Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
[ Below is the first chapter of Srila Gurudeva's book, Nectar of Govinda-lila, where he speaks about the most important verse in the Gita, 18.65. ]
Recently, by the desire of Bhagavan, we had to leave Vrndavana for some time, but wherever we go, we always remember Vrndavana. The scriptures describe many spiritual places, but in the entire brahmanòa there is no place like Vrndavana. He who knows the glories of Vrndavana will understand this, and especially one who has received the mercy of Vrndavana will understand this. In his Sri Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Srila Prabhodananda Sarasvati has written that Vrndavana is our everything, and not just the village of Vrndavana, but the entire Vraja-manòala. Especially Nanda-grama, Varsana, Radha-kunòa, Syama-kunòa, Giriraja Govardhana: they are all included within Vrndavana. Sri Krsna and His eternal associates have performed pastimes there which are thoroughly unique.
For understanding these things, the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita serve as a foundation. Constructed upon this foundation is the palace of the Srimad-Bhagavatam with its twelve floors. There are nine storeys or cantos lower, two storeys or cantos above, and in the middle is the tenth storey, or the Tenth Canto. Inside this there are ninety different kunjas, which are the chapters of the Tenth Canto. And in the centre of this are five special chambers, which are the five chapters describing rasa, where Sri Radha and Krsna are enjoying amorous pastimes. It appears that Radhika is serving Krsna, but really Krsna is serving Her. As long as the foundation of the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita is not there, we will take a mundane understanding of these topics and everything will be ruined.
In the Gita (18.65) we find this verse:
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo si me
"Absorb your mind and heart in Me, become My devotee, worship Me, offer your pranama to Me, and then certainly you will come to Me. I make this promise to you because you are very dear to Me."
This is the best of all verses in the Bhagavad-gita. We shouldn’t consider the following verse (18.66) to be the best:
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
"Give up all forms of religiosity, unworldly or other-worldly, bodily or mental, varnasrama-dharma, the worship of demigods and goddesses, and even the worship of Narayana and Dvarakadhisa and come exclusively to My shelter."
Although this is the final verse, and Krsna is telling us to abandon our dharma, we may think that some sinful reaction may come to us. But Krsna says, "I am responsible for that. I will excuse you from all sins." Making our parents cry, making our brothers and relatives cry, a wife making her husband cry, a husband making his wife cry, not doing our duty to society, and not following varnasrama-dharma is all adharma or non-religious, and sinful reaction will come to anyone who does these things. But Krsna says, "I promise that I will at once free you from any sinful reaction."
The verse that we will describe here, man-mana bhava, is even better than this verse. The verse sarva-dharman parityajya gives instruction for saranagati, devotional surrender, but this verse gives the fruit of that surrender, and is therefore even more exalted.
When we read the Gita thoroughly, and especially when we look through the commentaries of our acaryas, we see that there are five levels of instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. First, there are general instructions for everyone. After this is guhya or secret, then guhyatar or more secret, then guhyatam or most secret, and finally sarva-guhyatam or the most secret of all secrets. These instructions are not given in an expanded form, but in the form of sutras or condensed verses.
dogdha gopala nandanah
partho vatsah sudhir-bhokta
dugdham gitamrtam mahat
All the scriptures – the Vedas, Puranas, Upanisads – are like a cow, and Arjuna is the calf. First the cow feeds a little milk to her calf, and she becomes pacified by that. Then the milkman Sri Krsna can milk the cow, and keep the remainder of the milk aside. Who is the remainder for? Those that are sudhi, whose intelligence is pure. Whose intelligence is pure? The big scientists and big scholars of this world? The Bhagavatam doesn’t say this. It gives the word ‘sumedhah’ , and who is sumedhah? A person who performs bhagavad-bhajana, who is rasika or expert in relishing rasa. One who has decided that engaging in bhagavad-bhajana is the essence of life is purely intelligent, and the rest are fools.
