Gopi Prem

(Romance with the Divine)

Valentine’s day is being celebrated all over the world today on  14 February.  It however, has nothing to do with the scriptures, according to Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj.  It was a tradition started by people to have some fun and frolic. Since everyone was keen to celebrate this day, our Gurudev chose to celebrate and honour it as  Gopi Prem Day, which is the highest form of Divine Love.

The Gopis of Braj had abandoned both worldly and Vedic duties.  They even disobeyed their husbands, but were greatly loved by Lord Krishna because they were selflessly and solely devoted to Him.  The basic definition of virtue and sin given by the Lord Himself in the Bhagwatam is as follows:

“That sin which is performed for My sake, is not a sin, it is virtuous.  But the virtuous action that is performed without remembrance of Me, is a sin.”

Here, we will first have to understand what Gopi Prem is. The word Prem itself is indescribable, according to the Shastras. It cannot be explained in words. It can be understood only by experiencing it.   Even the one who experiences it, can’t explain it in words.  

Prem is without any selfish desires. In Prem, you give up your own desire and make the desire of your beloved as your desire. The aim of Prem is to give happiness to the beloved.  This is only the meaning of prem, what to speak of Gopi prem which isn’t known even to Brahma and Shankar Ji because it is the highest state of divine love.

The Chaitanya Charitamrita gives a beautiful definition of selfless love, “To want one’s own happiness is desire and can be compared to darkness, and the desire to only please one’s beloved is love and can be compared to sunshine.” The chataka bird is a beautiful example of selfless love.  This bird is always devoted all year round to its beloved, the rain cloud.  It lives only on the raindrops falling in the autumn asterism, svati and does not drink any other water.  

In contrast, worldly people run to places of worship and to saints only when we have some worldly desires.  The moment our worldly wants are fulfilled, we never think of going back again.  We are too preoccupied with material pleasures to even think of God.  The reality is that we are actually worshippers of worldly desires.   We have not yet understood anything about the subject of God.  We too must love the Lord exclusively and constantly in the same way, and our every desire should be focused on pleasing Him alone. 

It is said that when in love, don’t think about having your own selfish desires, not even in a dream. If you have a selfish desire, and when the desire is fulfilled, love will increase a little, and when the desire is less fultilled, love will decrease.  If the desire goes totally unfulfilled,  anger comes. We observe this daily in  our worldly interactions. Sage Narad Ji says prem should be without selfish desire.  When there is no desire, only then is it called prem i.e. when  you desire for the happiness of your beloved.  Give up the desire for your own happiness.

In the world,  wherever we find love, there is always an inherent selfishness.  The moment that self-interest is harmed, the love comes to an end and even results in enmity.  But the love of the chataka is different.  It is unselfish. No one in this world, whether he is a human being or a celestial god can do anything for the happiness of anyone else.  Everyone performs actions only for the attainment of his own happiness.  No matter whom he loves, it is only for his own happiness. 

This kind of love is called attachment, not prem. True love is not found anywhere in this world.  It’s simply not possible.  Loving someone for your own happiness isn’t prem, it’s deception.   Everyone in the world loves for his or her own self-interest. If 100% of our self interest is served by someone, our love for that person will be 100%.  If our self-interest is less, only 50% served, then the temperature of our love will also go down 50%.  When our self-interest ends, love also ends. Now the quarrelling, bickering, fights, intolerance and even divorce may result.  This is not love.  

Just recall, when we were young and only by ourselves, we used to be happy and playful.  With marriage, we became two and then four.  Now there is so much attachment developed towards each other,  and if one of them has an accident, the other three are worried. If one dies, then the other three are crying. Imagine, one already has his own pain to suffer, but now he is suffering from the pain of others.   

It is mind-boggling to imagine how a human being can still be alive after suffering from so many miseries.  How can one call this love?  Love is God’s form.  It is divine bliss.  Attachment of our mind to an object isn’t prem.  This so-called love only increases your misery and stress.  

Love ends when there is a reason.  Because when the reason finishes, love also ends. If we love someone for their beauty, then tomorrow when their beauty is gone, our love will also disappear. If we love someone for their wealth, and when he becomes bankrupt, our love will also finish. If our love is conditional and dependent on any quality of the beloved, then as soon as that quality is gone, our love will also end.  When the foundation is removed, everything on it will also fall.  

Should a husband, wife, father or mother makes one harsh comment, a person may get angry, depressed and may even be inclined to commit suicide.  Quarrelling, fighting, etc. all  may just ensue from one single comment.  A wife says to her husband, “You are characterless.” He retorts angrily, “What did you say, I’ll pull your tongue out!”  This is the outcome of a mere few words.

Rasik saints say that even if there is a reason for prem to end, it won’t end. Prem or love  isn’t dependent on any condition. The scriptures say that even if your beloved offends you and does something wrong, your love should not be reduced.  This is the second definition of prem or love.  

