The Origin of Ratha-yatra

Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja

jagasubbal

[Dear Readers,

Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
June 21, 2012 is the commemoration of the divine Ratha Yatra festival. Please accept this lecture excerpted from Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja's book, The Origin of Ratha-yatra, chapter 5. You can download the entire book by clicking this link.

Your aspiring servants,
The hari-katha team]

Mahaprabhu's mood at Ratha-yatra

At the beginning of the Ratha-yatra Festival, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offers a prayer to Jagannatha-deva, not to His form as Lord Jagannatha or Vasudeva-Krsna, but to His form as Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna:

jayati jana-nivaso devaki-janma-vado
yadu-vara-parisat svair dorbhir asyann adharmam

sthira-cara-vrjina-ghnah su-smita-sri-mukhena

vraja-pura-vanitanam vardhayan kama-devam

Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.90.48)

["Sri Krsna is He who is known as jana-nivasa, the ultimate resort of all living entities, and who is also known as Devaki-nandana or Yasoda-nandana, the son of Devaki and Yasoda. He is the guide of the Yadu dynasty, and with His mighty arms He kills everything inauspicious, as well as every man who is impious. By His presence He destroys all things inauspicious for all living entities, moving and inert. His blissful smiling face always increases the lusty desires of the gopis of Vrndavana. May He be all-glorious and happy."]

Caitanya Mahaprabhu is praying in the mood of Srimati Radhika meeting Krsna at Kuruksetra. There, by their mood, the gopis bring Krsna to Vrndavana and decorate Him with flowers. By their mood they forcibly give Him the flute He left in Vrndavana with Mother Yasoda, along with His peacock feather, and they whisper in His ear, "Don't say that Your father and mother are Vasudeva and Devaki. Don't say that You are from the Yadu dynasty and that You are a Yadava. Say only that You are a gopa." Krsna replies, "Yes, I will follow your instructions."

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prays, jayati jana-nivaso devakijanma- vado. This sloka, which Sri Sanatana Gosvami has quoted in his Brhad-bhagavatamrta, has many profound meanings. If Caitanya Mahaprabhu or Srila Sanatana Gosvami were to explain it, they would do so with a hundred different meanings, each deeper and more unfathomable than the previous one. It contains the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam from beginning to end.

The general meaning of jana-nivasa is, "You are always in the hearts of all as Paramatma." However, Krsna cannot live as Paramatma in the hearts of the Vrajavasis; He can only be present there in the form of Vrajendra-nandana Syamasundara. Jana also means nija-jana (near and dear), and therefore it means Krsna's personal associates. All the Vrajavasis are Krsna's nijajana, for He is the jivana (life-air) of Nanda, Yasoda, all His friends, and especially of the gopis. He is also radhika-jivanera jivana, the very life of Radhika's life, and He always resides in Her heart. This relationship is reciprocal; the Vrajavasis are His life, just as much as He is theirs.

Devaki-janma-vado. Only Mathuravasis and worldly people can say that Krsna took birth from the womb of Mother Devaki. General people say this, but actually He is the son of Mother Yasoda; she is His real mother.

Yadu-vara-parisat svair dorbhir. The members of the Yadu dynasty are the nija-jana of Dvarakadhisa-Krsna, for they are His associates. It seems that this sloka refers to Vasudeva-Krsna, and describes Arjuna, Bhima, and His other associates as His arms. Vasudeva-Krsna fought in the Mahabharata War and in various other battles, and He fought with Paundraka Vasudeva and other demons. The sloka seems to describe dvaraka-lila, but actually, in its deeper meaning, it glorifies Vrajendra-nandana Krsna. In Vrndavana, Krsna killed Putana and other demons with his own arms. Moreover, in Vrndavana He killed the greatest demon – the feelings of separation felt by Srimati Radhika and the gopis.

