ārādhyo bhagavān vrajeśa-tanayas tad-dhāma vṛndāvanaṁ
ramya kaścid upāsanā vraja-vadhu-varga-vīrya kalpita
śrīmad-bhāgavatam amalaṁ purāṇaṁ premā pum-artho mahān
śrī-caitanya mahāprabhor matam idaṁ tatradaraḥ na paraḥ
“It is the conclusive opinion of Lord Caitanya that the most worshipable form of the Lord is that of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is the topmost worshipable abode. The highest and most pleasing type of worship of Kṛṣṇa is done by the vraja gopīs. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless authority on everything. And kṛṣṇa-prema is the fifth and highest goal of life” [Caitanya-matta-mañjuṣā commentary on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura].
One who stays in Vṛndāvana Dhāma can make tremendous progress in his spiritual life. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is non-different from the spiritual realm of Goloka Vṛndāvana. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is not different from Kṛṣṇa Himself. This is what we understand from Śrīla Prabhupāda and the previous ācāryas. Lord Brahmā gives a description of Goloka Vṛndāvana as follows:
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhir abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakṣmīs or gopīs.”
Vṛndāvana is divine and the residents of Vṛndāvana, the Vrajavasīs, are also divine. Their love for Kṛṣṇa is unparalleled. In Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa is the central point of all the activities. The Vrajavasīs are always absorbed in the thoughts of Kṛṣṇa. Everybody in Vṛndāvana, Vṛndāvana’s rivers, air, trees, stone, birds, animals, Nanda Mahārāja, Mother Yasoda, cowheard boys, gopīs, Govardhana, everybody in Vṛndāvana is looking towards Kṛṣṇa, with a strong desire in their hearts which is ‘how can I please Kṛṣṇa?’ This is the Vṛndāvana mood.
By cultivating this mood, a service mood, where Kṛṣṇa is the centre of all our activities, any place, although being in this material world, can be transformed into Vṛndāvana.
There are twelve main ‘vanas‘ (forests) and several other ‘upavanas‘ (sub-forests) in this land of Vraja. These forests have been highly glorified in various Purāṇas. Devotees who visit these forests can attain to the supreme abode of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Seven of these primary forests lie on the western side of the Yamunā. These are Madhuvana, Tālavana, Kumudavana, Bahulāvana, Kāmyavana, Khadiravana and Vṛndāvana. The five on the eastern side of the Yamunā are Bhadravana, Bhāṇḍīravana, Bilvavana, Lohavana and Mahāvana. These twelve forests are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s most confidential playgrounds. Out of these forests, Vṛndāvana is extremely dear to Kṛṣṇa. It is the forest of the Tulasī plant. Tulasī-devī is an expansion of Śrīmati Vṛndā-devī. Vṛndāvan is named after Śrīmati Vṛndā-devī. Vṛndā-devī is the most exalted devotee of Kṛṣṇa. She organizes all the transcendental pastimes between Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī and Lord Kṛṣṇa. Without the mercy of Vṛndā-devī, it is not possible to enter into the pastimes of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa.
This land of Vraja is etched with the marks of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s footprints. It is highly worshipable, even from a tiny grain of dust to the beautiful vines and trees growing here, as well as the birds and animals living in Vraja Dhāma. We need to pay our most humble obeisances with love and devotion to Śrī Vṛndāvana Dhāma.
Can we visit this Vṛndāvana by buying a ticket? We may see Vṛndāvana to be just like some ordinary village. So, how to qualify to see this Vṛndāvana? Our ācāryas are showing us the way:
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings,
viṣaya chāriyā kabe śuddha ha‘be mana
kabe hāma herabo śrī-bṛndābana
“When the mind is completely purified, being freed from material anxieties and desires, then I shall be able to understand Vṛndāvana and the conjugal love of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and then my spiritual life will be successful.”
