Devotees often ask the question, “Why does it always have to be gopi-bhava? Why can’t one become a servant, cowherd boy or parent of Bhagavan Sri Krishna?”
Theoretically such attainments are possible, but factually the Gaudiya Vaisnava shastras praman and 500 years of tradition do not support such a conclusion. Such a question is actually irrelevant and out of frame because Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder and propagator of Gaudiya Vaisnava dharma, came to this world to give the rarest of rare gifts of gopi-bhava to all thirsty seekers of spiritual perfection in Radha-Krishna prema.
Now what is that extraordinary gift?
Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja perfectly describes Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s gift in the very beginning of Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita (1.4):
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau,
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
“May the most beautiful, golden transcendental form of Sacinandana [Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu], who is Bhagavan Sri Hari Himself, always be manifest in the core of your heart. Out of His infinite compassion, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has come to give (samarpayitum) what no incarnation has ever offered before, namely the unprecedented gift of Srimati Radharani’s unnata ujjvala-rasam (mahabhava Vraja madhurya rasa), and the treasure of Srimati Radhika’s loving service.”
Sri Jiva Goswamipada tika: “Bhagavan Sri Nandanandana appeared in Navadvipa as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to give the most rare and valuable gift of Srimati Radharani’s mahabhava (unnatojjvala rasa). By appearing in this world, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu revealed and distributed the sweet ocean of Sri Radhika’s Vraja madhurya prema, which is only attainable by becoming a maidservant [manjari, kinkari] of Srimati Radharani.” (Anarpita carim shlokasya vyakhya, trans. Sri Bhanu Swami)
If one wants to worship Radha-Krishna and attain the Lovely Divine Couple in the spiritual realm of Vrindavana, he/she must follow the Vraja-gopis as seen in the well-known shastric examples of Sri Uddhava Mahasaya, the Dandakaranya sages having darshana of Bhagavan Sri Ramachandra, and the most exalted Shruti sages who, desiring to become Krishna’s gopi lovers in Vraja, practiced raganuga-bhakti in allegiance to Radhika’s gopis.
If anyone seriously wants to know the actual “as it is” sadhana and sadhya (practice and final destination) of Gaudiya Vaisnavism as introduced and spread by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, then you must read, study and reflect upon only two chapters of Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, adi lila chapter four and madhya lila chapter eight. By studying these two chapters everyone will obtain the unmotivated truth regarding what is Krishna Consciousness, what is the goal of human life, and how to attain it.
What follows is the essence of those chapters, and the final conclusive truth regarding real and transparent Gaudiya Vaisnava dharma.
rādhā kṛṣṇera līlā ei, ati gūḍhatara, dāsya vātsalyādi bhāve, nā haya gocara
“Because Radha-Krishna’s pastimes are extremely confidential, They CANNOT BE ATTAINED or understood by the rasas of dasya, vatsalya or sakhya [being a cowherd boy]! (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.6.201)
sabe eka sakhī gaṇera ihāṅ adhikāra, sakhī haite haya ei līlāra vistāra
“Only the Vraja sakhi/manjaris are qualified to attain Radha-Krishna’s pastimes, and it is they alone who nourish and expand them.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.6.202)
sakhī vinā ei līlāya anyera nāhi gati, sakhī-bhāve ye tāṅre kare anugati
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-kuñjasevā-sādhya sei pāya, sei sādhya pāite āra nāhika upāya
“No one can enter Radha-Krishna’s pastimes without following the sakhis. Anyone who adopts the mood of the sakhis (sakhi/manjari bhava) and follows them will attain the Vraja nikunja seva of Radha-Krishna. There is no other way to attain this.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.204-5)
Next Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja quotes his earlier classic “Govinda Lilamrita”:
vibhur api sukha-rūpaḥ sva-prakāśo’pi bhāvaḥ,
kṣaṇam api nahi rādhā-kṛṣṇayor yā ṛte svāḥ
pravahati rasa-puṣṭiṁ cid-vibhūtir iveśaḥ
