The Nama Sankirtan was performed by Narayanan and Sri Aravind’s family from Orlando, FL.
This was followed by the introduction…
‘In our Sanathana Dharma, there are numerous paths to reach Bhagavan. However for this Kali Yuga, it is said that Bhakti is the easiest path. In Padma Purana, it is said, ‘alam vrataih alam thirthaih alam yogaih alam makhaih alam jnanakathalabhaih…. Bhaktirekaiva muktida’. In this Kali Yuga, Vrata, Yoga, Pilgrimages, Vedanta – none of them can be performed perfectly and hence it is only Bhakti that leads us to Mukti. Bhakti is done for different reasons – one may do Bhakti in order for having his worldly miseries obliterated, or may do Bhakti for worldly pleasures or one might perform Bhakti for Moksha. All these are Sadhana Bhakti – that which use Bhakti as the means to attain a goal. But which among these kinds of Bhakti is the greatest? There is a Bhakti that is greater than all these – that is the Bhakti that is done for the sake of Bhakti. – Sadhya Bhakti – Bhakti being the means as well as the goal itself. Such a Bhakti doesn’t expect anything in return. Who is the authority for such a Sadhya Bhakti? Padma Purana says,
na tapobhir na vedaischa na jnaanenaapi karmana |
harirhi saadhyate bhaktyaa pramaanam tatra gopikaa ||
It is verily the Gopikas who are the epitome of Sadhya Bhakti. On this auspicious day of Radhashtami, let us pray that we get such a Bhakti too.
Following introductions, Gayathriji from Boston gave a wonderful discourse on Prema Bhakti.
We just saw that Bhakti is the easiest path in Kali Yuga. But what is Bhakti? Offering flowers? Performing Puja? Offering Naivedya to the Lord? What truly is Bhakti? Offering two drops of tears for the Lord – that is indeed Bhakti. In Bhakti Sampradaya, we often sing the Pundareeka – ‘Gopika Jeevana Smaranam – Govinda Govinda!’ – Does this itself not show us that Gopikas are the Gurus in Bhakti? Today, let us see how Gopikas excelled in their Bhakti.
Krishna rules the kingdom and his minister is Uddhava. Sri Shuka introduces Uddhava as ‘Sakshat Brihaspati Sishya’. Brihaspati is said to be the master of all knowledge and Uddhava is the direct disciple of Brihaspati! So one can imagine how shrewd and intelligent he would have been! No wonder he is Krishna’s minister! But what advice would he give for Krishna, who rules all the worlds and knows all? Uddhava simply stayed in the palace in order to get drenched in Krishna’s kataksha (grace pouring forth from his sight) – which, otherwise, would go waste. Being a friend of Krishna, he always used Krishna Prasadam, he wore all what Krishna wore and discarded – right from the Gopi Chandan, clothes , garland etc.
Sometimes, Krishna would go into solitude and shed tears. Uddhava came to know about it and was surprised. “What would make Krishna sad? Sad enough for him to shed tears”, he thought. ‘Krishna, why are you in tears. As a friend, it is my duty to annihilate your worries; go on!’
Krishna, ‘nothing Uddhava! I am just thinking about the wonderful time I had in Gokulam and Brindavan…. You know what a wonderful time I had there? We used to play ‘raas lila’ and dance day and night! I don’t think I will ever get back that life. This life is boring and listless.’
Uddhava said, ‘Krishna! Nothing is stable in life. Everything is fleeting. That is why, you have to realize the Brahman’.
Krishna, ‘Oh! By the way, what is Brahman, Uddhava?’
Uddhava, ‘Krishna, are you kidding? You are verily the Brahman!’
Krishna in all seriousness, said, ‘Oh ya! Our master Sandeepani taught us, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’. Now I remember… but guess what, Uddhava, I may convince myself by saying so. But you can never make the Gopis say this or observe this Mahavakya’
Uddhava, ‘Really? I think the gopis truly deserve a class from me, at least for the sake of the tears you shed for them. If you permit me, I shall go to Brindavan and teach them the import of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and ensure they are free from worries. After all, your happiness is my happiness, Krishna!’
