By Kesava Krsna Dasa
We may read or hear some gurus say that Sri Vrndavana Dhama is the land of Sambhoga, or meeting with Lord Krishna. Devotees might think this is at odds with what Srila Prabhupada taught us in Krishna Book and Srimad Bhagavatam tenth canto. Does not Vipralambha occur in Vrndavana?
Have we ever considered why Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited His most elevated ecstatic emotions, not in Navadvipa or Vrndavana-dhama, but in Jagannatha-puri?
One answer is that Sri Jagannatha-puri is also referred to as Vipralambha-ksetra among devotees, the place of separation from the Lord. The feelings of separation experienced by Lord Chaitanya in the mood of Srimati Radharani are replicas of those same Vipralambha events that occur in Vrndavana even now in the present. The Lord’s highest ecstasies were exhibited as “… His body was at Jagannātha Purī but His mind was in Vṛndāvana.” (CC Antya 20.123)
Yet Krishna Book and the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam tells that these same highest ecstasies of feelings of separation (vipralambha) were experienced by Srimati Radharani and the Gopis in Vrndavana, so how can Vrndavana be a place of eternal meeting with the Lord – Sambhoga? Did Srila Prabhupada ever teach us that meeting (Sambhoga) is the highest thing?
If we think about it, each time we attend a Ratha-yatra event, we are participating in a Vipralambha experience. The meditation is to bring Krishna (Jagannatha) back to Vrndavana to meet with Srimati Radharani and the Gopis. But Ratha-yatra is a joyful occasion. There is something meaningful in this desire to unite Krishna with Srimati Radharani – Sambhoga.
“It is very difficult to express the manjaris’ dealings with Krishna because they have no desire to mix with Krishna or enjoy Him personally. Rather, they are always ready to help Radharani associate with Krishna. Their affection for Krishna and Radharani is so pure that they are simply satisfied when Radha and Krishna are together. Indeed their transcendental pleasure is in seeing Radha and Krishna united. The actual form of Radharani is just like a creeper embracing the tree of Krishna, and the damsels of Vraja, the associates of Radharani, are just like the leaves and flowers of that creeper.” (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, page 331)
Even though the Gopis want Radha and Krishna to unite, (Sambhoga) and we share in their mood, are we opposing the usually held truism that Vipralambha is meant to be the highest attainment?
The subject of Sambhoga and Vipralambha can be understood in a basic way; otherwise, it expands into ad infinitum of the ocean of Bhakti-rasa. Sambhoga and Vipralambha can best be understood in proper context if we apply whether these events take place in a manifest way (prakata), or in an unmanifest way (aprakata). With prakata and aprakata in mind, we can determine Srila Prabhupada’s true stance on what constitutes the highest thing, of Bhakti attainment.
“Śrī Krishna’s pastimes in this material world are called prakaṭa-līlā (manifested pastimes), and His pastimes in the spiritual world are called aprakaṭa-līlā (unmanifested pastimes). By unmanifested we mean that they are not present before our eyes. It is not that Lord Krishṇa’s pastimes are unmanifest. They are going on exactly as the sun is going on perpetually, but when the sun is present before our eyes, we call it daytime (manifest), and when it is not present, we call it night (unmanifest). Those who are above the jurisdiction of night are always in the spiritual world, where the Lord’s pastimes are constantly manifest to them.” (CC Madhya 15.237 purport)
There were times when Srila Prabhupada did say that Sambhoga was the perfection of things. For instance, in a letter he wrote, “Don’t feel yourself to be alone because Krishna is always with you. Krishna is always with every living entity as Supersoul, and to His devotee especially He talks and gives instructions how to attain the perfectional stage of meeting Him. So don’t feel alone.” (1969, Letter to Anand)
The “perfectional stage of meeting Him (Krishna)” refers to Sambhoga. Are we to take this in isolation and declare that Srila Prabhupada says that Sambhoga is the highest thing? We can say yes to this if we balance it with what he commonly says and in what context. For example:
“Krishna has two kinds of presence—prakaṭa and aprakaṭa, manifest and unmanifest. These are identical for the sincere devotee. Even if Krishna is not physically present, the devotee’s constant absorption in the affairs of Krishna makes Him always present.” (CC Madhya 13.155 purport)
Another common example would be this: “So sambhoga and vipralambha. There are two stages of meeting Krishna. Sambhoga means when He’s personally present. That is called sambhoga. Personally talking, personally meeting, personally embracing, that is called sambhoga. And there is another, vipralambha. The two ways a devotee can be benefited.” (Los Angeles, May 1, 1973)
Here Srila Prabhupada says that both Prakata and Aprakata and Sambhoga and Vipralambha are “two stages of meeting Krishna” and are identical. How does vipralambha cause a meeting with Krishna? Srila Prabhupada writes, “Those under the shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu can understand that His mode of worship of the Supreme Lord Krishna in separation is the real worship of the Lord. When the feelings of separation become very intense, one attains the stage of meeting Śrī Krishna.” (CC Adi 4.108 purport)
Sometimes pure devotees speak of seeing or meeting Krishna wherever they look or wherever they go, when under the influence of intense Vipralambha, whereas in Sambhoga they will see or meet a single form of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada consistently advocated meeting or Sambhoga through Vipralambha. So how do we understand how Vipralambha takes place in Vrndavana if that is the place of Sambhoga, as some say?
