akñaëvatäà phalam idaà na paraà vidämaù
sakhyaù paçün anaviveçayator vayasyaiù
vaktraà vrajeça-sutayor anaveëu-juñöaà
yair vä nipétam anurakta-kaöäkña-mokñam
The cowherd girls said: O friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Mahäräja Nanda are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by Their friends, driving the cows before Them, They hold Their flutes to Their mouths and glance lovingly upon the residents of Våndävana. For those who have eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision. (SB 10.21.7)
madhye virejatur alaà paçu-päla-goñöhyäà
raìge yathä naöa-varau kvaca gäyamänau
Dressed in a charming variety of garments, upon which Their garlands rest, and decorating Themselves with peacock feathers, lotuses, lilies, newly grown mango sprouts and clusters of flower buds, Kåñëa and Balaräma shine forth magnificently among the assembly of cowherd boys. They look just like the best of dancers appearing on a dramatic stage, and sometimes They sing. (SB 10.21.8)
Perfection for the Eyes
Wile residing in Dvaraka, lotus-eyed Sri Krsna, the worshipable Deity of the Yadu dynasty, would express feelings of great separation from Sri Vrndavana-dhama and its residents. In His dreams. He would enact His childhood pastimes, speaking to His friends, tending the cows, and playing in the forests of Vraja. Sometimes His queens would be distressed to hear Him conversing with some gopi or calling out their names in His happy sleep. On other occasions, when reminded of His youth, Sri Krsna would cry a great stream of tears and lose consciousness in the assembly of the Yadus as the ministers and queens looked on with concern.
To mitigate His sorrow. Lord Brahma requested the architect Visvakarma to create a replica of Sri Vrndavana. It was complete with flowering groves, flourishing pasture grounds, the blackish river Yamuna, and the all-magnanimous Govardhana Hill. There were exquisite deities of cows, cowherd boys, and gopis to complement Sri Krsna’s ecstasy of vraja-rasa. Dressed in the clothes of a cowherd boy, a peacock feather in His turban, Sri Krsna would happily enter these gardens and become fully absorbed in His childhood play. In this way, forgetting the grandeur of Dvaraka and His royal duties, Sri Krsna enjoyed the bliss of Vrndavana.
One day, while wandering through New Vrndavana in happy abandon, Sri Krsna caught a glimpse of His enchanting reflection in a bejeweled pillar. Stunned by the beauty of His own form, thinking it to be some incomparably beautiful youth, Govinda became lost in meditation. After remaining transfixed for a long time, Sri Krsna recognized Himself, regained His composure, and began to consider the attributes of His beauty with wonder.
With one hand to His heart, the other pointed towards His image, Sri Hari said, “Just see My infinite sweetness, full of wonder, without limit, and inaccessible to all but Sri Radhika. By the ever-increasing strength of Her love. My limitless sweetness shines with newer and newer beauty, causing both the mirror of Radha’s love and the image of My sweetness to constantly increase. However, in their endless competition, neither Her love nor My sweetness knows defeat.”
Considering how to enjoy His own beauty, Sri Krsna said in a pensive tone, “My ever-fresh sweetness is tasted by My devotees according to the nature and strength of their love. Seeing the good fortune of My devotees, I too desire to relish My sweetness. Now, as I observe the reflection of My incomparable form. My heart yearns for the part of Sri Radhika, whose matchless love tastes its beauty like no other.” Absorbed in such thoughts, drowning in His own sweetness. His heart restless after His own love, Sri Krsna stood in that place for a long time, until anxious Queen Rukmini led Him back to the palace.
The nature of Sri Krsna’s engaging beauty is to captivate the hearts of all men and women, including Sri Krsna Himself. To relish His own beauty, the son of Nanda adopts the role of Srimati Radharani in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This constitutes one of three confidential reasons for His advent.
At a time when He cannot wait for the descent of the Gaura avatara, Sri Krsna solicits immediate satisfaction of His desires. For
Perfection for the Eyes
His pleasure, Sri Radha, disguised as beautiful Sri Krsna, enables Him to delight in the vision of His own peerless form. This pastime is narrated by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in his Sri Krsna-bhajanamrta in the following way:
One summer night at Yoga-pitha, Sri Krsna, along with Radhika and Her sakhis, engaged in pleasant talks regarding the nature of Their eternal love. When lotus-eyed Vanamali, whose complexion was like a dark rain cloud, dressed in yellow cloth and decorated with strands of gunja beads, recalled the saradiya-rasa, He said, “I can never forget that autumn evening, in the dark forest of Vrndavana, when Sri Radhika asked Me to shower Her with the nectar from My lips with the words, ‘Dear Sri Krsna, please pour the nectar of Your lips upon the fire within our hearts—a fire You ignited with Your smiling glances and the sweet song of Your flute. If You do not, we will consign our bodies to the fire of separation from You, 0 friend, and thus, like yogis, attain to the abode of Your lotus feet by meditation.’ Such forward behavior was remarkable for a highly-bred princess. I am at a loss to understand how it is that She could speak in such a brazen way.”
Sri Radha, who always knew the mind of Her beloved, replied, “If I was to gain the wealth of Your frivolous little flute, I would enchant You with many mystical melodies and lure You into the depths of the forest. In such a bewildered state, were You to behold My tribhanga-rupa, then You could understand how I crossed the high walls of restraint to gain the service of Your lotus feet.”
Very eager to realize His deep desires, Sri Krsna leapt to His feet and said, “So be it!” Handing His flute to Sri Radhika, He took Lalita and her sakhis to a secluded grove to enact the drama of meeting in the forest.
As the moon observed the theatrical preparations, it illuminated the stage of Their divine performance with its soft, iridescent rays. Stars crowded the sky, and a few dark clouds parted, opening curtains on the scene of Sri Krsna’s reverse pastime. To invigorate the atmosphere, the night jasmine perfumed the air, and many fireflies, deer, peacocks, and parrots assembled as the fortunate audience.
Dressed by Her maidservants like Sri Hari, having assumed His
blackish complexion. Her hair tied up like His, moonfaced Radhika placed His flute to Her lips and began to play in an extraordinary way. When the moon saw Sri Radha’s Sri Krsna form, it appeared She would charm him from the sky and cause his fall into the Yamuna. Certainly this would abruptly conclude the anticipated pastime. However, when Sri Hari (who had embraced Sri Radha’s form, complexion, and mood), surrounded by Lalita and many sakhis, stepped out of hiding, the moon became stunned by His feminine beauty and could move neither up nor down.
Accompanied by the sakhis, Sri Krsna approached the threefold bending form of Radhika, enchanted by Her beauty and extraordinary influence. Absorbed in the mood of a submissive Radha, who after great suffering had attained Her beloved, Sri Krsna licked up the vision of Her (Krsna) form, with the many tongues of His lotus eyes.
Sri Krsna, under the influence of His yogamaya,’ thought, “Just see the beauty of Sri Krsna’s transcendental form, which beautifies the ornaments He wears and is called the ornament of all ornaments. When He stands in this three-curved posture. His already inconceivable beauty is beautified further. It is impossible for Me to gauge the depth of His loveliness. The beauty of this form appears like an unfathomable abyss that forcibly draws Me into its depths.”
Seeing Sri Radha move Her eyebrows in an inviting and suggestive way, Sri Krsna thought, “Now Krsna’s eyes dance and move obliquely, releasing many arrows at the target of the gopis minds. When pierced, they will become agitated and fall into the ocean of submissive bewilderment.”
When Sri Radhika (disguised as Sri Krsna) continued to glance at bewildered Sri Krsna (in Her guise). He became overwhelmed by the force of Her vision and contemplated the influence of Her beauty. “The five arrows of Sri Krsna’s glance, released from the Cupid’s bow of His eyebrows, represent form, taste, smell, sound, and touch. My Madana-mohana, who is the attractor of Cupid, thus conquers the minds of the gopis. Although they are very proud of their beauty, Sri Krsna fully brings the vraja-gopis under His control. Having become the ever new Cupid of Vrndavana, will He now engage in the rasa dance with us?”
Perfection for the Eyes
sweetly at Sri Krsna, whose delicate fingers held the veil of His blue sari. Sri Radha, who had perfectly mastered Sri Krsna’s voice, said, “Oh, youthful housewives of Vraja, well known for your vows of chastity, why have you come to this dangerous forest alone?
“You are frail women, wandering in a dangerous place. Please immediately return to your homes and continue to loyally serve your husbands. If you are in need of flowers for tomorrow’s puja, I am sure you can find them in your own gardens, at lesser personal risk.”
Hearing such discouraging words, Sri Krsna and the gopis became very morose and, scratching the ground with their toenails, their tears moistened the soil. Although Her voice was like nectar to deluded Sri Krsna, Radha’s words shattered His heart.
