As the days went by the dark thunderclouds of the rainy season were being replaced by the white fleecy clouds of autumn. One night cooling moonbeams spread a silvery sheen like a beautiful sari over Mother Earth. In his room, Vijaya-kumāra was lost in reading the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi. On account of his immersion in mādhurya–rasa, he was now only attracted to the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, especially His tender and loving exchanges with the gopīs of Vṛndāvana. He glanced out of the window and beheld the nocturnal grandeur of Purī. It was now ten o’clock, and he felt inspired to visit Sundarācala. He had heard that Śrī Caitanya always felt that He was in Vraja-dhāma each time He visited Sundarācala.
So Vijaya-kumāra left and wandered alone to Sundarācala. As he walked past Balagaṇḍī and along Śraddhābālī, the purple woods on either side directly manifested Vṛndāvana-dhāma. Suddenly, Vijaya-kumāra felt weightless, as if floating in sublime exhilaration. He said, “O how fortunate I am to actually see Vraja-dhāma! A rare sight indeed, even for Lord Brahmā, the universal creator. Ah! There lies the kuñja–vana, forest groves! Within the leafy bowers of intoxicating, scented mādhavī-mālatī blossoms and mādhurī creepers, our beloved Lord of the heart, Kṛṣṇa, is talking wittily with the gopīs.”
Feeling not a trace of fear or awe, Vijaya-kumāra eagerly hastened to the kuñja-vana. However, after a few steps he faltered and, overcome by intense spiritual emotions, fell swooning to the ground. Soon awakened by the kind service of a gentle caressing breeze, Vijaya glanced around anxiously. However, he could no more see the kuñja-vana, the gopīs, and his beloved Lord, so feeling desolate and deeply afflicted he slowly returned home. Without speaking to anyone, he silently lay down to sleep.
The transcendental vision of the Lord’s vraja-kuñja-līlā in the woods had set his heart aglow with divine ecstasy, and he thought, “Tomorrow, I shall relate this mystical incident to Śrīla Gopāla-guru Gosvāmī.” However then he hesitated, remembering the instruction that the aprākṛta-līlā, unmanifest transcendental pastimes, were seen by immense good fortune and should not be disclosed to anyone. With these thoughts, he gradually drifted into a peaceful slumber. When he awoke the next morning, his heart was preoccupied with memories of his vision the night before.
“After noon prasādam, Vijaya went to the Rādhākānta Mandira, where he offered his prostrate obeisances to Śrīla Gopāla-guru Gosvāmī. Being very pleased to see him, Śrīla Gosvāmī embraced him and had him sit down and relate his devotional progress. Burdened with questions about mādhurya–rasa, Vijaya-kumāra immediately felt the calming effect of his guru’s presence as he began, “Gurudeva, I am very thankful to you for your unlimited patience and mercy. I beg permission to enquire about certain esoteric aspects of the Ujjvala–nīlamaṇi that are beyond my grasp.”
Śrī Gopāla-guru Gosvāmī answered, “Vijaya, you are my beloved disciple, feel free to ask any questions you wish and know that I shall always try to answer as best I can.”
Vijaya continued, “Dearest Gurudeva, mādhurya-rasa has been praised as the most excellent amongst the mukhya-rasas and as capable of evoking the most extraordinary bhāva and rasa. This is so because all the supramundane attributes of śānta, dāsya, sakhya and vātsalya are eternally reposed within mādhurya-rasa. Moreover, any wonderful qualities that the other rasas may lack shine with full glory and sublime splendour in mādhurya-rasa. Thus, how can anyone question the paramount position of mādhurya-rasa?
“For those on the impersonal path of nivṛtti–mārga, austerity and renunciation, the pursuit of mādhurya–rasa is inappropriate, because their hearts are as dry as a desert. On the other hand, for the hedonists a non-sensual and non-materialistic goal is incomprehensible, therefore the mādhurya-rasa of Vraja, categorically opposed to mundane lust and enjoyment, is simply beyond their grasp. What I cannot understand is that such a supramundane divine rasa should ostensibly be exhibited as similar to the shameful and despicable exchanges between men and women of the material world?”
Gosvāmī, “Son, you know that the variegatedness of the mundane plane is a mere reflection of the variegatedness in the transcendental realm. In fact, this material world simply mirrors the spiritual world. The mystical truth is that the reflected image is reversed and inverted. Therefore, the best and highest in the original spiritual realm is the worst and lowest in the reflected image that is the material realm. Conversely, the lowest in the spiritual world is the superior most in the material reflection. A good example is that when one stands in front of a mirror, all the limbs of one’s body are shown in reverse.
