By Giriraj Swami
Kartik is a very auspicious time for spiritual advancement. Another name for Kartik is Urja-vrata. Urjameans power. The supreme power, the original power, is Srimati Radharani. So Urja-vrata, or Kartik-vrata, is for Srimati Radharani. Many important pastimes took place in the month of Kartik. On the full moon night, Lord Krishna played on His flute and enjoyed the rasa-lila, which is considered the best of Krishna’s pastimes. Also during Kartik, Lord Krishna saw that the residents of Vrindavan were preparing to worship Indradeva, and He convinced them not to worship Indra but to use the same paraphernalia to worship Govardhana Hill, the brahmans, and the cows. When Indra saw that his worship had been stopped, he became furious and wanted to take revenge against Krishna and the Vraja-vasis. So he sent torrential rains and hail. And to give protection to the residents of Vrindavan, Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and kept it aloft for seven days on the little finger of His left hand. Thus King Indra’s pride was shattered and he came to beg forgiveness from Lord Krishna.
Also in the month of Kartik, our beloved founder-acharya, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, left this world and entered the eternal pastimes of Krishna.
Another event that took place during Kartik was Lord Krishna’s killing of the demon Arista, who had assumed the form of a bull. Thereafter, Lord Krishna manifested Syama-kunda and Radha-kunda. Because today is celebrated as the appearance day of Radha-kunda, we shall read a relevant verse from The Nectar of Instruction, an authorized English presentation by Srila Prabhupada of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Upadesamrta.
The Nectar of Instruction, Text Ten:
karmibhyah parito hareh priyataya vyaktim yayur jnaninas
tebhyo jnana-vimukta-bhakti-paramah premaika-nisthas tatah
tebhyas tah pasu-pala-pankaja-drsas tabhyo ’pi sa radhika
prestha tadvad iyam tadiya-sarasi tam nasrayet kah krti
karmibhyah—than all fruitive workers; paritah—in all respects; hareh—by the Supreme Personality of Godhead; priyataya—because of being favored; vyaktim yayur—it is said in the sastra; jnaninah—those advanced in knowledge; tebhyah—superior to them; jnana vimukta—liberated by knowledge; bhakti-paramah—those engaged in devotional service; prema-eka-nisthah—those who have attained pure love of God; tatah—superior to them; tebhyah—better than them; tah—they; pasu-pala-pankaja–drsah—the gopis who are always dependent on Krsna, the cowherd boy; tabhyah—above all of them; api—certainly; sa—She; radhika—Srimati Radharani; prestha—very dear; tadvat—similarly; iyam—this; tadiya-sarasi—Her lake, Sri Radha-kunda; tam—Radha-kunda; na—not; asrayet—would take shelter of; kah—who; krti—most fortunate.
In the sastra it is said that of all types of fruitive workers, he who is advanced in knowledge of the higher values of life is favored by the Supreme Lord Hari. Out of many such people who are advanced in knowledge [jnanis], one who is practically liberated by virtue of his knowledge may take to devotional service. He is superior to the others. However, one who has actually attained prema, pure love of Krsna, is superior to him. The gopis are exalted above all the advanced devotees because they are always totally dependent upon Sri Krsna, the transcendental cowherd boy. Among the gopis, Srimati Radharani is the most dear to Krsna. Her kunda [lake] is as profoundly dear to Lord Krsna as this most beloved of the gopis. Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings [aprakrta-bhava], render loving service to the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who perform Their astakaliya-lila, Their eternal eight-fold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Radha-kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
At the present moment almost everyone is engaged in some kind of fruitive activity. Those who are desirous of gaining material profits by working are called karmis, or fruitive workers. All living entities within this material world have come under the spell of maya. This is described in the Visnu Purana(6.7.61):
visnu-saktih para prokta
ksetrajnakhya tatha para
trtiya saktir isyate
Sages have divided the energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead into three categories—namely, the spiritual energy, marginal energy, and material energy. The material energy is considered to be the third-class energy (trtiya saktih). Those living beings within the jurisdiction of the material energy sometimes engage themselves like dogs and hogs in working very hard simply for sense gratification. However, in this life, or, after executing pious activities, in the next life, some karmis become strongly attracted to performing various kinds of sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas. Thus on the strength of their pious merit, they are elevated to heavenly planets. Actually those who perform sacrifices strictly according to Vedic injunctions are elevated to the moon and planets above the moon. As mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (9.21), ksine punye martya-lokam visanti: After exhausting the results of their so-called pious activities, they again return to the earth, which is called martya-loka, the place of death. Although such persons may be elevated to the heavenly planets by their pious activities and although they may enjoy life there for many thousands of years, they nonetheless must return to this planet when the results of their pious activities are exhausted.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The lowest category mentioned here is the karmi. The principle of the karmi is to work to get money for sense gratification. Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are karmis, and they fall into two categories: those who are regulated according to Vedic principles and those who are not regulated. Those who are not regulated are like animals, cats and dogs and hogs. They simply want to eat, drink, and enjoy. They engage in all sorts of sinful activities, and as a result they are pushed down into hellish conditions. Those in the other category, the regulated, follow the Vedic injunctions in order to enjoy a higher standard of material happiness. By performance of pious activities, such as Vedic sacrifices, such persons can be elevated to the heavenly planets, where they enjoy the results of their pious deeds. But after their pious credits are exhausted, they again fall down to earth.
