meditate on this limitlessly beautiful place
filled with limitless vines and trees,
limitless deer and birds,
limitless splendid groves,
limitless charming lakes and streams,
limitless jeweled mountains…
I remember it as Vrindavan,
the place of that Dual’s limitless loves.
mṛga-dvijam anantakaṁ dadhad-ananta-kuñjojjvalam |
smarāmy aham ananta-tad-dvaya-ratena vṛndāvanam ||
The eternal place of bliss and joy must be like that Vrindavan, because it would be the love playground of the fundamental Duality of gender. True love always basks in paradise, even if external reality tries to impose the opposite.
That is the way we are to remember Vrindavan. That is the way we are meant to perceive Vrindavan: As the place of Radha and Krishna’s love pastimes.
Today is Govardhan Puja and so we have been thinking of Sri Giriraj all day. It sometimes seems that here in Vrindavan we are a world away from Govardhan and Radha Kund, which for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas are the most venerated of all the places in Braj, even including Vrindavan itself. Rupa Goswami says,
vṛndāraṇyam udāra-pāṇi-ramaṇāt tatrāpi govardhanaḥ |
rādhā-kuṇḍam ihāpi gokula-pateḥ premāmṛtāplāvanāt
kuryād asya virājato giri-taṭe sevāṁ vivekī na kaḥ ||
The city of the Madhus is better than Vaikuntha, because of Krishna’s appearance there. Superior to Mathura is the forest of Vrindavan because of the Rasa festival. Superior again is Govardhana Hill, for it was lifted by the divine hand of Sri Krishna and was also the site of many generous and benevolent pastimes. And, above all, Radha Kund stands supreme, for it is flooded over with the ambrosial prema of the Lord of Gokula. Where, then, is that discriminating person who would be unwilling to serve this divine Radha Kund, which is situated at the foot of Govardhana Hill? (Upadeśāmṛta 9)
Of course, in a text like this one, Prabodhananda Saraswatipada is using the term Vrindavan to apply to the entire area of Braj. That is indeed the way the Bhagavatam talks about it, both as a term for the specific place and Braj as a whole. From Gokul, Nanda brought the family to Vrindavan, and there:
vīkṣyāsīd uttamā prītī rāma-mādhavayor nṛpa ||
O King, seeing Vrindavan, Govardhan and the banks of the Yamuna, feelings of supreme love arose in Balaram and Madhava Krishna. (10.11.36)
The name Madhava here a kind of foretaste of his destiny to be the romantic hero in all these locations.
So in the same way, whatever glories are spoken of in verses like that of Prabodhananda Saraswatipada upon which we are commenting, the “jeweled mountains” refers to Brahmachal, Nandishwar and Govardhan and other hills in the mostly flat plains of Braj.
Certainly in both Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta and Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, Vrindavan means the supreme scene of Divine Union, where Nature is the immediate surroundings of the kunj. This is where Radha knows Krishna and he knows her. It is the most immediate vicinity that is imbued with the full power of their prema, and is not different from it.
rādhā-mādhurya-vettā madhupatir atha tan-mādhurīṁ vetti rādhā |
vṛndāraṇya-sthalīyaṁ parama-rasa-sudhā-mādhurīṇāṁ dhurīṇā
tad-dvandvaṁ svādanīyaṁ sakalam api dadau rādhikā-kiṅkarīṇām ||
What else can we say? Elsewhere, even though Vaikuntha is a holy abode, it has been reduced to nothing more than an ordinary land. Krishna, the Lord of Spring, knows Radha’s sweetness and she knows his. This place, Vrinda’s forest, is the bearer of all the sweet flavors of ambrosia found in the highest of all the rasas. It has given everything related to the tasting of its Divine Couple, without exception, to Radhika’s dasis. (RRSN 175)
When Krishna was trying to persuade Nanda Maharaj and the gopas to give up the Indra Yajna and to worship instead Govardhan, he said that Indra is bound by the laws of karma to give everyone results in accordance with their piety or lack thereof. Krishna says, rather than worshiping a dependent bureaucrat god who is restricting in his action by the obligation to serve the Law, one should offer thanks to that deity who is immediately present, and who is directly responsible for giving everything that is needed for performing their religious duty of serving Gomata.
