Srimati Radhika’s face is the ocean of nectar for Kṛṣṇa, full of many waves of sweetness, charm, beauty, and divinely wonderful pastimes. When oh when will that ocean of sweetness and grace appear before my eyes? (verse7)

Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s face is full of lāvaṇya, the sweetest beauty, and the perfect freshness of youth. Her beauty is extraordinary—beyond our ability to comprehend. Her face is so sweet; it far surpasses any beauty we can conceive of in this world. Indeed, all beauty we perceive in this world is mere dim reflections of the original beauty present in the form of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. When one hears the glories of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa as described by the Vraja-devīs and their followers, that person’s body, face, nature, character, and everything changes and is surcharged with lāvaṇya or spiritual beauty.

We see an ordinary person from the streets can come and meet with Śrī Guru and high-class Vaiṣṇavas and receive harināma and dīkṣā. Very soon, he becomes a wonderful devotee. His personality changes; his old nature leaves him, and he becomes transformed and full of lāvaṇya, blossoming fresh splendor. That person becomes powerful and beautiful by Guru and Vaiṣṇava’s power—the power of those who follow the Vraja-devīs. With that spiritual power and beauty, people can serve the Supreme Soul in their spiritual forms.

Nanda-nandana Kṛṣṇa, God Himself, is like a bumblebee always searching for the beautiful nectar coming from the lotus face of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Kṛṣṇa stands in a three-fold bending form. Every limb and part of His body is eager to see and be with Śrīmatī Rādhikā. So much so, that He can no longer stand straight. He looks at Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s face with His eyes, and wants to embrace Her to His chest. With His feet He wants to run to Her. Thus, the parts of His body go in different directions and He becomes tri-bhaṅga-lalita Kṛṣṇa—the charming all-attractive person who stands in a threefold bending form.

In this way Kṛṣṇa becomes perplexed and does not know what to do. First He becomes Madan-Mohana—He who bewilders Cupid Himself; then Govinda—the giver of pleasure to the gopīs and residents of Vraja, then Gopinātha—the Lord of the gopīs’ hearts. Then He becomes Madana-mohana, Govinda, and Gopinātha together as Rādhā-ramaṇa. He thinks, “How can I see Śrīmatī Rādhikā?” He is always thirsty for darśana of Rādhikā and He says, “I will run to embrace Her.” Then He thinks, “Oh, My heart is broken! How can I meet with Her? Will She accept Me or not?” Thinking in this way, He stands in a threefold bending form. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings about Kṛṣṇa in this state:

tri-bhaṅga-bhaṅgima rūpa
vaṁśī-dhārī aparūpa

Standing in His three-curved form and holding His flute, He displays His unprecedented beauty.

Kṛṣṇa’s lāvaṇya, or beauty, only fully manifests when He is remembering Śrīmatī Rādhikā. If we do not follow the footsteps of the Gosvāmīs and Guru-varga and adopt their teachings, we cannot understand Mahāprabhu, His desire, or anything about Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇavism, therefore we must study this Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi.

One Pointed Shelter

Kṛṣṇa desires that the sādhakas take shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and the Vraja-devīs. In Vraja-dhāma, at the time of śaradiya-rāsa, Kṛṣṇa called sādhana-siddhas, and the personified śrutis, smṛti, and Upanisaḍas to participate in that līlā. At that time, they became proud of their good fortune—of being present with Kṛṣṇa, dancing with them, and holding His hands. They neglected Śrīmatī Rādhikā, not even noticing as She left the Rāsa Dance. After Śrīmatī Rādhikā left, Kṛṣṇa also left to be with Her.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings:

śata-koṭi gopī mādhava-mana,
rākhite nārilo kori jatana

Tens of millions of gopīs could not capture the mind of Kṛṣṇa, and He left the Rāsa Dance at once to follow Śrīmatī Rādhikā after She departed. Those who desire their own happiness, and who want to serve Kṛṣṇa directly, cannot actually please Kṛṣṇa. He was not feeling any satisfaction without Śrīmatī, so Kṛṣṇa left. Feeling bereft, the gopīs began to pray and weep. They did not return home, instead they waited to receive Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. They began to search for Him here and there, and internally they took shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhikā.

