Notes on separation and the aprakaṭa-prakāśa

Since I came to Canada, I have been keeping myself busy with the Vrindavan Today project. I have been posting a daily verse from Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta there, with commentaries of varying lengths.

I am also working on Śrī-kṛṣṇa-sandarbha to the extent that I can. Some friends have told me they miss having anything new to read here, so I though I would share something from that work. Although the theme is familiar and I have gone through it many times, correcting the translation of Jiva Goswami's explanations has been having quite an effect on me.

The subject under discussion is the mantropāsanā-mayī and svārasikī līlā, separation and union, and the prakaṭa and aprakaṭa prakāśas. It has been going on since Section 153, so it is rather a long and somewhat complex matter. Suffice it to say that the bulk of the discussion is around the instructions that Krishna gave his parents and then the gopis through Uddhava, instruction which to an uneducated eye look suspiciously like teachings in yoga and jnana. After explaining how that is not so, Jiva turns to the similar instructions that Krishna gave directly to the gopis at Kurukshetra. The climax of these instructions comes in Anuccheda 170 where Bhagavata verse 10.82.49 is quoted and explained.

Here is the text of Anuccheda 170 without further commentary.

Thereafter, rejecting the direct meaning related to enlightenment (jñāna) and also accepting the confidential meaning in the form of the eternal līlā like before, [moreover] again fearing separation because of a deep awareness of [being immersed in the] prakaṭa-līlā, the gopīs made the following prayer in supreme humility. Śrī Śuka said:

āhuś ca te nalina-nābha padāravindaṁ
yogeśvarair hṛdi vicintyam agādha-bodhaiḥ
gehaṁ juṣām api manasy udiyāt sadā naḥ ||
They said, “O lotus-naveled Lord, whose lotus feet are to be contemplated in the heart by yogis possessing infinite wisdom. Your feet alone serve as the support by which people fallen into the well of material life can be lifted up. Let those feet remain always present in our minds, we who are entangled in household duties.” (10.82.49)
[The gopis say,] Let us give up any talk of getting even a faint vision of You, so afflicted are we by ill fortune! O lotus-naveled Lord! May then Your lotus feet be ever present in our mind, in accordance with Your instructions.

[Kṛṣṇa asks:] But what is so difficult about that [that you have to pray in this way]?

The gopis replied, The masters of yoga can contemplate upon Your feet in the heart, but we cannot, for as soon as we begin contemplating them we fall unconscious.

The Lord Himself had said this to Uddhava:

mayi tāḥ preyasāṁ preṣṭhe dūrasthe gokula-striyaḥ |
smarantyo'ṅga vimuhyanti virahautkaṇṭhya-vihvalāḥ ||

When I, the most beloved of their beloved objects, am far away from them, the women of Gokula remember Me and, overwhelmed with intense feelings of separation, faint with bewilderment. (10.46.5)
The gopis further press this point: [Your feet can be contemplated by those] “possessing infinite wisdom” (agādha-bodhaiḥ), i.e., by those whose intelligence is not disturbed even after seeing Him directly, unlike us whose intelligence is disturbed by fainting and so on as soon as we just have the desire to see Him. The metaphor of lotus for feet is meant to inform [Kṛṣṇa] that only by their touch will our burning feelings [of separation] be quelled, and not by remembrance [alone].

[If Kṛṣṇa should say,] Only such constant meditation [on My lotus feet] will remove your agony of separation, as it does the material misery of the masters of yoga, and make them manifest [physically].

Expecting such an suggestion, the gopis said: [Meditation on Your feet] serves as the rope that lifts out anyone who has fallen into the well of material entanglement, but it will not so serve us who are drowning in the ocean of separation. The reason is that just as soon as we start to meditate on You we experience an increase in our pain.

[If Kṛṣṇa then says,] So why don’t you come here immediately and see Me directly as long as you want?

To this they replied, “We who are entangled in household duties” (gehaṁ juṣāṁ), meaning we are not independent, being others’ wives. Or, [gehaṁ juṣām could mean]: Let us have Your company in the abode where we had sporting union with You previously, where all our desires were fulfilled, in the dwelling place of our natural love, our very own home, which is Gokula alone, and not Dvārakā or Mathurā. Our minds take delight only there [in Gokula] with the specific fancies [of that līlā]. [The idea here is] similar to that expressed in the verse below:

yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ sa eva hi varas tā eva caitra-kṣapās
te conmīlita-mālatī-surabhayaḥ prauḍhāḥ kadambānilāḥ
sā caivāsmi tathāpi tatra surata-vyāpāra-līlā-vidhau
revā-rodhasi vetasī-taru-tale cetaḥ samutkaṇṭhate ||

The one who enjoyed with me in my youth is this man here, now my husband. These are the same nights of Caitra, the air carrying the same fragrance of malati flowers and fully blown kadamba flowers. I too am the same person, and yet my mind pines for the love sports we knew under the bullrushes on the bank of the Reva River.” (Kāvya-prakāśa 1.4)
Therefore, only if you yourself come directly to Vṛndāvana will our suffering be alleviated, because we are not capable of thinking of Your feet in our mind, and are neither able to come there, nor do we have any desire to do so.

