It is ‘varalakshmi vrata’ today – a celebration of the Divine Mother. Why should one celebrate festivals, make savories, wear new clothes? It is a time to enjoy and live life as a festival – forgetting sorrows of our lives, and we do it by remembering the Lord. Thus, the thoughts are always with the Lord. When we prepare savories, sweetmeats, we perform it with the thought and intention that it is going to be offered to the Lord. When that becomes the ‘bhava’ – that is, when the thought arises that something is done for the Lord’s sake, it becomes an enjoyment automatically. This is exactly how Gopis lived their lives.
When Krishna recited the flute in the thick of the forest, immediately, the Gopis, leaving all their travails, run unto Him. Krishna welcomes them and shows them the forest – ‘Oh dear Gopis! Look at these beautiful trees, creepers, flowers! Behold the Yamuna who flows gently in the influence of the wafting breeze drenched by the soothing grace of the full-moon! Behold the leaves that so beautifully garment the trees!’. Imagine, the Lord of the world, Krishna, Himself, becoming a tour-guide showing the Gopis the beauty of Brindavan! Indeed, only He can show it – for Brindavan is verily the Gopis’ hearts, and only with His grace can one see the beauty of the Lord in our hearts! And, for lesser mortals who would go to Brindavan and seek good food and a good place of shelter, the guide shall also be mediocre likewise!
Then immediately, Krishna looks at the Gopis and says, ‘Oh Gopis! That was only the good half of Brindavan! The forest also has in it evil – untamed wilderness – wild animals that could attack any time, and now, after dusk, they get virulent! ’ – attempting to induce a little fear in the hearts of the Gopis, coercing them to return to their homes. But why would the Gopis leave? ‘Foolish!’ the Gopis thought! ‘When the indweller of the vilest of scorpions and wildest of animals – Krishna was within and without, why would one fear? Why does Krishna try to put us off?’
Then Krishna reveals His true intentions – ‘bartuh sushrushanam stInAm parodarmo hyamAyayA’ - ‘Dear Gopis! You know what? The greatest duty of a house holder is to take care of her consort, all his relatives and the children. So you derelict in your duty by forsaking them and coming here on hearing my flute. Go back, right away!’
Krishna observes the response of the Gopis – who stand there, with heads hung down in shyness – and yet determined to stay; after all, why would they leave, even if Krishna would ask them to? Krishna then continued –
He thought that the ladies were ignoring Him because Krishna’s complaint was baseless and hence started His sermon from the Shastras! He quoted the ‘stree dharma’ start with –
‘dushIlo durbhago vruddho jado rogyatanopi vA|
patistrIbhih nahAtavyah lokepsubhirapAtaki ||’
‘Dear Gopis! It is incorrect to come here leaving your respective consorts! Not me, but the Shastras say so! You should serve your husband, no matter how vicious he is; no matter how bad he is. He may be the most unfortunate soul on earth; still it does not behoove of you to forsake him. You may be young and pretty and he may be have a receded hairline, may be sporting dentures, and may be using a cane to support his gait; he may be the dumbest, the laziest and the most insentient being on earth; he may be as sick as a dog or as poor as a church mouse; yet she should be in servitude to him.
This truly hurt the Gopis, and yet they wouldn’t beat a retreat. Why would they? After all, they have come there to enjoy the beauty of the ‘bhuvanasundara’! Now they are indeed enjoying the way He gives sermons as knew they wouldn’t be part of the Bhagavat Gita Sermon in the battlefield to come! The words of Bhagavan indeed pricked the tender hearts of the Gopis – and they burst out in a cry – and as the wail was for Krishna – it came out as a sweet song of love – ‘Pranaya Geetam’!
‘maivam vibhoryatibhavAn gatitum nrusamsham santyajya sarva vishayAn tava pAdamUlam |
bhaktAbhajasva duravagraha mAtyajAsmAn devo yatAdipurusho bhajate mumukshUn ||’
“Dear Krishna, these ruddy tender lips that can kiss a dried bamboo churns out the most wonderful and mellifluous music, these ruby-red lips that can are the sweetest one can ever imagine on the Earth (as says Vallabhacharya – ‘adharam madhuram’), these rosy lips that give out the most soothing words one can ever think of, those sweet lips that can give out the wisest of thoughts – that baffle the most erudite scholars (‘bhuda manogyayaa’) – can they be misused? Can they be used to utter such ‘harsh’ words that are least entitled to come out of them?”
Krishna here wonders if he had spoken anything wrong or uttered any ‘forbidden’ word! After all, he welcomed the Gopis and given them a tour. And this was certainly not forbidden! Then Krishna spoke about how dangerous the forests could be. Were these forbidden words? Cannot be! He spoke of Stree Dharma which was not forbidden either. But Krishna uttered ‘prati yAta tato gruhAn’ – ‘go back home!’ And those words were ‘forbidden words’ that have stung the hearts of the Gopis like a million scorpions would.
‘We have forsaken the entire world for the sake of your tender Feet – which is the end of every sadhana. We have read your Bhagavat Gita, where you have sworn to Arjuna, ‘no me bhaktah pranashyati’ – my devotee will never be left forsaken! Aren’t we your devotees? Now, how come you are so hard-hearted to kick us out? Anyone who aspires to attain your loka – leaves everything worldly and just catch hold of your feet – and we have followed that very example. How can you send us back?’
