Krishnapriye- Episode 2 (English version)
Krishnapriye! – Episode 2
– Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji
The very word ‘Prema’ is exquisite, sweet. Oh how sweet is the chemistry it produces in our hearts even as we utter this word!
But can it be described in words? Not at all.
Shastras declare that Brahman is beyond the comprehension of the senses, mind and intellect. But in order to comprehend that incomprehensible Brahman, Sri Vedavyasa has authored the Brahmasutras. Patanjali has, in his Yogasutra, written about knowing the techniques of the movements of the invisible nADIs (channels through which energy flows) in the body and through yogashakti, to lead it to the top of the head, and attain the highest state of yoga. And no doubt, for Karmakandas also, those like Apastamba, Bodaayana have written Sutras. Those like Shandilya, Narada have authored Bhaktisutras. But no one has authored ‘Prema Sutra’! Why? ‘Prema’ is inexpressible!
I understand when the Bhaktisutras say that “That bhakti is verily ‘prema-maya’ (an embodiment of Love)”. Well! Who has the right to receive such prema? Shouldn’t that be determined? In Sharanagati shastra, who a person needs to surrender to is as important as the characteristics (lakshaNAs) of the surrendered. There is no doubt that bhakti is ‘prema-maya’. But on whom should that prema be showered? Who should be loved thus? The one who is loved should be able to revere it; should honour it; should relish it; and should enthuse and deepen it even more. Love should be towards only such a person, right?
At first, there are many who do bhakti with the feeling, “There is a power beyond/above us!” Next there are many bhaktas who say, “All religions are but one; they all lead only to the one God.” Some worship all deities including ‘grAma devatas’ (village deities). Some worship the planets (navagrahas), while some worship deities mentioned in the Vedas such as Indra, Agni, Vayu, etc. There are some who worship the Vedic deities as established by Sri Shankara in the Shanmata (six sects), i.e. Ganapati, Muruga, Surya, Ambal (Devi), Vishnu, Shiva. There are yet another group of bhaktas who condense this and worship Devi, Vishnu and Shiva as Ratnatraya (three jewels). Even in this some are Vishnu bhaktas. And among these are some who, without worshipping Vishnu through Tantra, Yantras, etc., worship Him instead through katha shravaNam (listening to His stories), parayaNam (reading related holy texts), nAmasankIrtanam (chanting and singing His holy names), etc. Amidst this group of bhaktas, there are only a few who do katha shravanam and namasankirtanam only of Krishna and not any other avatara of Vishnu! And even amidst these few bhaktas there are only a very small handful who do premabhakti, not in shAnta or dAsya bhAva but in vAtsalya bhAva (deeming Krishna as one’s own child), sakhya bhAva (seeing Krishna as one’s best friend), shringAra bhAva (loving Krishna as one’s Beloved (prANa nAyaka)).
Yes! When it comes to ‘prema’, who is the loved one, and how and in what bhAva that bhakti is done, is very important. It is verily Krishna who merits this prema! If you ask me, I would say that the highest bhAva for this prema is indeed shringara bhava! Bhakti is indeed rare; and, that too, to attain Krishna bhakti, instead of bhakti towards many other gods, is indeed rare! And rarer is it to attain bhakti to Vrindavana Krishna instead of Dwaraka or Mathura Krishna. And even in this, still rarest of the rare is getting bhakti, not for Balakrishna, but for Krishna as Muralidhara!
This prema in shringara bhAva is very delicate and soft (lalitam). A rose petal is very soft to touch; this prema is softer than that! The early morning dew on the tip of the grass vanishes on merely touching it. This prema is softer than that dew! This prema is softer than the divine, pleasing fragrance of a blossomed lotus! This prema is softer and more soothing than the soothing feeling enjoyed by the caress of the multi-coloured, beautiful peacock feather. This prema is sweeter than the appearance and disappearance of a colourful rainbow playing a game of hide and seek in the sky. This prema is much sweeter than the eternal calm on the faces of a cow and a deer.
Do you know what the basis for this prema is? Thyaaga (sacrifice); motiveless sacrifice; sacrifice that has no expectation. This prema is founded only on such a sacrifice.
