When Kṛṣṇa suddenly disappeared from the company of the gopīs, they searched for Him everywhere. After not finding Him anywhere, they became afraid and almost mad after Him. They were simply thinking of the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa in great love and affection. Being absorbed in thought of Him, they experienced loss of memory, and with dampened eyes they began to see the very pastimes of Kṛṣṇa—His beautiful talks with them, His embracing, kissing and other activities. Being so attracted to Kṛṣṇa, they imitated His dancing, His walking and His smiling, as if they themselves were Kṛṣṇa. Due to Kṛṣṇa’s absence, they all became crazy; each one of them told the others that she was Kṛṣṇa Himself. Soon they all assembled together and chanted Kṛṣṇa’s name very loudly as they moved from one part of the forest to another, searching for Him.
Actually, Kṛṣṇa is all-pervasive: He is in the sky, and He is in the forest; He is within the heart, and He is always everywhere. The gopīs therefore began to question the trees and plants about Kṛṣṇa. There were various types of big trees and small plants in the forest, and the gopīs addressed them: “Dear banyan tree, have you seen the son of Mahārāja Nanda passing this way, laughing and playing on His flute? He has stolen our hearts and gone away. If you have seen Him, kindly inform us which way He has gone. Dear aśoka tree, dear nāga flower tree and campaka flower tree, have you seen the younger brother of Balarāma pass this way? He has disappeared because of our pride.” The gopīs were aware of the reason for Kṛṣṇa’s sudden disappearance. They could understand that when they had been enjoying Kṛṣṇa they thought themselves to be the most fortunate women within the universe, and since they were feeling proud, Kṛṣṇa had disappeared immediately just to curb their pride. Kṛṣṇa does not like His devotees to be proud of their service to Him. He accepts everyone’s service, but He does not like one devotee to proudly consider himself better than others. If sometimes there are such feelings, Kṛṣṇa ends them by changing His attitude toward the devotee.
The gopīs then addressed the tulasī plants: “Dear tulasī, you are much beloved by Lord Kṛṣṇa because your leaves are always at His lotus feet. Dear mālatī flower, dear mallikā flower, dear jasmine flower, all of you must have been touched by Kṛṣṇa while He was passing this way after giving us transcendental enjoyment. Have you seen Mādhava passing this way? O mango trees, O trees of jackfruit, O pear trees and āsana trees! O blackberries and bael trees and trees of the kadamba flower—you are all very pious trees to be living on the bank of the Yamunā. Kṛṣṇa must have passed through this way. Will you kindly let us know which way He has gone?”
The gopīs then looked upon the ground they were traversing and began to address the earth: “Dear earthly planet, we do not know how many penances and austerities you have undergone to be now living with the footprints of Lord Kṛṣṇa upon you. You are very jolly; the hairs on your body are these jubilant trees and plants. Lord Kṛṣṇa must have been very much pleased with you; otherwise how could He have embraced you in the form of Varāha the boar? When you were submerged in water, He delivered you, taking the whole weight of your existence on His tusks.”
After addressing the innumerable trees and plants and the earth, they turned their faces toward the beautiful deer, who were looking at them very pleasingly. “It appears,” they addressed the deer, “that Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supreme Nārāyaṇa Himself, must have passed through this way along with His companion, Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune. Otherwise, how is it possible that the aroma of His garland, which is smeared with the red kuṅkuma from the breasts of the goddess of fortune, can be perceived in the breeze blowing here? It appears that they must have passed through here and touched your bodies, and thus you are feeling so pleasant and are looking toward us with sympathy. Will you kindly, therefore, inform us which way Kṛṣṇa has gone? Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher of Vṛndāvana. He is as kind to you as to us; therefore after leaving us, He must have been present in your company. O fortunate trees, we are thinking of Kṛṣṇa, the younger brother of Balarāma. While passing through here, with one hand resting on the shoulder of the goddess of fortune and the other hand twirling a lotus flower, He must have been very much pleased to accept your obeisances, and He must have glanced at you with great pleasure.”
Some of the gopīs then addressed their gopī friends: “Dear friends, why don’t you question these creepers, who are so jubilantly embracing the big trees as if the trees were their husbands? It appears that the flowers of the creepers must have been touched by the nails of Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, how could they feel so jubilant?”
After searching for Kṛṣṇa here and there, the gopīs became fatigued, and then they began to talk like madwomen. They could satisfy themselves only by imitating the different pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. One of them imitated the demon Pūtanā, and one of them imitated Kṛṣṇa and sucked her breast. One gopī imitated a hand-driven cart, and another gopī lay down beneath the cart and threw up her legs, touching the wheels of the cart, as Kṛṣṇa did to kill the demon Śakaṭāsura. One gopī imitated child Kṛṣṇa and lay down on the ground, and one gopī became the demon Tṛṇāvarta and carried the small child Kṛṣṇa by force into the sky; and one of the gopīs began to imitate Kṛṣṇa while He was attempting to walk, ringing His ankle bells. Two gopīs imitated Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, and many others imitated Their cowherd boyfriends. One gopī assumed the form of Bakāsura, and another forced her to fall down as the demon Bakāsura did when he was killed; similarly, another gopī defeated Vatsāsura. Just as Kṛṣṇa used to call His cows by their different names, so the gopīs imitated Him, calling the cows by their respective names. One of the gopīs began to play on a flute, and another praised her the way Kṛṣṇa’s boyfriends praised Him while He played on His flute. One of the gopīs took another gopī on her shoulders, just as Kṛṣṇa used to take His boyfriends. Absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa, the gopī who was carrying her friend began to boast that she was Kṛṣṇa herself: “All of you just see my movement!” One of the gopīs raised her hand with her covering garments and said, “Now don’t be afraid of the torrents of rain and severe hurricanes. I’ll save you!” In this way she imitated the lifting of Govardhana Hill. One gopī forcibly put her feet on the head of another gopī and said, “You rascal Kāliya! I shall punish you severely. You must leave this place. I have descended to this earth to punish all kinds of miscreants!” Another gopī told her friends, “Just see! The flames of the forest fire are coming to devour us. Please close your eyes and I shall immediately save you from this imminent danger.”