Raising His tear-filled eyes, drinking the nectar of Radha’s form, Sri Krsna spoke in Her voice, “Oh, dearest, the very form of loving mellows, please do not speak cruel words to us, who always think of You! You are an ocean of divine love, and we are burning in the fire of lusty desires. Having come to take shelter of the cooling nectar of Your moonlike face, why do You attack us with the merciless ax of Your harsh words? Do not cut down the tender vine of our aspirations, which You sprinkled with the sweet vibration of Your flute.”
Hearing His plaintive appeal, Sri Radha at once remembered the similar misery She had felt in the past. Showing Her smiling lotus face to Sri Krsna (as Radha), She agreed to His proposal and instantly removed the distress of the gopis.
When the gopis saw the romantic cleverness of Sri Krsna (dressed as vama Radhika), and the exquisite beauty of Sri Radhika (dressed as naughty Krsna), they became merged in an ocean of fun. As Sri Radhika repeatedly embraced the gopis, headed by Sri Krsna (dressed as Radha), the moon smiled uncontrollably, flooding the night with a silver-gold brilliance.
Then Sri Radhika retired to a secluded place, taking the Radha-disguised Sri Krsna from the association of the other haughty gopis. At the touch of Her hand Sri Krsna thrilled with loving sensations,
and at the sight of Her form. His eyes feasted on Her beauty. While She was ornamenting Him with flowers and garlands, the gopis searched throughout the forest, inquiring of Their whereabouts from the banyan, kadamba, and tulasi trees.
When Sri Krsna became exhausted by wandering through the night forest. He intimated to Sri Radha that She should carry Him. He said, “I cannot walk any further. You please take Me wherever You desire.” As the potency which fulfills all of Sri Krsna’s desires, Sri Radha immediately disappeared, leaving a desolate Sri Krsna to shed a river of tears, crying “Ha, ha, Madhava!”
Hearing Him lamenting, all the gopis appeared at that spot and tenderly surrounded Sri Krsna, consoling His incomparable grief. Engaging together in the wonderful sankirtana of gopi-gita, they sang beautiful songs, like “yat te sujata-caranamburuham stanesu.” When Sri Hari heard their lamentation. He re-appeared once again, smiling sweetly. His yellow cloth shining. His body resplendent as a blue cloud.
To all those present it appeared as if Sri Radha had exchanged Her golden complexion for Sri Krsna’s bluish hue. To reimburse Her for His new acquisition, Sri Krsna seemingly transferred the opulence of His mood to Sri Radha, and in this way. They completely exchanged identities.
At the climax of Their drama, Radha and Sri Krsna decorated the center of the rasa-mandala with Their delightful dancing, singing, and musical accompaniment. Sri Krsna, still fully absorbed in the mood of Radharani, gazed at Her beautiful form, feeling supremely happy to have achieved His association.
That evening, absorbed in the unlimited wonder of His own beauty, scented with the perfume of many pastimes and decorated with many charming talks, Sri Krsna satiated one drop of the unlimited ocean of His desires. Although this gave Him great happiness, He remained in want and once again hankered to cross the inaccessible shores of His aspirations.
Perfection for the Eyes
Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami states that those who drink the nectar of Sri Krsna’s sweetness are never satisfied, but their thirst ever increases. Such persons condemn Lord Brahma as an incompetent creator who, instead of giving millions of eyes to enjoy His beauty, has given only two, which unfortunately have the defect of blinking. Because the sweetness of Lord Sri Krsna is unprecedented, its strength is also unprecedented; thus, the vision of His form is glorified by the gopis as the perfection of the eyes. There is no other consummation for the sense of sight than vision of the incomparable form of Sri Krsna. Whoever sees Him is most fortunate indeed! The gopis express the beauty of Sri Krsna’s form in the seventh verse (Bhag. 10.21.7) with the following words:
sri-gopya ucuh aksanvatam phalam idam na param vidamah
sakhyah pasun anuvivesayator vayasyaih vaktram vrajesa-sutayor anuvenu-justam
yair va nipitam anurakta-kataksa-moksam
“The cowherd girls said: ‘0 friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Maharaja Nanda are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by Their friends, driving the cows before Them, They hold Their flutes to Their mouths and glance lovingly upon the residents of Vrndavana. For those who have eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision.'”
Srila Prabhupada writes in Krsna book, “One of the gopis told her friends. The highest perfection of the eyes is to see Sri Krsna and Balarama entering the forest, playing Their flutes and tending the cows with Their friends.'”
Commenting on this translation, Srila Prabhupada continues:
“Persons who are constantly engaged in the transcendental meditation of seeing Krsna, internally and externally, by thinking of Him playing the flute, entering the Vrndavana forest, and tending the cows with the cowherd boys, have really attained the perfection of samadhi. Samadhi (trance) means absorption of all the activities of the senses in a particular object, and the gopis indicate that the
pastimes of Sri Krsna are the perfection of all meditation and samadhi. It is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that anyone who is always absorbed in the thought of Sri Krsna is the topmost of all yogis.”
Many beautiful gopis, residents of the same village and possessed of the same bhava, are assembled beneath a cluster of tamala trees in a secluded garden on the bank of serene Kisori-kunda. Earlier, they spoke together of Krsna’s beauty, and now, one by one, they begin to glorify the sound vibration of Sri Krsna’s flute. One gentle gopi, the emblem of youthful splendor, her hair decorated with garlands of jasmine flowers, her sari like the forest foliage, speaks with unprecedented courage.
“0 sakhyah\ My dear friends with lotus eyes and moonlike faces, if we remain in the shackles of family life, what will be our gain? Lord Brahma, the omniscient creator, has bequeathed the sense of sight to make our vision fruitful. Are we to achieve that by remaining in the miserable dungeons of our homes? No! Therefore, like ascetics departing for the Himalayas, let us leave immediately and go to the forest of Vrndavana. There, beholding the most beautiful scene, not only our eyes but our entire births will become successful.” Pausing to look at her friends, she says, “For those who possess eyes, I know of no higher wonder, no greater pleasure, and no vision as deserving as this!”
Looking in all directions before speaking, another golden-complexioned gopi, her eyes arched like the bow of Cupid, replies, “You are telling me to leave my home and go to the forest to perfect my eyes. Dear friend, whose daring has flooded the embankment of social custom, before undertaking such a bold venture, pray tell us what wonderful thing will we see at that place?”
With a deep sigh of longing, her sakhi replies, “You will see the indescribable faces of Rama and Sri Krsna, the sons of the king of Vraja, as They good-naturedly drive Their cows to pasture,” she says assertively. “Although some may claim there are more praiseworthy objects to be seen, as far as we are concerned, we know of nothing superior, within or without the creation, than this.” As she turns to her lovely friends, they all shake their heads in unison, in full agreement with her statement.
“Sakhis, the vision of Their enchanting faces, adorned with the natural decoration of Their flutes pressed to the bimba fruit of Their lips, is not an image which is simply to be observed. Not at all! This beauty, like a heavenly draught, the exclusive privilege of the gopis, should be drunk, imbibed, and consumed deeply, continually, and without cessation.”
Responding to the reservation in the gopis’ eyes, she says, “If you are concerned about the many gopas hovering around Them like maddened bees, intoxicated by the nectar of Their lotus faces, I say do not fear! Because they have no qualification to drink that nectar, we should not be shy in their presence.”
Another gopi says, “Careful! Careful! What if someone overhears what you are saying? There are many neighbours who will inform your mother, sister, or mother-in-law of the things you say.”
“If someone hears what we say, let them! What is the fault in that?” she replies. “Because They are ananda-pradam, the source of pleasure for all living entities, all vraja-vasis describe the sweetness of Sri Krsna and Balarama’s faces. Why, then, should we be prohibited from such happiness, even if some envious relatives get no pleasure in such a blissful sight?”
Another doe-eyed gopi says, “Although you say that Sri Krsna and Balarama are the sons of Nanda Maharaja, I have heard it said that Balarama is the son of Vasudeva. Sakhi, please explain to us how this mystery is to be understood.”
Their group leader replies, “Listen, dear friends! After the birth ceremony of Krsna, when Nanda Baba went to Mathura to pay taxes, he also met with Vasudeva with great love and affection. At that time, Vasudeva inquired after the welfare of Balarama, saying, ‘My son Baladeva, being raised by you and your wife, Yasoda-devi, considers you His father and mother. Is He living very peacefully in your home with His real mother, Rohini?’ Because He was raised in his house, along with Krsna/ because He accepts him as His father, and because He is loved by the King of Nandagoan like his own son, Sankarsana is famous in Vraja as Nanda Maharaja’s son.”
