[A devotee asked Shrila Narayana Maharaja if there was any special significance in Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja having expressed a desire to go to Govardhana at the very end of his life. The following is Shrila Narayana Maharaja's reply:]
Before the appearance of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, various incarnations of Bhagavan such as Matsya, Ramacandra and even Krishna Himself descended to offer a particular gift for the welfare of human society according to the people's eligibility to receive it. Each gift had its own unique characteristic. Nrsimhadeva came to give more than Matsya and Parasurama came to give more than Nrsimha. What Ramacandra came to give for the welfare of the living entities was still more advanced, and what all incarnations gave collectively together, as well as that which They did not give, was absorbed into Krishnacandra for His descent. He gave what no incarnation ever gave before Him. He gave one very special item - prema. Ramacandra gave dasya-bhava but not pure prema because at that time people were not qualified to receive it.
They were not eligible. Therefore Ramacandra only gave prema which was bound within the limits of maryada (rules and regulations). This was suitable and useful for the people of that age. But Krishnacandra removed this maryada and gave prema combined with visrambha-bhava, the most beautiful variety of prema which is unrestricted in any way and very intimate. And He gave it not only to human beings, but to birds, animals, insects and even to creepers. No other incarnation had ever done this before.
The eternal position of every living entity, in any species of life, is to love Krishna - jivera svarupa haya nityera-krsna-dasa. Krishna gave prema to creepers, peacocks, cuckoos, parrots and He also made them mad with this prema. Other incarnations gave the Vedas and instructions to respect your parents, respect your elders and to live properly with your marital partner. These instructions are included within the category of regulative injunctions, but no incarnation before Krishna had shown so clearly that the very svarupa of the jiva is to love Krishna. Therefore the prema which Krishna bestowed is very special.
Krishna had a special method for giving prema. He had a scale with which He used to weigh someone's devotion before giving them prema. To one who had devotion worth one paisa, He gave prema worth one paisa. To one who had a bhava worth two paisa, He gave prema worth two paisa. He did not give more and He did not give less than what was appropriate; He weighed their devotion and gave the precise corresponding amount of prema.
ye yatha mam prapadyante
tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
In the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), Krishna says;"As one worships Me, I reciprocate in precisely the same way. I will not give more, and I will not give less."
And there is one more point here: Krishna gave rasa only according to the specific type of vessel one possessed. To those in santa-bhava He was seen as Brahman, to those in dasya-bhava He was seen as Prabhu and to those in the moods of sakhya and vatsalya He gave rasa accordingly. But a vessel was necessary.
When the same Krishna descended five-hundred years ago as the most munificent Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He broke this routine. It was as if He was saying, "Where will you all get the vessels? There is no need. Just come to Me and I will give you the vessel, the rasa and the prema." This is the special mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He broke this rule, ye yatha mam prapadyante. "I will give krsna-prema to whoever comes to Me, even if they desire something material. Even if someone approaches Me with a bhava worth only one paisa, I will give him prema." The great mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that He not only gave the container, but He gave the highest category of prema which even Krishna could not give.
Why could Krishna not give such prema? Krishna was the enjoyer, the purusa. He gave service to Himself. But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the dark form of Krishna covered by the golden hue of Shrimati Radhika. Therefore His activities are Radha's, although underneath the surface is Krishna's body. Here Krishna is not independent. Who is independent? Radhika has the independence here. Krishna's mind is completely covered with Radhika's bhava and His body is covered by Her body. Therefore whatever Chaitanya Mahaprabhu manifests - such as His crying out, "Krishna! Krishna!" - all comes from Shrimati Radhika. Krishna is completely covered with Her bhava. But in krsna-lila, Krishna was not covered by the bhava of Radhika. As Rasaraja, Krishna can relish rasa, but He wants to relish the bhava of Radhika, mahabhava. Therefore He begged Her for Her bhava. So Radha and Krishna came together in combined form as Mahaprabhu. Thus whatever is given by Mahaprabhu is of such a nature that even Krishna cannot give it.
What is that which had never been given before? Anarpita carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau. Accepting the bhava of Radhika, accepting Her bodily hue and being full of mercy, Krishna has come to this world as Mahaprabhu to give one specific bhava which had never been given before. What is that bhava? Unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam - this unnatojjvala-bhava is none other than parakiya-bhava.