Sthira-cara-vrjina-ghnah su-smita-sri-mukhena vraja-puravanitanam. In Vrndavana, Krsna always took away all kinds of problems and suffering, simply with His smiling face and His flute. What was the suffering of the Vrajavasis? It was only their mood of separation from Him. They had no other problems at all. This verse includes the pastimes of Gokula, Vrndavana, Radha-kunda, Syama-kunda, rasa-lila, and all the other Vraja pastimes as well. Vardhayan kamadevam. In this connection, Kamadeva does not mean lust, but prema. What kind of prema? Sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava, and mahabhava. The gopis tell Krsna, "You are that person – that Kamadeva." In this way, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is offering pranama and praying, putting the whole of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and all of Krsna's pastimes as well, into this one sloka.

The meaning of gopi-bhartuh

As I have explained before, Mahaprabhu very rarely sees Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. When He does, He at once enters a mood of very intense separation and prays, "After a long time I am meeting with My most beloved, for whom I was burning in the fire of separation." He addresses Jagannatha as gopibhartuh and prays, "Pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah." The word gopi-bhartuh reveals Krsna's relationship with the gopis, for it means "the gopis' most beloved," or "He who is always controlled by the gopis." Mahaprabhu concludes, "I want to be the servant of the servant of the servant of that Krsna."

naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na ca grha-patir no vanastho yatir va
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 13.80)

["I am not a brahmana, a ksatriya, a vaisya, or a sudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a grhastha, a vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing in full brilliance."]

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prays not only for Himself, but for everyone. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, gopibhartuh Himself, and He offers prayers in order to teach us how to pray. He is teaching us our actual identity; we are not Indian or American, nor are we from Great Britain or anywhere else. We are not brahmanas, administrative ksatriyas, mercantile vaisyas or sudra laborers, nor are we brahmacari students, grhastha householders, retired vanaprasthas, or sannyasis in the renounced order. We are eternally servants of Krsna.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu uses the name gopi-bhartuh for further clarification, and by this He is indicating, "We are not servants of that Krsna who lived here and there in Dvaraka without His flute. Others may be, but as for My associates and Myself, we are only gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah, the servants of the servants of the servants of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, the beloved of the gopis."

Who is gopi-bhartuh? He is Radha-kanta, Radha-ramana, and Gopinatha. The gopis must be there as the aradhya (worshipable deities) of Krsna. He must be their worshiper, and then we are His servants; otherwise not. We are not Krsna's servants if Rukmini and Satyabhama are there, or if He is four-handed and holding His Sudarsana cakra. Krsna must be with the gopis, He must be controlled by their prominence, and especially by Radha. We are servants of that Krsna. We are all transcendental, and our intrinsic, constitutional nature is to serve Krsna; but we are not servants of all His manifestations. There are very big differences in these manifestations, and to be the servant of gopi-bhartuh is very, very rare. We can consider that those who have come in the line of Mahaprabhu are radha-dasis, as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasadasanudasah only applies to the maidservants of Radhika. Caitanya Mahaprabhu's statement therefore refers to those who are coming in His disciplic line, those who are coming in the line of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, and our entire guru-parampara. One day, if our creeper of bhakti blossoms and the fruits and flowers of prema-bhakti manifest, we will be able to realize this. This is the aim and object of our life.

Leading up to the meeting: Krsna sends Uddhava to Vraja

Mahaprabhu was so absorbed that He could not utter Jagannatha's name. He could only chant, "Jaja gaga! Jaja gaga!" Tears fell from His eyes, and His heart melted. One can realize this state only if he is a devotee of the highest standard. What was the cause of Mahaprabhu's bitter weeping? What was the reason behind it? Mahaprabhu told Svarupa Damodara to sing a song that suited His mood, and Svarupa Damodara began to sing:

sei ta parana-natha painu
yaha lagi' madana-dahane jhuri' genu

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 13.113)

["Now I have gained the Lord of My life, in whose absence I was being burned by Cupid and was withering away."]

You will have to consult Srimad-Bhagavatam to understand the meaning of this verse, because the history of Ratha-yatra has been indicated there. Krsna left Vraja at the age of eleven1 [Krsna is exactly ten years and eight months old when He leaves for Mathura,but His transcendental body is like that of a full-grown kaisora of fourteen orfifteen years] and went first to Mathura, and then after some time He went to Dvaraka. While He was in Mathura, He sent Uddhava to console the gopis, and later He also sent Baladeva Prabhu from Dvaraka to console them. The gopis had now been feeling separation for a long time. Everyone in Vrndavana was feeling separation from Him, and even the cows and calves were upset. The gopas and gopis were weeping continuously, and everyone, including the entire forest of Vrndavana, was drying up.

