Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 24 and 25

24. etasmad anye panca-padad abhuvan
govindasya manavo manavanam |

dasarnadyas te ’pi sankrandanadyair
abhyasyante bhuti-kamair yathavat ||

All other Govinda mantras used by humankind, such as that of ten syllables, are derived from this five-part mantra. Meditation on it should be practiced as was done by Indra and others who sought material power and opulence.

This verse further glorifies the eighteen-syllable Gopala mantra by stating that it is the seed mantra from which all other Krishna mantras are derived. The fact that all desires for opulence and material power can be fulfilled from chanting this mantra speaks of its universality. The implication is that Krishna should be approached regardless of one’s desire, be it for material gain, liberation, or devotion.

The ten-syllable mantra mentioned here is also prominent in the Gaudiya lineage. Sri Caitanya himself was initiated with this mantra, as was Gopa Kumara, the hero of Sanatana Gosvami’s Brhad-bhagavatamrta. In the case of Sri Caitanya, the ten-syllable mantra, gopi-jana-vallabhaya svaha, was considered sufficient because his personal spiritual ideal was clearly to pursue the spiritual emotions (bhava) of the gopis. Thus the names Krishna and Govinda in the eighteen-syllable mantra, which represent love in servitude, friendship, or parenthood, were unnecessary for him.

Gopa Kumara, however, realized fraternal love of Krishna. There are two possible explanations for this, the first being the simplest: while the name Gopi-jana-vallabha primarily represents romantic love of Krishna, one can derive from it any of the four primary spiritual sentiments found in Vraja, Krishna’s world of spiritual emotion. This is so because romantic love is objectively the most complete and includes all the excellences of the other varieties of love within it.

The second explanation requires a brief discussion on the varieties of fraternal love of Krishna, one of which involves the cowherds’ participation in Krishna’s romantic affairs with the Vrndavana milkmaids. Among the fraternal devotees of Krishna, four groups are mentioned by Rupa Goswami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: suhrt, sakha, priya-sakha, and priya-narma-sakha.

Those cowherds known as suhrt serve Krishna in fraternity that is accented by paternal love. They are his well-wishing friends. Those whose love is accented by servitude are known as sakhas. The cowherds whose love is purely fraternal are known as priya-sakhas, dear friends of Krishna. The priya-narma-sakhas are Krishna’s most intimate cowherd friends, and thus their fraternal love is accented by srngara-rati, the sentiment of romantic love. They assist Krishna in his exploits with the gopis. They are the bearers of secret messages that Gopi-jana-vallabha whispers into their ears—messages of love intended for Radha. They also deliver messages from the gopis to Krishna.

Rupa Goswami gives the following example of the nature of the priya-narma sakhas’ involvement in Krishna’s romantic life:

radha-sandesa-vrndam kathayati subalah pasya krsnasya karne
syama-kandarpa-lekham nibhrtam
upaharaty ujjvalah pani-padme |
pali-tambulam asye vitarati caturah kokilo murdhni dhatte
tara-dameti narma-pranayi-sahacaras
tanvi tanvanti sevam ||

Just look at Subala whispering all of Radharani’s messages in Krishna’s ear. And Ujjvala brings Syama-devi’s love letters and secretly places them in his lotus hand. Catura places Pali-devi’s tambula in Krishna’s mouth, and Kokila places the garlands made by Tara-devi on his head. O thin-waisted one, this is how the priya-narma sakhas render service to Krishna (Brs. 3.2.44).

This verse implies that each of the gopas mentioned has taken shelter of a gopi group leader (yuthesvari). Similarly, Sri Govinda-lilamrta describes how each of the principal priya-narma sakhas dedicates his forest bower at Syama-kunda to a particular gopi: Subala’s Subalanandada is dedicated to Radha; Madhumangala’s Madhumangala-sanda is dedicated to Lalita; Ujjvala’s Ujjvalanandada is dedicated to Visakha, and so on.

Thus although these cowherds are immersed in sakhya bhava, their fraternal love is mixed with conjugal love like that of a sakhi. Therefore, their bhava is sometimes referred to as sakhi bhava because they are involved in Krishna’s romantic life.