How are they fools? ‘Go-kharah’ – amongst the animals, the fool is the donkey. When we were coming from Delhi recently, we saw a dog seated on top of a donkey, just looking around. The donkey was just going on its way in a relaxed fashion. Therefore the donkey is a big fool. People load all of their rubbish and heavy things on the donkey, and it carries them. It doesn’ t do any work with its front feet, but does everything with its hind legs, such as when it wants to kick some-one. If you tell it to go forward it goes backward, and if you tell it to go backward it goes forward. Such a fool it is, and similarly, those that don t perform bhajana of Bhagavan are also fools. And who is intelligent? Only those who engage in bhagavad-bhajana.
After the cow has first fed her calf a little milk, Krsna keeps the remainder in a pot for those that are sudhi, of pure intelligence, who are dear to Him. Up to here the milk is the instructions of the Gita, but there is something more: on top of the milk will be the essence, the cream. Churn that, and very soft and beautiful butter will also be produced. Along with the butter also come some things to be discarded. Put the butter on the fire, and in the end, what will we save? Ghee. From ghee we cannot make another thing; it is the essence.
Vyasa gave Sukadeva the cream and told him, “My son, churn it.” Sukadeva took a churning stick and slowly churned until butter was produced. He distributed this butter in the form of the first nine cantos of the Bhagavatam, but some people said, “We will not take butter; we will accept only the essence of butter.”
So to them he gave the remainder of the Bhagavatam, and therefore the remainder of the Bhagavatam is so much greater. What he gave in the Bhagavatam is apparently nowhere in the Vedas and Upanisads, but actually it is there. In what form is it there? Just as there is ghee spread throughout milk, this essence is in the Gita, Upanisads, Vedas, Puranas, and Ramayana. But taking this milk and then making butter and ultimately ghee is not an ordinary task. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the five chapters describing the rasa-lila, the Gopi-gita, the Bhramara-gita (where Radha is speaking to a bumblebee in the madness of separation from Krsna), and the Uddhava-sandesa (where Krsna sends Uddhava to Vrndavana with a message for the gopis) are the beautiful ghee which he made. And to whom in this world did he give it? He didn’t give it to unqualified people, but exclusively to those who were qualified.
For ordinary people, Bhagavan Sri Krsna has said:
yogo bhavati duhkha-ha
"Don’t eat or sleep too much, and be regulated in working and recreation, otherwise you will not be able to attain that rare yoga wherein a soul meets his Creator. In this general knowledge, He has given the knowledge that we are not these bodies. Be detached from the desires of the body and don’t act for them."
jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur dhruvam janma mrtasya ca
One who has taken birth will certainly die, and afterward he will certainly take birth again. Arjuna was crying for everyone?for his son, wife, relatives, friends, and we are also crying for this.
asocyan anvasocas tvam
bhasase gatasun agatasums ca
"Those who are wise despair neither for the living or the dead. Everyone will die, and those that don t go today will go tomorrow or the next day. Don t cry or worry for them, because inside the body is the soul."
nainam chindanti sastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty
apo na sosayati marutah
"The soul cannot be harmed by any weapon, burnt by fire, moistened by water, or withered by the wind. The soul is eternal, but the body is subject to death, so don't be overly concerned about the body."
Yes, a man can worry for it like this: after becoming enlightened, and realising that Bhagavan has given this body in the form of a mandira and for the purpose of performing bhajana, it should be cared for. We should keep it clean and repair it, because otherwise we won’t be able to do bhajana. Up to here, caring for the body is alright, but it should be done with a spirit of detachment. In the end Bhagavan will ask for it back, and it must be returned. He will ask, “I have given you such a rare and valuable human form, and what have you done with it?”
Therefore He has spoken verses like this:
ya nisa sarva-bhutanam
tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani
sa nisa pasyato muneh
"While ordinary people sleep, the sage is awake in self-realisation, and while the sage sleeps, ordinary people are awake in sense gratification. Therefore you should simply engage in bhagavad-bhajana and considering happiness and distress to be the same, go on doing your duty. Up to here it is general instruction."