When Krsna was sending Uddhava from Mathura, He told him,"Uddhava, go to Vrndavana and pacify My father and mother, Nanda and Yasoda, and especially pacify the gopis who have given Me their life and soul and everything they possess. The gopis always remember Me, and they do nothing else. They never decorate themselves and they have even given up taking their meals. They don't bathe and they don't even sleep."

mac-citta mad-gata-prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca
Bhagavad-gita (10.9)

["The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to serving Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me."]

The gopis' only relief from their feelings of separation came when they sometimes fainted and sometimes slept. However, even these two friends – fainting and sleeping – abandoned the gopis when Krsna took them with Him to Mathura.

In this way Krsna sent Uddhava to Vraja, and there Uddhava related His message, word by word, letter by letter. However, this only made the gopis more unhappy. Previously they had thought, "Krsna has promised that He will come;" but after hearing the message, they thought, "Krsna will never come," and they felt even more separation. Srimati Radharani began to weep:

he natha he rama-natha
vraja-natharti-nasana
magnam uddhara govinda
gokulam vrjinarnavat
Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.52)

["O master of My life, O master of the goddess of fortune, O master of Vraja! O destroyer of all suffering, Govinda, please lift Your Gokula out of the ocean of distress in which it is drowning!"]

Srimati Radhika said, "I am dying without Krsna. My dear sakhis, if Krsna does not come, I will die; I will surely die. Take My body, place it at the base of a tamala tree, and place My arms around that tree so that I may feel connected to Krsna. I pray that the water in My body will mix with Pavana-sarovara where Krsna bathes, so that I may touch Him. Let the air in this body go to Nanda Baba's courtyard and touch Krsna when He is fanned. May the fire in this body become rays of sunshine in Nanda Baba's courtyard, and then My soul will be happy. Now I cannot see Krsna, or touch Him." She was in a very pitiful condition, always in a mood of deep separation.

Krsna was also feeling unbearable separation, but no one knew that. The gopis could share their suffering with each other, but Krsna could not share His feelings with anyone. He wept alone. This is why He sent Uddhava to Vrndavana; He wanted Uddhava to be admitted into the school of the gopis, so that he would learn the meaning of the two-and-a-half letters in the word prema. [Unlike English, which has only full letters, Sanskrit words can contain both full and half letters.] Krsna considered, "When Uddhava understands the love of the gopis, he will be qualified to realize My feelings of separation."

When Uddhava returned from Vraja, he told Krsna about the glories of the gopis and their one-pointed love. He said, "It is so very high that I could not touch it. I only saw that mountain of love from a great distance, but still it was so high that my hat fell off the back of my head as I looked up at it. I cannot imagine how glorious the gopis are. I wanted to take the dust of their lotus feet, but now I am hopeless. I am not qualified to touch their foot-dust, so I simply offer pranama to it from very far away. Uddhava then uttered the following prayer in glorification of the gopis:

vande nanda-vraja-strinam
pada-renum abhiksnasah
yasam hari-kathodgitam
punati bhuvana-trayam Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.63)

["I repeatedly offer my respects to the dust from the feet of the women of Nanda Maharaja's cowherd village. When these gopis loudly chant the glories of Sri Krsna, the vibration purifies the three worlds."]

Instead of becoming pacified by Uddhava's explanation, Krsna felt more and more separation. He wanted to go to Vraja, but for some reason He could not.

What Krsna never told before

Krsna had told Uddhava, "My father and mother are weeping bitterly. They have become blind, and they are hardly more than skeletons. Perhaps they will only live for one or two days more; in fact, they may die at any moment. Please go and pacify them. And go also to the gopis. I know that My father and mother are weeping bitterly, that they are blind, and may die... but I don't know what is the condition of the gopis. They are feeling the topmost separation for Me. I don't know whether they are alive, or if they have already died; so go at once, quickly. They always remember Me, keeping Me on the chariots of their minds, without any selfish motive. They know that nobody in Mathura knows My heart."

