Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 35-43

35. namo vijnana-rupaya paramananda-rupine |
krsnaya gopinathaya govindaya namo namah ||

I offer salutations to Krishna, the Lord of the gopis, the master of the cows and cowherds. He is the embodiment of realized knowledge and possesses a form of supreme bliss.

Prabodhananda Saraswati comments, “‘The embodiment of realized knowledge’ means that everything is known perfectly through him.”

36. namah kamala-netraya namah kamala-maline |
namah kamala-nabhaya kamala-pataye namah ||

Salutations to the lotus-eyed Lord! Salutations to the lotus-garlanded Syamasundara! Salutations to the Lord from whose navel the creation lotus sprouted! Salutations to the husband of the Goddess of Fortune!

37. barhapidabhiramaya ramayakuntha-medhase |
rama-manasa-haµsaya govindaya namo namah ||

I bow down repeatedly to Govinda, [who is also known as] Rama. He is adorned with a crown of peacock feathers; his intelligence is unrestricted. He is like a swan in the pool of the Goddess of Fortune’s, Rama’s, mind.

Govinda’s natural decorations such as his peacock feather crown indicate his unrivaled beauty, which truly needs no ornamentation to shine forth. This is the meaning of his simple decorations of forest wildflowers and unguents made from different colored soils and minerals. Although the peacock feather is a common ornament among Vrindavana’s cowherds, it is particularly dear to Krishna. Thus although Balarama and other cowherds may adorn themselves with peacock plumes from time to time, they do so in imitation of their comrade.

The name Rama in this verse directly refers to Balarama, but it is also indirectly used as an epithet of Krishna, just as it is in the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Prabodhananda Saraswati gives its indirect meaning as “Krishna with the enchanting form, who brings pleasure to his devotees.” When Rama is used as a name of Krishna, it refers particularly to the lover (or ramana) of Radha. This is indicated by the word Rama in this verse, which is an indirect reference to the gopis and Radha, the source of Laksmi. Govinda, like a swan, swims in the pure mind of Radha (Rama).

This verse of Gopala-tapani is reminiscent of the famous verse from the Bhagavatam’s Venu-gita, which attracted the monist Sukadeva to the recitation of the Bhagavatam and marked the beginning of his conversion to Vaishnavism. He subsequently recited it himself to Raja Pariksit.

barhapidam nata-vara-vapuh karnayoh karnikarambi
bhrad vasah kanaka-kapisam vaijayantim ca malam

randhran venor adhara-sudhayapurayan gopa-vrndair
vrndaranyam sva-pada-ramanam pravisad gita-kirtih

Wearing a peacock-feather ornament upon his head, blue karnikara flowers on his ears, a yellow garment as brilliant as gold, and the Vaijayanti garland, Lord Krishna exhibited his transcendental form as the greatest of dancers as he entered the forest of Vrindavana, beautifying it with the marks of his footprints. He filled the holes of his flute with the nectar of his lips, and the cowherd boys sang his glories (SB 10.21.5).

In this verse the Vraja gopis are meditating on Krishna entering the forest with his cowherd friends and cows. In the Venu-gita’s seventh verse, they actually begin to voice their love:

aksanvatam phalam idam na param vidamah
sakhyah pasun anavivesayator vayasyaih
vaktram vrajesa-sutayor anavenu-justam
yair va nipitam anurakta-kataksa-moksam

O friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Maharaja Nanda are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by their friends, driving the cows before them, they hold their flutes to their mouths and glance lovingly on the residents of Vrndavana. For those who possess eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision than this (SB 10.21.7).

In these verses the gopis ostensibly glorify the love of the cowherds for Rama and Krishna, describing the supreme object of vision as the sight of Rama and Krishna entering the forest with their friends and cows. How much better is it, then, to be in that picture and enter the forest along with them? This is the gopas’ great fortune, and this wistful statement by the gopis indicates a certain jealousy toward Krishna’s friends, for whom there are no obstacles to spending the entire day with Krishna. These verses thus support the cowherds’ subjective reality, in which they consider fraternal love to be most desirable.

