barhäpéòaà naöa-vara-vapuù karëayoù karëikäraà
bibhrad väsaù kanaka-kapiçaà vaijayantéà ca mäläm
randhrän veëor adhara-sudhayäpürayan gopa-våndair
våndäraëyaà sva-pada-ramaëaà präviçad géta-kértiù
Wearing a peacock-feather ornament upon His head, blue karëikära flowers on His ears, a yellow garment as brilliant as gold, and the Vaijayanté garland, Lord Kåñëa exhibited His transcendental form as the greatest of dancers as He entered the forest of Våndävana, beautifying it with the marks of His footprints. He filled the holes of His flute with the nectar of His lips, and the cowherd boys sang His glories. (SB 10.21.5)
iti veëu-ravaà räjan
çrutvä vraja-striyaù sarvä
O King, when the young ladies in Vraja heard the sound of Kåñëa’s flute, which captivates the minds of all living beings, they all embraced one another and began describing it. (SB 10.21.6)
Krsna Enters the Forest
During the time of Lord Rama’s advent, after Ravana had been destroyed and peace was restored to the hermitage of the sages, prince Satrughna traveled to the area of Mathura-mandala under orders from His kind-hearted brother. In the forest of Madhuvana lived a powerful demon of the name Lavana, the son of the demon Madhu. After a terrible fight, which lasted for a very long time and caused the entire earth to tremble, Satrughna killed the thorn to the brahminical order. In that place, he built the beautiful city of Mathura. As the eternal abode of Sri Krsna, Mathura City is neither created nor destroyed but, like the Lord, it appears and disappears by His own sweet will.
Situated on the bank of the charming Yamuna River, this Mathura City is beyond the influence of material contamination. Simply thinking “I shall live in Mathura” or “I will visit Mathura” is sufficient to guarantee liberation. The scriptures state that women, untouchables, sudms, animals, birds, deer, and all forms of fife can attain salvation if they die in Mathura. Those who die of snakebite, the attack of wild animals, from fire, water, or any sort of unnatural death are immediately transferred to the abode of Hari.
The beautiful city of Mathura is the eternal dwelling place of Lord Bhutesvara, the greatest of Sri Krsna’s devotees. Even the
name “Mathura” is equal to the Vedic hymn awn (am), for it contains the letters, ma, u, and a, which are the sound representation of the Absolute Truth. The syllable ma represents Maharudra Siva, thu represents Lord Visnu standing near Visrama-sthana, and ra represents Lord Brahma, the creator. As the topmost abode, these three deities — Brahma, Visnu, and Siva — always reside there.
The city of Mathura is more splendid than Brahmapuri. It is resplendent with gates fashioned of gold, entrances made of crystal, streets paved with valuable gems, and granaries built of brass. The main intersections of its roads are made of gold, and the mansions of its residents, surrounded by charming moats, resemble the palace of King Indra.
These houses have beautifully-latticed windows, gem-studded floors, decorated columns of sapphire, and balconies adorned with diamonds, crystal, coral, pearls, and emeralds. Gracing the doorways are pots filled with water, flags, rows of lamps, bunches of flowers, and the trunks of banana trees.
The many pleasant gardens and parks which beautify the city are full of blossoming trees, aromatic flowers, and serene lakes resounding with the happy calls of peacocks and doves. The royal roads, commercial streets, side roads, and courtyards are sprinkled with rose water, scented with incense, and decorated with flower garlands. Newly grown sprouts and parched grains are scattered everywhere.
Mathura is filled with unlimited holy places such as Visrama-tirtha, where Sri Krsna bathed and rested after killing Kaihsa; the house of Kubja, who received the soothing dust of His lotus feet;
the place where Kaihsa’s washerman met his end; and the humble house of the gardener Sudama, who is very dear to Sri Hari.
In the heart of this wonderful city, like a diamond in the center of a golden ring, stands the palace of Sri Krsna. It is the ultimate decoration for the ornament of the three worlds. Although He resides in unlimited opulence, surrounded by loving relatives, kind friends, and beautiful women, Mathuranatha Krsna remains troubled at heart. His eyes constantly moist with tears, Hari yearns to return to the pastoral atmosphere of Vrndavana and bathe in the happiness of its residents’ love.
Krsna Enters the Forest
One day, as He sat on a bedstead resembling the foam of milk, Sri Krsna was absorbed in thoughts of His childhood. Remembering the intense separation experienced by the vraja-vasis, Sri Krsna, who relieves the distress of the surrendered, took the hand of His friend Uddhava. As tears rolled down His pale cheeks. His voice choked with emotion and His lotus hands trembled. Sri Hari sorrowfully gazed into the eyes of intelligent Uddhava, who was astonished at the distress of his beloved friend. With great difficulty, Sri Krsna composed Himself and spoke the following words:
“Dear gentle Uddhava, I remember the day when I left Vrndavana upon the invitation of King Kaihsa and delivered my parents, Devaki and Vasudeva, who were suffering at his hand. As I sat on Akrura’s chariot, the gopis followed Me for a great distance, their eyes filled with tears, hoping I would leave some instruction. Seeing how they were lamenting, I tried to console them and sent a message with this loving promise: ‘1 shall return!'”
As He spoke these words, Sri Krsna became overwhelmed by many conflicting ecstasies that He could subdue only with great difficulty and after a long time. Feeling the comforting assurance of Uddhava’s hand. He continued, “Then, at the conclusion of -Kaihsa’s rule of terror, after dragging his dead body through the wrestling arena for all to see, I approached Nanda Maharaja and told him, ‘Dear father, you should all return to Vraja. Our relatives and friends in Mathura have suffered so much in Our absence. After giving them some happiness. We too shall quickly come home.’ In this way, I have given My promise to return to Vrndavana twice. But I cannot!”
Uddhava, the disciple of Brhaspati, the son of Devabhaga and Sri Krsna’s cousin brother, was His veritable second body. Leaning forward and speaking in a honeyed voice, he said, “Why do You not go for a short time and visit your relatives in that superlatively happy abode of Vrndavana? Surely no one will object to your fulfilling a promise and pacifying those who feel pain in your .absence.”
Sri Krsna replied, “Dear Uddhava, Vasudeva and Devaki have suffered so much on My account; how can I break My promise to reside in Mathura with them?”
Uddhava replied, “Then why not invite mother Yasoda and Nanda Baba here? It will be no more than one day’s travel for them. If You give me the order, I shall immediately dispatch a messenger, or even attend to the service myself. I will have them in Your palace by nightfall.”
Smiling through His tears, Sri Krsna said, “My dear friend, there are some things that you must learn about the residents of Vraja. Perhaps that day will come when you will understand their love. How can I show My affection to Nanda and Yasoda in the presence of Vasudeva and Devaki? It would create an incompatible situation. The spontaneous love of Nanda and Yasoda and their intimate dealings with Me cannot be understood in majestically opulent Mathura. Overall, the situation would be extremely awkward.”
Sri Uddhava was somewhat perplexed at the words of his divine friend. Although nothing in the language of the devas was unknown to him, he failed to understand their full purport. Seeing the defect in Uddhava’s realization but knowing him to be most qualified, Sri Krsna resolved within His mind to fulfill His purposes through him. He said, “Uddhava, you and I are like one person in two bodies. I consider that you are not even slightly different from Me. Therefore, I think it quite appropriate that, acting as my messenger, you deliver a letter from Me to My parents, friends, and gopis. In this way, bring them happiness and pacify the burning flames in My heart.”
Sri Krsna said, “Dear friend, please go to Vraja and deliver My message. Give pleasure to My parents and relieve the suffering of the gopis. Oh, Uddhava, for the ladies of Vraja I am the most cherished object of love. When they remember Me, who am far away, they are overwhelmed with the anxiety of separation and maintain their lives only because of My promise to return. Please go, deliver this letter, and tell them of the love that eternally resides in My heart for them.”
Sri Krsna then handed Uddhava a letter for King Nanda, a second letter for kindhearted mother Yasoda, a third letter to be placed into Sri Radha’s hand, a fourth letter for His childhood friends, and many letters for the hundreds ofgopis now bewildered
Krsna Enters the Forest
in His separation. He petitioned Uddhava repeatedly to speak many kind words and pacify the wounded hearts of the vraja-vasis. Then Sri Hari bade farewell to His friend and counselor, directing him on the road that leads to Nandagoan.
