Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Dūta-kāvyas: (4) Separation in Rūpa Gosvāmī's writings
As we have seen, the dūta-kāvya genre is everywhere concerned with the theme of love in separation. Love in separation has a long tradition not only in secular Sanskrit poetry, but also in the Vaiṣṇava religious literature. For the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, of course, Caitanya Mahāprabhu as described by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja is a living symbol of the intensity of divine love in separation.
For the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava practitioner, separation or viraha is the devotional mood by which one attains Kṛṣṇa. Such worship of Kṛṣṇa in separation is said to be the contribution of Mādhavendra Purī, the guru of Caitanya Mahāprabhu's guru. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes, “the seed of all the religious doctrines of Caitanya Mahāprabhu can be found in the following verse attributed to Mādhavendra Purī, spoken in the mood of a gopī separated from Kṛṣṇa].” 
ayi dīnadayārdra nātha he,
mathurānātha kadāvalokyase /
dayita bhrāmyati kiṁ karomy aham //
O lord whose heart softens
at seeing the condition of the unfortunate!
O lord of Mathurā, when will I see you?
My heart is filled with the pain of your absence
and is confused, O my love! What should I do? (Padyāvali 330)
Commenting on this verse, Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī has written, “The feeling of separation from Kṛṣṇa, or transcendental vipralambha, is the only practice by which the spirit soul can achieve perfection. Material feelings of separation give rise to a despondency that reveals the attachment one has for matter, whereas the despondency that comes out of feelings of separation for Kṛṣṇa are the best proof of the desire to bring pleasure to his senses.”
As the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa uses separation as a tool to increase the devotee's love for him, but in the final analysis, he rewards the sincere devotee with union. This is confirmed in the Bhāgavata by Kṛṣṇa when he tells the gopīs at Kurukṣetra that their devotion in separation has the potency to attain him.
mayi bhaktir bhūtānām
diṣṭyā yad āsīn mal-sneho
Devotion to me leads all creatures to immortality. It is your destiny to have love for me, which will lead to your attaining me. (SB 10.82.45)
In the līlā, also, Kṛṣṇa repeatedly promises not only the gopīs but all the residents of Vraja that he will one day return to Vraja.  As the Supreme Deity, Kṛṣṇa cannot be seen as anything other than true to his word. However, the Bhāgavata narrative gives no discernable resolution to the separation of the gopīs from Kṛṣṇa. Once Kṛṣṇa leaves for Mathurā, he never returns to Vraja. He never even meets with the mistresses of his youth after he has taken many wives and established himself in a new and distant capital at Dvārakā except to meet them briefly at Kurukṣetra. Like Kālidāsa in the Meghadūta, Rūpa provides no final reunion as a counterpoint to his elaborate descriptions of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā's separation in either Haṁsadūta or Uddhava-sandeśa. This was perhaps because the dūta-kāvyas were early works, for this unresolved separation later proved to be a problem for Gauḍīya theologians. If through the emotional force of separation one can attain Kṛṣṇa, how is it that he is never reunited with the gopīs despite the intensity of their love?
The original response to this problem is found in the contents of Uddhava's message in the Bhāgavata, which though the original inspiration for Rūpa's poem is quite different from it. In the Bhāgavata, the message Kṛṣṇa sent via Uddhava (10.47.29-37) consists of what is often referred to as adhyātma-śikṣā. Kṛṣṇa personally delivers a similar message in his meeting with the gopīs at Kurukṣetra (10.82.40-47). In both these places, Kṛṣṇa emphasizes the impossibility of anyone's being separated from him, as he is the indwelling Supersoul in every living being and the all-pervading Brahman.
The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas do not deny the truth of such statements, but since for them the personal expression of the Supreme in the personality of Kṛṣṇa supersedes the other features of the Godhead, namely Paramātmā and Brahman, such an explanation does not give satisfaction and they take the gopīs responses to be proof of this. The language of aiśvarya, if not monism, that pervades these instructions to the gopīs is seen by the Gauḍīya commentators such as Sanātana and Jīva as an anathema to the personalism of true bhakti. Such teachings belong to the realm of jñāna and are not to be considered beneficial even for the ordinary devotee. How much less appealing they must then be for the most exalted of Kṛṣṇa's devotees, the gopīs! It certainly does them no good to hear that Kṛṣṇa is present in a spiritual form when they feel his physical absence so intensely. 
