Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta (Nectar of Instruction)
Upadeśāmṛta Chapter Overview
Verse Nine (vaikuṇṭhāj janito varā madhu-purī tatrāpi rāsotsavād) of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta (The Nectar of Instruction) gives a hierarchy of spiritual attainment from Vaikuṇṭha to Mathurā, onto to Vṛndāvana, Govardhana hill and finally Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja further elaborates upon this.
वैकुण्ठाज्जनितो वरा मधुपुरी तत्रापि रासोत्सवाद्वृन्दारण्यमुदारपाणिरामणात्तत्रापि गोवर्धनः ।
राधाकुण्डमिहापि गोकुलपतेः प्रेमामृताप्लावनात्कुर्यादस्य विराजतो गिरितटे सेवां विवेकी न कः ॥ ९ ॥
vaikuṇṭhāj janito varā madhu-purī tatrāpi rāsotsavād
vṛndāraṇyam udāra-pāṇi-ramaṇāt tatrāpi govardhanaḥ
rādhā-kuṇḍam ihāpi gokula-pateḥ premāmṛtāplāvanāt
kuryād asya virājato giri-taṭe sevāṁ vivekī na kaḥ
Word for Word
vaikuṇṭhāt – Vaikuṇṭha; janita – due to the birth (of Kṛṣna); varā – superior; madhu-purī – Mathurā; tatrāpi – even more than; rāsa-utsavā – the festival of the rasa-dance; vṛndāraṇyam – the forest of Vṛndāvana; udāra – merciful; pāṇi – hand; ramaṇāt – due to His amorous pastimes; tatrāpi – even more than; govardhanaḥ – Govardhana Hill; rādhā-kuṇḍam – Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa; iha api – even more than this; gokula-pateḥ – the Lord of Gokula; prema – divine love; amṛta – nectar; āplāvanāt – brimming; kuryād – engage in; asya – of Rādhā-kuṇḍa; virājataḥ – situated; giri – Govardhana; taṭe – at the foot; sevāṁ – service; vivekī – intelligent person; na – not; kaḥ – who.
Because Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared there, Mathurā is considered to be superior to Vaikuṇṭha. Greater than Mathurā is the forest of Vṛndāvana because this was where the rāsa-līlā pastimes of the Lord took place. Govardhana Hill is considered to be superior to Vṛndāvana because Kṛṣṇa performed amorous pastimes there and raised it with His merciful hand. However, Rādhā-kuṇḍa is superior to Govardhana Hill because it is brimming with the nectar of divine love for the Lord of Gokula. Which intelligent person will not render service to this place which is situated at the foot of Govardhana Hill?
In his Upadeśāmṛta, Rūpa Gosvāmī leaps from Vaikuṇṭha in one stride to Mathurā where everything is available in a very clear and substantial way. In one stride he comes to the Kṛṣṇa conception of Godhead. But in Bṛhat-bhāgavatamṛtam Sanātana Gosvāmī has filled in the gap for us. In Bṛhat-bhāgavatāmṛtam Gopa-kumāra begins from the lowest stage of devotion, gradually making progress through different levels, and at last he comes to the Kṛṣṇa conception. According to the gradation of consciousness in its development from provincial to universal, we may find ourselves in so many different planets or planes of existence.
Bhūloka is where we are – the world of our experience, the world of our sense perception. It is a peculiar place where we have free choice. Other places are only meant to enjoy or to suffer our good or bad deeds. But in this human species, in Bhūloka, we can take an independent step. In other places more or less, we have no independence. Bhuvaḥ is the mental sphere. The effect of our mental acquisition takes us to our present position of experience. It is not by accident that we are exist here in this world of our experience. We have acquired such a position by our previous karma and the area of our previous karma is called Bhuvaḥ. This physical sphere is only an outcome of that mental sphere. The present world of experience is the product of our previous mental impulses.