Uddhava rode the chariot with which Sri Krsna had left Vraja; nicely decorated with tinkling bells and drawn by horses like His own. With a form resembling his friend, dressed in yellow garments, golden ornaments, a vaijayanti garland, a charming crown, the Kaustubha jewel, and a peacock feather, Sri Uddhava bowed before Hari, circumambulated Him, and rode off to Vraja.
Vrndavana was resplendent with flowering forests echoing with the songs of birds and the humming of bees. Beautified by many lakes crowded with swans and filled with lotuses of many colors, it remained exclusively comparable to itself. There were millions of beautiful cows adorned with splendid ornaments, accompanied by their young calves and decorated with multi colored hand-prints. Great bulls wandered among the cows, possessed of broad shoulders and long horns, the very emblem of religious principles.
Uddhava saw many young gopas, headed by Sridama, playing flutes in charming ragas and singing of Krsna’s pastimes. He approached them, who mistook Uddhava for their beloved Gopala and thus surrounded his chariot like bumblebees surround a jar of honey. In their great excitement, the cowherd boys exclaimed, “Although his form is like Krsna’s, he appears to be someone else! Pray tell, who is he?” Uddhava then descended from his chariot/ bowed before them, embraced each and every gopa, and finally disclosed his identity.
Sri Uddhava said, “0 Sridama, lament no longer. Put to rest all doubt about your bosom friend. He who is the independent controller of all takes a personal interest in the welfare of the gopas and calls your names in His sleep. Please take this letter, written with the fragrant oil of His heart’s affection, and know that Govinda and Balarama will quickly return to Vraja after fulfilling Their obligations in Mathura.”
The cowherd boys eagerly opened their letters with much ado, reading them very carefully and then showing them to each other.
Like a torrential downpour of bliss, they burst into tears, falling into each other’s arms, letter in hand, voices choked and full of emotion. They spoke thus: “0 fortunate traveler from Mathura, for us people of Vraja to be without Krsna is to live in a world that is a desert. In His absence, a moment has become a yuga, an hour a manvantara, a day a lifetime of Brahma. Day and night pass, but we can never forget our Gopala. He has stolen our thoughts, and still He does not return our property. This was always His way—to take the possessions of others as if they were His own.” Becoming pensive and dejected, they said with remorse, “Forgetting His exalted position, seeing Him dressed as a cowherd boy, we must have slighted Him, thinking He was our friend. Having repeatedly offended Him, we are now reaping the bitter fruit of our familiarity.”
Although Uddhava Mahasaya was a greatly elevated Vaisnava, fully versed in spiritual science, he became perplexed at the unprecedented outburst of the gopas. Seeing their love and torment, he tried to console them in many ways without success. As a last recourse, he said, “0 Sridama, Subala, Varuthapa, and Amsu, 0 gopas of Vraja, listen to me. Do not lament any longer. I will return to Mathura City and tell Lord Krsna of your great suffering. Placing my tears at His lotus feet, I will soften His heart and convince Him to return with me. Be happy, 0 gopas, do not lament! In this land of Vraja you will again see Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune. My promise will not prove to be false.”
In this way, Uddhava comforted the gopas, who became jubilant at the thought of seeing their beloved once again. Then, as the sun was setting in the west, cheerful Uddhava, accompanied by Sridama and the gopas, entered Nanda’s village.
When Nanda Maharaja heard of Uddhava’s arrival, he greeted him with a hearty embrace, worshipped him according to his station, and seated him on a soft cushion. After offering Uddhava first-class foods, the king of the gopas began to speak of Krsna and Balarama. As he did, his tender words were choked with emotion, his body shook, and he constantly shed a torrent of tears. Glorifying his wonderful sons, he spoke constantly, absorbed in the deep meditation of parental love. Expressing great sorrow at separation from Krsna, he said, “Without Krsna, the groves and gardens, the
Krsna Enters the Forest
great Yamuna River, Govardhana Hill, this forest, the other forests, our homes, the cows, the trees, the flowering vines— indeed, this entire universe is flooded with poison. This life of eating and sleeping without Krsna, whose eyes are like great lotus petals, is wretched and miserable. Like a cakora bird that cannot see the moon, I live only in hope of seeing my dear boy once again.” i
Absorbed in thoughts of Govinda, sometimes speaking like a madman, sometimes becoming silent, the hairs on his body erect, Nanda Maharaja rested his head on a pillow. As Sri Krsna’s friend Uddhava looked on in confusion, the tears of King Nanda drenched the pillow, his garments, and his couch.
Upon hearing of Uddhava’s arrival, mother Yasoda abandoned all social custom. With milk flowing from her breasts and a torrent of tears issuing from her eyes, she ran to meet Gopala’s messenger. Approaching Uddhava, Yasoda inquired of His well-being and probed the many details of His personal habits, known only to mothers of deep affection. Speaking with great emotion, she recounted Govinda’s many pastimes, sometimes ranting, sometimes crying, sometimes speaking in a whisper. Like one possessed by the spirit of His separation, Yasoda flung open the gates to her’ heart and released a flood of spiritual emotions that submerged Uddhava in its wake.
She said, “Does Krsna remember me. His mother Yasoda, whose only son is the moon of His family? Does He remember how He would approach me at will, repeatedly asking to suck my breast? Does He remember His father, who enjoyed unlimited pleasure as He climbed on his lap and held his hand? Oh! How my son could eat at lunch time and, shortly thereafter, again pull my cloth; saying, ‘Mother, give Me yogurt, give Me fresh butter!’ His sweet words put the prince of swans to shame.”
Turning her beautiful face towards the ground, she cried, “Without Krsna the courtyard, the assembly-house, my palace, the gateway, the pathway, and all the palaces of Vraja have become an empty desert. As Krsna is my whole life, without Him the world is-meaningless. It would have been better had I died long, long ago.”
Seeing the deep paternal feelings Nanda and Yasoda expressed in Krsna’s absence, Uddhava became spellbound with the wonder
of their love. With fine discrimination, he understood their affection was unattainable by pilgrimage, austerities, charity, or yoga practice, Such love was the exclusive domain of Sri Krsna’s causeless mercy. In comparison to the spontaneous attachment of Sridama and his friends, their heights of ecstasy and depths of emotion appeared transcendentally more elevated.
Abandoning any effort to console them, Sri Krsna’s friend said, “0 Nanda Baba, King of Vraja, 0 Yasoda-devi, personification of maternal love, do not lament! My heart breaks to see your pitiable condition. Take these two letters from your soft-hearted son, who cries an ocean of tears in your separation and thinks of you day and night. He sends these messages to you, of this there is no doubt.” As Uddhava spoke, Sri Krsna’s parents took the letters from his hands and, opening them, read them again and again with great happiness. Through Sri Krsna’s words, appearing like A string of pearls, row after row, they drank the nectar of His touch, the scent of His limbs, the sound of His voice, and the vision of His form.
Again Uddhava said, “Krsna and Balarama have gone to the city of Mathura to give happiness to the Yadavas and kill the demons. When They are done, you will no doubt see your boys within the courtyard of your home once again.”
As Nanda, Yasoda, and Uddhava talked of Sri Krsna’s many childhood pastimes they enjoyed a great festival of bliss, in which the entire night seemed to pass like a single moment. At the appear-, ance of brahma-muhurta, the many gopis of Vraja arose, lit their lamps, bathed, and began to churn yogurt. In concert with the sound of their labor, their bracelets tinkled, their earrings glistened, and tiny flowers fell from their braids. While they churned yogurt, the lotus-eyed, moon-faced, colorfully dressed, affectionate gopis sang of the auspicious pastimes of Sri Krsna and Balarama. The many beautiful cows in the barns began to moo.
The gopis’ omnipresent songs of love churned the great ocean of. Sri Krsna’s pastimes, which solidified into the cream of ecstatic’ emotions. Uddhava, constantly filled with wonder since his arrival in Vraja, said, “That love for Sri Krsna, rarely heard of in the court of Lord Brahma, dances in Nanda’s village like a menial servant.”
Krsna Enters the Forest
While Uddhava left to bathe, the gopis saw Akrura’s chariot outside Nanda’s house and, surrounding it, spoke in angry tones, “Has cruel Akrura, who took lotus-eyed Sri Krsna to Mathura City, now returned to perform his dead master’s funeral rites and use our flesh as oblations for Kamsa?” Speaking these words, the gopis slapped the bewildered charioteer, accosting him with threats and demanding, “Whose chariot is this? Tell us at once!”