One time on a morning walk in New York City, Srila Prabhupada pointed to some blades of grass growing up between the cracks of the concrete pavement. “What is this?” he asked, and a devotee replied, “It’s grass, Srila Prabhupada.” “Yes, I know it is grass,” he said. “But how did it come up here between the cracks?” Nobody could answer. Then Srila Prabhupada explained that after the fruitive workers exhaust their pious credits on the higher planets, they fall down to earth. And how do the spirit souls get here from the higher planets? They come in the rain. The rain falls on the earth, between the cracks of the sidewalk, and the living entities who were enjoying life in the heavenly planets take birth as blades of grass or sprouts of grain on earth. This is because their pious credits have been exhausted.
From the point of view of one in Krishna consciousness, that happiness of sense gratification is not real happiness. But even if someone is on a lower level and thinks that material enjoyment is happiness, still he cannot enjoy for long. As soon as his pious credits are finished, he will have to suffer. Therefore, intelligent persons do not try to enjoy the material world.
This is the position of all karmis, including those who act piously and those who act impiously. On this planet we find many businessmen, politicians, and others who are simply interested in material happiness. They attempt to earn money by all means, not considering whether such means are pious or impious. Such people are called karmis, or gross materialists. Among the karmis are some vikarmis, people who act without the guidance of Vedic knowledge. Those who act on the basis of Vedic knowledge perform sacrifices for the satisfaction of Lord Visnu and to receive benedictions from Him. In this way they are elevated to higher planetary systems. Such karmis are superior to the vikarmis, for they are faithful to the directions of the Vedas and are certainly dear to Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita (4.11), Krsna says: ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham. “In whatever way one surrenders unto Me, I reward him accordingly.”
In shastra, Lord Krishna states that “the injunctions of the Vedas are My orders, and one who goes against the injunctions of the Vedas goes against Me.” So, one who follows the Vedic injunctions follows the orders of Krishna, and he tends to be dearer to Krishna than one who goes against them.
Krsna is so kind that He fulfills the desires of the karmis and jnanis, what to speak of the bhaktas. Although the karmis are sometimes elevated to higher planetary systems, as long as they remain attached to fruitive activities they must accept new material bodies after death.
In the Bhagavad-gita (8.16) Lord Krishna says, a-brahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino ’rjuna: from the highest planet in the material world, Brahmaloka, down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein there is repeated birth and death. So even if one is elevated to a heavenly planet, he still has to die and take birth again. As stated in the Gita (2.27), “For one who has taken birth, death is certain. And for one who has died, birth is certain.” He remains caught in the repetition of birth and death.
If one acts piously, he can attain a new body among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, or he may attain some other position in which he can enjoy a higher standard of material happiness. On the other hand, those who are engaged in impious activities are degraded and take birth as animals, trees, and plants. Thus those fruitive actors who do not care for the Vedic directions (vikarmis) are not appreciated by learned saintly persons. . . .
One should therefore be eager to understand the science of the soul (atma-tattva). Unless one comes to the platform of atma-tattva, by which one understands that the soul and not the body is oneself, one remains on the platform of ignorance. Out of thousands and even millions of ignorant people who are wasting their time simply gratifying their senses, one may come to the platform of knowledge and understand higher values of life. Such a person is called a jnani.
Higher than the karmis are the jnanis. The karmis are bound to remain in the material world to enjoy and suffer the fruits of their work. They may enjoy for a while, but mainly they suffer. The jnanis are more intelligent because they see that fruitive work causes one to suffer, but they don’t know about devotional service. They know only material activity, and that material activity brings material misery. So, to become free from material misery, they resolve to refrain from all activity. But the soul by nature is active. The soul cannot remain inactive for long. So, the jnani too must engage in activity, and having no knowledge of spiritual activity, he will again engage in material activity, and thus he will fall down. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam says that although jnanis imagine that they are liberated, actually they are not, because they neglect the service of the lotus feet of the Lord.
ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.” (SB 10.2.32)
Because they neglect the Lord’s service, they fall down. Such impersonalists, after renouncing material activities, become restless. They want some activity. And because they are unaware of the spiritual activities of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, they fall into material activities and become karmis again. There are many examples of impersonal jnanis and yogis who went to the Himalayas to become one with Brahman, declaring, brahma satya jagan mithya: Brahman is truth, and the world is false. They left the world to engage in impersonal meditation, but they could not maintain it; they fell down. They come back to the world they declared was false, back to the cities, and engage in material welfare activities such as opening schools and hospitals, and sometimes they fall so low that they become involved in politics. So, patyanti adah: they fall down.
The impersonal philosophers don’t have real knowledge. If someone actually has knowledge, he surrenders to Krishna and engages in devotional service.
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyante
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Gita 7.19) After being a jnani for many lifetimes, when the jnani actually becomes wise, he surrenders to Krishna and becomes a bhakta, a rare great soul.
The bhakta is superior to the karmi and the jnani. The bhakta begins with the process of sadhana-bhakti, but even the sadhaka is considered higher than the best of the karmis and jnanis. And when the sadhakabecomes more advanced, he attains krsna-prema. Among the devotees, he who has prema is the best. And among the devotees who have prema, the active servants are better than those who have neutral appreciation; the friends are higher than the servants; the fathers and mothers are higher than the friends; and the lovers, or the young gopis, are the best of all. And among the gopis, Srimati Radharani is the best. She is the best of all.
Of all these devotees, the gopis are recognized as superior because they do not know anything other than satisfying Krsna. Nor do the gopis expect any return from Krsna.
The gopis are the best because they have no personal desire for enjoyment. They want only Krishna’s happiness. Srila Prabhupada told the story of the time Krishna declared that He had a headache and that only the dust of the feet of His devotee could cure Him. He sent His messenger to so many devotees, but they all said, “If the dust of our feet goes on the Lord’s head, we will commit a great offense and have to go to hell.” So they all refused. The messenger became discouraged. He went back to Lord Krishna, and the Lord said, “You should go to the gopis of Vrindavan and ask them.” So he went, and all the gopisgathered around him and inquired, “How is Krishna?” The messenger replied, “Krishna is not well. He has a headache.” The gopis immediately became disturbed. “Krishna has a headache! What can we do? What can we do?” The messenger said, “The only thing that will cure Krishna’s headache is the dust of the feet of His devotee.” “Oh, then take as much dust as you like, take it all!” “But if the dust from your feet goes on Krishna’s head, you will be committing a great offense and could go to hell,” the messenger said. And the gopis replied, “As long as Krishna’s headache is cured, we don’t care if we go to hell.”
This is the standard of the gopis’ love. They have no desire for personal happiness. They want only Krishna’s happiness, and if their unhappiness gives Krishna happiness, they consider their unhappiness to be the greatest happiness. We cannot experience such feelings in the material world. Only someone who has come to the stage of bhava- or prema-bhakti can know, to some extent, what such selfless love is. “Of all these devotees, the gopis are recognized as superior because they do not know anything other than satisfying Krishna.”
Srila Prabhupada often gave the example that Krishna would go into the pasturing grounds and the gopiswould be at home, crying. Why were they crying? Because they were thinking that the paths of Vrindavan are filled with so many thorns and stones and that if the soft lotus feet of Krishna were pricked by some pebble or thorn, He would feel pain. And thinking of Krishna’s pain, they would cry.
“Nor do the gopis expect any return from Krishna.” Srila Prabhupada said that when Krishna returned from the pasturing grounds in the afternoon, the gopis would not approach Him and say, “Krishna, You have been working all day. What have You brought for me? Let me look into Your pocket and see if You brought something for me.” Generally, in the material world the husband goes to work all day, and when he returns in the evening the wife asks, “Well, what did you bring for me?” Indirectly, Srila Prabhupada says that the gopis are not like that.
Nor do the gopis expect any return from Krsna. Indeed, sometimes Krsna puts them into extreme suffering by separating Himself from them. Nonetheless, they cannot forget Krsna.
In the material world we may think that we love someone, but after some time we may forget. Somebody will die, and we will cry for some days, but gradually we may forget. But the gopis can never forget Krishna.