The gopis know that Krsna is very shy, and cannot ask anyone for something to eat when He feels hungry. Yasoda-maiya is not present in His palace; so who will pacify Him, and who will serve Him? This is why the gopis feel so much separation.

Krsna had told Uddhava, "The gopis are mat-prana, My life and soul." He had not said this about His father and mother, only about the gopis. He continued, "They have left everything for Me. For My sake, they have stopped caring for their bodies and have forgotten all their bodily duties. I am their only beloved, and they are My most beloved; indeed, they are My life and soul. They have left their shyness and their worldly responsibilities, and they have also abandoned all social etiquette for Me. For My sake, they have disobeyed their parents and left their source of maintenance. I must somehow save them and maintain them. Now they are far away, thinking, 'Krsna will surely come tomorrow. If we die now, He will also die when He finds out.' This is the reason they somehow maintain their lives without dying.

"The gopis think, 'Krsna has promised, and He cannot break His promise. He must come. He will come tomorrow.' That is why they maintain their lives. Actually, I think that they are not maintaining their own lives. Their lives rest in Me, and I am maintaining them, otherwise they would have been finished. Go at once and see whether they have died or not; and if not, please pacify them."

Krsna had only spoken like this about the gopis; never about anyone else, including Arjuna and the Pandavas, or His queens, Satyabhama and Rukmini. The gopis are unique in their boundless and causeless love and affection for Krsna. Our highest aim and object is the love for Krsna that is in the gopis, and especially in Radhika.

When Radhika was feeling separation, gopis like Lalita, Visakha, Citra, Campakalata, and Rupa Manjari were serving Her and trying to pacify Her; but who could actually pacify Her? She was totally mad, with no external sense at all. The others were trying to pacify Her because their consciousness was still somewhat functional. Their love is very high, millions of times greater than that of Uddhava, Satyabhama, and Rukmini, and higher even than that of the other sakhis of Vrndavana; but it is not as high as Radhika's love.

Radhika was totally mad, as Uddhava saw when he witnessed Her talking to the bumblebee. Actually, Krsna Himself had gone to Vraja in the form of that bumblebee, and He also saw that Radhika was totally mad. She was lying on a bed of rose petals, which had become dried up by the touch of Her body, and all the candana that had been put on Her body to cool Her was also completely dried. At first, Uddhava could not understand whether She was dead or alive.

Then, he saw that Radhika was very angry with Krsna, criticizing and abusing Him, and calling Him an ungrateful cheater. No one else could have spoken to Krsna in this way, including Satyabhama and the other queens, and even Mother Yasoda and Nanda Baba. Radhika told Him, "You are ungrateful, and You are like a six-legged bumblebee. Human beings have two legs and animals have four; but bumblebees have six legs, so they are more ignorant than any animal. We don't want to have any relationship with that black person whose heart is as black as a bumblebee. Rama was also black, and he cheated Surpanakha and cut off her nose and ears."

Srimad-Bhagavatam is actually an explanation of the glory of Radhika's love. Her love is supreme, and it is the goal of all living beings. We can never grasp its breadth, but we can taste a drop of it, and even that one drop can drown the entire universe. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave Srila Rupa Gosvami that drop of the endless ocean of nectar, bhakti-rasa. If we can serve the gopis, and especially Radhika, we can also have love and affection for Krsna, and then we can feel separation. Otherwise, it will never be possible. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Six Gosvamis, Srimad- Bhagavatam, and Sukadeva Gosvami have proclaimed this conclusion: our goal is krsna-prema, the prema that the gopis have for Krsna.

Previously, Uddhava had heard about how much love and affection the gopis have for Krsna, but he had no experience of it. He had heard that the gopis are Krsna's most beloved, and that Krsna is their most beloved, but even knowing this, he could not know the intensity and the ways of their love.

Uddhava also loves Krsna, and thinks, "Krsna is my master, He is also like my brother, and we have so many other relationships." However, Krsna did not say anything about Uddhava's love. Rather, He told him to go to Vraja and learn there: "Go and realize the nature of prema." He said, "There is no one in Mathura like these gopis."