At that moment, Uddhava appeared like a second Krsna, resplendent with a dark complexion, wearing golden-colored cloth, a vaijayanti garland, and the many ornaments of his friend. As soon as the gopis saw him, they recognized Uddhava as a messenger from their beloved. Abandoning the besieged charioteer, they respectfully surrounded Uddhava and accompanied him to a secluded place.
By the banks of the Yamuna was a forest of banana trees surrounding a garland-decorated grove, anointed with sandal-paste and cooled by mist from the river. Within a cottage of matchless loveliness sat all-attractive Sri Radha, who, scorched by the flames of separation, lived in hope of Sri Krsna’s return. When She saw Uddhava, Radha and Her friends rose to greet him and, worshipping him with great respect, they bowed before him.
Uddhava saw beautiful Radharani tormented by separation, as slender as the new moon, decorated with ornaments of ecstatic love, and constantly chanting, “Oh, Krsna! Oh, Krsna!” Glorifying Her with wonderful prayers, Uddhava cheerfully addressed the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, saying, “0 Radha, dearly beloved of Sri Krsna, Your lotus-eyed lover, whose mind is fixed on You at every moment of every hour, has ordered me to deliver this letter to You. Please take it! Anxiously waiting to complete His duties, Govinda cries an ocean of tears in Your absence and eagerly awaits the day He can rush back to Vrndavana!”
With that, Uddhava handed Radha one very special letter; fragrant with the scent of Sri Krsna’s affection, along with one hundred auspicious letters for each of the hundred gopi groups of Vraja.
Gently taking the letter from Uddhava, lovely Radhika gazed at it in wonder, overwhelmed at Sri Krsna’s touch. Holding it in Her
bud-like hands. Her eyes full of tears. Her lips trembling. She gazed at it like a thirsty traveler at an oasis. Touching the letter to Her head, then to Her soft lotus eyes. She then held it tenderly to Her heart, while remembering Sri Krsna’s lotus feet. Reading the letter in a soft, plaintive voice, Sri Radha shed large sorrowful tears.
Overcome with love, trembling like a leaf. She then fainted like an uprooted tree.
Many sakhis, who were alarmed by Sri Radha’s dramatic faint, anointed Her body with lotus-pollen, sandalwood paste, and camphor. They fanned Her with bunches of leaves, stroked Her forehead with damp cloths, and softly sang the names of Her beloved. As lotus-eyed Sri Radha regained consciousness, Uddhava observed Her waking to be a greater source of pain than Her swoon. Overwhelmed with despair at Sri Krsna’s absence. She cried out, “Alas! Alas, where is My sweet Sri Krsna? Where is the moon of Gokula, with His flute pressed to His lips? Someone please tell Me, where is He?” Crying and crying. Her tears washed the kajal from Her forlorn eyes, and the kunkuma from Her heaving chest. As a magnet induces magnetism in iron, Sri Radha’s weeping caused Her friends and Uddhava to cry a tributary to the river of Her own tears. The union of their sorrow formed an attractive lake, which became full with many lotuses and is known as Lila-sarovara.
Pacified by Uddhava’s assurance of Sri Krsna’s return, envisaging Him by the groves of the Yamuna, Sri Radha said, “When, oh, when, will I again see Vraja’s delightful prince, who is splendid as a monsoon cloud, who always holds His magical flute to His bimba fruit lips, and who is adorned with innumerable good qualities? Like a peacock yearns to see a monsoon cloud, like a cakora bird yearns to see the all-soothing moon, I yearn to see His transcendental form, without which My eyes burn in My unhappy face.
“Since the painful day I was separated from My beloved, every moment has become a kalpa, every night of torment a life of Brahma, every day of hope a blind well of misery. Having given up any prospect of His return, I do not believe that I will ever know happiness again. The good fortune which brought Us together oft
Krsna Enters the Forest
those fragrant moonlit nights has .now, abandoned Me to suffer endless misery.”
Casting the letter in Her hand aside. She spoke in madness. “Now that He has gone to Mathura and left Me here alone, I cannot believe in His words. This letter is not nectar but an epistle of poison.” At the next moment, overcome with despair. Her large eyes flooded with tears. Her graceful hands folded, Radha spoke with trembling lips. “Oh, kind Uddhava, 0 best of councilors, 0 fortunate friend of My beloved, can you really bring Sri Krsna to this place? Can you really plunge Me once again into that great ocean of bliss, whose shores have long abandoned this unfortunate woman?”
Uddhava, who sometimes swam, sometimes submerged in Sri Radha’s moods of separation, composed himself with great difficulty and, wiping the tears from his lotus eyes, replied with a choked voice. “Sri Radha, 0 abode of love for Hari, if I have ever gained any merit in this world, I say to You, I shall bring Your beloved to Vraja. I will return to Mathura and fall at Sri Krsna’s lotus feet. Bathing them with my tears, I shall describe Your inconceivable emotions and hastily bring Him to You. 0 girl with beautiful lotus eyes, 0 vessel of love for Govinda, lament no more; my heart cannot tolerate to see You cry, I place this promise at Your feet: Your beloved will be by Your side once again!”
Overjoyed with Uddhava’s promise, Sri Radha instantly became transformed. Her wan features blossomed like a lotus in the sun. Her exquisite eyes gleamed with rays of hope, and Her dispirited lips formed into the sweetest smile. To reward Uddhava, Sri Radhika presented him two candrakanta jewels which moonlight had placed in the arena of the rasa dance, two soft camaras that had been created by the thoughts of Sri Krsna, and pure loving devotion beyond the modes of nature. Blessing him with the opulence of transcendental knowledge. She gave the Syamantaka jewel as a presentation to Sri Krsna, and Her sakhis bestowed many gifts and ornaments upon him.
At the request of the gopis, Uddhava revealed the contents of Sri Krsna’s letter, at which they cried many streams of happy tears. When Uddhava requested Sri Radha to compose a letter. She took
up a quill in Her unsteady hand. As She meditated on Govinda, Sri Radha was unable to contain Her emotions, and whatever She wrote was at once washed away by Her tears.
Sri Uddhava said, “0 Radha, write no more, for I cannot bear to’ see Your unhappiness. Even without Your letter, I will tell Krsna of ^ Your distress and appeal to His kind-hearted nature.” Hearing these words, Sri Radha became relieved and gave Her blessings for Uddhava’s return. Mounting his bejeweled chariot, Uddhava hastened to the home of Nanda Maharaja and took his permission to depart. Bidding farewell to Sridama and his many friends, Uddhava began his return journey with the great mission to bring Sri Krsna back to Vrndavana.
Riding towards Mathura, Sri Krsna’s messenger was absorbed in the pure devotion of the vraja-vasis. The association of the gopas, parents, and gopis had humbled his pride as a great servant of the Lord. As a member of the Vrsni dynasty, Uddhava was familiar with the Yadavas’ devotional sentiments. However, he had never seen or experienced the spontaneous attachment which haunted the hearts of the vraja-vasis.
From Vedic literature it is well known that the qualitative attachment of devotees varies according to their relationships. Uddhava understood the parental mood of Nanda and Yasoda as transcendentally superior to the mood of the gopas, and the mood of the gopis was superior still. According to the nature of love possessed by these devotees, they were able to relish Sri Krsna’s transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes in proportionately greater degrees. When separated from Him, the ecstasy of their lamentation varied in like degree.
Thinking of the weeping of Sridama, the incoherent rambling of Yasoda, and the total absorption of Radha, Uddhava understood the plan of his wonderful friend. By acting as His messenger, Uddhava had been enlightened on the excellence of vraja-bhakti.
