There is one personality whose name is not referred to in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, yet the readers of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam nurture the hope of becoming that person’s devoted servant. May that personality, who is everything to Bhagavān, completely destroy our false-ego and grant us shelter at Her feet.
Today is Her appearance day. Having accrued all varieties of compassion from Bhagavān, she distributes that as gifts to all. May that personification of great mercy manifest within our hearts and make Her appearance there. May Her appearance day be the concern of our adoration.
Generally we hear that the whole world is maintained by Govinda. Many people discuss about Govinda in this way. Yet there is one whom Govinda Himself considers as His sarvasva – His all in all. Without taking shelter of that personality, we will not be able to comprehend what sarvasva actually means. The word sva means ‘one’s own’, and sva also means ‘treasure.’ Sva means Govinda’s own and also one who is Govinda’s treasure. She is the complete wealth of Govinda – the wealth of the wealth of Govinda. She is Govinda’s sarvasva-vastu. When we make Her our worshippable object, then we will understand the actual meaning of worship.
All the śāstras loudly proclaim that those things in relation to Bhagavān are the objects of worship. Apart from Him, no one else can be worthy of the word ārādhya (worship). At present we are bound by ignorance and we have forsaken our search, cheating ourselves out of attaining prema. At the time when anarthas arise, we mistake Him for something else. Our ultimate goal is artha (that which is necessary), the opposite of which is anartha. If we do not serve those innermost necessary ideals, or perfections that are available to us, and if we do not gain instructions on the matter of service, then we will be ruled by our own false-ego, rendering service unto something else other than that which is actually worthy of service.
Only divine love for God is worthy of worship. Understanding this point clearly, we live with the fervent hope that we will eventually be counted amongst Her retinue. Otherwise, it is better for us to die thousands of times.
āśā bharair amṛta-sindhu-mayaiḥ kathañcit
kālo mayātigamitaḥ kila sāmprataṁ hi
tvaṁ cet kṛpāṁ mayi vidhāsyasi naiva kiṁ me
prāṇair vrajena ca varoru bakāriṇāpi
“O Varoru, my beautiful, most magnanimous Goddess, my heart is flooded with an ocean of nectarean hopes. I have somehow been passing my time until now eagerly longing for Your grace, which is an ocean of ever cherished nectar. If still you do not bestow Your mercy on me then of what use to me are my life, the land of Vraja or even Śrī Kṛṣṇa who without You, is simply a mighty hero the destroyer of demoniac forces like Baka.” (Vilapa-kusumanjali 102)
ha natha gokula-sudhakara su-prasanna
vaktraravinda madhura-smita he krpardra
yatra tvaya viharate pranayaih priyarat
tatraiva mam api naya priya-sevanaya
“O Lord, O ambrosial moon of Gokula, O Lord whose beautiful face is like a lotus flower, O sweetly smiling one, O You who are soft and compassionate, so I may render service unto You, please take me to where Your beloved sports in loving pastimes with You.” (Vilāpa-kusumāñjali 100)
This is the devotee’s only desirable hope – when will that ocean of nectarean hope bear fruit? I believe it is imperative that I maintain my life because of that hope. But because our eagerness does not increase, that hope is not completely attained – that hope is not fruitful. If that hope is not fulfilled today, if today Govinda’s sarvasva does not manifest in our hearts, then we have been deceived. You will not be able to find anyone more unfortunate than us in the history of the world. If we are cheated out of serving that personality whose mercy awards us everything we need, including residence in the Lord’s holy dhāma, and all things connected to Him, and if we cannot understand Her identity or discover Her within the 18,000 verses of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, then our study of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam has been pointless.
Being intimately acquainted with Her identity, Śrī Gaurasundara has spoken to us on the topic of unnata-ujjvala-rasa (the highest mellows of conjugal love) , explaining the various ways of serving the Lord and the process of pure service. It is only because He spoke to us about ujjvala-rasa that we may understand the topic, as well as the opposite – the meagre splendour of material rasa.
In order to incite us to render service unto Him, Bhagavān has personally given us knowledge of Himself in so many ways. However it is necessary that we fully understand that personality who has rendered such perfect service to Bhagavān that He has made Her the object of His own service. Those who praise Her can award us the qualification to serve Her and they can manifest anurāga (attachment) for Her lotus feet within our innermost heart. The intelligence and strength to serve Her is attained by accepting the association of Her beloved friends who are under Her shelter – in this way we may realize that service to Her is our highest objective.
