“The gopis have set the standard of devotion for the whole world. By following in the footsteps of the gopis by constantly thinking of Krishna, one can attain the highest perfectional stage of spiritual life.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 46)
1. Love Krishna without inquiry
That is the entire objective of the human birth. Real life begins with inquiry. Otherwise, everything is the same as in the animal species. You follow the four general tendencies: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
You live for a certain amount of time. You leave something of your time spent here. Your mark. Your impact. The byproducts of your actions. You will have to leave, anyway. Whether you want to or not, the end arrives at the appropriate moment.
The call to action for the human being is athato brahma-jijnasa. This implies a sense of urgency. Now is the time for inquiring into spiritual matters. Now is the time for focusing on Brahman. Now is the time for breaking free from maya.
To inquire is to proceed. To ask questions is to seek knowledge. To approach an authority figure is to expand the horizons, beyond that which is already experienced. Personal experience always pales in comparison to the sum total of what others have seen, especially when they are able to convey their observations and what they have learned from others.
2. Love Krishna without knowing that He is God
Inquiring into the spiritual nature has the final destination of God Himself. To know the individual is to know God. A person who finally understands who they truly are, a spirit soul, will naturally inquire into the source of spirit and how individual spirit aligns with other similar entities.
The living entities are Brahman, but the Supreme Lord is the source of both the spiritual and the material. One way to know Him is as Parabrahman. He is the spiritual energy, but a superior version. He is like you and me, but also different.
3. Love Krishna without discrimination
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, knowledge means discrimination. An appropriate Sanskrit word is vishesha. This refers to distinctions. Letters are different from one another. The first letter of the alphabet is different from the last letter, for instance.
The sun is a distinct object, in comparison to everything else we see in the sky. There are males and females. Young and old. Hot and cold. High and low. Happy and sad. Dry and wet. The dualities are practically infinite in number.
To be able to identify which is which requires knowledge. Applying such knowledge means using discrimination. Taking stock of a situation. Assessing whether a particular behavior is good or bad. Deciding whether a person’s association is worthwhile or not.
These three categories apply to connecting with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There must be some inquiry involved. We see a picture hanging on the wall. We visit someone’s home and see what is on the altar area. We might ask authority figures about God and whether He exists.
In order to love the Supreme Lord, we should know who He is. We have to understand His position. We conduct a study into His qualities, which are known as gunas. Since He is transcendental, God is both nirguna and saguna. He is the beginning of everything, but also without a beginning, anadi. He is the ultimate conclusion, but also without end, ananta.
The entirety of Vedic literature, which is voluminous in size, is for giving knowledge. We apply discrimination in approaching the Supreme Lord. We develop love for Him because of His qualities. We follow Him because He is grateful. We show allegiance because He rewards every kind gesture offered in His favor. He is our friend, birth after birth. The person who thinks of Him always is never lost to Him.
यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र
सर्वं च मयि पश्यति
तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि
स च मे न प्रणश्यति
yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra
sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi
sa ca me na praṇaśyati
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.30)
The gopis of Vrindavana are in the unique position of loving God without any sort of application of higher knowledge. They do not inquire whether the child of Nanda and Yashoda is Vishnu Himself. They are not interested in His amazing displays of strength. Their opinion does not change whether Krishna can fight off the bull-demon or not.
Krishna could tell them that He is not God, and the gopis would continue to love. They do not require higher knowledge. They love without discrimination, as directly witnessed by Uddhava. They think only of Krishna’s welfare. They plan only for meeting with Him again, for enjoying His association.
It is for these reasons and more that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared the mood of worship of the gopis to be the highest. The residents of Vraja follow in their footsteps. The gopis show full and complete surrender. They love no matter what happens as a consequence.
When inquiring something to know,
First with discrimination to go.
Then higher and lower comparing,
Before one as supreme declaring.
Next into qualities assessing,
Then only as God addressing.
But gopis conditions not needing,
Directly into love proceeding.
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