The Glories of Goloka (concluded)
Five:Love of GOD
Gopa-kumara arrives in Dvaraka
He sees Krishna
Krishna greets Gopa-kumara
Lunch with Krishna
Gopa-kumara moves into Uddhava’s house
Gopa-kumara feels out of place in Dvaraka
He and Uddhava wonder at Krishna’s devotees
Narada reveals the glories of Goloka
The descent of Goloka to earth
Krishna’s pastimes in Mahavana
His pastimes in Vrindavana
The supreme attraction of Krishna’s flute
The cowherds’ attachment to Krishna
The rasa dance
Krishna leaves for Mathura
The nondifference between Goloka and Gokula
The rareness of attaining Krishna
Uddhava glorifies the gopis
Narada glorifies the gopis and Uddhava
Narada tells Gopa-kumara to go to Puri
The key to attaining pure love for Krishna
The nature of pure love
Uddhava disagrees about going to Puri
Narada congratulates Gopa-kumara
Narada and Uddhava send Gopa-kumara to Vraja on earth
ABHISHTA-LABHA: The Attainment of all DESIRES
Gopa-kumara wanders in Vraja
He is transported to Goloka
He visits Mathura City
He comes to Vrindavana
He asks where to find Krishna
He finds Nanda-grama
He hears the sounds of Krishna’s arrival
Krishna and Gopa-kumara meet
Krishna enters the cowherd village of Nanda
The young gopis bathe Krishna
Dinner with Krishna
Relaxing after the meal
The next morning: signs of the night’s pastimes
Yashoda sees Krishna off to the forest
The gopis and Nanda follow Krishna
Krishna enters the forest with His friends
The joy of living in Goloka
The Goloka-vasis’ incarnations
The glories of the cowherd boys and the gopis
Kaliya comes back
Krishna dances with the gopis on Kaliya
Keshi and Arishta return, and Krishna subdues them
Akrura comes to take Krishna away
Krishna runs off with the gopis
Akrura persuades Krishna to go to Mathura
The gopis complain
Krishna leaves Vrindavana
He kills Kamsa in Mathura
He sends His father home
Nanda returns home without Krishna
Krishna comes again to Vrindavana
These pastimes occur again and again
Gopa-kumara lives in both Goloka and Gokula
Jagad-Ananda: The Bliss of the WORLDS
The Mathura brahmana achieves perfection
He sees Krishna
Krishna greets him
Sports with Krishna in the Yamuna
Lunch in the forest
Relaxing after the meal
Parikshit advises his mother about achieving Goloka
He begins reciting statements from scripture
Janamejaya asks Jaimini for some final nectar
Jaimini speaks nectarean verses
Srimad-Bhagavatam on the glories of the Vraja-vasis
The splendors of Vrindavana
Krishna’s wonderful flute
The love of the cowherd boys for Krishna
The paternal love of Nanda and Yashoda
The superexcellent love of the gopis
Final words from Janamejaya and Jaimini
The hero’s quest for the extraordinary—an ever-recurring theme in literature—reflects the urge of every heart at its noblest to discover the full possibilities of life. Anyone dissatisfied with the scant potential of mundane existence is naturally stimulated by the prospect of finding, even vicariously, a world of greater liberty. There should be some better place for the soul. Why should happiness be so elusive, and why should confusion and resentment always shroud the mind’s eye, making it unable to see clearly what’s in front of it?
Srila Sanatana Goswami’s Brihad-bhagavatamrita is a gemlike example of the quest genre, but different from the sort commonly encountered in fable and fiction. Narada and Gopa-kumara, the respective heroes of this book’s two parts, are searching for a key to fulfillment much subtler than wealth, influence, mundane love, the Fountain of Youth, or even the Holy Grail. Narada has vast experience of the cosmos, Gopa-kumara is illiterate and naive, yet they share the same vision of what is most valuable. What both want is not to conquer or exploit on any level, but to explore the mystery of selfless service. As Narada already knows, and Gopa-kumara will gradually learn, the superior mode of life they seek is personal and defined by the interplay of those who take part in it, rather than by material laws of nature.