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has mercifully sprinkled a drop of that love on the world (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi-lila 1.4)):

anarpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
harih purata-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandipitah
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah

["May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Sacidevi be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of amorous love.

Uddhava failed the entrance exam

Uddhava had great love and affection for Krsna, but when he arrived in Vraja, he realized that vraja-prema was totally new to him. He saw Krsna playing with all His sakhas. Millions and millions of cows were hankering after Him, and milk was flowing from their bulging udders because of their spontaneous love. The very beautiful black and white calves were jumping here and there, and Nanda Baba's big bulls were fighting with each other.

As Uddhava saw that scene, beautiful ghee lamps flickered in the gopis' rooms, and the light from these lamps was soft and fragrant – not like the dead light from electric bulbs. Varieties of flowers spread their sweet aroma in all directions, and the songs of the humming bumblebees were like the blowing of Cupid's conchshell. Cuckoos and other birds were singing everywhere, and peacocks were dancing about and calling, "Ke kaw! Ke kaw!"

All the gopis were churning yogurt and singing, "Govinda Damodara Madhaveti." They were all very beautiful, and Mother Yasoda was the most beautiful of all. How else could Krsna have become so beautiful? He would only have been black otherwise; it was because of her that His beauty was like the luster of pearls.

Uddhava saw all this, but in a moment the scene changed completely, and now he saw that all the residents of Vrndavana were weeping for Krsna: "O Krsna, where are You? Where are You?" Cows were not going out to graze. They simply wept, keeping their heads and eyes toward Mathura, and the calves were not drinking the milk from the udders of their mothers. The peacocks were not dancing; rather, they looked as if they were blind. Every person and creature was mad in separation from Krsna.

It was now evening, and Uddhava found himself in Krsna's home, where he became dumbstruck to see the love and affection of Mother Yasoda and Nanda Baba. He could never have imagined that such high-class love could exist, but now he was able to realize something of its elevated nature.

Early the next morning, Uddhava went to Kadamba-kyari, where, by Krsna's mercy, he was able to see the gopis, who were all mad in separation and just about to die. This is why Krsna had sent him to Vrndavana: to try to be admitted into the school of the gopis. Krsna had told him, "Be admitted into the school in which I studied. Then, when you return, we will be able to have some discussion about love and affection. First, go and become qualified."

However, Uddhava was not qualified for admittance into the school of the gopis. His entrance examination score was about 25 percent, but the gopis demanded more than 85 percent. Still, although they rejected him, he was able to enter the school and see the very high-class students there. He saw professors like Visakha and Lalita, and he saw the principal, Radhika Herself. Now he knew something of the glories of the gopis, and he realized a little of their love for Krsna. He had never seen anything like this before, and now he felt, "If I want to love Krsna, I must be admitted into this school. But I am not qualified." He therefore requested the gopis, "If you do not admit me, can you at least take me on as a servant, to bring water and clean the school?" The gopis rejected even that request, however, and they told him, "You should go back to Mathura. First become qualified, and then you can sweep our kuïjas; you cannot sweep here at the moment."

Uddhava then prayed:

vande nanda-vraja-strinam
pada-renum abhiksnasah

yasam hari-kathodgitam

punati bhuvana-trayam

Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.63)

Nanda-vraja-strinam means the beloved gopis of Krsna. Uddhava prayed to them, "I want to offer myself unto the dust of your lotus feet. I want to keep even one particle of your foot-dust on my head, and if I can only get one particle of dust, it must be Srimati Radhika's." Neither Brahma nor Sankara, nor even Satyabhama and the other Dvaraka queens, can attain this.

Krsna had sent Uddhava to see the glories of the gopis, and now he saw Mount Everest, the highest peak of the Himalayas of the gopis' love. He could not become like them, however, so he had to return to Krsna empty-handed. "I went there and saw something very mysterious and wonderful, which I cannot explain," he told Krsna. "You told me about the gopis, and what I saw was even more wonderful than what You told me. But I had to return without realizing anything."