Krishna said, ‘Go ahead Uddhava! But remember, if you succeed, I shall deem that your education has truly borne fruit!’
Uddhava rides on his chariot to Brindavan. All along, he plans in his mind on how his lectures should be designed, so that he could drive the truth of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ into all the Gopis’ brains!
At Brindavan, Nanda and Yashoda welcome him, with a smiling face, but with emptiness in their heart, because they miss Krishna. Uddhava was fed and let to rest.
Yashoda Ma starts, ‘Uddhava, I switched off this stove the day Krishna left for Mathura. It has never been switched on since! Whenever I switched it on, Krishna ran around me asking for milk. The joy is simply inexplicable Uddhava! ’
‘This is the mortar in which I bound Krishna. This is the rope I used…. This is the dress I got him for Diwali last year…. Even when he slept, he wouldn’t let go of his flute.. see now he has left that back too… What is he doing in Mathura? Is he still grazing cattle?’
Nanda Baba interjected, ‘Are you mad? Why would he graze cattle when he has had his education? He must be a king now!’
Uddhava is spellbound by their love for Krishna. He strolled on the banks of Yamuna, and felt Yamuna shedding tears for Krishna too. On the streets of Brindavan, he heard Krishna Kirtan always. Does not Krishna’s lilas the constant subject of talk right from a 2 year old to a 90 year old? ‘Krishna stole butter’, ‘Krishna broke the pots’… this is the song every individual sings…
He gets to his job – meets the Gopis. All of us know the beautiful Bramara Geetham that Gopis sing, expressing their love for Krishna addressing the honey bee. Our Swamiji would say that all of Uddhava’s learnings under Brihaspati were deployed to decode the import of Bramara Geetam! Gopis become friendly with Uddhava and ask, ‘Uddhava, you are Krishna’s best friend. Does He ever talk about us to you? Does he ever remember us? Does he ever say, when I was in Brindavan, the Gopis used to do this kainkarya for me? Is Krishna thinking about us? Does he cry because he misses us? We are sure he does. But you know what Uddhava, we don’t want him to cry. We want him to be happy always.’
Uddhava is shell-shocked to hear the extent of the Gopis love for Krishna. He has never seen such a love. That moment, forgetting his age, learning (that he is a disciple of Brihaspati), gender (he being a male), position (that he is a Krishna Mantri), he falls right at their feet.
“Vande nandavraja streenaam padarenum abhiskhnasah
yaasaam harikathodgeetam punati bhuvanatrayam”
What a wonderful Satsang, thought Uddhava. He didn’t want to go back, for he thought, Krishna is not in Mathura anymore, he lives in every single house and heart in Brindavan! After a few days, he realizes that Krishna would miss his company – at least to cry out his woes. So let me return!
The return date is announced. That morning, when he was about to ascend his chariot, he was shocked to see that he didn’t have a place to sit! One gopi said, ‘I have stacked this corner with ‘murukku’ – Krishna’s favorite. Please give it to him.’ Another said, ‘I have kept butter in this big box. Krishna loves butter from my home’. Yet another, ‘Please give these savories to Krishna and tell Him that I made it especially for him!’ So many items, that he doesn’t have a place to sit. He falls at the feet of the Gopis yet again, and rolls in the sands of Brindavan and takes all the ‘rajas’ on his body, for, he knows how much Krishna would enjoy the ‘rajas’. On his way back, he recollected every single moment he spent in the company of Gopis and remembered their devotion.
Meanwhile, Krishna would peep at the window every now and then to see if Uddhava arrived. His impatience and anxiousness just kept growing with time. When he finally saw Uddhava coming, ‘Uddhava! Uddhava! How was your trip? How is everyone doing at Brindavan?’
Uddhava could not control his emotions anymore. He simply fell at Krishna’s lap and started weeping – so much that he could not answer Krishna. Krishna, ‘Uddhava, are you okay? Why are you weeping?’
‘Krishna, am I crying? Do you see tears in my eyes? Am I really crying? Alas! Times have changed Krishna. You used to weep and I would ask for the reason. Today, I am crying and you are asking me!’
