, the Diwan (chief minister) of Bhāratpura State came with his family and they were circumambulating Rādhā-kuṇḍa by prostrating themselves on the ground and slowly advancing by measuring the length of each successive prostration. Paramānanda Brahmacārī came to Prabhupāda and reported with much ardor, “They have so much esteem for Rādhārāṇī!” Prabhupāda then came out from his inner quarters and said, “Yes, but their concern for Rādhārāṇī and our concern for Rādhārāṇī are quite different. They come to Rādhārāṇī because She is Kṛṣṇa’s favourite; but our position is the opposite. We worship Kṛṣṇa because He is Rādhārāṇī’s favourite. Our interest is in Rādhārāṇī, and Kṛṣṇa is Her favourite and only because She wants Kṛṣṇa do we have any connection with Him.”
The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas know only Rādhārāṇī because Rādhārāṇī can fully attract Kṛṣṇa. And the remuneration for those that are serving Rādhārāṇī is that they get the highest quality of rasa from Kṛṣṇa which cannot be found in any other channel. What comes through Rādhārāṇī is of the highest quality. Therefore, the service of Rādhārāṇī should be the summum-bonum of our life.
Prabhupāda once told us that we are not Vaiṣṇavas, we are really Śāktas, worshipers of the potency; not Śāktas that worship the mundane potency, but śuddha-śāktas. The real, original potency, Kṛṣṇa’s dedicating Moiety, is in Vraja. Both direct and indirect connections with Kṛṣṇa come through Her. We are concerned with Kṛṣṇa, only because our Goddess Rādhārāṇī has got connection with Him, not otherwise. This is Rādhā’s position. This is also the conclusion of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura:
rādhā-bhajane yadi mati nāhi bhelā
kṛṣṇa-bhajana taba akāraṇa gelā
ātapa rahita sūraya nāhi jāni
rādhā-virahita mādhava nāhi māni
If you do not wish to worship Rādhā, then the worship of Kṛṣṇa will quickly leave you. I know the sun is never without heat and light and I also know that Mādhava is never without Śrī Rādhā. (Gītāvalī 10.8.1-2)
umā ramā satyā śacī candrā rukmiṇī
rādhā-avatāra sabe – āmnāya-vāṇī
hena rādhā-paricaryā jāṅkara dhana
bhakativinoda tāṅ’ra māgaye caraṇa
The Vedas state that Umā, Ramā, Satyabhāmā, Śacī, Candrāvalī, and Rukmiṇī are all incarnations of Rādhārāṇī. Bhaktivinoda begs to stay at the feet of those devotees whose only wealth is the worship of Śrī Rādhikā. (Gītāvalī 10.8.7-8)
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that if your mind cannot serve Rādhārāṇī then all your attempts towards Kṛṣṇa will be useless. Akāraṇa gelā – if you cannot acquire earnestness towards the service of Śrī Rādhikā, then all your labour for Kṛṣṇa will go to hell! Ātapa rahita sūraya nāhi jāni – we cannot comprehend the sun without its heat, so also, no conception of Mādhava is possible without Śrī Rādhikā. In Prabhupāda’s language, She is the ‘Predominated Moiety’ and Kṛṣṇa is the ‘Predominating Moiety’. The other half is fully represented by Her. Dedication as a whole is represented by Śrī Rādhikā. Umā ramā satyā śacī candrā rukmiṇī – there are so many examples of many pious ladies in the Purāṇas. Umā means the wife of Śiva; Ramā means Lakṣmī Devī; Satyā means Satyabhāma, the queen of Kṛṣṇa; Śacī means the faithful wife of Indra; Candrāvalī means the antagonist of Rādhārāṇī; Rukmiṇī means the principle queen of Dvārakā-Kṛṣṇa – they all different parts of Rādhārāṇī. They all spring from the main potency which is known as Rādhā. Arādhana – who can serve, who can worship, who can give respect, who really loves Kṛṣṇa and can render loving service unto Him. Rādhā-avatāra sabe āmnāya-vāṇī – if we study the scriptures then we’ll find that the source of all these goddesses is Śrī Rādhikā. Hena rādhā-paricaryā jāṅkara dhana – those that have the wealth of service to Śrī Rādhikā, I want to fall at their feet and obtain the dust of their holy feet. I hanker after nothing else. This high ideal makes one great and not anything material. One who has got this high ideal is actually a wealthy man – less valuable things are eliminated and our concentration is in the proper place. We are saved from wild goose chasing. Mahāprabhu came to show us this path and we find this if we go through His life and teachings.
We Are Not Fit to Live at Rādhā-kuṇḍa
According to the advice of Rūpa Gosvāmī, Rādhā–kuṇḍa is the best place in Vṛndāvana and he urges us to stay there. However, once our Guru Mahārāja ordered that a cottage should be built at Govardhana and I heard him say, “We must serve our guru-varga and so we shall have to go to the highest position of Rādhā-kuṇḍa. But we won’t stay there. We are not fit to live at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. We must stay nearby at a lower place – Govardhana. We shall go to Rādhā-kuṇḍa only to serve our gurus, and then we shall come back to Govardhana and there we shall stay. Our superior gurus, Gaura-kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and others – they will live and serve at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. We are not of such a high position.”
This should be our position – giving honour to the highest position of our guru. This difference between the disciple and the master should always be maintained. The master holds the highest position. In the highest place of līlā he will be there, performing the highest form of service. But we will be a little lower. We shall live very near, but away. We shall come and serve them and then go back again because we have to attend their command, so we must be at an amiable distance. We shall take our stand in Govardhana and always be eager for the call that may come at any moment from Rādhā-kuṇḍa, that we may help in any type of service. All our masters are playing there and from a little lower position we are to look at that, then it may be permanent.