Another gopi, wearing a sari of many colors, stepped a little closer and spoke. “Tell me truthfully, dear friends, of the two vrajesa-sutas, do both play the flute, or just one? Is it not true that
Perfection for the Eyes
Balarama is more expert in blowing His buffalo horn than flute playing? Therefore, should the nectar of both Their faces be drunk, or only the one?” Their excitement surging forth like the aroma of flowers in springtime, the gopis looked among each other with arched eyebrows and knowing smiles. Tilting her head slightly, a lovely smile on her lips, she continued. “Only by those whose birth is successful can this nectarean sweetness be drunk, and not by others. Therefore, let us fold our hands and offer pranamas (say goodbye) to our kula, lajya, dharma, and bhaya; family, shyness, religion, and fear. We bid thee farewell! Diyatam, let us fold our hands to those things and make our births successful.” As she folds her bud-like hands, touching them to her forehead in reverence, the other gopis follow suit, making a great vow of surrender.
A slender gopi whose hair-part is beautified by vermilion speaks with a voice that is charming like a cuckoo. “Dear friend, you say we should drink the vision of Rama-Krsna’s loveliness at all cost. Now, having been induced to reject the impediment of our family, we are certainly prepared to do so. Yet, how will we overcome the great obstacle of our shyness as we stand in the presence of lotus-eyed Sri Krsna? When He gives off His loving glances, will we not turn away, unsuccessful in our attempt to imbibe His loveliness, so eloquently described by you?”
All the gopis, their concern now fully aroused, turn to their companion, who says with full confidence, “Oh, Sundari, by elaborating on the words anurakta kataksa moksam, I shall explain to you how your shyness will fall into the great ocean of forgetfulness.
“Sri Krsna is an unlimited mine of love. His passionate glancing is similarly laden with affection for His devotees. For those fortunate souls like you, who love Him without reservation, Sri Krsna releases His glance, which takes the form of an arrow. When that arrow finds the target of any gopi’s heart, its nature is to destroy all shyness, steadiness, and fear, overwhelming her with an insatiable thirst for His beauty. Do not fear, dear friend; when that arrow reaches your heart, all your argument, logic, and reasoning will disappear like the fog in the morning sun.” At this, the other gopis laugh in happiness, clapping their hands, their bodies swaying in ecstasy.
Stepping forward in that assembly, a toy lotus purposefully twirling in her hand, another gopi spoke. “0 priye, my dear eloquent friend who hides behind the veil of her own words, why did you not begin by saying idam vaktram, or ‘here are the faces most worthy to be seen?’ Could it be that you yourself are shy to cast your glance in the magnetic direction of Rama-Krsna’s inconceivable charm? In your sweetly composed song, why do you begin saying idam phalam and then mention the forest of Vrndavana?”
That beautiful gopi who first spoke lowered her head and scratched the ground with her delicate toes. Without a moment’s delay, another young girl, her complexion like gorocana, possessing innumerable good qualities and respected by all, took the hand of her friend and spoke. “Dear sister, knowing the heart of my dear friend, I will explain to you why our sakhi has spoken in that way. Please listen!
“When we assembled in this secret place, recalling the song of Sri Krsna’s flute, you and all the ladies here became overwhelmed by prema. Is that not so?” All the girls expressed their agreement with shy gestures. “Why? Because it is prema which is the fruit of this darsana and which lies in the heart of all qualified vraja-gopis. That same kdma would have obstructed her from completing her all-so-appropriate song; therefore, our sakhi first spoke of Vrndavana, by the grace of which she was able to describe the object of our talks. You are all righteous and learned; please judge if our sakhi is at fault in any way!”
All the young girls consoled their friend, saying, “Sakhi, what you have said is correct. Were we to live for a life of Lord Brahma, we could not imagine a darsana superior to the two faces of these brothers. Beyond this there is nothing!”
That gopi who first posed her question now spoke with full understanding. “Dear friend, you are so correct when you say the fruit of those who have eyes is the vision of the lotus face of Sri Krsna. In addition, phalam indicates the success by which one reaches perfection, for absorption in Sri Krsna’s pastimes is the culmination of samadhi. From mother Paurnamasi I have heard that the greatest yogis are constantly engaged in transcendental meditation on Sri Krsna.”
Perfection for the Eyes
With great longing she continues, “But where is that success for our eyes now?” Pointing to the vacant directions, she says, “We do not have darsana of Sri Krsna’s face at present. So how are we to achieve perfection?” After a contemplative pause, she says with newly found determination, “You are right, sakhi\ Whatever time is opportune, under any circumstances, wherever it may be had, somehow or other if one can drink the nectar of Sri Krsna’s face, one should do so without hesitation. After all, the greatest fortune of the inhabitants of Vraja is their eligibility for such perfection.”
Abandoning the picture she has drawn with her toes and raising her beautiful face, now decorated with a charming smile, the speaker among the gopis exclaimed, “0 sakhi, you have truly understood what I have said!” and embraced her friend.
Her hair decorated with small garlands of jasmine, her forehead painted with sandalwood tilaka, and her lotus feet smeared with red lac, a newly married gopi from Varsana begins to speak in little more than a whisper. “As They herd the cows, Sri Krsna and Balarama walk behind them with Their friends, playing games and joking among themselves. While the sun moves from east to west, They enter forest after forest, sanctifying the land of Vraja with Their footprints.”
Looking in one direction and then another, she beckons to her friends, who spontaneously lean forward like wheat in the wind. “While speaking of Krsna’s flute playing, is it appropriate to mention the elder brother? Dear friends, please give my question due consideration. Certainly a beautiful lotus flower becomes more enhanced in a clear, serene pond full of humming bees and cooing swans. Similarly, the beauty of Sri Balarama, who is like a snowcapped mountain, decorated with blue clouds and lightning, certainly enhances the beauty of Sri Krsnacandra beyond compare. He creates a sobha visesa, an extraordinary splendor.”
All the other gopis nodded in consent and said, “Sadhu, sadhu!” Now lowering her voice even further, she continues, “Although Sri Krsna is the exclusive object of our prema, the mention of Ha-ladhara covers this true feeling and allows the love-laden gopis to express their desires in the presence of superiors and…” (she looks around to her captivated audience) “… even among ourselves.”
Having heard this conclusive truth, the gopis all hastily cover their faces with their veils and look in another direction. Being so closely grouped in that affectionate assembly, rather than hiding their bhava, they succeed only in gazing into each other’s tear-laden eyes. Now that the true object of their talk has been exposed, the dual meaning of vaktram, hinted at earlier, emerges. Although appearing in the plural sense, vaktram may be read in the singular, indicating Sri Krsna’s lotus face, decorated with a flute, and the exclusive object of the gopis’ desire.
A gopi who is known for her bold and outspoken demeanor continued, “We should clearly consider the import of the word nipitam, to avoid losing that which we treasure. Pitam means to drink and nitaram indicates an act which is done without reservation. Thus, we should fully drink the nectar of Sri Krsna’s moonlike beauty, for like cakora birds, we can subsist only on the moonlight radiating from His moonlike face. Like wanderers who, dying in the desert of thirst, take shelter of an oasis, those janas whose eyes are always anointed with love for Govinda certainly receive His loving glance, the only means to revive their parched lives.”
One gopi, vastly learned in all the sastras and yoga-sutras, her hands raised in the jnana-mudra, says, “The sadhana of yoga directs one to engage all the senses in the service of the Supreme. By gradual mastery over the senses, one is able to control the mind and achieve ultimate perfection in the form of transcendental samadhi. What great yogis achieve after many lifetimes of effort, at great risk, and with much tribulation is easily attained here in Vraja by the gopis.”
Receiving the silent approval of the gopis, she continues, “Dear friends, please listen as I explain! For sentient living beings, the very sight of Sri Krsna’s lotus face awards sarvendriya-phala, the perfection of all senses. By drinking the nectar of His face, there is certainly perfection for the eyes. But because this fruit is param phalam, the highest fruit, it indicates perfection for all the other senses as well. While the sastras recommend many indirect alternatives, for the gopis only Sri Krsna’s face gives satisfaction, and nothing else. For example, by services like fanning and touching the Deity, one may attain the perfection of touch. But by drinking
“Like the moon surrounded by many planets, Sri Krsna sat in the great assembly house of Nandagoan surrounded by Maharaja Nanda and His relatives. While enjoying the performance of many musicians, actors, and bards, weary Govinda yawned, to be summarily ushered into His own quarters by His loving mother. ” (p. 514)
Perfection for the Eyes
the beauty of Sri Krsna’s face, the perfection of all of the senses is immediately and simultaneously achieved.”
Such words of wisdom were well received by all the assembled gopis, who were raising a dust storm of talks of Krsna. When their eyes became agitated by the particles of such pastimes, their tears, mistaking the eye ointment to be the cause of the gopis’ distress, attempted to wash away the kajal but succeeded only in increasing their affliction.
One gopi, who until now had been silent, raised her folded palms like newly blossoming buds, and respectfully addressed her older friends, “Prana-priye! 0 lives of my life, gopi-gana, please allow me to place before you my perspective for your kind consideration. Having heard what I will say by the grace of my priya-sakhi, you may judge yourselves whether I am right or wrong.”
All the gopis gave their blessings to that young girl by saying, “Speak without fear, dearest. We are eager to hear what you have to say!”
