“Let Krishna tightly embrace this maidservant, who has fallen at His lotus feet. Let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still no one other than the worshipable Lord of My heart.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.47)
Lord Chaitanya reveals the sentiments of the devotee immersed in the highest mood of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga.
Can there be different moods? Is there a higher or lower? If one person is connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in full consciousness, how can they be considered higher or lower than anyone else who is similarly connected?
Though any genuine relationship is worthwhile and makes one eligible for release from the cycle of birth and death, higher and lower come into play based on the level of intimacy. In the highest mood, one can even chastise God, for they have no fear of Him ever abandoning them.
A gopi is a cowherd girl. The word immediately brings to mind the famous gopis of Vrindavana, who roamed this earth some five thousand years ago, the same time that the son of Nanda Maharaja delighted the residents of Gokula with His childhood pastimes. Their lotus feet graced the sacred earth of Vrindavana at the same time that Yashoda’s son filled everyone’s hearts with pure love.
According to Lord Chaitanya, the worship done by the gopis is the highest. To follow in their footsteps is to make the most of the human form of life.
What other paths are there? What other footsteps are there to follow?
First there is the path of the materialist. In this mentality, the individual seeks happiness apart from a relationship to God. This mentality is an illusion in itself, since there can never be any separation. The Lord is the creator of this and many other worlds. He is the source of both the material and spiritual worlds, as He states in the Bhagavad-gita.
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 10.8)
Under illusion, or maya, the conditioned living entity thinks that God is not around them. They think that they can become the supreme controller, that the spot is vacant, ready to be filled by anyone who meets the qualifications. To be qualified means to have the greatest enjoyment. To enjoy the most means to have the most wealth, beauty, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Each category has endless nuance, so it is not surprising that the pursuit for the illusory post of top enjoyer can go on for a long time, spanning many births and deaths.
The path of the spiritualist is to have enjoyment through God’s sanction. Though away from the side of illusion, in this mentality there are a variety of paths available. One is called worship in neutrality, or shanta-rasa. This can entail worship of the impersonal spiritual energy known as Brahman. When you worship Brahman, you don’t really know God too well. You appreciate His spiritual energy, how it is superior to the inferior, material nature.
Even if you know of the existence of the Personality of Godhead, you can still be in shanta-rasa. Think of visiting the temple and offering respect to the deity. In this mood, you are too afraid to say anything negative about God, even if it’s just in fun. You are careful to avoid any offenses. You treat the Lord as you would an exalted head of state.
The mood of the gopis is different. They love the Supreme Lord so much that they don’t consider Him to be very supreme. Rather, He is their best friend, for whom they hold so much affection. They are not afraid to offend Him since they know that their lives are surrendered to Him. They know that they can never not be conscious of Him, thus they don’t fear His rebuke.
The gopis are unique in that they don’t ask anything from Krishna, which is the preferred name for those who know the transcendental features belonging to the all-attractive Lord. Whether Krishna is with them or separated, whether He grants them everything desirable or completely ignores them, the gopis will still love Him. Constitutionally, they cannot worship anyone else. They are helpless in this sense, though in fact they are the most loved by Krishna. He cannot repay their affection. In the relationship to them, He is the one who is helpless. The gopis are on such a high level of devotion that they turn the all-powerful weak in one area.
The mood of the gopis is not to be imitated artificially. Therefore Lord Chaitanya, the preacher incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna, never openly discussed the gopis and their dealings with Krishna. He taught that one must first develop an attachment to God. That attachment seems easy to get in theory, but in practice it is very difficult. Incumbent upon the spiritualist is the attitude of surrender, which requires abandoning the attitude in illusion of trying to enjoy separate from God.
The attachment develops through following the principles of yoga. In this age of Kali hardly anyone can follow all the rules and regulations. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, knowing the glories of Krishna and how His mercy is the only remedy for the conditioned living entity diseased by material attachment, mercifully gave everyone the safest and most effective path towards transcendence. Whether one follows the principles or not, whether they have a desire to enjoy materially or not, or whether they believe in God or not, if they simply chant the holy names on a regular basis, with some sincerity, they will be saved. Through regularly reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” they can ascend the various mellows of bhakti-yoga, developing and maintaining love for the most loveable Krishna.
Though Krishna of loving nature clear,
In lower moods of bhakti to exist fear.
Afraid for chastisement to give,
Rather with regulated worship to live.
Gopis of Vrindavana on a level higher,
To say anything, knowing love never to tire.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu following in their mood,
Same opportunity by path of holy name imbued.