When we can understand, through the instructions of the mahājanas, that She is Bhagavān’s sarvasva, we must proceed to serve Her, knowing that the prosperity of worship only exists in Her. From this day forward, Her appearance day, if we engage in Her service then we shall become qualified to reach the pinnacle of the highest type of auspiciousness.
All of us do not pray for that highest auspiciousness. But if by some ajñāta–sukṛti we obtain the association of one of the associates of Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī, who is the personification and source of supreme auspiciousness, and if we are granted the actual good fortune of hearing genuine discussions about Her, then we can attain the inspiration to journey along the path of highest auspiciousness.
If we deprive ourselves of rendering service to and taking shelter of She who means everything to Nanda-nandana, the emporium of rasa (akhila-rasāmṛta-mūrti) as well as Her associates, then we will never attain the qualification to serve Govinda. Firstly, to understand Her identity, we believe that it is necessary to know Her name. But while studying the Bhāgavata we cannot find any occurrence of Her name, we only find descriptions of Her form, qualities, the distinctive characteristics of Her companions and Her pastimes. In Bhāgavatam, we find everything about Govinda’s all in all, with the exception of Her name. But we discover this in the verses of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam:
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me yad vijñāna-samanvitam
sa-rahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
“To be merciful upon you I will teach you the most esoteric knowledge of Me, including the realisation of My nature and entourage, the inconceivable mystery of loving devotion or prema-bhakti, and its constituent part in the form of devotional practice or sadhana-bhakti. Now hear My message attentively, and accept what I impart to you.” (Bhāg.2.9.30)
kālena naṣṭā pralaye vāṇīyaṁ veda-saṁjñitā
mayādau brahmaṇe proktā dharmo yasyāṁ mad-ātmakaḥ
tena proktā sva-putrāya manave pūrva-jāya sā
tato bhṛgv-ādayo ’gṛhṇan sapta brahma-maharṣayaḥ
“The message of the Vedas is eternal religion, non-different from Me. When in the course of time those eternal teachings disappeared from view with the universal cataclysm, I imparted them to Lord Brahmā at the dawning of a new creation.” (Bhāg. 11.14.3-4)
The Lord explained all these topics to Brahma, the original person, but after some time the people of this world forgot the Lord’s words because the stream of their thoughts were subjected to the effects of old age and destruction.
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me yad vijñāna-samanvitam
sa-rahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
“As I speak, listen to Me and try to understand. Knowledge about Me is extremely confidential.” That knowledge is endowed with realization, it is knowledge possessed with confidentiality – it is the supreme secret. Rahasya means rahasi sthitaḥ – this means that those secrets cannot be assimilated by any external force, nor can any branch of those secrets be grasped. Due to the currents of thought that exist in the external world, we have forgotten the essential objective of taking shelter at the feet of those who have true knowledge of the ātmā. Bhagavān is ever ready to bestow this knowledge.
Bhagavān told Brahmā: “As I speak, listen to Me and try to understand. Without My mercy no one is eligible to hear or assimilate this message. Only through My mercy can anyone obtain this confidential knowledge. What am I? What is My form? What is My svarūpa? What are My qualities? What are the distinctive characteristics of My confidantes? What is My līlā? My supramundane pastimes that are surcharged with rasa far exceed the path of mundane sentiments. There is no way to attain this without the potency of My mercy. I am the storehouse of all transcendental qualities – I am not speaking about those qualities that are contaminated with the modes of passion and ignorance, but of those that are the foundation for creating, maintaining and destroying the universe. I am distinguished by these attributes and I am the active cause of all effects, thus I am the essential original principle. This can only be realised by attaining My mercy.” In this way the words mad-anugraha (My mercy) have been used. Information concerning Bhagavān’s parts and parcels, information on confidential topics related to Him, information concerning realized knowledge – specifically that which is endowed with spiritual consciousness, and information concerning His opulence – these are all supremely confidential and non-dualistic. It can never be initiated at any period or for any reason without the express mercy of the Lord. This secret knowledge is thoroughly expressed in the beginning of the catuḥ-śloki verses of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. We are most fortunate that Śrī Gaurasundara has revealed this to the world. A secret topic has been mentioned, but the name of that personality about whom this secret is concerned has not been uttered. Because it is a secret, it should not be revealed to those advocating foolish ideologies and thus it has not been openly disclosed. After hearing the pastimes of Nanda-nandana as narrated in the Bhāgavata, such people do not gain strong faith, and rejecting all these topics they simply deliberate upon the impersonal non-dual nature of the Lord, which is favourable to their mundane realisations. Some of them consider it reasonable to merge into that. Without hearing from a proper source, their perceptions will be perverted. Due to their vehement hatred of service to the Lord, such persons can never understand topics concerning the intrinsic nature of bhakti. Due to the trajectory of the sun, the appearance day of the Supreme Goddess who is fully imbued with rasa, has arisen in our own radiantly pure hearts. The roaming sun is revealing that Supreme Goddess. Therefore, today the demigods are also showing us great favour by revealing this secret.