Anticipating the meeting with Sri Krsna, Uddhava, who was the moon among devotional scholars, envisaged His transcendental form, decorated with many ornaments, dressed in colorful clothing, wearing a bejeweled crown, and the emblem of most artistic movements. Meditating on the form of Mathuranatha,
Krsna Enters the Forest
Uddhava was absorbed in happiness, and he chanted His holy names. Inspired by Sri Krsna, he knew his devotion paled in the shadow of the vraja-vasis’ love. Marveling at the mahabhava of the gopis, Uddhava Mahasaya longed for the opportunity to acquire such devotion. Thinking in this way, he desired birth as a creeper of Vraja, to secure the dust of their lotus feet as they wandered here and there in their service to Sri Hari. Thus, he began to pray in the following words:
asam aho carana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kirn api gulma-latausadhmam
ya dustyajam sva-janam arya-patham ca hitvd
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
“The gopis of Vrndavana have given up the association of their husbands, sons, and other family members, who are very difficult to give up, and they have forsaken the path of chastity to take shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, Krsna, which one should search for by Vedic knowledge. Oh, let me be fortunate enough to be one of the bushes, creepers, or herbs in Vrndavana, because the gopis trample them and bless them with the dust of their lotus feet.” (Bhag. 10.17.61)
Moving like a divine apparition, the bejeweled chariot of Sri Krsna slowly made its way to the capital of the Vrsnis. Protected by the infallible arms of Sri Krsna, the enemy of Mura and friend of Sri Uddhava, Mathura basked in glorification of the Vedas on the bank of the languid Yamuna River. As he entered the majestic gates of the city, Uddhava’s thoughts were absorbed in the mood of the gopis, whose constant meditation, whether alone or with each other, was to recall their happy dealings with Sri Krsna.
Some of the gopis’ pastimes with Sri Krsna, which are but a drop in the great ocean of His unlimited sports, have been retold in
the earlier chapters of this book. As the gopis’ hearts respond to the Songs of the flute, Sukadeva Gosvami, a sarvajna muni, anticipates the question whether some special meditation has absorbed their minds. In this mood, he answers by singing the fifth verse of Venu-gita:
barhdpidam nata-vara-vapuh karnayoh kamikaram
bibhrad vasah kanaka-kapisarh vaijayantim ca
malam randhrdn venor adhara-sudhayapurayan gopa-vrndair
vrndaranyam sva-pada-ramanam prdvisad gita-kirtih
“Wearing a peacock-feather ornament upon His head, blue karnikara flowers on His ears, a yellow garment as brilliant as gold, and the vaijayanti garland. Lord Krsna exhibited His transcendental form as the greatest of dancers as He entered the forest of Vrndavana, beautifying it with the marks of His footprints. He filled the holes of His flute with the nectar of His lips, and the cowherd boys sang His glories.” (Bhag. 10.21.5)
Although this exquisite image of Sri Krsna is spoken by the empowered son of Vyasa, all commentators, headed by Srila Prabhupada, confirm that it is the trance of the gopis. The previous verse described the vraja-devis overcome by their feelings of love, incapable of expressing themselves, and helpless under the influence of their own ecstasy. Aligned with their moods and feeling the surge of their bhava, Sukadeva Gosvami reveals the special vision concealed within their hearts. Like ventriloquists, the gopis speak of their Sri Krsna through the medium of the parrot of Sri Radha.
Of the countless verses that glorify the incomparable beauty of Sri Krsna, the fountainhead of all charm, splendor, and elegance, those found in Snmad-Bhagavatam are superior to all others. After all, Snmad-Bhagavatam is the emperor of all scriptures. Because their peerless love discerns a beauty invisible to others, the gopis’ description surpasses that of Lord Brahma, King Indra, or the dvijapatms. Thus, this verse is the best description of Sri Krsna found anywhere.
When the gopis hear the flute, it is as no one else can hear it; when they taste the nectar of Sri Krsna’s qualities, it is as no
Krsna Enters the Forest
one else can taste it; and when they see the form of Sri Krsna, it is as no one else can perceive it. For this reason, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given His conclusive opinion that their mode of worship is transcendentally superior to all others. As the supreme connoisseur of rasa, eager for their experience. He adopts the gopis’ exquisite mood of devotion in order to enter its many untold mysteries.
Even Sri Krsna is defeated when confronted by the love of the gopis. With the words ye yatha mam prapadyante, the Gita reveals the secret of His magnanimous nature. However, when challenged by the astounding selflessness of the gopis’ love, though obliged to reciprocate in kind. He cannot. Although nothing is impossible for Him, still He is incapable of equaling their one-pointed affection.
The gopis’ description of Sri Krsna’s form begins with His renowned peacock feather and descends to His unique footprints. This is not the meditation of the yogis or the process found in the Bhagavatam beginning with ekaikaso ‘ngani dhiydnubhavayet padadi:
“The process of meditation should begin from the lotus feet of the Lord…” (Bhag. 2.2.13). These practices are for the elevation of conditioned souls desiring deliverance from the clutches of may a. The vraja-gopis are free of all material designation. They are the most elevated of all transcendentalists, who worship Sri Krsna through the intimacy of affection. Their spontaneous love is the sole justification for their meditation.
When they met at Kuruksetra, Sri Krsna instructed the gopis to meditate on Him as the all-pervasive Supersoul. By practicing sdnkhya-yoga they would be freed from their feelings of separation and attain tranquillity. In response, Srimati Radharani said, “My dear Sri Krsna, formerly, while residing in Mathura, You sent Uddhava to teach us speculative knowledge and mystic yoga. Now I hear the same words issuing from Your own lotus mouth. My humble apologies, 0 guru of the universe. My mind is not accustomed to treading the path oijndna or dhyana. Indeed, there is no room in the hearts of Your gopis for such thoughts.
“We gopis will never be satisfied by meditating on Your lotus feet as mystic yogis. Knowing us as You do, do You really think we are like them? Please understand that Your teachings on
meditation are a kind of duplicity and Your words only succeed in causing dissatisfaction to our hearts and making us angry.”
Under the dictates of their super-excellent love, it is this mood by which the gopis describe the beauty of Sri Krsna.
There are many special characteristics which decorate the day depicted in Venu-glta. Sanatana Gosvami points to Sri Krsna’s forest attire, which includes an outstanding dress and uncommon ornamentation. This unique uddipana exerts a special power to bewilder the love-laden gopis.
How is the prince of Vraja dressed today? In addition to His customary ornaments, Sri Krsna revels in many colorful garlands, peacock feathers, lotus flowers, mango sprouts, and clusters of flower buds. In contrast to His usual cowherd dress. He has donned the multicolored costume of a professional dancer. He appears so extraordinary and so beautiful that anyone who sees
Him cannot fail to be astonished.
Sri Krsna’s unique dress and outstanding decoration find their unparalleled likeness in the special bhava of the flute. With this melody, Sri Hari entwines the gopis’ hearts like a mystical weaver of song and dance. Because of their attention to these uncommon features, the vraja-devis do not mention His other ornamentation.
Colorful clothing is traditional on the planets of the demigods. The devas enjoy daily festivities attired in beautiful dresses made of heavenly materials like angels’ breath, rays of twilight, and moonbeams. For humans, the distinctively colorful clothing worn by Sri Krsna is reserved for dancers or bridegrooms at their weddings.
Artistic Sri Krsna, whose dancing skills are the guru of Lord Siva, is also known as Nata-vara, the best of all dancers. He has dressed in such colorful clothing, having in mind some special performance today. The gopis wonder which fortunate souls will witness His lithesome movements, dressed as He is and playing His flute. Feeling their hair standing on end, such persons will surely rise from their seats and, raising their hands, will dance in ecstasy. Engrossed in such happy thoughts, a very special bhava captures the innocent hearts of the gopis.
Many beautiful objects are the subjects of poetic description, but nothing is as appropriate as the form of Sri Krsna. His form
Krsna Enters the Forest
glorifies all earthly objects to which it is compared. The color of His body is like that of newly arrived monsoon clouds, blackish-blue and very pleasing to look at. His vaijayanti garland and peacock feather both possess five colors and appear like two shimmering rainbows in a mass of clouds. The explorer who seeks the treasure at their extremities will discover the restless lightning of Sri Krsna’s golden dhoti first in one place, then in another. Carrying His beautiful form with the dexterity of a theatrical dancer, the movements of His limbs, clothes, and garland combine to form an enchanting scene.
Sri Krsna’s immeasurable beauty is like a great ocean, and the gopis sink into that ocean, their minds inundated by its splendor. Although having seen that beauty repeatedly, it is as if they had never seen it before. Regardless of how long they view His form, the eyes of the gopis are never satiated and desire to see Him again and again.
Sometimes on one ear, sometimes on another, a blue karnikara flower declares to the gopis Sri Krsna’s opulence of ever-fresh youth. Generally, this flower is yellow and especially beautiful in the Sarat and Vasanta seasons. With a fragrance like the gardens of heaven, their scent intoxicates the already intoxicated young elephant of Vraja, who is inebriated by His own beauty, dress, and exotic movement. With the wistful movements of youth, entering Vrndavana forest, playing His flute and dancing, Sri Krsna perfects the power of seeing and gives purpose to the sense of sight. “Who will not feast their eyes on this wonder of wonders without blinking?” think the love-intoxicated gopis.
