The layered significance of the Vraja-gopis songs of separation.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Student: Maharaj, you said that the phrase tapta-jivanam has many meanings.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj:

tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhurida janah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.31.9)

Tapta means burned. Burning is of different types: from even the ordinary to the highest degree. In the verse atmaramas cha munayo (SB: 1.7.10), the word atmaramah has different meanings: those who take pleasure in the body, in the intelligence, in the soul, and so on. There is a gradation. Even an ordinary man who is suffering in separation after the death of his son feels some satisfaction if he hears Krishna’s kathamrta [nectarean words].

Kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham: the poets say that Krishna-katha does away with kalmasa, our sins, but the positive side is ignored by them. Why should we only go to clear away dust? There are higher and higher positive attainments. Kavibhir means Brahmadibhir, Vyasadibhir [Brahma, Vyasa, and other authors of Vedic literature]. So kalmasapaham [the destruction of sin] does not only refer to ordinary sins.

tara madhye moksa-vanchha kaitava-pradhana
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Adi-lila, 1.92)

[“The greatest form of cheating [kalmasa, sin] is the desire for liberation.”]

Through Krishna-kathamrta, that is also finished, and one can arise into pure devotion.

Sravana-mangalam: when we get a touch of Krishna-kathamrta, real benefit, real good begins to awaken within us. Sreyah kairava chandrika vitarana (Cc: Antya, 20.12) [“Krishna-kathamrta shines moonlight on the evening lotus of our good fortune.”]

Srimad atatam can mean bhaktimadbhih atatam: the devotee becomes madly engaged in service. Srila Sanatan Goswami has perhaps given srimadbhih as bhaktimadbhih. Sri can mean different types of wealth, and ultimately it means prema-sampadbhih [the wealth of divine love]. So, in general, it means that in all stages of life, souls flock together around Krishna for His connection.

Tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam: here the gopis say, “We are suffering. We are burned by Your separation. It is Your creation, but You are the cure. We are suffering from pangs of separation. They have been created by You, but Your kathamrta gives us life and sustenance.  We are eager to hear Your voice from Your lips, Your kathamrtam, Your consolation. Then, we may feel that we are getting our life back. There is no other medicine for our condition than Your assurance, Your consolation. Only that can save us from these pangs in our burning hearts.

Kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham: so many poets talk about You and say that sins are brushed away by Your kathamrta, but we do not care for that. In our case, we feel encouragement to commit more sin, to cross the orders of scripture and society (arya-patham cha hitva [SB: 10.47.61: the gopis forsake the Vedic path]). So the removal of sin is not applicable in our case. We find that our kalmasa, sins, are increasing. Our relatives tell us this. The poets have said that Your kathamrta removes sins, but that is simply their imagination. We find that it produces the opposite result within us.

Sravana-mangalam: ‘When we listen to Your sweet words, we have much hope.’ This is said. Many say they get bright hope by hearing from You. This is mentioned in the scriptures, but what sort of good fortune are we getting from it? We only hear that good fortune comes from Your kathamrta. Substantially it is not present. With our ears we hear that there will be good fortune, but that is only ear-deep [superficial].

Srimad atatam: Your kathamrta is full of beautiful promises. Those who desire their own best prospect crowd around You on all sides to hear Your consolation speeches.”

yad-anucharita-lila-karna-piyusa-viprut-
sakrd-adana-vidhuta-dvandva-dharma vinastah
sapadi grha-kutumbam dinam utsrjya dina
bahava iha vihańga bhiksu-charyam charanti
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.47.18)

[“Many humble, swan-like souls, who once partake of a drop of Krishna’s constant Pastimes, which are nectar for the ears, become free from all strife, immediately leave their miserable homes and families, and wander here, begging to live.”]

Sribhih—Laksmibhih: Your soothing and assuring words captivate even Laksmi Devi. In comparison to Her, what is our position? You have that fascinating capacity that all are attracted to You.

Bhuvi grnanti ye bhurida janah: Your talks, and talk about You, has great, wonderful attraction. You are always surrounded by different persons of high rank. We are told that those in this world who talk about You give the highest thing. But why are You so merciless, so cruel to us? Please give Your company to us.

Srimadbhih atatam: we were required by You for Your Pastimes, but now You have left us. Perhaps a serving section higher than us has surrounded You. Perhaps they have deceived You and snatched You away from us. Perhaps they have surrounded You, captured You, and taken You away from us. This is Your nature.

Bhuvi grnanti ye bhurida janah: we are told that those who give You to the world give the highest thing, that their gift is the highest in the world. They give something more than sufficient, more than enough: anandambuddhi-vardhanam prati pradam purnamrtasvadam (Cc: Antya, 20.12) [“Their gift expands the ocean of ecstasy and is the taste of the highest nectar at every moment.”]

How much can we take? Our demand is very small, and eka bindu jagat dubaya (Cc: Anyta, 15.19) [“One such drop floods the world.”] Rain can inundate an area, but when there is draught, not a drop of water is available. Like clouds, those who speak Your kathamrta inundate the world.

In this way the meaning of the verse may be developed.

