Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja

Lecture on Prema Vivarta
Mathura, India
April 21, 2000

[The following is a translation of Srila Maharaja's class - by Pundarika Prabhu.]

What is the meaning of prema vivarta? 'Vivarta sesa rupe avarta' - that love which is moving counter clockwise in a very special way. Generally love turns clockwise, but here it is experienced in a very special manner. One who has learned the two and a half syllables - prema (pre-ma) - has learned everything. All scriptures, especially Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and all the books of the Gosvamis, are based simply on this one word, prema. But this word is very difficult to understand. People generally claim they have love. They think they love people or animals. They will say, "I love you", but this is not the symptom of true love. If anyone has true love in his heart, he will never express it outwardly. He will try to conceal it.

We see this concealment in the pastimes of Srimati Radhika. She loves Krishna so much, more than Her life, but She never says to Him, "I love you." Even in her heart She never thinks that She has any love for Krishna. Rather, She cries that She has not even a drop of love for Him. She sees that the Pulindi girls of Govardhana have so much love for Krishna. She also sees that Yamuna has so much love for Him. She considers only Herself to be unfortunate. Similarly, Jagadananda Prabhu (the author of Prema Vivarta) is always in the association of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but he never says that he has any love for Him. And outwardly, Mahaprabhu also speaks about him in a very strong manner. He would say, "Whatever oil has been brought for my use by Jagadananda should be brought to Lord Jagannatha's temple and offered for His service." So we see that transcendental love has a wonderful speciality, and it appears only in the heart of pure devotees.

There is also an example of this same feeling in Sri Gadadhara Pandit. He had taken ksetra-sannyasa (the grave vow to remain in a certain holy dhama until the end of life.) in Puri. Then, when Mahaprabhu was leaving for Vrindavana, Gadadhara Pandit said to Him, "What is the use of my ksetra-sannyasa? The purpose of my taking sannyasa was to be with you. Now that you are leaving, I have no need for it. I'll give it up." This is very difficult to conceive for anyone in this material world. Similarly, Jagadananda Pandit is discussing in his Prema Vivarta why he took permission from Mahaprabhu to go to Vrindavana. He wanted to go to Vrindavana, but his mind would not cooperate with him. He ended up in Navadvipa, which is real Vrindavana, or hidden Vrindavana.

The poetries of Vidyapati, Candidasa and Jagadananda Pandit, and also the conversations of Raya Ramananda, are all transcendental and invaluable. They are the abodes of love. Only transcendental love has been explained in these books. Their subject matters are not material affairs. They are not kama, lust. They are prema. Those who have only a material conception will take these things to be material affairs between mundane men and women. But they are completely transcendental. The apparent similarity to material affairs gives some hint, some comparison; but actually there is no comparison. No material language and no material idea can express this completely transcendental mood. Only by the grace of the Lord can one understand it.

How can we reconcile Draupadi's relationship with Krishna? She is the chaste wife of the five Pandavas. What is the relationship of the Pandavas with Krishna? They were cousin-brothers, friends, and Arjuna was Krishna's brother in law. Yet, Krishna addresses Draupadi as 'sakhi' and Draupadi addresses Krishna as 'sakhe' (beloved). How is that? Materially speaking it is very difficult to understand. One can never reconcile their relationship. Similarly, Kuntidevi is Krishna's paternal aunt, yet within her heart she has a very special mood towards Him. This is also very difficult to conceive, and it is the same with Pariksit Maharaja's mother, Uttara. Outwardly Krishna is like her uncle. They were in two different generations. Still, Pariksit Maharaja tells her to have a very special mood for Krishna; to consider Him as her beloved. Pariksit Maharaja also. He is in a male body, yet he also has that special mood towards Krishna.