Yasam hari-kathodgitam, punati bhuvana-trayam. The songs of the gopis, such as Bhramara-gita and Gopi-gita, purify the whole universe, and if one recites them, or even remembers them, he will actually be purified. So try to recite all these songs (gitas) and know them. The meanings are very deep, and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja wanted to teach that the very wonderful moods therein are our aim and object. He wanted to teach this and he did discuss it in his books, but how could he actually plant it in barren lands and deserts? First he had to cultivate the lands to make them fertile. He wanted to give this highest goal, but in the meantime his Svamini, Srimati Radhika, called to him, "Come at once! We need your service."

This is our goal – the dust of the lotus feet of Srimati Radhika.

asam aho carana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinam
ya dustyajam sva-janam arya-patham ca hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.61)

["The gopis of Vrndavana have abandoned the association of their husbands, sons, and other family members who are very difficult to give up, and they have forsaken the path of chastity to take shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, Krsna, which one should search for by Vedic knowledge. Oh, let me be fortunate enough to be one of the bushes, creepers, or herbs in Vrndavana, because the gopis trample them and bless them with the dust of their lotus feet."]

Uddhava prayed, "If I cannot attain Radhika's lotus feet, then I will be satisfied with the dust particles from the feet of any of Her sakhis. I don't want the dust of Krsna's lotus feet, because I will have to take a particle of the gopis' moods if I want to please Krsna."

We must engage in the process given by Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. The teaching of our present acaryas is the same wine in new bottles. The bottles are different colors, but the wine is the same. If you drink that wine, you will certainly become mad, but this madness is actually desirable.

Krsna meets His parents at Kuruksetra

Years later there was to be a solar eclipse and Krsna planned to go to Kuruksetra with all His commanders, His army, and all His 16,108 queens. He did not invite Nanda Baba directly, but He thought, "Father will know, and he will not be able to remain in Vraja. He will come at once; he must come."

In Vrndavana, Nanda Baba somehow came to know about the religious function to be held at Kuruksetra. Thus, all the gopas, gopis, and young people prepared their bullock carts and proceeded toward Kuruksetra, leaving Upananda and some other elders in Vraja to look after everything. They took with them many personal items for Krsna, such as butter and other things that He liked, and on the way they constantly remembered: "Krsna, Krsna, Krsna."

By then, the gopis had been lamenting for perhaps fifty, sixty, or seventy years. Krsna also felt separation for that long, but even after all those years, He was still youthful (kisora), and the gopis remained young as well.

In the meantime, the sun was covered by a shadow and the whole world became dark. According to Vedic culture, during a solar eclipse one should take bath three times: when it is just beginning, when the sun is fully covered, and when it is again fully visible. At that time, one should bathe and give donations in charity. It is written in Indian history and in the Vedas and Upanisads that many kings used to donate their entire wealth to the brahmanas and needy persons. Every golden pot and utensil was given in charity. Having given away their own clothing, keeping only a loincloth for themselves, the kings themselves would become penniless. Those charitable persons were giving so much charity that there was no longer anyone to take it. Those who had accepted charity began to give charity to others. They gave their charity in charity, and therefore there was no one left to think, "I want charity." All were giving and all were satisfied – because Krsna was there. Even recently in India, many people would donate all these things. Now, however, although giving in charity is for the betterment of the donors, this culture is gradually reducing.

Everyone bathed there at Kuruksetra, made their donations, and after that they came to Krsna's tent to take His darsana. Thousands and thousands of rsis, maharsis, brahmavadis, realized souls like Narada, Bhisma Pitamaha (the grandfather of the Kauravas and Pandavas), Vyasadeva, Gautama, Yajïavalkya, Duryodhana and all his brothers, Dronacarya, Karna, and all the Kauravas came from all over India, and from all over the world. Rsis and maharsis from the Caspian sea, like Kasyapa, also came, and from Mongolia, sages like Mangala Rsi came with all his sons and daughters. Almost all the kings of the world had assembled there to bathe in the very pious lake there, and the crowd consisted of more than ten million people. All were there to bathe in that lake, and all were residing there in separate camps.

Now, everyone assembled in the camp of Vasudeva and Devaki to take darsana of Krsna, and they began to enter His tent. His tent was so large that thousands of people could sit inside. Although there was no arrangement for a loudspeaker, everyone could easily hear Him speak, and in fact everyone thought, "Krsna is sitting near me. I'm joking with Him, I'm telling Him something, and He is very happy to hear it."