“The Supreme Being, the Absolute Truth, by His acintya-śakti has projected Himself as the reflection of His own potency, thus diffusing Himself in the material nature. Therefore, mundane nature is endowed with the attributes opposite to those in the absolute realm. In the mundane world rasa is a diametrically inverted version of the rasa in the transcendental world.
“The sublime rasa reposed in the Supreme Lord is His magnificent variegatedness of ecstasy. When this sublime rasa is reflected upon the mundane plane, the materially conditioned souls impose mundane designations and qualities upon this supreme rasa. In this state of confusion, they decide that all the manifest variegatedness is mundane and consider that the Absolute Truth must be opposite in nature and therefore nirviśeṣa, featureless and formless. Thus, they, especially the rhetoricians and empiricists, mistakenly conclude that the Supreme Lord’s partial manifestation of the impersonal Brahman is the highest aspect of the Supreme Absolute Truth. This wrong conclusion that variegatedness is essentially temporary and mundane impedes their understanding of the existence and nature of the Supreme Absolute Person and exposes the limitations of logic in the attempt to understand the Absolute Truth.
“In fact the parama-vastu, Supreme Absolute Being, is the embodiment of rasa, mellow, and rūpa, beauty. He is therefore the repository of the wonderful variety that is reflected as the perverted rasa of the mundane plane. Actually, this astonishing mundane variegatedness should lead us to infer the existence and nature of an absolute transcendental rasa beyond the material senses. However, mundane variegatedness can give us but a poor semblance of spiritual rasa, the latter being composed in a totally different way.
“In the spiritual world, śānta-rasa, a spiritual mellow characterized by dispassionate temperament and neutrality of feelings, is on the lowest rung of the rasa gradation. Above śānta-rasa are dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, and mādhurya-rasa, consecutively. However, through the principle of reflection, mādhurya–rasa, the topmost rasa in the spiritual world, is the bottommost on the mundane plane. Similarly, in the mundane plane, vātsalya is above mādhurya, then come sakhya, dāsya, and finally on top is śānta-rasa. Therefore, those whose conclusions are based on the nature of this material plane misconstrue the activities of the transcendental mādhurya-rasa by incorrectly considering it as equivalent to mundane rasa and therefore degraded and low.
“Actually, in the spiritual world mādhurya-rasa is resplendent in divine purity, forever embellished in pristine, extraordinary magnificence and sweetness. On the transcendental plane, Kṛṣṇa’s exchanges with His consorts are the exchanges between the divine puruṣa, Enjoyer, and the divine prakṛti, enjoyed, and are therefore absolutely sanctified and metaphysical. Exchanges between the men and women of the material plane based on mundane relationships are certainly blemished and shameful, but there is no equivalent transgression of innate dharma on the transcendental platform because in purest conclusion of tattva Kṛṣṇa is the only puruṣa and His devotees are all prakṛti by nature.
“Since in the material world both the enjoyer and the enjoyed of mundane rasa are jīvas, the entire business is unethical and exploitive, contradicting the nature of tattva, truth. In reality, one jīva is not the lord and enjoyer of another jīva, but all jīvas, according to their eternal dharma are rather the bhogya, enjoyed, and Kṛṣṇa is the sole bhoktā, Enjoyer. If the jīva accepts a role antagonistic to his eternal dharma, his attitude is reprehensible. Certainly, there are many similarities between the original spiritual object and its material reflection; therefore, parallels between mundane man-woman relationships and Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental pastimes with the gopīs are inevitable. However, the former relationships are vile, and the latter are sublime.
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, thank you very much. Your wonderful analysis has strengthened my faith in this self-evident truth, dissolving the clouds of doubt. I have now gained a firm understanding of the subject of mādhurya-rasa of the spiritual world.
“How extraordinary is this mādhurya-rasa! To express the name is nectarean, how saturated with extreme ecstasy and transcendental energy! After hearing about mādhurya–rasa, I am amazed that there are still those who are truly unfortunate by seeking bliss in śānta–rasa. I am keen on hearing the finer and more profound details of mādhurya-rasa, kindly explain them to me.”
Gosvāmī, “In mādhurya-rasa, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the viṣaya, object, His beloved gopīs are the āśraya, shelter, and together they become the ālambana, foundation, of this rasa.”