Brhad-bhagavatamrta, while never directly stating that Gopa Kumara loves Krishna as a priya-narma-sakha, leaves room for reaching this conclusion, harmonizing in a charming fashion the fact that Gopa Kumara’s mantra was the ten-syllable Gopala mantra, although it could just as well have been the astadasaksara Gopala mantra of Gopala-tapani.1 Gopa Kumara attained perfection in fraternal love of Krishna through the dhyana of his Gopala mantra and the chanting of Krishna’s holy names. In accordance with the method of Gaudiya practice, as Gopa Kumara developed a liking for a particular spiritual sentiment, he sang names of Krishna relative to that sentiment, names that would nourish it. In Brhad-bhagavatamrta (2.4.7) he sings:

sri-krsna gopala hare mukunda
govinda he nanda-kisora krsna
ha
sri-yasoda-tanaya prasida
sri-ballavi-jivana radhikesa

O Sri Krishna, Gopala, Hari, Mukunda! Govinda! O Nanda-kisora! Krishna! O darling son of Sri Yasoda, please show me your favor! O life of the divine cowherd girls! O Lord of Radhika!

The names Sri-ballavi-jivana and Radhikesa speak of Krishna’s romantic life and thus indicate Gopa Kumara’s acquaintance with and affection for it. Furthermore, throughout Brhad-bhagavatamrta Gopa Kumara’s Deity, the Deity of his mantra, is identified not just as Gopala, but Madana Gopala, “romantic Gopala.”

25. yad etasya svarupartham vaca vedayeti te papracchuh |
tad u hovaca | brahma-savanam carato me dhyatah stutah
paramah parardhante so ’budhyata |
gopa-veso me purusah purastad avirbabhuva ||

The sages then said: Please reveal in words the essential meaning of this mantra.
Brahma replied: As I performed the brahma-savana, I meditated and praised that Supreme Person who awoke [from his yoga-nidra] at the end of my long night. That Supreme Person appeared before me in the dress of a cowherd boy.

The sages were amazed to hear Brahma recite verses 19–24, which further reveal the glory of the Gopala mantra. Here they ask Brahma to say something more about the mantra’s essential meaning. In this and the next two verses, Brahma relates some details about his experience of Gopala Krishna as the Supreme Godhead and his initiation into the chanting of the eighteen-syllable mantra. According to the principal commentators, Brahma’s performance of brahma-savana refers to the passing of the first half of his life in meditation and prayer, the result of which was that Narayana became sympathetic to Brahma and thus began to instruct him.2 A version of Narayana’s instruction to Brahma is related later in Gopala-tapani, where it makes up the greater balance of the purva-tapani.

As a result of Narayana’s instruction, Brahma realized that Gopala Krishna is the supreme form of Godhead, one with yet simultaneously superior in transcendental excellence to his form as Narayana. As is clear from the verse under discussion, at that time Krishna appeared before him in the dress of a cowherd (gopa-vesa˙). Thus Krishna first appeared before Brahma in the form of Narayana and then again in his original form as Gopala Krishna. As mentioned in the following verse, Krishna then gave Brahma the eighteen-syllable mantra and disappeared only to reappear later and explain the significance of the mantra with regard to creation.