Without hesitation, the young gopi began to speak. “Some may consider that drinking the vision of Krsna’s moonlike beauty is the highest fruit. As I have understood from the words of my gurus, in the hearts of the gopis of Vraja this is neither the unique nor the highest perfection attainable.”
The young girls in that assembly immediately reacted to this statement with arched eyebrows and pursed lips. Receiving the assurance of a knowing smile from her parama-prestha-sakhi, the gopi continued, “One may then ask, ‘What is the highest fruit?’ I answer. The highest fruit to be achieved is drinking the amrta-nectar of Sri Krsna’s lotus lips.'” Some gopis immediately blushed red, others pulled veils across their eyes, and some began to giggle-The entire gathering of gopis, although constituted of various reactions, began to act as one body, tossed by a medley of expressions.
“Please consider the statement of sastra, jitam sarvam jite rase: ‘Although one may subdue all other senses, as long as the tongue is not conquered, it cannot be said one has gained sense control. However, after controlling the tongue, one is understood to be master of all the senses.’ (Bhag. 11.8.21) Because the tongue is the most important sense, if it is conquered, then all the other senses
will surrender. It is the beauty of Sri Krsna’s face that appears as the moonlight nectar of His lips, and when one tastes that essence with the tongue, one has truly achieved the highest perfection.”
Having heard these words, a complete silence descended on the group. A gentle breeze, which was the friend of Sri Krsna’s form, carried His fragrance to the gopis in an attempt to console their affliction. Tenderly caressing the trees, it failed to bring them comfort and, ultimately, only crushed the gopis’ fragile minds.
With a voice full of longing, one golden gopi lamented, “But where are we unfortunate souls, who do not have that nectar, and what hope have we that at some time fate will favor us in that way? Oh, fie on us! In the absence of the taste of Sri Krsna’s lips, everything is useless!” As her voice melted into the wind, its echo resounded on every leaf, flower, and creeper. “Oh, fie on us! Oh, fie on us!”
Their voices choked up, unable to speak further, the gopis entered within the inexhaustible domains of silence. Tears of love first decorated their eyes, mixing with the cosmetic black kajal representing their constant remembrance of Sri Krsna. The sorrow-stream of their love then cascaded to their breasts, collecting the reddish kunkuma which was their passionate anuraga, as brilliant as the setting sun. Having no other shelter than the golden dust of Vraja, which always bears the color of the gopis’ bhava, their teardrops formed a multicolored kunda, which quickly overflowed its banks and carried an urgent message of succor to Sri Krsna. Sanatana Gosvami states that the love of the go-pis is as deep as an ocean. Unlike those vast waters which extinguish the greatest fire, the effect of this love is to burn the hearts of the gopis and those who contact them.
Footsteps and voices are heard close by. The gopis compose themselves, adjust their clothing, and dry the many tears from their faces. Two elderly gopis moving like swans of heaven approach, carrying pots of milk on their heads. One is dressed in a flowing white sari with golden borders; the other wears cloth the color of a parrot. Arriving where the gopis stand, they offer their blessings while the girls touch their feet and ask of their welfare.
One of the ladies, looking like the angel of maternal affection,
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speaks: “Did you girls see Sri Krsna and Balarama as They left for the forest today, herding Their cows, playing Their flutes, and accompanied by Their rowdy friends?” In an attempt to cover their feelings, the girls smile demurely and nod their graceful heads. “When I see the beauty of Their faces, I forget about my house, my family, my children, and my cows. How fortunate Yasoda and Rohini are to always gaze upon the moonlike beauty of their children, their hearts soothed by the illumination of Their nectarean smiles. I think there is no higher perfection for the eyes than to behold the faces of Sri Krsna and Balarama.” Hearing such encouraging words, the young gopis become animated by the maternal love of their elders.
The other gopi, a veritable fountain of compassion for the young ladies of Vraja, says, “While driving their cows, Sri Krsna and Balarama formed a human chain among the gopas, causing them to hold each other’s cloth. Balarama held Krsna’s pitambara, Subala clutched Balai’s blue dhoti, Madhu tugged at Subala’s wrapper, while Sridama held the reins of Bhato’s chaddar. In this way, one boy was colorfully connected to the next in a human rope of happiness and sport. The thousand colorful links of that gopa chain, waving their cloth, cheering, dancing, overflowing with happiness, echoes in my heart even now. Just see how they play on their flutes and cast loving glances to their mothers while entering the forest of Vrndavana.”
Envisaging the colorful scene as thousands of gopas hold each other’s clothes, gopis young and old laugh together, and a cheerful atmosphere prevails once again. As the elder gopis depart, then-hands dramatize the wonder that is Sri Krsna and Balarama. A peaceful silence descends. Smiling ever so sweetly, the gopis begin to converse amongst each other.
That jewel among innocent girls who first spoke in glorification of Sri Krsna and Balarama, a camphor-like smile on her bimba-colored lips, speaks once again: “Dear friends, now that we are alone, in like-minded company, let me tell you what I had in mind at the mention of this verse.”
All the other gopis spoke in unison. “Yes, yes, sakhi, tell us what dwells in the inaccessible cavern of your heart.”
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“Everyone knows that in Vrndavana there are two kings. One is Nanda Maharaja and the other is Vrsabhanu Baba. When speaking of the progeny of these kings, there is another couple in addition to Sri Krsna and Balarama.” The assembly of gopis begins to giggle and look towards Sri Radhika who, feeling embarrassed, covered Her head and looked away. “One suta is the sapphire-colored Nanda-nandana, and the other is the golden-hued Vrsabhanu-nandini. Need I give supporting evidence? My suggestion is that if you want to drink the essence of all loveliness, see the faces of Radhika and Madhava, seated together under a desire tree, surrounded by Their intimate gopi friends. That is the ultimate perfection!”
The gopis, all overwhelmed with happiness, clap and chant in unison, “Jaya Radhe! Jaya Radhe!” They have forgotten the possibility of being overheard by superiors and are immersed in the bliss of seeing a united Radha and Krsna. In their selfless love, the gopis are more interested to see Radhika with Sri Krsna than meeting Him themselves. The union of the divine couple is their greatest happiness, their ultimate objective, and the satisfaction of their senses.
Beaming with the beauty of Their pure love, the gopi continues, “Since mention was made of the flute playing of the vrajesa-sutas, you may ask how it is possible our Srimati has learned this musical art? In reply, I ask you, dear friends, from whom did Sri Krsna learn to play the flute in such a mind-enchanting way?” As the gopis ride the waves of their happiness, she says, “Can you imagine that He was taught by Nanda, Yasoda, or His elder brother, whose expertise is the buffalo horn? Sakhis, certainly you, too, have seen Govinda prone to mistakes in His effort to express His many desires through His bamboo emissary. At that time, our Radhika begs for His venu and, pursing Her beautiful lips, personally teaches the guru of the demigods.
“Although Kalanidhi, Sri Krsna, is very proud of His fame as the Cupid of Vrndavana, Kalavati, Sri Radha, is His teacher in the art of love. Similarly, as the ultimate scholar of song and dance. She remains the professor of all musical sciences, of which the playing of flutes is but a subsidiary. After all, which of you gopis have not been taught these arts by Radhika Herself?
“In truth, moonfaced Sri Krsna is not in the midst of His noisy friends as the cows enter the forest in the morning. Being very clever. He stays a bit behind and freely focuses His attention on the gopis. At that time, while playing His flute. He searches out Sri Radha among an ocean of young girls and casts His gaze of love in Her direction. Overcoming shyness and fear of Her superiors, Radhika in turn offers a sidelong glance from the very corner of Her lotus eyes. I think the meeting of Their eyes is like the union of the Ganga and Yamuna, which removes all obstacles to some future encounter of wonder.”
Leaning towards her friends, she concludes, “Sakhl, if you see the lotus faces of Radha and Sri Krsna decorated with the king of flutes, if you see Their exchange of glances in the late morning hours, if you see a particle of dust that comprises service to Their meeting, oh, my friends, without a doubt you have seen everything. Certainly, nothing else remains to be seen, heard of, or known thereafter. 0 beautiful maidens of Vraja, if you see such a marvel, your lives will have achieved perfection without doubt.”
While the gopis spoke of Sri Krsna in this way, many wonders manifest in that place. As their beautiful eyes blossomed with happiness, the trees around them bloomed with flowers; as they shed tears remembering Krsna, honey oozed from the hollows of trees; and as their tongues glorified His qualities, the leaves vibrated the names of Rama and Krsna.
Some gopis say, “We have spoken at length of drinking the moonlight nectar from Sri Krsna’s lotus face. Dear friends, how can such an impossible deed be accomplished in public without suffering condemnation from our family members? While our hearts race at the prospect of achieving their long-cherished goal, our intelligence is bewildered how such an act of daring will see success.”