Vijaya, “Would you kindly explain the qualities of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the viṣaya in mādhurya–rasa?”
Gosvāmī, “Ah, my son! What a beautiful question! Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that magnanimous puruṣa embellished with all good qualities. He possesses the striking hue of a fresh monsoon-laden cloud. He is lovely, charming, endowed with all-auspicious symptoms, strong, ever-youthful, expert, intelligent, of sweet speech, and a genius. He is also very peaceful and patient, witty, astute, self-satisfied, grateful, and generous. He is captivated by the love of His devotees. He is grave, the most accomplished in everything, and illustrious. The enchanter of the gopīs, He is always original and unique, a performer of extraordinary deeds. His exquisite beauty is unmatched. He is the apple of everyone’s eye and the most expert flute player. The brilliance of His lotus feet outdoes the pride of Kandarpa, Cupid, and His benign sidelong glances enrapture the heart of everyone. He is the transcendental ocean of sublime pastimes, which inundates the hearts of young maidens with unlimited good fortune.”
Vijaya, “Kṛṣṇa, the repository of all transcendental, divine qualities and splendour, is the sole nāyaka, Hero, of this mysterious mādhurya-rasa. I have understood this fact. Previously, even after studying many devotional texts, I gave primacy to logic, without question. In this mood, though I thought deeply about Kṛṣṇa’s personality, I could not develop unflinching faith in Him. However, my heart has now been impregnated with just a touch of ruci for bhakti, very much by your mercy! Now my heart is effervescent with bhāva, and I am constantly experiencing the presence of Kṛṣṇa. Now even if I wanted to leave Kṛṣṇa, He would not forsake my heart. How munificent is He! Now I can truly realize the importance of these wonderful words composed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Southern Division, Fifth Wave, Verses 78-79, of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:”
sarva thaiva durūho ‘yam abhaktair-bhagavad-rasaḥ
tat pādāmbuja-sarvasvair bhaktair evānurasyate
vyatītya bhāvanā-vartma yaś camatkāra-bhāra-bhuḥ
hṛdi sattvojjvale bāḍhaṁ svadate sa raso mataḥ
“‘Those who are convinced that the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are the summon bonum of life are the purest of devotees, and they alone are capable of relishing bhakti–rasa. Those whose hearts are bereft of bhakti and rampant with mundane emotion are generally contaminated by impure habits and are fond of logic and argumentation. They can never perceive this transcendental rasa. The person who has transcended the noumenal plane and whose consciousness and heart have been enlightened by the brilliance of pure goodness that ushers the dawn of magnificent transcendental bhāva is alone able to experience rasa.”
“True rasa is not available upon the material plane; it is of the spiritual world. As the jīva is cit–kaṇa, a spark of spiritual energy, rasa manifests within his consciousness. Rasa appears only in deep bhakti–samādhi, devotional meditation. Those who have received the grace of Śrī Gurudeva and have realized the distinction between śuddha–sattva, pure goodness, and miśra–sattva, mixed goodness, are free from all doubts.”
Gosvāmī, “Very good, Vijaya! Your understanding is correct. Let me see if you know the relationship between śuddha-sattva and miśra–sattva. The answer to this question will dissipate many of your own doubts, opening the doors of your perception to a new truth.”
Vijaya offered prostrated obeisances to his spiritual master and began to speak with heartfelt humility, “Gurudeva, I will try my best to answer your question. Kindly correct me if I make any mistakes.
“Life, being, presupposes sattā, existence. When existence, form, ability and activity are present in an entity, that entity is designated as sattva. That state of existence—that is eternal, endless, ever-fresh, perennial, unaffected by time, either past or future, and is infused with extraordinary wonder—is called śuddha-sattva. Anything begotten by the śuddha-cit-śakti, pure spiritual energy, is śuddha–sattva.
“The māyā–śakti that is the shadow representative of the cit-śakti is controlled by the time factor, which manifests the concepts of past, present, and future. All the activities of the māyā–sakti take place within the domain of the time factor; they are created—having a beginning—and are thus stamped with māyā’s creative quality of raja, passion. Those same activities are also marked for destruction; hence, they are also stamped with Māyā’s destructive quality of tama, ignorance. Entities endowed with such qualities of existence are called miśra-sattva.
