“All the gopis were solaced by the instruction of Uddhava, and they requested him to stay in Vrindavana for a few days more. Uddhava agreed to their proposal and stayed with them not only for a few days, but for a few months. He always kept them engaged in thinking of the transcendental message of Krishna and His pastimes, and the gopis were feeling as if they were experiencing direct association with Krishna.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 46)
Everyone is burning from the fire of separation from the Supreme Lord, even though they may not realize it. The root cause of every pain and every discomfort is this separation, a consciousness where the purified soul feels that it is alone and that it is lacking that one thing in life that will give it solace. The fire of separation can be doused by words describing the transcendental activities, pastimes, and features of the Divine Entity. These words can be put forth by anyone, but when they come from a devotee, one who knows wherefrom the fire of separation ignites, they gain true efficacy. The most powerful solution to all of mankind’s problems, the only way to douse the fire of separation from God, is to hear about and remember His activities.
Does God have activities? He most certainly does. In order for activities to be performed, there must be a form. It is in this area that the Vedas stand out amongst all other spiritual disciplines. Popular scriptures may give information about a divine entity and the need for human beings to render service unto such a person, but the necessity for this surrender is often neglected or at least not explained in any detailed way. Often times the divine entity is described as being angry and jealous and one who insists that others bow down to Him exclusively. Yet even though the Lord is described in this way, He is deemed to be formless; one who is absent of activity and attributes.
It is sometimes asked what is needed to convert to Hinduism. The reality is that Hinduism, which is really just the modern term that describes the spiritual discipline emanating from the Vedas, doesn’t necessarily contradict any other system of spirituality. Moreover, the Vedas are not something you believe in or convert to. Rather, they simply represent law codes and detailed descriptions of the Divine’s nature, form, activities, attributes, and relationship to His subjects. In this way, non-Vedic spiritual disciplines can be thought of as first and second grade education, which by itself certainly isn’t invalid or unnecessary, while the Vedas represent a high school or college level education on spirituality. The human brain can never truly comprehend the nature of the Divine, for that is one of the primary differences between God and ordinary living beings. However, the Vedas provide as much detail as required to get the picture on what the purpose, or dharma, in life should be.
In the Vedic tradition, the original Divine Entity is known by the name of Krishna. More than just God, Krishna is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is not an angry, spiteful, or jealous God, but rather an all-blissful, eternally full of knowledge divine being. The living entities, represented by any life form that has a soul in it, are His tiny fragmental sparks. This means that all forms of life – animals, plants, humans, ants, insects, trees, etc. – are similar to Krishna in quality. The difference lies in the area of quantitative powers. Living entities have no memory of when they were put into their current situation, nor do they know how to put an end to their future fortunes and misfortunes. The Supreme Lord, however, is conscious of every activity performed in the past, present, or future.
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
Since the living entities are one with and different from God, there is an intimate relationship that exists at all times. Currently, we living entities in the human species, who are the most advanced in terms of knowledge, are unaware of this relationship. Hence there is a separation of consciousness. God can never be separated from anything that He creates, but Mother Nature is considered a separated expansion in the sense that the living entities under her control remain unaware of their relationship to the divine. Thus ignorance serves to facilitate the appearance of separation between God and His dearmost devotees. This separation results in a burning sensation which causes the living entities to always struggle through feelings of hankering and lamentation.
The Vedic seers, the representatives of the Lord on earth, tell us that every single problem that we think exists is due simply to this fire of separation. The more we become aware of the real problem, the greater our chances are at putting out the fire. Some of the more common problems in society are poverty, war, famine, high prices for commodities, and unemployment. Yet we know from studying history that each of these problems has been solved to some degree or another at some point in time. People living in America may feel that their economic situation suffers from time to time, but when compared to other nations around the world, there is really no such thing as poverty in America. In addition, when economic times are good, do people’s worries and fears cease? Absolutely not, for new issues are sure to crop up. Even during the greatest economic booms, there is concern about the plight of the poor and the down-trodden, those who are deemed to be not taking part in the economic largesse. No amount of service to humanity, regardless of the sincerity or lack thereof of the participants involved, can douse the fire of separation which is at the root of all miseries in this world.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.6)
The devotees, those who acknowledge the presence of a God who is full of form and bliss, realize that association with the Divine Entity is the only path towards salvation. Devotees try their best to link up their consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. The Vedic tenet, as told by Krishna Himself, is that a person’s consciousness at the time of death determines their fate in the next life. Through this system, we see that no one is more benevolent than Krishna. The idea of accepting God through some formalized ritual and then focusing one’s thoughts, words, and deeds towards sense pleasures is not enough to guarantee salvation. If the living entity is happy in a temporary and miserable world, where their consciousness remains separated from the Supreme, the Lord is not so unkind as to remove such a person from their “comfortable” home. The spiritual world is open to entry for any sincere soul, provided that they want to go there. The genuineness of this desire is measured at the time of death in the form of one’s consciousness.
