Uddhava Visits Vṛndāvana
Nanda Mahārāja returned to Vṛndāvana without Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. He was accompanied only by the cowherd boys and men. It was certainly a very pathetic scene for the gopīs, Mother Yaśodā, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and all the other residents of Vṛndāvana. Many devotees have tried to make adjustments to Kṛṣṇa’s being away from Vṛndāvana because, according to expert opinion, Kṛṣṇa, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, never goes even a step out of Vṛndāvana. He always remains there. The explanation of expert devotees is that Kṛṣṇa was actually not absent from Vṛndāvana; He came back with Nanda Mahārāja as promised.
When Kṛṣṇa was starting for Mathurā on the chariot driven by Akrūra and the gopīs were blocking the way, Kṛṣṇa assured them that He was coming back just after finishing His business in Mathurā. He told them not to be overwhelmed and in this way pacified them. But when He failed to come back with Nanda Mahārāja, it appeared that He either cheated them or could not keep His promise. Expert devotees, however, have decided that Kṛṣṇa was neither a cheater nor a breaker of promises. Kṛṣṇa, in His original identity, returned with Nanda Mahārāja and stayed with the gopīs and Mother Yaśodā in His bhāva expansion. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma remained in Mathurā, not in Their original forms but in Their expansions as Vāsudeva and Saṅkarṣaṇa. The real Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were in Vṛndāvana in Their bhāva manifestation, whereas in Mathurā They appeared in the prabhava and vaibhava expansions. This is the expert opinion of advanced devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Externally, however, They were absent from Vṛndāvana. Therefore, when Nanda Mahārāja was preparing to return to Vṛndāvana, there was some discussion between him and the boys concerning how they could live in separation. The conclusion to separate was reached by mutual agreement.
Vasudeva and Devakī, who happened to be the real parents of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, wanted to keep Them now because of the death of Kaṁsa. While Kaṁsa was alive, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were kept under the protection of Nanda Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana. Now, naturally, the father and mother of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma wanted Them to remain, specifically for the reformatory function of purification, the sacred thread ceremony. They also wanted to give Them a proper education, for this is the duty of the father. Another consideration was that all the friends of Kaṁsa outside Mathurā were planning to attack Mathurā. For that reason also Kṛṣṇa’s presence was required. Kṛṣṇa did not want Vṛndāvana disturbed by enemies like Dantavakra and Jarāsandha. If Kṛṣṇa were to go to Vṛndāvana, these enemies would not only attack Mathurā but would go on to Vṛndāvana, and the peaceful inhabitants of Vṛndāvana would be disturbed. Kṛṣṇa therefore decided to remain in Mathurā, and Nanda Mahārāja went back to Vṛndāvana. Although the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana felt separation from Kṛṣṇa, the resulting ecstasy (bhāva) caused them to perceive that Kṛṣṇa was always present with them by His līlā, or pastimes.
Since Kṛṣṇa had departed from Vṛndāvana and gone to Mathurā, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, especially Mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the gopīs and the cowherd boys, were simply thinking of Kṛṣṇa at every step. They were thinking, “Here Kṛṣṇa was playing in this way. Here Kṛṣṇa was blowing His flute. Kṛṣṇa was joking with us in this way, and Kṛṣṇa was embracing us like this.” This is called līlā-smaraṇa, and it is the process of association with Kṛṣṇa most recommended by great devotees; even Lord Caitanya, when He was at Purī, enjoyed līlā-smaraṇa association with Kṛṣṇa. Those in the most exalted position of devotional service and ecstasy can live with Kṛṣṇa always by remembering His pastimes. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has given us a transcendental literature entitled Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, which is full with Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Exalted devotees can remain absorbed in Kṛṣṇa-thought by reading such books. Any book of kṛṣṇa-līlā, even this book, Kṛṣṇa, or our Teachings of Lord Caitanya, is actually solace for devotees feeling separation from Kṛṣṇa.
That Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma did not return to Vṛndāvana can be adjusted as follows: They did not break Their promise to return to Vṛndāvana, nor were They absent, but Their presence was necessary in Mathurā.