However, Rama and Krishna together are not the object of love for the gopis headed by Radha. They mention Rama in this verse only to veil their love for Krishna, which they cannot express as openly as the cowherds can. By mentioning Balarama and the cowherds along with Krishna, they dissimulate their conjugal paramour love for Krishna. Furthermore, if a practitioner’s heart follows the love of the gopis, these verses will speak to him accordingly and he will have no difficulty making Balarama disappear from the poetry of this Bhagavatam verse altogether.1 Those in gopi-bhava will hear the gopis in these verses speaking of only Krishna.

In the present Gopala-tapani verse, Brahma says that Govinda’s intelligence is unrestricted (akuntha-medhas). This is a reference to the knowing that is automatic within love: when one loves, one knows what to do. This is the intelligence Krishna gives to his unalloyed devotees (dadami buddhi-yogaµ tam) such that they can overcome all obstacles and come to him even, as in the case of the gopis, in the dead of night.2

38. kamsa-vamsa-vinasaya kesi-canura-ghatine |
vrsabha-dhvaja-vandyaya partha-sarathaye namah ||

Salutations to the Lord who destroyed Kamsa and all his retinue, who killed Kesi and Canura, who is the object of Siva’s prayers, and who is the charioteer of Arjuna.

Kamsa-vamsa-vinasaya refers to Krishna’s destruction of Kamsa and his associates, such as the wrestlers Canura and Mustika. Remembering Krishna today in relation to these demon-slaying pastimes will destroy one’s own evil tendencies. To achieve this result, the sadhaka must think deeply and introspectively on the significance of these lilas and make a conscious effort to remove from his heart whatever is unfavorable for spiritual culture.

After Krishna defeated Siva’s devotee Banasura, Lord Siva recognized Krishna’s supremacy and prayed to him. This lila is referred to here with the words vrsabha-dhvaja-vandyaya.3 As Partha-sarathi, Arjuna’s charioteer, Krishna demonstrates his most endearing quality of loving submission to his own devotees, bhakta-vatsalya.

39. venu-vadana-silaya gopalayahi-mardine |
kalindi-kula-lolaya lola-kundala-dharine ||

Salutations to the cowherd who is addicted to playing his flute, who defeated the snake Aghasura, who enjoys playing on the banks of the Kalindi, and who wears swinging earrings. ((Prabodhananda Saraswati cites the alternative reading, valgave for dharine, which emphasizes the added charm brought by Krishna’s earrings rather than their simple presence.))

One of the most charming aspects of Krishna’s lila is his flute playing, which has amazing powers. Krishna is said to have perfected this art on the full moon night of the harvest moon. At that time he was able to attract the gopis and Srimati Radharani in particular to join him in the forest by sounding the fifth note of his flute. Each gopi heard her own name called when this sound entered her heart through the right ear. This sweet sound awakened such identification with Krishna that all the gopis were able to abandon all their household duties—even the nursing of their infant children—without a second thought. The fifth note of Krishna’s flute is identified with the kama-gayatri mantra, which is to be chanted in connection with the Gopala mantra. Thus there is a connection between Krishna’s flute and spiritual initiation (mantra-diksa), both of which exercise a fascinating and attractive power on all living entities.

In the poetry of the Vrindavana Goswamis, the slaying of Aghasura, commemorated in Krishna’s epithets like Agha-damana,4 Agha-bhit,5 Aghahara,6 and so on, are often juxtaposed with Krishna’s lilas of love with the gopis. The word agha means sin, and Aghasura symbolizes the composite of all sin. Love of Krishna results in the removal of all sin.

