Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 26-28

26. tatah pranato mayanukulena hrda mahyam astadasarnam svarupam srstaye dattvantarhitah |
punah sisrksato me pradurabhut |
tesv aksaresu bhavisyaj-jagad-rupam prakasayan |

tad iha ka-karad apo la-karat prthivi ito ’gnir bindor indus tat-sampatat tad-arka iti klim-karad asrjam |
krsnaya-padad
akasam khad vayur ity uttarat surabhim vidyam pradurakarsam |
tad-uttarat stri-pumsadi cedam sakalam idam sakalam idam iti ||

Then, as I offered him my obeisances, he became favorable to me and, after giving me the eighteen-syllable form of himself for the sake of engaging in the creation, he disappeared. When I wished to engage in the activity of creation, he reappeared to me and revealed that the form of the future universe was present in the very letters of the eighteen-syllable mantra. That is, water arises from the letter k, the earth from the letter l, fire from i, and the moon from the bindu. From the combination of all these letters, the sun arises. So I created all these things out of the sacred syllable klim. Then, from the word krsnaya, I manifested the sky, followed by the air. From the next word, I produced the numerous wish-fulfilling cows and various types of knowledge. After that came this entire creation of male and female forms.

Brahma is the purest of those souls under the influence of the principle of karma, as well as the embodiment of all such beings. He is thus both a jiva soul and the samasti-jiva.1 Srimad-Bhagavatam describes both his lotus seat sprouting from the navel of Narayana and Brahma himself as the collective of all materially conditioned souls. Brahma alone is born from the lotus, but his desire to create the world is largely a result of his being the embodiment of innumerable jivas, whose desires necessitate the creation of the world for their fulfillment. In this sense the materially conditioned soul is first born as Brahma after each cycle of creation.

The Hindu, scripturally based notion of the world expanding and contracting in perpetual cycles with no beginning or end in time is not contradictory to modern scientific thinking. The same observations that support the big bang theory also support the theory that the so-called bang has no beginning in time and results in an expansion of the universe over trillions of years until it reaches a point of return and contracts, only to be expanded again ad infinitum. The astrophysicist Paul Steinhardt has recently put forth such a scientifically credible explanation called the cyclical universe theory, which seeks to explain recently uncovered flaws in the current theory of the origin and evolution of all known things.

Among other things, the big bang theory does not explain the “beginning of time,” the initial conditions of the universe, or what will happen in the far-distant future. In Steinhardt’s model, space and time exist forever, and the big bang is not the beginning of time but rather a bridge to a preexisting contracting era.

The cyclical universe theory has roots in even more complex ideas like the so-called superstring theory, which suggests there are as many as ten spatial dimensions, not just the three we know of. Several theorists believe that the seemingly inexplicable physics of a big bang and a big crunch, or subsequent contraction of the universe, might be explained with the aid of these extra dimensions, which are otherwise invisible to us. Such scientifically credible speculations about invisible dimensions leave room for rationally legitimizing the ontological reality of persons like Brahma and his lotus birth, who are otherwise thought of as merely mythological. Perhaps his chanting of the Gopala mantra can itself be construed as the big bang. After all, those in the scientific community who have embraced the superstring theory describe the world poetically as a concert of musical vibrations, a song in the mind of God.

In the course of Brahma’s work of creation under Krishna’s direction, which facilitates the conditioned souls, he simultaneously demonstrates the means for their deliverance by combining his desire for worldly interaction with the desire to follow Krishna’s direction. Through the medium of the kama-bija and Gopala mantra, Brahma dovetailed his desire for creation such that it was ultimately transformed into unmotivated love of God. Thus he engaged in gauna-bhakti, indirect devotion, with regard to his work of creation. In doing so, he teaches us that when our ordinary worldly activities are performed so that they are conducive to sadhana-bhakti, they do not implicate us further in karmic reactions. Moreover, they help to support the culture of love of God. Sri Jiva Goswami describes this as tena isa-tyaktena visrstena.2 As Brahma became purified through engagement in gauna-bhakti, he proportionally took up mukhya bhakti, or direct service to Krishna.

In this verse Brahma describes how he saw the subtle form of the universal elements within the Gopala mantra. It should be noted that Brahma’s creation is a secondary creation in which he arranges the universal elements through the power derived from the Gopala mantra. The original source of the elements is Narayana.

27. etasyaiva yajanena candra-dhvajo gata-moham atmanam vedety
omkarantaralikam manum avartayet sanga-rahito ’bhyanayat ||

By practicing this very same mantra, he whose symbol is the moon came to know himself, free from illusion. Thus anyone who repeats this mantra with pranava both before and after it, free from attachment, realizes the Paramesvara who is beyond material sensory experience.

To add to his own experience with the Gopala mantra, Brahma also relates Siva’s experience. In doing so, Brahma explains that just as he attained the direct darsana of Gopala Krishna by chanting this mantra, so too did Siva. Therefore, people today should also take advantage of it. Siva is “he whose symbol is the moon (candra-dhvaja).” He is also characterized as being free from material attachment, and thus one who follows his example in this regard while performing japa of the Gopala mantra prefaced by the sacred syllable Om quickly realizes the Supreme Deity. The words “free from attachment” imply that to attain this result one must chant the mantra with total concentration.