Other than Gopala-tapani, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Brahma-samhita also relate with some variation the brahma-savana and Brahma’s subsequent revelation of Gopala Krishna. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam’s narration of the brahma-savana, it is not obvious that Krishna himself appeared before Brahma. Therein it is described that the four-headed Brahma searched in all directions for his source and while earnestly searching heard the Sanskrit syllables ta and pa. He understood this sound to be a divine instruction in answer to his searching, and thus he engaged himself in tapa, penance.3 After some time, God appeared before him in a four-handed form and revealed his abode. The description of the abode of God (tasmai sva-lokaµ bhagavan sabhajita˙)4 and his form (kiritinam kundalinam catur-bhujam pitamsukam vaksasi laksitam sriya)5 indicates that it was Narayana who appeared before Brahma. However, following this incident Brahma asks, “Please inform me how, in spite of your transcendental form, you assume an ordinary form, although you have no such form at all” (SB 2.9.30). While Narayana’s four-handed form is overtly transcendental, Krishna’s two-handed form appears humanlike. It seems from Brahma’s question that Krishna had already appeared to Brahma in his humanlike form dressed as a cowherd and at this point he shook hands with Brahma (prita-manah kare sprsan).6 It is not customary for Narayana, who is worshiped in reverential love, to shake hands with his devotees as one would with a friend, which is how Brahma described this incident, yavat sakha sakhyur ivesa te krtah: “You have shaken hands with me just as a friend does with a friend.”7 Following this, Krishna also told Brahma, “All of me—my eternal form, nature, color, qualities, and activities—let everything be awakened within you out of my causeless mercy.” Thus nothing about the form of God remains to be realized by Brahma. Therefore, it should be understood that in this conversation two-handed Gopala Krishna adorned with the dress of a cowherd appeared before Brahma and that it is this supreme form of God who further instructed Brahma in the confidential secrets of his own worship, which constitute the essence of Srimad-Bhagavatam, jnanam parama-guhyam me yad vijnana-samanvitam sa-rahasyam.8

Furthermore, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam’s namaskara verse, Vyasa offers his obeisances to Krishna, the son of Vasudeva, and goes on to say that it was this son of Vasudeva (vasudeva) who illuminated Brahma’s heart: tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye.39 It is mentioned in the Puranas that Vasudeva is another name for Nanda Maharaja, Gopala Krishna’s cowherd father. Thus the Bhagavata Purana confirms the Gopala-tapani’s opinion that it was Krishna in his characteristic gopa-vesa who enlightened Brahma from within his heart and appeared before him.

In Brahma-samhita this scenario is described somewhat differently. There it is said that after Brahma underwent penance and meditation, he received divine knowledge (divya-sarasvati) in the form of the Gopala mantra, presumably from Gopala Krishna himself. Upon chanting this mantra for some time and visualizing in meditation the yoga-pitha of Goloka, he heard the flute of Krishna and thus underwent further initiation into the chanting of oµkara, which is synonymous with the kama-bija, implying that he chanted the kama-gayatri. This kama-gayatri is the gayatri that should be chanted along with the Gopala mantra.

As mentioned earlier, a version of Brahma’s enlightenment is also related in the second section of Gopala-tapani. In that section Durvasa describes to Gandharvi the conversation between Brahma and Narayana. It is not explicitly described that Gopala Krishna himself appeared before Brahma at that time. However, from this section in Gopala-tapani it is clear that following Brah-ma’s conversation with Narayana, Gopala Krishna himself gave Brahma his darsana and instructed him in the secrets of the eighteen-syllable mantra.

  1. Although Gopa Kumara (known as Sarupa in his spiritual body) is identified with the family of Sridama, a priya-sakha, this does not preclude his being a priya-narma-sakha. Vidagdha, another priya-narma-sakha, is a member of Sudama’s family, and Sudama is a priya-sakha. Moreover, Sarupa is closely associated with Radharani, taking her orders with great delight. See Brhad-bhagavatamrta 2.7.9–11. []
  2. Brahma-savanam is interpreted by most commentators as brahma-samaya, “the time of Brahma,” or the first half of Brahma’s life (Cf. SB 3.11.34–39). Savanam as samaya (time) is also found in SB 8.16.48. []
  3. Here penance indicates spiritual discipline in a life of self-sacrifice. The result of such practice is mystic insight. When such self-sacrifice is mature, it manifests as divine love. []
  4. SB 2.9.9–15. []
  5. SB 2.9.16–17. []
  6. SB 2.9.19. []
  7. SB 2.9.30. In his commentary on this verse, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada stresses that this exchange involved the intimacy of fraternal love (sakhya-rasa), which is not expressed between Narayana and his devotees, but rather between Krishna and his devotees. []
  8. SB 2.9.31. This verse indicating raga-bhakti prefaces the famous catuh-sloki of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Thus it is clear that in the catuh-sloki Krishna himself and not Narayana is speaking about the supreme secret of raga-bhakti (parama-guhyam/sa-rahasyam), the underlying metaphysic of which is acintya-bhedabheda. []


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14 Responses to Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 24 and 25

  1. All other Govinda mantras used by humankind, such as that of ten syllables, are derived from this five-part mantra.
    This verse further glorifies the eighteen-syllable Gopala mantra by stating that it is the seed mantra from which all other Krishna mantras are derived.

