Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 11 Jun 2019

     

HOW COULD THE GOPIKAAS RECOGNIZE KRISHNA?

Shri PVNM Sharma asked: Gopikaas were totally uneducated villagers. How did they recognize Krishna as the contemporary Human Incarnation, when recognizing the Incarnation is very difficult even for great scholars?

Swami replied: Ego and the fascination for one’s worldly bonds are the main hurdles in recognizing the contemporary Human Incarnation. Males experience repulsion from a male Human Incarnation due to their gender-ego. But the Gopikaas, being females, were free of this ego. Scholars have the ego of knowledge. They experience repulsion from the Human Incarnation since He preaches spiritual knowledge. The Gopikaas were uneducated and illiterate and so were free of the ego of knowledge. People born in the so-called upper castes have the ego of their caste. They falsely believe that a person’s caste is determined by birth. They even reject a Human Incarnation born in the same caste not to speak of an Incarnation who has taken birth in a so-called lower caste. The Gopikaas were born in a low caste and hence, were free of the upper caste-ego. Krishna, the Human Incarnation during their time, was also born in their same low caste. So, the repulsion due to the upper-caste ego was eliminated in the case of the Gopikaas. If the Gopikaas had been of a higher caste than Krishna, they would have experienced repulsion from Him owing to their upper-caste ego. But it was not so.

The repulsion between people from the same caste is intra-caste repulsion. Since the Gopikaas were of the same caste as Krishna, there is some possibility of intra-caste repulsion between them. But there is very little intra-caste repulsion between individuals belonging to the so-called low castes. It is much greater in the so-called upper castes. Hence, even the intra-caste repulsion was negligibly small between Krishna and the Gopikaas. Vasudeva and Devaki were the biological parents of Krishna. But He was raised by Nanda and Yashoda. Both these couples along with the Gopikaas belonged to the Yaadava caste. The Yaadava caste was originally an upper caste of warriors and rulers (kshtriyas). But owing to a curse they could not become kings. So, they were treated to be a low caste. In any case, one should remember that all these caste problems arise only when we consider caste to be determined by birth, which is wrong. As declared by God, caste should only be determined by the individual’s qualities and deeds (Gunakarma vibhagashah...—Gita). 

Gopikaas Were Reborn Sages

The Gopikaas were not ordinary souls but were reborn sages. They had dedicated their entire lifetimes, for millions of past births, to the deep analysis of divine spiritual knowledge. In the beginning of the Tretaa Yuga, God Datta had appeared as a Human Incarnation. He had taken birth as the son of sage Atri and so, He was known as Dattatreya, which means ‘Datta (the first energetic incarnation) born as the son of Atri’. Lord Dattatreya had preached divine knowledge to these sages. However, at that time, the sages could only accept sage Dattatreya as their preacher (Guru). They were unable to accept Him as God. The reason for their inability to accept Lord Dattatreya as a Human Incarnation of God was the different forms of ego.

Their ego created repulsion in their minds from the Human Incarnation. We know that likes repel. When we find some common qualities in another individual, it produces repulsion due to our ego. One human being invariably experiences some basic repulsion from another human being because of the common human medium. But, in the case of the sages, apart from the common medium that they shared with sage Dattatreya, there were other important common qualities. They too were males like sage Dattatreya. They too were highly learned scholars like sage Dattatreya and they too belonged to the same high Brahmana caste. So, in their case, the ego of gender, the ego of knowledge and the ego of caste strengthened the basic repulsion that exists between any two human beings. The repulsion was strong enough to prevent them from accepting sage Dattatreya as their contemporary Human Incarnation of God. These sages, who were later reborn as the Gopikaas, had minimal worldly fascinations. For millions of births, their worldly lives had been extremely simple, which was the way of life of sages in the past. But during all those births, they had possessed these three types of ego.

The Relevant Form of God for Humanity

These sages used to worship only Energetic Incarnations of God by doing a lot of penance. Anybody will be ready to worship God Vishnu, the Energetic Incarnation from the upper world, even if it involves severe penance. But no one will agree to do penance for the sake of Krishna, the Human Incarnation, who is very much available in Dwaaraka city. The sacrifices (yajna) and penance (tapas) done by the sages were only for the sake of Energetic Incarnations of God. Some of them even tried to concentrate on the unimaginable God, who cannot even be imagined not to speak of worshipping Him. The sages were involved in spiritual debates and discussions about God in the peaceful atmosphere of forests. Finally, they realized that the Human Incarnation alone is relevant for humanity and that Energetic Incarnations are relevant only for energetic beings living in the upper worlds. This divine arrangement has been made by God for the greatest welfare of souls. The human being who neglects the Human Incarnation, here on Earth and instead only worships Energetic Incarnations is going against the divine administration. Proper arrangements for the spiritual progress of all souls in the various worlds has already been made by God as part of His divine administration. The relevant form of God for human beings is the Human Incarantion who too is present in the common material human medium. An Energetic Incarnation is not the relevant form of God to be worshipped by a human being. God discourages human beings from worshipping such irrelevant energetic forms of God by making such worship difficult. Unless one does severe penance for a very long time, an Energetic Incarnation will not appear before the person. Even if it appears, it appears only for a few minutes and then disappears immediately.

