The Ratha-yātrā festival is very important and significant for sādhakas, especially in our sampradāya. Do not think this Ratha-yātrā is just an ordinary program where a Deity of God is transported on a chariot from one temple to a different one. This is an opportunity to bring Kṛṣṇa, Jagannātha, into our hearts. This is a chance to make our hearts into Vṛndāvana.
Kṛṣṇa has arranged this special chance for the conditioned souls to become connected to Him in His own eternal abode—Vṛndāvana-dhāma. Kṛṣṇa is present in eternal Goloka Vṛndāvana. But during the time of this chariot festival, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself descends from the spiritual sky in the eternal realm. He observes to see those who have one-pointed love for Him; for those who have given their hearts to Him. When one has love for Jagannātha then he will transcend all temporary relations in this world and will be present with Jagannātha and His boundless love. Jagannātha will pick one up from this ocean of material existence.
When Mahārāja Rāmacandra was departing to the spiritual world in Ayodhya-dhāma, He asked all His subjects what they wanted to do. They supplicated Lord Rāma, begging Him to take them with Him. He indeed did so; all to the exception of Hanumān, who was told to remain behind and help conditioned souls approach the Lord. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa took His associates with Him when He left this world back to Goloka-Vṛndāvana, to the exception of Uddhava. Kṛṣṇa sent back the 56 crores of Yādavas before His own departure, except for Uddhava. Why not? It was because Uddhava went to Vraja-maṇḍala and became connected to the Vrajavāsīs. He no longer had loyalty to Dvārakā. He went to Vraja-maṇḍala after Kṛṣṇa’s departure and also inspired others to take shelter of Vraja.
Kṛṣṇa timely comes, every year, with all His associates. Who has love for Him? Who will go to meet with Him? Who will call Him, “Please come to Vṛndāvana.” People call Him to come to their homes or gardens and bestow opulence on them, but Mahāprabhu said, “I cannot think of anything other than Vṛndāvana-dhāma and the Vrajavāsīs. I went to take My Jagannātha to Vṛndāvana.”
Lord Jagannātha observes, “Who has love for Me? Who is ready to come home with Me? I will take them to Vṛndāvana.”
Many so-called saintly persons, who have renounced the comforts and facility of the external world are not spiritually advanced. They renounce external things for some time, but afterwards, they run back to these objects because they have not made their relation fixed with the Lord. One who is related to God will have an effulgence around him, suggesting his spiritual connection and power. One who has love for God will be in a state of ecstasy, unaware of his external actions. The question comes: Who do we have love for? What do we like? Do we want relation with Jagannātha, or with suffering and poison? Jagannātha has large, large eyes, without eyelids. He is always looking and thinking about the welfare of all jīvas and is endeavoring to help them.
“O Prabhu,” Mahāprabhu said to Jagannātha, in the mood of Rādhārānī speaking to Kṛṣṇa at Kurukṣetra, “this place of opulence is not good for Our meeting. There are so many decorated elephants, horses, chariots, and soldiers here. There are no gardens here; no waterfalls and fruit trees. Here, there is only dry straw, stone, and gold, pearls, and diamonds. But I have no taste for any of this. I only want You to come to Vṛndāvana.”
Mahāprabhu would experience these sentiments and prayed deeply, while chanting esoteric songs.
Mahāprabhu prayed, “O Deva, O Prāṇanātha, Vraja-maṇḍala is our home. This place is like Your office where You work. What pleasure can You feel here? Come with us to Your home, Vṛndāvana-dhāma. Come there with us! All the Vrajavāsīs are waiting for You and are about to give up their life-airs without You.”
Before, Uddhava did not know much about Vraja-maṇḍala and wondered why Kṛṣṇa cared so much for the Vrajavāsīs. Kṛṣṇa sent Uddhava to Vraja, saying, “Go and meet with them and then you will understand the glory of their love. Please go there.”
Uddhava did not want to leave Kṛṣṇa for a minute, but he knew that as long as the Vrajavāsīs were all constantly thinking of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa would feel no peace in Dvārakā. “Everyone in Vraja-bhūmi is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, therefore Kṛṣṇa is restless in Mathurā and Dvārakā.” Uddhava thought thus. “I will go and advise them with so much knowledge and I will change them. I will ask them, ‘Why are you lamenting so much? Kṛṣṇa is Parabrahma, Parameśvara, the greatest yogī. Wherever you are, think about Kṛṣṇa, and then He will appear in your heart. Why do you think He is far away from you? He is the all-pervasive Paramātmā.”