‘Krishna, this is not because of any sorrow! It is because of Prema Bhakti. Oh Krishna! Did I also get Prema Bhakti? Oh Krishna! Did I also get Prema Bhakti?
If I ever got Prema Bhakti, then I deem my Brindavan trip as successful! Krishna, remember, don’t think that I got this Bhakti because of your satsanga. It is absolutely not because of your grace!’
Uddhava continued, ‘It is because one drop of devotion from the huge ocean of love (prema Sagara) that the gopis have for you, has fallen on me! That is why I am in this state, Oh! Krishna!’
Krishna asked, ‘How are the goips doing?’
In Ramayana, Valmiki says that Hanuman could narrate Ramayana but never ‘Seethayana’ He would simply be unable to narrate the glory of the Mother, albeit being an intelligent person and an orator like Uddhava. Uddhava says, ‘Ask me to lecture on Krishna Bhakti and I shall speak volumes, Oh Krishna! How can I ever tell what Gopi prema is?
Thus, the teacher of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ eventually became a student of Prema Bhakti and obtained it from the Gopis!
When we wish to do meditation, we command everyone to be quiet and silent and lock ourselves up. But the gopis have tons of work every day, and in spite of all this, they don’t need a room for meditation; not even a silent environ. No one could take Krishna from their hearts!
Uddhava, a student of Brihaspati was with the Brahman, Lord Krishna all along, and yet did not get Prema Bhakti. Prema Bhakti cannot be attained without a Guru. Uddhava had to take tutelage from the Guru namely the Gopis in order to realize Prema Bhakti for Krishna.
Who is the Guru for prema Bhakti? Sri Sri Swamiji speaks about this in a beautiful Kirtan of His. This goes as a conversation between Radha Devi and Lalita, one of the Sakhis (friends).
Lalitha: “Mukti endraal enna Radhe! Radhe!” [Radhe! What is Mukti?]
Radha: “Krishnabhaktiye mukti Agum Lalithe! Lalithe!” [Krishna Bhakti is verily Mukti, Lalitha!]
Lalitha: “Krishna Bhakti edanaal valarum Radhe! Radhe!” [Radhe! How can one grow Krishna Bhakti?]
Radha: “Keerthanathinaal Valarum, Lailthe! Lalithe!”[Krishna Bhakti grows by performing Kirtan,Lalitha!]
Lalitha: “Keerthanam edhanaal valarum, Radhe! Radhe!” [Radhe! How does Kirtan grow?]
Radha: “Satsangathinaal valarum, Lalithe! Lalithe!” [Kirtan grows through Satsang, Lalitha!]
Lalitha: “Satsangam ethanaal valarum, Radhe! Radhe!” [Radhe! How does satsang grow?]
Radha: “Gurukripaiyinaal mattum kittum, Lalithe! Lalithe!” [Satsang happens only through Guru Krupa, Lalitha!]
Lalitha: “Gurukrupai yethanaal kittum Radhe! Radhe!” [Radhe! How does one acquire Guru Krupa?]
Radha: “Bathilarindum nee ketpatheno Lalithe! Lalithe! “[Why do you ask me knowing the answer well, Lalitha!]
Lalitha: “Un krupai irunthaal Krishnan sulabanaam Radhe! Radhe!” [Is it true that your compassion can bring Krishna easily?]
Radha: “Yen Krupaiyum Guru Krupaiyum ondre Lalithe Lalithe! [My Krupa and Guru Krupa are one and the same, Lalitha]
Lalitha: “Prema Ragasiyathai sonnai Radhe! Radhe! “[Radhe! You just revealed the secret of Prema.]
Radha: “ Muraliyai isaithavan solvathum idhuve Lalithe! Lalithe!” [This is what was said by the One who plays the flute too, Lalitha!]
Indeed Radha Devi is verily the Guru for Prema Bhakti. On this auspicious Radhashtami, let us pray to Radha Devi to grant us Prema Bhakti to the Lord.
The satsang ended with prayers with Mahamnatra Kirtan.