Repulsion of the Common Medium

The worship of the relevant form of God is most convenient. The only problem is that one must overcome the natural repulsion of the common medium. Souls are present in human bodies on earth and the Human Incarnation is also present in a similar human body. This common medium of the human body is the source of the mutual repulsion. The person’s ego prevents the person from accepting the fact that the Human Incarnation is God because the Incarnation externally appears to be just another human being like the person himself. The same repulsion of the common medium exists between a soul in an energetic body and the Energetic Incarnation of God in the upper world. After all, it is the same souls which after death on earth enter into energetic bodies and go to the upper world. Hence, this repulsion of the common medium affects the angels of the upper world as much as it affects human beings on earth. It prevents the soul from accepting the relevant Incarnation of God. This general repulsion increases even further when there are some more special qualities which are common between the soul and the Incarnation. They include a common caste, common gender, common scholarly talent and so on. When the sages were reborn as the Gopikaas, as compared to Krishna, their contemporary Human Incarnation, they were born in a lower caste, they belong to the opposite gender and they were uneducated. So, they felt a much lower repulsion from the Incarnation even though the general repulsion as a result of possessing the common human body was inevitable.

The Sages Recognized God Rama

In their previous births, the sages lived long due to their spiritual power and in their long lives, they were able to patiently analyze the spiritual knowledge in depth. They finally realized the importance of the Human Incarnation by the end of the Tretaa Age. At this time, they recognized Rama as their contemporary Human Incarnation of God. The main purpose of Rama going to the forest and staying there for a long time was to visit these sages and allow them to serve Him by accepting their hospitality. The sages recognized Rama to be God-in-human form and they praised Rama as God. Rama had come to preach the path of pravrutti, which is the worldly path of justice. It is the initial part of the divine path. In pravrutti, justice is treated as the topmost goal. Unless the soul successfully covers this initial part of the spiritual journey (pravrutti), the soul cannot start the latter part of the journey (nivrutti). The goal of Rama’s incarnation was to be an example for souls in the first part of the spiritual journey (pravrutti). It was essential for Him to behave as a normal ideal human being (Aadarsha maanushaavataara). Hence, when the sages praised Him as God, He replied that He was only an ordinary human being called Rama, the son of king Dasharatha. It was also a test for the sages to check whether they had perfectly recognized Him to be God-in-human form or not. The reply of Rama could not mask His true identity from the sages. They had fully recognized Him to be God. They said to Him “You are God, our ultimate husband. We wish to become females by our spiritual power and embrace You as our husband”. Rama refused it since He was behaving as an ideal human being and what they wished was against the path of pravrutti. He told them that He would give them that chance in the next birth, when He would come as Krishna. The purpose of the incarnation of Krishna (Krishnaavataara) was to behave like God for testing the same sages who would be reborn as the Gopikaas. The life of the Gopikaas represents the latter part of the spiritual journey called nivrutti. The incarnation of God as Krishna is therefore called Liilaamaanushaavataara, in which God tests His devotees through various severe tests which are His divine play (liilaa).

Worldly Relations and God

Krishna was sure that the Gopikaas were fully capable of recognizing Him due to the strong fascination they had for God in their previous births. He even helped the Gopikaas recognize Him by exhibiting a series of miracles right from His birth. Taking birth as the uneducated Gopikaas had imposed ignorance upon the sages. Krishna’s miracles helped them remove the ignorance and uncover their strong divine fascination. But inspite of their strong previous fascination for God which was also supported by the miracles performed by Krishna, some Gopikaas failed in the tests of Krishna. Only a few Gopikaas passed the tests and they alone could reach the topmost upper world called Goloka.

Devotion may be expressed in various ways as per the personal liking of devotees. Some devotees like Prahlada, Kusha and Lava, Pradyumna and others treat God as their Father. Some like Dasharatha and Vasudeva treat God as their son. Some devotees like Lakshmana and Draupadi treat God as their elder Brother. Some like Balaraama treat Him as a younger Brother. Some like Siita and Rukmini treat God as their Husband. Finally, some devotees like the Gopikaas treat God as their Lover or Darling. In fact, all the Gopikaas did not worship Krishna as their Lover. Some of the Gopikaas worshipped Krishna treating Him to be some other relative. In any case, it is the devotion that matters; not the type of relation one has with God. All the Gopikaas did not pass the test of Krishna especially in overcoming their bond with money or wealth. They complained to Yashoda about Krishna, calling Him a thief who had stolen their butter which was their saved wealth!