“In contrast, the śuddha-jīva is śuddha–sattva. His form, qualities and actions are by nature in pure goodness. However, when the śuddha–jīva is imprisoned by māyā, his pure energy is contaminated by māyā’s illusory potencies in the form of the material modes of raja and tama. Thus, the materially conditioned jīva is said to be in the status of miśra–sattva.”
Gosvāmī, “Your explanations are very subtle indeed. Now tell me, how is the heart of the jīva enlightened by śuddha-sattva?”
Vijaya, “As long as the jīva is captivated by this material world, the brilliance of his śuddha-sattva nature is curbed by the residual opacity of mundane conditioning. Yet, the jīva may realize his svarūpa in proportion to the arising of his brilliant śuddha-sattva nature. However, the uncovering of his śuddha-sattva nature cannot be achieved through the pursuit of either karma or jñāna. Can dirt be cleansed by another form of dirt? Mundane karma is by its very nature contaminated, how can it remove material impurities? Moreover, jñāna is like fire, for if it is applied to a contaminated object, it not only burns the impurity but also the object itself, attempting to nullify the object’s fundamental existence. Therefore, how can jñāna provide the joy that comes from being purified?
“By the mercy of guru, Kṛṣṇa, and the Vaiṣṇavas, the jīva can obtain bhakti, which alone can invoke the śuddha-sattva lying dormant within his heart. When śuddha-sattva is awakened, it will illuminate the heart with pure transcendental light.”
Gosvāmī, “My son! Truly, it is a pleasure to instruct a fit candidate like you. Do you have any further questions?”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, earlier you described the four types of nāyaka: dhīrodātta, dhīra-lalita, dhīra-śānta, and dhīroddhata. Which of these is Kṛṣṇa?”
Gosvāmī, “Kṛṣṇa can play all these roles. Whatever slightly contrary and distinctive bhāvas that may exist between each of these different nāyakas are all perfectly harmonized within Kṛṣṇa, because He is the embodiment of all rasa and endowed with acintya-śakti. These apparent disparities are present by His own arrangement. Besides these four unique personality traits, Kṛṣṇa is embellished by another mysterious feature that is known only to extraordinary, rare personalities.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, you have showered your mercy without any reservation so kindly let it flow further, even referring to this topic.”
As Vijaya-kumāra spoke, he was overwhelmed with intense emotions. He fell down at Śrīla Gopāla-guru Gosvāmī’s feet, bathing them in his tears. Deeply moved, Śrīla Gopāla-guru Gosvāmī bent down and embraced him, and their tears mingled.
Śrīla Gosvāmī then sat back silently, his voice was choked-up, and he was unable to speak. Finally, in a faltering voice, he said, “In mādhurya-rasa, Kṛṣṇa assumes two distinct roles as nāyaka: pati, husband; and upapati, paramour.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, Kṛṣṇa is our eternal pati, so why is He called an upapati?”
Gosvāmī, “This very confidential knowledge is shrouded in profound mystery. Transcendental affairs are like rare sparkling gems of magnificent mystery, and the crest jewel Kaustubha-maṇi amongst them, shining with an intense aura, is parakīya-bhāva, the paramour mood of mādhurya-rasa.”
Vijaya, “In mādhurya-rasa the pure devotees serve and love Kṛṣṇa as their pati. What is the purport of worshiping Him as one’s upapati?”
Gosvāmī, “When the para–tattva, Supreme Absolute Truth, is asserted as exclusively impersonal, rasa necessarily has to be excluded from His nature along with His personality. Vedic truths, such as the statement in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, 8.13.1: …rasa vai saḥ… ‘That Supreme Absolute Truth is the personification of all rasa,’ become meaningless and denied. The impersonal aspect of the Supreme is insipid, lacking in lustre and spiritual bliss. However, as Kṛṣṇa’s personal feature unfolds before His devotee, rasa is increasingly manifest, because rasa is the principal aspect the para–tattva. Higher than the impersonal aspect of the para–tattva is the personal aspect of the Supreme Absolute Being. Initially, this personal aspect appears in the role of Īśvara, the Supreme Controller, that is the object of śānta–rasa. Still above this feature of the Supreme Controller is His personality as Prabhu, Lord and Master, that is the object of dāsya-rasa. Thus, rasa expands gradually from dāsya, to sakhya, to vātsalya, and from there to mādhurya. And within mādhurya–rasa, the parakīya-bhāva, paramour mood, is superior to the svakīya-bhāva, married mood.
