November 15th, 2018 – Gopashtami
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Today is a super, excellent auspicious day, it is called Gopashtami. The whole day is known as Ashtami tithi. According to Vaishnava culture and traditions, in a few hours we will observe Gopa Ashtami. Gopashtami means the first time Krishna herded His calves and cows. Every year we visit the home of Paresh Sundari and his wife Rani Giri. They are completely dedicated unto the lotus feet of Shrila Gurudeva, Narayana Goswami Maharaja. I have come to their house for many years now. I used to collect money for our Keshavaji Gaudiya Math, at that time our Keshavaji Gaudiya Math was not wealthy. So everyday I used to go house to house in Vraja. Especially in Mathura, I would go door to door collecting donations for our Keshavaji Gaudiya Math. I met their family and they were always very generous and completely dedicated to the lotus feet of Shrila Gurudeva, Narayana Goswami Maharaja.
His wife and family were so dedicated to the lotus feet of Shrila Gurudeva. On the day of Gopashtami in 2013, his wife departed from this material world early in the morning. At the time our parikirama was in Nadagaon. She received diskha and harinama from Gurudeva, Narayana Goswami Maharaja. She was very fortunate. You cannot believe how dedicated she was to the lotus feet of Shrila Gurudeva. When I used to come to their house, they always gave so much love and affection and treated us as their family member. The Sanskrit word for this is called, laukika sad–bandhuvat priti. Brahmaji also glorified the residents of Vraja. In this verse Brahmaji recited, He glorifies Vrajavasis’ relationships with Krishna as being a member of their own family.
aho bhāgyam aho bhāgyaṁ
pūrṇaṁ brahma sanātanam
[“How greatly fortunate are Nanda Mahārāja, the cowherd men and all the other inhabitants of Vrajabhūmi! There is no limit to their good fortune, because the Absolute Truth, the source of transcendental bliss, the eternal Supreme Brahman, has become their friend.”]
In this verse, Brahmaji recited how fortunate Vrajavasis are, saubhagyavat. All the residents of Vraja including Nanda Vraja, have relationships with Krishna as if He is a member of their family. ‘Aho bhāgyam aho bhāgyaṁ nanda-gopa-vrajaukasām yan-mitraṁ paramānandaṁ pūrṇaṁ brahma sanātanam’. Krishna is called Purna Brahma Sanatana Purusha, this means He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Vrajavasis, the residents of Vraja, they think Krishna is their family member. They never think Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Svayam Bhagavan. ‘Dekhiyā nā māne aiśvarya’.
They have witnessed all of Krishna’s opulence, but still never believe Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Svayam Bhagavan. Krishna lifted Giriraja Govardhana for seven days and seven nights. They witnessed this. They saw Krishna dance on the hoods of Kaliya naga. They also saw Krishna drink fire, called the davanala–bhakshana lila. In Vraja, Krishna manifests all of His opulence, His aishvarya, more than in Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, Dvaraka or Mathura. Vraja is actually completely full of opulence. But that opulence is covered by sweetness, the Sanskrit term is madhurya. Vraja is covered by sweetness, madhurya. For this regard, in the Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami explains, “Dekhiyā nā māne aiśvarya.” Vrajavasis, the residents of Vraja, saw all of Krishna’s opulence, but they still do not believe Krishna is Bhagavan. Why? Because at the time of His name giving ceremony, Gargacharya told, “Nārāyaṇa-samo guṇaiḥ.” He said, “Hey Nanda Maharaja, your son Krishna has many qualifications like Narayana.” Because of this, they think Krishna has no power. They believe sometimes He is possessed by Narayana. For this regard, He is able to perform all of these opulent acts, aishvarya. Who is Narayana actually? Narayana is the incarnation of Lord Krishna. Still they do not believe Krishna is Bhagavan, they do not believe He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam says, “Ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam.” Rama, Nrisimha and Kalki are all incarnations of Krishna. Krishna is called the source of all incarnations. He is called Sarva avatari, the source of all incarnations. But Vrajavasis think Narayana sometimes possesses His body and then He can perform all of these opulent activities. So why am I saying this? Because this is the mood of pure Vrajavasis, suddha-bhaktas. Suddha-bhakti means pure devotional service is in their heart. Why am I saying this? Because his wife, Rani Giri was very lucky. She departed from this material world during this month of Kartik, on the day of Gopashtami. It was very early in the morning, that time is called brahma-muhurta. She served Gurudeva during many of our utsavas, celebrations. She also regularly attended our Keshavaji Gaudiya Math in Mathura. She was completely dedicated to Shrila Gurudeva, serving with her body and mind. She gave everything to serve Gurudeva. She sold all of her ornaments, gave everything to Gurudeva and served Thakuraji. You cannot believe how much love and affection she had with guru and Vaishnavas. Early in the morning after she chanted Gurudeva’s mantra, gopala- and guru gayatri-mantra, she departed from this material world on this super excellent auspicious day.
The whole day is what? Ashtami tithi. Do you understand? Myself, Nrisimha Maharaja and Ananga Mohan Prabhu would do very nice, beautiful fire sacrifices upstairs. So Krishna is now growing up and today He says, “I must go cow herding.” Then Nanda Maharaja says, “How will it be possible? In my house there are many servants, they can herd the cows.” But Krishna cleverly replies, “No.” Krishna is only five years old, but He is still very clever. Krishna said, “No, I was born in a cowherd dynasty, gopa jati. This is our business, our profession. According to our dynasty, cowherd dynasty, I have to go to herd the cows.” But Nanda Maharaja replied, “There is no need for you to go.” But Krishna is very stubborn. This is the nature of a baby. Three people are very stubborn by nature. First, is the nature of a baby. Babies are stubborn by nature. The Sanskrit term for this is bala hatha, hat means stubborn. Babies think, “I have to do this.” The second is called raja hatha, the stubbornness of a king. A king is also very stubborn. A king thinks, “I have to do this. I must do it.” Lastly, is a wife. A wife can also be stubborn. She thinks, “I have to do this.” She will not listen to the advice of her husband, insisting, “I have to do this.” Do you understand this concept?