In the Ujjvala-nilamani, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has explained all of this in detail. Radhika is the best among all the gopis. Becoming maddened in Her bhava, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended. The beauty of Her bhava is like the beauty of a creeper. A creeper always has leaves. If a creeper were to be without leaves and manjaris (buds), it would be bare and therefore not beautiful. Creepers have many blossoming leaves, fruits and manjaris which tremble in a gentle breeze, and due to this they are beautiful. The beauty of Radhika's bhava means the dasi-bhava of the gopis, unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam. This is the item which Mahaprabhu came to bestow which had never been given before.
There have been many great acaryas like Madhvacarya, Ramanuja, Visnusvami and Nimbarka, and before them there were great, great rsis like Narada, Sukadeva Gosvami, Parasara, Rsabhadeva and Kapiladeva. What did they give? Did anyone give this bhava which Mahaprabhu gave? When not even Krishna could give it, how could anyone else? But Rupa Gosvami has delineated in his writings the precise same bhava which Mahaprabhu brought to this world. And what did Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja come to give? What did he want to relish? What was his main objective? That we must discuss, and through discussing it the whole point of why he came into this world will become clear.
As long as Mayavada philosophy exists - "Aham brahmasmi - I am Brahman, tattvam asi - you are also the same" - pure bhakti cannot be easily propagated. Mayavada must be removed, and to remove it, Madhvacarya, Ramanuja, Visnusvami and other acaryas worked very hard. They also all preached vaidhi-bhakti by which one can easily go to Vaikuntha. But what did Rupa Gosvami come to give? He came especially to give the bhava of Mahaprabhu. He delineated the process of pure bhakti, but in doing so his main purpose was to give the bhava of Mahaprabhu. Thus we pray:
sri-caitanya mano 'bhistam sthapitam yena bhutale
svayam rupah kada mahyam dadati sva-padantikam
"When will Shrila Rupa Gosvami, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfil the desire of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, give me shelter at his lotus feet?"
Bhaktivedanta Svami understood that bhava which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to give, and to give it and establish it he worked his whole life. Svamiji went to the Western countries and preached, and he also beautifully translated Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad-Bhagavatam and Chaitanya-caritamrta into English. He preached to the entire world. But what was his main goal? Was the bhakti preached by Ramanuja his objective, or was it the refutation of the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracarya? He refuted Mayavada philosophy vigorously, but is that really why he came? Was distributing the knowledge given in the Bhagavad-gita the main goal of his life? Did he come only to give the teaching of the Gita that "I am not this body"?
To give what he really wanted to give he first had to clear the path, and this took some time. In his last days, Svamiji expressed his real intention: "Govardhana, please give me residence near you." Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura prays:
yatraiva krsno vrsabhanu-putrya
danam grhitum kalaham vitene
sruteh sprha yatra mahaty atah sri-
govardhano me disatam abhistam
(Shri Govardhanastaka 3)
"At Shri Govardhana there is a place called Danaghati where Shri Krishna engaged in a lover's quarrel with Shri Vrsabhanu-nandini Shri Radhika in order to extract some tax from Her. As soon as the rasika Vaisnavas see that place, an intense longing arises in their hearts to hear the narration of that quarrel. May that Shri Govardhana fulfil all my desires."
Svamiji's desire was especially to go to Govardhana. In all of Vraja-mandala, Gokula is the best because Gokula is where Krishna was 'born' from the womb of Yasoda and where He performed His childhood pastimes. In Gokula there is a multitude of cows, gopis and gopas. And the main gopa is Krishna. He resides in Gokula, which includes Nandagrama, Varsana, Kamyavana and Vrindavan. In all of Gokula, Vrindavan is the best, and in Vrindavan, Govardhana is the best. In all of Govardhana, the two eyes, Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, are the best. The sweetest, most attractive pastimes of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna take place there. Svamiji wanted to go to Govardhana because there the best of all of Their pastimes, the rasa-lila, takes place in a special way.