When devotees remain in the company of Guru-pāda-padma they will learn everything from him. Guru Mahārāja brings them to Vraja-maṇḍala and gives them harināma and dīkṣā. Thus, under the shelter of Śrī Guru, they begin to make spiritual progress. Unfortunately, after a while, some people become proud and think, “Now I am great. I have so much knowledge. I am not less than my guru. Now I am even more knowledgeable than my guru.” They start to think like this and then no longer try to follow the heart’s desire of Guru-pāda-Padma. Guru Mahārāja wants His followers to practice bhakti, following in the moods of the gopīs, and not to waste time trying to achieve name and fame. Guru Mahārāja wants everyone to follow the rāgānugāmārga, the path of spontaneous love and affection.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that when one hears the glories of the gopīs from Śrī Guru and high-class Vaiṣṇavas, gradually, the nitya-siddha-bhāva dormant in the heart will awaken—nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sādhyatā. Ordinary people perform different activities to please their bodies and senses, but because the soul comes from Kṛṣṇa’s Svarūpa-śakti, they will never be happy until they become situated in their eternal position beyond all illusion.

When guru disappears from our vision should we stop following Guru-pāda-padma? Should we wander here and there following others, or, like the gopīs took shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, should we remain one-pointed and dedicated to Guru Mahārāja and show our dedication by following His example and teachings? If we search with determination for Guru-pāda-padma exclusively then he will give us darśana just like Kṛṣṇa gave darśana to the gopīs after they chanted the gopī-gita.

tāsām-āvirbhuc-chauriḥ
smaya-māna-mukhambujaḥ
pītāmbara-dharaḥ stragvī
sākṣān-manmatha-manmathaḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.32.2

When Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared before the gopīs, His lotus face blossomed with a mild smile. A beautiful forest flower garland decorated His neck and chest, and a yellow cloth graced His shoulders. He churned the mind of even Cupid who agitates the minds of all, for He was directly the original transcendental Cupid.

Kṛṣṇa appeared before the gopīs as they were searching for Him, displaying their one-pointed love towards Him. We must maintain similar one-pointed dedication toward Guru-pāda-padma. If we do this, then he will reveal to us his transcen­dental form. We should consider how much of our time we spend remembering Śrīla Gurudeva and whether we are following the teachings he gave us. We should not go far away from him or be separated from him. When we understand this principle then we will become humble. We will give up our pride—the conceit that we are great. We will forsake the idea that we have so much know­ledge and the conception that we ourselves have become gurus.

We should remember how the gopīs serve Kṛṣṇa, how they chant Kṛṣṇa’s names, and how they are always engaged in devotional services. We should contemplate how Śrīla Gurudeva will be pleased. Śrīla Gurudeva wants us to follow the teachings of the Gosvāmīs, especially the teachings found in Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta.

tan-nāma-rūpa-caritādi-sukīrtanānu-
smṛtyoḥ krameṇa rasanā-manasī niyojya
tiṣṭhan vraje tad-anurāgi-jana anugāmī
kālaṁ nayed akhilam ity upadeśa-sāram

Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 8

The practitioner of bhakti should perform kīrtana and smaraṇa, remembrance, of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, character, and pastimes. He should gradually engage his tongue and mind in Kṛṣṇa, withdrawing them from absorption in the objects of the senses, which cause aversion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Residing in Vraja-maṇḍala, he must follow in the footsteps of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s associates who have deep attachment for Him, and fully utilize his every moment in this manner. This is the essence of all advice.