Tapta-jivanam: those who are tapta [burned] are of different types. Jivan [life] is also of different types. The demand of all living beings is not the same. Even the anyabhilasis [enjoyers], karmis [elevationists], and jnanis [liberationists] are also captivated by Your connection.

Kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham: there are two types of kavis [poets]: those who use their imagination, and those who are real—the srestha brahmans, Vyasadhibhih [Vyasadev and the other authors of Vedic literature].

The verse may also be considered from this angle:

nahe gopi yogesvara pada-kamala tomara
dhyana kari’ paibe santosa
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 13.141)

[“The gopis are not masters of yoga who will be satisfied simply by meditating on Your lotus feet.”]

So bhuvi grnanti ye bhurida janah: those who distribute You in the world consider that enough, but we don’t find it to be so. We feel that You are burning our heart. We feel as though we have drunk poison. If we had never entered this charming area [Your association], it would have been better for us.”

bahye visa-jvala haya bhitare ananda-maya
krsna-premara adbhuta charita
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 2.50)

[“The amazing symptoms of love Krishna that one suffers from poisoning externally but is ecstatic internally.”]

“Tapta-jivanam: we are suffering to the utmost. Your kathamrta was created by Vidhata [Providence] only to burn the hearts of people like us. We were innocent, but through our fate You have come to us, and now, anyhow, we are burning. Your kathamrta it is meant only to burn the lives of others. Upon hearing it, they cannot find any satisfaction anywhere else. It is so. Such a fire is lit within the heart by hearing Your kathamrta.” Ha ha.

tare dhyana siksa karaha loka hasana mara,
sthanasthana na kara vichare
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 13.140)

[“‘Learn to meditate on Him’. You make people laugh and kill us with this instruction. You have not considered who we are as its recipients.”]

“We are burning in separation from You, and You are giving us advice from the Vedanta. What permits this? The fate of one who has come in connection with You is doomed. They won’t find even a drop of peace anywhere. Their life is finished.”

This is called vyaja-stuti [apparent praise].

Hare Krishna. Gaurahari. Nitai Gauraharibol.

I heard a song by Ravi Tagore:

sakhi, bhavana kahare bale. sakhi, yatana kahare bale
tomra ye balo divasa-rajani ‘bhalabasa’ ‘bhalabasa’—
sakhi, bhalabasa kare kaya! se ki kevala-i yatanamaya
se ki kevala-i chokera jala? se ki kevala-i duhkhera svasa?
loke tabe kare ki sukera-i tare emana duhkhera asa

[“O friend!, what is worry? O friend, what is pain? Day and night you think of ‘love’ ‘love’. O friend, what is love? Is it only pain? Is it only tears? Is it only sorrowful sighs? For the sake of what happiness do souls desire such sadness?”]

In Madras, a gentleman came to me and said, “Oh! Your highest ideal is Chaitanyadev?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “At the end of His life, Chaitanyadev only shed tears. He led a disappointed, vacant life, madly searching for His ideal. This is a position of great suffering. Who will go to that side? Who will accept this idea? How miserable was Chaitanyadev’s later life? In disappointment, He was always crying aloud. Is that an ideal life for anyone? Why should we accept it?”

Srila Kaviraj Goswami mentions:

bahye visa-jvala haya bhitare ananda-maya
krsna-premara adbhuta charita
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 2.50)

[“The amazing symptoms of love for Krsna are that one suffers from poisoning externally but is ecstatic internally.”]

There is an English poem that comes to my help also: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts”. These expressions describe virahe milan [union in separation].

We are talking about such high things, but who are we?

ami—eka batula, tumi—dvitiya batula
ataeva tomaya amaya ha-i sama-tula
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 2.290)

[“I am a madman, and You are a madman too. Thus, we are equal.”]

 

References

tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhurida janah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.31.9)

Meaning in general:

“O Lord, narrations of Your nectarean Pastimes are the very life of those who are burning in the miseries of material existence. They are expounded by the greatest poets and destroy all sin. They bestow all good fortune upon anyone who listens to them and are replete with all spiritual power. Those who spread these narrations are the most munificent souls in this world.”

Meaning spoken by the Vraja-gopis in praise of Krishna:

“O Beloved, Your nectarean words are the very life of those whose hearts are afflicted with the burning pain of separation from You. They are praised by connoisseurs of rasaThey destroy the distress of the fever of separation from You. They are most pleasing to the ear and endowed with all spiritual power. Those who chant Your nectarean words are the most munificent souls in this world.”

These two meanings support the vyaja-stuti meaning given by Srila Sridhar Maharaj in this article.

atmaramas cha munayo nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim ittham-bhuta-guno harih
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 1.7.10)

“Even those who are satisfied within the self and the sages who are free from all entanglements render unconditional service to the all-powerful Lord. Sri Hari’s beauty is such.”

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern exponent of the conception of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the school of Srila Rupa Goswami. Subtle and profound yet vivid and practical, his representation of both the broadest and deepest spiritual truths has and continues to fortify and nurture the faith of spiritual aspirants the world over. For more information on Srila Sridhar Maharaj, please visit his biography page.
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