“Lord Chaitanya also recommended that the highest mode of worship in the highest perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja. These damsels (gopis, or cowherd girls) simply loved Krishna without a motive for material or spiritual gain.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Preface)
Who is God? Can it be a person? Is that not too limiting? Is God male or female? Aren’t there defects in that? A male can’t give birth to a child. A female can’t impregnate someone else. If God is male, then it means He is lacking something, no? If He’s female, He’s to be considered weaker, right?
The Vedas teach that there is a male aspect to the Divine, accompanied by a female aspect. The male is known as Krishna. His name means “all-attractive.” This attractiveness is seen in a spiritual form. Something that is lacking attributes by definition cannot have attractive features. It is featureless. The Supreme Lord is the most beautiful person in all the universes. The same Krishna personally expands to other non-different forms like Rama, Narasimha, and Vishnu.
The female aspect to the Divine is known as Radha. She is the queen of Vrindavana, so she is also known as Radharani. Her complexion is golden, and she is the most beautiful woman. The only difference between the two is that one is the enjoyer while the other is enjoyed. On the occasion of Radhashtami we celebrate the enjoyed, who acts only for the pleasure of her beloved.
Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared that the worship of the gopis is the best. This is when discussing bhakti-yoga, devotional service. The gopis are the cowherd women of Vrindavana, and Radharani is their leader. A person can spend many lifetimes studying the love of the gopis and still reach no end. Their superiority in devotion is shown in many ways. On the special day honoring the appearance of Shrimati Radharani, we look back to one time when Krishna fell ill.
Krishna has a headache
Vrindavana is the spiritual world, the topmost planet in the realm known as Vaikuntha. A replica version of Vrindavana exists in the material world, and occasionally, as defined in terms of the lengthy span of the creation, the Supreme Lord descends to show His lila, or pastimes. Radharani simultaneously appears in Vrindavana, as do the male and female friends, the sakhas and sakhis.
In His manifest pastimes, Krishna does not stay in Vrindavana the entire time. At the onset of adulthood, He leaves for Mathura, and later becomes the king of Dvaraka. There He lives with many beautiful queens in exquisite palaces.
One time Narada Muni visited Krishna in Dvaraka. Narada is a triloka sanchari; He travels the three worlds spreading the message of bhakti. When the saint met Krishna, he found out that the Supreme Lord had a headache. Krishna knew what the remedy was. He needed the dust of the lotus feet of His devotees. He asked Narada to bring that for Him.
Narada searches for the dust
This was a strange request. In Vedic culture, taking the dust of someone’s feet is considered a sign of great respect. The junior takes the dust from the senior. In a household, the residents do this with the dust of a visiting saint. There is also a practice where the senior’s feet are washed, with the juniors then drinking the water.
Narada first went to the queens in Dvaraka. They were unhappy that Krishna had a headache, but they were reluctant to do as asked. “This is adharma. This goes against everything we practice. It will be so sinful to think we are superiors who can offer the dust from our feet to Krishna.” It is the custom for the wives to worship the husband.
Narada had to continue in his search. He went to Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. These are highly exalted beings who are worshiped by so many. Shiva can grant amazing blessings, which he has done many times in the past. They both refused. They would not violate etiquette, even if it was what Krishna asked.
Narada visits the gopis
Narada returned to Krishna to tell the Lord of his failure. Krishna then asked if Narada had visited the gopis in Vrindavana. The saint hadn’t, and so he was soon on his way. The amazing thing about the gopis is that they don’t consider themselves to be great devotees. This mood is genuine; they are not faking humility as a means of garnering attention or advancing towards a higher objective.
The gopis didn’t like the request, either. They thought it was odd that someone would consider them to be great devotees. They were simple village girls, after all. They were in the pain of separation from their beloved, who had left them for the city life. Still, they were glad to see Narada, since the saint had news about Krishna.
The gopis aren’t afraid to suffer the reactions
Krishna asked for the dust from the feet of His devotees. The gopis didn’t consider themselves to be so exalted, but Krishna needed help. Shrimati Radharani generated some dust from her feet. Then her other gopi friends followed. Narada had enough to bring back. He wondered why they weren’t afraid to violate etiquette. The gopis responded that their lone objective was to see Krishna happy. If that meant suffering in hell afterwards, they were prepared to make the sacrifice.
Narada returned to Krishna with the dust. Krishna was immediately cured and then spoke of the glories of the gopis. Radharani is so close to Krishna that she is not afraid to chastise Him sometimes. She and her friends make fun of Him and try to bring down His ego. Yet it is all in good fun, done out of pure love. Radha thinks only about Krishna, which makes her the most dear to the Supreme Lord.
Headache remedy in sage Narada to trust,
Sent to get from feet of devotees dust.
Though for their beloved ready anything to give,
Queens in Dvaraka afraid of sin impossible to forgive.
Brahma and Shiva also refusing,
Path of dharma steadfastly choosing.
Generating instantly the gopis by Radha headed,
Not afraid, even moment’s pain for Krishna dreaded.