40. vallavi-nayanambhoja-maline nrtya-saline |
namah pranata-palaya sri-krsnaya namo namah ||

I make repeated salutations to Sri Krishna, garlanded by the lotus eyes of the cowherd girls, the joyous dancer who protects those who surrender to him.

According to Sri Prabodhananda, the lotus eyes of the gopis are compared to Krishna’s perpetual garland because they are always fixed on him.

41. namah papa-pranasaya govardhana-dharaya ca |
putana-jivitantaya trnavartasu-harine ||

Salutations to you, O Lord, the destroyer of sin, the lifter of Govardhana. Salutations to you who put an end to the lives of Putana and Trnavarta.

42. niskalaya vimohaya suddhayasuddha-vairine |
advitiyaya mahate sri-krsnaya namo namah ||

I offer repeated salutations to the incomparably great Sri Krishna, who cannot be divided, in whom there is no illusion, who cannot be equaled, who is pure, and who is the enemy of all impurity.

Prabodhananda Saraswati explains that the word niskala means “free from maya.” It literally means “without parts.” Thus he implies that freedom from illusion involves transcending material designations (upadhis) and understanding all parts in relation to the whole (advaya-jnana-tattva). Sri Prabodhananda comments that niskala can also mean one who causes others to take up the path of religion. Kalayati means “to enchant,” and the prefix nis means “completely.” Krishna is he who completely enchants all living beings. Such is the force of charm and affection by which he draws others to dharma. He is enchanting because of his adeptness in the art (kala) of love. Prabodhananda Saraswati offers yet a third meaning for niskala: “One around whose neck hangs (lati) a golden ornament (niska).” Krishna wears such an ornament in the form of a locket holding a picture of Sri Radha, just as Radha wears one containing a picture of Krishna.

The word vimoha indicates that Krishna is so far beyond illusion that he cannot be bewildered by great gods like Brahma, who tested his powers to delude Krishna during the brahma-vimohana-lila only to find him entirely impervious to them. Indeed, the gods themselves are bewildered by Krishna (muhyanti yat surayah).7 While he is completely transcendental to illusion, he nonetheless appears like a human being subject to the delusions of love. Thus he is also bewildering even within the context of giving enlightenment. Krishna is so high that he appears low, so enlightened that he appears deluded.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura maintains that Krishna’s being the enemy of impurity (asuddha-vairin) implies that he removes material impurities from the hearts of those attached to hearing and chanting his glories. In this he has no equal, and indeed Brahma says here that no one can equal him in anything. This is so because he is svayam bhagavan.

43. prasida paramananda prasida paramesvara |
adhi-vyadhi-bhujangena dastam mam uddhara prabho ||

Be merciful to me, O supreme joy! Be merciful to me. Deliver me, O Lord, for I have been bitten by the snake of disease and distress.

In the midst of offering Krishna praise and remembering his wonderful lilas, Brahma spontaneously demonstrates the effects of such salutations. Contemplating and praising Krishna’s greatness—both the majesty of his Godhood and the charm of his subordination to love—the great, highly intelligent, four-headed Brahma realizes his own insignificance and breaks down in tears.

The words vyadhi and adhi represent the sum and substance of material life. Physical pain (vyadhi) is the inevitable result of pursuing material desires, whereas one experiences mental pain (adhi) when such desires remain unfulfilled. The solution to this predicament is to take shelter of Krishna, as Brahma teaches by his own example in this verse. Brahma is, in fact, a great devotee who demonstrates his humility with this prayer, and any suffering he feels is born of feelings of love in separation from Krishna.

  1. See the commentary of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in particular. []
  2. Bg. 10.10. See Swami Tripurari, Bhagavad-gita, 335–37. []
  3. Siva’s prayers are found in SB 10.69. []
  4. Namastakam []
  5. Ujjvala-nilamani 2.14. []
  6. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 3.3.50 []
  7. See S.B. 1.1.1. []


About the Author

11 Responses to Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Verses 35-43

  1. Please accept my humble obeisances.
    Thank you for posting these verses and allowing us to ask questions.

    I have doubts that arose as I read the commentary on the verse. I would be grateful if someone could address my doubts.