Because the subject of this chapter is the song of Sri Krsna’s flute, in the detailed description of Sri Hari’s appearance it continues to play a prominent role. The many flutes of Sri Krsna are kept in a special chest in Nandagoan. The venu, made of a bamboo reed from the Yamuna’s shore, has six holes and is the smallest. Although an inanimate piece of wood, by the touch of His lips Sri Krsna has endowed His venu with full awareness, so that it now enjoys the privilege of being His intimate friend.
The holes by which a flute is played are called chidram. In the opinion of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the flute m the
Perfection for the Eyes
hands of Sri Krsna was without any holes, nischidram. To answer this paradox, Srila Prabhupada explains, “Krsna filled up the holes of His flute with nectar emanating from His lips.” In other words, the essence of Sri Krsna’s beauty, condensed in the form of His pleasing smile, when poured into the flute as the nectar of His lips, filled it to the brim, giving the appearance that the venu had no holes. This apparent illusion was laid bare when, issuing forth as the song of the flute, that nectar traversed the three worlds, penetrated the coverings of the universe, and entered the brahmajyoti, to the planets of Vaikuntha. There it found its final repose in Goloka Vrndavana.
This naughty venu observes no restraint in exerting its influence. Male or female, human or non-human, the vibration of the flute plunders the minds of all living entities and forcibly makes them take shelter at the lotus feet of its Master. Such is its aggressive nature!
After the creation of the universe, when all lay in darkness, the only sound was the calm breathing of the Lord, lying on His divine bed of snakes. Lord Brahma, in whom all living entities were reposed, sat on the whorl of a great lotus with an insatiable desire to create but no ability to do so. To empower His dear son to bring forth all species of life and forever proclaim the jivas’ subservience to His flute, Sri Krsna gave initiation to Brahma by way of its vibration.
The bamboo flute is the constant companion of Sri Krsna/ with which He calls His cows, gopas, and gopis. Nanda Maharaja and mother Yasoda know of Krsna’s daily return when they hear its song echoing through the hills of Vraja. The gopis follow the faithful messenger of its drawn-out melody when Sri Krsna sends them an invitation to dance. Although He is independent, self-sufficient, and fully satisfied, Sri Krsna remains fully dependent on His venu in His pastimes of love.
Fashioned from at least five different flowers, decorated with tulasi-manjans, and surrounded by intoxicated bees, the vaijayanti garland is the colorful decoration on the chest of Sripati. Although Sri Krsna is the origin of Lord Narayana, His Vrndavana pastimes take place in a simple rural setting, seemingly free of His opulence.
In truth, the affluence of a single grain of Vraja’s dust exceeds the riches contained in all Vaikuntha. However, because of an all-pervasive covering of intimate love, the demeanor of Vrndavana remains simple and earthly. Thus, the very mention of the vaijayanti garland proclaims the glory and opulence of Vaikuntha, which forever serves Sri Krsna’s transcendental play.
Sri Krsna touches the cintdmani soil of Vraja with His soft reddish feet. Thus it is beautified with His footprints, which are the supreme ornament of ornaments, invisible to Svarga or Vaikuntha. Although the son of a king possessed of great riches, many happy subjects, and numerous surabhi cows, following the practice of cowherds, Sri Krsna avoids any footwear. Mother Yasoda, who is always brooding over her little son, is aggrieved at Govinda’s persistence in going barefoot. Fearing the cows may tread on His feet, thorns may prick His toes, or the hot sands blister His soles, she says, “Oh, my dear child, the life of my heart and my only wealth in this world! Although we have hundreds of cowherd men expert in keeping cows, who have never let even one calf go astray, You say, ‘\ will herd the cows Myself!’ Now, why do You have such needless desires? You are just a tender child, still sucking your mother’s milk, but You wander on the rough roads, in the heat of the day, with no shoes or umbrella. How do You expect Your loving parents to even survive such a thought?”
Smiling very sweetly, holding Yasoda’s hand in His own, Sri Krsna replies, “Dear mother, our caste duty (as vaisyas) is to tend to the comfort and nourishment of the cows. Like the cows who wear no footwear, a cowherd must go barefoot. Only by following these details of tradition is our profession purely executed.”
Embracing the butter-soft body of her son, Yasoda replies, “Oh, my precious little son. Your foot soles are like the spotless, tender leaves of crimson lotus flowers, and the forest soil is full of sprouts, thorns, and pebbles. Why did You take birth in a family of cowherds, where You must walk after the grazing cows? You should have been born in a family of great royalty.”
Turning to Nanda Maharaja, whose tears of affection glisten in His graying mustache, she says,'”The road where our boys walk will be scorched by the sun, and still I remain alive, seeing this father staying home in his golden brick house?”
Krsna Enters the Forest
Pulling on her cloth, Krsna humbly replies, “Mother, had you seen the beautiful paths leading through the forests of Vraja, you would know we feel no trouble in tending the cows. Indeed, it is the source of our greatest pleasure! Because the camari deer sweep them with their tails, the trees shower them with their honey, and the nabhl deer scent them with their navel-musk, these paths are flawless and as soft as cotton. Then, we play in the dense, cool shade of the fragrant trees, moistened by the spray of the Yamuna, taking care to protect the cows from any danger. For us, the heat of the scorching sun is far, far away.” Having concluded His arguments, Sri Krsna continues to walk barefoot throughout the paths of Vrndavana, marking the earth with His distinctive footprints.
Caring for the great herd of Nanda’s 900,000 cows, one would expect Gopala’s footprints to be short-lived. However, an agreement among the many creatures of Vrndavana has ensured the safety of their wealth. Although Sri Krsna is the master of the cowherds. He is also the darling of the cows and forest creatures who traverse the common paths. Anything in relation to Him is equally dear to them. In his commentary to a previous verse, Sanatana Gosvami tells of a great meeting which took place among the boys and animals, in which they agreed to preserve Sri Krsna’ footprints as their forest ornament. To avoid covering these marks with their own, all living entities of Vraja are ever careful where they walk.
In a desire tree bearing flowers of many colors, which shadows the path between Nandagoan to Govardhana and spans one yojana, sit the green parrot couple, Suka and Sari. Effulgent as the Vedas, saturated with love for Sri Krsna, and perched on a branch above the cowherd trail, they speak.
Suka says, “My dear Sari, among the many auspicious days in Vraja, today is a very special day…”
Without allowing him to continue. Sari says, ‘The many ingredients which constitute its specialty have been spoken already by
Sukadeva. The colorful dancer’s dress of Nata-vara is special. His heartrending flute playing is special, and the bhava which surges forth in the gopis is special.”
Annoyed with her impertinence, Suka edges away from Sari and says, “What you say is certainly true, but it remains incomplete. There is one more thing possessed of special characteristics.”
Approaching apologetically, one step at a time. Sari says, “What is that thing I have overlooked, my dear?”
“Sri Krsna’s footprints!” says he, abruptly turning his beak in the other direction.
“As His footprints, with their wonderful markings, daily increase the opulence of Vrndavana, what is it that has elevated them to some special status today?” asked Sari.
Looking at Sari with renewed affection, his claws clinging to his perch, Suka falls forward on the branch, hanging upside down, and says, “Look here!”
Following suit. Sari takes a similar position, practiced long ago by many thumb-size sages. Looking at each other, their greenish bodies pointing to the ground, their necks extended forward, she says, “What am I to see, dearest?”
As an atmarama, comfortable in any position, Suka explains, “While playing with unparalleled artistry, Sri Krsna caused all living entities to dance to the song of the venn. The gopas danced with sticks in their hands, and the cows danced up and down, their tails raised. Indeed, every branch, flower, and leaf in Vraja entered that grand sankirtana, causing a wonderful concert of song and dance. Impelled by the collective enthusiasm of Vrndavana, Sri Krsna could not restrain Himself and, ultimately. He also danced.”
Becoming overcome by ecstasy, Suka’s grip on the branch slipped and, to steady himself, he spread his wings. Pointing his reddish beak, he said, “See there! The front portion of Sri Krsna’s lotus footprints, along with their markings, leave a deeper-than-usual imprint. However, the impression of His soles remains invisible. It is the footprint of a dancing Sri Krsna.”
Tears coming to her eyes. Sari says, “Oh! That is truly something very special.”