Svaḥ means the plane of decision-making. What to do? What not to do? What I like; what I dislike. This is called saṅkalpa-vikalpa. I like this, I don’t like that – this is the soil of the mental world of acceptance and rejection.
In this way, in this mundane world, there are different planes of existence – Bhū, Bhuvaḥ, Svaḥ, Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satyaloka. The negative side includes these seven planes of life from Bhūloka up to Satyaloka where the creator, Lord Brahmā, lives. The master of the whole world of experience of the negative side lives in Satyaloka. The negative side, consisting of the combination of the three modes of material nature that produces this world, finishes in Satyaloka. Then begins Virajā, the verge of the equilibrium of the negative side – the last limit of material consciousness and the highest position aspired for by the Buddhists. And the verge of equilibrium of the positive side is Brahmaloka, the beginning of the ‘Land of Service’ – the equipoised verge of the positive world aspired for by the Śaṅkarites.
The next is Śivaloka. On that side there is Sadā-Śiva and He is as the master of the māyā. Vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ – there in Śivaloka, Śiva is a devotee of Nārāyaṇa, representing himself as a token of service in Vaikuṇṭha. That is the position of Sadā-Śiva in Śivaloka. Sadā-Śiva and Mahā-Viṣṇu are almost one and the same. On that side Sadā-Śiva is a devotee, and on this side there is Rudra. The marginal position between the serving world and the enjoying world is Śiva. That aspect that is towards the enjoying side is Rudra and that which is towards the serving side is Sadā-Śiva. The real position of Śiva is a very difficult thing to understand. It is marginal, two aspects combined – mainly tyāga, sometimes bhoga and sometimes service. Śiva-tattva means marginal. Śiva-tattva, guru-tattva, dhāma-tattva and śrī-vigraha-tattva – these four things are very difficult to understand.
After Śivaloka we find Vaikuṇṭha, the land made known to the world by Śrī Rāmānujācārya. In that area of the paravyoma, there are so many Vaikuṇṭhas in so many different phases of the pastimes of Lord Nārāyaṇa who resides in the centre. Then there is Ayodhyā with Rāmacandra. Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa are in Vaikuṇṭha, the plane of worship with splendour and grandeur, but Ayodhyā is better than Vaikuṇṭha. Why? In Ayodhyā there is the first introduction of vātsalya-rasa. The variegated nature of ānanda is not to be found in Vaikuṇṭha. In Vaikuṇṭha there is no father or mother of either Nārāyaṇa or Lakṣmī Devī. But vātsalya-rasa, sakhya-rasa and mādhurya-rasa in the real sense may not be found there in Ayodhyā. Mādhurya-rasa is not distributed there extensively. Only Sītā is there, Rāmacandra’s affectionate wife. And there also Rāmacandra is under the pressure of nīti, moral laws.
Dvārakā is between Ayodhyā and Mathurā. There we find Kṛṣṇa being worshiped in different rasas. He is with many queens there and the devotees are serving Him in different ways. Unlike Rāmacandra, He is free and not controlled by the laws of this world where He has to sacrifice even His heart and the truth to the false opinion of His subjects. He is free in Dvārakā and the prospect for līlā there is also of a variegated nature. Mādhurya-rasa is also there in Dvārakā, but it is not fully represented. Kṛṣṇa is the son of Vasudeva and Devakī but He is aspiring after the sweet playful stage of Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā is conscious of His līlā in Vṛndāvana, but He can’t go there. He has self-imposed duties and engagements. He feels in His heart that, “I was very happy when I was playing during My youth in Vṛndāvana, but now duty does not allow Me time for this.”
From Dvārakā we come to Mathurā-maṇḍala. There we find Kṛṣṇa to be more comprehensive, more free, an autocrat, and free from the contamination of grandeur and politics. Kṛṣṇa’s birth ceremony is found in Mathurā, not in Vaikuṇṭha or Dvārakā, so Mathurā is greater because the service of a higher type can be found there. By the measurement of rasa, Mathurā holds a superior position because the rasa is more variegated there. The measurement of high and low is according to the rasa, the actual measurement of the ecstasy that can be felt by the servitors.
