Tag Archives: vrajabasis

The Vrajavasis’ Special Love for Krishna

Question: After the Govardhana episode, the Bhāgavatam makes several statements that the Vrajavāsīs (vrajaukasaḥ) were aware of Kṛṣṇa as Īśvara:

  • “They worshipped Kṛṣṇa with great respect”ānarcuḥ kṛṣṇaṁ ca gata-vismayāḥ (SB 10.26.24);
  • The cowherd men desired to see the abode of Kṛṣṇanaḥ sva-gatiṁ sūkṣmām upādhāsyad adhīśvaraḥ (SB 10.28.11).

Gauḍīya ācāryas in their commentaries mention that the Vrajavāsīs did identify Kṛṣṇa as Īśvara but that did not diminish their relationship with Him as a lover, son, or friendna tu vasudevārjunādaya iva aiśvarya-jñānoparāgāt sva-sambandha-śaithilyavanto babhūvur and adhīśvaratā-jñāne’pi svābhāvika-putratādi-vijñānānupamardāt.

Is such cognition of Kṛṣṇa as Īśvara intermittent as per Kṛṣṇa’s will or was it totally absent in the Vrajavāsīs? I’m assuming that such cognition could never diminish the love they have for Him.

Answer: Yes, it is by Kṛṣṇa’s will, and this further increases their love for Kṛṣṇa. The real intention of these types of descriptions however is for us to understand this pointthat their love is so great that even if they cognize Kṛṣṇa as Iśvara, their mood does not change. As you know, Kṛṣṇa has two sides to His personality—aiśvarya and mādhurya. Aiśvarya refers to His super-human activities such as lifting Govardhana Hill. Such an act cannot be performed by any human being. Mādhurya refers to His human-like behavior such as tending cows. What we have to keep in mind is that His mādhurya exists based on His aiśvarya but it remains concealed. However, at times it may manifest because it is needed to protect His devotees. When that happens, the devotees of Vraja appreciate it and do not lose their prema for Him. Rather, they think, “How wonderful it is that our Kṛṣṇa is so majestic that He is honored by great devas like Indra and Varuṇa. He is the master of the universe.” This is the supremacy of their prema. Kṛṣṇa does not use His aiśvarya to impress the Vrajavāsīs but to protect them. This increases their prema. Kṛṣṇa loves the Vrajavāsīs as much as they love Him. Therefore, when the need arises, His aiśvarya becomes manifest. Without aiśvarya, He would not be able to give protection.

One may raise a doubt—then why did He manifest His aiśvarya when mother Yaśodā asked Him to open His mouth to see if He has eaten clay, or when she wanted to bind Him. This was not done to protect His devotees. The reply is that in these instances, Yogamāyā made Kṛṣṇa’s aiśvarya become manifest to protect Kṛṣṇa.    

Question: The superior position of the Vrajavāsīs was depicted in Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta as those who never aspired “to attain something different than what/who they were,” in contrast to devotees who may aspire to be like another devotee or to attain a specific place for performing bhakti. Even the sixteen thousand queens of Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā aspired for the dust of Vrajabhūmi; hence Vraja is extraordinary. However, the commentators mention that the gopas experienced more bliss in seeing Kṛṣṇaloka, after the pastime where Varuṇa kidnapped Nanda Mahārāja. How are we to understand their bliss at seeing the spiritual world?

Answer: The bliss of the gopas was not so much from seeing Kṛṣṇaloka but from knowing that in their next lives, they will all be together with Kṛṣṇa. That is the implied sense. The only reason they asked Kṛṣṇa to show them their destination in the next life was to make sure they would not be separated from Him. Once they realized that they will be together, they were joyous.


Question: Are the secondary rasas experienced in Goloka Vṛndavana? For example, with whom does Kṛṣṇa experience chivalry, wonder, and ghastliness? Could it be understood that a primary reason for the material world is to facilitate Kṛṣṇa’s experience of these secondary rasas, as opposed to the idea that the material realm is a ‘prison house’ for baddha jīvas?

Answer: Yes, that is right. 


Question: There are many cows, trees, and plants in Goloka. Are there jīvas in such bodies? My understanding was that upon liberation, we would obtain spiritual bodies in one of the five primary rasas, not animal or plant bodies.

Answer: They are eternal residents of eternal Goloka. If we accept that this Vṛndāvana is non-different from Goloka Vṛndāvana, then it is proper to think that the cows etc. here are also residents of Goloka.

On another note, it is also described that if a sādhaka in Vṛndāvana commits an offense, then he may be born as a plant etc. in Vṛndāvan as an outcome of the offense.

The Essence of Bhakti Principles

Question: In Paramātmā Sandarbha 93, Śrī Jīva states that the seed of bhakti is imperishable, which seems to contradict what Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī writes in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, where he describes how bhakti can be totally uprooted by aparādha. I personally take the latter as implying that the creeper may be uprooted, but the seed remains. Any thoughts?

Answer: If we understand that bhakti is given by the grace of guru, then it is easy to understand that it can also be taken away. It is imperishable because it is not destroyed. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says bhāvo’piyabhāvamāyāti kṛṣṇa-preṣṭḥāparādhataḥ (BRS 1.3.54)—by offending a dear devotee of Kṛṣṇa, bhāva can become abhāva, or nonexistent. He did not use the word naṣṭa, destroyed. So it comes by grace and can go away by offense. Bhakti is not something material but a conscious entity. It cannot be destroyed.