Really, it is not what some say, but what all enlightened Vaisnavas say, and we have to revert to prakata (manifest pastimes on earthly Vrndavana) and aprakata (unmanifest pastimes in hidden Vrndavana). For example, each time Srila Prabhupada said that Krishna never ever takes one step outside of Vrndavana – and we all repeat that oftentimes – he means that Krishna never ever leaves aprakata or hidden Vrndavana. He forever remains there with His loving devotees, in Sambhoga.
In Sambhoga? Then where does the Vipralambha fit in that Krishna Book and Srimad Bhagavatam so elaborately describes for us? The answer is that all these affairs of separation (Vipralambha), as described in Krishna Book and Srimad Bhagavatam tenth canto, occur in prakata Vrndavana manifest for earthly vision. They do not take place in aprakata Vrndavana. Another feature of Prakata-lila is that it is further training for devotes before they enter Aprakata:
“After giving up the body, the devotee who becomes perfect in devotional service enters that particular universe where Lord Rāmacandra or Lord Krishna is engaged in His pastimes. Then, after being trained to serve the Lord in various capacities in that prakaṭa-līlā, the devotee is finally promoted to sanātana-dhāma, the supreme abode in the spiritual world.” (SB 9.11.22 purport)
Being promoted to “sanatana-dhama” means being promoted to Aprakata-lila. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur verifies all this in his Jaiva-Dharma thirty eigth chapter:
“Gosvami: There are two types of krishna-lila: prakata (manifest) and aprakata (unmanifest). The states of separation (viraha) in vipralambha-rasa that I have already described correspond to prakata-lila. However, in aprakata Vrndavana, there is no separation of the vraja-devis from Sri Hari, who is eternally engaged in His variegated, blissful lila such as the rasa-lila. It is written in the Mathura-mahatmya: “Krishna plays eternally with the gopas and gopis there.” Since the verb ‘plays’ (krid) is in the present tense, it is to be understood that Krishna’s lilas are eternal. Therefore, in the aprakata-lila of Goloka or Vrndavana, there is no separation caused by Krishna’s making His residence in a distant place (dura-pravasa). Love in union (sambhoga) exists eternally there.”
This evidence synchronises perfectly well with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on the matter of Sambhoga and Vipralmbha. He said, “Not that I am manufacturing. We cannot manufacture anything, but we can repeat the words of our predecessors. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, in his Jaiva-Dharma…” (Māyāpur, April 8, 1975)
But for us, Vipralambha has special significance because somehow, we have to feel being separated from the Lord. Pure devotees cannot bear even a single moment without the Lord. If we can bear minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and lifetimes without the Lord, then this Viraha or Vipralambha process is for us. In this respect Vipralambha-seva is our highest ideal for this life in devotion and for the next life of devotion in Prakata-lila – if we are fortunate.
We can just imagine that if we can tolerate one minute or even thirty seconds without feeling any genuine separation from Krishna, then we are far adrift from our goal of Vipralambha-seva, or serving in separation. In the seventh verse of Sri Siksatakam, Lord Chaitanya expresses the utmost of Vipralambha by praying – “Govinda virahena me.” If a single moment of Viraha (separation) for Him feels like ages, then it is something for us to aspire for on a practical level, developing into a deep inner state.
The Viraha word is linked with the seventh verse of Sri Siksatakam. In Srila Prabhupada’s Light Of The Bhagavata chapter forty two, we find some practical tips: “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 Krishna. 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 Chaitanya at the ultimate stage of realization displayed the viraha worship in the mood of the gopīs.”
Yet, if we view the same Sri Siksatakam verses as representing progressive stages of spiritual development, there is still something beyond the seventh verse. The seventh verse can be explained with this: “This vipralambha helps nourish emotions at the time of meeting.” (CC Madhya 23.62 purport) How can we make sense of this if meeting in Vipralambha is more relishable?
An answer is given here: “Highly advanced ecstasy is divided into two categories-mādana and mohana. Meeting together is called mādana, and separation is called mohana. (Madhya 23.58) The eighth verse of Srri Siksatakam represents both Sambhoga and Vipralambha being experienced at any given time according to how spiritual emotions move in the waves of ecstasy:
“I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.” (Sri Siksatakam, verse eight)
Coming back into reality of our attempts to appreciate such exalted heights, we can be amazed at how externally; such Vipralambha or Viraha emotions seem to cause extreme shock, agony and devastation, when in fact it is all such shocking, agonising and devastating sheer ecstatic bliss, for there is no misery in these spiritual emotions.
Since the words Madana was used to indicate Sambhoga, and the word Mohana used for Viraha or Vipralambha, we can justifiably match the words to Sri Sri Radha-Madana-Mohana, who Srila Prabhupada sometimes called, our “Attracting” Lordships. We pray to be attracted to Them so that They can attract us to the ocean of separation and meeting.