The Pandavas – Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, Sahadeva, and Draupadi – had also joined the assembly, and their mother, Kunti, was also there. Kunti met with her brother Vasudeva, and pitifully weeping with tears falling profusely from her eyes, she told him, "Brother, you did not remember me when my sons were given poison, when they were about to burn in a fire, or when all their wealth, kingdom, and everything else was taken and we were begging here and there. Like a demon, Duryodhana cheated my sons. He drove them from their kingdom, and he and Duhsasana also tried to strip Draupadi in the big council where Dhrtarastra, Bhisma Pitamaha, and other elders were present. You are my brother. You should have remembered me." Weeping loudly, she put her arms around Vasudeva's neck, and Vasudeva Maharaja also began to weep. Kunti continued, "Perhaps, my brother, you forgot me."

Vasudeva replied, "O elder sister, please do not lament. This was all caused by the time factor of Sri Bhagavan. At that time my wife and I were imprisoned in the jail of Kamsa, and we were suffering so grievously. Kamsa was always abusing and insulting us. His men bound me in iron chains and they were kicking me with their boots. How could I do anything? Moreover, our six sons were killed right in front of us, snatched from my lap and put to death. Luckily, Baladeva and Krsna are saved. I was in unbearable distress, and that is why I could not help you. Nevertheless, despite everything, somehow I always remembered you, and when I came out of jail I sent my first message to you.

"Everything depends on the mercy of God. Sometimes we meet and sometimes we are separated from each other. Sometimes there is suffering and sorrow, and sometimes we are very prosperous. Nothing depends on any soul. Don't worry anymore. Now it is over." In this way Vasudeva was consoling Kunti.

In the meantime, Nanda Baba and the Vrajavasis were coming on many bullock carts. Mother Yasoda, Nanda Baba, all the gopis like Srimati Radhika, Lalita, and Visakha, and all Krsna's cowherd friends like Dama, Sridama, Sudama, Vasudama, Stoka-krsna, Madhumangala, and all others were on their way. Thousands of gopas and gopis were on their way to Krsna.

While everyone else was meeting with Krsna, someone came and told Him and Baladeva, "Oh, Your father and mother are coming in a bullock cart." When Krsna heard this, He immediately left all the members of the assembly. Although there were many thousands upon thousands of devotees, like Kasyapa, Kavi, Havi, Antariksa, Narada, Vasistha, Agastya, and Valmiki, Krsna left them all and began to run at once towards Yasoda and Nanda – weeping with tears in His eyes. In one second His heart had melted, and now He called out, "Oh, Mother is coming? Father is coming?" Upset, He cried out, "Mother, Mother, where are you?" The bullock cart had now stopped. Baladeva Prabhu was following Krsna, and they both exclaimed, "Oh, the bullock cart is here." Nanda Baba and Yasoda-maiya came down from the cart, and when they saw Krsna they became overwhelmed and began to weep, "O my son, my son! Krsna, Krsna!"

Standing at a distance, all the gopas and gopis, including Radha, Lalita, and Visakha, were also weeping. Somehow they had been tolerating their separation from Krsna while traveling from Vraja, and in Vraja they were also somewhat tolerating. Now, however, as they came nearer and nearer, their tolerance began to disappear and they began to cry like babies.

Krsna at once sat on the lap of Yasoda-maiya, and Baladeva Prabhu fell at the feet of Nanda Baba. Seeing Krsna, whom she had lost for years and years, all Yasoda-maiya's separation mood, in the form of tears, began to flow out. She wept loudly, "My dear son! My dear son!" She covered Krsna's face as she had done when He was a baby, and milk flowed automatically from her breasts. She covered Him as though He was a helpless, small baby and she wept bitterly – so bitterly.

In Vrndavana she had never wept as much as she did now. There she was like a statue, and her heart was dried up in separation. Krsna had also been like dry wood, or like a stone, but now He also wept aloud. Nanda Baba took Baladeva in his lap and he also began to weep, and it was a very piteous scene. Krsna cried out, "Mother! Mother!" Baladeva Prabhu, sitting on the lap of Nanda Baba, was crying out, "Father! Father!" and Nanda Baba caressed him.