Prabodhananda Sarasvati comments that the sacrifice of japa mentioned in this verse is distinguished from other sacrifices in terms of the speed with which it rewards the practitioner. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.25), Sri Krishna tells Arjuna, “Of sacrifices, I am japa.”

28. tad visnoh paramam padaµ sada pasyanti surayah |
diviva caksur atatam |
tasmad enam nityam abhyasen nityam abhyased iti ||

The godly always see that supreme abode of Vishnu, which is like the sun expanding through the infinite sky. Therefore, one should always repeat this mantra. One should always repeat this mantra.3

Here the setting of Lord Siva’s darsana of Gopala Krishna is described. This setting is the supreme abode of God, Maha Vaikuntha. Brahma compares that place to the sun, whose influence expands everywhere throughout the sky even while remaining localized.

This supreme abode is also known as Goloka. Those who “always see it” are the godly, whose every action is performed under the vigilant yet loving eye of God. Prabodhananda Sarasvati comments that the word caksus (eye) is a synonym for the sun, for it is said in the prayers to Surya Narayana that are to accompany the chanting of the gayatri mantra, namah savitre jagad-eka-caksuse: “Homage to the sun, the one eye of the universe.”

The first line of this verse can also be translated as “the godly always see through the eye of devotion the supreme abode of Vishnu in that plane of transcendence.” Just as the sun shines in the sky and sustains the world in a material sense, persons of wisdom know from the spiritual perspective that it is Vishnu who sustains the universe.

In this verse Brahma concludes the present lesson of this Upanisad by urging everyone to chant the Gopala mantra. The repetition of the words nityam abhyaset is meant to emphasize that one must make this practice a daily function to achieve the desired result.

  1. SB 3.20.16. The samasti-jiva is the collective of all jiva souls at the dawn of each creation before they emerge into differentiated states under the influence of the principle of karma. []
  2. See Brahma-samhita 5.61 and Sri Jiva’s commentary. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
    comments on the significance of this statement: “If whatever is accepted is received as a favor vouchsafed by the Supreme Lord, that worldly activity will cease to be such and will turn into bhakti.” In this connection, he cites a similar statement from Isopanisad, tena tyaktena bhunjitha. []
  3. The first two sentences of this verse are found in Rg Veda 1.22.20. []


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5 Responses to Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 26-28

  1. I always wondered but never asked Srila Gurumaharaja Swami Tripurari; Although the mantra is designated to be chanted at the three junctures of the day, and that this can be adjusted to three primary times of a professional urban day (upon waking, middle of the day, and when returning home) can the mantras also be chanted at other times? Is there additional benefit? I have trouble believing that a mantra only has effect in certain formulaic times and frequencies. If I remember correctly, my namesake, Gopakumar of Sanatana Goswami’s Bhagavatamrta chanted his mantra perpetually.

    • Some preceptors ask their students to chant the Gopala mantra 108 times on a japa mala daily, among other practices. No harm. You are correct about Gopa Kumara of Brihat-bhagavatamrita. Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja chanted the Brahma gayatri 1008 times in one sitting and this he said had a profound, life altering effect upon him. Only after that did he write his commentary on it.

      In the Guadiya Saraswata lineage we chant our diksa mantras in the context of observing the tri sandhyam, a duty of the twice born. So here we find a mixing of the Vaisnavas diksa mantras with brahminical life, as if to say that the Vaisnava is at least a brahmana. This seems to be the statement that BSST wanted to make in a climate where the religious and educated society thought that Gaudiyas were not to be taken seriously. “If you have no caste, call yourself a follower of Caitanya.” It is part of the daiva varnashrama idea.

      • Thanks Gurumaharaja. I know that your recommendations often center on consistency of sadhana. However, ‘no harm’ does not sound like you recommend this practice of repeated meditation outside of the tri-sandhyam? Do you think that, like Srila Sridhara Maharaja, we can derive a life changing effect with such a practice? Would you ever host a meditation retreat with such a practice?

        • No, it means that in our line we do it differently and one should not think something is lacking nor should one think others are doing it wrong because they were instructed to chant differently. But if any of my students wants to chant the Gopala mantra more often, they should speak to me about it and I may recommend how they may do so. Otherwise, who knows what I will do next?

          I think Sridhara Maharaja’s experience is tied to the his level of realization he took birth with. Not everyone who does what he did will have the same experience, nor did he recommend it.

        • Sridhar Maharaja once said that a disciple should never say “thanks” or thank-you to the spiritual master, because he said that when one says thank-you that means he is taking something for himself and going away. This incident occurred on an occasion when Satsvarupa Das Goswami committed the same mistake with Sridhar Maharaja.
          If one is doing everything in service to the spiritual master, there is no need to say thank-you as one is not taking anything for himself but is doing all in service to the Vaishnava guru.
          It’s a minor point that your spiritual master overlooks out of affection for his disciple, but as a matter of advancing your understanding, I thought this example from Srila Sridhar Maharaja would be appropriate for you at this time.

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