In the meantime, Uddhava, a cousin-brother of Kṛṣṇa’s, came to see Kṛṣṇa from Dvārakā. He was the son of Vasudeva’s brother and was almost the same age as Kṛṣṇa. His bodily features resembled Kṛṣṇa’s almost exactly. After Kṛṣṇa returned from His teacher’s home, He was pleased to see Uddhava, who happened to be His dearmost friend. Kṛṣṇa wanted to send him to Vṛndāvana with a message to the residents to pacify their deep feelings of separation.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: Kṛṣṇa is very responsive. He responds in proportion to the devotee’s advancement in devotional service. Thus, as the gopīs were thinking of Kṛṣṇa in separation twenty-four hours a day, so Kṛṣṇa was also always thinking of the gopīs, Mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja and the other residents of Vṛndāvana. Although He appeared to be away from them, He could understand how they were transcendentally aggrieved, and so He immediately wanted to send Uddhava to give them a message of solace.
Uddhava is described as the most exalted personality in the Vṛṣṇi dynasty, being almost equal to Kṛṣṇa. He was a great friend of Kṛṣṇa’s, and being the direct student of Bṛhaspati, the teacher and priest of the heavenly planets, he was very intelligent and sharp in decision. Intellectually, he was highly qualified. Kṛṣṇa, being his very loving friend, wanted to send Uddhava to Vṛndāvana just to study the highly elevated ecstatic devotional service practiced there. Even if one is highly elevated in material education and is even the disciple of Bṛhaspati, he still has to learn from the gopīs and the other residents of Vṛndāvana how to love Kṛṣṇa to the highest degree. It was Kṛṣṇa’s special favor to Uddhava to send him to Vṛndāvana with a message for the residents there, which was meant to pacify them.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is also named Hari, which means “one who takes away all distress from the surrendered souls.” Lord Caitanya states that there cannot at any time be a worship as exalted as that realized by the gopīs. Being very anxious about the gopīs’ grief, Kṛṣṇa talked with Uddhava and politely requested him to go to Vṛndāvana. Shaking Uddhava’s hand with His own hands, He said, “My dear gentle friend Uddhava, please go immediately to Vṛndāvana and try to pacify My father and mother, Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā-devī, and the gopīs. They are grief-stricken, as if suffering from great ailments. Go and give them a message. I hope their ailments will be partially relieved. The gopīs are always absorbed in thoughts of Me. They have dedicated body, desire, life and soul to Me. I am anxious not only for the gopīs but for anyone who sacrifices society, friendship, love and personal comforts for Me. It is My duty to protect such exalted devotees. The gopīs are the most dear. They always think of Me in such a way that they remain overwhelmed and almost dead in anxiety due to separation from Me. They are keeping alive simply by thinking that I am returning to them very soon.”
Requested by Lord Kṛṣṇa, Uddhava immediately left on his chariot and carried the message to Gokula. He approached Vṛndāvana at sunset, when the cows were returning home from the pasturing ground. Uddhava and his chariot were covered by the dust raised by the hooves of the cows. He saw bulls running after cows for mating; other cows, with overladen milk bags, were running after their calves to feed them with milk. Uddhava saw that the entire land of Vṛndāvana was filled with white cows and their calves, running here and there all over Gokula, and he could hear the sound of milking. Every residential house in Vṛndāvana was decorated for the worship of the sun god and the fire god and for the reception of guests, cows, brāhmaṇas and demigods. Every home was sanctified by lights and incense. All over Vṛndāvana there were nice gardens filled with flowers and the sounds of humming bees and singing birds. The lakes were filled with lotus flowers and with ducks and swans.
Uddhava entered the house of Nanda Mahārāja and was received as a representative of Vāsudeva. Nanda Mahārāja offered him a sitting place and sat down with him to ask about messages from Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma and other family members in Mathurā. He could understand that Uddhava was a very confidential friend of Kṛṣṇa’s and therefore must have come with good messages. “My dear Uddhava,” he said, “how is my friend Vasudeva enjoying life? He is now released from the prison of Kaṁsa, and he is now with his friends and his children, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. So he must be very happy. Tell me about him and his welfare. We are also very happy that Kaṁsa, the most sinful demon, has been killed. He was always envious of the family of the Yadus, his relatives. Now, because of his sinful activities, he is dead and gone, along with all his brothers.
