karmibhyah parito hareh priyataya vyaktim yayur jnaninas
tebhyo jnana-vimukta-bhakti-paramah premaika-nisthas tatah
tebhyas tah pasu-pala-pankaja-drsas tabhyo ’pi sa radhika
prestha tadvad iyam tadiya-sarasi tam nasrayet kah krti
karmibhyah—than all fruitive workers; paritah—in all respects; hareh—by the Supreme Personality of Godhead; priyataya—because of being favored; vyaktim yayuh—it is said in the sastra; jnaninah—those advanced in knowledge; tebhyah—superior to them; jnana-vimukta—liberated by knowledge; bhakti-paramah—those engaged in devotional service; prema-eka-nisthah—those who have attained pure love of God; tatah—superior to them; tebhyah—better than them; tah—they; pasu-pala-pankaja-drsah—the gopis who are always dependent on Krsna, the cowherd boy; tabhyah—above all of them; api—certainly; sa—She; radhika—Srimati Radhika; prestha—very dear; tadvat—similarly; iyam—this; tadiya-sarasi—Her lake, Sri Radha-kunda; tam—Radha-kunda; na—not; asrayet—would take shelter of; kah—who; krti—most fortunate.
In the sastra it is said that of all types of fruitive workers, he who is advanced in knowledge of the higher values of life is favored by the Supreme Lord Hari. Out of many such people who are advanced in knowledge [jnanis], one who is practically liberated by virtue of his knowledge may take to devotional service. He is superior to the others. However, one who has actually attained prema, pure love of Krsna, is superior to him. The gopis are exalted above all the advanced devotees because they are always totally dependent upon Sri Krsna, the transcendental cowherd boy. Among the gopis, Srimati Radharani is the most dear to Krsna. Her kunda [lake] is as profoundly dear to Lord Krsna as this most beloved of the gopis. Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings [aprakrtabhava], render loving service to the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who perform Their astakaliya-lila, Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Radha-kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe.
At the present moment almost everyone is engaged in some kind of fruitive activity. Those who are desirous of gaining material profits by working are called karmis, or fruitive workers. All living entities within this material world have come under the spell of maya. This is described in the Visnu Purana (6.7.61):
Sages have divided the energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead into three categories—namely, the spiritual energy, marginal energy and material energy. The material energy is considered to be the third-class energy (trtiya saktih). Those living beings within the jurisdiction of the material energy sometimes engage themselves like dogs and hogs in working very hard simply for sense gratification. However, in this life, or, after executing pious activities, in the next life, some karmis become strongly attracted to performing various kinds of sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas. Thus on the strength of their pious merit, they are elevated to heavenly planets. Actually those who perform sacrifices strictly according to Vedic injunctions are elevated to the moon and planets above the moon. As mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (9.21), ksine punye martya-lokam visanti: after exhausting the results of their so-called pious activities, they again return to the earth, which is called martya-loka, the place of death. Although such persons may be elevated to the heavenly planets by their pious activities and although they may enjoy life there for many thousands of years, they nonetheless must return to this planet when the results of their pious activities are exhausted.
This is the position of all karmis, including those who act piously and those who act impiously. On this planet we find many businessmen, politicians and others who are simply interested in material happiness. They attempt to earn money by all means, not considering whether such means are pious or impious. Such people are called karmis, or gross materialists. Among the karmis are some vikarmis, people who act without the guidance of Vedic knowledge. Those who act on the basis of Vedic knowledge perform sacrifices for the satisfaction of Lord Visnu and to receive benedictions from Him. In this way they are elevated to higher planetary systems. Such karmis are superior to the vikarmis, for they are faithful to the directions of the Vedas and are certainly dear to Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita (4.11), Krsna says: ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham. “In whatever way one surrenders unto Me, I reward him accordingly.” Krsna is so kind that He fulfilled the desires of the karmis and jnanis, not to speak of the bhaktas. Although the karmis are sometimes elevated to higher planetary systems, as long as they remain attached to fruitive activities they must accept new material bodies after death. If one acts piously, he can attain a new body among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, or he may attain some other position in which he can enjoy a higher standard of material happiness. On the other hand, those who are engaged in impious activities are degraded and take birth as animals, trees and plants. Thus those fruitive actors who do not care for the Vedic directions (vikarmis) are not appreciated by learned saintly persons. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.4):
“Materialists who work hard like dogs and hogs simply for sense gratification are actually mad. They simply perform all kinds of abominable activities simply for sense gratification. Materialistic activities are not at all worthy of an intelligent man, for as a result of such activities, one gets a material body, which is full of misery.” The purpose of human life is to get out of the threefold miserable conditions, which are concomitant with material existence. Unfortunately, fruitive workers are mad to earn money and acquire temporary material comforts by all means; therefore they risk being degraded to lower species of life. Materialists foolishly make many plans to become happy in this material world. They do not stop to consider that they will live only for a certain number of years, out of which they must spend the major portion acquiring money for sense gratification. Ultimately such activities end in death. Materialists do not consider that after giving up the body they may become embodied as lower animals, plants or trees. Thus all their activities simply defeat the purpose of life. Not only are they born ignorant, but they act on the platform of ignorance, thinking that they are getting material benefits in the shape of skyscraper buildings, big cars, honorable positions and so on. The materialists do not know that in the next life they will be degraded and that all their activities simply serve as parabhava, their defeat. This is the verdict of Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.5): parabhavas tavad abodha jatah.