Suka says, “Many forest creatures will take great pleasure in
Krsna Enters the Forest
these footprints due to their uncommon nature. But Sari; I will tell you another great secret and the ultimate glory of these divine impressions.”
Beginning to quiver in anticipation, hanging by one foot, then the other, stunned in ecstasy. Sari says, “Please tell me what that is.”
His head rotating in circles like a ball, a torrent of tears flowing from his eyes, Suka says in a barely audible whisper, “These footprints have reached the summit of their glory, for they are covered with the very special dust of Govinda’s lotus feet. Briefly, by the grace of Vyasa, I shall explain what I know of the specialty of this dust.”
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Suka continued, “Krsna’s pada-raja appears like the pollen of flowers. Although there is dust everywhere on the forest floor of Vrndavana, the dust that touches Krsna’s feet takes on a very special beauty. Its influence is beyond the understanding of the King of Heaven. The beauty of this dust is its golden color and soft tender texture, the veritable complexion of bhava. Its great power, by which not only all living entities but Sri Krsna is caused to dance, is in the sweet taste of the rati which it contains.
“As flower pollen eventually becomes the cause of many other flowers, the dust of Sri Krsna’s feet imbues rati in those fortunate souls who contact them. Although flowers grow where their seeds are planted, the superior nature of this dust causes rati to appear in the distant heart of a devotee.”
At this, both birds became silent and rigid, as if all life had left their bodies. By the arrangement of Yogamaya, they did not fall from their inverted perch but continued to hang, like some extraordinary fruit. The tears from their eyes became the juicy nectar of those fruits, which dripped into the depression of Sri Krsna’s footprints below. In a short time, a small pool formed, which was the liquid form of their love, and mixed with the dust of His lotus feet. A small insect, following the path of its species, an elevated brahmavadi in his previous birth, fell into that puddle of bliss and drowned. At that time, a divine form with four arms, decorated with beautiful garments and ornaments, the siddha-svarupa of that
jiva, rose from that place. Offering obeisances to his spiritual masters, the parrots, he ascended to Vaikuntha, to the accompaniment of musical instruments and a shower of flowers.
Suka and Sari, who saw all this with their eyes of devotion, simply moved their heads from side to side and repeatedly said, “Vrndavana is so wonderful!”
Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura extensively describes the marks to be found on the lotus feet of Sri Krsna. In all, there are nineteen auspicious marks on His two feet, eight on His left sole and eleven on His right sole. They are described as follows:
His left sole has the emblem of the sky below His middle toes (a double circle), a conch-shell beneath His big toe, and below both
Krsna Enters the Forest
of these, halfway in the middle of His sole, a bow without the bowstring. Below the bow is a cow’s hoof-print surrounded on four sides by four water-jugs, and further below that is a half moon, concluding with a fish on His reddish heel.
On His right foot, Sri Krsna has a barleycorn at the base of His big toe, a cakra below that, and an umbrella below the cakra. There is a line which curves from the middle of His sole up to the joint between His big toe and index toe. A lotus flower is situated below. His middle toes, a flag below the lotus, and an elephant goad below His small toe. There is a thunderbolt below the goad and an octagon below the thunderbolt, which rests upon His heel. Surrounding the octagon are four svastikas on the side and four jambu fruits at the corners.
It is these wonderful footprints that can be seen everywhere in the forest of Vrndavana and are considered by the residents as its supreme decoration.
Srila Prabhupada concludes the verse by translating gita-kirti as follows: “So they remembered Him, entering the forest of Vrndavana, which is always glorified by the footprints of Krsna and His companions.” The Bhagavatam translation is “…and the cowherd boys sang His glories.” The two translations tender two alternatives. The first is that the cowherd boys glorified Sri Krsna,:
and the second is that they glorified Vrndavana forest. Sanatana, Gosvami appends a third meaning to the phrase. He states that the” gopis are discussing the song of the flute, which glorifies Sri Krsna.
Since Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has established the spiritual harmony that eternally coexists between Vmdavana-dhama and Sri Krsna with the words aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam: the glorification of Vmdavana-dhama is non-different from the glorification of Sri Krsna. Conversely, His glorification naturally includes the praises of the forests of Vraja, for Sri Krsna, who is forever engaged in His pastimes of love, remains eternally inseparable from the comforting groves of that divine realm.
In an earlier chapter of the Bhagavatam, Sri Krsna Himself praises Vrndavana, displaying the intimate relationship that exists between Him and His abode. Sri Krsna says that the fruit-laden
trees, which were impersonalists in their past lives, now bow before Sri Balarama and pray for spiritual advancement. The drones constantly chant His glories, and the peacocks, deer, and cuckoos are overwhelmed with ecstasy by His presence. The many herbs, creepers, and plants are fortunate to receive His foot dust, and the trees and plants know unlimited fortune to be blessed by His touch. The hills and rivers are happy to receive His sidelong glance, while His associates are most fortunate to be participants in His daily play.
Madhumahgala also asserts the glories of the forests to mother Yasoda, saying, “0 mother, without chiding the comforts of your palace, I shall tell you frankly about the bliss we feel in the forest. All day long the cowherd boys simply eat the ripe and fragrant bananas, jackfruits, mangoes, and pomegranates which fall from the trees. Their taste is succulent, their aroma sweet, their texture without compare. It is no wonder our beloved friend Krsna desires to go to the forest to pick the fruits, leaves, and flowers from the trees. Such perfection cannot be fulfilled in your town.”
The singularity of Vrndavana is related to the primordial position of Sri Krsna, who daily roams in its forests. The six Gosvamis were empowered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to establish the teachings of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. They have unanimously declared that the original form of the Personality of Godhead is Vrajendra-nandana Krsna. The feature of Krsna in Vrndavana is the fountainhead of all other expansions and incarnations, including other Krsna forms, such as Dvarkadlsa. Rupa Gosvami states:
krsno ‘nyo yadu-sambhuto
yah purnah so ‘sty atah parah
vrndavanam parityajya .-
sa kvacin naiva gacchati
“The Krsna known as Yadu-kumara is Vasudeva Krsna. He is different from the Krsna who is the son of Nanda Maharaja. Yadu-kumara Krsna manifests His pastimes in the cities of Mathura and Dvaraka, but Krsna the son of Nanda Maharaja never at any time leaves Vrndavana.”
Krsna Enters the Forest
As Sri Krsna is the original form of Godhead, Vrndavana is His primeval abode, and the love of the vraja-vdsis is the ultimate form of devotion. From Vrndavana, the mellows of devotion descend to Vaikuntha, and for the deliverance of the fallen, it manifests its potencies in this world as Gokula.
The gopas and gopis, the most accomplished of all transcenden-talists, glorify the forests of Vrndavana and Sri Krsna as the eternal objects of their attachment. For them, there is no Vrndavana without Sri Krsna and no Sri Krsna without Vrndavana. Sri Radhika says, “The inhabitants of Vrndavana do not want You dressed like a prince, nor do they want You to associate with great warriors in a different country. They cannot leave the land of Vrndavana, and without Your presence, they are all dying. What is their condition to be?”
In these wonderful forests full of buzzing bees, singing birds, and colorful flowers, Sri Krsna finds the perfect playground to satisfy His unlimited desires. Let that Vrndavana-dhama be ever glorified! In His Sn Vrndavanastakam, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura concludes each verse with the phrase mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah, “May I always reside in Sri Vrndavana-dhama,” and prays:
na yoga-siddhir na mamastu moksa
vaikuntha-loke ‘pi na parsadatvam
pramapi na syad hi cet taram tu
mamastu vrndavana eva vasah
“If I do not obtain mystic powers, impersonal liberation, eternal residence in Vaikunthaloka, or even bhagavat-prema, there is no loss, as long as I can always reside in Sri Vrndavana-dhama.”
tarnam janur yatra vidhic y ay ace
viksyaiva madhurya-dhuram tad asmin
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“Upon seeing the profuse sweetness of Vrndavana, even Brahma, the spiritual master of the universe, and Uddhava, the crown jewel of devotees, pray to take birth as blades of grass there. May Vrndavana always be my residence.”