Having followed Krsna, Vasudeva, Devaki, and Mother Rohini arrived there, and Rohini thought, "Oh, how very wonderful this situation is!" Krsna had always been somewhat shy in front of Devaki. If He was hungry, He would tell Mother Rohini – not Devaki – and now Devaki saw Him weep uncontrollably. Devaki thought, "Krsna never sat on my lap. He has never called me, 'Mother, Mother.' But now He is in the arms of Yasoda crying, 'Mother, Mother, Mother.' Yasoda thinks, 'Krsna is my own son,' and Krsna also thinks, 'My mother is only Yasoda – not Devaki.' Yasoda will surely take Krsna and return to Vraja. Krsna will go forever and He will never return to Dvaraka!"

She wanted to tell Yasoda, "O Yasoda, Krsna is not your son. He is my son, but now He is forgetting me and accepting you as His real mother." She also wanted to tell Krsna, "You are not the son of Yasoda. You are my son." She could not say all this in the assembly of so many persons, however, and therefore she spoke her mind in a roundabout way.

Being very intelligent, she said, "O dear friend Yasoda, you are wonderful and merciful. When we were in the prison of Kamsa, we could not support Krsna. Then, in a hidden way, we sent our son to Gokula – to you. Although He is my son, you have kept and supported Him. You have nourished Him better than anyone could nourish her own son. Although you knew that Krsna is my son, you nourished Him as though He was yours. As the eyelids protect the most important part of the eyes – the pupils – you protected Krsna. You never thought, 'He is the son of Devaki.' You saw Him only as your son. I see, therefore, that there is no one as merciful as you in the entire world. You are very humble and broadminded, and you have served Him up to now. Because of this, He never remembers me. He always thinks that you are His mother."

Rohini saw that Devaki was trying to do something wrong – she was trying to come between Yasoda and Krsna. Rohini wanted her not to disturb them. To trick her, therefore, she quickly said, "Oh, Mother Kunti and so many more persons are waiting for you. We should go there." She cleverly sent her away to welcome all the guests, and she also sent Vasudeva Maharaja.

After some time Yasoda-maiya became relieved, but she could not say anything. She was not in a state to say anything, and Krsna was also in that condition. There was now only an exchange of moods – from heart to heart. Yasoda then thought, "Outside, nearby, all the gopis like Lalita, Visakha, and Srimati Radhika are waiting. They cannot meet Krsna if I am here – and Nanda Baba and Baladeva are also here."

Up until now the gopis were checking their moods of separation and their lives remained in their bodies. Once they reached Krsna, however, they could no longer tolerate a moment's separation. They were about to die. Being very kind and generous, Mother Yasoda thought, "They will die if I do not give a chance to them at once. I must take everyone away from here, by trick, and then the gopis will come. If I delay, they will all die. They cannot tolerate the separation any longer."

I remember an example from my boyhood, when I was fifteen. My father was a farmer. I went with him to a place far from my house, and there I picked a bundle of very delicious, beautiful green chickpeas. At first I thought the bundle was very light, when I reached the midway point it became heavy, and as my village became nearer I could not bear the weight. When I came into the village I should have instantly fallen down, but somehow I persevered. When I reached the door of my house, however, I could not take the load inside. I dropped it outside.

This was also the case with the gopis. When they were in Vraja they were somehow tolerating separation, and as they traveled to Krsna their separation-feeling increased. Then, when they saw Krsna but had no chance to meet Him because Yasoda, Nanda Baba, and others were with Him, they could not endure the separation at all. Yasoda realized this fact, and she at once took the hand of Baladeva Prabhu. She put his fingers in her hand and, looking towards Nanda Baba, she told him, "Let us meet with the others." Being very intelligent, Baladeva Prabhu also considered, "If I am here, the gopis will not come," and he hurriedly left with his parents.

Yasoda thus went to Devaki and embraced her, and some dialogue ensued. Nanda Baba met with Vasudeva and others, and they also engaged in conversation.

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