All those who are chanting the gopi-jana-vallabha mantra, whether male or female, want to have that special mood for Krishna. To achieve this they will have to understand the word 'piriti' (this is the Bengali pronunciation of priti), and try to enter the same mood as the gopis and Srimati Radhika. Actually, the full expression of this prema is only seen in Srimati Radhika. It is not manifested in anyone else. After the level of anuraga, all the descriptions given by the Gosvamis are especially for Srimati Radhika. Even Krishna can only come up to the point of mahabava, not above that. He cannot even reach the moods of Lalita and Visakha, what to speak of the moods of Srimati Radhika. She alone has the very special mood of madana-madanakya mahabhava. No one else has that mood which Sri Krishna Himself wants to understand.

We must understand that this transcendental love, the higher stages of which are known as modana and madana, and which are exhibited only in Srimati Radhika, is completely transcendental. The smallest fraction, the smallest degree, of this love, which is called sraddha, faith, is transcendental as well. From the very beginning, if sraddha is paramartika, transcendental, then it is completely spiritual. It is not mundane.

There are two symptoms for understanding this transcendental nature: svarupa-laksana and tatasta-laksana, the intrinsic symptoms and external symptoms. One can study the external symptoms, but it is very difficult to explain or understand the intrinsic symptoms. It is very difficult. We can see how, externally, someone is paying obeisances or serving. Based on that, we can assume that he has some sraddha. However, we cannot understand what kind of service mood he experiences in his heart. Similarly, we have so much information to study about the symptoms of the higher stages of love - like vibhava, anubhava, sattvika, vyabacari, and sancari bhavas. There are 33 sancari bhavas and so many other asta-sattvika bhavas. If we observe and then study such symptoms in any person, we may say that person has prema. But it may be that he has no prema at all.

When Srila Rupa Gosvami used to hear the wonderful pastimes of Krishna during the Srimad Bhagavatam class of Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, he would simply sit like a statue; whereas others near him would manifest symptoms of ecstasy. One person was crying, from someone else's mouth saliva was coming, and others exhibited many other symptoms like hairs standing on end. But Srila Rupa Gosvami was sitting silently, and nothing seemed to be happening with him. However, when they tried to understand what was actually happening within his heart, they found it hard to discern whether he was alive or completely dead. It was not known. He had crossed the limits of asta-sattvika bhava. His symptoms were not mentioned anywhere in sastras. From this we can understand that one cannot understand the intrinsic moods of prema. Only externally can some symptoms be studied and observed.

How can one understand the word 'mamata', mineness, which is the definition of prema? It cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. Mahaprabhu gave up Chota Haridasa Thakura. Is Chota Haridasa not Mahaprabhu's associate, helping in His pastimes? Yet we see that Mahaprabhu gave him up. People with external vision might say, "Mahaprabhu is so cruel. He does not have any love and affection for His associates. He gave up Chota Haridasa Thakura, and we see that later on he committed suicide by jumping in the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati rivers in Prayag. When someone later gave this news to Mahaprabhu, the Lord said, "That is good. He should have done that. He deserved that." No one knew that after his 'death' Chota Haridasa was coming every day to Mahaprabhu and singing beautiful gitas, songs, for Him. No one could understand this.

How can one understand that Sri Ramacandra gave up Sita? Or, perhaps, he did not give up Sita? Perhaps Sita gave up Rama. No one can understand this. Actually, He could never give up Sita, because She is His hladini-sakti. As fire and its heat can never be separated, Rama and Sita can never be separated. By external view we will only confuse ourselves. However, if we are properly following in the footsteps of those who are pure sadhus, and who worship this wonderful mood of the gopis, then some idea of this can be understood. Not otherwise.

Krishna's prema is completely pure, and it is completely transcendental. The symptom of one who has even a small particle of sraddha is that he will commit himself: "Now I will never give up chanting Hare Krishna. I will not give up saying the names of Krishna - even if someone cuts my body into a thousand pieces." This is the symptom. No matter what, or how many, obstacles come in his path, he will continue his practice of bhakti. On the other hand, some other persons have taken diksa or served their Gurudeva, have taken sannyasa and have preached all over the world for 25 years. But then what happened? For some time they served so nicely, but then they became attracted to a woman, and then they wanted to completely give up all their devotion. They started eating meat and taking liquor, and they stopped chanting. This means they did not even have sraddha.