Uddhava thought he was very intelligent, with so much understanding of tattva-siddhānta, but this was useless in regard to the Vrajavāsīs. It is like collecting pieces of ordinary stone and rejecting priceless gems.
Kṛṣṇa told Uddhava, “What knowledge you have collected is not natural; when you go to Vṛndāvana, there, everyone has natural love. They are not relatives of one another, but they are all near and dear to each other. Generally, people have relation and love for their family members, their children and spouses, but in Vraja, there is no need of blood relation for there to be a loving relation.”
Everyone has natural love for Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. Their love is unparalleled and unconditional. You can not understand this with your material knowledge and conceptions. Why do all the birds and animals have love for Kṛṣṇa? Why does everyone in Vraja have spontaneous love for Kṛṣṇa? In Dvārakā, however, the peoples’ love is divided, amongst their own blood relatives. They are not one-pointed in their love for Kṛṣṇa, and they do not cry in separation from Kṛṣṇa. If they do not see Kṛṣṇa for some months, they do not feel so much suffering. They know, “He is busy now in Hastināpura. He will come back when He is finished there.”
When Kṛṣṇa was shot by many arrows in the Mahābhārata war the Dvārakāvāsīs did not feel pain. They thought, “He is God and feels no pain; He cannot be harmed.” But the Vrajavāsīs could not tolerate this. If they saw that even one hair of Kṛṣṇa’s had fallen down, they would feel so much pain and suffering. Other devotees of Kṛṣṇa have knowledge of His opulence and glory, and this dims their affection for Him.
When Uddhava went to Vraja-bhūmi he lost his knowledge and forgot Dvārakā. He then thought, “Vraja-bhūmi is supreme. The Vrajavāsīs have unparalleled love. They are Kṛṣṇa’s nearest and dearest, therefore Kṛṣṇa is always restless and suffering, remembering the Vrajavāsīs’ pure unconditional love. The Vrajavāsīs’ love can never be diminished or finished. It only increases when faced with obstacles.”
In this world, if a boy has love for a girl, and she for him, and people, like their relatives, try to stop them from meeting, then they will find any way to meet, regardless of the obstacles. They will find a way to send messages to each other and to meet each other. The Vrajavāsīs’ love for Kṛṣṇa is millions of times greater than this. Their love is shoreless and fathomless. Uddhava could not find the limit of the Vrajavāsīs’ love.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu prayed and sang to Jagannātha during the Ratha-yātrā festival. He said, “You sent Uddhava to Vraja-maṇḍala and he gave the Vrajavāsīs so much advice about brahma-jñāna, and You also gave similar advice to them at Kurukṣetra, but how could the Vrajavāsīs follow this? They were already far beyond this brahma-jñāna and could not follow it.”
Uddhava told the gopīs, “Do yoga by always remembering Kṛṣṇa.”
“We want to forget Kṛṣṇa,” the gopīs replied, “but find it impossible. When there is viyoga, separation, then one must endeavor for yoga, union. But we have no viyoga, because we already incessantly think of Kṛṣṇa; we cannot stop. So how can we follow your yoga? You have viyoga, therefore you advise others to practice yoga. But we have no viyoga from Kṛṣṇa. He is not far from us and we are not far from Him. We want to forget Him and try to forget how He is and what He is doing and who is there with Him, serving Him, if He is sleeping or not, eating or not, but we cannot stop thinking of Him for even a moment. We try to, but find it impossible. But you tell us, ‘Do yoga, forget everything else; only think of Him.’ We have already done this. Udho man na bhayo das-bīs, ek huto so gayo śyām saṅga, ko arādhe īś? You teach us to worship Syāma, but our mind is already captured by that Syāma. He has kept our mind and hearts with Him and we cannot bring them back. He will not return them. Therefore we are suffering and restless.”
In the mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, Mahāprabhu said to Jagannātha, “You are very clever. You know My heart. You know what I want. I only want to serve and please You. I want to take My mind and senses and heart from You because of the intense pain of being separated from You, but I cannot forget You for even a moment.”
When a mother has a young son that dies, she will be reminded of him when she sees anything in her house. She will only forget him, if she becomes attached to a lot of wealth. But the Vrajavāsīs never accept anything other than Kṛṣṇa. When you take anything other than Kṛṣṇa, you are separated from Him.
For example, why don’t disciples feel separation from their Gurudeva? Guru gives everything, and now, without guru, we collect so many things. Therefore we feel no separation. We are now bound and arrested near other things and therefore forget Gurudeva. He gave us big buildings, big property, much wealth, knowledge, and we are working on books, printing, and preaching, and have many followers, and now we are so busy, and do not feel the need for Gurudeva. Alas, alas! Aiśvarya–śīthila–preme nahi mora prīta—opulence inhibits the natural expression of love. If anyone has one-pointed love for Guru Mahārāja and does not accept anything other than him, then that person will always be connected with Gurudeva.