“Please let us know whether Kṛṣṇa now remembers His father and mother and His friends and companions in Vṛndāvana. Does He like to remember His cows, His gopīs, His Govardhana Hill, His pasturing grounds in Vṛndāvana? Or has He now forgotten all these? Is there any possibility of His coming back to His friends and relatives so we can again see His beautiful face, with its raised nose and lotuslike eyes? We remember how He saved us from the forest fire, how He saved us from the great snake Kāliya in the Yamunā, and how He saved us from so many other demons, and we simply think of how much we are obliged to Him for giving us protection in many dangerous situations. My dear Uddhava, when we think of Kṛṣṇa’s beautiful face and eyes and His different activities here in Vṛndāvana, we become so overwhelmed that all our activities cease. We simply think of Kṛṣṇa – how He used to smile and how He looked upon us with grace. When we go to the banks of the Yamunā or the lakes of Vṛndāvana or near Govardhana Hill or the pasturing fields, we see that the impressions of Kṛṣṇa’s footprints are still on the surface of the earth. We remember Him playing in those places, because He was constantly visiting them. When His appearance within our minds becomes manifest, we immediately become absorbed in thought of Him.
“We think, therefore, that Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma may be chief demigods in heaven who have appeared before us like ordinary boys to execute particular duties on earth. This was foretold by Garga Muni when making Kṛṣṇa’s horoscope. If Kṛṣṇa were not a great personality, how could He have killed Kaṁsa, who possessed the strength of ten thousand elephants? Besides Kaṁsa, there were the very strong wrestlers, as well as the giant elephant Kuvalayāpīḍa. Kṛṣṇa killed all these animals and demons just as a lion kills an ordinary animal. How wonderful it is that Kṛṣṇa took in one hand the big, heavy bow made of three joined palm trees and broke it very quickly! How wonderful it is that for seven days continuously He held up Govardhana Hill with one hand! How wonderful it is that He has killed all the demons like Pralambāsura, Dhenukāsura, Ariṣṭāsura, Tṛṇāvarta and Bakāsura! They were so strong that even the demigods in the heavenly planets were afraid of them, but Kṛṣṇa killed them as easily as anything.”
While describing the uncommon activities of Kṛṣṇa before Uddhava, Nanda Mahārāja gradually became overwhelmed and could no longer speak. As for Mother Yaśodā, she sat by the side of her husband and heard the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa without speaking. She simply cried incessantly, and milk poured from her breasts. When Uddhava saw Mahārāja Nanda and Yaśodā so extraordinarily overwhelmed with thoughts of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and when he experienced their extraordinary affection for Him, he also became overwhelmed and spoke as follows: “My dear Mother Yaśodā and Nanda Mahārāja, you are most respectable among human beings because no one but you can meditate in such transcendental ecstasy.”
Uddhava continued, “Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa are the original Personalities of Godhead, from whom the cosmic manifestation emanates. They are chief among all personalities. Each of Them is both the material and the efficient cause of this material creation. Material nature is conducted by the puruṣa incarnations, who all act under Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. By Their partial representation They enter the hearts of all living entities. They are the source of all knowledge and all forgetfulness also.” This is confirmed by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā, fifteenth chapter: “I am present in everyone’s heart, and I cause one to remember and forget. I am the original compiler of the Vedānta, and I am the actual knower of the Vedas.” Uddhava continued, “If at the time of death a person can fix his pure mind upon Kṛṣṇa even for a moment, after giving up his material body he becomes eligible to appear in his original, spiritual body, just as the sun rises with all illumination. Passing from his life in this way, he immediately enters into the spiritual kingdom, Vaikuṇṭha.”