The cynosure of the spiritual world in which Sanatana Goswami and his protagonists feel at home is one special person, the object of the selfless love Narada and Gopa-kumara value above all. Narada knows this special person, Krishna, as the prince of the Yadus, and Gopa-kumara contemplates Him as a young cowherd like himself. Srila Sanatana takes it for granted that Krishna-Gopala is supreme, that Krishna is the creator and controller of everything, and leaves the task of proving it to his brother Rupa Goswami, who later takes it up in his Laghu– (“smaller”) bhagavatamrita. Here in the Brihad– (“bigger”) bhagavatamrita the main questions are in whom and in what realm is love for the Supreme Person most intimately known.
At first glance the structure of Brihad-bhagavatamrita may to modern readers seem repetitious, but the plot does have a logic of its own, which it develops the way classical Indian music develops themes, repeating them again and again with subtle embellishments. In Part One, for example, the same thing happens to Narada over and over: He goes to someone who is supposed to be Krishna’s most favored devotee, praises that person, and is rebuked, refuted, and redirected to someone else. Yet in this cyclic repetition we discern a progress, although not a linear one aiming at a single point. We learn much more than the simple fact that someone in particular is the greatest lover of God. Yes, the young gopis of Vrindavana are unquestionably Krishna’s best devotees, but for neophytes still addicted to material lust, merely establishing the gopis as a distant ideal is of little practical use, and may even be dangerous. By understanding that to emulate the gopis’ perfect devotion is extremely difficult, honest persons might feel frustrated, and the dishonest will imitate anyway and degrade themselves. Therefore Narada in his encounters with various devotees carefully traces out the real foundations and natural progress of pure devotion, in a way that readers can follow according to their own spiritual disposition.
Unlike the material existence we all know, in which survival depends on our ability to jockey ourselves into better positions than competitors and garner our share of the limited resources for control and enjoyment, on the transcendental plane of love of God the resources are unlimited, and everyone competes instead to prove that others are better than themselves. This remarkable quality, unknown in material life, is evident even in the sincere beginners in devotional practice whom Narada meets first, the brahmana of Prayaga and the southern king. They and the more and more elevated devotees of Krishna Narada visits—the king of heaven Indra, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Prahlada, Hanuman, the Pandavas, the Yadus, and Uddhava—deprecate themselves, not from lack of self-esteem but out of complete honesty, in which they appraise from their own points of view who really has Krishna’s mercy. Narada, as an itinerant preacher, is the best person to undertake this survey of devotional attitudes. Not tied down to any particular place or situation, he is accustomed to meeting different ways of seeing things. And he has the good humor to tolerate being rebuffed by every saintly person he tries to glorify.
Gopa-kumara, the main character of the second part of Brihad-bhagavatamrita, is an innocent young cowherd from the vicinity of Krishna’s favorite hill, Govardhana. After a mysterious brahmana initiates him into the ten-syllable Gopala mantra, a yearning to search out Lord Gopala awakens in Gopa-kumara’s heart. Like Narada in Part One, Gopa-kumara searches throughout the material universe; but he also travels beyond, into the kingdom of God, Vaikuntha, and yet further to the most confidential realms of the kingdom of God—Ayodhya, Dvaraka, and Goloka. The final message of the second part of Brihad-bhagavatamrita is the superexcellence of Goloka Vrindavana, the personal abode of Krishna in His original identity as the darling son of the cowherds, the lover of the gopis.
Sri Rupa Goswami, who regarded his elder brother Srila Sanatana as his spiritual master, acknowledged indebtedness to Brihad-bhagavatamrita in his definitive textbook on devotional service, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.4.13):
“Our divine master has revealed in his Bhagavatamrita all the sweet conclusions of devotional philosophy, including its most confidential secrets.”
This edition of Brihad-bhagavatamrita is not the first English translation of the work, but is the first attempt to present in English the entirety of the author’s own commentary, which he called Dig-darshini. This commentary is invaluably helpful for studying Brihad-bhagavatamrita deeply. I have not translated the Dig-darshini verbatim, but have given a close paraphrase that includes almost all of Srila Sanatana’s points, with a few explanatory additions of my own. Typically for a Sanskrit scriptural commentary, the Dig-darshini includes grammatical and syntactic analysis of the text, which I have incorporated in the translation. The rest of the commentary is also uncongenial to being translated literally, because Sanskrit commentaries are written in a stylized prose whose meaning is more suitably conveyed in English by careful paraphrase than by literal translation. Readers who would like to see a sample of how my commentary derives from the Dig-darshini-tika may refer to page 763 in the appendixes.