Another response to the problem is found in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, where we read that Mahāprabhu explicitly told Rūpa “never to take Kṛṣṇa out of Vṛndāvana” by which he meant that whatever the appearances, Kṛṣṇa never abandons his devotees nor his abode. This instruction was apparently given while Rūpa was writing his play Lalita-mādhava, which extensively describes the departure of Kṛṣṇa from Vraja. To accommodate Mahāprabhu's instruction, Rūpa Gosvāmī made numerous changes in his play, concluding with Yogamāyā Ekānaṁśā's announcement that these events were all a hallucination that she had created for the sake of his pastimes. In fact, she said, neither Kṛṣṇa nor the gopīs had ever left Gokula.
Furthermore, though descriptions of separation form a large part of Rūpa Gosvāmī's work, he made a point of also including a caveat in at least his theoretical writings to the effect that the viraha he himself had described was done according to the prakaṭa manifestation, but that in reality (the aprakaṭa-prakāša) Kṛṣṇa was always united with his eternal associates. 
But this solution to the problem of Kṛṣṇa's separation from the gopīs has also proved unsatisfactory to Gauḍīya theologians. In his great work on the erotic devotional sentiment, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, after Rūpa has described separation (viraha) and before he commences to describe union (sambhoga), he gives the aforementioned reminder that there is in fact never any real separation of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs other than the appearance of such in the manifest (prakaṭa) līlā. In his commentary to these verses, however, Jīva Gosvāmī argues that as a rule, wherever one kind of separation like pūrva-rāga is described, it is always followed by the corresponding form of union. If no such union were to follow, then the aesthetic experience would be incomplete. The existence of a description of separation demands a parallel description of union. As even the mundane poeticians say, “Not without separation can union be fully experienced,” the corollary of which is that without union, separation alone does not bear the fruit of sacred rapture.
The solution of simultaneous union is also rejected on this basis, for even if it were accepted that the gopīs were enjoying union with Kṛṣṇa in one manifestation, their experience of separation in the world of the incarnation was sufficiently real for even Kṛṣṇa himself to acknowledge their suffering (10.46.6). No description of any suffering at all would be possible if the happiness of union were a permanent reality, consciously being experienced by the gopīs while only apparently undergoing separation.
Jīva reminds us that Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote UN on the basis of the manifest līlā, as he did his plays and other books. He was similarly seen to worship Kṛṣṇa according to that manifestation. Furthermore, Śuka's own absorption in the prakaṭa-līlā is self-evident. The revelation of the exalted position of the prakaṭa-līlā is also the purpose of Brahma's words:
prapañcaṁ niṣpapañco‘si vi,dambayasi bhū-tale
prapanna-janatānanda-sandohaṁ prathituṁ prabho
Though you are untouched by the world, you imitate the activities of the world in order to give great amounts of pleasure to those who are surrendered to you. (SB 10.14.37)
Even acknowledging the simultaneous existence of the nitya-līlā, Kṛṣṇa's activities of being born, etc., bring great amounts of pleasure to the devotees. If Rūpa did not prefer the prakaṭa-līlā to the aprakaṭa, says Jīva, then what would have been gained by extensively describing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa's separation, which is of a painful nature? The activities of the incarnation would be seen as a source of distress rather than joy. To avoid any such misunderstanding, therefore, Rūpa ends his study of the madhura-rasa in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi with a description of the various kinds of union, culminating with the samṛddhimat or “enriched” union, just as though he did not know the simultaneously existing, felicitous situation in the eternal līlā. 
This samṛddhimat-sambhoga is described in Rūpa's play, Lalita-mādhava, where after long separation, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are finally united.
Furthermore, the Gosvāmīs also analyzed the internal evidence of the Bhāgavata and more explicit statements in other Purāṇic texts, coming to the conclusion that Kṛṣṇa ultimately did return to Vraja after an absence of many years.  This interpretation is at the basis of Jīva Gosvāmī's magnum opus, Gopāla-campū, in which he not only elaborately describes this momentous event, but also Kṛṣṇa's wedding with the gopīs, whose previous marriage to the cowherds is shown to be just another illusory feature of the manifest pastimes. As the idea of Kṛṣṇa's return to Vraja became an article of faith for the Gauḍīyas, it became a feature of all presentations of Kṛṣṇa's mathurā-līlā. Thus, those authors who translated Haṁsadūta into Bengali verse inevitably added an epilogue in which Kṛṣṇa responds to the message of the swan by returning to Vraja to be with his beloved Rādhā.