Therefore, because we are herdsmen vaiśyas,
our [primary] religious act is the service of the cows;
if one must believe in any god,
then it should be the one that furthers such service. (Gopāla-pūrva-campū 18.12)
The gopis themselves called Govardhan the best of Krishna’s servants precisely for this reason:
hantāyam adrir abalā haridāsa-varyo
yad rāma-kṛṣṇa-caraṇa-sparaśa-pramodaḥ |
mānaṁ tanoti saha-go-gaṇayos tayor yat
Listen, girls! Of all of Krishna’s servants, this hill is the very best! Just look at how it constantly jubilates at the touch of Krishna and Balaram’s feet. It honors them, their cattle and their friends by serving them with water, tender grasses, caves, fruits, flowers and roots. (BhP 10.21.18)
The point is that for the residents of Braj, including even Krishna, the land of Braj — Govardhan and Vrindavan — are in and of themselves worshipable, because this is the substratum of their divine existence, which is unitary and undivided. Worship means love. Just as they serve Krishna with love, they recognize that for such service to him to be manifest, to take form in all its blissful splendor, it depends on the natural environment, which also exists to serve him.
And though it is true that for humanity both Divine Grace as well as Mortal Terror lie in Nature, Vrindavan is the archetypal domain of the Supreme Moment, where everything coincides and conspires to enhance the experience of Divine Love. The land is worshipable to Supreme Being Himself because it serves the purpose of providing delight to him in his innermost playful center, where love is the essence of everything, animate or inanimate. Vrindavan is the ground of God’s inner being.
In the verse, the word ananta is repeated several times. Ananta means the sandhinī śakti of Krishna’s internal potency. Goloka is anantāṁśa-sambhavam, a product of a portion of Ananta, the sandhinī śakti. Therefore Govardhan, Vrindavan and the Yamuna are all manifestations of the sandhinī śakti.
Govardhan plays a comparable role to Ananta as Śeṣa, with some differences, of course. Radha’s sakhis, who know the intimate story of Radha and Krishna’s loves, describe how Govardhan even puts Ananta Śeṣa to shame.
sakhi bahula-śirastve bhū-bhṛtau ceha sāmya
dadhad api girir añcaty eṣa śeṣād viśeṣam |
agharipur ayam aṅke mūrdhni yasyodare ca
praṇayati rati-līlām adbhutām preyasībhiḥ ||
Friends! There are many similarities between this mountain
and Lord Sesha:
Both have many heads,
and both hold up the earth.
Still Govardhan has three things that Ananta does not:
The enemy of Aghasura enjoys his amazing pastimes of love
with his beloved gopis
in Govardhan’s lap, on his belly and on his head.
The word bhū-bhṛt (“lifter of the world”) is used generally to mean mountain. Ananta is said to hold all the individual universes on his unlimited heads. He is God both as the material and spiritual energies. In fact, Ananta is Balaram as a manifestation of the Chaturvyuha. He represents the sandhini energy, which is the “stuff” of the spiritual world.
But, for most, the Ananta of the Narayana and Chaturvyuha complex is related to the phenomenal world and, at best, to that of the iconic image of Ananta as the resting place of Narayan, where Narayan lies on Ananta’s belly while Lakshmi serves him by massaging his feet. Neither of them ever experience the exuberant and unrestricted pastimes of love enjoyed by Radha Krishna.
Krishna is the most complete form of the Godhead, so because Govardhan serves him in so many ways, is the sandhini energy itself in a direct form, providing the environment for these most intimate pastimes, the most primeval of all joys, that of the divine madhura rasa. And so it is for Vrindavan.