There are various conceptions of Kṛṣṇa – Dvārakā-Kṛṣṇa is there, Mathurā-Kṛṣṇa is there, but the highest conception of Kṛṣṇa is Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana. Vṛndāvana-Kṛṣṇa does not care for Mathurā and Dvārakā. Vṛndāvana is above Dvārakā and Mathurā. In Dvārakā and Mathurā Kṛṣṇa is a political man. The Kṛṣṇa of Mathurā is different to the Kṛṣṇa of Vṛndāvana. We must always remember this. In Vṛndāvana there is free love, free faith. There Kṛṣṇa is in a playful mood, playing freely in a very plain place where His friends are also of a similar nature. He does not show any gorgeous, kingly style. All these Kṛṣṇas are both one and different – that is acintya-bhedābheda, distinction and non-distinction. There is a difference in function and mood. Within the Kṛṣṇa conception we find so much variety according to His temperament and satisfaction. It is inconceivable. The unified and differentiated character of reality is inconceivable; its secret is in the hand of the Supreme power. It does not depend upon our whim. Still, that differentiated character of the Absolute will be seen differently according to the subjective relationship we have with Him.
mallānām aśanir nṛṇāṁ nara-varaḥ strīṇāṁ smaro mūrtimān
gopānāṁ sva-jano ‘satāṁ kṣiti-bhujāṁ śāstā sva-pitroḥ śiśuḥ
mṛtyur bhoja-pater virāḍ aviduṣāṁ tattvaṁ paraṁ yogināṁ
vṛṣṇīnāṁ para-devateti vidito raṅgam gataḥ sāgrajaḥ
When Śrī Kṛṣṇa entered the arena with His brother Balarāma, He was regarded by the spectators in different ways. The wrestlers considered Him to be like a thunderbolt. The men thought of Him as the best of men. To the ladies, He appeared to be the god of love personified. The cowherd men looked upon Kṛṣṇa as their own kinsman. The vassal kings saw Him as a great chastiser. His parents saw Him as their most beloved child. Kāṁsa, the king of the Bhoja Dynasty, perceived Him as death personified. The foolish saw Him as the Universal Form. To the yogīs, He appeared to be the indwelling Supersoul. To the members of the Vṛṣṇi Dynasty, He appeared to be their most revered Lord. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.43.17)
When Kṛṣṇa was entering the arena to meet with Kāṁsa, different persons saw Him in different ways. It was the same Kṛṣṇa entering, but different classes of people were looking at Him, but seeing Him in different ways. But they are one and the same Kṛṣṇa. That is also possible. According to their adhikāra they saw Him differently. Some saw Him as a foe, some as a friend, some as their son, some as a politician and some as a king. In this way there were persons of different categories and according to their own position, they were seeing Him differently. Kṛṣṇa satisfies everyone. Even the animals in Vṛndāvana become ecstatic when they come in connection with Kṛṣṇa.
barhāpīdaṁ naṭa-vara-vapuḥ karṇayoḥ karṇikāraṁ
bibhrad vāsaḥ kanaka-kapiśaṁ vaijayantīṁ ca mālām
randhrān veṇor adhara-sudhayāpūrayan gopa-vṛndair
vṛndāraṇyaṁ sva-pada-ramaṇaṁ prāviśad-gīta-kīrtiḥ
With His head adorned with a peacock-feather, blue karṇikāra flowers on His ears, wearing yellow garments as bright as gold, and the Vaijayantī garland around His neck, that best of dancers, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, entered the forest of Vṛndāvana and beautified it with the marks of His lotus feet. He filled the holes of His flute with the nectar of His lips, as the cowherd boys sang His glories. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.21.5)
Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana differs from Kṛṣṇa in Govardhana. In Vṛndāvana there is free mixing by Kṛṣṇa without any hesitation in connection with other camps of the gopīs. That is a general rāsa-līlā. At Govardhana there are only selected groups – both the camp of Rādhārāṇī and Candrāvalī are to be found there. But our need is the exclusive group – the group of Rādhārāṇī.