Since the desire of the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa to be united with one another in the prakaṭa-līlā is undeniable, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī advises the devotee against a misguided preference for the līlā of separation, for this would not be a sign of love, but rather one of selfishness, since one would be neglecting the wishes of Kṛṣṇa and his beloved gopīs themselves. In saying this Jīva appears to have been anticipating the line of argument that separation is an exalted state, pleasurable in itself without any reference to union.
Though Caitanya by his example may well be the ultimate source of such a doctrine, it is Rūpa who appears to first take such a position in the written word. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, he states that though the various vyabhicāri-bhāvas and anubhāvas may appear to be symptomatic of happiness and distress like the equivalent emotional manifestations resulting from the transformations of the material qualities, since they are experienced in relation to Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇānvayāt) they are all transcendentally joyful experiences and to be called “hot” or “cool” rather than “distressful” or “pleasurable.”  Sanātana Gosvāmī too, in his Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, stresses the inherently blissful quality of separation, stating that it is even greater than that of union. There, Kṛṣṇa actually thanks Nārada for inflaming the pain he feels at being distanced from the gopīs. Though Sanātana hints at the even greater joy of ultimate reunion which is eventually to take place,  he never actually describes such a reunion in BṛBhāg, leaving such a conclusion to the imagination of the reader (as does BhP tself). Jīva, in his commentary on the above-mentioned BRS verses, however, takes the position that it is precisely the ending of the apparent distresses in union that makes them “pleasurable,” he does not seem to find them pleasurable in their own right in the way that the later commentator Viśvanātha Cakravartī does.
Viśvanātha argues that the distress of separation is compensated for by the intense consciousness of Kṛṣṇa and is therefore as blissful as union (kṛṣṇasya sphuraṇa-mayatvād viṣādādayo'pi tādṛśa-sukhamayā eva jñeyāh). He gives the famous example also found in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 2.50–51): “It is like the eating of heated sugarcane Though the mouth burns, one cannot give it up because of the sweet taste” Biṣāmṛta ekatre milana, “It is like an ecstatic mixture of ambrosia and poison, which can neither be tolerated nor given up.” 
Indeed, Rūpa’s dūta-kāvyas show how the intense consciousness of Kṛṣṇa produces this ecstatic state. They are interspersed by minor experiences of union, all of which are considered real because of the divine nature of the object of love. These include sphūrti, prādurbhāva, svapna-sambhoga, and āgati. Sphūrti refers to the temporary hallucinations or dream visions of the beloved in which the experiencer is partially or entirely aware of the illusory nature of the vision. Āvirbhāva is a more solid type of hallucination that the experiencer in a waking state takes for reality. Svapna-sambhoga refers to union in dreams. In Uddhava-sandeśa 124, Kṛṣṇa denies the illusory nature of dream visions. Though these states of partial reunion are sources of ecstasy, they are not equal to the pleasure of samṛddhimat-sambhoga, which is synonymous with āgati (“arrival”) when the beloved factually returns. Naturally, for Jīva, all aspects of Kṛṣṇa consciousness are blissful (susukhaṁ kartum avyayam), but he does not flinch from insisting that a final union is the ultimate and necessary goal, both in individual practice and in the exemplary līlā.
 Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983). This is a classic work on the subject and is heartily recommended to any reader wishing to further understand the early historical development of the theme in the writings of the Alvars and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.
 Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya to Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 4.197).
 Anubhâṣya to Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 4.178).
 This verse is quoted three times in Caitanya-caritāmṛtɑː Ādi 4.23, Madhya 8.89 and 13.160.
 For example, to the gopīs: mayyāveśya mano kṛtsnaṁ vimuktāśeṣa-vṛtti yat / anusmaranto mām nityam acirān mām upaiṣyasi (10.47.36). To Nanda and the cowherds: yāta yūyaṁ vrajaṁ tāta vayaṁ ca sneha duḥkhitān / jñātīn vo draṛṭum eṣyāmo vidhāya suhṛdāṁ sukham // (10.45.23).