śayati na padam āsāṁ kaḥ sakhīnāṁ rasajñaḥ
“O Vṛndā! As Bhagavan Sri Krishna nourishes everything just by His cit śakti, the boundless love of Radha and Krishna, which is the self-manifest essence of transcendental bliss, is nourished at all times only by the association of the sakhīs. Which devotee knowledgeable of rasa would not take shelter of these sakhis? (Govinda Lilamrita 10.17/Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 8.206)
Srila Prabhupada’s very sweet and realized translation: “The pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna self-effulgent, happiness personified, unlimited and all-powerful. Even so, the spiritual humors (rasas) of these pastimes are never complete without the gopīs, Sri Krishna’s personal friends. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is never complete without His spiritual potencies. Therefore, unless one takes shelter of the gopīs, one cannot enter into the company of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Who can be interested in Their spiritual pastimes without taking their [Vraja gopis] shelter?” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.206)
After establishing the goal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism which is serving Radha-Krishna in the kunjas of Vrindavana as a sakhi/manjari in allegiance to Srimati Radharani’s nitya siddha gopis, Raya Ramananda tells the kind of sadhana needed to attain this goal.
rāgānuga mārge tāṅre, bhaje yei jana, sei jana pāya vraje, vrajendra-nandana
“If anyone worships Sri Krishna by practicing raganuga bhakti sadhana, then he/she will attain Vrajendranandana Sri Krishna in Vraja.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.221)
Raya Ramananda concludes his Sri Chaitanya inspired teachings by giving the final word concerning Mahaprabhu’s mission, teachings, and the goal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. He orders every Gaudiya Vaisnava to accept gopi-bhava, and practice raganuga bhakti sadhana by meditating on your spiritual body (siddha deha), and worshiping Radha-Govinda Yugala in the groves of Sri Vrindavana Dhama.
ataeva gopī-bhāva kari aṅgīkāra, rātri-dina cinte rādhā-kṛṣṇera vihāra
“Thus I implore one and all to accept gopi-bhava and day and night meditate on Radha-Krishna’s madhurya lilas.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.228)
siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tāhāṅñi sevana, sakhī-bhāve pāya rādhā-kṛṣṇera caraṇa
“By always thinking of your siddha deha [spiritual body] in sakhi/manjari bhava, you will attain the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.229)
Since everything above is correct, clear and truthful Krishna consciousness, why on earth would anyone rebel against Mahaprabhu’s merciful teachings, and introduce some other sadhana or sadhya like dasya or sakhya rasas (i.e. becoming cowherd boy)? Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is giving us a gift—a GIFT OF GOD!
In Vedic culture if someone rejects an offered gift, it is considered very rude, offensive, hurting and sinful. A gift expresses another’s love and gratitude toward you. So how can you ignore or neglect it, and even complain saying, “O I don’t like the color, it’s so cheap, can’t you get something better.”
So just imagine how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu feels when someone says, “O Mahaprabhu, NO THANK YOU—I DON’T WANT YOUR GIFT. I want something else.” What a ridiculous response to God’s gift. If someone comes to you and offers you the best, most valuable, pleasing, satisfying and fulfilling gift, it is completely nonsensical to say, “O, I don’t want that, I want something less.”
Besides that, if you examine the entire 500 year history of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya with its various branches and parivars, you WILL NOT FIND ANYONE or any group of serious sadhakas practicing any form of sadhana or upasana along with meditating upon a siddha deha in any other rasas (i.e. dasya, sakhya, vatsalya) then this manjari bhava in Vraja madhurya rasa! To conclude, we say, “How can anyone argue against all these conclusive teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu [outlined above], and present an alternative path, method of worships and destination or goal [i.e. dasya/sakhya rasa]? (Comments by Sri Advaita Dasji)
Gopi-bhava upasana ki jai! Radha-Krishna Vraja kunja seva ki jai! Manjari-bhava ki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!