After this comes guhya, secret instruction, which is brahma-jnana. The atma is brahma, spiritual substance.
kesava sthita-dhih kim
prabhaseta kim asita vrajeta kim
Arjuna asks, “What are the symptoms of a person whose consciousness is absorbed in brahma? How does he speak, how does he sit, and how does he walk?” In the eighteenth chapter the conclusion is given:
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
"One who is situated in brahma sees brahma everywhere, and he thinks, “I am also brahma.” Thinking such he will meditate on brahma, and will not experience happiness or distress. He remains steady through whatever comes to him, and merges his consciousness in brahma."
karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana
"Go on doing your duty and don't desire the fruits of your labour. In an ordinary way, this is brahma-jnana."
After this comes guhyatar, more secret, which is paramatma-jnana. There are two classes of beings, ksarah or fallible and aksarah or infallible, and then there is Purusottama. Bhagavan is Purusottama, who resides in the hearts of all living entities in the size of a thumb. Meditate on Him, and if you don t reach Him, try again. Again not reaching Him, try again.
kleso dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam
That formless brahma that I mentioned to you before – don t go there! Beware! There will be more difficulty in trying to attach your consciousness to something formless. Instead, meditate on the Paramatma within the heart, and one who connects with Him is a real sannyasi and a real yogi.
sa sannyasi ca yogi ca na niragnir na cakriyah
Just by performing fire sacrifices, or by muttering, “aham brahmasmi,” one does not become a real sannyasi. This is all guhyatar, more secret.
And guhyatam, most secret, is given in the ninth chapter. Pure bhakti is given there, but it is devoid of rasa. Although it is pure bhakti, it is not full of rasa.
At the end of the eighteenth chapter sarva-guhyatam, the most secret of all secrets, is given. It is full of rasa, and is the highest limit of bhakti:
srnu me paramam vacah
isto si me drdham iti
tato vaksyami te hitam
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo si me
“Because you are very dear to Me, I am telling you this most hidden of all instructions.”
What is that instruction? Before this, Sri Krsna had explained up to the worship of Narayana, which is worship of Bhagavan but with awareness of His opulences. However in this verse, four extraordinary activities are described. The first is man-mana bhava: always think of Me, the second is mad-bhakto: become My devotee, the third is mad-yaji: worship Me, and the fourth is mam namaskuru: offer pranama to Me. If you cannot do the first, then do the second. If you can’t do that, then do the third. If you can’t do that, then just offer pranama, and everything will come from that.
Now we will speak on the first part of this verse, “man-mana bhava: absorb your mind and heart in Me.” This is not a simple thing. For a man to absorb his mind in any one activity, then his eyes, ears, nose, and all his senses must be completely centred on that. If the mind cannot concentrate on something, it is more or less uncontrolled. Sometimes our mind is pondering sense enjoyment, and sometimes we think about Krsna. This is the conditioned state. But if someone s mind is fully absorbed in the lotus feet of Bhagavan, then that is the highest form of worship. When will this be possible? In the beginning stage of sraddha or faith it is not possible. Then the stage of ruci or taste will come, and still it won’t be possible. After this we can really begin to give our heart. In the stage of asakti or spiritual attachment we can give perhaps one-half of our heart to Him. In the stage of bhava or devotional ecstasy maybe we can give three-quarters of our heart to Him, but only in the stage of prema or divine love can we fully give our hearts to Krsna.
Therefore, when Krsna was sending Uddhava to the gopis in Vrndavana, in a clever way, not straight but crookedly, He told Uddhava, “Uddhava, My mother and My father are very upset for Me. You go and give them My message and console them a little.”
Uddhava waited there for a moment and then said, “Is there anything more?”
Krsna thought, “What will I tell him and not tell him?» He became a little worried. After deliberating, He concluded, “If I don’t tell him now, when will I tell him?”