Mahalakshmi is known as Santanalakshmi, Dhaanyalakshmi, Vijayalakshmi, Dhanalakshmi, Veeralakshmi, Vidhyalakshmi. She is even known as Mokshalakshmi. But they don’t speak of a ‘Premalakshmi’ in that Lakshmi. What is the reason behind this? Is prema beyond even this? Sri Sri Anna does archana for Shri Radha Devi with twenty sweet Names. In it, he says ‘lakshmi lakshAdhika lAvaNyAyai namo nama:’ He says that our Swamini Shri Radha is a lakh times more beautiful than Mahalakshmi. The meaning ‘more than that’ is fitting. Shri Radha has a thousand times more, lakhs of times more love than Mahalakshmi. While speaking of Shri Radha, if we reminisce certain people, we can obtain Her grace more easily.
So who is that to be reminisced? The Gopis of Srimad Bhagavatam! Such is the Gopis’ bhakti. If you are able to understand, well and good. Even if you don’t understand, it is all right. But one must speak what is in the heart, right? All say “God is perfect. Whatever comes from Him is also perfect. Perfection will never produce imperfection.”
The Gopis did not see Krishna as a mere boy who was with them. They had fully realized that Krishna was Bhagavan, the Supreme One. That’s why in Gopika geetham they use a Vedantic word – ‘nakhalu gopika nandano bhavAn, akhila dehinAm antarAtmadruk’ – “You are the witness (druk svarUpa) of the Inner Essence (AtmasvarUpa) of all embodied beings,” say the Gopis. They sing “vikhanasArthito vishvaguptaye” – Entreated by Brahma, You took avatara due to your compassion for Bhoomi (Earth) in order to reduce Her burden. To those Gopis when Bhagavan demands “Offer all your clothing to Me!” they do it. Because He is complete and perfect; and all the actions of the Perfect One would also be perfect, right? Perfection will never produce imperfection. Whatever He says, we need to exactly obey as it is. Only then it would mean that we have accepted and truly realized Him to be Bhagavan, isn’t it?
If one questions, “Can Bhagavan act like this?”, what is surprising about it? I have read the life histories of many mahans. They would even order someone who came to them desiring to be taken as a disciple, to jump off a cliff. He too would jump and die. The dead person would be brought back, given life and then taken as disciple! It seems some would even throw a child into a well. After a while, it seems they would call the child by its name. And the child too would come out alive! All this is only to test their (the disciples’) faith in those mahatmas, isn’t it? But here, Lord Krishna did not test the faith of Gopis. Instead, He does all this only to reveal their immense faith in Him, to the world. Bhagavan has absolutely no doubt at all about the Gopis’ complete faith.
Moreover, if I do bhakti deeming Krishna as my child, He comes running behind me; He embraces me; He demands, “Amma, kiss me; I am feeling hungry, feed me.” He catches hold of my legs. I bathe Him. I dress Him up and decorate Him. All these you can comprehend. Because if I become the mother, He is the child. A child would be naughty. It is verily the mother’s right to scold, threaten, fondle, beg, cry, laugh with, bathe, decorate, kiss and embrace the child! We relish all these.
If Bhagavan is deemed to be a friend, “He held my hand and walked on the streets. He sought my advice on whether something could be done or not. I spoke to him of the doubts that arose in my mind. Bhagavan and I sleep next to each other. We eat together. Sometimes I even wear His clothes.” This kind of sakhya bhAva is also nice and is comprehensible by us.
Similarly, dAsya bhAva is to stand in His presence neat and clean, humbly and respectfully with folded hands, eagerly awaiting His kainkaryam and words, and once it has been given, to carry it out with great earnestness and to take pleasure in it. “Bring the seat here; get water to drink; deliver this letter to him; there, go find out what he has to say; go meet him who is in unwell and enquire after his health as I wish to know.” To carry out these small works thinking that “Bhagavan has deemed me also fit to carry out these”, and to do such seva given by Him joyfully and enthusiastically is indeed kainkarya-dAsya bhAva.