In other words, if we love someone and he’s calling us names, he’s slapping us, insulting us, physically hurting us, yet our love doesn’t reduce. This is called prem. Has anyone ever seen this kind of love in this world, even in a dream?  No matter what the reason may be for our love to end, but yet our love does not end.  

Prem is a power of God which can be received from a Guru.  The condition is that the devotee should purify his mind by complete surrender.  The devotee must prepare the vessel. The Guru gives Divine prem for free. But to purify the mind, you have to make the effort. You have to do sadhana.  The kirtan, bhajan which you do is only done to purify the mind to make it pure.  Then Guru will bestow prem in your purified mind.

To purify the mind, you must love someone who possesses prem. In the world, everyone is deceiving each other. Mother says, “Son, I can’t live without you!”  Everyone is deceiving each other with their words. If even a little bit of our self-interest is not fulfilled, there is tension. The same person who can’t live without embracing his mother, son or wife, argues with those same people 25 times a day. A mother beats the same child that she can’t live without.  

Only two personalities have prem – God and Saint. The one who has attained God and has attained his love is called a saint, mahatma, mahapurush or Guru. A saint has divine love or spiritual love in his possession.  You can receive it from him.  But when  will he give it to you, how will he give it to you?  After the purification of your mind, you will receive that prem.  How will the mind be purified?  

Accepting God and Guru to be one and the same. You have to do bhakti to them.  You have to do bhakti with your mind.  Devotion isn’t done merely with the voice or ears or nose. Or by putting your head on your Guru’s feet. You have to surrender your body, mind and soul.  This is called complete surrender.  When you have 100% surrender to God and Guru, then your mind is purified.  After that, the Guru gives prem.  

God can’t give prem.  Guru gives that prem.  Then what class of prem you receive depends on the class of your Guru.  If your Guru has attained a lower class of prem, then you will receive the same class of prem.  For eg. prea bhakti, sneh bhakti, maan bhakti, pranay bhakti, rag bhakti, anurag bhakti, bhavanesh bhakti, mahabhao bhakti are the different classes of prem.

So whatever class our Guru belongs to, by surrendering to him we will receive the same class of prem.  What is Gopi prem? You have to attach your mind to Lord Krishna and his associates: Saint, Mahatma and Guru. When the mind will get attached to them, it will become purified.  Just like when a small river meets Ganga Ji. It becomes Ganga Ji.  When some dirty object falls in the fire, it becomes fire.  In the same way, when our mind loves a divine personality, it becomes pure.

A true lover says about God, “Only He is my beloved.”  What kind of beloved is he?  Someone might say “He’s dark complexioned.”  The devotee says, “Why should I care what His body is like?  He may be very beautiful or extremely ugly.  My love isn’t based on any condition. He may possess all good qualities or be a reservoir of bad qualities. I don’t care.  He may have animosity for me or love for me. I don’t care.  He was, is and will remain my only beloved. He may behave with me in any way.” 

Gaurang Mahaprabhu says, “Hey Shyamsundar, You can do only three things.” You may embrace me and love me, you may be indifferent, or neutral towards me, as if you don’t know me.  In this way, you may give me the pain of Your separation or you may raise your divine rotating disk (chakra) and cut my head off?  What else can you do?  Out of these three actions, whichever one you do, my love for you will go on increasing.  This is the test of real prem.

We should however not worship Shri Krishna as a Supreme Almighty Personality, because we will feel fear, hesitation and distance.  This will become a hindrance in establishing a close relationship with Him.  Rasik Saints have emphasised devotion to Lord Krishna through intimate relationships, such as we have in the material world.  

These relationships of the devotee and God are known as bhavas.  There are five bhavas – shanta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalaya and madhurya.  All these aspects of love, i.e. accepting God as our king, master, friend, child and beloved have been established in order to make us feel closer to God. Each succeeding bhava is superior to the previous one.  Dasya bhava is superior to shanta bhava.  Sakhya bhave is superior to dasya bhava, vatsalya bhava is superior to sakhya bhava, and madhurya bhava is superior to vatsalya bhava.  

Shanta bhava is the lowest, as it is the relationship between a subject and a king.  Awa and reverence dominate this relationship, so it has generally been rejected by Rasik saints.In dasya bhava, the relationship is close as the devotee considers himself as a servant and the Lord as his master.  Sakhya bhava or friendship is closer than servitude, because in this bhava, the devotee considers God as his friend.  In vatsalya bhava, the devotee has greater privileges than in sakhya bhava, because here the devotee loves the Lord as his little child.  