In Vrindavan, this rasa is called pancayati (open, public) because it includes sadhana-siddha gopis as well as nitya-siddha gopis. Because so many different categories of gopis participate, Radhika's desires cannot be completely fulfilled. In this situation, Radha and Krishna's most intimate pastimes cannot be performed. Only in that solitary place where even Candravali cannot go can Radha and Krishna perform Their most confidential pastimes with the help of Their most intimate sakhis. This was not possible in the rasa-lila in Vrindavan, so Radhika left the rasa dance in mana and Krishna was compelled to follow Her. Thus the rasa dance ended. Therefore Krishna had to go to Govardhana for the performance of basanti-rasa. There He met Radhika in seclusion, in the kunjas. Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami prays:
pramada-madana-lilah kandare kandare te
racayati nava-yunor-dvandvam asminn-amandam
iti kila kalanartham lagna-kastad-dvayor me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam
(Shri Govardhana-vasa-prarthana-dasakam 2)
"O Govardhana! Please grant me a dwelling near your side where I can easily witness the youthful lovers Shri Radha-Krishna performing especially ecstatic amorous pastimes within all of your caves."
In Vrindavan all the gopis participate in the pancayati-rasa. But at Govardhana svarupa-sakti is manifested in a special way and only particular sakhis like Lalita, Visakha, Citra and Campakalata, who are very close to Radhika's bhava, take part. Thus Krishna enjoys with Radhika in the kunjas where even Candravali and her sakhis cannot go. There Radhika and Krishna can enjoy freely according to Their desires. There is no such freedom in Vrindavan.
Govardhana not only provides various types of kunjas for the service of Shri Radha-Krishna, but he also provides various kinds of fruits for Them to relish. He provides Radha-kunda, Syama-kunda, Govinda-kunda, Manasi-ganga, Kusuma-sarovara, and Surabhi-kunda to supply drinking water not only for Them, but also for the cows, sakhas and sakhis. With his red stones he provides mineral dyes so Krishna can paint His body different colours. There is no pastime which is not enacted there, and Giriraja is the witness to them all. Who says so? Shrimati Radhika speaks this from Her own mouth. The gopis saw that only Giriraja could fulfil their desires, therefore they approached Govardhana and said:
hantayam adrir abala hari-dasa-varyo
manam tanoti saha-go-ganayos tayor yat
"This Govardhana Hill is the best of all those who are known as hari-dasa because he is feeling great jubilation from the touch of the lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama. With great respect Govardhana is worshipping Them by providing all Their necessities such as caves, fruits, flowers and water for Their pleasure, and for the pleasure of Their cowherd friends, cows and calves."
There are three personalities who are known as hari-dasa: Yudhisthira Maharaja, Uddhavaji and Giriraja Govardhana. Did Krishna ever go to Narada's asrama, call him a friend or drive the horses for his chariot? Did He lie for him? Did He call him, "Sakha! Sakha!" while touching his shoulder? Never. Krishna offers pranama unto Yudhisthira Maharaja, and Yudhisthira Maharaja embraces Krishna and calls Him 'Sakha'. Sometimes Krishna becomes his servant. Once Narada came to Yudhisthira Maharaja's palace and began to praise him: "Just see! Bhagavan has incarnated and is hiding Himself in your house. So we all take the opportunity to visit you. You are most fortunate!"
On one occasion Yudhisthira Maharaja said to Krishna, "Prabhu, please give me one boon."
Krishna laughed and said, "Why are you asking Me for a boon? Even Prahlada did not accept any boon from Me, and he is only My ordinary devotee. He said that if he ever desires a boon, he will let Me know." Thus Krishna spoke in great fun.
Yudhisthira replied, "No, Prabhuji, please do not cheat me. I want one boon from You."
"I want to marry the most beautiful woman in the world."
"This is confusing. Everybody wants to give up their connection with the material world to come to Me, yet you desire to marry a beautiful woman. So be it. What else do you want?"
"I desire that there should be no other kingdom with greater opulence than ours in the entire world."
Krishna was a little astonished and said, "Why are you asking this?"
"I am asking this because people are afraid to worship You, because they think, 'If we worship Krishna, He will snatch away all our riches and make us beggars on the street, leaving us without even a kaupina to wear. He will make us like Sukadeva Gosvami.'"
Due to this fear people generally don't worship Krishna - only poor people worship Him. Everyone is afraid that, "We may lose everything." When Krishna bestows His mercy on someone and accepts him, He takes away all their wealth. Therefore everyone worships he who has a long trunk, Ganesa, or Durga, Sankara or any other demigod. They are afraid to worship Krishna.
So Yudhisthira Maharaja continued, "Therefore if You give me the greatest opulence and the most beautiful wife, people will say, 'Oh, Yudhisthira Maharaja attained such wonderful opulence and such a beautiful wife like Draupadi to help in the household'. Then everyone will no longer be afraid and will start to worship You. Therefore Prabhu, please give me all this."