    Does this mean that the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra is also derived from the 18 syllable Gopal Mantra?

    The ten-syllable mantra mentioned here is also prominent in the Gaudiya lineage. Sri Caitanya himself was initiated with this mantra, as was Gopa Kumara, the hero of Sanatana Gosvami’s Brhad-bhagavatamrta. In the case of Sri Caitanya, the ten-syllable mantra, gopi-jana-vallabhaya svaha, was considered sufficient because his personal spiritual ideal was clearly to pursue the spiritual emotions (bhava) of the gopis. Thus the names Krishna and Govinda in the eighteen-syllable mantra, which represent love in servitude, friendship, or parenthood, were unnecessary for him.

    Is this 18 syllable Gopal mantra especially suitable for the rasa of the priya-narma sakha?
    How would those in the rasa of parenthood view the Gopi-jana-vallabhaya portion of the mantra considering that the rasa of parenthood doesn’t mix with the conjugal rasa?

    • The Hare Krishan mantra is nama mantra in the vocative case. Thus it is in a different category from the Krsna mantras being discussed, which are in the dative case. Some do not even consider it a mantra per se, despite the spiritual power of the names it consists of.

      The 18 syllable mantra covers the entire range of Goloka, from Dvaraka to Vraja. I think I discuss that ahead in the commentary. So vatsalya rasa Is included within its scope. While it is true that vatsalya and madhurya rasas don’t mix well, this does not mean that Yasodarani does not want Krsna to marry Radha (Gopia-jana-vallabha). She most certainly does! She sees them as the perfect match. As for parakiya, that is another thing, and it is this that may gets in the way so to speak (at lest formally) with her vatsalya-bhava.

  2. Honestly, after reading through this verse and commentary, I have come to the conclusion that this material is too far beyond the usual standard here of some rather mundane articles being posted from all sorts of sources, though they might have some philosophical thoughts of rather marginal value.
    The format of mixing and mingling high level Gaudiya shastra topics with the rather mundane substance that frequently appears here just seems to be a big rasa-bhasa. I mean no offense, it is just the way I see it.
    What sort of reader is interested in high level Gaudiya discussion and mundane secular topics both?
    Just doesn’t seem to pass the test of the tasting machine.
    I don’t mean to be critical except in a constructive way that presents Swami in the best light.

    • Dear KB… there is a difference between rasa-abhasa and a dislike of the mixing of literature content. Rasa-abhasa refers to an inappropriate mixing of spiritual mellows and probably should not be used so mundanely. If you simply meant that this material is a strange mix between basic foundational material and advanced material, that is a very different point. However, I think it is useful for the spiritually minded to receive a foundation of spiritual topics as well as an alluding-to higher ideals to which those foundational topics point. In fact, like Nityananda Prabhu, this website seems to have one hand reaching down to the least qualified and another pointing the way of the highest spiritual possibilities. I find that to be a beautiful combination.

      By the way, which topics are mundane? This is a website based on spiritual precepts and aimed at the possibility of consciousness, spirit, and thought beyond materialism. Doesn’t sound so mundane to me.

    • Once there was a father and son who went to the market with their ass. First they were walking with their ass and someone said, “look at these foolish people walking when they have an ass to ride”. So the son got up and rode on the ass. The next people that they saw said, “What kind of a son would let his father walk while he is riding on the ass. This is so disrespectful”. Then the son got down and the father began riding on the ass. The next person that they saw on the road said, “I cannot believe how cruel this father is to ride on the ass and make his poor son walk”. The father and son then decided that they would both ride on the ass. The next person they saw on the road said, ” You must be the cruelest people, how dare you to burden this poor ass in this way.” Then the father picked up the ass and began carrying him on his shoulders. As they entered the market all the people began to laugh. They chided, “Look at this foolish man carrying the ass on his shoulders. Who is the ass here.” The man then threw the ass down and the ass ran away.