Note that the above-mentioned devotees worshipped God treating Him to be their Father, Son, Brother, Husband, Lover and so on. All these are normal worldly relationships. For a soul in pravrutti, all these worldly relationships themselves are God. It means that worldly souls give the highest importance to their worldly relatives assuming them to be God. But for a soul in nivrutti, God is all these relatives. It means that the soul in nivrutti has only one single bond with God and that God alone is His Mother, Father and all other relatives. These two views of seeing God in our relations can be better understood through the following example. The word ‘Maatrudevo’ from the Vedic statement “Maatrudevo bhava” is a word-compound (samaasa) made of two words, Maatru (mother) and deva (God). It can be interpreted in two ways. In one sense, which is relevant to pravrutti, it means that one’s mother is God (maataacha devashcha). This interpretation is made considering Maatrudevo to be a certain type of word-compound called a karmadhaaraya samaasa, in which the first term, matru (mother), is given more importance. The same word, in the other sense, which is relevant to nivrutti, means that God is one’s Mother (Devo maataa yasya sah). This interpretation considers Maatrudevo to be another type of word-compound called a Bahuvriihi samaasa, in which the second term devo (God) is given more importance.

Anjaneya (Hanuman) interpreted this word in the first manner, which is relevant to pravrutti because His Master, Rama, represented the path of pravrutti. In other words, Anjaneya considered His mother Anjani to be God. With this assumption, He fought with Rama for her sake, even though Rama was actually the Human Incarnation of God. This pravrutti interpretation of Maatrudevo is not actually correct. It is only an assumption that is helpful in maintaining worldly justice. This interpretation allows one to give the highest position to one’s mother among all other worldly relations. But this assumption must be given up when one is faced with the real Human Incarnation of God. Anjaneya realized His mistake and rectified it in His next Incarnation as Shankara. Note that Anjaneya Himself was an Incarnation of God Shiva. He was only playing the role of an ideal devoted servant. Shankara was the next Incarnation of the same God Shiva. Shankara, an embodiment of the nivrutti path, left His mother for the sake of God. This is because the nivrutti interpretation of Maatrudevo, is that God Himself is one’s real Mother. So, He did not give up God’s work for the sake of His mother but instead, He left His mother for the sake of God. Similarly, Prahlada left his father for the sake of God since God was his real Father. Buddha left His wife (daareshanaa), son (putreshanaa) and wealth (dhaneshanaa) for the sake of God. These three are the strongest worldly bonds (eshanaas).

Recognizing Krishna and Overcoming Bonds

The Gopikaas were tested for their capacity to sacrifice these three strongest worldly bonds for the sake of God. But the test of the Gopikaas was most severe since the God for whose sake they were sacrificing all their bonds was in human form. Apart from overcoming their natural attraction to their worldly bonds, they also had to overcome the inevitable repulsion from the common human medium in which God was present in their time. The sacrifice of the Gopikaas surpassed even the sacrifice of Buddha because Buddha was male, a rich king and had relatively lower affection for His son. The Gopikaas, on the other hand, were females. In the ancient society in which the Gopikaas lived, it was extremely difficult for a woman to leave her husband. Being women also meant that the Gopikaas had the highest affection for their children. Lord Krishna stole the butter that they had saved for feeding their children. In this way, He tested their ability to overcome dhaneshanaa and putreshanaa combined. Some of the Gopikaas who passed the test went to the extent of secretly taking the butter from their own homes and giving it to Krishna on their way to Mathuraa city! These Gopikaas had clearly overcome their bonds with both money and their children. They gave butter secretly to Krishna only to avoid any conflict with their own family. Krishna’s stealing butter from the houses of the Gopikaas is not theft because plenty of butter was actually available in His own home! Krishna also tested the Gopikaas ability to overcome their bonds with their husbands (daareshanaa) by calling them for the secret dance at midnight in Brundaavanam. The success of the Gopikaas in all these tests indicates their detachment from their worldly bonds. Ego is called Ahamkaara and attachment to the worldly bonds is called Mamakaara. Both of them are very strong obstructions in nivrutti or the spiritual path. As per Shankara, the root of the problem lies in aha, which is ego (I) and mama (my), which is attachment (Aham mama iti...).

All the Gopikaas could recognize Krishna as God due to the strong fascination (samskaara) that they had developed for God over millions of previous births. Still, some failed in the tests due to their very strong worldly fascinations or due to doubts in their recognition of God Krishna caused by the strong ignorance of their current birth. The Gita says that only after several births does a rare and fortunate soul realize the true knowledge that God-in-human form alone is relevant to humanity. That fortunate soul then surrenders practically to the contemporary human form of God (Bahuunaam janmanaamante, jnaanavaan maam prapadyate). The true knowledge referred to in this verse is that the son of Vasudeva (Krishna) is the ultimate God (Vaasudevah sarvamiti). Throughout the Gita, Krishna emphasized again and again that it is He who should be directly served. It only means that the contemporary human form of God is the ultimate goal in the spiritual path. Jesus also said that He alone is the path to reach His Father (God) and that He and His Father are one and the same (I am the Truth and the Light). The Gopikaas had recognized Krishna immediately after His birth and this point has been told by sage Narada in his scripture (maahaatmyajnaana...).