One should therefore be eager to understand the science of the soul (atma-tattva). Unless one comes to the platform of atma-tattva, by which one understands that the soul and not the body is oneself, one remains on the platform of ignorance. Out of thousands and even millions of ignorant people who are wasting their time simply gratifying their senses, one may come to the platform of knowledge and understand higher values of life. Such a person is called a jnani. The jnani knows that fruitive activities will bind him to material existence and cause him to transmigrate from one kind of body to another. As indicated in Srimad-Bhagavatam by the term sarira-bandha (bound to bodily existence), as long as one maintains any conception of sense enjoyment, his mind will be absorbed in karma, fruitive activity, and this will oblige him to transmigrate from one body to another.
Thus a jnani is considered superior to a karmi because he at least refrains from the blind activities of sense enjoyment. This is the verdict of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, although a jnani may be liberated from the ignorance of the karmis, unless he comes to the platform of devotional service he is still considered to be in ignorance (avidya). Although one may be accepted as a jnani, or one advanced in knowledge, his knowledge is considered impure because he has no information of devotional service and thus neglects the direct worship of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
When a jnani takes to devotional service, he rapidly becomes superior to an ordinary jnani. Such an advanced person is described as jnana-vimukta-bhakti-parama. How a jnani takes to devotional service is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (7.19), wherein Krsna says:
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” Actually a person is wise when he surrenders unto the lotus feet of Krsna, but such a mahatma, great soul, is very rare.
After taking to devotional service under the regulative principles, a person may come to the platform of spontaneous love of Godhead, following in the footsteps of great devotees like Narada and Sanaka and Sanatana. The Supreme Personality of Godhead then recognizes him to be superior. The devotees who have developed love of Godhead are certainly in an exalted position.
Of all these devotees, the gopis are recognized as superior because they do not know anything other than satisfying Krsna. Nor do the gopis expect any return from Krsna. Indeed, sometimes Krsna puts them into extreme suffering by separating Himself from them. Nonetheless, they cannot forget Krsna. When Krsna left Vrndavana for Mathura, the gopis became most dejected and spent the rest of their lives simply crying in separation from Krsna. This means that in one sense they were never actually separated from Krsna. There is no difference between thinking of Krsna and associating with Him. Rather, vipralambha-seva, thinking of Krsna in separation, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did, is far better than serving Krsna directly. Thus of all the devotees who have developed unalloyed devotional love for Krsna, the gopis are most exalted, and out of all these exalted gopis, Srimati Radharani is the highest. No one can excel the devotional service of Srimati Radharani. Indeed, even Krsna cannot understand the attitude of Srimati Radharani; therefore He took Her position and appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, just to understand Her transcendental feelings.
In this way Srila Rupa Gosvami gradually concludes that Srimati Radharani is the most exalted devotee of Krsna and that Her kunda (lake), Sri Radha-kunda, is the most exalted place. This is verified in a quotation from Laghu-bhagavatamrta (Uttara-khanda 45), as quoted in Caitanya-caritamrta:
“Just as Srimati Radharani is dear to the Supreme Lord Krsna [Visnu], so Her bathing place [Radha-kunda] is equally dear to Krsna. Among all the gopis, She alone stands supreme as the Lord’s most beloved.”
Therefore everyone interested in Krsna consciousness should ultimately take shelter of Radha-kunda and execute devotional service there throughout one’s life. This is the conclusion of Rupa Gosvami in the tenth verse of Upadesamrta.
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