When Krsna left Vrndavana for Mathura, the gopis became most dejected and spent the rest of their lives simply crying in separation from Krsna. This means that in one sense they were never actually separated from Krsna. There is no difference between thinking of Krsna and associating with Him.
Krishna is absolute. Therefore Krishna’s name, Krishna’s form, Krishna’s qualities, and Krishna’s pastimes are all Krishna. So when one remembers Krishna’s name, form, qualities, or pastimes, one is in Krishna’s association. In the extreme mood of separation from Krishna, the gopis actually experience Krishna’s presence. And they feel great ecstasy. The bodies of the gopis are ananda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhavitabis(Bs 5.37). They’re made of ananda cinmaya-rasa, or mahabhava. Their constitution is ananda-maya, full of bliss. It cannot be anything but bliss. And not only bliss, but the highest ecstasy of mahabhava. Their feeling of separation appears externally to be misery, but actually it is not misery—it is ecstasy. Srila Sanatana Gosvami gives the example for extreme separation, that ice acts like fire. For example, dry ice. Dry ice is so cold that if you touch it you get burned. It’s cold, but it produces the opposite effect—burning. So, the mood of the gopis’ separation is so extreme and intense that in separation they experience meeting Krishna, and they experience ecstasy in Krishna’s association.
There is no difference between thinking of Krsna and associating with Him. Rather, vipralambha-seva, thinking of Krsna in separation, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did, is far better than serving Krsna directly.
We should try to develop Krishna consciousness in the mood of separation. We are not liberated now, not in Krishna’s pastimes now. And if we imagine that we are meeting Krishna and serving Krishna and not factually realizing it, we can become sahajiyas. Srila Prabhupada didn’t want us to become sahajiyas. He wanted us to worship in the mood of separation, like Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Gosvamis.
Thus of all the devotees who have developed unalloyed devotional love for Krsna, the gopis are most exalted, and out of all these exalted gopis, Srimati Radharani is the highest. No one can excel the devotional service of Srimati Radharani. Indeed, even Krsna cannot understand the attitude of Srimati Radharani; therefore He took Her position and appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, just to understand Her transcendental feelings.
In this way Srila Rupa Gosvami gradually concludes that Srimati Radharani is the most exalted devotee of Krsna and that Her kunda is the most exalted place. . . .
yatha radha priya visnos
tasyah kundam priyam tatha
“Just as Srimati Radharani is dear to the Supreme Lord Krsna, so Her bathing place is equally dear to Krsna. Among all the gopis, She alone stands supreme as the Lord’s most beloved.”
Therefore everyone interested in Krsna consciousness should ultimately take shelter of Radha-kunda and execute devotional service there throughout one’s life. This is the conclusion of Rupa Gosvami in the tenth verse of Upadesamrta.
We’re not really qualified to discuss Radha-kunda, but because today is Radha-kunda’s appearance day, we may say something about the appearance of Sri Radha-kunda, which we can respect and appreciate from a distance—not too close.
As I mentioned earlier, Krishna killed the bull demon, Aristasura, and after killing him He approached the gopis for pastimes, but they refused. “You have killed a bull,” they said. “So you are contaminated. We do not want to associate with You.” Krishna asked, “What do I have to do to become purified from the sin?” The gopis replied, “You must take bath in all the sacred rivers in all the sacred places in all the three worlds.” Then Krishna thought, “Better I call all the holy places here.” He pushed His heel in the ground and immediately all the personified holy places came before Him and started offering prayers and obeisances. Srimati Radharani said, “I don’t see any holy places.” So Lord Krishna told the holy places to identify themselves, and the holy places personified did so: “I am Yamuna,” “I am Ganga,” “I am Sarasvati,” “I am Sindhu,” “I am Prayag,” “I am Puskhara,” and so on. Then, on Krishna’s indication, they became liquid and flowed into the kunda created by the impression of Krishna’s foot and filled it up with water. Thus Krishna-kunda, or Syama-kunda, came into existence. Krishna took His bath and then announced to the gopis, “Now I am completely pure. I have taken bath in all the sacred places in all the three worlds. But you are not pure. You are contaminated, because although Aristasura was in the form of a bull, still he was a demon. You took the side of a demon, so you are contaminated. So you also have to take bath and become purified. Take bath in My kunda, and you will be free.”