“There are two other aspects of Kṛṣṇa as puruṣa: ātmārāmatā, completeness and self-satisfaction, and parārāmatā, enjoyer of those separated expansions and energies emanating from Himself. In the ātmārāmatā aspect, the enjoyment of rasa is solely reposed within Kṛṣṇa and takes no assistance from any other entity, and thus Kṛṣṇa has the quality of being eternally self-satisfied. In the parārāmatā aspect, Kṛṣṇa exhibits the nature of enjoying rasa by the charming assistance of other entities. Just as Kṛṣṇa’s ātmārāmatā aspect is eternal, so also is His parārāmatā, aspect. The harmonious existence of these two opposing elements—inner self-satisfaction and assisted enjoyment—in the personality of the Supreme Puruṣa is His sole prerogative and natural for Him.
“In His pastimes, Kṛṣṇa manifests His ātmārāmatā nature in one sphere of activity, while in another sphere He displays His parārāmatā nature. The highest mood of the parārāmatā nature is displayed in His pastimes of parakīya-bhāva. Parakīya-rasa is the wondrous magnificent nectar produced when the nāyaka, Hero, and nāyikā, Heroine, are brought together by rāga, spontaneous love, even though their mutual relationship is para-bhāva, the acceptance of one who belongs to another.
“Rasa springs forth beginning from the ātmārāmatā feature, expanding upwards to the highest status in parakīya-mādhurya-rasa. Thus, the ātmārāmatā nature is at the bottom of the rasa barometer. When rasa slides down to the bottom, it begins to dry out; and when rasa moves upward in the direction of parakīya-mādhurya-rasa, it gushes with exuberance. When Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental nāyaka, how may parakīya relationships be considered vile?
“However, when the mortal conditioned jīva tries to play the role of nāyaka, the question arises whether his activities are moral or immoral. In this case, within the material world, the parakīya-bhāva is condemnable. The sages have therefore decided that a relationship between the mundane paramour and his unchaste lady-love is certainly illicit and despicable. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that the upapati concept in alaṅkāra–śāstra has been severely castigated, but this only applies to the mundane nāyaka. The finger of accusation should never point at Kṛṣṇa, because He is the repository of all transcendental rasa and is the Supreme Personality of Godhead above reproach.”
Vijaya, “Kindly explain the distinctive role of a pati.”
Gosvāmī, “A man who accepts a maiden’s hand in marriage is her pati.”
Vijaya, “Kindly explain the distinctive roles of an upapati, male paramour, and a parakīya, female paramour.”
Gosvāmī, “Any man who because of intense love for a married or betrothed lady trespasses all religious principles to win her love is an upapati. A married woman who by disregarding the nuptial vows ignores the religious edicts of heaven and earth and surrenders to a man who is not her husband is called a parakīya. Parakīya women are of two categories: kanyā, unmarried; and paroḍhā, married.”
Vijaya, “What are the characteristics of the svakīya ladies?”
Gosvāmī, “Svakīya women are married according to religious laws, are obedient to their husbands, and are fully dedicated to the religious institution of marriage.”
Vijaya, “Who are Kṛṣṇa’s svakīya consorts and who are His parakīya consorts?”
Gosvāmī, “His consorts in Dvārakā, all of whom are married to Him, are svakīya, and His consorts in Vraja are mostly pārakiya.”
Vijaya, “What are the nuances and placements of these two categories of Kṛṣṇa’s consorts in His aprākṛta-līlā, eternal unmanifest pastimes?”
Gosvāmī, “This is an extremely esoteric subject. You already know that Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūti, divine opulence, is divided into four parts. Three parts are displayed in the spiritual world and the remaining one part in the material world. This single part, the domain of the māyā–śakti, manifests the entire material cosmos, consisting of the fourteen planetary systems. Between the material world, on one side, and the spiritual world, on the other, a mass of water churns known as the Virajā River. The cit–jagat, spiritual world, is surrounded on all sides by the brilliant peripheral zone known as Brahma-dhāma, beyond which, in the paravyoma, spiritual sky, the spiritual planets of Vaikuṇṭha are situated. Vaikuṇṭha is dominated by aiśvarya; in Vaikuṇṭha Śrī Nārāyaṇa reigns and is reverentially worshiped as the Supreme Lord of Lords, embellished with divine attributes and served by countless servants.
“In Vaikuṇṭha Śrī Nārāyaṇa exhibits svakīya–rasa; Śrī Devī, Bhū Devī, Nīlā Devī are His śaktis and wives who serve Him as their husband in svakīya–rasa. Above Vaikuṇṭha lies Goloka; in Goloka, the gopīs of Vraja serve their beloved Kṛṣṇa in their specific rasa.”