The strategist of the group steps forward, like a graceful doe, and says, “My dear friends, do not speak with hearts full of doubt. With careful planning, our honor can be easily protected from undue criticism, even in the presence of Sri Baladeva and His many gopa friends.
“Making our way stealthily to the creeper-covered trees near Sri Krsna, looking through the openings between the leaf-laden
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branches, we will drink the nectar of the flute, the nectar of His dancing, and the nectar of His beauty. Then, having fully satisfied our thirst, we shall very quickly run away without being noticed by anyone!” Receiving the praise of her friends, that wise gopi explained the route by which they would find Sri Krsna, the means by which they would loot His beauty, and the great happiness they would enjoy, returning undetected.
There are many groups of gopis in Vraja who speak of Sri Krsna throughout the untiring hours of the day. Although there are minute differences in their love, moods, and demeanor, their traits of undeviating affection, extraordinary beauty, and one-pointed attention are identical. Their transcendental qualities find no parallel, even in Svarga or Vaikuntha.
Elsewhere, another group of gopis has gathered, intoxicated by the opulence of their youth and the elixir of Sri Krsna’s glories. One gopi, appearing like the personification of spiritual beauty, addressed her friends with the eighth verse of the Venu-glta (Bhag. 10.21.8):
malanuprkta-paridhana-vicitra-vesau madhye virejatur alam pasu-pala-gosthyam
range yatha nata-varau kvaca gayamanau
In Krsna book this verse appears as “Another gopi expressed her opinion that Sri Krsna and Balarama, while tending the cows, appeared just like actors going to play on a dramatic stage. Krsna was dressed in glowing garments of yellow, Balarama in blue, and They held new twigs of mango tree, peacock feathers, and bunches of flowers in Their hands. Dressed with garlands of lotus flowers, They were sometimes singing very sweetly among Their friends.”
Commenting on this verse in his Caitanya-caritamrta, Prabhu-
pada writes, “Like the gopis, one can see Sri Krsna continuously if one is fortunate enough. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that sages whose eyes have been smeared with the ointment of pure love can see the form of Syamasundara (Krsna) continuously in the centers of their hearts.”
By continually speaking of Sri Krsna with love, the gopis always see Him present before them. Srila Prabhupada indicates that those who are fortunate enough to follow in their footsteps can achieve a standard of loving devotion similar to theirs.
It should be remembered that pure devotional service is acquired only by the mercy of Sri Krsna or His associates. Any conception of “becoming” Lalita, Yasoda, or Sridama is a product of Mayavada speculation and will result only in ongoing confinement in this material world. The phrase “like the gopis” of His Divine Grace emphasizes the consistent teachings of the dean/as. By the “good fortune” of associating with pure devotees one will qualify to cultivate a “mood” similar to theirs. In due course of time, such association will qualify the sadhaka for a position as their eternal servant and the eternal servant of Sri Krsna. In such an advanced stage, where one has received the gift of divine love, one can also share the vision of the gopis and always see Syamasundara within.
If a sadhaka attentively hears the verses of Venu-gita with faith, he will know how the gopis remember Sri Krsna and what uddipana gives rise to their remembrance. Their mood, meditation, and mode of worship should be appreciated by aural reception, and under no circumstances should it be imitated.
The commentators describe the subject of this verse as Sri Krsna and Balarama/ the divine sons of Nanda Maharaja, who are well known as the best of all dancers. The special features of the nata-varas have been already described in verse five (beginning with the words barhapidam nata-vara-vapuh). The first two lines of verse eight are adjectives, the most prominent being the word vesa, which refers to Their dress. The second important adjective, which is Their sweet singing, is to be found at the conclusion of the sloka with the word gayamanau. The analogy of the verse is one of Sri Krsna and Balarama as performing artists. They sing and dance
Perfection for the Eyes
like professional actors on a dramatic stage, but in reality they are gopas among Their other cowherd friends in the meadows of Viraja. This constitutes a summary of the grammatical structure of the verse as described by Srila Sridhara Svami.
Confined to their homes, the gopis suffer intolerable misery, being unable to accompany Sri Krsna and Balarama to the forest. On the other hand, the good fortune of the cowherd boys is truly praiseworthy. By the constant vision of Krsna’s lotus face, they have acquired the perfection of their eyes and, being decorated with the natural opulence of the forest, they dance and sing with Him without restriction.
In the early morning at Nanda-grama, Sri Krsna is awakened by His friends Subala, Sridama, Ujjvala, and Arjuna. Joining Balarama in the purified courtyard of Nanda Maharaja’s bejeweled palace, they call out, “Dear Krsna, Hey Kanai, 0 priya-sakha, please get up from Your happy slumber and let us visit Your beloved cows with haste!” At that time, Krsna’s brahmana friend, Madhu-mangala, wakes up and, stumbling into Hari’s bedroom, mumbles, “0 dear friend, please wake up. The sun has now risen, and You, too, must follow the culture of the Vedas as exemplified by Your brahmana friend!”
Then mother Yasoda, accompanied by Rohini and Paurnamasi and anxious to behold the face of her only son, enters His bedroom. Placing her left hand on the bed, her right hand on His body, she caresses Him with motherly affection. As tears of love flow from her eyes and milk trickles from her breasts, she says, “Wake up, my darling, and show us Your lotus face! My dear son, the cows will not release their milk unless they see You present before them. Your father is already busy in the barn, and Your friends await You outside. Get up now, and I shall wash Your lotus mouth!”
Sri Krsna lay on His bejeweled bed like Lord Visnu reclining on the bedstead of Ananta Sesa. Hearing the words of His mother as surpassing the prayers of the Vedas, He stretched His body with exaggerated movements, extending His hands that were tightened into fists. Sitting up on His bed, Sri Krsna offered pranamas to Paurnamasi as His mother washed His eyes with scented water from a golden jug. Emerging from His bedroom into the courtyard,
holding Madhumangala’s hand in His left. His dear flute in His right, Sri Hari appeared like Lord Narayana accompanied by the Vedas personified.
After the gopas greet Him with loving embraces and joking words, Sri Krsna proceeds to the barns at the bottom of Nandisvara Hill. Here, He lovingly caresses some cows, milks some others, and engages in frolicsome sports with His friends. Returning to His home. He enjoys His bath and is elaborately dressed, decorated, and ornamented by young gopas and gopis, under the strict supervision of His mother.
First, servant boys like Raktaka bathe Krsna with the water collected from the many sacred rivers of Vraja, and then Patri carefully dries His soft limbs, dressing Him in a shining golden dhoti. Kumuda scents His hair with aguru smoke, combs it, and makes a charming braid with a golden string. Makaranda makes tilaka of gorocana, colors the intermediate space with musk, and then smears His limbs with catuh-sama (vermilion, musk, sandal, and aguru). Premakanda hangs golden bangles on His wrists, Capricorn earrings on His ears, a jeweled necklace on His neck, and ankle bells, which tinkle like cooing swans, on His feet.
Other servants draw pictures on His body with mineral pigments, put a peacock feather crown on His head, place jeweled rings on His fingers, and set more bangles on His arms. Still others hang a gunja necklace, the Kaustubha jewel, and a vaijayanti garland around His neck. Sri Krsna’s ornamentation is completed with a necklace of large pearls, in which He views Sri Radha’s reflection, placed on His broad chest. On the left side of His sash they tuck His buffalo horn, and on the right side His celebrated flute. In His left hand they place a bamboo baton, in His right a play lotus, and on His shoulder a golden rope for tying cows. His eyes moving humorously, Sri Krsna simultaneously twirled the lotus and stick, while making His decorations shimmer and jingle to the satisfaction of His friends.
The cowherd boys, headed by Balarama, also had flutes, horns, sticks, and ropes, and they smiled, dressed, and enjoyed just like Krsna. As He stepped out into the courtyard, some young gopis, servants of Yasoda, showered Sri Krsna with many tiny jasmine
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flowers. After respecting His breakfast, surrounded by His friends, Sri Krsna left His home for the forest, churning the minds of the gopis.
The same gopi who had spoken earlier continued her description of Sri Hari. “Dear friends, I will now elucidate the decoration which has made today’s excursion into the forest so special. As usual, Sri Krsna wears His customary ornamentation, fashioned from the stream of nectar flowing from mother Yasoda’s heart. Then what distinctive attire makes a wonder of this day? It is the natural adornments of Vrndavana forest, which are but the harvested love of its presiding deity, our dear friend Sri Vrnda, carefully delivered to His friends by her sylvan goddesses.
“As they stand beneath the shelter of a large banyan tree, its many birds silently watching Sridama instruct the gopas in dressing Sri Krsna, one is led to wonder at the purpose behind His special forest attire,” her soft mesmerizing voice says. “Sakhis! With what aim in mind has Govinda created such a festival of bliss today?”