Rādha-kuṇḍa is only for the selected group of Rādhārāṇī, not for any other. Rūpa Gosvāmī has mentioned this. Rādha-kuṇḍa is the highest position where only Rādhārāṇī and Her own confidential group approach to serve Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa, in His full-fledged love, comes to cooperate with Her service. The highest conception of Kṛṣṇa is at Rādha-kuṇḍa.
Vaikuṇṭha is to be Eliminated
The land of dedication begins from Vaikuṇṭha and ends in Vṛndāvana. Vaikuṇṭha is calculative and Vṛndāvana is spontaneous and irresistible. Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī says that if we have too much attraction for the laws of vaidhi-bhakti and śāstrika rules, then we will be thrown down into the para-vyoma, to Vaikuṇṭha, and we won’t be able to keep up our position in Vṛndāvana where it is spontaneous. We won’t be allowed to take our position in the land of freedom where spontaneous love is the queen and is regulating the whole thing. She will throw us down to Vaikuṇṭha – “Go there! Do your duty according to scripture, according to calculation created by grandeur, awe and reverence. Go there! Only the simple, plain, spontaneous, hearty service of the Lord reigns here in Vṛndāvana and we are in the midst of that thing. We do not care for any other thing, only for the object of our love. That is our guide that is our śāstra that is everything. We do not know anything more and we do not want to know anything more.”
No necessity of any scriptural direction is found in Vṛndāvana. My direction is Kṛṣṇa – what law will come in between? A law will say, “Oh, you only did this much, so don’t go this way.” What is this? I must give my whole heart as much as I can command to my Lord and to those that are running to serve Him in that nature. There is no law, no scripture, no good will of the environment, of the society, so called relatives and also the ways that have been recommended by the śāstra – “You should do this, you should not do that.” That may be in the case of worldly matters but not in our dealings to Kṛṣṇa. That is spontaneous, that is automatic.
Therefore Vaikuṇṭha is to be eliminated, and even Ayodhyā and Dvārakā. Elimination of the highest is going on cautiously and with reverence. “What can I do? My fate is connected in Vṛndāvana. My inner hankering is for that type of service – forgive me.” Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī says that when the inner attraction is coming towards mādhurya-rasa, he is reluctant to go there.
sakhyāya te mama namo ‘stu namo ‘stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso ‘stu raso ‘stu satyam
I continually offer my respects to Your confidential service. My sincere inclination is to go towards the lower service. (Vilāpa-kusumāñjali 16)
The attraction for the highest class, I am not fit for that. This should be our temperament. I shall try my best to stick with the friendly circle, sakhya-rasa. I am afraid that it may entice me in a false way. I have no such great fortune in me. No ambition! Even in that world – no ambition! I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant. It is not an exaggeration. It is the real thing. We should find this sort of substance within us and then we are safe. We are in a good position. We must not think ourselves very high that we have already attained that spontaneous flow. In our position we must try to give some respect – pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge. We should always keep that on our heads. We shall roam about in the śāstrika area but our gurus, our superiors, our aspiration, should always be kept on our heads. I am not in such a big position, so I must show some respect for the śāstras etc. Otherwise if we think that whatever we do in the name of Kṛṣṇa is all right, then we go to hell.
Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge – we must retain our connection with the śāstrika society as far as possible and we will always give appreciation, reverence and love for that higher area. We ourselves may not put that into practice but our appreciation should always be towards that which is beyond the law. Kṛṣṇa is above law. Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s devotee are above the law, but we are not yet in that category. That should be our general temperament. Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge
In this way development in the theistic area has been shown to us, and we are fortunate enough that we can appreciate in our gradual progression these things given by Mahāprabhu, Bhāgavatam, and the gosvāmī-śāstra.