Vijaya, “If Goloka is said to be Kṛṣṇa’s most elevated place of residence, why is Vraja described as such a glorious and splendid place?”
Gosvāmī, “Places such as Vraja, Gokula, and Vṛndāvana are within the precincts of Śrī Mathurā-maṇḍala. Nonetheless, Mathurā-maṇḍala and Goloka are on the same spiritual level. When the dhāma principle is manifest as the highest abode in the spiritual sky, it is called Goloka, and when it is manifest on the material plane, it is known as Śrī Mathurā-maṇḍala. Both are equally illustrious and transcendental.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, it is difficult for me to understand how this can be possible.”
Gosvāmī, “Kṛṣṇa’s acintya–śakti makes it possible. The mysterious workings of His acintya–śakti are beyond the realm of logic, intellect, and the noumenal. The eternal abode known as Goloka-dhāma manifests within the material world as the stage for the Supreme Lord’s prakaṭa-līlā, materially manifest pastimes, and is called Śrī Mathurā-dhāma. And in His aprakaṭa-līlā, transcendentally unmanifest pastimes, the same eternal abode is known as Goloka-dhāma.
“Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental pastimes are eternal. The devotee who is qualified to perceive the state of viśuddha-sattva can see Goloka. In fact, even while residing at Gokula within the material world, qualified devotees have the vision of Goloka within Gokula. However, those jīvas whose consciousness has been corrupted by the mundane nature cannot perceive Goloka at all. Although Gokula is non-different from Goloka, mundane persons see Gokula as an ordinary place belonging to this material world.”
Vijaya, “What is the eligibility to see Goloka?”
Gosvāmī, “Śrīla Sukadeva Gosvāmī states in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 10.28.14-15:
iti sañcintya bhagavān mahā-kāruṇiko hariḥ
darśayām āsa lokaṁ svaṁ gopānāṁ tamasaḥ param
“‘Thus, deeply considering the situation, the all-merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Hari, revealed to the cowherd men His abode, which is beyond the material.’
atyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ yad brahma-jyotiḥ sanātanam
yad dhi paśyanti munayo guṇāpāye samāhitāḥ
“‘Śrī Kṛṣṇa revealed the indestructible spiritual effulgence, which is unlimited, conscious and eternal. Sages see that spiritual existence in trance, when their consciousness is free of the modes of material nature.’
“My son, without Kṛṣṇa’s mercy Goloka cannot be perceived. Kṛṣṇa has shown the beauty and opulence of Goloka to the residents of Vraja by His causeless mercy. Goloka is situated outside the jurisdiction of the mundane nature, and the varieties of existence displayed there are eternal realities, ever existent, and a transcendental wonder. The brahma-jyotir is eternally manifest there as Kṛṣṇa’s physical aura. Devotees who are cleansed of material aberrations can perceive this magnificent vision.”
Vijaya, “Are all the liberated jīvas able to perceive Goloka?”
Gosvāmī, “Among many millions of liberated souls, one rare soul is found who is a devotee of the Supreme Lord. Those who attain mukti through aṣṭāṅga-yoga and brahma–jñāna enter Brahma-dhāma in the state of ātmāvismṛti, forgetfulness of one’s individual spiritual self. Devotees who are attached to the Lord’s aiśvarya and worship Him in awe and reverence also cannot see Goloka. They serve Śrī Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭha with pomp and grandeur. Amongst the pure devotees engaged in serving Kṛṣṇa in the mood of vraja–rasa, only those whose material bondage by Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is completely eradicated are able to see Goloka.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, if only such rare elevated and liberated devotees can see Goloka, why do the scriptures like Brahma-saṁhitā, Hari-vaṁśa, Padma-purāṇa, etc., carry descriptions of Goloka? If Kṛṣṇa’s mercy descends upon only those engaged in vraja–bhajana, why were such narrations about Goloka necessary?”
Gosvāmī, “Those rare souls absorbed in relishing vraja-rasa who are lifted out of the material world by Kṛṣṇa and placed in Goloka can see the entire Goloka. Some śuddha–bhaktas in vraja-bhāva can see certain parts of Goloka. Of the two types of pure devotees—siddha and sādhaka—the sādhakas have not yet gained the eligibility to see Goloka.