He said, “Yes, there is one thing. There in Vrndavana are the gopis, who are the most dear to Me. They have given Me their entire hearts, and besides Me they know nothing. For Me they have forgotten all of their bodily needs and bodily functions. What is the condition of someone who has forgotten all bodily needs? They have forgotten eating and drinking, bathing and decorating themselves with ornaments and clothing, and fixing their hair. Their bodies will certainly have become thin and weak, and just see how for Me they have forgotten all of their bodily relations: husbands, sons, friends, brothers, wealth and property. They have no love for anyone but Me, and day and night they are deeply remembering Me. Uddhava, in this world you have not seen such an example of how one person can give their heart to another. Somehow or other they are holding onto their lives. Their life-airs have risen up to their necks, and how much longer can they live like this? I don t know if they can be saved or not. Therefore go quickly, and save their lives. Go and give them My message, that I am definitely coming tomorrow or the next day. For this they are holding onto their lives. They will think, “Krsna has said that He is coming, and He is not able to tell a lie. Clutching onto this hope, it is as if their lives are hanging on a limb. If the limb breaks, they will fall down, meaning they will give up their lives. So go quickly.”
Therefore the gopis are the perfect example of man-mana bhava. Now listen to an example of how Krsna takes someone s heart. We understand that giving our heart to someone is very difficult, but if instead someone takes our heart, then it becomes very easy. Otherwise we are simply unable to give our hearts. In the Katha Upanisad (1.2.23) it says:
nayam atma pravacanena labhyo
na medhaya na bahuna srutena
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam
Sri Krsna will select a heart which is dear to Him and then say, “You come! I will take your heart.” Even if we really desire to give Him our heart, it is very difficult, but if He desires to take our heart, then it is possible. But we must make our heart to be such that when Krsna sees us it will inspire greed within Him. The heart must be pure in all ways; if there is any impurity remaining there, He will not take it. But mere purity is also not sufficient; the hearts of so many jnanis are also pure. We must add some special fragrance which, reaching Krsna s nose, will attract Him. Bhakti-rasa should be flowing in the heart. How does Krsna take a heart? This story will show how:
Krsna was taking the cows out to graze for the day in Vrndavana. His bodily complexion was the colour of a dark raincloud, His curly black hair was dangling on His face, and He appeared very, very beautiful and charming. His friends were spread out in the four directions chanting, “Sadhu! Sadhu!” (meaning “Excellent! Excellent!”) and praising Krsna, and singing and playing their flutes and horns. As they were going along like this, even the blind people of Vraja would come out to try and see. One would say, “Where are you going?”
Someone would reply, “I am going to have darsana of Sri Krsna. Take my hand, let’s go!” and with great eagerness they would go.
All the people of Vraja surrounded the road to see Krsna taking the cows out to graze. Mother Yasoda and Nanda Baba were following behind Krsna, saying, “My son, come back soon, don t go too far away!” Time and again Krsna told them to return, and finally when He promised that He would certainly return later in the day, they slowly went back to their home.
There were so many newly-married girls there who had just arrived in Vraja to live in the homes of their new husbands. They all went to the doors of their homes to catch a glimpse of Krsna. Some were even peering through vents, some climbed up on their roofs, and others climbed to the tops of trees in the kusjas.
Krsna was also searching: He always wants to see new girls. In one house, there was a new girl who had just been married two or three days before. She had heard a long time before how marvellously beautiful Krsna appears when He is taking the cows out to graze. When she heard Krsna coming with the cows, in her heart she became very restless and eager to have His darsana. But her new mother-in-law and sister-in-law were sitting outside the door, and her new sister-in-law was especially nasty towards her. They were both telling her, “You are not going! We are going, but you cannot. There is a black snake out there, and if it bites you, you will never be able to remove its poison. Therefore stay in the house! We will be back soon.”
The girl said, “Where are you going? And I will just sit here in the house? I will also go!"”
“No! It’s dangerous! Don t go! Your heart is very immature, and you will never remove the snake’ s poison. You just sit there.”
“Still I will go with you!”
“No! It’s dangerous! You won’t go!”