Kṛṣṇa asked Duryodhana, “O Samdhi, what do you want? My armies, Nārāyāṇa-senā, as well as My wealth, or do you want Me?”
“What will I do with You? You will not fight in the battle. You said You will only sit on one side, without fighting, so give me Your army and wealth; that is good for me.”
Like this, we receive property from Gurudeva and he gives us so much knowledge and wealth, and then we forget Gurudeva and have no love for him. Then we have no yoga with Gurudeva. Our mind is divided and heart is shared. Then we are like prostitutes. We are not ananya.
Kṛṣṇa said in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.22):
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
Without ananyatā, one-pointedness, we are like prostitutes. Because of not being one-pointed, many things come and arrest us. We come to the holy dhāma and think of our home countries, and think, “It is so difficult to stay here, I will return home.” This is because we are divided and have shared our hearts. We do not have love for Kṛṣṇa, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. We run, but we will suffer more where we go.
The Vraja-devīs told Uddhava, “We have tried to bring our hearts back from Kṛṣṇa and to engage them in ordinary activities, but we cannot do so. You are teaching us jñāna, but we laugh at this. You are not intelligent. Your mind is restless, so you can meditate, ‘Ooooṁ,’ and do prāṇāyāma, and think, ‘O God,’ and meditate on a black expanse, but we have natural love for Kṛṣṇa and He is always with us. You are not in dhyāna of Kṛṣṇa, therefore you are trying to give us jñāna. If you were always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, how would you be speaking like this? If you were with Him, why would you have come here to give us advice? How would you have left Him?”
Uddhava had said, “Kṛṣṇa is Yogeśvara. Think of His lotus feet and you will be happy and will no longer weep.” But the gopīs replied, “If we think of Him, we will be happy? We only suffer more and more. Tava kathāmṛtaṁ tapta-jīvanaṁ—hearing His glories makes our hearts burn and burn, tapta-jīvanaṁ. No one should listen to the glories of Kṛṣṇa. You tell us to think of His lotus feet, but those feet are always stepping on our hearts and smashing them. You speak very sweetly, but you are duplicitous. You are like a merchant who sells his product by glorifying it so much, but when opening the package after purchasing it, the buyer finds inside a poisonous snake that bites and kills him. We don’t need your advice. Take and give it to Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa cheated us. He made a close relation with us, and then ran far away. Teach us how to forget Him! We will be happy when we can forget Him. Your master speaks very sweetly and attracts one’s mind, but afterwards, He kicks and smashes the hearts of His beloveds. He has left us for so long. We don’t think of our bodies and do not eat or sleep. We have been in this forest for many years, but have not given up our bodies. Alas! Why can we not give up our bodies? Kṛṣṇa would dance and play with us on the bank of Govardhana, and in the kuñjas. How could He leave us? How could He leave Yasoda-maiyā? And how did He forget and leave His dear friends, the sakhās, who live only for Him?”
Remembering Kṛṣṇa and chanting His names keeps the Vrajavāsīs alive. They have no relation with family or anyone other than Kṛṣṇa. They do not give their senses to anyone to enjoy. They are always drowning in the ocean of separation from Kṛṣṇa and cannot come out of that ocean.
The gopīs’ mood then changed and they said, “Uddhava, Kṛṣṇa is very sweet and soft. He has many good qualities. He cannot tolerate anything harsh, being very soft. Do not abuse Him. He is very superior. It is our bad fortune and karma that He has rejected us. We have done wrong. It is not His fault, but ours. We never gave Him happiness. He would have to go to the forest in the early morning, and stay there throughout the day, tolerating the hot sun and rough pathways, covered in thorns, without shoes, or umbrella. We have no love for Him and never cared for Him, therefore He left us.”
Then their moods changed again and they addressed Kṛṣṇa, “Think about Vrajeśvarī Yaśodā and how much she is suffering! Do You want to kill us all? Do as You like. But why are we still alive? You killed so many demons, why not kill us Vrajavāsīs? Then we would have no more pain and suffering. You now are wearing a royal dress and have no flute and forest attire. You live with city-dwellers in a dry country, in a desert-island in the midst of the salt-ocean. Why did You leave the lush forest of Vraja for that barren place? Why did You go there? We are unfortunate. You are the life and soul of the Vrajavāsīs. Please come to Vraja-bhūmi and give us the nectar of Your darśana. We only want to serve You. You are merciful, Prabhu, please come and return our life.”