• • . . • 3 kith te krtam hanta tapah ksititi
gopyo ‘pi bhume stuvate rasa kirtim yenaiva krsnanghri-padankite ‘smin
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“When Sri Krsna vanished from the rasa-lila, the gopis prayed (Bhag. 10.30.10), kirn te krtam ksiti tapah: ‘0 Prthvi-devi! What unprecedented austerities did you perform to receive the festival of the touch of Sri Krsna’s feet upon your surface in Vrndavana?’ May I always reside in Vrndavana, which is marked with Krsna’s footprints. ”
yasyam rasah purnatamatvam apa yato raso vai sa Hi srutis tan
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“Vrndavana is the place where the loving attachment of the gopis is predominant, and within that attachment, rasa reaches its pinnacle. The srutis declare, raso vai sah: ‘Without question, Rasika-sekhara Sri Nanda-nandana is the embodiment of rasa.’ Vrndavana is that place where this fact is clearly evidenced.”
tri-simake yojana-paficakena mite vibhutvad amite ‘pi casmin
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
Krsna Enters the Forest
“Due to the presence of Bhandiravana, Govardhana, and Rasa-pitha (where the rasa-lila took place), Vrndavana is known to have three borders, and although in reality it is limitless, it is five yojanas in circumference. May I always reside in Vrndavana.”
yenodayet prema-sukham janandm yasmin mamasa balavatyato ”smin
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“Where the daughter of Vrsabhanu Maharaja is the queen, where my long cherished hope lies, and where the happiness of bhagavat-prema manifests in every devotee—may I always reside m that Vrndavana-dhama.”
na prapa yam snrapi sa tapobhih tatrollasanmanju-nikunja-punje
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“The renowned pastime of the rasa dance, to which even Laksmi-devi could not gain entrance (after performing varieties of penance), is enacted eternally in Vrndavana. May I always reside in Vrndavana, which consists of many enchanting groves.”
sadd ruru-nyankumukha visankam
khelanti kujanti pikalikirah ikhandino yatra natanti tasmin
mamastu Vrndavana eva vasah
“Where varieties of deer such as ruru (black deer) and nyahku (deer with horns) fearlessly play, where cuckoos, bumblebees, and parrots sing, and where peacocks dance—may I always reside in that Vrndavana.”
panhanti ye niscala-budhayaste. vrndavanesanghri-saroja-sevarit
saksallabhante janusonta eva
“Those of fixed intelligence, who loudly recite this Vrnda-vanastakam with devotional feeling, will, at the end of this life, attain the direct service of the lotus feet of the king and queen of Vrndavana, Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.”
Although Lord Balarama was mentioned in the previous verse, He is now conspicuous by His absence. Sanatana Gosvami explains that the gopis see Baladeva like a guru or superior. With His remembrance, overwhelmed by shyness, they cannot see or speak of Sri Krsna without restriction. Being fully absorbed in their beloved, they are neither aware of nor mention the presence of the elder brother. However, the word gopa-vrnda indicates all the cowherd boys, which is inclusive of Sri Balarama. In short, the holder of the plow takes a secondary position to His younger brother in this verse.
Meditating on Sri Krsna in this way, the young gopis remained speechless for some time, fully absorbed like perfected yogis. Having once again regained their composure, they embraced each other with great affection and began to speak of the wonderful attributes of the flute. In this way, Snmad-Bhagavatam continues with the sixth verse:
iti venu-navam rajan ^i-, sarva-bhuta-manoharam srutva vraja-striyah sarva varnayantyo lyhirebhire
“O king, when the young ladies in Vraja heard the sound of Krsna’s flute, which captivates the minds of all living beings, they all embraced one another and began describing it.” (Bhag. 10.21.6)
From the planet of the snakes, where Anantadeva presides, to Brahmaloka, where the four-headed creator rules, by His sweetness, beauty, and flute playing, Sri Krsna, who is known as Manohara, steals the minds of everyone. Because the vibration of the flute is also called sarva-bhuta manoharam, it is attractive to all living entities, moving or non-moving, being invested with the .same attractive potency as its master.
Manohara also refers to that which is the cause of some extraor-jsdinary transformation. Throughout the three worlds, the flute is known for causing moving things to become motionless and the immovable to become animated. Under such an influence, how can the gopis be blamed when their minds become captivated and their bodies become senseless? In such a disturbed condition, deprived of their equilibrium, the vraja-gopis drown in the rising tide of kama, Sinvoked by the full moon of the flute’s song.
According to their mood of loving devotion, or bhava, living lentities hear the sound of the flute in different ways. Sri Jiva ‘Gosvami says the sound of the flute is dnanda-vardaka, that which gives bliss. However, the stage of ecstasy one acquires depends upon the spiritual qualification of the hearer. The attainment of a bhava is determined by which stage of prema it manifests. The love of the lotus-eyed gopis, known as kama, appears at the stage of anuraga. Because this stage of prema supersedes the accomplishment of devotees in other rasas, it remains the exclusive domain of, those in conjugal love.
Standing in the courtyard of their homes, recalling the flute’s influence and very careful to avoid being overheard, some gopis say, “Just see! When Krsna dresses Himself in forest array and calls the cows’ names on His flute, even the trees and creepers become ecstatic out of love. Their limbs display eruptions and their sap pours down like a torrent of tears. The sound of Krsna’s flute causes the cranes, swans, and other water birds to close their eyes in deep meditation. The clouds in the sky gently rumble, imitating the flute’s vibration, and even great authorities in musical science like Indra, Siva, and Brahma become astonished. As we gopis are
Krsna Enters the Forest
anxious to offer everything to Krsna, the wives of the black deer follow Him in imitation.”
To understand the science of devotion, we may analyze the different stages of love for Krsna. Devotional service in practice extends from sraddha to asakti, followed by bhava-bhakti, the preliminary stage of perfection. The associates of Sri Krsna, on the platform of perfection, are imbued with prema-bhakti. According to their relationships, this is divided into five categories of love: neutral, servile, friendly, parental, and conjugal. Because these devotees all possess love for Sri Krsna, they are known as premi-bhaktas and, due to differing relationships, their experience of love varies in intensity. The divisions of prema-bhakti are eight in number and are known as follows:
prema or rati
further attachment (sub)
Each of the five relationships reaches a different stage of love. The santa-bhakta reaches to prema, the dasya-bhakta to pranaya, the sakhya and vatsalya devotees to anuraga, and the devotees in conjugal love to the stage of mahabhava. Aside from some notable exceptions, like Subala (whose sakhya-bhava reaches to the stage of mahabhava), it is only the gopis who taste the upper stages of love of God.
Since the effect of the flute is to invoke the topmost mood of love in each devotee, because the gopis worship Krsna as their lover, the feelings of transcendental lust or kama awaken in them. In this way the uniqueness of the kama tasted by the gopis is understood.
The word iti has a sense of ending, indicating that in time the bewilderment due to smara is pacified, and once again the gopis are able to describe the sound of the flute. Standing in small groups with friends of the same bhava, they are overwhelmed by the happi-
ness of loving Sri Krsna. As is customary for young girls discussing their beloved, the gopis are excited by the prospect of sharing fits talks with friends. Although they call each other sakhi, they cannot openly reveal all their intimate feelings. Consequently, they speak with the concealment and innuendo that characterize the nature of love in Vrndavana. Rupa Gosvami says:
aher eva gatih premnah svabhava-kutila bhavet
“The progress of loving affairs is by nature crooked, like the movements of a snake.”
The gopis speak, but do so indirectly. Like a snake, the direction of their conversation is unpredictable. It proceeds forward with sideways movements, ready to change its course at any time and always seeking to cover its true intent. Whether young or old, near or far away, the gopis embrace with those of the same anubhdva, saying, “0 sakhi, 0 friend/by your speaking you express so nicely what is on my mind. Now I will also speak to you with an open heart.”
In conjunction with the word abhirebhire, Sanatana Gosvami states that the gopis may or may not be embracing each other. He says the strength of their love is such that within their hearts they embrace their beloved Syamasundara, whose bodily features are the source of their constant attachment. Alternatively, they embrace the sound of the flute, whose vibration effects the same ecstasy as His touch. In any case, abhirebhire indicates the gopis’ attachment to Sri Krsna, which is beyond measure and always continues to increase.
The fragrant winds of bhava, blowing from the impassioned hearts of the gopis, stormed through the mind of Sukadeva Gosvami. Sitting by the Yamuna in the presence of the sages of the world, he spoke to the retired emperor. As the force of prema took hold of his very being, shaking in ecstasy and unable to control himself, he raised his arms to the sky, calling out with great feeling, “He rajaril” Then standing, unashamed, like the self-ornamented embodiment of spiritual knowledge, he held the hand of Pariksit
Maharaja in his own. Remembering the gopis’ embrace under the influence of the flute, he raised the king to his feet and, holding him to his chest, placed his vine-like arms about him. In this way, he concluded the discussion of the meeting of the gopis.
