How Aishvarya-jnana Acts Upon Vraja-madhurya
By : Babhru Dasa
The realm of Sri Vrindavan is special in so many ways. It is considered the apex of divine planes and is the atmosphere where the highest forms of divinity enact sweet eternal pastimes (lila-madhurya.) That being said, Sri Goloka Vrindavan is also famous for being a place where “divinity” has become a hidden feature in the “day to do on-goings.” Or at least we can say, divinity as its commonly known to most people of the world.
In Goloka, the relationship between aishvarya (reverence worthy magnificence) and madhurya (undiluted sweetness) is very unique. Why is it unique? Because in Goloka-Vrindavan, the madhurya-jnana (perception of Krsna’s sweet innocence) of the vraja-vasis can never even be slightly covered by aishvarya-jnana (knowledge of Krsna’s godly magnificence.) In fact, it is so unique that such impenetrable madhurya-jnana is not seen in any other sphere of spiritual existence. Not in Mathura, Dwaraka, Ayodhya or Vaikuntha. In all of these places there is every chance that aishvarya-jnana can cover a devotee’s madhurya-jnana.
Truly, the vraja-vasis have moods of bhakti that are so completely pervaded by madhurya that even when Krsna exhibits godly splendor, it doesn’t hamper their sweet innocent feelings for Him in the least bit. In fact, such opulence actually heightens their moods of sweet love for Him! Such a thing is not seen in any other type of devotee.
A common metaphor that helps one to understand this concept is that of a boiling pot of milk (madhurya) and a piece of straw (aishvarya.) When one places a piece of straw in a boiling pot of milk, it may remain at the surface for one or two moments. But very quickly that straw submerges into the vastness of the milk not be seen again. The same thing happens with the aishvarya of Bhagavan in Vraja. It is extremely difficult to find.
For example, when Sri Krsna performed some wondrous feat like killing a big demon, some of the Vraja villagers naturally began to gossip about Him. They would start to think, “Perhaps Krsna is actually Narayan Himself, I mean who else could perform such wonderful things?” When such ideas would inevitably find their way to Sri Yashoda and Sri Nanda Maharaja, they would only find deaf ears. Or perhaps it would be better to say, “deaf hearts.”
But the fact is, mostly Nanda and Yashoda did not really believe that Krsna was Bhagavan, but if somehow they did “momentarily accept it”, that aishvarya-jnana would only increase their moods of vatsalya-bhava (parental love) for Him, and never decrease it. Just like when a boy becomes a king (or some other high ranking official), his mother’s love will surely grow for him. She will take great pride in the fact that her child is the king. Furthermore, she will always see his power as simply a periphery ornament of his and will still relate to him as her child, and never as a king. Certainly the king would be very unhappy if his mother gave up her parental love for him in exchange for servile reverence. In other words, the mother’s parental love for her child is the permanent mood, and everything else that surrounds that mood acts as a propellant for that mood.
For instance, when Sri Yashoda heard some talk of Krsna being God, she considered thus, “My beloved darling son is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself! What a fortunate mother I am! I will surely shower my sweet love all over Him in the form of kisses and hugs. I will protect Him until the end of time, and make sure no ill fortune comes His way. I will be very attentive to make sure He has enough food in His belly, and that He grows (physically/mentally) properly according to vaishya-dharma.” (Adaptation from Sri Raga-Vartma-Chandrika 5)
In a similar way, when the vraja-elders approached Nanda Baba to express their concerns about how he treated Krsna as his child (they considered its possible Krsna may be Narayana), he would not care so much. Sri Nandaraja would think, “If my son Krsna is Bhagavan, then I offer my obeisances to Him. But really, of what consequence is it to me? It is no excuse for Him to grow up as an uncultured and unruly child. He steals, cheats, and gets angry. Therefore, if he steps out of line, I will surely take my chastising rod in hand and beat him.” (Adaptation from “Sri Raga-vartma-chandrika 5”) In this way, the devotees situated in vatsalya-bhava characteristically always believe themself to be Krsna’s well-wisher and maintainer.
In regards to the vraja-sakhās, when somehow or other the idea that Krsna was God came to their ears, so many different feelings would manifest in them. But just as in the case of Krsna’s parents, those feelings were completely madhurya in nature. Why? Because whatever aishvarya-jnana came to them was perceived through the lenses of their vraja-sambandhiya-sakhya-bhava.
For example, one day when Sri Krsna and the boys were playing in the forest, they came upon a massive smelly cave, which in fact was the demon Agha’s gigantic mouth. After deliberating for sometime about the nature of the cave, the boys decided to nonchalantly dance straight into it, without any fear at all (even though it was not unlikely that it was a demon intentionally trying to eat them all.)