It is our duty to surrender unto one who is acquainted with that secret. A poet by the name of Manohara Dāsa has said:
rādhā-pāda-paṅkaja bhakata ki āśa
dāsa manohara kara ta ’piyāsa
“The hope of the devotees is that they may serve the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. This is also Manohara Dāsa’s desire.”
The exclusive aspiration of the greatest devotees of the Lord is service to the lotus feet of Radha:
śrī-rādhā-pada-dāsyam eva paramābhīṣṭaṃ hṛdā dhārayan
karhi syāṃ tad-anugraheṇa paramābhutānurāgotsavaḥ
“When will I relish that most wonderful festival of attachment to the lotus feet of Śrī Radha by holding that most supreme desire of serving the Divine Couple, within my heart?” (Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi 259)
In his aṣṭāpadīs, Śrī Jayadeva has said:
kaṁsārir api saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām
rādhām ādhāya hṛdaye tatyāja vraja-sundarīḥ
“The enemy of Kaṁsa (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) abandoned the other beautiful damsels of Vraja and took Radha within His heart, for she was like a chain that tied him tightly to his supreme and essential desire to enjoy the rasa dance.” (Gītā Govinda 3.1)
At the rasa-sthālī all the gopīs are present with Gopīnātha, absorbed in playful pastimes of rasa. When Vārṣabhānavī (Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī) arrived at the rasa-sthālī, She saw that unlimited gopīs were dancing in a circle, all of them fully occupied in serving the Lord. Feeling sorrow within Her mind, the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja thought, “Today My Kṛṣṇa is in the hands of others! Today My own associates are busy enjoying pastimes with Him!” Thus, to nurture vipralambha-bhāva – which actually nourishes sambhoga-rasa – rather than taking part, Vārṣabhānavī ran away from the rasa-sthālī. At this point Jayadeva Prabhu has written, “Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Kaṁsa, suddenly broke away from the rasa-sthālī.” Saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām – with thoughts of Rādhā in His heart, Kṛṣṇa abandoned all the other beautiful damsels of Vraja. When someone rejects the shelter of Rādhikā, any expertise they may have in pleasing the senses of Kṛṣṇa can never conform with exclusive heartfelt service to Him. All the gopīs are direct expansions of Rādhikā, and while they remain proudly under the shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s sarvasva, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, they can supply Kṛṣṇa the topmost pleasure:
rīmān rāsa-rasārambhī vaṁśī-vaṭa-taṭa-sthitaḥ
karṣan veṇu-svanair gopīr gopī-nāthaḥ śriye ’stu naḥ
(Cc. Ādi-līlā 1.17)
“Śrīmad Gopīnātha nurtures the mellows that manifests during the rāsa-līlā. Standing at the shore near Vaṁśī-vaṭa, He attracts all the gopīs by the sound of His flute. May He grant us all auspiciousness.”