In the same way, Krishna stubbornly told Nanda Maharaja, “Father, I was born in a cowherd dynasty, gopa jati. This is our profession. I have to go herd the cows.” According to the Indian Vedic caste system there are brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. Brahmanas’ profession is worshipping Thakuraji, deva puja archana. Kshatriyas’ profession is protecting the country by fighting. Then there is vaishya jati. Vaishya jati means those who are cultivating the land and handling the trade business. They are also protecting cows, go–rakshan. Krishi, go–rakshan, means cultivating fields and growing grains. Lastly, shudras serve the three castes. This is the Vedic caste system. In the Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says this verse –
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
[“According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.”]
This is called daiva varnashrama dharma. Krishna says, “According to their qualifications, they should belong to a particular caste and race.” Similarly, Krishna argumentatively told Nanda Maharaja, “Hey father, I was born in a cowherd dynasty. So this is my duty. I have to do this. Especially now. I have to practice in my childhood.” If you do not practice something in your childhood, then you will not be able to perform those activities when you become old. What does this mean? You can easily bend a green bamboo stick. But when that same green bamboo ages and matures, it cannot easily bend. What will happen if you try to bend it by force? It will break. This is why Krishna says, “In my early age I must practice my duties and responsibilities.” When you are young, you have to become a student, go to school and college to attain knowledge. But when you become old, you cannot learn anything.
kaumāra ācaret prājño
dharmān bhāgavatān iha
durlabhaṁ mānuṣaṁ janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam
[Prahlāda Mahārāja said: One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form of body from the very beginning of life — in other words, from the tender age of childhood — to practice the activities of devotional service, giving up all other engagements. The human body is most rarely achieved, and although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because in human life one can perform devotional service. Even a slight amount of sincere devotional service can give one complete perfection.]
In this verse, Prahlada Maharaja says, “Everyone should practice Krishna consciousness at an early age.” ‘Kaumāra ācaret prājño dharmān bhāgavatān iha’. Everybody has to practice Krishna consciousness during their childhood. This is the process. In the same way Krishna said, “Father I have to go cow herding.” Krishna stubbornly sticks with His argument. Then mother Yashoda said, “No Krishna. How can You possibly go herding cows?” Because in Vraja, especially in summertime it is very hot. She continued, “The rays of sun are very strong. They are scorching, You cannot tolerate them. And how will You possibly walk the path of Vrindavana? There are many thorns.” But Krishna insisted, “No, I must practice.” Then mother Yashoda thought, “How can Krishna possibly go?”
So mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja said, “Ok, You can take a small baby calf. Just go maybe three to five meters and then come back.” But Krishna said, “No, no. I have to go to herd the calves in the forest.” Whenever Krishna goes cow herding, Nanda and mother Yashoda feel pangs of separation from Him. Try to understand this. The first time Krishna herded the cows is known as Govatsa charanа. So Nanda and Yashoda said, “Listen Krishna. How will You walk behind the calves and cows? You must wear shoes.” Then Krishna replied, “No. Cows and calves are our ishtadevas.” Ishtadeva is your worshipable deity. According to shastras, you should not put on shoes in front of guru and Thakurаji. In the same way Krishna, very logically, established His own opinion. He said, “Our cows and calves are our ishtadeva.” Do you understand what ishtadeva means? Our worshipable deity. He continued, “So how can I possibly wear shoes in front of calves and cows?” Krishna is very clever.
govindāya namo namaḥ
(Vishnu Purana 1.19.65)
[“My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.”]
But Nanda and Yashoda told Krishna, “Listen, cows can walk everywhere because they have hooves. If they walk on a chipped stone, they will not feel any pain. How will You possibly walk barefooted behind the cow? How will You walk without shoes?” Then Nanda and Yashoda said, “You have to take these shoes.” Then again Krishna logically argued, “Ok, I can take the shoes. But first you must also offer shoes to all the cows and calves.” For this, you will need a big shoe factory. So Krishna said, “Ok, I have to go barefoot.” As I mentioned, today is the first day Krishna went herding the cows and calves. According to rules and regulations of the shastras, brahmanas are chanting special mantras, some stava stutis, like, ‘om swasti no govindah swasti no achyutanantau swasti no…’. Mother Yashoda was thinking, “Krishna will go very far and maybe some, pishachi, ghosts or spirits will try to attack Him.” This is because mother Yashoda has vatsalya-bhava, parental mood. So mother Yashoda put twelve tilaka marks on Krishna’s body and protected Him with these special mantras. Just look how much love and affection they have with Krishna, vatsalya-bhava.
In this way, Krishna is actually maturing, kishoravastha. Krishna then said, “Now I must go herd the cows.” Vanād vanam means He goes cow herding from one forest to another. Actually Krishna only takes the cows from one forest to another because He is searching for the gopis. This is the main reason. Krishna only uses herding as an excuse. He says, “I am going cow herding now.” But Krishna is actually searching for the gopis. Because Radha and Lalita are feeling the pangs of separation from Krishna. Shukadeva Goswamipada also described this pastime in Venu-gita. So why I am saying this today? Because today is a super excellent, auspicious day. Today is called Gopa Ashtami. Ashtami tithi, eight days from the new moon. Gaura Premanande, Hari Haribol!
Transcriber: Sanatan das (USA)
Editor: Divya Premamayi dasi (Slovakia), Sanatan das (USA)