Speaking with an impish smile, mild sarcasm veiling her lotus mouth, she says, “Dear friends, I will reveal what is on my mind. When actors appear on a dramatic stage, they dress in mind-enchanting costumes to please the eyes of their audience. Ladies, you please tell me, which audience, in the highly public playhouse of Vrndavana’s forest, does Sri Krsna plan to delight with His gay dress?” A ripple of laughter flows through that gathering of gopis as they look at each other with their doe-like eyes in merriment. As the gopis always think of Sri Krsna, He, too, always thinks of them. As is customary for young boys. He dresses to attract the attention of the young girls of Vraja.
“Dear sakhis, with closed eyes or your eyes open, please envisage Sri Krsna’s soft, wavy hair, now decorated with peacock feathers and bunches of small multicolored flowers. These flowers are
like an abundance of stars in the vast blackness of Kesava’s curly hair. A blue lotus flower on one ear is the brooding moon, and many soft mango sprouts on the other are the rays of the rising sun. The flowers, sprouts, and lotus emit waves of fragrance, which intoxicates Sri Krsna while His reddened lotus eyes roll with the season of new adolescence. Can you smell that divine bouquet?” With their eyes closed like perfected yogis, the gopis raise their delicate noses as if flying into the fragrance of Krsna’s forest attire.
“The vaijayanti garland sways with His elephant-like gait in its constant attempt to reach His lotus feet. I think it desires to be blessed by the fortunate tulasi leaves which always reside on His petal-like toes, the origin of all places of pilgrimage.” Overwhelmed by her own description, her voice choked with emotion, she concludes, “Sri Krsna and Balarama are magnificent. Their dress is magnificent. Their decoration is magnificent. Their friends are magnificent. Their playing. Their dancing, and Their singing are all magnificent. May we one day become Their insignificant maidservants.”
Showing many signs of ecstasy and overwhelmed with humility, that gopi sits on a tree stump, embraced by her sympathetic friends. Another young girl, dressed in red, her eyes dark and restless, the very form of dramatic expression, raises her vine-like arms. After gaining the attention of her friends, she says, “While entering the forest, Sri Hari looked over His shoulder and saw that His parents and elders were no longer following Him. Blooming with joy. He jumped forward, free and restless as a mad elephant.” With the gestures of her lovely arms, the movements of her lotus eyes, and the facades of her facial expressions she mimics the conduct of Sri Krsna and His friends.
“Like newly released baby elephants, the cowherd boys were dancing, singing, laughing, leaping, feeling ecstatic, stumbling, joking, and playing with each other. They imitated Sri Krsna’s activities, like standing peacefully in front of His mother while restlessly looking at the girls of Vraja and His faltering voice when she speaks to Him in Sri Radha’s presence. Some of the boys went between vines and imitated the gopis’ restless glances through slightly opened veils, and others parodied His arched eyebrows as
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He cast messages of love to His girlfriends.” As the gopis agreeably heard the conduct of Sri Krsna’s friends, they erupted in peals of happy laughter.
“Other gopas, walking on their hands and feet, imitated the cows and rolled on the ground with bent necks in bovine ecstasy. Some refuted the meaning of Krsna’s words like learned debaters, others fought each other with sticks, some threw different weapons at each other, and others showed their skills in balancing on a stick. Whether dancing or laughing, they all pleased Acyuta with some service.”
The gopis all spoke in unison: “Sakhi! Your words are like a shower of nectar that soothes our parched, desert-like ears. Please tell us of the extraordinary dancing taking place in the assembly of frivolous youths.”
With her rhythmic movements, that gopi enacted her every word, mesmerizing the sakhis, who saw her as their dearly beloved. “At that time, Sri Krsna and Balarama appeared like a sapphire and diamond in the midst of the golden ring of Their friends. Always intent upon Their own amusement. They desired that some boys dance while others sing to celebrate the festive mood of autumn. Understanding the ambition of their priya-sakhas, always desiring to please Them, the gopas became intent on arranging an extraordinary performance. Making a stage of Vrndavana forest, expert dancers, headed by Subala, stepped forward, while Madhukantha and Madhuvratha led others in singing.”
As she spoke, the excitement of the immanent performance gripped the gopis, who crowded forward to better hear the nectar being showered upon them. “While the other boys danced, Sri Krsna and Balarama would accompany them by singing or playing on musical instruments. When they were very pleased with the movements of a dancer. They would praise him again and again, saying, ‘Sddhu! Sadhu!’
“In time, the dancing became very spirited, and all the cowherd boys took part. The garlands on their necks moved wildly, their turbans went askew, and their colorful clothing became disarrayed. Due to the intensity of their performance, the boys began to perspire, their whole bodies becoming wet in their ecstasy.”
Unable to control her enthusiasm, one fair-faced gopi inquired, “What songs did the cowherd boys sing, and how did Sri Krsna, who is the foremost of rasikas, appreciate their singing?”
“Madhukantha is known as being somewhat whimsical, but when it comes to kirtana, there is no one his equal. Singing songs of his own composition, he glorified the autumn season, the forest of Vrndavana, and the beauty of his incomparable friend, Krsna. When he was finished, Krsna and Balarama rose to Their feet and clapped Their hands in appreciation, saying. Dear friend, your singing is simply wonderful, simply wonderful.’
“Then, inspired by Madhumangala, who was determined to hear his favorite song, Subala divided the boys into two groups and, clapping their hands, they began a song well known in Vraja.” Seeing the eager expression on the beautiful faces of her friends, that sakhl, with no further prompting, began to clap her hands and, in a voice which shamed the cuckoos, sang,
giri-pujeyam vihita kena araci sakra-padam abhayam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who fearlessly challenged Indra’s position.”
“As one group of gopas sang the first line refrain, the other group sang the second line.” The gopis spontaneously followed suit, clapping their delicate hands, the tinkling of their ornaments accompanying the mellow of the kirtana.
giri-pujeyam vihita kena putanika sa nihata yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who killed Putana.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena trndvarta-tanu-dalanam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who crushed the Trnavarta demon.”
Perfection for the Eyes
giri-pujeyam vihita kena yamalarjuna-tarum udakali yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who uprooted the yamala-arjuna trees.”
girhpiijeyam vihita kena vatsa-bakasura-hananam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who destroyed Vatsasura and Bakasura.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena vyomaghasura-maranam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who brought death to Vyomasura and Aghasura.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena kaliya-damanam kalitam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who chastised the Kaliya serpent.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena khara-pralambaka-samanam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who suppressed the wicked Pralambasura.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena dava-yugmam paripitam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He who swallowed two forest fires.”
giri-pujeyam vihita kena trasyati kamsah satatam yena
“Who performed the worship of Govardhana Hill? He whom
Kamsa always fears.”
When the song reached its completion, the happy gopis smiled and clapped. Although they were inclined to sing more of Sri Krsna’s glories, hearing the narration of His sports was equally appealing. Composing themselves, they listened to their dear sakhi, whose beautiful face was still flushed from the exertion of her singing.
She continued, “Desiring the recognition of Rama-Krsna, Mahabala and some less artistic boys imitated the humming sound of the drones, the warbling of the swans, and the quacking of the ducks. They also danced in the fashion of peacocks. When Sri Krsna saw their peacock dance. He moved His neck as peacocks do. His eyes wide open, making all the boys laugh with abandon.”
“Can you tell us of Sri Krsna’s dancing?” inquired one curious gopi. “Yes, yes, dear friend, tell us how Sri Krsna dances and sings!” replied the others. Allowing the ensuing silence to introduce her performance, her cloth fluttering in the wind, her cheeks flushed from her labor, that slender gopl did a slow, deliberate pirouette, her arms raised above her head, her eyes swelling with tears.
“Holding a red pomegranate in his hand, Madhumangala then requested Krsna and Balarama to dance and sing as the others had done. All the boys began to cheer and clap, saying, ‘Please dance and sing, please dance and sing.’ The birds in the trees and the nearby cows also joined in the chorus, and even the leaves in the trees seemed to rustle, saying, ‘Sing and dance, sing and dance!’
“Adjusting Their clothing with exaggerated movements, those two brothers, the jewels of Their family line, stepped forward like famous actors on a stage. All the boys took their places before Them, clapping and cheering in ecstatic anticipation as their ranks swelled with the presence of deer, rabbits, peacocks, and other forest animals. Krsna and Balarama bowed to Their audience, then offered pranamas to Bhumi-devi, the Sun, Goddess Sarasvati, and finally to each other.”
The gopis were silent. Although the wind had accepted the solemn duty to bring news of Sri Krsna, it now refused to move.
Out of fear that the rustling leaves would obstruct the narration of the dance, it stopped blowing. With bated breath, everyone waited to hear what would happen next.
“As master of ceremonies, Ujjvala marked the boundaries of the stage with his stick. Taking their place on the left side, those who were musicians sat in a line with their flutes, bugles, drums, and other instruments. With great decorum, Ujjvala, who makes arrangements for all of Sri Krsna’s pastimes, invited the two brothers to step forward and instructed the musicians to begin playing. Krsna and Balarama began to dance on that stage, gracefully moving Their eyebrows, hands, bodies, and eyes. Expertly accompanying the dancing, the sound of the instruments became one with the tapping sound of Their lotus feet. Tat tata ta tatata tata tat!