Tears welling in their eyes, the Gopis hang their heads down to take a clearer picture of the Lord’s lotus feet, when reminisce its greatness and pour out another verse –
‘yarhyambujAksha tava pAdatalam ramAyA dattakshaNam kvachidaraNyajanapriyasya |
asprAkshma tatprabruti nAnya samaksham anjah stAthumstvayAbhiramitA bata pArayAmah ||
srIryat padAmbuja rajaschakame tulasyA labdhvApi vakshasi padam kila bhrutyajushtam |
yasyAh svavIkshaNa utAnya sura prayAsastatvad vayam cha tava pAdarajah prapannAh ||’
‘Looking at your feet, we are immediately reminded of our Divine Mother – Mahalakshmi – who caresses your feet and cannot live without you.’
Tirumangai Azhwar refers to the Lord at Therezhundur as ‘Tiruvukkum tiruvAgiya selvaa’ – Mahalakshmi being the auspiciousness for the Lord even. And She becomes an inevitable part of Him.
One night, when there was heavy rain outside, the first Azhwar – Poigai Azhwar entered the holy place of Mrukandu Ashram in Tirukkovilur. The place was so small, that one could comfortably sit, two persons could shrink themselves and sit and three could only stand. Then the second Azhwar – Bhoodataazhwaar comes – and they both have enough place only to sit when the third Azhwar – Peyaazhwar comes – and they are constrained for space. Being pitch dark, Poigai Azhwar lights a lamp with the entire world being the lamp, the rivers and seas being the oil and the all the trees and plants as the wick. Bhoodataazhwar lights a lamp with love as the lamp, the excitement and enthusiasm as the oil – and that luminescence reveals the fourth (the first / Primal) person there – the Lord to Peyaazhwaar.
He sings ‘tirukkanden ponmeni kanden…’ – even before he sees and enjoys the form the Lord, he sees ‘Thiru’ – Mahalakshmi – the Divine Mother – who is inseparable from the Lord.
The moment the Thaayar’s darshan is had, the Lord becomes happy.
Adi Sankara speaks about how the Divine Mother ever resides in the bosom of the Lord.
‘angam hareh pulaka bhUshaNam Ashrayanti brunghAnganeva vakuLAbharaNam tamAlam
angIkrutAyavibhUtirapAngalIla mAngalyatAstu mama mangaLa devatAyA’
The Lord of the Universe quit Vaikunta and settled in Tirupati and the Divine Mother chose, not a separate temple for her, but resides right in His bosom not bearing an instant of separation (‘agalugindren iraippozhudhum’) – as the Lord would move away from Her any time, when a devotee may call. The Lord remains sans emotions. Just like the golden yellow hued honey bee sits on the dark blue Tamala flower and makes the flower shake up, the Divine Mother who is golden hued (‘hiraNya varnAm hariNIm suvarNa rajatasrajAm’) sits on the bosom of the dark hued Lord. She doesn’t remain silent there. She does her ‘Lila’ – the Lord covers his eys with a huge Pundram – because he doesn’t want to see the ‘sevaarthis’ – for we are full of vices and the Lord would see us as a bundle of vices when we go and fall at his feet! But the compassionate mother sitting at His ‘vakshastala’, bends her head to see which fortunate soul falls at the Feet of the Lord, and recognizing this ‘benevolent’ child of hers who has forsaken all his busy schedules to come and have His darshan, immediately turns her head above to see if the Lord’s graceful glance fell on him, and if not, pleads for His grace for the ‘prapatti’ that the soul had done.
She does this not once, twice; but for millions of devotees that come – and every time the Divine Mother does this movement, it causes horripilation in the Lord. ‘May she bestow us auspiciousness’ – says Sankara.
But interestingly, even though, the Divine Mother lived in His heart ever, she did not get proper ‘attention’ from Him. The Lord gave all His love and attention to Tulasi Devi – even if it were a dry leaf or stem! Mahalakshmi Devi carefully watches Tulasi Devi. Tulasi Devi comes from the Tulasi Vana, gets herself plucked and torn, and then humbly offers herself to the Feet of the Lord. And the Lord looks at her with utmost compassion, takes her, gets her strung into a garland and wears it on His neck thereby placing her on His chest! The Mother then decided to catch hold of the Lord’s feet – for that is a far better place to be in – rather than His bosom – (‘labdvApi vakshasi padam kila bruthya jushtam… tava pAda rajah prapannAh’)!
And the Divine Mother was so much enticed to the beautiful thighs and the Feet of the Lord, that she never left His Feet, as Narayana Bhattatri says in Narayaneeyam –
‘Uru chAru tavoru ghanamasruna rujau chittachorau ramAyAm….’
Those strong thighs that rested the mightiest of Asuras – Hiranyakashipu – were very enticing too. His knees were like the cornucopia that could bestow everything that one longs for (‘samasthArtha pALi’).
That Lakshmi – who everyone goes after – catches hold of the Lord’s Feet.
‘Following cues from the Divine Mother, we too, Krishna, hold on tightly to your Holy Feet’ – the Gopis sing, ‘not aspiring to become like Mahalakshmi, but to become your servants!’
‘taptAtmanAm purusha bhUshaNa dehi dAsyam’ they sing.
‘Krishna! We may not be beautiful enough to match your beauty; we may not be elegant enough to match your Raasa dance; we may not be smart enough to understand your words; we may not be intelligent enough to enjoy your music and sermons; we may not even be fit enough connoisseurs to enjoy your Lilas, enjoy your beauty; but Oh Krishna! We do love you and want to be at your service all the time. Please provide us a service that we can do – shower us your grace by employing us in your service” cry Gopis.
That was the love of the Gopis – they did everything for Krishna’s sake – every breath of theirs was for Krishna.
The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.