Light of the Bhagavata

Light of the Bhagavata, Srila Prabhupada’s evocative prose and Madame Li’s graceful paintings in the classical Gongbi style combine to provide a fresh and revealing insight into the vital and enduring truths of the world’s oldest spiritual tradition.

Light of the Bhagavata
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Illustration by Madame Li Sheng

Illustration 42

At night in autumn the atmosphere is pleasant because it is neither very hot nor very cold. The mild wind blowing through the gardens of fruits and flowers in Vṛndāvana appeared very much pleasing to all—all but the gopīs, who were always overtaken by heartfelt sorrow in the absence of Kṛṣṇa.

Lessons from the picture

There are two kinds of transcendental feelings for those engaged in the worship of the Lord. One is called sambhoga, and the other is called viraha. According to authorities in the disciplic line, viraha worship is more palatable than sambhoga worship. Sambhoga takes place in direct touch, whereas viraha takes place without such direct contact. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught us to accept viraha worship. In the present state of affairs we cannot make any direct touch with the Personality of Godhead. But if we practice the viraha mode of worship we can transcendentally realize the presence of the Lord more lovingly than in His presence.

Without love of Godhead there is no meaning even to direct contact. During the presence of the Lord there were thousands and thousands of men, but because they were not in love of Godhead they could hardly realize the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Therefore we must first activate our dormant love of Godhead by following the prescribed rules and by following in the footsteps of the authorities who are actually fixed in love of Godhead. The gopīs provide the highest example of such unalloyed love of Godhead, and Lord Caitanya at the ultimate stage of realization displayed the viraha worship in the mood of the gopīs.

In the mundane world there is also some shadow of such viraha. A loving wife, husband, or friend may for some time be maddened by the absence of the beloved. Such a state of mind, however, is not permanent. The loving husband or wife takes to another and forgets everything of the past. This is so because there is no reality to such relationships in the material world.

The spiritual situation, however, is completely different. A bona fide lover of God could never forget Him, even in exchange for everything else. The devotee of the Lord cannot be happy in any circumstance without the Lord. In the absence of the Lord the devotee associates with Him by remembering His separation, and because the Lord is absolute, the devotee’s feeling of separation is transcendentally more relishable than direct contact. This is possible only when we develop genuine love for Him. In that state the devotee is always with the Lord by feelings of separation, which become more acute and intolerable in suitable circumstances. The mild wind reminded the gopīs of the association of the Lord, and they felt separation from Him acutely.

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