The Gopi Geet or the Songs of the Gopis is the most beautiful and transcendental segment of the Bhagavat Mahapuran, also referred to as Shrimad Bhagavatam. Embedded within the conversation between Shree Sukhdeva and King Parikshit during his last days on earth, this Holy Scripture overflows with devotion and symbolizes the branches of a wish-fulfilling tree. The 10th Canto (chapter), which comprises the Gopi Geet, symbolizes the heart of Lord Krishna Himself and is the most sublime of all cantos. It illustrates the deep and unconditional love of the Gopis for Shree Krishna as characterized by sacrifice, selflessness, and profound intensity. No matter how Shree Krishna behaves toward them, their love never diminishes because they have total control over their senses, intellect, and mind.
How can ordinary souls understand the mysterious nature of such selfless love for God? By knowing the true persona of the Gopis. While it is presumptuous for any of us to try to articulate anything about the love of the Gopis, with blessings from our Guru, this is an attempt to purify our own soul by putting in words, that which is incomprehensible to all material souls.
The Gopis are the Ashta Mahasakhis or the eight eternal Divine associates of Shree Radha-Krishna. They are the direct expansions of Radha Rani Herself. Jagadguru Shree Kripalu Ji Maharaj said that the Gopis know all the secret modes of love and they eternally serve the Divine Couple in Golok for Their pleasure. The eight Mahasakhis are Lalita, Vishakha, Indulekha, Champaklata, Tungvidya, Rangdevi, Chitra and Sudevi.
When Shree Sukhdeva described the divine relationship between Shree Krishna and the Gopis, Parikshit was filled with several doubts. He wondered how their love in Madhurya bhav or divine communion with God could be pure and unadulterated. Shukhdeva ji explained in the words of Lord Krishna that those who desire God for their own sensual pleasure, become like roasted seeds that do not sprout again (Bhagavat Mahapuran, 10, 22-28). He further explained that the internal state of divine yog which the Gopis had attained, could not even come close to the state of the most renowned yogis.
Great sages like Uddhava and celestial gods like Brahma ji also pine for the dust of the lotus feet of the Gopis. When Uddhava ji returned from Braj after being blessed with divine love by the Gopis, he requested Shree Krishna to make him a blade of grass in Vrindavan so he could absorb the divine foot-dust of the Gopis. Until his encounter with the Gopis, Uddhava ji had been a worshipper of the formless aspect of God. When he realized the sweet agony of the virah-bhav of the Gopis for Shree Krishna, who see Him everywhere, whether He is physically present or not, Uddhav ji was moved beyond words. Swami Mukundananda beautifully recites the words of the Gopis to Uddhav ji:
Vatan mein, ghatan mein, vithin mein, baagan mein,
belin mein, vatika mein, fulan mein, vana mein,
daran-mein, diivaran mein, dehari darijan mein,
hiran mein, haran mein, bhushan mein, tana mein,
kanan mein, kunjan mein, gopin mein, gayan mein,
gokul mein, godhan mein, damini mein, ghan mein,
janh janh dekhun tanh shyam hi dikhai de!
mero shyam chhaya rahyo nainan mein, mana mein!
Wherever we look, we only see Shyamsundar – in the streets and alleys, on the banks of Yamuna, in the flowers and vines, in the orchards, groves, ponds, and woods. We feel His presence in the houses, walls, deer, fragrant garlands, every ornament, and even in our own bodies. We feel His presence in the ears, in forest girls, in all Gopis as well as in the cows. We see Him in Gokul, in herds of cattle, even in the lightning, thunder, and clouds. Wherever we look, we see only Shyamsundar everywhere. He resides in our eyes and our minds are completely captured with His vision!
Such was the matchless union of the Gopis with Shree Krishna!
The Gopis only have seva-bhav toward Shree Krishna and do not care about the risks they have to take for His sake. They risk being called rude and disrespectful to Shree Krishna by referring to Him with all kinds of unflattering names like a thief, loafer, leader of the band of hooligans, etc. Why did they behave in such ways when their devotion and love were unfaltering? To hide the true identity of the Lord from Kansa, and to mask their own love from the world. Swamiji says that one of the numerous meanings of the word Gopi is derived from the root word gopniya or one that is hidden. Gopis hide their true love from the world and from the Lord in perfect alignment with His desire. Had they treated Him with devotional reverence, Shree Krishna’s identity would have been revealed and He would not have been able to perform all the leelas or pastimes that needed to take place sequentially for the benefit of material souls.
There are numerous leelas that exemplify the loving sacrifices of the Gopis for Shree Krishna including the one where they told Sage Narad to take their foot-dust if that was what was needed to cure His ailment. They were willing to accept the torture of being sent to hell for the sake of their beloved Lord.
The Gopi Geet is embedded in Canto 10, verses 1-19 of the Bhagavatam. During the Maharaas, where Shree Krishna showered the Gopis with unlimited divine love, they developed pride in their ability to capture His heart. God is attracted by humility and repulsed by pride. Consequently, Shree Krishna took Radha Rani and disappeared from the scene, leaving the Gopis with deep and intense pain of separation. In realization of their pride, they sang, what is known as the Gopi Geet, with full humility, beseeching the Lord to return to them. They sang His praises by recalling all the past incidents when He had saved the Brajwasis from a variety of ordeals and catastrophes. They were very confident that this time too, Shree Krishna would save them from the agony of separation. They were the epitome of love so did not feel hopeless about losing God.
The Gopi Geet represents total unconditional and selfless love for God which is very difficult for impure souls to comprehend. Our material love is filled with conditions – business-like in nature. To appreciate the true meaning of selfless love, we can draw inspiration from the love of the Gopis for Shree Krishna.
We can take the first step toward attempting to understand the nature of such love by listening to the exceedingly sweet, sublime, and immensely powerful Gopi Geet lecture series which will be delivered by Swamiji at the Spiritual Retreat and Family Camp, 2022. We encourage devotees to register for the Family Camp to partake in the bliss of these lectures and fill the hearts with devotional sentiments. This is one of the rarest of all opportunities to directly listen to Swamiji’s divine lectures in person and relish the bliss that our soul has been seeking for endless lifetimes.