 See HD 91.
 Jīva Gosvāmī, Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha, ed. Chinmayi Chatterjee (Calcutta: Jadavpur University, 1980), para, 164: na hy atrādhyātma-vidyā śreyaskarī bhavati… sādhāraṇa-bhaktānām apy anupadeyatvenoktatvāt / na tac-chravaṇena viraha-jvālā śamyati.
 CC Antya 165, kṛṣṇake bāhir nāhi kariba vraja haite / vraja chāṛi kṛṣṇa kabhu nā jāy kāṅhāte / The absence of a resolution to the HD and US can be taken as further evidence substantiating the earliness of their composition.
 bhavatyaḥ śrīmad-gokule tatraiva vartante, kintu mayaiva kala-kṣepaṇārtham anyathā prapañcitam. Lalita-mādhava (10.261).
 This is stated in Pv 312ff, UN 15.185-7, LBhag 1.4.471, BRS 2.3.129. NatC. e.g., harer līlāviśeṣasya prakaṭasyānusārataḥ / varṇita-virahāvasthā goṣṭha-vāmabhruvām asau // vṛndāraṇye viharatā sadā rāsādi-vibhramaiḥ / hariṇā vraja-devīnāṁ viraho’sti na karhicit // UN 15.185-6
 UN 15.3. The verse appears to be Bhojadeva's (Sarvatī-kaṇṭhābharaṇa 5.53): na vinā vipralambhena sambhogaḥ puṣṭim aśnute / kaśāyite hi vastrādau bhūyo rāgo’bhivardate /
 See Śrī Jīva’s commentary to UN 15.187.
 This is explained in detail in my article "Does Kṛṣṇa Marry the Gopīs in the Endy?” Journal of Vaiṣṇava Studies 5, no. 41 (1997): 49–110.
 Cf. BRS 1.5.74, 77–8: kṛṣṇānvayād guṇatīta-prauḍhānanda-mayā api / bhānty amī triguṇotpanna-sukha-duḥkha-mayā iva // … prāyaḥ sukha-mayāḥ śītā uṣṇā duḥkha-mayā iha / citreyaṁ paramānanda-sāndrāpy uṣṇā ratir māta // śītair bhāvair baliṣṭhais tu puṣṭā śītāyate hy asau / uṣṇais tu ratir atyuṣṇā tāpayantīva bhāsate // An analogous position is argued by the poeticians, who differentiate the personal emotion from the sentiment produced as a result of poetry. Otherwise, the Rāmāyaṇa and other poetry which is filled with distressing events would not be aesthetically pleasing.
 BṛBhāg 1.7.126-7: tathāpi sambhoga-sukhād api stutaḥ sa ko’py anirvacyatamo manoramaḥ / pramoda-rāśi / pariṇāmato dhruvam tatra sphuret tad-rasikaika-vedyaḥ // tac-choka-duḥkhoparamasya paścāc cittam yataḥ pūrṇatayā prasannam / samprāpta-sambhoga-mahāsukhena sampannavat tiṣṭhati sarvadaiva // In BṛBhāg, Sanātana does not describe a return to Vraja in the prakaṭa-līlā, rather he speaks of regular departures for two month periods from the nitya-līlā, thus introducing dūrapravāsa even there. But even here in these verses, the pleasures of separation seem to be judged by the union which follows it.
 Śrī Jīva's commentary on Bhakli-rasāmṛta-sindhu (2.5.74). Gopāla-campū (1.1.26–7). Viśvanātha Cakravartī stresses the inherently pleasurable aspects of separation in his commentary under the same verses.
 See Rūpa's Vidagdha-mādhava 2.10, cited at Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 2 52.
 These and other subjects have been discussed in Rūpa's Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, where a large number of verses from both Uddhava-sandeśa and Haṁsadūta have been quoted. One can look to the endnotes of this edition for the appropriate references. Quotes of Haṁsadūta and Uddhava-sandeśa in Rūpa's Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi are many: 17 from Uddhava-sandeśa, 11 from Haṁsadūta, principally in chapters 13 and 15.
Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Dūta-kāvyas:
These articles have not all been posted yet. The abridged article will appear as a whole in the next issue of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, to which I invite all serious students to subscribe.