In this way all the gopīs were madly feeling the absence of Kṛṣṇa. They inquired about Him from the trees and plants. In some places they found the imprints of the marks on the soles of His feet—namely the flag, the lotus flower, the trident, the thunderbolt, etc. After seeing those footprints, they exclaimed, “Oh, here is the impression of the marks on the soles of Kṛṣṇa’s feet! All the marks, such as the flag, the lotus flower, the trident and the thunderbolt, are distinctly visible here.” They began to follow the footprints, and shortly they saw another set of footprints beside them, and immediately they became very sorry. “Dear friends, just see! Whose are these other footprints? They are beside the footprints of the son of Mahārāja Nanda. It is certainly Kṛṣṇa passing through, resting His hand on some other gopī, exactly as an elephant goes side by side with his beloved mate. We must, therefore, understand that this particular gopī served Kṛṣṇa with greater affectionate love than ourselves. Because of this, although He has left us, He could not leave Her company. He has taken Her along with Him. Dear friends, just imagine how the dust of this place is transcendentally glorious. The dust of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa is worshiped even by Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva and the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī. But at the same time, we are very sorry that this particular gopī has gone along with Kṛṣṇa, for She is enjoying the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s kisses and leaving us aside to lament. O friends, just see! At this particular spot we do not see the footprints of that gopī. It appears that because there were some pinpricks from the dried grass, Kṛṣṇa took Rādhārāṇī on His shoulder. Oh, She is so dear to Him! Kṛṣṇa must have picked some flowers in this spot to satisfy Rādhārāṇī, because here, where He stood erect to get the flowers from the high branches of the tree, we find only half the impression of His feet. Dear friends, just see how Kṛṣṇa must have sat down here with Rādhārāṇī and tried to set flowers in Her hair. You can be certain that both of Them sat together here.” Kṛṣṇa is self-sufficient: He has nothing to enjoy from any other source. Yet just to satisfy His devotee, He treated Rādhārāṇī exactly as a lusty boy treats his girlfriend. Kṛṣṇa is so kind that He always tolerates the disturbances created by His girlfriends.
In this way, all the gopīs pointed out the faults of the particular gopī who had been taken alone by Kṛṣṇa. They said that this chief gopī, Rādhārāṇī, must be very proud of Her position, thinking Herself the greatest of the gopīs. “Yet how could Kṛṣṇa take Her away alone, leaving all of us aside, unless She is extraordinarily qualified and beautiful? She must have taken Kṛṣṇa into the deep forest and told Him, ‘My dear Kṛṣṇa, I am now very tired. I cannot go any further. Please carry Me wherever You like.’ When Kṛṣṇa was spoken to in this way, He might have told Rādhārāṇī, ‘All right, better get on My shoulder.’ But immediately Kṛṣṇa must have disappeared, and now Rādhārāṇī must be lamenting for Him, ‘My dear lover, My dearest, You are so fine and so powerful. Where have You gone? I am nothing but Your most obedient maidservant. I am very much aggrieved. Please come and be with Me again.’ Kṛṣṇa, however, is not coming to Her. He must be watching Her from a distant place and enjoying Her sorrow.”
All the gopīs then went further and further into the forest, searching out Kṛṣṇa, but when they learned that actually Rādhārāṇī was left alone by Kṛṣṇa, they became very sorry. This is the test of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In the beginning they were a little envious that Kṛṣṇa had taken Rādhārāṇī alone, leaving aside all the other gopīs, but as soon as they knew that Kṛṣṇa had also left Rādhārāṇī and that She was alone lamenting for Him, they became more sympathetic to Her. The gopīs found Rādhārāṇī and heard everything from Her—about how She had misbehaved with Kṛṣṇa and how She was proud and was insulted for Her pride. After hearing all this, they became actually very sympathetic. Then all the gopīs, including Rādhārāṇī, proceeded further into the forest, until they could no longer see the moonlight.
When they saw that it was getting gradually darker, they stopped. Their mind and intelligence became absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa; they all imitated the activities of Kṛṣṇa and His speeches. Due to their heart and soul being completely given to Kṛṣṇa, they began to chant His glories, completely forgetting their family interests. In this way, all the gopīs returned to the bank of the Yamunā and assembled there, and expecting that Kṛṣṇa must return to them, they simply engaged in chanting the glories of Śrī Kṛṣṇa—Hare Kṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare / Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
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