What then is shringAra bhAva? This has been accepted by the shastras. Those who have done this kind of bhakti have said, “Krishna embraced me; kissed me; I yearned for His arrival; I danced, holding His hands; I was angry when He did not come.” Just as in vAtsalya, sakhya and dAsya bhAvas the relevant bhAva leelas are spoken of, so too, in shringAra bhAva, the bhAvAs would be those of two lovers, right? The longing, anger, yearning will all indeed be in it; because if such feelings, emotions, and interactions that is usually seen between lovers is not there, it cannot be shringAra bhAva at all. If you can understand this, well and good. If not, set aside the five chapters on Raasa in Srimad Bhagavatam, and read only the other chapters that are understandable by you. That would do for you. Because it (shringAra bhAva) is so lofty, it is indeed incomprehensible.
If you ask, “When you feel it is incomprehensible, why then do you speak of it?”, I will explain. There is a flower called ‘kurinji’ that blooms only once in twelve years. We will not be near it when it blooms. Nor do we know where it is. Yet, what is wrong in knowing about this rare flower kurinji that blooms once in twelve years? It is something very wondrous and rare, isn’t it?
There is a bird called chakora. It is said that this chakora bird awaits the rays of the moon and remains constantly longing for it. Let us at least learn and know that such a bird existed. Similarly, there is a chAtaka bird. It seems it would drink water only from the rain clouds. The hamsa bird, ‘kavarimaan’ also belong to this rare category of species. Are we ever going to see these creatures? No, isn’t it! In the same way, let us just learn and know that there is a highest kind of love (unnatha premai). Let us experience it, or not experience it; nevertheless, let us know about it!
Sri Sri Anna also describes this wonderfully in Shri Radhikavilasachampu. I am delighted to speak of this sloka here that I like very much. There is a body-builder who can lift a 100 or even 200 kg weight effortlessly. He can easily lift and playfully throw iron rods, no matter how heavy they are. He does push-ups and sit-ups quite easily. He is such a strong man. But is it possible for him, if asked, to draw nectar from a beautiful flower? Can the nectar be drawn by beating the flower with a stick or by squeezing it? Only a bee can draw nectar from the flower, is it not? Only the bee knows the secret.
शूरोपि धीरोपि वने सुमेभ्यो
न शक्नुयात्तन्मधु सङ्ग्रहीतुम् ।
माहत्म्यमेवं ननु राधिकाया
वेत्तुं न शक्नोति विशारदोपि ॥
ஶூரோபி தீ⁴ரோபி வனே ஸுமேப்⁴யோ
ந ஶக்னுயாத்தன்மது⁴ ஸங்க்³ரஹீதும் ।
மாஹாத்ம்யமேவம்’ நனு ராதி⁴காயா
வேத்தும்ʼ ந ஶக்னோதி விஶாரதோ³பி ॥
In the same way, one can learn several great shastras like Mimamsa, Tarka, Nyaya, etc.; it is all good. But can you say that by learning these you can understand prema bhAva? This is only for those with love in their hearts, only for the rasikas… why! it is comprehensible only by those who have received Shri Radha’s grace. Without thinking about these great Gopis, is it possible for me to write about prema, or can such feelings of prema even rise up in my heart?
There is a practice in our country. If a well-educated person speaks a lot, we ask him, “What, are you Brihaspati?” This is because there is no one as intelligent and knowledgeable as Brihaspati. Even in
Sri Ramayana, Sage Valmiki speaks of the intelligence of Sri Rama as being like that of Brihaspati. Uddhava studied under this great Brihaspati. He would proudly call himself ‘Brihaspati sishya’. But after seeing Krishna he began to take pride in calling himself ‘Krishna’s minister’. ‘Brihaspati sishya’ became outdated! But even his epithet of ‘Krishna’s minister’ was only until he met the Gopis. The Gopis had never set foot in a school, even by accident! It is very doubtful if they knew to read or write even a single alphabet; they knew nothing about Tarka, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Nyaya. Why, they did not even know the word ‘shastra’! But Uddhava, who was an adept in the shastras, and who had studied under the great Brihaspati himself, says,
वन्दे नन्दव्रजस्त्रीणां पादरेणुमभीक्ष्णशः ।
यासां हरिकथोद्गीतं पुनाति भुवनत्रयम्॥ ६३॥
வந்தே³ நந்த³வ்ரஜஸ்த்ரீணாம்ʼ பாத³ரேணுமபீ⁴க்ஷ்ணஶ꞉|
யாஸாம்ʼ ஹரிகதோ²த்³கீ³தம்ʼ புனாதி பு⁴வனத்ரயம்||10-47-63||
and falls at the feet of Gopis. Why did he fall at the Gopis’ feet? What did he understand? “I have the shastras; but they have its’ experience! I have the book; but what it speaks of is with them! What I have understood only with the intellect, they have understood through experience,” says Uddhava. The intellect is only to attain experience (anubhava) isn’t it? Hence experience is only greater than the intellect.