Question: What is your opinion on Sanātana Gosvāmī’s description of the aprakaṭa-līlā in Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta? By this I refer to certain aspects that differ from other acaryas’ descriptions, such as Kṛṣṇa going out of Vraja, or chastising asuras, etc. The reference is verses 2.6.220—363, including Sanātana Gosvāmī’s ṭīkā towards the end.

Answer: My understanding is that Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī is primarily focused on explaining the essence of bhakti principles. In other words, his aim is to establish the superiority of Vraja-prema and not subtleties such as Kṛṣṇa killing or not killing asuras in aprakaṭa-līlā. This understanding is based on verse 1.1.11, and the verses and his commentary to 2.6.218—219, in which he speaks of the difference between the prema of the vaikuṇṭha-pāriṣada and the vrajavāsīs. The supreme characteristic of vraja-prema cannot be established without showing the separation between the vrajavāsīs and Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, in 2.6.220, he begins narrating the kāliya-damana-līlā and after that, Kṛṣṇa’s departure for Mathurā. In between, in just a few verses, he describes the killing of Keśī, Vṛṣabha, etc., and then gives a very extensive description of Kṛṣṇa moving to Mathurā. In this regard, verse 2.6.238 is very pertinent, which compares the vrajavāsīs with the rest of the devotees. So, this is the real intent of Sanātana Gosvāmī in describing these pastimes, and not so much the distinction between the prakaṭa- and aprakaṭa-līlā. Thus I see no contradiction.

Question: I have an inquiry in connection to Anuccheda 84 of Prīti Sandarbha, the section concerning mixed rasas. There, without using the term saṅkula-rati, Jīva Gosvāmī writes about the saṅkula of Yudhiṣṭhira, Uddhava, and Balarāma. Then he writes about the queens and gopīs in a way that Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī does not in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Śrī Rūpa does not acknowledge a saṅkula-rati that includes mādhurya; he only mentions dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya as combining in this way, and this despite the fact that they are either incompatible with one another or neutral. But he does acknowledge rasas mixing temporarily and the temporary influences in effect serving like sañcāri-bhāvas, which is different from saṅkula-bhāva. I would be grateful for your feedback.

Answer: The exact statement of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī is: evaṁ paṭṭa-mahīṣīṣu dāsya-miśraḥ kānta-bhāvaḥ, śrīmadvraja-devīṣu sakhya-miśra ityādikaṁ jñeyam – “Similarly the chief queens of Kṛṣṇa have kānta-bhāva mixed with dāsya and the Vraja Devīs have kānta-bhāva mixed with sakhya.”

In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.5.24, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī makes two divisions of dasya, sakhya, and vatsalya, namely kevala and saṅkula. Somehow, he does not include madhura here. My comment is that although he does not mention the two divisions of madhura-rati, he also does not categorically deny it. His reason to exclude madhura is not known.  

My guess is that he wanted to keep madhura as separate to show its importance, and he elaborates on it in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi. In Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, in the chapter of sthāyi-bhāva, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī includes sakhya and praṇaya as part of the sthāyi-bhāva of the gopīs. He even gives an example from SB 10.32.4.  

From SB, it can be seen that the queens have kānta-bhāva mixed with dāsya. This can be seen in verses such as 10.52.43 (yasyāṅghri…), 10.60.34, 10.83.41—43.

As far as the gopīs’ rati mixed with sakhya, this can be known from 10.31.4, 6, wherein they address Kṛṣṇa as their sakha. Kṛṣṇa also addresses the gopīs as sakhaya (friends) in 10.32.17, 20.

Question: Your opinion seems to be that the gopis’ bhava is saṅkulamādhurya mixed with sakhya. If that is the case, how do you accommodate the fact that Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī speaks of kevala-mādhurya also? If we accept that the gopīs’ mādhurya is mixed with sakhya, and that the Dvārakā mahiṣīs’ mādhurya is mixed with dāsya, then we only have examples of saṅkula-mādhurya, but no example of kevala-mādhurya.

Answer: Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is not analyzing only the gopīs’ bhāva but bhāva in general. Just because the gopīs have saṅkula-mādhurya does not mean that kevala-mādhurya does not exist.

Question: Yes, but still the question remains: If we accept that there is kevala-madhurya but also accept that the gopīs’ mādhurya is saṅkula due to being mixed with friendship, and the mahiṣīs’ mādhurya is also saṅkula due to being mixed with dāsya, then what would be the example of kevala-mādhurya? If it exists, then there should be an example of it. Again, if we only take what Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote, then we can declare that the gopīs are that example, but if we include what Śrī Jīva mentions about the gopīs’ mādhurya being mixed with sakhya, then I have difficulty in harmonizing their views.

Answer: It depends on whether you want to limit your examples to the few given in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. There may be some gopīs who are kevala-mādhurya and similarly some queens too. All gopīs and queens do not have exactly the same mood. Kṛṣṇa is rasarāja. He must have all varieties—kevala, saṅkula. This needs to be studied thoroughly from the rasa point of view. Moreover, there are other forms of Bhagavān, such as Rāma.