    The first place my mind tripped was with the sentence “Furthermore, if a practitioner’s heart follows the love of the gopis, these verses will speak to him accordingly and he will have no difficulty making Balarama disappear from the poetry of this Bhagavatam verse altogether.” Obviously my mind does not follow the love of the gopis at all! I am attracted to Balarama and have a very difficult time seeing past Him. I can intellectually appreciate what is being said here, but I still have sentimental attachment to Balarama. I feel like attachment to Krsna and Balarama together is good, and from these statements, developing an attachment to Krsna alone is better, but won’t Balarama eventually lead to Krsna? It’s OK to be attached this way, isn’t it?

    The next place my mind tripped was here: “Remembering Krishna today in relation to these demon-slaying pastimes will destroy one’s own evil tendencies. To achieve this result, the sadhaka must think deeply and introspectively on the significance of these lilas and make a conscious effort to remove from his heart whatever is unfavorable for spiritual culture.” Now this is a much larger discussion, and likely inappropriate for this thread, but my problem is that Krsna’s pastimes are so fantastical that I have difficulty considering them as real accounts (and I apologize for my block-headedness). I often find that trying to meditate on Krsna’s pastimes raise more doubts in my mind (how is that possible? did that really happen?) than the benefits that should be derived. How can I consider the significance of the lilas when I am so busy stuck on the improbability of the events described? I’m sure I’m just approaching it incorrectly. I look forward to hearing everyone’s wisdom in this regard.

    A third point is not a doubt but is a question – do we know what is the fifth note on the flute; ie, do we know if it corresponds to a specific note on the western musical scale? Is there a reason why the fifth note, and not the fourth or the sixth? Surely other notes that Krsna plays also have transcendental power – are they discussed elsewhere? This fifth note must be something beyond a simple musical note if the gopis hear Him calling their name inside their hearts when they hear it. How can we understand this?

    A technical question from this line: “Govinda, like a swan, swims in the pure mind of Radha (Rama).” Is Rama another name for Radha here, or is Rama referring to something else? Wait, is Rama another name for the Goddess of Fortune? I thought that was Laksmi. I’m so confused!

    Thank you for your help.

    • I am attracted to Balarama and have a very difficult time seeing past Him. I can intellectually appreciate what is being said here, but I still have sentimental attachment to Balarama

      Elsewhere Sri Jiva Gowami writes, “Among the pastimes, each person should choose some according to his inclination and use those for worship.”

      As Krsna is thought to be most complete standing next to Radha, Balarama is most complete standing next to Krsna. Without Krsna he is a shadow of himself. These two, Rama and Krsna, are the visayalambana of sakhya rasa, the perfect object of fraternal love. What the Goswamis have told us about Balarama—his friendly love for Krsna—is the most there is to know about him. His marriage, his gopis, his vatsalya, his dasya, etc. all fall short of his friendship with his brother.

      Is Krsna then not complete standing next to Rama? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So tattva is useful when it serves one’s bhava. Bhava rules in the land of love where rules are conspicuous by their absence.

      But as for tattva, no one can ignore Balarama and be successful in pursuit of Vraja-prema, even while in bhajana and bhava of madhurya rasa he may disappear at times, as described in the article. Also objectively speaking, Rama is there. The two brothers enter the forest together, and seeing this is the perfection of the eyes. So says Sri Sukadeva. Note that according to the Bhagavata, it is sakhya bhava that made Sukadeva fall unconscious.

      • Swami,
        Thank you for clarifying this. I feel much better now.

        To make sure I understand you correctly – could what you are saying be restated as Krsna’s relationships in Vraja (Balarama Krsna, Radha Krsna, Yasoda Krsna) are all universally and eternally manifest but the aspects apparent to each devotee may be different based on the devotee’s relationship with Krsna and the lila being contemplated or observed? So Balarama Krsna is always there, but someone who is fixated on madhurya rasa may simply not see Balarama.