This is the result of Kṛṣṇa conscious practice. If we practice Kṛṣṇa consciousness in this present body while in a healthy condition and in good mind, simply by chanting the holy mahā-mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa, we will have every possibility of fixing the mind upon Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. If we do this, then our lives become successful without any doubt. But if we keep our minds always absorbed in fruitive activities for material enjoyment, then naturally at the time of death we shall think of such activities and again be forced to enter material, conditioned bodies to suffer the threefold miseries of material existence. Therefore, to remain always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness was the standard of the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, as exhibited by Mahārāja Nanda, Yaśodā and the gopīs. If we can simply follow in their footsteps, even to a minute proportion, our lives will surely become successful, and we shall enter the spiritual kingdom, Vaikuṇṭha.
“My dear Mother Yaśodā and Nanda Mahārāja,” Uddhava continued, “you have thus fixed your minds wholly and solely upon that Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, whose transcendental form is the cause of impersonal Brahman. The Brahman effulgence is only the bodily rays of Nārāyaṇa, and because you are always absorbed in ecstatic thought of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, what pious activity remains for you to perform? I have brought a message from Kṛṣṇa that He will very soon come back to Vṛndāvana and satisfy you by His personal presence. Kṛṣṇa promised that He would come back to Vṛndāvana after finishing His business in Mathurā. This promise He will surely fulfill. I therefore request the two of you, who are the best among all who are fortunate, not to be aggrieved on account of Kṛṣṇa’s absence.
“You are already perceiving His presence twenty-four hours a day, yet He will come and see you very soon. Actually He is present everywhere and in everyone’s heart, just as fire is present in wood. Since Kṛṣṇa is the Supersoul, He regards everyone equally: He sees no one as His enemy, no one as His friend, and no one as lower or higher than Him. He actually has no father, mother, brother or relative, nor does He require society, friendship and love. He does not have a material body like us; He never appears or takes birth like an ordinary human being. He does not appear in higher or lower species of life like ordinary living entities, who are forced to take birth on account of their previous fruitive activities. He appears by His internal potency just to give protection to His devotees. He is never influenced by the modes of material nature, but when He appears within this material world He seems to act like an ordinary living entity under the spell of the modes of material nature. But in fact He is the overseer of this material creation, and while remaining unaffected by the material modes of nature, He creates, maintains and dissolves the whole cosmic manifestation. We wrongly look upon Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma as ordinary human beings, just as whirling men see the whole world whirling around them. The Personality of Godhead is no one’s son; He is actually everyone’s father, mother and supreme controller. There is no doubt of this. Whatever is already being experienced, whatever is not being experienced, whatever already exists, does not exist or will exist in the future, whatever is the smallest and whatever is the biggest have no existence outside the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Everything rests in Him, but He is untouched by everything manifested.”
Nanda and Uddhava thus passed the whole night discussing Kṛṣṇa. In the morning, the gopīs prepared for morning ārati by lighting their lamps and sprinkling butter mixed with yogurt. After finishing their maṅgala-ārati, they engaged themselves in churning butter from yogurt. While the gopīs were thus engaged, the lamps reflected on their ornaments made the ornaments still brighter. Their churning rods, their arms, their earrings, their bangles, their breasts – everything moved, and kuṅkuma powder gave their faces a saffron luster comparable to the rising sun. While making sounds by churning, they also sang the glories of Kṛṣṇa. The two sound vibrations mixed together, ascended to the sky and sanctified the whole atmosphere.
After sunrise the gopīs came as usual to offer their respects to Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā, but when they saw the golden chariot of Uddhava at the door, they began to inquire among themselves: What was that chariot, and to whom did it belong? Some of them inquired whether Akrūra, who had taken away Kṛṣṇa, had returned. They were not very much pleased with Akrūra because, being engaged in the service of Kaṁsa, he had taken lotus-eyed Kṛṣṇa away to the city of Mathurā. All the gopīs conjectured that Akrūra might have come again to fulfill another cruel plan. But they thought, “We are now dead bodies without our supreme master, Kṛṣṇa. What further act can Akrūra perpetrate against these dead bodies?” While they were talking in this way, Uddhava finished his morning ablutions, prayers and chanting and came before them.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the forty-sixth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “Uddhava Visits Vṛndāvana.”
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