“Then I will go alone! All the wives, elderly people, boys, girls, birds, beasts, and insects of Vraja are going for darsana of Krsna, and in Vrndavana I alone will not receive His darsana? Certainly I will go!”
“No! You won’t go!”
“I am certainly going! Even if you throw me out of this household I will go!”
Then, seeing that Krsna was coming near, the mother-in-law and sister-in-law quickly ran to see. When they left, the girl stepped forward and began peering out through the crack in the door. Her position was that she could see out, but no one could see her. Krsna was holding the flute to His lips and playing so sweetly that it seemed the nectar of His heart was emanating through the holes of the flute and inundating the entire area of Vrndavana. Those eyes which have not seen this should be set on fire. Only the eyes which have seen this beautiful scene are successful. The gopis were offering arati to Krsna not with lamps, but with their eyes. How? Their eyes were like lamps, and the prema in their hearts was like the oil. Their eyes were burning as they circled Krsna’s form with loving sidelong glances, and they performed arcana of Krsna with these glances. With great happiness, Krsna became shy and accepted all of them.
But He was looking in the direction of that one door. Krsna may or may not want to see someone, but if someone really wants to see Him, He will certainly see that person. That day He wanted to see that new girl first of all. He wanted to leave everyone else behind and go there immediately, so just then He played a trick with a calf. Grabbing the tail of the calf, He gave it a twist, and the calf ran directly to that door, as if it had been trained for that very purpose. At once Krsna and the calf arrived at that door. Standing in His threefold-bending posture, with the flute to His lips, and smiling, He gave His darsana to that girl. Finished! Her very heart came out from her and He took it and went on His way. She could only stand motionlessly. This is taking a heart: man-mana bhava.
If someone attains the mercy of Krsna, then certainly He will take their heart. If we are especially eager, wondering in our minds, “When will I be able to see the beautiful form of Sri Krsna?”, then Krsna will be so pleased and come and take our hearts. That girl had performed austerities for millions of years for this opportunity, and that day she became completely successful.
She was left standing motionlessly, and fifteen or twenty minutes passed. Krsna had left and entered the forest, and the dust raised by the cows and boys had long settled. She was still standing motionlessly because without her heart or mind, she was helpless. Then the cruel sister-in-law said to her, “The black snake Syamasundara has bitten you, and now you will never remove the poison!”
Shaking the girl, somehow she managed to bring her inside the house. “Here! Take this churning stick and churn some yoghurt. By doing some hard work your mind will return to you.” But the girl took the wrong pot, and instead began churning mustard seeds, and it made a terrible noise. Sometimes she would churn, and sometimes she would stop. Where was her mind and heart? Krsna had taken them: man-mana bhava.
Again the sister-in-law came, and she said, “Hey! What are you doing? I will go and complain to my mother about you!” At once the mother-in-law came and said, “Lift up this pot. Go and bring water.” They placed a large pot on her head, and on top of that a smaller pot. They also gave her a small child and said, «Look after this child and see that he doesn’t cry!” They put a long rope in her hand to lower the pots down into the well, and sent her off.
Like this she went. Arriving at the well, she made a noose for lowering the pot down into the well. But instead of wrapping the noose around the pot, she put it around the child as if she was going to lower him into the well! Everyone nearby shouted, “Hey! What are you doing?” They came running over, and taking the rope from her hands, saved the child. One gopi said, “It appears that a ghost has possessed her!”
Another gopi, who knew everything, said, “It wasn t just an ordinary ghost, it was the ghost of Nanda!”
Vrndavana is the place for those who are unable to give their hearts to their children and family. They leave everyone crying for them and like refugees come to Vrndavana and cry exclusively for Krsna. Even very fine sons and daughters of kings come to Vrndavana, give their hearts to Krsna, and engage in bhajana.
Krsna told Arjuna, “This is man-mana bhava. Absorb your mind in Me as the gopis did.”
Arjuna replied, “Prabhu, this is a battlefield! How is it possible for me to give my heart here? You have told me to fight against Grandfather Bhisma, Dronacarya, and Karna. Therefore I am unable to do it.”