They spoke to each other thus, “O brothers! If it is a demon, Krsna will easily kill him and protect us.”- Ananda Vrindavana Champu
Is it normal for a young cowherd boy (Krsna) to have the ability to vanquish heinous demons? Certainly it is anything but normal. Yet to the vraja-sakhās, that did not really matter. As sakhās of Krsna, they actually considered such an ability of Krsna’s to be an asset to their own collective group. This mood is something like when an exceptional sportsman performs very well in previous matches, the fellow team members certainly will encourage that top-class player to continue taking the most important position, and because of that player’s prowess, they are totally confident that their team can never lose. In this situation, the gopas feelings of confidence (vishrambha) towards Krsna were something like this.
Then it was seen after the act (of killing Aghasura) that Krsna’s majestic performance became a cause for great merrymaking and mocking amongst His friends. In this way we can see that both before and after the killing of Aghasura (a vastly heroic/godly act) the vraja-gopas experienced moods saturated with madhurya. Krsna’s sakhās spoke thus:
“Killer of Agha! Thinking that You are victorious, with arms itching for battle, You wander amongst Your friends praising Your prowess. But tell me, seeing the action of my thick arms, having given up Your eagerness to fight, can You remain standing there with weak limbs?” -Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu 3.3.89
In other instances, talk of Krsna’s magnificence such as that exhibited in the “Govardhana-dharana-lila” and other līlās of a similar nature, would come up and Krsna’s sakhās would continuously mock Him or attribute His displays of power to another cause. At other times, Krsna’s sakhās would also be greatly enthused due to accepting themselves as having all the same qualities of Krsna. Such feelings of equality and confidence are indeed central to the vraja-sakhās relationship with Krsna.
These moods were shown in the following way after Sri Krsna manifested the power to swallow a forest fire and thus save all the gopas lives. The vraja-gopas considered thus:
“Because Krsna has done things humans cannot do, he must be a deva, not a human. Because we are his friends, we must also be devas. How could we be friends if we are not similar?” Thinking like this, they were overwhelmed with bliss.” – Srimad Bhagavatam 10.19.14 (Commentary of Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura)
Another example of this was when Krsna held Govardhan Hill above his head. Dwijaraja Batu spoke thus, “O dearest friend of the whole world! Please listen to my words. By my brahman tejas (spiritual potency) I will fill You with happiness. When I am here as Your friend, why are You troubling Yourself by lifting Giriraj? O lotus-eyed one! Just order me and I will hold up this great mountain on the tip of my golden stick. You must be exhausted from holding the hill. So now relax and take some rest while I hold the hill.” –Ananda Vrindavan Champu
In this example we see Sri Madhumangal thinking himself to be of a similar stature to Krsna (maybe even more powerful). In other words, even though Krsna was manifesting a lila of such extreme godly proportions, Batu still felt his great spiritual power was at least equal to Krsna’s (because friends are of the same nature and quality.) Thus out of love he sweetly offered himself for holding Govardhan hill.
And then at some point later in time, the vraja-sakhas would attempt to deflate Krsna’s pride by saying, “Oh Hari, please don’t become prideful and think that you actually lifted Govardhan hill. Didn’t you see myself and the other gopals holding up the hill with our sticks? Our strength was certainly seen as greater than yours! And if you don’t believe us and You say that You picked up the hill before we used our sticks, then we will say that it was by Nandaraj’s unlimited sacrifices to Vishnu that He (Vishnu) entered Your body and gave You such power.”
And in the case of the vraja-gopis, their amorous feelings (madhurya-bhava) towards Sri Krsna also became heightened due to hearing a story of His divinity. Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura explains this thus:
“The Yugala-gīta (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Tenth Canto, Chapter Thirty-five) states, [The gopīs tell Mother Yaśodā,] “Gandharvas and other sub-demigods devoted to the Śrutis surrounded Śrī Kṛṣṇa on all four sides and worshiped Him with hymns, flowers, and other paraphernalia,” and, “Lord Brahmā and others offered obeisances at His lotus feet as He herded the cows along the path.” These statements show that the cowherd boys headed by Śrīdāma and Subala saw Brahmā, Indra, Nārada, and other demigods offer prayers with songs and musical instruments, and worship with all paraphernalia and obeisances at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet as He returned from the forest. Nevertheless, their mood of natural friendship with Kṛṣṇa was not even slightly diminished. Upon hearing of this from the cowherd boys, the Vraja maidens were seen to exhibit an unshakable fixation in their amorous feelings (madhura-bhāva) for the Lord.
The sakhās said, “We, too, are blessed that our friend is the Supreme Lord,” and the vraja-gopīs said, “We are blessed that our beloved is the Supreme Lord.” From these statements we can understand that even after the knowledge that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead came to their attention, the individual moods of the Vrajavāsīs became strengthened rather than diminished.” – Raga-Vartma-Chandrika