Śrīla Gurudeva gave us this advice. He gave us the books of the Gosvāmīs, having translated them into Hindi, English, and so many other languages so that we could hear these instructions of the Gosvāmīs and adopt them in our lives. If we have no time to follow the example given by Śrīla Gurudeva then we will never awaken this spontaneous love, rāga, and our consciousness will never be elevated. So we must not waste any time. Ordinary disciples cannot understand how or where Śrīla Gurudeva is present, but when we enter rāga-mārga, and when we become tādātma with Śrī Guru, endeavoring to please and serve him at every moment, then at that time we will understand where he is, what he is doing, and how he is serving Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Then we will engage our mind, speech, body, and senses in following Guru-pāda-padma and will adopt all His teachings in our lives.

yat-kiṅkarīṣu bahuśaḥ khalu kāku-vāṇī,
nityaṁ parasya puruṣasya śikhaṇḍa-mauleḥ
tasyāḥ kadā rasa-nidheḥ vṛṣabhānu-jāyās
tat-keli-kuñja-bhavanāṅgana-mārjanī syām

O daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, O divine ocean of rasa, that beautiful boy who wears a gracefully
tilting peacock feather in His hair is actually the original Supreme Personality. Still, He is always falling at the feet of Your maidservants and pitifully begging them with many humble words to gain entrance into Your kuñja where the two of You engage in Your playful loving pastimes. My life would be successful if I could even be one stick in the broom Your maidservants use to clean Your delightful kuñja. (Verse 8)

The Highest Position

Kṛṣṇa’s heart is always connected with Vṛṣabhānu-nandini Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and He is always eager to be with Her and to serve Her. Here Prabodhananda Sarasvatī prays, “When will I obtain the good fortune of being a stick in the broom that sweeps the kuñja where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa meet?”

The mañjarīs of the kuñja have great regard for everything that is related to Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārānī, and therefore they very carefully handle the Divine Couple’s different ornaments and personal items. They also carefully sweep the flower petals and kuṁkum from Their feet which lie on the floor of the kuñja.

Śrīla Gurudeva would teach how a disciple must always revere anything that has come in contact with his Gurudeva, or with Vaiṣṇavas. We see how Mahāprabhu Himself went to the birthplace of Īśvara Purī and collected the dust from that holy place and bound it in the corner of His cloth. Everyday, He would respectfully put some of that dust in His mouth and on His head. The disciples of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda would collect pieces of cloth that he had used, as well as his cut nails and hairs. They would keep these with them like kavacas to protect them from māyā. They have so much love for their guru.

We also hear how Madhu Paṇdita worshiped Śrī Kṛṣṇa, taking the shelter of Tulasī-devī. With the wood of the Tulasī plant he made armlets, bangles, necklaces, and even a shirt and cap that he wore. In this way he surrounded himself with Śrī Tulasī-devī and had faith that she would protect him and his love for Kṛṣṇa.

What does it mean to become like a stick in the broom that sweeps the kuñja? If this is our prayer and we are granted our wish, then we will collect the different articles that have fallen in the kuñja. Sometimes, when Kṛṣṇa dances with Śrīmatī Rādhikā, His peacock feather falls to the ground. Flowers also fall from His garland. The mañjarīs will pick these up with so much respect and keep them as their very precious treasures. If we are extremely fortunate, we will one day be able to enter Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma and offer service like this to the Divine couple in the kuñjas.

When ordinary people come to the holy dhāma they are happy when the Vrajavāsīs or bhaktas serve them. It is the Vrajavāsīs’ nature to offer nice prasāda and honor to everyone, but we must not desire this. Rather than be eager to accept service from the bhaktas, we should instead only desire to offer service ourselves; to be like a stick in a broom that is always engaged in service to the Vrajavāsis and bhaktas. If we do not have this service tendency, we can never enter Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, and we will never get the chance to serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in their kuñja. As long as we maintain an enjoying mentality, we will not be able to have darśana of the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Instead, we will remain stuck in the festering pool of mundane possessions and relations.

Śrīla Gurudeva teaches us to pray to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī with a deep heartfelt mood:

hā devi! kāku-bhara gad-gadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍa-vad udbhaṭārttiḥ
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike! nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi

Śrī Gāndharvā-samprārthanāṣṭakam 2

O Devī Gāndharvikā, greatly distressed, I fall like a stick in prostration at Your feet. With a choked voice I beg You to please be merciful to this fool and count me as one of Your own.