In Jagannātha Purī our Guru Mahārāja lived in a bungalow at Caṭaka Parvata, that is thought to be Govardhana Hill. Yet Mahāprabhu has said, “Govardhane na caḍiha dekhite gopāla – “Don’t climb over Govardhana Hill even to get darśana of Gopāla.” But Guru Mahārāja constructed his bungalow on top of Caṭaka Parvata. When the construction was finished, deities of Vyāsa and Madhvācārya were placed in one room next to his. I was asked to worship the deities before Prabhupāda entered the rooms. I said, “I do not know which mantras to worship Vyāsa and Madhvācārya.” I was told, “Whatever you know about them, think of that and offer a flower, some naivedyam and some garland with respect.” By his order I did that and offered with, oṁ madhvāya namaḥ and oṁ vyāsāya namaḥ and worshipped the two deities. When I was finished then Guru Mahārāja entered his room. He was using a bungalow which was erected on the top of Caṭaka Parvata which is considered to be the extension of Govardhana Hill in Vṛndāvana, and to climb over which has been forbidden by Mahāprabhu Himself – how to adjust?
I found the adjustment in this way – Vyāsa was living over the Himalayas and Madhva also met him. In connection with serving them, Prabhupāda lived there to satisfy them though apparently he had crossed the advice of Mahāprabhu, but he made the adjustment with Vyāsa and Madhva. This conception allowed him to stay there. For the service of guru we can even climb on his bedstead. Sometimes it is necessary to stand on the siṁhāsana in order to crown the Deity. We are told that the siṁhāsana is supposed to be the extension of Baladeva or Nityānanda. But for the service necessity we can approach anywhere and everywhere but not to fulfil our own purpose.
To understand when it is necessary to follow the higher statements of the guru, we sometimes have to enter the higher zone of siddhānta with Rādhārani, the sakhīs, the mañjarīs etc. But that is only for the purpose of service and we should not stay there for a long time. We must come back and remain in our own fit position. Otherwise they will be dishonoured and they will disappear forever from my mind. I will be nowhere and once that is withdrawn, we will become disbelievers. We will be helplessly thrown to the plane of atheism. We have to tackle those things very carefully and only for the necessity of service to our guru.
We must always be very particular that we always select our position on a lower standard – not on the same plane as our superiors, the guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. That is the key to success. Don’t try to make such high things an object of your experience.
Taking the Name of Rādhārāṇī
Even when taking the Holy Name of Rādhārāṇī, we give some pranāma: “Oh, please forgive me, I am not qualified to take Your Holy Name, I am not qualified. I am trying to say so much. With my small tongue, I am taking Your Holy Name. Forgive me, forgive me, I have got the audacity of taking Your Holy Name.” She is so high, so great, so noble, that we can’t consider ourselves fit to take Her Holy Name. Śukadeva Gosvāmī did not directly take Rādhārāṇī’s name in the whole of Bhāgavatam where he has given what is the true perception of divine love.
Our Guru Mahārāja told so many things but very rarely did he take the Name of Rādhārāṇī. He had such great respect for Her. Once one big zamindar (land-owner) came to Guru Mahārāja and opened the topic that Pārvatī’s beauty was higher than that of the gopīs. Prabhupāda could not tolerate that idea, and he began to describe the beauty of Rādhārāṇī with great enthusiasm and emotion, but another force was checking his attempt. Rādhārāṇī’s beauty was being challenged by some quarter so he had to speak, but at the same time he was not prepared to describe that beauty in public – it should not be exposed to them. They are unable to appreciate even a very small portion of that. Two opposite forces from different directions were fighting in him and he fell from his chair and fainted.
Prabhupāda was not ready to bear a slight dishonour concerning Rādhārāṇī. Prabhupāda once ordered one gentleman to sing a song by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Āmi ta svānanda-sukhada-vāsī. There it is mentioned:
rādhikāra-kuñja āndhāra kari
laite cahe se rādhāra hari
Candrāvalī wants to take away Rādhā’s Hari, thus causing the love-grove of Rādhikā to be overcast with the darkness of gloom (Śaraṇāgati 5.4.5)
“I am in the group of Rādhārāṇī and I can’t tolerate the sight of the sakhīs of the other camp, the camp of Candravālī, Śaibyā etc. because their sight excites in me the idea that they want to take Kṛṣṇa from the camp of Rādhārāṇī making it dark for us.”
I saw Prabhupāda sitting in a canvas chair, patiently hearing Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s song. The song was sung twice. During the course of that song this statement came –rādhikāra-kuñja āndhāra kari – they want to snatch away Kṛṣṇa making the kuñja of Rādhārāṇī dark. Prabhupāda felt a shock. His body would jerk. I noticed it. Again the song was repeated, but whenever that point would come, he had a shock as if an arrow had hit him from the back. He could not tolerate. He was not ready to tolerate any dishonour to the camp of Rādhārāṇī. It was intolerable that Rādhārāṇī’s kuñja was dark and Kṛṣṇa was absent because He has gone to please another. It was inconceivable to Prabhupāda. Although Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written this as an impartial statement, in his relative position Prabhupāda could not tolerate. Such is the sentiment of the proper devotees of Śrī Rādhikā.
We must always keep such topics at a respectable distance over our heads – pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge. This is a very happy expression, very sweet and very useful also. Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge – herein is the whole tenor of our Guru Mahārāja and the nature of his service. It is not only for him, but he has extended this banner to all.