We will never assent to enjoying Śrī Kṛṣṇa (sambhoga) without taking shelter of She who is His all in all. To shed light on this, the author of the aṣṭāpadī reveals something that supplements the description in the Bhāgavata when he says, tatyaja-vraja-sundarih – as all the gopīs danced in the rāsa-līlā, Kṛṣṇa abandoned them in order to find Śrī Rādhikā who resided in His heart. The fetters of the love of all the other gopīs are powerless, weak and susceptible in comparison to the bonds of Vārṣabhānavī which are extremely strong and powerful. All the gopīs took shelter of Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī’s adhirūḍha-mahābhāva – overwhelmed by mohana, madana and other intense feelings of separation, they went to find Kṛṣṇa. They all understood that without taking shelter at the lotus feet of Vārṣabhānavī, Govinda’s sarvasva, madhura-rasa is never completely nourished. All the loving sentiments with which the various gopīs perform their services, simultaneously exist in Vārṣabhānavī exclusively in their entirety. Deserting all the other gopīs, who were immersed in feelings of proṣita-bharttṛkā etc. Kṛṣṇa was attracted by Vārṣabhānavī’s captivating charms, since She possesses all these loving sentiments in full. Thus He set out to find that personality who even attracts the all-attractive One. The gopīs are expansions of Rādhikā and are eternally a portion of She who is the original source – they could not bind Kṛṣṇa, for He completely belonged to Rādhikā. Thus She enticed Kṛṣṇa, who attracts everyone, from the rasa–sthālī. One can only understand such topics if the functions of the soul have awakened to the taste of madhura-rati (divine love). But those whose hearts contain an intense mood of vātsalya–rasa can also completely appreciate the sweetness and beauty of such pastimes.
All the gopīs came to participate at the rasa-sthālī, attracted by Kṛṣṇa and charmed by the sweet sound of His flute. Again, when Vārṣabhānavī, the complete embodiment of madhura-rati, desired to offer service, then the object of our service Nanda-nandana Gopīnātha Rādhā-ramaṇa discarded the general attraction of all the other gopīs and was captivated by Śrī Vārṣabhānavī’s charm. He who is most attractive became attracted. Therefore, when liberated jīvas attain the eligibility to fathom Rādhikā’s identity, they consider the following:
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
“The jñānīs 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 who have attained love for Kṛṣṇa. The 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?” (Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 10)
kṛṣṇasyoccaiḥ praṇaya-vasatiḥ preyasībhyo ’pi rādhā
kuṇḍaṁ cāsyā munibhir abhitas tādṛg eva vyadhāyi
yat preṣṭhair apy alam asulabhaṁ kiṁ punar bhakti-bhājāṁ
tat premedaṁ sakṛd api saraḥ snātur āviṣkaroti
“It has been established by great sages that amongst all the beloved vraja-gopīs, Śrī Radha is Kṛṣṇa’s most treasured object of love. Similarly, Her kuṇḍa is just as dear to Him. One who bathes even once in the waters of Rādhā-kuṇḍa attains love for Kṛṣṇa which is extremely difficult to achieve even for great devotees, what to speak of ordinary devotees.” (Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 11)
Śrī Rādhikā is the abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s intense love, and amongst all other dear associates, She is the most illustrious and the most beloved in all respects. Uddhava and other great devotees pray for the dust of the feet of the gopīs, and all the gopīs consider themselves most fortunate if they obtain Her shelter. The topmost devotees, who are drawn towards madhura-rasa and who have reached the topmost levels of devotion to Bhagavān, take refuge in the land of Vārṣabhānavī’s pleasure pastimes and bathe in Her lake, Rādhā-kuṇḍa. With a sentient attitude they constantly bathe and reside there. Those who have loyalty towards Śaibyā and Candrā do not even have the qualification to drink there. To constantly reside on the banks of that lake and to bathe there with a mindful attitude is not achieved by any common, fortunate person. So long as the divinity of Vārṣabhānavī’s youth and nature does not become the subject of our reflection, we will never fully comprehend the glories of achieving Her shelter.
In order to perform bhajana, it is essential for the students of the Bhāgavata to know Her Name. Bhajana begins with nāma. One cannot begin bhajana starting with līlā.