“Weeping, I beseech You, ‘O Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, please engage me in some small insignificant service. May I always have the sincere tendency to serve and never desire any high position or respect for myself.”

Even Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, is not allowed to enter the kuñja where Rādhārānī is present without the permission of the mañjarīs. Therefore, we beg for the mercy of the mañjarīs, with the hope that they will grant us entry into Rādhārānī’s kuñja for offering sevā.

Dāsa Gosvāmī writes in Vilāpakusumāñjali, “When will I receive permission from Yaśodā Mātā to clean the kitchen? At that time I will dry the drains with my own hair. I will also decorate the pathway that Śrīmatī Rādhārānī walks from Jāvaṭa to Nandagrāma with soft and fragrant flower petals.” Our ācāryas pray like this, desiring to always be engaged in this service. They are therefore very dear to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.

sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ

Bhakti rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva-vibhāga 295

He who has developed greed for rāgātmikā-bhakti should closely follow in the footsteps of the particular associates in Vraja whose moods he aspires for. Under their guidance, he should engage in service both in his external form as a sādhaka, and internally with his perfected spiritual body.

With our sādhaka form we must engage in service—sevā sādhakarūpeṇa—and at the same time, we must internally meditate on our spiritual form and service in eternal Vraja.

If we do not have this internal mood then our external service will only be like karma, and we will quickly become depressed. We will give up our service thinking, “It is giving me so much tension.” However if we remain under the guidance of Guru-pāda-padma, the Gosvāmīs, and the Vaiṣṇavas then in our form as a sādhaka we will be always serving, and at the same time we will be present serving in our spiritual form in Vraja-maṇḍala. At that time we will not be disturbed by our material situation because we will be absorbed in service, and our mind will no longer become restless and desire sense gratification. The mind and body will drink this transcendental rasa and will lose all desire for material enjoyment.

vṛndāni sarva-mahatām apahāya dūrād
vṛndāṭavīm anusara praṇayena cetaḥm
sat-tāraṇī-kṛta-su-bhāva-sudhā-rasaughaṁ
rādhābhidhānam iha divya-nidhānam asti

Dear heart, please turn away from the great things of this world and run to Vṛndāvana, where the greatest treasure is present, the nectar flood that delivers the devotees from this world—Śrī Rādhā’s name. (Verse 9)

The Gopis’ Artful Service

Prabodhānanda Sarasvatīpāda prays, “Dear mind, please always meditate on and serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.” Many people have strong personalities and collect great amounts of name and fame. They are not humble. They challenge others and demand posts like chairman and president. We should know that these things are very trivial; they will only remain for a short time. When we develop greed for vraja-rasa, or vraja-bhakti, we will see these positions as insignificant. The positions that people desire in this world hold no value for those who desire the highest spiritual position, that is to be a humble maidservant of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.

It is said that in this world, “Honesty is the best policy,” but on the spiritual platform even these so-called virtues will be discarded in Kṛṣṇa’s service.

Kṛṣṇa has said:

man nimittaṁ kṛtaṁ pāpam
api dharmāya kalpate
mām anādṛtya dharmo ‘pi
pāpaṁ syān mat prabhāvataḥ

Even if one is performing religious activities, if he has no attachment to Me and no desire to serve Me, then these religious activities are actually pāpa or sin. On the other hand, if one performs seemingly sinful activities by My command, or for My sake, then that can be considered dharma.

So the question is not exactly how we are acting, but why, for what, and for whom. Are we doing it for Kṛṣṇa under the command of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, or we are acting independently for our own self-gain with the hope that others will consider us to be very important?

Kṛṣṇa also said:

ājñāyaivaṁ guṇān doṣān
mayādiṣṭān api svakān
dharmān santyajya yaḥ sarvān
māṁ bhajeta sa tu sattamaḥ

Śrmad-Bhāgavatam 11.11.32

Give up all types of external activities and surrender only unto Me. I have created all of the rules and regulations in the scriptures, and those should certainly be followed by ordinary men, but for those who are one-pointedly attracted to Me and who are endeavoring to serve Me, all these can be given up.