“Krsna and Balarama moved in unison, like two moving wells of nectar, happily looking at each other’s faces and deeply absorbed in rasa. At His invitation, Krsna came out in front of Haladhara, moving His hands and feet according to the rhythms played by the musicians. To His audience’s great joy. He sang appropriate mantras in accompaniment to His dancing, ‘Tat ta tathe drk Hi drgitai drk tathai drk tathdi drk tathai ta.’
“Upon Ramanuja’s indication, Baladeva came forward, making His golden ornaments jingle, jhanana jham jhat, jhanana jham jhat, and His ankle bells resound, taitha tathaitha tatha tathaya, while the mrdangas sweetly sang, drmi drmi drmi dho dho dho.
“Coloring the area of the stage with His bluish luster, Krsna, full of youthful energy, danced and sang, ‘dham Sham drk drk can can ninam nam ninam nam ninam nam tuttuk turn turn gudu gudu gudu dham dram drain, gudu dram gudu dram dhek dhek dho dho kiriti dram drimi dram drimi dram.’
“At this, the boys burst into loud applause, cheering Krsna in His dancing performance, just as one artist encourages another. Without breaking the pace of His graceful movements, Baladeva embraced His brother, gaining further approval from the gopas. Since neither Balarama nor Krsna had undergone the haircutting ceremony. Their hair, which was clustered like crows’ feathers, swayed in harmony with Their dancing.
Perfection for the Eyes
“Spreading His snake-like arms before Him, Krsna performed a graceful dance and loudly sang with a joyful voice, ‘A a i ati a ati ai ati aa ati a a a! Dear Baladeva, how fortunate is this earth to be repeatedly touched with Your pinkish lotus feet! A a a!’
“Sri Balarama, dancing to complement Sri Hari’s movements, His crystal complexion flashing like lightning, sang, “Tathathai thai tathai thai tathai tha. It’s You, Kanai, who blessed this land by manifesting as all the calves and boys and pleased the mothers of Vraja!’
“Then Krsna raised His divine flute to His lips. While the musicians created new sounds and ragas, He deftly played His venu, while moving His body and lotus feet with unprecedented expertise.
“Keeping time to Krsna’s flute playing, powerful Balarama touched the ground with one hand and quickly turned the rest of His body in the sky. Then, falling to the ground. He again performed a rotating dance with no other support.
“Without a break in His flute song, Krsna began to do cartwheels while circumambulating Sankarsana. His body swayed with the rhythm of the music like a black and golden firebrand. His hair the flames trailing in the wind. Without being seen by His elder brother. He took the dust from Balarama’s lotus feet and put it on His head. When He offered the remnants of this dust to His audience, all the while continuing His dance, the gopas strained their bowed heads forward and praised Him, saying, ‘Well done, well done!’
“The audience of boys, animals, birds, and trees forgot their own separate existence, having given their minds to Bala-Krsna’s dancing. Their life breath rose and fell with the movement of Their limbs, and their hearts beat with the tempo of the music. Completely under the influence of the internal potency, their very beings became saturated with the exhibition of Rama-Krsna’s sahklrtana. Besides this, they were conscious of nothing else.
“Krsna’s beauty was like a row of blackish clouds, and Balarama was like the moon, who sometimes hid and sometimes came out from among those clouds. As Their earrings swung on Their cheeks. Their eyes rolled in ecstasy, and Their foot bells jingled in time, the two brothers performed ever new and
ceaselessly spectacular dances. Sometimes singing, sometimes playing Their flutes, sometimes making many bodily gestures, They modulated Their voices with never-before-heard ragas, always keeping time to Their dancing. At other times. Their feet moved to exquisitely melodious songs, resembling the gracefully moving wind, expressing Their moods of happiness and pleasure. When They gazed into each other’s eyes. Their happiness would double, and when Their hands met, it would double again.
“The motions of Their feet, hands, limbs, eyes, and eyebrows were so captivating that the cowherd boys sat with their eyes open, unable to blink. Even the great king of snakes, the master of hypnotic charms, was mesmerized, swaying to the sound of the music, a great gem flashing on his head.
“It appeared that the presiding deity of wonder had developed an insatiable appetite in the presence of the mystifying performance of Krsna and Balarama. After firmly establishing her authority over the audience, she amazed the brothers with each other’s hitherto unseen movements and incomparable charms. Having freely spun her web of wonder, finally she, too, became ensnared, amazed by the songs, the dance, the music, and the beauty of the divine brothers. Thus, the younger sister of prema also danced wildly in the midst of Vrndavana.
“Exhausted by Their performance. Their bodies dripping with perspiration. Their clothes in disarray, Krsna and Balarama stopped dancing. With Their arms over each other’s shoulders for support, Balarama lovingly wiped the pearl-like drops of perspiration from the forehead of His young brother. With the bravado of youthful pride. His right hand in the air, Krsna spoke to His audience:
” ‘My dear friends, 0 forest creatures, dear forest of Vrndavana, you have now seen Our dancing according to your all-blissful desire. It is always Our only and exclusive desire to please you. Now I ask you all, please be truthful, is there anyone within all the three worlds equal to Us in the arts of song and dance? You be the judge! Can any one of you defeat Us in such a performance? Do you know of anyone who can, or can you even say something to the contrary? Of you all, if there is the singer who can better Us,
Perfection for the Eyes
please come forward and exhibit your artistic prowess in the presence of these connoisseurs of fine art.’
“All the cowherd boys clamored with the animals, birds, and bees in a heavenly din. There is no one Your equal! There is no one Your equal!’ Resounding throughout the three worlds, that joyous glorification rose to Vaikuntha, where Lord Narayana, while sitting on His throne in the presence of Garuda, Laksmi, and others, smiled in great ecstasy.
“Arjuna, Krsna’s dearest friend, stood up and, while tears streamed down his lotus face, he called out in a peacock-like voice, ‘Krsna-Balarama kijaya\ Krsna-Balarama kijayaV At this, the entire assembly exploded like a monsoon cloud, becoming mad in the ecstasy of fraternal love. The boys danced with each other, the cows ran in circles, peacocks danced, birds flew about, and animals rolled in the dust. After their exhibition of uncontrolled bliss, everyone ran forward to embrace their beloved friends. When that tumultuous din again entered Vaikuntha, Lord Narayana, in the midst of the prayers of the Vedas, rose to His feet. With His long arms above His head. He called out to His astounded devotees, ‘Krsna-Balarama ki jayaY
“When that wonderful display of love had abated, Madhu-mangala, his left arm on Sridama’s shoulder, a banana in his right hand, spoke, ‘Dear Kanai, due to my intense love for You, and to maintain the decorum of my high brahminical lineage, I did not take up Your challenge to dance and sing. However, You should know that were it not for the force of my spiritual powers, Baladau and Yourself could do little less than waddle and quack like ducks.’
“At this, the entire assembly broke out in uproarious laughter. Many boys pulled Bhato’s sikha and dhoti, while others poked his belly in fun. Sridama then spoke, ‘Dear Kanai, as regards Your dancing and singing, please hear my words of truth. It is a fact that there is no one among us who can match Your wonderful abilities. Still, I must say with all humility. You should give credit where it is due. It is not proper to step over the heads of superiors, neglecting to recognize their merits and teachings.’ At this challenge, the gopas became quiet, the birds turned their heads, and the deer
raised their ears. Everyone strained to catch the speech of Sridama.
” ‘It is well known to me that You regularly take lessons in the arts of song, dance, and music from my elder sister. Dear Krsna, am I not correct? Is it not true that in the privacy of many full-moon nights You take such instruction from Sri Radhika and Her sakhis, acquiring artistic skill unknown to us?
” ‘Although a vraja-vasi and the son of a celebrated king, are You afraid You will be discovered to be an ordinary being? Are You ashamed that, like us, being neither independent nor self-sufficient, You, too, must accept a guru in the art of dance? Do You tolerate the hardship of traveling in the dead of night out of fear that others will learn of the supremacy of Srimati Radhika and Her sakhis in the musical sciences? Dear sakha, considering all this, I think it quite inappropriate that You exhibit such pride and bravado before us. Having heard my words, if You think it appropriate, touch Your hand to Your forehead and acknowledge the supremacy of my elder sister and Her friends. Your challenge has thus been answered!’
“Hearing Sridama’s words, the gopas became extremely rowdy, smiling, snickering, and ridiculing Krsna. Although they taunted Him, it was for His pleasure alone. Lotus-eyed Krsna accepted their criticism as excelling the hymns of the Vedas. Hanging His head on His broad chest. His hair scattered everywhere, the flowers and buds now fallen. His peacock feather sideways. His forehead glistening with moisture, Krsna humbly folded His lotus hands. As everyone looked on in silence. He slowly placed His hands to His forehead, tears welling in His eyes. His chest heaving with ecstasy.