prathamaṁ nāmnaḥ śravaṇam-antaḥkaraṇa-śuddhy-artham apekṣyam. śuddhe cāntaḥ-karaṇe rūpa-śravaṇena tad-udaya-yogyatā bhavati. samyag udite ca rūpe guṇānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ sampadyeta, sampanne ca guṇānāṁ sphuraṇe parikara-vaiśiṣthyena tad-vaiśiṣthyaṁ sampadyate tatas teṣu nāma-rūpa-guṇa-parikareṣu samyak sphuriteṣu līlānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ suṣṭhu bhavatity-abhipretya sādhana-kramo likhitaḥ
“For the purification of the heart it is necessary first of all to listen to the chanting of the Holy Name. After the heart has been purified by listening to the Holy Name the fitness for the manifestation of the holy Form is attained on hearing the recital of scriptural accounts of the divine form. After the full appearance of the divine form, the divine qualities manifest themselves. After the appearance of the divine qualities, due to the characteristic traits of servitors, the knowledge of the distinctive and perfect identification of the devotee arises. Subsequent to this, after the full manifestation of the Name, form, quality and servitor has taken place, the transcendental activity of God manifests itself. For this reason this account of the successive stages of sadhana is written.” (Krama-sandarbha commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.18)
Therefore, if our contemplation on rasa is not born from an attraction to the Holy Name, then we are not qualified to study Bhagavān’s form, qualities and pastimes. Some may have attained external, mundane perfection in grammar, however, as long as their conduct conflicts with that of realized souls, the topic of the Lord’s rāsa-līlā will never be grasped by them. For this reason, Śrī Gaurasundara has explained nāma–bhajana. Along with the taraka-brahma-nāma (the Divine Name that grants deliverance) we find the word ‘hare’ and if one does not understand the primary meaning (vidvad-rūḍhi) of this word, there will be difficulty. Even when we consider the word ‘rāma,’ many times we are compelled by historical concerns. Repeatedly, allegorical and metaphysical theories, as well as the fictitious notion of imposing human nature upon the Supreme Lord ruin our pure intelligence. Those who lack rahasya-jñāna (knowledge of confidential truths) and try to be an intermediary for darṣana of Rādhā-Govinda, will finds that knowledge concealed from them. In the mahā-mantra, the word ‘Harā’ which denotes Vārṣabhānavī, becomes the word ‘Hare’ in sambodhanātmakā-pada (the vocative case). In the mahā-mantra, the word ‘Rāma’ refers to Rādhikā-ramaṇa Rāma in the vocative case. Those who have not achieved the qualification to enter into madhura-rati and have not obtained rahasya-jñāna consider that ‘Hare’ is simply the vocative form of Hari. Some even say that the word ‘rāma’ means ātma-rāma (one who is self-satisfied) and go no further than that.
To declare that Puruṣottama alone exists is to present only half of His true identity. Those words that do not express the other half only mislead us. When we are cheated of the conception of a Supreme Divine Couple, we will also reject the idea of the non-difference between śaktiman and śakti (the Potent and the Potency) – then, whatever small understanding we may already have of Puruṣottama also degrades, and results in the theory of an impotent God.
The conception of Rādhā-Govinda is the most complete. Discussions on anugatya-dharma towards Puruṣottama who exists alone can only terminate in vātsalya, sakhya and dāsya–rasa – the topic of unnata-ujjvala-rasa is not discussed. Direct words such as Rādhānātha, Rādhā-ramaṇa etc. describe His totality and completeness; words such as Brahman or Paramātmā can never establish this. All those who traverse through the kingdom of sādhana-bhakti, and then the realm of bhāva-bhakti in search of prema-bhakti must realise that the topmost pinnacle of prema-bhakti is only found in the divine love of Vārṣabhānavī and nowhere else. Without Her shelter, the jīva achieves very little eligibility.
When we pass over Devi Dhāma, Virajā, Brahmaloka, and we cross beyond all the conceptions of opulence found in Paravyoma, as well as the informal moods of friendship and parental affection found in Goloka, situated in our eternally perfect spiritual identity and familiar with the topics of Rādhā-ramaṇa, then our qualifications will be so great that we will consider ourselves extremely fortunate and our service shall rise to the zenith of perfection. This cannot simply be called ‘realisation,’ or aparokṣa-anubhūti. It is not the aparokṣa-anubhūti described by the jñānīs. This thing is an extraordinary affair called mohana and madana. These things are known as udghūrṇā, citra-jalpa and mahā-bhāva. Presently we reside within our gross bodies, which present many obstacles for us – even the sensitivity of our subtle bodies causes us problems. If the pursuit of our soul is without the unhindered and incessant shelter of Vārṣabhānavī, then we will never find it. Thus, taking the dust from the feet of the best of rūpānugas, Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī Prabhu, upon our heads, we earnestly pray:
hā devi! kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍavad udbhaṭārtiḥ
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike! nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi
“O Goddess Gāndharvikā! Feeling intense distress I fall on the ground like a stick and implore You with many words and in a faltering voice to be merciful to this fool and accept me as one of Your own associates.” (Gāndharvā Samprārthanāṣṭakam 2)