The text I translated comes from three printed editions, those of Puridasa, Bhakti-shastri Goswami of the Shauri Prapannashrama, and Bhakti-shrirupa Bhagavata Maharaja of the Chaitanya Matha. All three editions are printed in the Bengali script and include the Dig-darshini commentary (in the Chaitanya Matha edition only for the second part). Sanatana Goswami too wrote his original manuscript in the Bengali alphabet, but we have chosen to print our Sanskrit text in the more widely known Devanagari. Our proofreaders and I carefully compared the three texts I consulted (one of which, Puridasa’s, notes variant readings from two manuscripts), and when different readings arose I made my own choices on which to use. I found that in each case the alternative readings almost never made an important difference in meaning, and the commentary and the logic of the text itself helped me choose. For those interested, I have noted in “Variant Readings of Sri-Brihad-bhagavatamrita” the alternative readings of the editions consulted.
Srila Sanatana Goswami, in his commentary and sometimes in the verses of Brihad-bhagavatamrita,cites hundreds of verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures, especially various Puranas and the Mahabharata. In several instances, the Bhagavatam verses as quoted by Srila Sanatana differ slightly from the text of the Bhagavatam published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Again, these differences almost never significantly change the meaning. I have used the author’s readings of these verses, even when they differ from the BBT version, and have listed the variants in “Readings of Srimad-Bhagavatam Verses that Differ from the BBT Edition.” Verses quoted from other Puranas and the Mahabharata I have simply given as Srila Sanatana presents them, with chapter and verse numbers taken from the Venkateshvara Press edition of the Puranas (reprinted by Nag Publishers and others) and the Pune critical edition of the Mahabharata. The other sources I have consulted are listed in the Bibliography.
While working on this book I have had the undeserved good fortune to be living at the location of Gopa-kumara’s story, Sri Govardhana, first on the shore of Manasi-ganga next door to Srila Sanatana Goswami’s bhajana-kutira, and more recently by the very side of Giriraja at Dana-ghati. I hope that some flavor of these all-ecstatic holy abodes has penetrated my ignorance and found its way onto these pages.
I am only a very imperfect servant of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his servants. I cannot pretend to have any profound understanding of Srila Sanatana Goswami’s revelation of the most sublime spiritual truths. I am also a clumsy writer. Only because this book has been expertly edited by my dear godbrothers Keshava Bharati Prabhu and Jayadwaita Swami is it now as readable as it is. They have worked hard to turn my crude manuscript into something that does justice to the original text, and for this I will be forever indebted. After dedicating nearly thirty years to the preaching mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Keshava Bharati Prabhu has now started an editing career that is already bearing wonderful fruit. Jayadwaita Swami was Srila Prabhupada’s own editor and is the one person who best knows the high standards of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust publishing. I am confident that anything passing his scrutiny must be acceptable to Srila Prabhupada and his predecessors.
I am also very thankful to my wife, Archa-murti, my old friend Dravida Prabhu, and Srimati Vishakha-priya for their editorial comments, to Kshama Dasi for skillful proofreading, to Durmada Prabhu for assistance in compiling “Variant Readings of the Text of Sri-Brihad-bhagavatamrita” and locating scriptural citations, and to Rasa-varshi Prabhu for helpful research. My thanks to our BBT publisher Brahma Muhurta Prabhu for his encouragement and commitment, to our production manager Govinda Madhava Prabhu, to our artist Dina-bandhu Prabhu, and to the other BBT devotees working on the book’s production in Sweden and elsewhere. My life belongs to the BBT, and I am grateful to be working under its shelter.
My thanks also to Purnananda Prabhu, Brahma Muhurta Prabhu, and Madhupati Prabhu for their financial contributions toward the first printing of this book.
I pray to the Vaishnava readers of this translation for their blessings and their tolerance of my faults. I want only that Srila Sanatana Goswami, Sri Vrindavana-dhama, and undeviating devotion to Sri Sri Radha-Madana-gopala receive the proper glorification they deserve.
at Giriraja Govardhana
Sri Rama-navami, April 12, 2000