“Remembering His prema-guru, He spoke with a voice choked with great love and humility, ‘Whatever Sridama has spoken I accept as truth. His elder sister is the original potency of Lord Narayana, who empowers all living entities with their respective abilities. This revelation is the essential truth of all scriptures. I offer my pranamas to his divine sister, Gandharvika who, along with Her friends, teaches the demigods in the arts of song and dance, what to speak of this humble self.'”
Having heard this narration with rapt attention, that gopi-gana,
Perfection for the Eyes
resembling a cluster of golden campaka flowers, erupted with cries of “Jaya Radhe, jaya Radhe, Radhe Radhe, jaya, jaya!” The echo of their happiness rolled through the forests and hills of Vrndavana, invigorating all moving and nonmoving beings. When it finally returned, one gopi, completely absorbed in what she had heard, her bee-like mind absorbed in the glory of Krsna-Balarama, said over and over again, “How is it that Sri Krsna and Balarama are looking so beautiful? How is it They are looking so beautiful?”
Hearing of Krsna-Balarama’s kirtana certainly pleased the beautiful gopis, who lived only for His pleasure. Because their greed for Sri Krsna’s transcendental form was insatiable, when the narration stopped, the mood of the gopis became grave and sober. By their eyes of devotion they had perceived His eternal pastimes of love. Now, unable to drink the nectar of Govinda’s rupa, guna, and lild, they became unhappy and morose. In an effort to satiate their insatiable thirst and remove their intransigent sorrow, they spoke once again about the vibration of the flute and Sri Krsna.
Appearing in this world in the form of Sn Caitanya Maha-prabhu. Lord Sri Krsna experienced the vision of His beauty like the gopis. Expressing their sentiments, Caitanya Mahaprabhu considered a vision of Sri Krsna to be the perfection of the eyes. In the absence of such a wonder. He cried and lamented incessantly.
In the following verse. Lord Caitanya tasted the mood of Srimati Radharani, speaking of the beauty of Her beloved to Her dear friend Visakha. In this way. He tasted its mellows and explained it in many wonderful ways.
sucitra-murali-sphurac-charad-amanda-candrananah mayura-dala-bhusitah subhaga-tara-hara-prabhah
sa me madana-mohanah sakhi tanoti netra-sprham
“My dear friend, the luster of Krsna’s body is more brilliant than a newly formed cloud, and His yellow dress is more attractive than newly arrived lightning. A peacock feather decorates His head, and on His neck hangs a lovely necklace of brilliant pearls. As He holds His charming flute to His lips. His face looks as beautiful as the full autumn moon. By such beauty, Madana-mohana, the enchanter of Cupid, increases the desire of My eyes.”
Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued: “Sri Krsna’s complexion is as polished as powdered eye ointment, it surpasses the beauty of a newly formed cloud and it is softer than a blue lotus flower. Indeed, His complexion is so pleasing that it attracts the eyes and minds of everyone, and it is so powerful that it defies all comparison. My dear friend, please tell Me what I should do. Sri Krsna is as attractive as a wonderful cloud, and My eyes are just like cataka birds dying of thirst in the absence of such a cloud.
“Sri Krsna’s yellow dress looks exactly like restless lightning in the sky, and His pearl necklace appears like a line of ducks below a cloud. Both the peacock feather on His head and His vaijayanti garland (containing flowers of five colors) resemble rainbows. The luster of Sri Krsna’s body is as beautiful as a spotless full moon that has just risen, and the vibration of His flute sounds exactly like the sweet thundering of a newly formed cloud. When the peacocks in Vrndavana hear that vibration, they all begin to dance.
“The cloud of Sri Krsna’s pastimes is drenching the fourteen worlds with a shower of nectar. Unfortunately, when that cloud appeared, a whirlwind arose and blew it away from Me. Now being unable to see the cloud, the cataka bird of My eyes is almost dead from thirst.”
In the Snmad-Bhagavatam Srila Prabhupada asserts that attraction to the sweetness of Radha-Krsna or Krsna-Balarama is always victorious. The devotee who is accustomed to view Their transcendental forms never becomes ensnared by the illusory beauty of this world. The Bhagavad-glta verifies this with the words “param drstua nivartante.” His Divine Grace goes on to quote Sri Yamunaf^ a, who says, “Since I have become attracted by the beauty of ^ and Krsna, when there is attraction for a woman or a memory
Perfection for the Eyes
sex life with a woman, I at once spit on it, and my face turns in
In this way, when one is attracted by the lustrous beauty of Sri Krsna, who is always happy in the company of His consorts, the shackles of conditioned life, represented by the beauty of a mundane woman, cannot attract the sadhaka.
In days gone by. Lord Ramacandra, in the association of Laksmana and Sita, wandered in exile for fourteen years. In the forest of Dandakaranya there were many sages whose method of sadhana followed in the wake of the vraja-gopls. When the sages saw the beauty of Sri Rama, possessing broad shoulders, lotus eyes, a gentle smile, and a kind demeanor, they were reminded of their personal object of worship, Gopala.
Rising from their seats, they greeted Him whose beauty was like millions of Kamadevas and said, “Here is Lord Gopala, who has come to our hermitage without His flute and stick.” Bowing down before Sri Ramacandra, offering many eloquent prayers, they pleased the all-knowing Lord, who addressed them in the following way: “0 sages, I am very pleased by your austerities and mode of worship; please choose a benediction from Me.” The sages had a desire for a conjugal relationship with the Lord. Being in the bodies of males, they were embarrassed to express their desires and, remaining silent, simply thought in their minds, “Yatha sita tatha sarve: As Sita is, let all become!”
Speaking aloud, Sri Rama said, “Had you asked this request of brother Laksmana, I would arrange for the fulfillment of your desire today. However, I have vowed to accept only one wife and, as I can never be false to My promise, to become ‘as Sita’ is not possible at present. Dear sages, do not fear. At the end of Dvapara-yuga you will all become ‘as Sita/’ and at that time I will fulfill your desire.” With this, Sri Rama bestowed His blessings and left for Pancavati with His dear wife and devoted brother.
In this way, Ramacandra, who is a desire tree of mercy and the Supersoul in the hearts of all, bestowed His causeless mercy upon the sages of Dandakaranya. Though sincere sadhakas, they were still incomplete in their mode of worship. Thus, Lord Rama elevated them to the mature platform of spontaneous devotion, surpassing the stages of firm faith, attraction, and attachment. Although the sages were attracted by the beauty of the Lord, as a consequence of their male forms, Ramacandra’s vow to accept only one wife, and their lack of complete purity, they were unable to fulfill their desires in that lifetime.
Under the direction of Sri Rama, Yogamaya arranged for the sages to take birth from the wombs of vraja-gopis. When they reached puberty, they manifested all the symptoms of purva-raga for Sri Krsna and, by the association of the eternally liberated gopis, all remaining material contamination in their hearts burned up. Finally, they achieved the advanced stages of prema, sneha, mdna, up to mahabhava, and by good fortune attained the ultimate perfection of life.
The story of Lord Rama and the sages of Dandakaranya is an example of how attraction to the overwhelming beauty of Sri Krsna exerts its influence on males and females alike. This beauty is the perfection of the eyes and, in eradicating attraction to the illusory energy, it is the impetus to perfection for sadhakas and siddhas alike. Of the many groups of gopis in Vrndavana, those who came from the sages of Dandakaranya forest are known by devotees as the rsicari-gopis.
This concludes the fourth chapter of The Song of the Flute, by a very insignificant disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, which describes some inconceivable substance, an intoxicant or force known as the sweetness of SriKrsna’s beauty, the vision of which is said by the vraja-gopis to be the perfection of sight, the fruit of all existence, but readily acquired when Sri Krsna and Balarama enter the forest of
Perfection for the Eyes
Vrndavana playing Their flutes, or alternatively, at the lone sight of Sri Krsna with His flute to His lips, or again, at the scene of Sri Radha-Krsna in Their pastimes with the flute (the most desired option by the gopis), but in every case constitutes the sole means for the sadhana of sense control, concluding in a long-sought samadhi which, ironically, only increases greed for itself, and which is cherished by the gopis due to their incomparable love for Sri Krsna, by which they vow to abandon all family encumbrances for its treasure and conspire to see this divine beauty, which has gained a special prominence today as a consequence of His dancer’s dress, forest decoration, and dancing performance, for they have great faith that His loving glance will destroy all obstacles to His darsana, including their shyness, although the greater unspoken desire of their hearts is to taste the manifest essence of that sweet beauty, the nectar of His lips, or see Sri Radhikd, their worthy representative in the act, but then their bhava reaches its ebb, and the gopis lose all hope for the happiness of such a vision and become despondent due to their imagined misfortune, until once again they speak about the song of the flute and its beautiful master.