Generally if you see, many bhaktas may not be well-educated or even have attended school. Take for example, Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Ramana, did they have advanced degrees? No. But they were ‘experienced’. There are several such mahans.
Uddhava did not hesitate to fall at the feet of the Gopis because ‘experience’ is superior. After this he preferred to call himself only as ‘Sishya of the Gopis’! Here we find Uddhava so awed [by the Gopis].
Bheeshma does a stuti while lying on the bed of arrows. There is a special feature in his stuti. What is it?
In Kunti stuti, Kunti speaks of the many ways in which Krishna saved her and her family – “O Krishna! In how many different ways have you saved my family! You saved us when the house of lac was set on fire. Whenever we faced problems in the forest and during the war you saved us,” and then she goes on to say “This dynasty has been purified only through your birth in it.” What she did was ‘krupa smaraNam’, thinking with gratitude all the compassionate, protecting acts of Krishna. It is akin to an old lady going to the temple and praising and worshipping Perumal due to whose blessings she enjoys a happy life.
However, Bheeshma was a warrior. His stuti reflects the tendencies of a Kshatriya. “Let me attain the highest delight in that Krishna who was worshipped as the foremost, by kings during the Rajasuya yaga. Who can speak the Bhagavad Gita, the essence of the Upanishads, in the midst of trumpeting elephants, neighing horses, valorous cries of soldiers, booming conches and beating drums! You did so, on the battlefield! May I take delight in that Krishna! O Krishna, due to the piercing of my arrows, your whole body was bathed in blood and shone with dust on it. And you rushed towards me holding the chariot wheel in your hand. May I take delight in that Krishna! Why such partiality towards this Pandava clan… let me take delight in You, O Krishna!” Bheeshma says all these. In every sloka he only reflects his Kshatriya vAsana. But finally, without any connection, he says,
ललितगतिविलासवल्गुहास प्रणयनिरीक्षणकल्पितोरुमानाः ।
कृतमनुकृतवत्य उन्मदान्धाः प्रकृतिमगन्किल यस्य गोपवध्वः ॥४०॥
லலிதக³திவிலாஸவல்கு³ஹாஸ ப்ரணயநிரக்ஷணகல்பிதோருமா னா ꞉| க்ருʼதமனுக்ருதவத்ய உன்மதா ³ந்தா ⁴꞉ ப்ரக்ருதிமக³ன்கில யஸ்யகோ³பவத்⁴வ꞉||
— SB 1-9-40||
These words don’t connect at all with the previous verses of his stuti. There are dhyana, karma and bhakti yogas. But these Gopis ate the way Krishna ate, spoke the way Krishna spoke, sat the way He sat, got up just as Krishna did, walked like Krishna walked, relished/delighted in everything as Krishna did, and in the end, finally became Krishna Himself! “What kind of yoga is this!” wondered Bheeshma, looking at the Gopis! It seems Bheeshma spoke thus in his final stuti as he must have felt that, if at all he were to have another birth it should not be like this janma where he was a yogi; but instead it should be the birth of a Gopi! This is because Krishna also says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Whatever you think of when your life leaves the body, that is what you will be born as in your next birth.”
यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् ।
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ॥ BG ८-६॥
யம் யம் வாபி ஸ்மரன்பா ⁴வம் த்யஜத்யந்தே கலேவரம் ।
தம்ʼ தமேவைதி கௌ ந்தேய ஸதா ³ தத்³பா ⁴வபா ⁴வித꞉ ॥ BG 8-6॥
Was it for this reason that Bheeshma remembered the Gopis?