Srimati Radharani said, “No, no. Your kunda is contaminated by the terrible sin of killing the bull. I am not going to take bath in Your kunda. I am going to make My own kunda.” Aristasura’s hooves had made a shallow ditch just west of Sri Krishna’s pond. So the gopis began digging up lumps of soft mud with their hands, and very quickly they manifested a beautiful kunda. Srimati Radharani had said from the beginning, “I will make My kunda more beautiful than Krishna’s.” Now Krishna said, “Well, Your kunda is very beautiful, but it has one defect: it has no water in it. So why don’t You take some water from My kunda?” “No, no, no, no. Your water is contaminated by your sin. We will bring our own water.”
There were thousands and millions of gopis. On Srimati Radharani’s indication, they made a long chain from Manasi-ganga to Radha-kunda, filled pots with water, and passed the pots from one gopi to the next to the next, all the way from Manasi-ganga to Radha-kunda. But Lord Krishna, seeing the labor of the gopis, was not happy, because He cannot bear to see even one drop of perspiration on the face of Srimati Radharani. So He appealed to Her, “Please take water from My kunda.” But She refused—“No!” Then Lord Krishna called the representative of all the holy places, who began to offer prayers to Srimati Radharani: “Even Krishna likes to serve Your lotus feet, and He rejoices and feels most fortunate simply by satisfying the tips of the toes of Your lotus feet. So we also want to serve Your lotus feet. If You fulfill our desire, our lives will be successful.”
Srimati Radharani was pleased, and, glancing at Krishna from the corners of Her eyes, She smiled and replied, “Please come.” So, the holy waters in Syama-kunda broke through its boundary walls and quickly filled Radha-kunda. Then Sri Radha and the gopis took bath, and in the end Krishna was so pleased that He told Her, “Your kunda will become even more famous than Mine. I will always come here to bathe and enjoy My water pastimes. Your kunda is as dear to Me as You are.” Srimati Radharani was pleased, and She said to Lord Krishna, “I will also come and take bath in Your pond, even if You kill hundreds and thousands of Aristasuras. Anyone who has devotion for Your lake and bathes or resides there will become very dear to Me.” Both Sri Radha and Krishna became so pleased after the formation of Syama-kunda and Radha-kunda that They inaugurated a great festival of rasa dance.
I’ll mention just one more point from the verse. The Sanskrit in the verse concludes, prestha tadvad iyam tadiya-sarasi tam nasrayet kah krti: “What fortunate person will not take shelter of Radha-kunda?” This is what the Sanskrit says. But what does Srila Prabhupada say? “Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings, render service to the divine couple who perform Their eternal eight-fold daily pastimes?” In other words, this is what it really means to take shelter of Radha-kunda—not to go there and live like a monkey. Once, when a disciple told Srila Prabhupada that he wanted to go and stay in Radha-kunda, Srila Prabhupada replied that there were already enough monkeys at Radha-kunda; they didn’t need another one.
So, taking shelter of Radha-kunda doesn’t mean going there and living like a monkey, thinking of the demands of the body. Monkeys appear to be very renounced because they don’t wear clothes, eat only fruits and berries, and live in the jungle in trees. But Srila Prabhupada says that each monkey has two dozen girlfriends. So they actually are not renounced. Now, if someone goes to Radha-kunda without being able to take shelter of the holy name as described by Srila Prabhupada in the translation, he may become just like a monkey—outwardly appearing renounced but internally full of desires for sense gratification. Therefore, we go step by step. Srila Rupa Gosvami describes the exalted position of Srimati Radharani and Radha-kunda and asks, “What fortunate person will not take shelter of Radha-kunda?” But here we are at the end of Rupa Gosvami’s instructions. There are so many instructions earlier in the book, and to take shelter of Radha-kunda properly, we have to follow all the other instructions, from text one to text nine—not jump like monkeys to texts nine, ten, and eleven.
What is the first instruction? Vaco vegam manasah krodha-vegam/ jihva-vegam udaropastha-vegam—we have to control the urges. First is the urge to speak. We speak so much nonsense. Whenever we get the chance, we discuss politics, we discuss boy-girl affairs, or still worse, we criticize devotees. So, vaco vegam, and then manasa krodha-vegam: we have to control the mind. Anyway, I need not elaborate. We all can assess our present positions. And we should proceed step by step from the first verse up to the last ones—nine, ten, and eleven.
By the mercy of Srimati Radharani, Srila Rupa Gosvami, and Srila Prabhupada, we have had the opportunity to remember Sri Radha-kunda and discuss the conclusions of Srila Rupa Gosvami given here in Sri Upadesamrta, so kindly explained by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Radha-kunda’s appearance day, November 7, 1993, Bombay]