“But suppose someone says, ‘I can’t see Krishna. How can I love Him?’ Chaitanya Mahaprabhu answers, ramya kachid upasana vrajavadhu-vargena ya kalpita. If you want to learn the process of worshiping Krishna, of loving Krishna, just try to follow in the footsteps of the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest for Enlightenment, Ch 7c)
It is natural to think that someone is a good person if they meet one of our interests. When bringing my car in to get fixed, if the person behind the counter is very nice to me and gives me different options for repair, naturally I will think that they are a good person. I will want to bring my business back to that shop in the future. The same applies for pretty much any interest. If someone is considered good by meeting my desire, it would make sense that someone who meets everyone’s desires would be the best person. The gopis of Vrindavana fit this description. Through their example of worshiping Shri Krishna fully they help everyone to find the best end.
If someone doesn’t meet my interest, then I consider them an enemy; if not an enemy, then at least someone I don’t want to deal with on a regular basis. The enemy could be someone who was friendly before. It is common for disagreements to occur in this way, where previously someone was meeting the interests of another and then suddenly stopped. They got tired of being asked for favors. Though they granted the favors many times in the past, they did so because of the bond in friendship. “They are my friend, so I have trouble saying ‘No.’ I’d rather do this for them so they’ll get off my back.”
But then one time the friend decides to say ‘No.’ They refuse to do what the other friend asks. All of a sudden, the friendship now breaks. The interest is no longer served, so what is the need for the relationship? So in this sense the definition of “good” is based on the feelings of the recipient. A really good person in the selfish view would be someone who always meets interests. The politicians are judged in this light. As long as they continue to deliver what they promised to the various constituency groups, the people will keep electing them to office. As soon as they turn their back just once, even if it is for the good of the community as a whole, the people will turn.
A really good person meets my interests and someone else’s as well. Their association is beneficial to more than just me. The expansion of the meeting of interests gives birth to the concept of a saint. The boss in a company is ideally beneficial to all. Still, he is only concerned with his company. The welfare worker expands their interest to the “disadvantaged,” which can be a larger group of people. The community leader, the president of a nation, and the healer who travels across the world from village to village meet interests at a larger scale.
The gopis are the best people because they meet every person’s interest. They accomplish this through their example. They don’t want money. They live in the farm community of Vrindavana, which sustains itself through farming and cow protection. There are thousands of cows in Vrindavana, and they are not killed for food. Rather, they are honored and allowed to have as much enjoyment as possible. They are almost equal citizens in a sense.
When a cow is allowed to love, it produces an abundance of milk. Love is what makes milk magical. Milk is not produced for any other reason. In the presence of the calf, the mother cow comes to the rescue with life-sustaining food. She is able to produce so much milk that there is plenty left over for consumption by human beings. Instead of killing the cows, the people of Vrindavana protect them and use the surplus milk products as a commodity to be traded for other necessities. Nevertheless, no one is really interested in money or goods. They are happy in their simple life.
The gopis are the cowherd women of the town. They manage the households and they are nice to everyone. They have no malice in them whatsoever. Though they are the kindest people, they never think that they are better than anyone else. They feel that they are the most fallen since they don’t get to always see their beloved Shyamasundara, the darling child of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. They think that they must have cruel hearts since they are bereft of the beautiful Girivaradhari’s protective hand. They think that all others are superior to them since they are not scorned by the slayer of the witch named Putana.
The gopis are humble in the truest sense of the word. They meet everyone’s interests because they are entirely Krishna conscious. Krishna is God. He is the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes. He is the origin of all forms of the divine. He is the spiritual storehouse, the place from which all matter and spirit come. When blinded by the dense fog of ignorance, the living entity knows Krishna as the material energy, whose most attractive force is the illusion of the opposite sex. When a little wiser, one sees Krishna as the complete whole, the universal form. When ignorance further dissipates, He is seen resting within the heart as the Supersoul.
When in the original consciousness, one sees Him in His all-attractive form, who is known as the Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. The gopis know only this form. They serve Him with thought, word and deed. Their goodness in terms of behavior and thoughts is due solely to their Krishna consciousness. No one can consider the gopis an enemy because the gopis give an example that benefits all. Some may not realize that benefit until after many lifetimes have passed, but it is still there to be taken nonetheless. The well in the community gives water to anyone who goes there. Someone who does not know that the well is there does not get the benefit, but this does not mean that the well is suddenly an enemy to them.
The most benevolent saints follow the example of the gopis. They too devote life and soul to Krishna. As He is the most powerful living entity, He distributes His influence everywhere. One thinks they cannot connect with Him now, but when the longing is there, the association comes automatically. That longing is actually known as worship in separation, and it is the method of worship practiced by the gopis inadvertently. It is the method recommended by Shri Krishna Chaitanya, who says that the path of the gopis is the one to follow.
Restaurant owner to offer nice seat,
With a friendly smile my party to greet.
Since my interests they meet,
Considered with goodness replete.
Best is one whose kindness does extend,
Interests of all, to each person a friend.
This example the gopis do give,
In full Krishna consciousness they live.