This is a very critical verse and is difficult for ordinary people to understand, but the Vraja-devīs understand this verse very well. If we come to Vṛndāvana with the desire for mahāt-saṅga, the association of liberated souls, then we are on the right path, but if we only associate with those who externally follow all the rules and regulations present in scripture, then we will not be able to obtain the highest position—to be the maidservant of Rādhikā.

The gopīs are very tricky, they will say that they are doing one thing but will do something else. They will tell their parent and elders, “We are going to the Yamunā to pick flowers,” but instead they will go and meet with Kṛṣṇa. They will say that they are carrying buttermilk in clay pots, but actually they have kept butter, honey, and many other nice things for Kṛṣṇa. They will say they are going to sell buttermilk in the market, but instead will go and cook a feast for Kṛṣṇa in the forest and meet with Him there.

The gopīs are crooked and tricky. They have so much love, and they also follow rules and regulations. Their rules and regulations however are those of Vraja, not of this world. Those who never drink the divine nectar of Rādhārānī’s names and service can never understand the behavior of the Vraja-devis and certainly cannot adopt their perfect behavior.

The gopīs are expert at always pleasing Kṛṣṇa through their tricky behavior. Those who are always honest and straightforward cannot have the guidance of the Vraja-devis nor learn to serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa like them. We must therefore learn to become tricky. When Śrīla Gurudeva served Param Gurudeva, Ācārya Kesarī Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he also did so in tricky ways.

Once, Param Gurudeva asked Śrīlā Gurudeva, “What have you cooked today?”

Gurudeva replied, “Only kichaḍi.” However, when he served Param Gurudeva, he first gave him kichaḍi, but then he also brought chutney, subjis, yogurt, kṣira, and so many tasty things. Param Gurudeva asked, “What is this? Where did you bring all this from?”

“Oh, someone has arranged this for Ṭhākurajī. So I have brought a little of Ṭhākurajī’s prasāda for you. I don’t know who has made this or where it has come from. I heard that some devotees brought this for Ṭhākurajī, so we offered it and then brought some prasāda for you.”

Ordinary people will not have this kind of mood when serving Ṭhākurajī and Guru Mahārāja. In this way, Śrīlā Gurudeva trickily arranged many delicious items for Param Gurudeva. He did not tell Param Gurudeva directly that he had made these things for him, rather he told him, “This was all arranged for Ṭhākurajī.” He thought, “I know that my Gurudeva will not accept these nice things, he will say, “Why are you bringing such opulent things only for me?” He understood that Param Gurudeva would become upset, so he acted in a tricky and clever way.

This behavior is natural for the Vraja-devīs. Gurudeva also behaves like this because he has pure vraja-bhakti. The Vraja-devīs are always eager to serve in a pleasing manner. If any problem or disturbance comes then they never become hopeless or depressed; their love ever-increases. Obstacles that would destroy any ordinary person’s love may be there, but their love only increases.

This pure bhakti—this vrajabhakti—is highly exalted and therefore Prabodhānanda Sarasvatīpāda sings, “O my heart, please give up attachment for the important things of this world and just run to Vraja, to Vṛndāvana, where the supreme treasure, the nectar flood of Śrī Rādhā’s name delivers all the sādhakas of this world and brings them to the eternal land of Vraja.”

We pray to always bathe in the nectar of Rādhārānī’s names. When there is so much rain that the land becomes flooded, the river overflows, and everything is either swept aside or pulled into that flood—even great big trees and houses—still, we can see that in the rivers there are lotuses that are not broken.

They move this way and that, from side to side as though they are playing in the water. In the same way, when the flood of śuddha-rasa, or the divine nectar of Rādhārānī’s names enters our hearts, we will become restless with the desire to be present in Vraja, and even if so many obstacles come before us in this world we will be able to conquer all difficulties.

Srila Prabhodhananda Sarasvati Thakur ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi”. Available from rasik@bhaktabandhav.org )