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Some of the gopis, however, could not manage to get out of their houses, and instead they remained home with eyes closed, meditating upon Him in pure love.
Throughout the Tenth Canto, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives elaborate poetic commentaries on Lord Krsna’s pastimes. It is not always possible to include these extensive descriptions, but we will quote in its entirety his comments on this verse. It is our sincere recommendation to the learned Vaisnava community that a qualified devotee of the Lord present the entire commentary of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti on the Tenth Canto as a separate book, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by devotees and nondevotees alike. The acarya’s comments on this verse are as follows:
“In this context we will make our analysis according to the method described in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Ujjvala-nilamani. There are two categories of gopis: the eternally perfect (the nitya-siddhas) and those who have become perfect by practicing bhakti-yoga (the sadhana-siddhas). The sadhana-siddhas are of two categories: those who belong to special groups and those who do not. And there are also two classes of the gopis belonging to special groups: namely the sruti-caris, who come from the group of the personified Vedas, and the rsi-caris, who come from the group of sages who saw Lord Ramacandra in the Dandakaranya forest.
“This same fourfold categorization of the gopis is given in the Padma Purana:
gopyas tu srutayo jñeya
deva-kanyas ca rajendra
na manusyah kathañcana
‘It is understood that some of the gopis are personified Vedic literatures, while others are reborn sages, daughters of cowherds, or demigod maidens. But by no means, my dear King, are any of them ordinary humans.’ Here we are informed that although the gopis appeared to be human cowherd girls, they actually were not. Thus the contention that they are mortals is refuted.
“The daughters of cowherds, referred to here as gopa-kanyas, must be eternally perfect, since we never hear of them having executed any sadhana. Their apparent sadhana of worshiping goddess Katyayani in the role of gopis merely manifests their manner of playing like human beings, and the Bhagavatam narrates the account of this worship only to show how they had fully taken on the role of cowherd girls.
“That the gopa-kanya gopis are actually nitya-siddhas, eternally perfect devotees of the Lord, is established by a statement in Brahma-samhita (5.37) — ananda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhavitabhih — which proves that they are the Lord’s spiritual pleasure potency. Similarly, we have the words of the Gautamiya-tantra, hladini ya maha-saktih. Further corroboration of their eternal perfection is that these gopis, being coeternal with Lord Krsna, their lover, are mentioned along with Him in the eighteen-syllable mantra, the ten-syllable mantra and others, and also that the worship of these mantras, and also the srutis that present them, have been in existence since beginningless time.”
The deva-kanyas, daughters of the demigods, who are mentioned in the verse beginning sambhavas tv amara-striyah, are explained in Sri Ujjvala-nilamani as partial expansions of the gopis who are eternally perfect. That the sruti-cari gopis, the personified Vedas, are sadhana-siddha is understood from the following words of theirs quoted in the Brhad-vamana Purana:
tvayi drste manamsi nah
bhajanti ramanam matva
‘Since we have seen Your face, which possesses the beauty of millions of Cupids, our minds have become lusty after You like those of young girls, and we have forgotten all other allurements. We have developed the desire to act toward You as do the gopis who dwell on Your transcendental planet and who manifest the nature of Cupid by worshiping You with the idea that You are their paramour.’
“The rsi-cari gopis are also sadhana-siddha, as stated in Ujjvala-nilamani: gopalopasakah purvam apraptabhista-siddhayah. Previously they were all maharsis living in the Dandaka forest. We find evidence for this in the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda:
drstva ramam harim tatra
bhoktum aicchan su-vigraham
te sarve stritvam apannah
samudbhutas ca gokule
harim samprapya kamena
tato mukta bhavarnavat
This verse says that upon seeing Lord Ramacandra, the sages in the Dandaka forest desired to enjoy Lord Hari (Krsna). In other words, the sight of Lord Rama’s beauty reminded them of Lord Hari, Gopala, their personal object of worship, and they then wanted to enjoy with Him. But out of embarrassment they did not act on that desire, whereupon Lord Sri Rama, who is like a desire tree, gave His mercy to them, even though they had not voiced their request. Thus their desire was fulfilled, as stated by the words beginning te sarve. By means of their lusty attraction they became freed from the ocean of material existence, the cycle of birth and death, and coincidentally they got the association of Hari in conjugal love.
“In the present verse of the Bhagavatam we understand that it was the gopis who had children who were kept forcibly at home. This fact is clear from verses yet to come: matarah pitarah putrah (Bhag. 10.29.20), yat-paty-apatya-suhrdam anuvrttir anga (Bhag. 10.29.32) and pati-sutanvaya-bhratr-bandhavan (Bhag. 10.31.16). In his comments on the Tenth Canto, Srila Kavi-karnapura Gosvami mentions this fact. Without trying to repeat all his thoughts on this verse, we will give the gist of his purport:
“‘Upon seeing the personal form of Lord Sri Ramacandra, the sages who were worshipers of Lord Gopala immediately became elevated to the mature platform of spontaneous devotion, automatically reaching the stages of firm faith, attraction and attachment. But they had not yet completely freed themselves of all material contamination; therefore Sri Yoga-maya-devi arranged for them to take birth from the wombs of gopis and become cowherd girls. By associating with the eternally perfect gopis, some of these new gopis fully manifested purva-raga loving attraction for Krsna as soon as they reached puberty. (This kind of attraction develops even before one meets the beloved.) When these new gopis got the direct audience of Krsna and physically associated with Him, all their remaining contamination became burned up, and they achieved the advanced stages of prema, sneha and so on.
“‘Even though they were in the company of their cowherd husbands, by the power of Yoga-maya the gopis remained unsullied by sexual contact with them; rather, they were situated in purely spiritual bodies that Krsna enjoyed. On the night they heard the sound of Krsna’s flute, their husbands tried to stop them, but by the merciful assistance of Yoga-maya the sadhana-siddha gopis were able to go forth to their beloved, together with the nitya-siddha gopis.
“‘Other gopis, however, because of not getting the good fortune of associating with the nitya-siddha gopis and other advanced gopis, had not achieved the stage of prema, and so their contamination was not completely burned away. They entered the company of their cowherd husbands and, after sexual union with them, gave birth to children. But a short time later even these gopis developed their purva-raga by hankering intensely for the physical association of Krsna — a hankering they acquired by associating with the advanced gopis. Becoming worthy recipients of the mercy of the perfected gopis, they assumed transcendental bodies fit to be enjoyed by Krsna, and when Yoga-maya failed to help them overcome their husbands’ attempts to keep them from going out, they felt themselves cast into the worst calamity. Viewing their husbands, brothers, fathers and other family members as enemies, they came close to dying. Just as other women might remember their mothers or other relatives at the time of death, these gopis remembered the sole friend of their very life, Krsna, as stated in the present verse of the Bhagavatam, beginning with the word antar.
“‘It is implied that those ladies were not able to exit because they were held back by their husbands, who were standing before them with sticks in their hands, scolding them. Although these gopis were perpetually absorbed in love for Krsna, at that particular time they meditated upon Him and cried out within: “Alas, alas, O only friend of our life! O ocean of the artistic skills of Vrndavana forest! Please let us become your girlfriends in some future life, because at this time we cannot see Your lotuslike face with our eyes. So be it; we shall look upon You with our minds.” Each of them lamenting to herself in this way, the gopis stood with their eyes shut and meditated deeply upon Him.’”