I’m not talking about that little deviation in ISKCON that happened some forty years ago. I mean the general understanding that to follow in gopis’ footsteps means developing attraction to Krishna in a sexual way, even if it’s purely spiritual sex. I don’t agree with that.
Perhaps in the spiritual realm of Goloka gopis’ devotion can’t be manifested in any other way, being the supreme rasa and all, but down here, in this world, we can’t talk about this supremacy in terms of rasa. We have absolutely no idea what spiritual rasas taste like let alone judge which ones are superior and which ones are inferior.
Here’s the crux of my argument – Uddhava realized the supremacy of gopis’ devotion without feeling the need to develop sexual attraction to Krishna. This means that there ARE earthly ways to appreciate their superiority. Uddhava SAW that their devotion exceeded that of anyone in Dvaraka. He had objective criteria to appreciate their greatness.
Our Six Goswamis of Vrindavana established gopis’ love for Krishna as superior but quite often we assume that it means only the rasa and we forget the objectivity of that judgment.
That the gopis are completely selfless in their devotion is given. Following in their footsteps would mean that we should consciously strive for selflessness, too. It’s not possible to achieve in the conditioned state but it’s possible to at least notice our selfishness. Personally I often can’t explain it but I know it’s there, I don’t think I’m special in that way, everyone must feel something when they are being selfish. Following gopis’ footsteps would mean that I should know that it’s wrong and strive to get rid of it when I see it.
That is the easiest part, though, and not only gopis are selfless anyway. What takes their devotion to the next level is their eagerness to serve anyone who pleases Krishna more. If they know that Krishna developed a particular liking for some devotee they would step back and let Krishna enjoys his/her service first.
That’s why our goswamis promoted mood of the manjaris – servants of the “real” gopis. That is also why we should consider ourselves as servants not of Krishna but of Srimati Radharani. She pleases Krishna the most so we should step back and let Him enjoy Her company ahead of ours.
We know that, of course, but not often we see it as a guiding principle in our lives, even though it’s probably the easiest to implement in our daily interactions – we should always step back and facilitate other devotees’ service. We should consider ourselves lower than anyone else, even our “enemies”. We should always strive to give all the credits to someone else, claiming none for ourselves.
The best place at the Sunday feast is serving prasadam to others. We should see how Krishna enjoys feeding His devotees and help Him there.
When people mentioned to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati that he shouldn’t take too many disciples he replied that he has none, he considers all those devotees his masters and he sees himself as their lowly servant, facilitating their way back home, back to Godhead.
Even when we see other devotees acting to the contrary to this principle we should take it not as an opportunity to spot someone’s mistakes but as a lesson to ourselves how not to do things.
We are not in Vrindavana, we have no idea what their relationships with Krishna are, following in gopis’ footsteps we should presume that Krishna likes their service far more than our awkward attempts.
We know that we are dasadasanudasa so we better act like it, too. And even more – considering that Krishna is in the heart of every living soul we should consider ourselves as servants of every living being, too.
That’s impossible to implement right away but it’s easy to spot when we are not behaving like that ourselves.
Uddhava saw all those things and he valued that mode of devotion above anything else, and it had nothing to do with sex. So real gopi bhava club is something quite different from trying to get rasa from stories of Krishna’s dealings with gopis.
The real taste of gopi bhava comes from selfless service to the Lord, our gurus, the devotees, and every other living being in the universe.
Oh, and we shouldn’t go around searching for this taste, we should consider ourselves unworthy, maybe then we’ll get some but most likely not.