So there is a big difference between 'laukhika sraddha', mundane faith, and paramarthika sraddha, transcendental faith. Paramarthika sraddha means that one has committed himself. Just as the highest stage of prema in Srimati Radhika is permanent, the smallest fraction of that transcendental love, paramarthika sraddha, can also never fade. If it has sprouted in anyone's heart, it will continue to grow, grow, and grow.

Prema vivarta is experienced in the association of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees, or in Srimati Radhika and Krishna. Similarly, the smallest experience of prema vivarta is experienced by those who have paramarthika sraddha. This wonderful sraddha is developed by the mercy of Vaisnavas.

Of course, without the mercy of Krishna one can never have that sraddha, but we know that Krishna's mercy is always following the mercy of Vaisnavas. Therefore, only one who is fortunate to have pure sadhu-sanga can attain the seed of paramarthika sraddha. Outwardly it may sometimes appear that such a person is not able to properly follow his Gurudeva, or sometimes it may appear that Gurudeva is angry with him, and it may even been seen that they do not have any affection for each other. But no one knows how much prema, love and affection, the disciple has for his Guru, or how much love and affection the Guru has for his disciple. This can never, never change. So many obstacles may come, but this will never stop.

There are some points of consideration, which we should thoughtfully and carefully try to understand. Do Srimati Lalita devi, Visakha, and all others like them think at anytime that they love Krishna more than Mother Yasoda? Do they think like this? Never. Although Srimati Yasoda loves Krishna so much and gives all affection to Him, does she think at anytime that He is more satisfied to be in the association of the gopis - and especially Srimati Radhika? Does she think like that? Yes.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] [In english] Ma Yasoda is taking a stick and chastising Krishna, saying, "I will punish you." Krishna is weeping and she is binding Him. What is this? Is this love?

[Srila Maharaja continues in Hindi and then Pundarika Prabhu translates.]

[Pundarika dasa:] Is this the manifestation of love? No one can say, "This is not love." What is it? This is vivarta - prema vivarta. At this time the love has increased so much that it appears to turn around and start moving in a counter-clockwise direction. We see this in a father or mother. When they see their child doing nonsense, they punish him or give him a slap. No one can say, "Oh, this is not love." What is it? It is vivarta. The love has now increased so much that it is turning around - going in the opposite direction. This is the highest expression of love.

Now we return to our point. Does Mother Yasoda sometimes think like that? Yes, she does. She understands that Krishna is more pleased to be with Srimati Radhika and the gopis. She therefore very cleverly gives Krishna the chance to be with Them, and They can thus experience Their wonderful love. This is very difficult to conceive with mundane consciousness. One can never conceive of this true conception. Only those who are fortunate and are following the method prescribed by Srila Rupa Gosvami - tan nama rupa caritadi - only they can understand something. Only they can have some idea. Although there are explanations given by Srila Rupa Gosvami in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu and other literatures describing the different levels of love, it is very hard to understand. The terms used there are very specific, and there are no substitutes or translations in any other language - English or any other language. Those who are grave and sincere can experience it in their heart, but it is not possible to explain in any language.

For example, let us take the word "anuraga". How can we understand this word? In English there are some very limited words, like love, affection, and attachment. But none of these words give the clear meaning or understanding of the term anuraga. I am trying to explain something from whatever I have gathered by reading Jaiva dharma and other books of the Gosvamis.

When prema increases to a point where the heart melts completely, 'sneha' is experienced. Then, due to 'pranaya' sometimes 'mana' is manifest, and sometimes mana is the cause of pranaya - both - visa-versa. After this, passing these stages of sneha, mana, and pranaya, when prema touches the heart, melts it and colors the heart in a very special way, it is called 'raga'.