This very mood was accepted by the Lord, as Śrī Śuka said just after the above verses: “The Lord, the preceptor and goal of the gopis, after blessing them in this way, then asked Yudhiṣṭhira and all His other friends about their welfare.” (10.83.1)

I want to add the following paraphrase of the Chaitanya Charitamrita version (Madhya 13.133-148), which is a poetic embellishment of Śrī-kṛṣṇa-sandarbha. I will not give the Bengali here. This is from my translation of Bhajana-rahasya, but it actually is based on an earlier translation I did of something by Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj.

[Radha says:] O lord of My life! Kindly hear my submission. Vrindavan is my home, and if I cannot have Your company there, I will not be able to survive. O Krishna! For the materialistic person, the mind that accepts and rejects sense objects is considered to be the heart. My mind, however, is free from all such desires for material sense objects and knows nothing but the desire to please your senses. It is thus a place that is fitting for You to conduct Your pastimes, for it is of the same nature as Your eternal abode, Vrindavan itself.

To give my heart instructions in philosophy and mystical practice is a waste of time. Previously You gave such instructions to us through Uddhava and now you are personally doing the same thing here in Kurukshetra. Our hearts are naturally full of love for you and so we need no such advice. Yogis work hard to detach their minds from material sense objects and fix them on you in your form as the indwelling Supersoul. We, on the other hand, have to work hard to forget you for even a moment so that we can fix our mind on our daily household duties. We try with great efforts to do so, but our minds are so imbued with thoughts of you that we cannot manage it. So when you instruct us to meditate on you, it makes us laugh.

We gopis have completely left bodily consciousness behind. This is our natural state. So how can the words “dark well of material existence” apply to us? In fact, our suffering comes of having fallen into the ocean of separation from You, where the great sea monster of desire to serve You is swallowing us up. If You want to save us, then save us from that monster’s gaping mouth. In other words, You must save us gopis from your separation and not from material existence as such.

It is most surprising to us that in spite of being the pinnacle of virtue, You have forgotten Vrindavan, Govardhan, the banks of the Yamuna River and the forest bowers where we had our pastimes. Worse still, you seem to have forgotten all those who love you, including your own father and mother, your friends and the other people of Vraja, none of whom can live even a moment without you. You too seemed to love them once and yet, alas, you have forgotten them. Forget about us, we are not important. But we cannot comprehend how you could become indifferent to the people of Vraja, who suffer so much in your absence.

Perhaps you have no sympathy for us and our distress. We do not ask for it, but think for a minute about your mother, the queen of Vrindavan. When the people of the cowherd community see her suffering, their hearts break. Do you not feel the slightest twinge of remorse when You see her in this state?

I don’t want to blame you for all this. We can only say that Providence has treated us unkindly and that is why You have become indifferent to us all. It is simply our destiny. We Vrajavasis find absolutely no pleasure in seeing you in your royal garb, living in a foreign land, and your attachment to new companions. Even so, we cannot leave Vrindavan to follow you. That is impossible, even if we have to come face to face with death itself as a result of not seeing you. Can you come up with any solution for our predicament?

Sometimes you kill us with your separation and then sometimes, like today, you revive us by giving us the hope that we may be reunited again. Why do you do this? You are keeping us alive simply to kill us by again destroying our hopes.

You are the very life of Vrindavan. You are Nanda Maharaj’s life’s treasure. You are the only wealth the people of Vrindavan cling to. You are compassionate by nature, so please come and revive the people of Vrindavan by placing Your feet in this land again. (B. P. Puri Maharaj’s summary of Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.133-148)

Then of course there is Rupa Goswami's beautiful pastiche of the kaumara-hara verse.

priyaḥ so'yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ sahacari kurukṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham |
tathāpy antaḥ-khelan-madhura-muralī-pañcama-juṣe
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati ||

O companion! This is that same beloved Krishna
meeting me here in Kurukshetra;
and I am that same Radha;
and this joy of union we both feel is the same.
And yet, my mind hankers
for the forest by the banks of the Yamunä
where the fifth note of his flute
reverberated sweetly within my heart.
“Here in Kurukshetra, you are dressed like a prince and surrounded by elephants, horses and crowds of people. Where is that cowherd boy I used to know? And where is the privacy of the Vrindavan forest? If I could only have the same mood, the same Krishna and that same lonely Vrindavan trysting place, then my heart’s desire would be fulfilled. If you would make your appearance there, in my forest bower in Vrindavan, then I would want for nothing else.