If we can give up sense gratification and clean our hearts, ‘ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ‘ by rendering devotional service to the Lord, by chanting His transcendental names and by following in the footsteps of our previous ācāryas, then only we will be able to realise this Vṛndāvana. Material world, is a world of ‘viṣaya‘ (sense objects), it is a plane of sense gratification. We need to give it up; then can we come up to the spiritual plane, a plane which is free from enviousness, where everyone is trying to please Kṛṣṇa. We must sincerely endeavour to purify our consciousness in order to unlock the huge storehouse of love, hidden in the core of our hearts; only then can we actually begin relishing the transcendental pastimes of Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa in Vraja.
Lord Brahmā prays,
premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.38).
Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotees can see Kṛṣṇa with their eyes anointed with a tinge of love. Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, ‘bhaktyā mām abhijānāti‘ (BG 18.55), ‘one can know Me in truth, only by pure, unmotivated devotional service.’ Kṛṣṇa is known as ‘ajita’ (unconquerable) but even Kṛṣṇa can be conquered, that is possible only through pure loving devotional service.
There is one devotee of Kṛṣṇa who excels every other devotee in her devotional service. She is Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī; the eternal consort of Kṛṣṇa. As energy cannot be separated from the energetic, in the same way Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa are inseparable. Rādhārāṇī is Kṛṣṇa’s internal pleasure potency. The word ‘Rādhā’ originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Ārādhana‘. ‘Ārādhana‘ means worship & service with love. Rādhārāṇī serves Kṛṣṇa in such a nice way that no one can excel Rādhārāṇī in her service to Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī is embodiment of devotional service. And ‘rāṇī’ means the Queen. Rādhārāṇī is Vṛndāvaneśvarī, the Queen of Vṛndāvana.
Rādhārāṇī has a very soft heart. Whatever service we do, we offer it to Lord Kṛṣṇa through the ‘guru-paramparā‘, which in turn reaches Kṛṣṇa through Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. If She sees some nice devotee, She at once recommends him to Kṛṣṇa, saying, “Look Kṛṣṇa, here is a very nice devotee, performing very nice, humble service. I am unable to do such nice service. Kindly accept his service”. And Kṛṣṇa cannot deny Her request. But on the other hand she is also very strict. She doesn’t let the non-devotees and offenders to stay in the dhāma. The devotees in ‘Vraja’ try to humbly glorify Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. One who receives Her mercy can advance wonderfully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Just like Rādhārāṇī. She thinks always Herself as the lowest of the devotees. She thinks always, She sees always that the gopīs, other gopīs are better qualified to serve Kṛṣṇa, and that She is not qualified, not so much qualified. Therefore, in Vṛndāvana, you’ll find the devotees approach Rādhārāṇī, “Jaya Rādhe,” because if Rādhārāṇī advocates for him to Kṛṣṇa, it is very easily accepted. And Rādhārāṇī says… If Rādhārāṇī’s pleased, then She represents the devotee’s case that “Here is a devotee. He’s better than Me. Kindly accept his service, Kṛṣṇa.” So, Kṛṣṇa cannot deny. So, mahā-bhāva. Rādhārāṇī is mahā-bhāva.”(Śrīla Prabhupāda lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, 23 Oct. 1972, Vṛndāvana)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is Kṛṣṇa himself, advented with this mood of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī always feels intense pangs of separation for Kṛṣṇa. Even Kṛṣṇa himself cannot understand the attitude of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī; therefore He took Her position and appeared as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, just to understand Her transcendental feelings. The mahā-bhāva, which is the mood of the highest transcendental ecstasies, is especially prerogative of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and of the one who played the part of Rādhārāṇī, although He’s Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu taught us this mood of separation for Kṛṣṇa. It is the highest perfection of devotional life. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, the direct disciples of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited the feelings of gopīs love for Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said that we are the followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Our ultimate goal is to develop this mood of separation as exhibited by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and as taught by the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana. Attaining this spontaneous love for Kṛṣṇa is the highest perfection of life.
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