Thoughts and actions serve to change one’s consciousness, so by practicing devotional service through the chanting of the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the devotees aim to always be connected with Krishna. Goswami Tulsidas, a great devotee of Lord Rama and all-time favorite historical personality of our humble self, compares the activities of a true devotee to that of the Chatak bird. Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and other vishnu-tattva forms are the same original form of Godhead just appearing in different guises. Devotees of Krishna will argue that since He is the original, other forms are not as powerful. Yet for devotees like Tulsidas and Hanuman, such statements don’t resonate. Even if told that Lord Rama, Vishnu, or Narasimha isn’t as potent as Krishna, such devotees still would never change their object of worship, so staunch is their affection. And in the grand scheme of things there is no difference between worshiping different Krishna forms, as they all can rescue the sincere soul from the cycle of birth and death.
The Chatak bird is unique in that it only drinks rainwater. It stares at the raincloud at all times, regardless of what else is going on around it. This is a wonderful comparison made by Tulsidas because Lord Rama’s body is the same in complexion as the dark raincloud. The same goes for Krishna and Vishnu. The pure devotees are like the Chatak bird in that they never want anything else except Krishna’s association. Even if they only get a little rain, the level of devotion doesn’t change. Yet just because the devotees are always thinking of Krishna, staring at the cloud if you will, it doesn’t mean that the fire of separation isn’t there. In fact, once a person becomes Krishna conscious, the fire only intensifies since they desperately crave Krishna’s association at all times. If the raincloud should somehow disperse or not appear for a few days, the devotees feel extreme pain.
So what can be done to douse this fire? For the answer, we can look to Uddhava, the cousin-brother of Lord Krishna who had an appearance almost identical to the Lord’s. Around five thousand years ago, Krishna personally descended to earth and enacted wonderful pastimes while in the guise of a human being. For God, there is no such thing as a difference between body and soul. There is no hankering, lamentation, or fire of separation in His consciousness. Yet to kindly attract the hearts and minds of the purified souls of the world, the Lord roamed the earth in what appeared to be an ordinary body. Retaining His dark blue color, Krishna captivated the residents of the village of Vrindavana in His youth. Since there were many unwanted elements in the world at the time, to take care of these demons, the Lord had to shift to the towns of Mathura and Dvaraka when He grew up. Krishna’s birth parents were of the royal order, so the Lord felt duty-bound to become a king and fight off enemies.
The residents of Vrindavana were members of the farm community, so they had nothing to do with the opulences of royal life. When Krishna left them, they felt as if their life had been taken from them. Though Krishna’s foster parents, Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda, felt especially pained, no one took the separation harder than the gopis, the young cowherd girls. Krishna is not only the name for God’s original form, but it is also a word which means all-attractive. This shouldn’t surprise us, for only God could be the most attractive person in the world. This attraction certainly isn’t a fatal one, except maybe in terms of material life. One who becomes attracted to Shyamasundara, the dark blue beautiful Lord, will certainly have their time in the material world put to a permanent end. Attraction to the most attractive Krishna is most beneficial.
The gopis, most of whom were already married, had surrendered life and soul to Krishna. They enjoyed intimate association with Him on many a night in Vrindavana during Krishna’s youth. From the example of the gopis, we see that the height of devotion to God has nothing to do with rituals, severe penance, the giving of charity, or the taking to any particular social order. While these different aspects of spiritual life can certainly be beneficial in terms of progressing towards the ultimate goal, the height of purified consciousness was already achieved by the gopis through pure love. Since they were on the highest devotional platform, mundane rules and mores of society didn’t apply to them.
Since they were so benefitted from intimate association with Krishna, the gopis couldn’t bear separation from the Lord. Krishna knew this of course, so a short while after leaving He sent Uddhava to deliver a message to the gopis. Uddhava was Krishna’s cousin and he had a similar appearance to the Lord. When the gopis knew that Uddhava had a message from Krishna, they took him to the forest where no one else could hear the confidential message. Uddhava read the nice message from Krishna, which offered wonderful praises to the gopis, but the gopis weren’t really interested in formalities. They simply wanted to know what Krishna was doing, how He was feeling, and if He remembered any of them and the enjoyable time they spent together. Seeing the gopis in a distressed condition, Uddhava advised them to always meditate on Krishna and remember His pastimes.
The gopis were so happy to hear Uddhava’s words that they insisted he remain in Vrindavana longer. In this way, their pains of separation were alleviated by Krishna’s messenger always talking about the Lord’s activities. This is the primary duty of the guru, or spiritual master. The guru is the sublime teacher, one who teaches the fallen souls how to reclaim their prestigious position as servitors of the Supreme Lord. The instructions of the guru can be quite complicated and involve different activities and regulations, but more than anything else, the guru tries to alleviate the pains of separation felt by the devotee. As proved by Uddhava, this fire of separation can only be doused by hearing about and remembering Krishna.
We may not all be spiritual masters or exalted devotees, but the efficacy of the words of Krishna and discourses pertaining to His activities doesn’t change. Topics of Krishna not only douse the fire of separation felt by the devotees, but they also alleviate the pains felt by every other person in the world. Therefore the best elixir to cure life’s ailments is the distribution of Krishna’s names, fame, glories, and words which describe His activities and attributes. Not only does talking about Krishna make the people on earth happy, but it also pleases all the past great devotees residing in the spiritual world. No group of individuals is more exalted than the gopis, and from Uddhava’s example, we see that simply talking about Krishna is enough to gain their favor. One who is in good standing with the gopis will never have to worry about the fire of material existence ever again.