        If so, it’s starting to sound like quantum mechanics, in which all possible states co-exist until an observer (the devotee) decides to take a look. Or maybe I’m just making it all up!

        Another very silly example that comes to mind is the selective attention test where people are asked to count how many times a basketball is passed back and forth during a short video. Most people watching the test are so focused on counting the basketball passes that they fail to see the man in the gorilla suit waving at the camera in the middle of the video. http://www.livescience.com/health/invisible-gorilla-basketball-video-inattentiveness-100712.html Maybe in the same way devotess absorbed in the love of the gopis are so focused on Krsna that they just can’t see anything else at all.

        • To make sure I understand you correctly – could what you are saying be restated as Krsna’s relationships in Vraja (Balarama Krsna, Radha Krsna, Yasoda Krsna) are all universally and eternally manifest but the aspects apparent to each devotee may be different based on the devotee’s relationship with Krsna and the lila being contemplated or observed? So Balarama Krsna is always there, but someone who is fixated on madhurya rasa may simply not see Balarama.

          You have more or less understood correctly. As for Balarama not being seen, the idea is more like this. They see Rama but it is Krsna’s face turning back to look at them while playing the flute that they glorify in this verse. Visvanatha Cakravrti Thakura has given this as an alternate reading of the verse: “Those who give up all shyness and steadiness to drink the nectar of that face playing the flute among the two sons herding cows in the forest along with their friends have fortunate senses and not others.” The Thakura explains the phrase vaktram vrajesa-sutayor (“faces of the sons of the king of Vraja”) thus.”The word vaktram (face) can mean that face among the two that was turning back (Krsna’s face) playing the flute (anu: anuvenu).”

          He is reading the verse through his gopi bhava, but objectively Balarama is still there even for him. Rama just does not stand out in the same way to the gopis as he does to the gopas.

    • The next place my mind tripped was here: “Remembering Krishna today in relation to these demon-slaying pastimes will destroy one’s own evil tendencies. To achieve this result, the sadhaka must think deeply and introspectively on the significance of these lilas and make a conscious effort to remove from his heart whatever is unfavorable for spiritual culture.” Now this is a much larger discussion, and likely inappropriate for this thread, but my problem is that Krsna’s pastimes are so fantastical that I have difficulty considering them as real accounts (and I apologize for my block-headedness). I often find that trying to meditate on Krsna’s pastimes raise more doubts in my mind (how is that possible? did that really happen?) than the benefits that should be derived. How can I consider the significance of the lilas when I am so busy stuck on the improbability of the events described? I’m sure I’m just approaching it incorrectly. I look forward to hearing everyone’s wisdom in this regard.

      These lilas are appearing in the hearts of devotees and they share their hearts with us. Their bhava and prema are non different from Krsna. So the question is, “Does prema exist?” And the answer is “Yes, we know this from the example of Mahaprabhu.”

      Krsna’s “birth” is prefaced by the appearance of bhakti. He is transferred from the heart of Vasudeva (suddha sattva) to the womb of Devaki, who represents bhakti in that her womb was first sanctified by the expansion of Balarama (Ananta Sesa) who personifies seva to Krsna. Previous to Rama’s appearance therein, Devaki’s fear (the devotee’s desire to overcome sense addiction) of Kamsa (who represents sense indulgence) caused her previous six sons (touch, taste, sight, smell, sound, and thought) to miscarriage. This is the idea, not historicity. These events are outside of time.

      • Swami,
        Again, thank you for taking the time to answer.

        I am understanding that you are saying that the lilas are not taking place within the limits of our conception of space and time; instead, you are saying they occur in the heart of the devotee after loving service is present in the devotee.