“O Krishna, even though you and I are the same people we have always been and we are meeting again just as we did before, my mind still yearns for Vrindavan, for it is completely taken by the mood particular to Vrindavan.

“I don’t like this great show of regal majesty here in Kurukshetra with all your elephants, horses, chariots, and crowds of people. If you really wish to give me your fullest blessings, then come with us back to Vrindavan where there are forests of flowers and the sound of humming bees and the cuckoos’ song. Here You are dressed like a king and accompanied by great warriors, but in Vrindavan You dressed like an ordinary cowherd boy, accompanied only by your beautiful flute. Have me stand on your left side if you sincerely want to do Me a favor. Otherwise, I will understand that all your talk about loving us gopis is nothing but a deception.

“Here there is not even a drop of the ocean of transcendental happiness that I enjoyed with you in Vrindavan. I therefore request you to come to Vrindavan and revel with us there in the natural way that you did before. Only then will my heart’s desire be fulfilled.” (Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaj)

By the way, this is the very last verse of Padyavali, besides the concluding mangalacharan. So that has a way of confirming what I said earlier about this mood being the essence of Rupa Goswami's realization.

Vrindavan is the only place Radha and Krishna exist. As soon as they step outside, they cease being THAT Radha and THAT Krishna. That is why the verse is a trap and a conundrum. Radha says this is the same Krishna, I am the same Radha, this is the same happiness of union, but such is not the case.

So Jiva Goswami says there is a nitya-prakasha, the aprakata-prakasha, the eternal manifestation of the lila that captures the magic moment of union, and it exists eternally even when externals change. The magic moment takes place in the prakata-prakasha, but because there are comings and goings in that lila, union also comes and goes.

But the abhimana, the sense of "I am the same person" remains. And that is where the pain of separation lies.

I think that this passage may only be understood by someone who has actually loved and lost, and experienced that pain, and then recognized that this describes our existential situation better than anything.

So what Radharani is saying is that Krishna has changed and she wants him the way he was before. The Bhagavatam seems to say, It ain't gonna happen. Get over it. Live with the loss. Krishna has left Vrindavan and gone to Dvaraka and he cannot come back, because once it's gone, it's gone. That at least is the material way of looking at it.

Jiva Goswami says, yes, that is the material way of looking at it. And that is why the gopis are suffering. In the aprakata prakash, each moment of Krishna's reality is eternal, and so is theirs, and so is Vrindavan's. It does not change.

Their minds are like that eternal spot, that reality.

But the gopis don't like that either. We don't care if our thoughts are real, that we actually do exist in this eternity of our memories, of our nostalgia. We refuse to accept. We insist that you accept the reality of that highest love that you had when we found the common ground in Vrindavan, the simplicity of pure love without the accoutrements of majesty.

And that insistence buys them only more suffering. You have to accept that suffering. You are right, Sri Goswami, I also don't believe you can understand this unless you have experienced unrequited love.

But what can the gopis do but insist? Can they force Krishna to come back to Vrindavan? He talks a good line, he says he will, and Jiva Goswami insists that he promises and he is God, he keeps his promises.

But for us, who are unrequited lovers in this world, we cannot force anyone to love us. They are human beings who don't have that power of Truth.

But I say to those who wonder if it is possible, that it may be possible in Vrindavan.

Unrequited love. Knowing that you can't stop loving something that is never to be, that can never be reciprocated. How can the gopis love Krishna now that he is a king and not a cowherd? They love the cowherd. But the cowherd is gone forever. But they can't stop loving. They love even more knowing he is lost forever.

So what happens to a person who has known this permanent state of suffering, like loving someone who has died? What happens to the person who loves God when God is dead? Is it possible?


runhild roeder said…
To say God is dead is a bit silly! Death is not what is generally thought of it! If you are seeing God as mortal, you belong to one mindset. For another mindset, God is eternal! So are humans! Love is the essence of life! How could God not love eternally! Krishna and Radha are eternal and are with those who are surrendered in their spirit to Radha and Krishna!
Prem Prakash said…
"You are keeping us alive simply to kill us by again destroying our hopes."

If only we could stop loving. Yet, alas, we cannot...

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