The Gopis Contemplate Separation

By Swāmī Śrī Bhaktivedānta Tripurāri, excerpted from Aesthetic Vedanta: The Sacred Path of Passionate Love.

The gopīs’ long cherished hope to exchange love with Kṛṣṇa kept them alive and attentive to family affairs. Should this hope go unfulfilled, there would be no meaning to their returning to their families. If their hopes to love Kṛṣṇa were cut asunder, their ties to relatives would cease to exist as well.

The gopīs continued, “Our chance to be engaged in family affairs has been stolen by you, who have captured our minds, hands, and feet, which will not move a step from here. How then can we return to our village, and if we somehow did, what would we do there? You ask if we have come to see the forest, but without our minds what will we see? Effortlessly you have stolen our minds, and thus it was easy for you to steal everything else we owned as well. Because you are joy itself standing before us, no other means of attaining joy holds any attraction for us. The path of knowledge (jñāna) requires a strong mind and intelligence, but we do not have these. Religious duty on the path of action (karma) and other means of attaining joy are meaningless in your direct presence, for not only has our power of thinking been stolen, but our power to act independently of you has been stolen as well. You have stolen our hands that otherwise might be doing housework. Without hands how can we act? Our hands are impassioned only to touch you.

“When you told us that we have already seen the forest and therefore we should return home, you did not consider that our feet are now rooted like trees in you alone. As trees cannot move independently of their roots, so we cannot move from your presence. If you suggest that we now go back by some other means, again, what would we do there in this condition?

“O dearest one, Kṛṣṇa, please pour like a flood the nectar of your lips onto the fire of our hearts, which has been stoked by your smiling glance and soothing song. If you refuse to do so, dear friend, we will consign our bodies to the fire of separation and travel by meditation the path tread by your lotus feet. If you truly want us to go, we will go quickly by that fire of separation. Therefore, you should continue to give life to the fire of desire in our hearts, which you yourself have created. This fire of kāma dies with the death of the body. Only you can keep kāma alive by accepting our desire for you, for you alone are the eternal love. Without (vi) giving us your passionate love (raha), we will burn without it in separation (viraha). Without (vi) your love (raha) we will remain in solitude (viraha), and without solitude with you, our desire for love (kāma) will not have any life. In this way we will die and thus attain you.”

Referring to Kṛṣṇa’s statement about their having come to him out of love, the gopīs replied that this was indeed the case. Thus they began to speak about the nature of that love. It was such that merely upon seeing his footprints they lost all interest in anyone else. The same feet whose touch is cherished by the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, tread throughout the Vṛndāvana forest, giving joy to its inhabitants and stealing the hearts of the gopīs.1 Referring to Kṛṣṇa as the Lord of the forest dwellers, the gopīs imply that he truly loves those who have given up everything for him, for the sages dwell ever in the forest.

  1. Lakṣmī is the goddess of fortune, the wife of Nārāyaṇa. According to the Purāṇas, although she has a permanent position on the chest of Nārāyaṇa, she nonetheless desired to dwell at the feet of Kṛṣṇa, who is the source of Nārāyaṇa. []

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