Sri Krsna desired His Suka to continue the glorification of the vraja-devis. As the witness within his heart. He pacified the great sage, who took his place and continued the narration of the gopis, the flute, and its Player. These are the concluding words of Sanatana Gosvami.
Absorbed in the deep mood of the waja-vasis, Uddhava quickly reached Mathura. He searched out Sri Krsna and found Him sitting under an immortal banyan tree by the beautiful shore of the Yamuna. As he bowed before his dear friend, tears flowing from his lotus eyes, Uddhava, now truly the best of wise men, spoke with a voice choked with love.
j “0 lotus-eyed Lord, under pretext of pacifying the residents of I Vraja, You sent me to take initiation from them in the art of loving tYou. It must be Your desire that I glorify their unique devotion to the Vrsni dynasty and the world of men. What can I say to You, the witness who sees everything?”
Sri Krsna sat on a golden cushion, leaning against the tree, glistening with anticipation and smiling charmingly. He spoke to Uddhava. “My dear friend, you appear as effulgent as the sun. Tell Me, what is it that you desire from Me, whose friendship never goes in vain?”
Uddhava, his voice trembling with emotion, replied, “Under Your instructions I visited Your friends, parents, and gopi girlfriends. I wandered through the land of Vrndavana with its many cows, birds, and sequestered groves. Now I wonder, as the ocean of unlimited qualities, being soft-hearted and merciful, without even a tinge of fault, how is it that Your mind does not remember the inhabitants of Vrndavana?”
Krsna Enters the Forest
When Sri Krsna heard the word “Vrndavana,” tears immediately welled up in His eyes. “Have You forgotten the land of Vraja,:
Your mother, father, gopis, and friends? Have You forgotten Govardhana Hill, the bank of the Yamuna, and the forest where You enjoyed the rasa dance?”
At these words, large tears began to flow, one after the other, down Sri Krsna’s mirror-like cheeks. “When I saw the morose face of Your Sridama/ when I heard the pitiable cries of Your mother, and when I saw Your Radhika’s heart breaking, I wondered whether You want to cause the death of them all!”
Placing His lotus face in His hands. His crown fallen to the ground and His beautiful black hair scattered, Sri Krsna sobbed, “0 Sridama, 0 mother, 0 my beloved Radhika!”
Placing his arm around his friend’s shoulder, his heart one with Hari’s, Uddhava said, “My dear Krsna, You are the life and soul of Vrndavana-dhama, the life of Nanda Maharaja, the only opulence in the land of the gopis, and You are very merciful. Please come back to Vrndavana and let them, who love You the most, live. Kindly place Your lotus feet once again in Vrndavana.”
Falling at His feet, bathing them with his tears, Uddhava sobbed, “To save Her from unlimited misery and imminent death, I said to Sri Radha, T will bring Sri Krsna back to You!’ I made the same promise to Your parents and the gopas. 0 master of the devotees, as You protected the promises of Prahlada, King Bali, and Maharaja Ambarisa, please, please protect the promise I made.”
At that, Uddhava fell silent. The wind stopped blowing, the Yamuna ceased to flow, the birds hushed, and the earth stopped turning. The only sounds that remained were the tears of Sri Krsna falling to the ground. Uddhava waited with bated breath. Then Sri Krsna, who loves His devotees more than His very existence, remembered the promises He had made to the vraja-vasis and made up His mind to return to Vraja.
Entrusting His duties to Sri Balarama, Lord Krsna swiftly mounted a chariot decorated with many ornaments. His heart overflowing with the joy of meeting, with Uddhava at His side, the moon of Gokula returned to Nanda’s palace on the crest of
=Nandisvara Hill. Seeing Govardhana Hill, Varsana, and the many places of Vraja, Sri Krsna quickly came to the shore of the Yamuna in Vrndavana forest.
When the cows of Vraja saw Him, they ran to Krsna, streams of milk dripping from their udders out of love. Their faces upraised, their ears and tails erect, mooing incessantly, they happily surrounded His chariot on all sides. Govinda, the eternal protector of the cows, became exceedingly happy as He called each one by name, touched their noses, and stroked their heads.
Seeing the cows gathered around the chariot, the gopas, headed by Sridama, became filled with wonder and, hurrying to where He was, they saw Krsna standing before them, as if appearing from a dream. As they gazed upon Him in amazement, unable to move, afraid His vision would fade, Krsna jumped from His chariot and, surcharged with affection, embraced them all. Shedding tears from His lotus eyes. He hugged the cowherd boys one by one, comforting them with sweet words while they wept, trembled, and stood stunned in the ecstasy of love.
Sri Krsna placed Uddhava on the chariot and sent him to the village of Nanda Maharaja to inform them of His arrival. When the news was heard that “Sri Krsna has returned,” the residents of Vraja ran out of their homes like cakora birds greeting the rising full moon. Accompanied by brahmanas singing Vedic mantras, King Nanda and Yasoda-devi came, with many young gopas. Carrying garlands, flutes, gunja, and peacock feathers, the boys were followed by happy infants holding flutes, sticks, and bugles in their hands. They were all singing and waving their yellow garments.
Hearing from Her friends’ mouths that Sri Krsna had returned, Radha at once prepared Herself to meet Her beloved. As pleased with the messengers as a new lotus with its own fragrance. She at once gave them all Her own ornaments.
Out of their intense love, the trees, creepers, cows, birds, and deer of Vraja came to see Sri Krsna, and with great affection He glanced at them all. Seeing His father and mother before Him, Sri Krsna bowed down before them, washing their lotus feet with His tears. Like cows who had retrieved their lost calves. King Nanda
Krsrm Enters the Forest
and his Queen embraced their long-absent son. Shedding many tears of love, holding Him to their hearts, they felt their vacant arms, breasts, and lives fill with His presence.
The demigods showered flowers, the gopis happily scattered grains of rice, and the cowherd boys chanted “Jaya! Jaya!” in bliss. After much celebration, feasting, and festivity, the sun happily set on the western horizon, having once again beheld Sri Krsna in Vraja. The master of the gopis then went to a secluded place on the bank of the Yamuna to meet Sri Radha and Her many gopi friends. When Radhika finally beheld Her beautiful lover, whose form was more charming than millions of Cupids, She became free of all distress and, crying tears of happiness. She spoke with great emotion.
Since Govinda’s agonizing departure to Mathura, Sri Radha never decorated Herself, never ate palatable foods, never slept on a comfortable bed, never joked, and never laughed. Now, as always, thinking for the welfare of others, seeing Sri Krsna before Her, Radhika forgot Her own unspeakable misery, a misery so intense that it repeatedly caused the stars, moon, and sun to become extinguished. Speaking of the unhappiness of Her friends, mother Yasoda, and the playful gopas. She reprimanded Him who was more dear to Her than Her very existence. Sri Krsna felt Radha’s pristine love inundate Him like a tidal wave. Submerged in its irresistible deluge. He was compelled to submit to its wonder like a menial servant, as every trace of His independent conduct vanished in its wake. Kneeling before Her, His crown at Her feet, His eyes shedding a stream of tears, Hari began to speak many wonderful things in that secluded place, to which only the land of Vrndavana bears witness.
This concludes the third chapter of The Song of the Flute, by a very insignificant disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in which the great sage Sukadeva, whose heart is fully
aligned with the mood of the gopis, narrates the most exquisite description of Sri Krsna found in all the Vedas, for the peerless love which anoints the vision of the ladies of Vraja reveals a special vision of Govinda, especially adorned with a variety of forest ornaments, attired in a very special dancer’s dress of many colors, playing a strikingly special melody on His venu, which when heard, causes even its transcendental master to dance in bliss, leaving some uncommonly special footprints in the soil of Vrndavana, sprinkled with the extra-special dust of His lotus feet, which, when combined with the many special ingredients of this very special day, creates such an exceptional bhdva as to madden the gopas and gopis who glorify Sri Krsna and His land with a spirit found only in the thousand-tongued Ananta and causes the gopis to embrace each other, the image of Sri Krsna, and the sound of the flute in selective groups of sakhls, because their minds, having been completely captivated and immersed in the reddish hue of their kama, now burst forth in the flowering spring of their circuitous words, which again overwhelms the mind of that great sage, who, in the presence of that learned assembly, embraces his disciple in the great ecstasy of the gopis, leaving this author to look on in awe.