Madhurya bhava is the closest of all relationships, as it is that intense sweet love that exists between a lover and her beloved.  Even in the world, the closest relationship is that of a lover with her beloved, less close is that of parents with their child, even less close is the relationship between friends, the servants relationship with master is even lesser, and finally the relationship of a subject with his king is the least close.  In Madhurya bhava, we can think of God as our beloved, son, friend, master, or king whenever we wish.

The last and most intimate of all relationships is madhaya bhava, in which the devotee enjoys all privileges and has complete authority over Lord Krishna.  The selfless amorous divine love of the Gopis is known to all. It was this selfless love that made the supreme Brahm Krishna forget his godliness and become their eternal servitor.  

Lord Krishna longed to hear these illiterate maidens of Braj, call him a thief, a flirt and so on.  He even went to their houses to be insulted in this matter.  These Gopis are supreme amongst all saints.  Brahma, Shankar and great paramhansas entreat the Lord to make them creepers, trees, etc. in Vrindavana in order to be blessed with the holy foot dust of these gopis.  The Bhagavatam declares that even the Vedic hymns in personified form could not attain the exalted state of these gopis.  

Even  Goddess Mahalakshimi, the eternal consort of Mahavishnu could not attain the nectar of divine love that the Gopis attained.  Mahalakshmi could not gain entrance to the Divine dance (Maharas), even though she performed severe penance for a long time.  There is a beautiful verse in the Bhagavatam which gives a glimpse of the selfless love of the gopis.  

The Gopis in separation from Shri Krishna say:  “O beloved Shyamasundar!  We place your extremely tender feet gently on our hearts, out of fear that our hard breasts may in some way hurt them.  And we cannot bear to see you walking barefoot on the stony paths in the woods, because you are our very life!”  What tender selfless emotions are expressed by the Gopis!  It would melt the heart of the most hard-hearted person.  This is the supremacy of the love of the Gopis.

In Dwapar yuga, the leader of the jnanis was Uddhava.  He was fully satisfied in the bliss of the Impersonal.  Lord Krishna sent him to the Gopis to make him realise the unique distinction of the bliss of divine love as compared to the bliss of Impersonal Brahm.  Uddhava went to give knowledge to the Gopis but ultimately rejected that very knowledge and returned humbled and overwhelmed by the experience of the bliss of divine love imparted to him by the Gopis.  Praising the Gopis to Shri Krishna, he asked for a boon.

“O Shri Krishna! I would consider it my greatest fortune to be born as a creeper, a bush or a tree in Vrindavan in order to attain the foot dust of these Gopis.  My birth seems to have been wasted away  when I compare myself to these Gopis who have reached such an exalted state.  This is a state that the personified vedic hymns, even after performing countless austerities, have not been able to reach.”

It is clear now that the selfless amorous feeling of the Gopis is the sweetest of the devotional sentiments.  Practising devotion along these lines guarantees one the attainment of the highest divine bliss – ‘Gopi Prem.’  The factual meaning of madhurya bhava is “He is my all-in-all.”  

This allows you to love Shri Krishna with whichever sentiment you desire and whenever you desire.  You have complete freedom in your choice of devotional sentiment, bhava and there are no restrictions or rules governing the relationship.  This highest emotion, combined with the selfless ideal of the Gopis should be incorporated into our sadhana from the very beginning.

Blessed in the three worlds is the selfless divine love of the Gopis of Braj which binds the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna himself and he forgets himself.  A Gopi recounts, “I see Krishna everywhere – in the marketplace,  at the river bank, in lanes, in gardens, in trees, in vines, in kunjs, in forests, in doors, in walls, in door sills, in windows, in diamonds, in garlands, in jewellery, on my body.  

Wherever I look, I see only Krishna – my Shyamsundar is residing in my eyes and has taken control of my mind. There is no place where I do not see Him.”  Such was the pure love of Gopis of Braj.

Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat wishes all devotees a very Happy Gopi Prem Day.

*A brief introduction of Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj*

(Known by His devotees as Shri Maharaj Ji)

The original title of Jagadguruttam (‘Greatest Spiritual Teacher of the World’) was bestowed upon Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj on January 14, 1957, by ‘Kashi Vidvat Parishad’ (a council of 500 greatest scholars saints of India). He composed divine texts like ‘Prem Ras Madira’, ‘Prem Ras Siddhant’, and ‘Radha Govind Geet’ to lead us on the right path of devotion. He also gave priceless monuments as gifts to the world which include  -  Bhakti Mandir located in Bhakti Dham, Mangarh,  Prem Mandir located in Vrindavan Dham, and Kirti Mandir located in Barsana Dham. Shri Maharajji also built hospitals for the impoverished, the Jagadguru Kripalu Chikitsalaya in Vrindavan, Jagadguru Kripalu Chikitsalaya in Barsana, and another one in Pratapgarh. All three help millions of underprivileged to gain free access to medical care. His Kindergarten, School, and College for impoverished girls Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat Education is located in Kunda and provides completely free education.