1. Understanding the intensity of gopi’s prema

O Mukunda, giver of liberation!
Who in the world is there with the courage
to pray for the gift of sacred love,
of which the slightest manifestation,
when brushing against the minds of the great sages,
makes them forget the happiness of liberation?
My prayer therefore to you is this:
that I should simply desire for such prema,
and that this desire should increase forever,
in this world, birth after birth.
(Rüpa Gosvämi, Astadasa-cchanda, Vastra-harana, 2)

Even those self-satisfied sages who directly experience the happiness of liberation immediately become indifferent to that pleasure simply on coming into contact with the fractionally germinated seed of prema; what person in this world is so bold
that he would pray for such wealth? I, therefore, always pray only that, wherever I should take birth, I may constantly develop the thirst and enthusiasm for attaining that great prize—that I should remain forgetful of all else and thirst for it in the way that a fish from its pond craves for a return to water, as a cataka bird thirsts for the appearance of a cloud, or as the fabled cakora seeks the rays of the moon.

Brahmananda is the name given to the joy found in the transcendentalist’s realization of universal spiritual identity. This pleasure is so highly lauded by its proponents that it is said to make all worldly pleasure, even that of being an emperor or universal creator like Brahma, appear completely insignificant. Yet this brahmänanda itself becomes an object of scorn for one who has attained the fortune of getting even the slightest scent of Krishna prema, or love for Krishna. Prema is therefore the ultimate goal of life, or prayojana-tattva.

There are unlimited varieties of prema, but there is a vast difference in their magnitude. According to Visvanatha Cakravarti’s commentary on the varieties of heroine in Ujjvala-nilamani, the four degrees of magnitude are:
1.atomic
2.comparatively substantial
3.great
4.exceedingly great.

In those persons whose devotional taste has not yet developed (ajata-ruci), prema is present only in atomic quantity; it is only barely detectable and consequently, the Lord’s giving of himself to such devotees is also just barely perceptible.

At the opposite extreme, prema is found to be of exceedingly great magnitude only in the person of the Queen of Vrindavan, Srimati Radharani. There, because prema is present in its fullest possible manifestation, Krishna is also in complete
subordination to her.

Sacred love (prema) is great in all the residents of Vrindavan and therefore Lord Krishna accepts the role of a subordinate to them also.

The Lord submits himself to devotees like Narada, in whom sacred love is greater or lesser, in proportion to their devotion.

When the Lord consents to become a subordinate to his devotee, i.e., in a case where love is either great or exceedingly great, his majestic aspects remain completely hidden in the presence of so much devotional sweetness, in the way that the
potencies of a feudal baron, though relatively apparent to his subordinates, remain subdued in the presence of the emperor.

Sacred love is the essence of Krishna”s internal potency, known as the Hladini or bliss-giving
energy.(Sri Jiva, Durga-sangamini on Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, 1.3.1.) This energy manifests in different types of devotees in four basic varieties known as servitorship, comradeship, guardianship and the sweetest affection known as mistressship. This mistress-ship is called sweet love (madhura rati) because it is the most relishable of the devotional sentiments. It is of three types:
1.common (sadharani rati)
2.compromising (samanjasa rati)
3.competent (samartha rati). Of the three, the last is considered the most perfect.

In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu(BRS, 1.2.283-6), Rupa Gosvamin has described this competent love as kama-rupa bhakti or the devotion that has the form or appearance of sexual attraction:
That devotion or love which makes the desire for sexual union submit to it and take on its own form, i.e., makes it function only for the purpose of Krishna’s pleasure, is known as kama-rupa bhakti. Where such devotion exists, all efforts are made only for his happiness and never for one’s own pleasure or satisfaction, even though externally or superficially this desire for Krishna”s pleasure may appear like a desire for one’s own sexual satisfaction. Kama-rupa bhakti is widely known to exist only in the cowherd girls of Vrindavan. Learned persons have given the name of sexual attraction (kama) to the love of the cowherd girls for Krishna because, in the multifarious expressions of sweetness, such sports as embracing, kissing and other amorous activities take place.
Even great devotees like Uddhava adore the spirit of the cowherd girls because it transforms the essentially selfish sexual desire into pure devotional love or desire for the Supreme Lord’s sensual enjoyment. These devotees desire to attain that level of devotion, but remain forever unable.

In The Story of Gopala (Gopala-campu ii.37.11) and Priti sandarbha , Jiva Gosvamin writes that the Lord gave Uddhava a position in his life in the spiritual world of Goloka, but even so, Uddhava was unable to obtain the form of a cowherd girl or the true identity of one. This does not mean that Uddhava’s status is not extremely elevated.

According to the Brihad-Bhagavatamrita(2.1.16-17 and commentary ) there are five kinds of devotees:
(1) the devotee in knowledge (jnanabhakta),such as Bharata Mahäräja
(2) the pure devotee (suddha-bhakta) like Ambarish Maharaja
(3) the devotee in sacred love (prema-bhakta) like Hanuman
(4) the devotee entirely fixed in sacred love (prema-para-bhakta) like the five Pandava brothers
(5) the devotee completely absorbed in and moved by sacred love (prema tura-bhakta) like the Yadavas, of whom the chief is Uddhava.

Each of these divisions is superior to the one preceding it. Nevertheless, even though Uddhava stands as superior to all the above mentioned devotees, he cannot attain to the ultimate standard of devotional sentiment known as the mood of the cowherd girl (gopi-bhava).

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From Manjari Swarupa Nirupana by Srimad Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaj.

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