    • I haven`t seen any mixing of topics here. This article is about philosophy and what you call mundane, is posted in news or other appriopate places on this website. Just don`t read if something does not appeal to you.

    • KB, it is all about context. If you look at the tattvas of the Bhagavatam, what is spiritual about the creation of the material world and the planetary systems, for example? But all the topics of the Bhagavatam fall under the main topic, the asraya tattva, Krishna.

      Everything on the Harmonist is in effort to explore and promote Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Certainly it is not hard to understand how one must be familiar with the world to an extent in order to promote Gaudiya Vedanta. But with the proper vision one can also learn from the insights and findings of non-devotees. It depends on us really.

      Lastly, we would love more original content written by Gaudiyas, but not at the cost of siddhanta and adequate representation of Krishna Consciousness. But if all one wants is every article to have the name “Krishna” in it, there are a number of Guadiya sites filled with “devotees” pushing their various agendas in the name of God and Guru.

      Why not be proactive? Write an article.

  3. I love your comments GopaKumar. So nice, logical and reasonable based on “uncommon” common sense.

  4. Hare Krsna. I have a question if you would kindly answer and explain it. Talking about the super excellence of the 18 syllable mantra -ten syllable for Lord Caitanya- as the seed for all other Govinda mantras, what is the role of the mahamantra compared to the Gopal (18 or 10 syllable) mantra?

    We were given the maha-mantra to serve by reciting it at the time of initiation. At what point is the Gopal mantra to be chanted? Can both of these mantras coexist? Can one’s sadhana include them both or should one give way to the other in course of time? I understand the difference in tone/mood (vocative vs. dative), the one addressing the Supreme, the other giving of oneself -svaha- to the Lord.

    Thank you.

    • The diksa mantra (Krsna mantra in this case) assists one in perfecting one’s chanting of the nama mantra. Nama gives himself to anyone without seeking qualification, whereas the diksa mantra gives itself to one who is serious about chanting Harinama. The diska mantra is thus incorporated at a stage of chanting Harinama and at a later stage (liberation/asakti) it retires, though the liberated souls may continue to chant it to set an example. So the diksa mantra takes us to liberation and Harinama takes us tot he lotus feet of Krsna:

      krsna-mantra haite habe samsara-mocana
      krsna-aäma haite pabe krsnera carana

  5. > Just look at Subala whispering all of Radharani’s messages in Krishna’s ear. And Ujjvala brings Syama-devi’s love letters and secretly places them in his lotus hand. Catura places Pali-devi’s tambula in Krishna’s mouth, and Kokila places the garlands made by Tara-devi on his head. O thin-waisted one, this is how the priya-narma sakhas render service to Krishna (Brs. 3.2.44).

    > This verse implies that each of the gopas mentioned has taken shelter of a gopi group leader (yuthesvari). Similarly, Sri Govinda-lilamrta describes how each of the principal priya-narma sakhas dedicates his forest bower at Syama-kunda to a particular gopi: Subala’s Subalanandada is dedicated to Radha; Madhumangala’s Madhumangala-sanda is dedicated to Lalita; Ujjvala’s Ujjvalanandada is dedicated to Visakha, and so on.

    You wrote each of the gopas mentioned has taken shelter of a gopi group leader. This is just opinion? Because in verse from Govinda-lilamrita we see that Ujjvala related to Visakha, but in BRS 3.2.44 verse he brings to Krishna Syama-devi’s love letters. Madhumangala related to Lalita, but Vidagdha-Madhava describes how Madhumangala also helps Krishna to meet Сandravali. How is it?

    • Brs 3.3.93-94 mentions the narma sakha’s yuthesvaris:

      “Such is the seva of the priyanarma sakhas. They carry messages from the young women of Vraja and encourage the gopés’ in their love for Kåñëa. They take Krsna’s side when the gopés are present and Kåñëa is absent, and they are skillful at siding with their yuthesvaris (sva-sva-yūtheśā) when Krsna is present and the gopis are absent. They engage as if in battle, whispering to each other when disagreement arises.”

      There are different “opinions” as to who they are.

      If Krsna loves Radha, why does he meet with Candravali?

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