There are two aspects of love: one is called visaya and the other is called asraya. Visaya is the object of love, Sri Krishna Himself. Asraya is the abode of love - the gopis and Srimati Radhika. Krishna is the enjoyer; He tastes love, and Srimati Radhika and the gopis are the abode of love, the shelter of love. Their love increases and comes to such a high stage so high that They forget Their individuality. "Na so ramani ma so ramani" (Cc Madya lila). For example, when Krishna disappeared from the rasa dance and the gopis were crying in separation, they forgot that they are gopis. They started acting and behaving as Krishna, and they began to enact His pastimes. This is a very, very high stage. When love reaches that stage, this transformation of love is called sva samvedya dasha. Sva samvedya means that only one who has this love in his heart can understand or realize it. Only Srimati Radhika and the gopis themselves can realize it; no one else.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] And what about Krishna?

[Pundarika dasa:] Even Krishna cannot understand.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] [In English] If He wants to realize this, He will have to come in the shape of Sacinandana Gaurahari. Otherwise He can never realize it. He cannot relish it. That is called sva samvedya.

[Pundarika dasa:] [continues translating] When Sri Krishna wants to relish this mood, He has to come in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That is called samvedya dasha, and that is the highest manifestation of love. If we want to come in the proper line so that we can try to understand and have these moods in our heart, or even some true conception of these moods, then we must properly begin from true and pure sraddha, nistha, ruci, etc. Without coming in the proper line, some persons try to achieve this mood of gopi-bhava. Some persons in Radha-kunda claim they have gopi-bhava, and they try to give gopi-bhava. This is all nonsense. They have no clear conception. Only those who come in the association of bona fide sadhus and vaisnavas, and take shelter of a bona fide guru - only they can understand. No one else has this opportunity.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] We should not try to superimpose on any suddha Vaisnava or suddha Guru our bad activities and bad moods. Don't try to impose these on him. Try to reform all your moods. Don't try to be independent from Guru and Vaisnava. Don't think, "I have become something. I can preach and do something independently" That is wrong. You cannot do anything independently. Try to realize this, and try to be very strong - more strong than iron.

[Pundarika dasa:] The fortunate person who has developed paramarthika sraddha, which is a minute expression of anuraga, will only have love for Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. He will never have any affection for anything material, or for anyone else. Also, he will have the same love and dedication for those who have a similar mood for Sri Radha-Krishna; Their devotee.

In the pastime of Sri Ramacandra in Ayodya, a washerman doubted Srimati Sitadevi's purity because She had been in the possession of Ravana. His idea was not true. Because his own heart was not feeling any anuraga for Her, he was imposing on Her the contamination of his own heart. Hanuman, Sugriva, and many other associates of Rama were present, but at no point did they think that Srimati Sitadevi was contaminated in any way. They did not even imagine such a thing in their mind. This was because they had that bhakti, that prema by which they could understand the lila. In the prakrata (manifested) Vraja pastimes also, there are so many persons who doubted Krishna. They saw Sri Krishna's pastimes through their own bad motivations. They were thus unable to understand those pastimes - especially those with the gopis. The examples of Kamsa or Duryodhana are cited. They always used to call Krishna bad names. Why? Because their hearts were contaminated. They were not feeling this anuraga, this suddha mood, this suddha-bhakti for Sri Krishna.

Similarly, there is a word of caution for all sadhakas or disciples who have taken shelter of a bona fide guru or vaisnavas. They should be very, very careful. They should not associate with those who try to say something bad about their Guru, or who try to create some confusion. They should not give their ears to such words. This is for their benefit. Without sadhu-sanga they will never be able to reconcile what is the truth. So we should be very careful.

We should not try to see faults in others or criticize anyone. Even if someone is really bad or is doing something bad, still we should not criticize him. If we do so, the bad qualities of that person will come into us. They will take our shelter. In order to purify ourselves we should abstain from such attitudes completely. Then what should we do? 'Sadhu-sanga sadhu-sanga sarva sastra kaya.' If we want our welfare, if we want our well-being, we should try to stay as pure as we can in the association of suddha bona fide Vaisnavas. That is our only hope. If we think, "Now I have learned bhakti; I have achieved some strength in bhakti. I can preach and I can do things on my own", we have actually cheated ourselves and there is no further chance for our advancing in Krishna Consciousness.