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Throughout the Tenth Canto, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura gives elaborate poetic commentaries on Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. It is not always possible to include these extensive descriptions, but we will quote in its entirety his comments on this verse. It is our sincere recommendation to the learned Vaiṣṇava community that a qualified devotee of the Lord present the entire commentary of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī on the Tenth Canto as a separate book, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by devotees and nondevotees alike. The ācārya’s comments on this verse are as follows:
“In this context we will make our analysis according to the method described in Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi. There are two categories of gopīs: the eternally perfect (the nitya-siddhas) and those who have become perfect by practicing bhakti-yoga (the sādhana-siddhas). The sādhana-siddhas are of two categories: those who belong to special groups and those who do not. And there are also two classes of the gopīs belonging to special groups: namely the śruti-cārīs, who come from the group of the personified Vedas, and the ṛṣi-cārīs, who come from the group of sages who saw Lord Rāmacandra in the Daṇḍakāraṇya forest.
“This same fourfold categorization of the gopīs is given in the Padma Purāṇa:
gopyas tu śrutayo jñeyā
deva-kanyāś ca rājendra
na mānuṣyāḥ kathañcana
‘It is understood that some of the gopīs are personified Vedic literatures, while others are reborn sages, daughters of cowherds, or demigod maidens. But by no means, my dear King, are any of them ordinary humans.’ Here we are informed that although the gopīs appeared to be human cowherd girls, they actually were not. Thus the contention that they are mortals is refuted.
“The daughters of cowherds, referred to here as gopa-kanyās, must be eternally perfect, since we never hear of them having executed any sādhana. Their apparent sādhana of worshiping goddess Kātyāyanī in the role of gopīs merely manifests their manner of playing like human beings, and the Bhāgavatam narrates the account of this worship only to show how they had fully taken on the role of cowherd girls.
“That the gopa-kanyā gopīs are actually nitya-siddhas, eternally perfect devotees of the Lord, is established by a statement in Brahma-saṁhitā (5.37) — ānanda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhāvitābhiḥ — which proves that they are the Lord’s spiritual pleasure potency. Similarly, we have the words of the Gautamīya-tantra, hlādinī yā mahā-śaktiḥ. Further corroboration of their eternal perfection is that these gopīs, being coeternal with Lord Kṛṣṇa, their lover, are mentioned along with Him in the eighteen-syllable mantra, the ten-syllable mantra and others, and also that the worship of these mantras, and also the śrutis that present them, have been in existence since beginningless time.”
The deva-kanyās, daughters of the demigods, who are mentioned in the verse beginning sambhavas tv amara-striyaḥ, are explained in Śrī Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi as partial expansions of the gopīs who are eternally perfect. That the śruti-cārī gopīs, the personified Vedas, are sādhana-siddha is understood from the following words of theirs quoted in the Bṛhad-vāmana Purāṇa:
tvayi dṛṣṭe manāṁsi naḥ
bhajanti ramaṇaṁ matvā
‘Since we have seen Your face, which possesses the beauty of millions of Cupids, our minds have become lusty after You like those of young girls, and we have forgotten all other allurements. We have developed the desire to act toward You as do the gopīs who dwell on Your transcendental planet and who manifest the nature of Cupid by worshiping You with the idea that You are their paramour.’
“The ṛṣi-cārī gopīs are also sādhana-siddha, as stated in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi: gopālopāsakāḥ pūrvam aprāptābhīṣṭa-siddhayaḥ. Previously they were all mahārṣis living in the Daṇḍaka forest. We find evidence for this in the Padma Purāṇa, Uttara-khaṇḍa:
dṛṣṭvā rāmaṁ hariṁ tatra
bhoktum aicchan su-vigraham
te sarve strītvam āpannāḥ
samudbhūtāś ca gokule
hariṁ samprāpya kāmena
tato muktā bhavārṇavāt
This verse says that upon seeing Lord Rāmacandra, the sages in the Daṇḍaka forest desired to enjoy Lord Hari (Kṛṣṇa). In other words, the sight of Lord Rāma’s beauty reminded them of Lord Hari, Gopāla, their personal object of worship, and they then wanted to enjoy with Him. But out of embarrassment they did not act on that desire, whereupon Lord Śrī Rāma, who is like a desire tree, gave His mercy to them, even though they had not voiced their request. Thus their desire was fulfilled, as stated by the words beginning te sarve. By means of their lusty attraction they became freed from the ocean of material existence, the cycle of birth and death, and coincidentally they got the association of Hari in conjugal love.