“Siddha-bhaktas are of two varieties: vastu–siddha; perfect in the realization of the ultimate objective, Kṛṣṇa; and svarūpa–siddha, those who have achieved the perfection of being reinstated in their spiritual identity.
“The vastu–siddha devotees are the glorious and fortunate ones who have been installed directly in the spiritual abode of Goloka by Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. The svarūpa–siddha devotees are able to perceive Goloka directly, but have not yet received Kṛṣṇa’s mercy to the extent of being lifted out of the material nature and becoming installed in Goloka. However, Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is gradually opening-up and enhancing their spiritual and devotional visions, hence they are eligible for a wide range of spiritual perfections. Differently graded svarūpa-siddha devotees have their spiritual eyes opened to varying degrees, and their vision of Goloka is proportionate to the amount of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy they have received.
“As long as bhakti is on the platform of sādhana–bhakti, everything the sādhana devotee sees in Goloka is slightly tinged with mundane understanding. After being promoted to the stage of bhāvā-bhakti, the devotee is blessed with direct glimpses of Goloka. On the level of prema-bhakti, the devotee sees Goloka to a much greater extent.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, in what aspects are there differences between Goloka and Vraja-gokula?”
Gosvāmī, “Whatever you see in Vraja is there also in Goloka. The differences of perception arise solely because of the varying consciousness of the different viewers, which is graded according to their levels of śraddhā and bhakti. In reality, there is no distinction between Goloka and Vraja Vṛndāvana; it is merely the perception of the viewer that creates differences. Persons steeped in tama–guṇa see everything in Vraja as material objects; whereas, persons conducted primarily by raja-guṇa see with a slightly more elevated and auspicious material consciousness. Finally, persons advancing in sattva–guṇa can increasingly view in śuddha–sattva. Thus, everyone views the dhāma according to their own level of eligibility, and consequently what they see is different.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, the subject is getting clearer and clearer in my understanding, but kindly give examples to properly clarify this point. I am aware that material examples cannot fully explain spiritual concepts, but even if they convey just a limited idea or a single similar aspect, then the whole spiritual concept becomes easier to comprehend.”
Gosvāmī, “This is indeed a complex problem, for it is prohibited to reveal one’s own realizations of these esoteric truths. Whatever realizations and perceptions one gathers by Kṛṣṇa’s mercy must be kept a guarded secret. However, I will disclose to you whatever the previous spiritual preceptors have acquiesced to reveal. And whatever remains to be known by you, by Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, you will soon perceive.
“In Goloka, all perception is based upon pure spiritual consciousness, thus mundane perception is absolutely absent. For nourishing rasa, Kṛṣṇa’s cit–sakti conjures up a wide range of bhāva. One of the elements created by bhāva is known as abhimāna, spiritual self-conception out of transcendental love.
“Kṛṣṇa in Goloka is unborn and without a source, yet to embellish the līlā eternal associates such as Nanda Maharaja and Yaśodā Devī have personified the vātsalya-rasa through their abhimāna of fatherhood and motherhood, respectively.
“Similarly, in mādhurya or śṛṅgāra–rasa, the dichotomy of vipralambha–bhāva and sambhoga–bhāva are present as manifestations of abhimāna. Actually, in parakīya-bhāva, the parakīya-abhimāna, self-conception as a female paramour, and the upapati–abhimāna, self-conception as a male paramour, are eternally in full play to embellish the līlā although simultaneously the underlying relationship is of śuddha–svakīya, pure conjugal union.
“In Vraja-gokula, however, these same abhimānas become apparently manifest in a gross and mundane outward form because of the mundane notions of the viewers. For example, in Vraja Mother Yaśodā actually gives birth to a child in her maternity room. The nitya–siddha gopīs are married in ceremonies to gopas such as Abhimanyu and Govardhana-gopa, and on this very real basis have parakīya–abhimāna. Thus, the various abhimānas of Goloka are present in Vraja-gokula in a very tangible form. In truth, all this is orchestrated by Kṛṣṇa’s yoga-māyā-śakti and has extremely subtle links with the original primeval truth. Not the least part of these līlās is false, and all aspects are a facsimile of Goloka. Differences in perception occur on account of the various degrees of obstructing mundane consciousness in the viewers.”
Vijaya, “Must we first purify the quality of our bhajana in aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā-smaraṇa, meditation upon the eternal pastimes of Goloka by the eight daily time-divisions, and then try to grasp these topics of Vraja?”