Sri Shuka was a jivanmukta; he wandered about naked; he was a youth. But in Srimad Bhagavatam, we find that, on seeing him, women who were bathing came running up and prostrated before him. Yet when the old Sri Vyasa came there, they adjusted their clothing! Why? Srimad Bhagavatam does not speak of anything unnecessarily. This was not said to belittle Sri Vyasa. Sri Vyasa was also a very great soul. Why then has this incident been narrated in Srimad Bhagavatam?
This incident has been narrated only to show that that great Sri Shuka — seeing whom even women lost the ability to see differences as man or woman – has come to speak of Raasa leela in Srimad Bhagavatam. That is, the love that Gopis had for Krishna is not like the physical attraction of the worldly-minded. This is a divine love. The incident of Sri Vyasa-Sri Shuka has been narrated only to make you understand this.
There was a person called Sri Madhavan in Chennai Samskrit college. He would sing Ashtapadi very melodiously. Once, Kanchi Periyava asked him to render Ashtapadi in his presence. Sri Madhavan hesitated. Seeing his hesitation Kanchi Periyava said, “Are you wondering that I am asking you to sing the Ashtapadi which is full of shringAram? Are you thinking how to sing it in the presence of a sanyasi? This is not worldly kAma as you deem it. This is verily the kAma in which that [worldly] kaama has been annihilated! Sing.” Kama where kama has been annihilated! (“காமம் நசிந்துபோன காமம்”) What wonderful words these are! How beautifully Periyava has spoken. This is indeed the fruit of Srimad Bhagavatam’s Raasa panchaadhyaayi. It means that just as roasted seeds do not sprout, so too, if one has kAma towards Krishna, worldly kAma shall never sprout again! Jadabharata was a jivanmukta, a jnAni. Sri Shuka says that the fruit of reading his charitra is fame, glory, longevity. But for Krishna’s Raasa panchaadhyaayi, he says the fruit is the annihilation of kAma!
So Uddhava, Bheeshma, Sri Shuka and innumerable other bhaktas have stood in wondrous awe, seeing the Gopis! Sri Shankara, too, feels amazed by Gopis.
Gopis lived during the time of the Puranas, but Mother Meera lived in historical period. Is it possible to see another like Meera? It is an avatara that pined with Krishna viraha right from birth till the end. She spent all her life in Krishna Nama, His dhyana, longing for Him. Sri Sri Anna calls it ‘Bhakti with no company!’ Not only did she not have any company of devotees around her, but those around her were in fact hostile towards her. They gave her a lot of trouble. One cannot imagine life in Rajput royal families. The Queen cannot even step out easily; cannot speak to anyone so easily. Even in such an environment, Meera did prema bhakti. Her husband was a Rajput king. She would listen to everything he said; she would obey all his commands. But never did she allow him to touch her; she was one who preserved her Krishna bhakti so chastely; that too in those royal surroundings! Her chaste life is truly amazing.
In many homes I visit, I see Meera made in ceramic kept in the showcase; it would sadden me. “One who has to be worshipped in the puja room, has been kept in a showcase!” But there is nothing to wonder at this. That is because prema bhakti is incomprehensible. Only if that enters the heart will Meera enter the puja room! How can I speak of Gopis without remembering this glorious Meera? How ever can the thought arise in me [without thinking of Meera]!
In Tamil Nadu, Andal has also spoken about the qualities (lakshaNas) of prema bhakti in just one line — “ஆர்க்கும் என்னோயிது அறியலாகாது”. No one can comprehend this malady of mine! One can understand a headache or body ache. One can also understand situations like, “I am suffering from debt.” Because it is in everyone’s experience. But how can one comprehend prema viraham?
Religious marks on the forehead, wearing tulasimala, performing daily religious rituals, doing puja, conducting homa – all these are common in the world. All these are external, visible dharma. There are yet others.
When I go to meet with some people, they would speak of someone as, “He is the best bhakta in our colony. It is our fortune to have him here.” When asked, “What does he do?”, they would reply, “He reads the horoscope frequently; performs navagraha homa frequently; performs rites for deceased ancestors without fail.” Oh, I would feel like weeping on hearing this. I feel sad when those who do not know bhakti granthas are referred to as bhaktas. Neither do these people know what bhakti is, nor does that person. What can be done?
To be continued…