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Bhakti Of The Gopikas Of Vrindavan And Vedanta

It is in the Gopikas, the cowherd women of Vrindavan, that we find the gradual evolution of the sense of ‘He is mine’ into the sense of ‘I am He’. In the beginning, their love was a ‘passionate personal love’, which thereafter, evolved into an ‘intellectual love or impersonal love’ that emanated from the realisation that Sri Krishna is the universal principle abiding in all beings.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana records this wonderful spiritual journey with all its nuances. At one stage, the Gopikas get separated from Sri Krishna and suffer miserably due to their extreme attachment to him. Sri Krishna appears before them after a long absence and instructs them to raise from their state of attachment and understand him to be the basis of, and also the substance pervading all the worlds, both living and nonliving. He also says that it is in and through him, the supreme and imperishable Being, that the individual beings and the objects of experience have their entity and substance.

Sri Krishna himself states later about the evolved state of mind of Gopikas: ‘By the strength of their attachment to Me, they became oblivious of their individuality and the whole objective world, just as the mind of a contemplative in Samadhi and the river merged in the ocean overcome all distinction created by name and form’ (11.12.12).

The Gopikas, on their own, express their understanding thus: ‘O Friend, you are not merely the Gopika’s son, but the witness of the inner essence of all embodied beings’ (10.31.4).