Now tell me, can Prahlada's imagination stretch so far? Even Hanuman's imagination cannot stretch so far. Therefore Yudhisthira Maharaja is a better devotee than either Prahlada or Hanuman. He wants everyone to worship Krishna and he wants the pleasure of Krishna only. This is why he is included within the category of hari-dasa.
Amongst those who are hari-dasa, Uddhava is higher still. Krishna did not send Arjuna or Yudhisthira to Vraja. Who did He send to associate with His most intimate beloved? He sent Uddhava because Uddhava's heart and Krishna's heart are one, and also because Krishna - for a very special reason - did not want to go to Vrindavan Himself. Krishna thought, "If I go there, Radhika's sorrow will merely increase. Even when She is together with Me, She feels separation. But if I stay away, She will become so absorbed in feelings of separation from Me that She will feel that I am together with Her. She will feel great happiness in embracing the tamala tree, and She will eat, drink and decorate Herself. Therefore it is better that I stay away. Her pleasure is My pleasure."
Then afterwards Krishna thought, "I cannot live without Her. I require a friend who can speak about the gopis and thus mitigate My sorrow. I do not see any such person in Mathura. If someone were to study prema in the school where I Myself accepted the gopis as teachers and studied, and if he were to pass the examination there, then I could speak with him. He could speak on My level and thereby give solace to My heart. Otherwise it is not possible."
Therefore He sent Uddhava to Vraja. Why Uddhava? Uddhava is very near to the bhava of the gopis. Yudhisthira is far away in the mood of aisvarya but in Uddhava the moods of aisvarya and madhurya are balanced. In that devotee in whom the moods of aisvarya and madhurya are both present, vraja-bhava is very close. Vraja-bhava is not actually there, but it is close. Krishna thought "If Uddhava learns there, I will be able to speak with him about prema. Then he may understand when I speak about the gopis."
Uddhava went there and studied in that school where Lalita and Visakha are teachers and the headmistress is Shrimati Radhika. He went there, offered pranama, received the mantra and studied for a long time, about ten months. When the course was completed, the gopis sent him back: "Now you can return - you have passed the examination." Then Uddhava returned to Mathura and met with Krishna. Therefore Uddhava is better than Yudhisthira.
But who is millions of times better than both of them? Giriraja Govardhana. Can Uddhava enter the kunjas where intimate service is being rendered to Shri Shri Radha-Krishna? No. When Uddhava first arrived in Vrindavan, Shrimati Radhika noticed a black bee and began speaking to it, considered it to be a black messenger from Krishna. At this time She did not even see Uddhava. Uddhava simply offered pranama and hid. The gopis did not even see him, nor did they speak to him. They spoke to the bee, as is described in Bhramara-gita. What could Uddhava possibly say to the gopis? He was simply astonished to see their character. But he became deeply absorbed in what he heard and his life became successful. Uddhava thought, "Even if I must become a blade of grass to obtain this bhava, then it must be done."
asam aho carana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinam
ya dustyajam sva-janam arya-patham ca hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
"I pray to take birth as one of the bushes, creepers or herbs of Vrindavan on which the dust of the gopis' feet falls. The gopis have performed the difficult task of abandoning their family members, as well as the Vedic path, to exclusively worship the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, which are sought after by the srutis and even the Vedas themselves."
"If in Vrindavan - no, not in Vrindavan - if at Giriraja Govardhana I could become a blade of grass and receive the dust of the gopis' feet on my head, I shall achieve the ultimate perfection and my life will be fully successful." Therefore at Govardhana, near Kusuma-sarovara, is Uddhava-kunda. There Uddhava accepted birth as a blade of grass beneath a shrub and began performing penances for millions of years. Then he received darsana of the gopis. When the gopis would walk to Krishna, the dust of their feet would fall on his head. He did not desire the footdust of any other devotees. Therefore he came to take shelter of Giriraja Govardhana. So, although he himself is included within the category of hari-dasa, Uddhava takes shelter of Govardhana. Uddhava is hari-dasa, but he also seeks the shelter of a greater hari-dasa.