“In the present verse of the Bhāgavatam we understand that it was the gopīs who had children who were kept forcibly at home. This fact is clear from verses yet to come: mātaraḥ pitaraḥ putrāḥ (Bhāg. 10.29.20), yat-paty-apatya-suhṛdām anuvṛttir aṅga (Bhāg. 10.29.32) and pati-sutānvaya-bhrātṛ-bāndhavān (Bhāg. 10.31.16). In his comments on the Tenth Canto, Śrīla Kavi-karṇapūra Gosvāmī mentions this fact. Without trying to repeat all his thoughts on this verse, we will give the gist of his purport:
“‘Upon seeing the personal form of Lord Śrī Rāmacandra, the sages who were worshipers of Lord Gopāla immediately became elevated to the mature platform of spontaneous devotion, automatically reaching the stages of firm faith, attraction and attachment. But they had not yet completely freed themselves of all material contamination; therefore Śrī Yoga-māyā-devi arranged for them to take birth from the wombs of gopīs and become cowherd girls. By associating with the eternally perfect gopīs, some of these new gopīs fully manifested pūrva-raga loving attraction for Kṛṣṇa as soon as they reached puberty. (This kind of attraction develops even before one meets the beloved.) When these new gopīs got the direct audience of Kṛṣṇa and physically associated with Him, all their remaining contamination became burned up, and they achieved the advanced stages of prema, sneha and so on.
“‘Even though they were in the company of their cowherd husbands, by the power of Yoga-māyā the gopīs remained unsullied by sexual contact with them; rather, they were situated in purely spiritual bodies that Kṛṣṇa enjoyed. On the night they heard the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, their husbands tried to stop them, but by the merciful assistance of Yoga-māyā the sādhana-siddha gopīs were able to go forth to their beloved, together with the nitya-siddha gopīs.
“‘Other gopīs, however, because of not getting the good fortune of associating with the nitya-siddha gopīs and other advanced gopīs, had not achieved the stage of prema, and so their contamination was not completely burned away. They entered the company of their cowherd husbands and, after sexual union with them, gave birth to children. But a short time later even these gopīs developed their pūrva-raga by hankering intensely for the physical association of Kṛṣṇa — a hankering they acquired by associating with the advanced gopīs. Becoming worthy recipients of the mercy of the perfected gopīs, they assumed transcendental bodies fit to be enjoyed by Kṛṣṇa, and when Yoga-māyā failed to help them overcome their husbands’ attempts to keep them from going out, they felt themselves cast into the worst calamity. Viewing their husbands, brothers, fathers and other family members as enemies, they came close to dying. Just as other women might remember their mothers or other relatives at the time of death, these gopīs remembered the sole friend of their very life, Kṛṣṇa, as stated in the present verse of the Bhāgavatam, beginning with the word antar.
“‘It is implied that those ladies were not able to exit because they were held back by their husbands, who were standing before them with sticks in their hands, scolding them. Although these gopīs were perpetually absorbed in love for Kṛṣṇa, at that particular time they meditated upon Him and cried out within: “Alas, alas, O only friend of our life! O ocean of the artistic skills of Vṛndāvana forest! Please let us become your girlfriends in some future life, because at this time we cannot see Your lotuslike face with our eyes. So be it; we shall look upon You with our minds.” Each of them lamenting to herself in this way, the gopīs stood with their eyes shut and meditated deeply upon Him.’”