        I am still confused, though, because I have always heard that these events happened 5000 years ago in the physical place of Vrndavan, the physical place we can still visit. So how can I understand that the events took place both in the heart of devotees, outside of time, yet at a specific time at a specific location on earth? They are easier to understand in the context you gave above, but I have trouble understanding them if I consider them tied to an earthly place and time.

        • They are easier to understand in the context you gave above, but I have trouble understanding them if I consider them tied to an earthly place and time.

          Yes, I understand. So don’t trouble yourself. Think about them in the way I have explained them. Later you will understand how timeless events under the influence of Krsna’s svarupa-sakti can occur in time and space and thus take place in the world of our experience and yet not be part of this world. Earthly Krsna-lila is history of conjunction of time and eternity and not merely an event occuring under the influence of time.

        • Also it is said that during his manifest lila not everyone saw Krsna in the same way his devotees did. To some he appeared mundane, and he mentions this in the Gita. So again, the wonderful acts of Sri Krsna can be experienced only through bhava. First become a gopi or gopa.

    • A third point is not a doubt but is a question – do we know what is the fifth note on the flute; ie, do we know if it corresponds to a specific note on the western musical scale? Is there a reason why the fifth note, and not the fourth or the sixth? Surely other notes that Krsna plays also have transcendental power – are they discussed elsewhere? This fifth note must be something beyond a simple musical note if the gopis hear Him calling their name inside their hearts when they hear it. How can we understand this?

      The fifth note is kama gayatri received through mantra diska.

      • I feel like an extremely slow child.

        From “Teachings of Lord Caitanya”:
        “In Brahma-samhita a nice description of the flute of Krishna is given: “When Krishna began to play on His flute, the sound vibration entered into the ear of Brahma as the Vedic mantra om” This om is composed of three letters — A, U, and M — and it describes our relationship with the Supreme Lord, our activities by which we can achieve the highest perfection of love and the actual position of love on the spiritual platform. When the sound vibration of Krishna’s flute is expressed through the mouth of Brahma, it becomes gayatri. Thus by being influenced by the sound vibration of Krishna’s flute, Brahma, the supreme creature and first living entity of this material world, was initiated as a brahmana. That Brahma was initiated as a brahmana by the flute of Krishna is confirmed by Srila Jiva Gosvami. When Brahma was enlightened by the gayatri mantra through Krishna’s flute, he attained all Vedic knowledge. Acknowledging the benediction offered to him by Krishna, he became the original spiritual master of all living entities.

        The word klim added to the gayatri mantra is explained in Brahma-samhita as the transcendental seed of love of Godhead, or the seed of the kama-gayatri. The object is Krishna, who is the ever green Cupid, and by utterance of klim mantra Krishna is worshiped.”

        Let me see if I understand this. Initially kama-gayatri started as a vibration from the flute of Krsna (how should I think of His flute?), and the sound of it initiated Brahma.
        When Brahma got initiated, he obtained all Vedic knowledge. So part of the process of initiation is to receive spiritual knowledge from the guru, and because Brahma had Krsna as his guru, he got all the knowledge.
        The sound vibration was then expressed by Brahma, and came out as the kama-gayatri that is given to devotees today at initiation. Was Brahma then expressing or translating the transcendental vibration into the material world?
        Is it that the essence of what Brahma heard and what he then expressed is the same, although the form is different (one is spiritual and one is material)? If I may be so bold, from what I have gathered from completely unreliable internet sources, the gist of the kama-gayatri is “Love Krsna.” (I’m sure it’s far more complex than that and that my understanding is very poor; in this small instance I’m trying to relate the words spoken by devotees today relate back to the source.) It would make sense then if the general import of that note from His flute was “Love Me” – it would certainly pull girls from their bedrooms.

        Has this made any sense at all?

        (feel free to edit the post – I’m not sure that I’m even allowed to talk about the kama-gayatri at all – my apologies)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top ↑