Gosvāmī, “No, that is incorrect. Meditation upon the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā of Goloka must be conducted on the basis of one’s own realization of vraja–līlā. Then on the strength of one’s individual bhajana, one attracts the Lord’s grace and accordingly the līlās will be spontaneously manifest before one. It is not necessary that one tries to improve one’s bhāva and perception of the pastimes solely by one’s own endeavours.”
Vijaya, “One of the axioms of rhetoric states:
yadṛśī bhāvanā yasya siddhir bhavati tādṛśī
“‘A person attains the grades of perfection proportionate to his intellect.’
“According to this logic, whatever quality of meditation was present during the years of sādhana will beget the equivalent degree of perfection. Therefore, may I assume that after all it is imperative that one refines his meditation upon Goloka?”
Gosvāmī, “Very true. Whatever is present in vraja–līlā is rooted in the Supreme Absolute Truth; nothing in vraja–līlā is contrary to the transcendental reality. Any contradiction would indicate imperfection. When sādhana is purified and mature, it is transformed into siddhi. And as sādhana is progressively refined, the incipient perceptions of siddhi become sharper. Give full attention to your sādhana so that it is executed properly; however, do not try to purify your bhāva and perception of līlā by your own capacity. In due time, Kṛṣṇa, who is the fountainhead of the acintya-śakti, will do that for you. On your own, such attempts will be adulterated by the attitude of empirical, non-devotional jñāna, but when Kṛṣṇa showers His grace all anomalies will be removed effortlessly.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, I feel so blessed today. May I ask another question? Are the consorts of Dvārakā also allowed shelter in Goloka?”
Gosvāmī, “In the spiritual sky, Vaikuṇṭha offers endless bliss; Vaikuṇṭha is the highest attainment. Dvārakā and countless other realms are present there. The queens of Dvārakā reside and serve Kṛṣṇa in their individual palaces. No one else is allowed to enter Goloka in mādhurya–rasa besides the vraja–ramaṇīs, damsels of Vṛndāvana. The entire spectrum of transcendental līlās enacted in Vraja is present in Goloka. However, it is mentioned in the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad that Queen Rukmiṇī enjoys svakīya-līlā with Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā within the precincts of Goloka.”
Vijaya, “The range of parakīya-rasa pastimes visible in Vraja—is it present in Goloka in the same sequence?”
Gosvāmī, “Yes, the pastimes are present in Goloka in the same sequence, except those portions that are enacted in conjunction with the māyā–śakti. Although these portions are missing, each of them has a pure transcendental source. I do not wish to delve deeper into this topic, you will learn about it through your mature bhajana.”
Vijaya, “This entire material manifestation disappears at the time of mahā–pralaya, total annihilation, so how is the sāmprata–bhāva, timelessness, of vraja-līlā eternal?”
Gosvāmī, “Vraja–līlā is eternal in two ways. First, the prakaṭa-līlā, manifest pastimes, are sāmprata–pratīti, constantly present for perception, since they are in a cyclic continuum of manifestation progressing throughout the different material universes. Thus, the different prakaṭa-līlās are continually and simultaneously manifesting within the material creation. The sun is always rising relative to one area of this particular planet, in the same way, a particular prakaṭa–līlā is always manifesting in one of the material universes. And as it becomes unmanifest in that particular universe, it becomes manifest in the next universe. In this way, the prakaṭa–līlā are eternal. Secondly, in the aprakaṭa, unmanifest, state, all pastimes are manifest in the nitya-vartamāna, transcendental eternal present.”
Vijaya, “If the prakaṭa–līlā is manifest in every universe, is there a Vraja-dhāma in each universe?”
Gosvāmī, “Yes, that is true. Goloka is a manifest entity, present in every brahmāṇḍa as the līlā–dhāma, transcendental site of divine pastimes. Goloka is also manifest in the hearts of the śuddha–bhaktas.”
Vijaya, “Why does the Śrī Mathurā-maṇḍala area remain manifest in those universes where the līlās are presently unmanifest?”
Gosvāmī, “In Mathurā-maṇḍala, the aprakaṭa–līlā is eternally present. The dhāma, however, remains manifest in order to exhibit mercy to the pure devotee residents.”
The discussion concluded at this point, and Vijaya-kumāra returned home engrossed in thoughts of sevā in the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā.
Thus ends the thirty-first chapter of the Jaiva-dharma, entitled:
Mādhurya-rasa, The Supremely Sweet Conjugal Mellow, Part One