When Krishna goes to Govardhana with His friends, they drink water, eat fruits and take their cows out to graze. They roam in a carefree manner and enjoy their pastimes. Giriraja provides kunjas, caves, water, fruits and flowers for Krishna's service. He is always ready to perform any service for Krishna. The bushes and trees found within Govardhana's kunjas are actually his hairs standing erect in ecstasy. What are the water and waterfalls of Govardhana? They are his tears of love when he cries in the ecstasy of krsna-prema. Everything of Govardhana is saturated with krsna-prema. And when Radha-Krishna perform Their pastimes there, even in the most secluded place, Govardhana sees. Therefore Giriraja Govardhana receives the maximum mercy from Radha and Krishna.
Some devotees worship Govardhana as Krishna Himself, but in the Gaudiya sampradaya we worship him as a great devotee, not as Bhagavan, because as a devotee he can bestow the prema-rasa which is displayed there. If he is Bhagavan, then he cannot give that prema which Radhika and Her girl friends and even their devotees can give. Therefore devotees always aspire to go to Giriraja Govardhana, who has witnessed all of Radha-Krishna's pastimes.
Devotees know that Giriraja Govardhana can bestow that prema which is relished by Shri Shri Radha-Krishna and which Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended to distribute and to taste Himself. Therefore Svamiji, like Rupa Gosvami, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada and my own worshipable gurudeva, Shrila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, also wanted residence near Govardhana. Govardhana is the best place in Vraja for both sadhakas and siddhas. If a sadhaka who does not have prema does bhajana there, he will get prema, and if a perfected devotee goes there, he will relish Radha-Krishna's nitya-lila. He will also receive darsana of the mahabhava which is most dear to Radha-Krishna and which he himself also aspires to attain. It cannot be attained anywhere else.
There are three personalities in Vrindavan who can give prema - Lalita, Giriraja Govardhana, and the Yamuna. Therefore devotees take shelter of these three and thus try to become eternal maidservants of Radhika and gain Her favour. I also desire to take shelter of Giriraja Govardhana with these aspirations in mind.
yatraiva gangam anu navi radham
arohya madhye tu nimagna-naukah
krsno hi radhanugalo babhau sa
govardhano me disatam abhistam
(Shri Govardhanastaka 7)
"In Manasi-ganga, which has arisen from the heart of Shri Govardhana, Shri Krishna induced Shri Radhika to sit in His boat. In the middle of the lake Krishna nearly caused the boat to sink. Out of fear, Shri Swaminiji threw Her arms around His neck and tightly embraced Him. May that Shri Govardhana fulfil all my desires."
There is a lake at Govardhana known as Manasi-ganga. It has now dried up somewhat and shrunk in size, but previously it was very broad and had to be crossed by boat. Once upon a time at Manasi-ganga, night had fallen and there was only one boatman present there. He was looking very tired, standing there with his boat. Some gopis came and requested him to take them across. He said, "I have no time. It is evening now and the sky is clouded. There is the possibility of a storm. My boat is also very old and has holes in it. I am also tired, and I cannot take you across." But they insisted, so the boatman said, "Alright, I will take you across, but only one at a time, not all together."
One principal gopi was to cross first. She boarded the boat, and the boatman guided the boat to the middle of the lake. Then the boatman said, "Look, get ready. My boat has many holes in it and I see water coming in. Come to the centre of the boat." When the boat became filled with even more water, the boatman said, "Get ready to jump. You know how to swim?"
"No, I don't know how to swim!"
"Then take off all Your unnecessary clothes and throw them overboard. Otherwise, if Your clothes get tangled as You try to swim, You will drown. So get ready."
In this pastime, Krishna the boatman is playing so wonderfully, and at that point Radhika became frightened and caught hold of Him. This is precisely what Krishna desired. Such attractive krsna-lila is enacted at Giriraja Govardhana. I pray, "Hey Giriraja, please fulfil my desire to witness these pastimes."
Svamiji also wanted to go to Govardhana with the same idea in mind. His life's ideal and principal desire was to give this prema to the world, but first he had to spend a long time in cutting away the jungle and in preaching vaidhi-bhakti. He desired to translate the Shrimad-Bhagavatam in full and especially to elaborately describe the pastimes narrated in the Tenth Canto. But Bhagavan did not agree and He called him back to His nitya-lila. Perhaps Krishna did not want him to remain in separation from Him any longer. Therefore Svamiji's desire to go to Giriraja Govardhana was fulfilled by Bhagavan's calling him back to Giriraja Govardhana in Goloka-Vrindavan. Giriraja Govardhana is our primary shelter because prema-bhava is the highest there. Svamiji came to relish this pinnacle of krsna-prema and to distribute it to the residents of this world.