Hearing of the Vrajavāsīs’ love and especially of the separation moods of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, Kṛṣṇa sent a message to them, “I am indebted to you. I can never repay you. Soon I will come; definitely. I will not wait longer. O Prāṇa-priyā, beloveds of My life, I speak the truth. Please hear Me. I remember you day and night, but no one understands My pain and how much I suffer here. Without Vraja-bhūmi, without My parents and friends, My sakhās and sakhīs, I am suffering and arrested in this prison here. This is to follow My duty. I promised to do this out of foolishness. But now I am suffering. Why did I come here? Before, I thought, ‘I am young and very strong. I will help Devakī and Vasudeva, Ugrasena and the Yādavas, and I will destroy the demons. I came but then was arrested. How can I return to Vraja? I am always thinking of this. But no one here understands My heart.”
Kṛṣṇa addressed Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, “The Vrajavāsīs are more than My life, soul, and heart. O Rādhārānī, of all the Vrajavāsīs, You are the most dear to Me. Your love and affection controls Me and keeps Me always with You. By My bad fortune, I have been taken out of Vraja-bhūmi, but I cannot forget any of you. Day and night I am waiting for My life to be finished here and to return to Vraja. Dvārakā will be destroyed and no one will be with Me here, then I will be very happy and will return to Vraja.”
After the Mahābhārata war, Gāndhārī cursed Kṛṣṇa, “You destroyed my Kuru-vaṁṣa, my hundred sons and relatives. In the same way, Your Yadu-vaṁṣa will soon be destroyed.”
Kṛṣṇa was very happy to hear this. Soon after, the Yādavas destroyed one another at Prabhāsa. Kṛṣṇa then sent Uddhava first to Vraja and said, “I will come soon after. I am fortunate now and have been released from prison.”
Kṛṣṇa said to the Vrajavāsīs, “You are My life and I am Your life. Without each other, we cannot live. If I heard that you had given up your lives, I would not be able to maintain My life, and if You heard that I had left, you would not be able to remain alive. We have life because of each other. When you hear of My position, you can understand something of My feelings. You have many friends and supporters, but I am alone, with no one who understands My heart. I am suffering so much. Now, I will definitely soon return.”
Param Gurudeva therefore opened a center in Mathurā so that the Vrajavāsīs would be nearby Kṛṣṇa where He was suffering away from Vraja. No one other than the Vrajavāsīs understand the meaning of pure love.
Kṛṣṇa said to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, “Because We always think of one another, Our love is pure, and We will surely meet again soon, and that meeting will then never be broken. Everyday I am worshiping Lord Nārāyaṇa so that I can return to Vraja. By His power, I come daily to You and play with You, and then return to Yadu-purī. You think this is a dream, but it is Me, factually. I come and talk and play with You. It is not a dream as You think. Soon, Lord Nārāyaṇa will arrange that I can come back permanently to Vraja. Many people are against the Yādavas. After I killed Kaṁsa, millions of his followers attacked Me. I thought that if I was in Vṛndāvana, more and more of his followers, and more and more demons would attack Vraja and cause so much disturbance and distress to the Vrajavāsīs, so I went further away from Vraja. But now, almost all of the demons are destroyed. I will finish the rest of them, and then soon return. From the day of My birth in Vraja, so many demons came to disturb the Vrajavāsīs. I could not tolerate this, so I went some distance and destroyed them all. But I have no attachment to anyone or anything here. You may think, ‘Why then do I have children and wives here?’ This is only for the pleasure of the Yādavas, but I don’t consider them My family. They have come to take something from Me, but do not have pure love for Me.”
How many people are with Gurudeva and how many take his knowledge and wealth and run away with this? When everything is with you and you use everything to serve Gurudeva, then you are lucky. But people take post and position, and run away with this.
Kṛṣṇa said, “They take everything from Me, but do not have pure love for Me. Your love is pulling Me to Vraja; I will return in ten or twenty days and will stay forever with all of the Vrajavāsīs. I will never leave Vṛndāvana again. This is the truth; I am not lying. I am quickly coming.”
Kṛṣṇa spoke a verse that gave faith to the Vrajavāsīs that He would come.
mayi bhaktir hi bhūtānām
diṣṭyā yad āsīn mat-sneho
If anyone has bhakti for Me, it is very powerful and pulls Me to the hearts of My devotees.
In our lives, Ratha-yātrā is a very important festival. We should follow this festival under guidance of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas and endeavor to awaken the moods of the Vrajavāsīs in our hearts.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from [email protected] )