Sharad Purnima Festival
On October 27, 2015 Radhanath Swami celebrated Sharad Purnima with two thousand devotees at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai. Sharad Purnima is the first day of the holy month of Kartik, the full-moon night when Krishna danced with His beloved devotees, the gopis, in the forest of Vrindavan.
Radhanath Swami’s talk, the kirtan, and the beautifully decorated altar that resembled a grove of Vrindavan made the ambience spiritually enchanting.
Below is an excerpt from Radhanath Swami’s talk.
Today is Sharad Purnima. In Vrindavan it is one of the most special of all festivals.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sukadev Goswami, Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Raghunath Das Goswami, these are some of the greatest renunciates in the history of this world. Sukadev Goswami, he did not even differentiate between one sex and another, or between one race and another; he was only seeing the atma, the spirit soul everywhere. He glorified this Rasalila as the deepest, highest level of ecstatic realization and love without comparison. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu exclaimed that of all forms of purity and love, nothing is equal to that of the gopis of Vrindavan. Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami were billionaires with great power, beauty, and strength, and they left everything at the peak of their youth to live as goswamis under trees, begging for some chickpeas or wheat flour, sleeping on the ground. And through their writings and teachings they glorified this Rasalila, the love of the gopis and Krishna, to be the purest and highest level of spiritual ecstasy.
On this night, which is considered the most beautiful night of the whole year, in the enchanting forest of Vrindavan, Krishna wanted to fulfill the gopi’s desire and fulfill his own desire to give the highest pleasure to his devotees. By his own sweet will the yogamaya potency created such an enticing atmosphere: the full moon rose from the eastern horizon. Because Krishna appeared within the dynasty of Chandra (the moon), so Chandra manifested a beauty like never ever before. As the moon rose, it filled the entire sky with reddish colors; all the flowers of Vrindavan began to blossom. In this spiritually intoxicating, enchanting environment, Krishna stood in his threefold bending form under the Vamsi Vata tree on the bank of Yamuna. He played upon his flute, and the innermost ecstasies of his love emerged from his heart into his breath, through the holes of the flute. It was Krishna’s love that took the form of music and it filled Vrindavan.
When the gopis heard Krishna’s flute, they heard Krishna calling them to give him pleasure, to give him happiness. The gopis didn’t want to enjoy; they wanted to be enjoyed by Krishna. They went deep into the forest in the moonlight and there at Vamsi Vata they approached Krishna, and as they looked upon the beautiful form of Govinda, they took that form into the core of their hearts and embraced him for his pleasure.
Krishna said, “You have left everything of the world behind just to come to please me. I am very satisfied. You have fulfilled your purpose, so now you could go home. After all, you have your duties to your families.” The gopis replied, “Why are you speaking so cruelly? Don’t you know that we’ve given up everything only for you, those things that are most precious, most dear to everyone? We have left it all without a second thought only to please you, only to serve you. Please do not send us back. You’re talking about faithfulness to society, family, friendship and love. We agree with all those things, but the only reason anyone is lovable is because you are supremely lovable. You are within everyone’s hearts. The only attractive thing about anyone is because they are part and parcel of you. If you leave the heart of anyone, there is nothing left but a dead corpse. So ultimately you are the only husband for everyone. Everyone is female, you are the only male. And you are the only supreme lovable object. So, when we love you, we are expressing our deepest, highest, fullest love for everyone.”
Krishna satisfied the gopis by walking with them along the banks of the Yamuna. Krishna was joking with them, he was singing with them, he was speaking with them, and he was making so many gestures of pure love with them. The gopis were considering themselves so fortunate: “We are the most fortunate in all of creation. On this beautiful moonlit night, in the forests of Vrindavan, on the banks of Yamuna, to be with Krishna! Krishna is speaking to me! He is glancing upon me! He is touching me! Such blessings!” The gopis loved Krishna, they gave everything for Krishna, but they were thinking themselves more fortunate than all others.
Krishna performs one activity and fulfills many purposes and gives many lessons.
Shukadev Goswami describes one of these lessons in the Srimad Bhagavatam: Krishna saw that there was pride in the gopis; it was pure spiritual pride, but for our sake he wanted to teach them a lesson. So he suddenly disappeared. Gopis were looking everywhere, crying. They began to chant Krishna’s names and went into the forest. They were mad in their enthusiasm to find Krishna. As they were going through the forest, they found Krishna’s footprints, and began following those footprints. And further ahead they discovered two sets of footprints. They were speaking among themselves, “There is another gopi and that gopi, her love, her worship, her service to Krishna is unparalleled, it is supreme. Krishna left all of us to be with this one gopi.” And then they were examining these footprints carefully. “Who is this gopi? This gopi is Srimati Radharani. Krishna left all other gopis only for Sri Radha…..
And here we find only one set of footprints. That means Krishna must have been carrying this gopi because she was tired. And here we find only half set of Krishna’s footprints; he was reaching out to get flowers from trees just to decorate this gopi. And here we see they have sat together in the dust of Vrindavan; Krishna is decorating her hair with the flowers that he picked.” Then again they saw only one set of footprints. “Krishna traced pride in her heart and he left her just like he left us.” As they walked deeper into the forest, they found Srimati Radharani. They shared Srimati Radharani’s separation and Srimati Radharani shared their separation.
With one heart, with one voice they were praising Krishna, the Gopi Gita, beautiful prayers of love in separation. At the culmination of their loving separation, Srimati Radharani and the gopis performed kirtan together and Krishna appeared.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu comes in the mood of Sri Radha to teach us how to actually connect with Krishna in the mood of gopis. In the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this Sankirtan, if we understand it properly, it is not just something musical, it is actually the means by which the gopis of Vrindavan captured Krishna’s heart.
The gopis made a nice setting on the bank of Yamuna, and they all sat around Krishna. They asked Krishna, “Some people are affectionate to those who are affectionate to them. Others are affectionate even to people who neglect them or are inimical to them. And other people are unaffectionate to anybody. So Krishna can you explain this for us?” Obviously, they were trying to teach Krishna a little lesson.
Krishna said, “Those who are affectionate only to those who reciprocate with them with affection are like merchants; their love is not real. Those who are affectionate even to a person who is inimical or neglectful to them, they are actually affectionate. They are saintly people. And there are two types of people who don’t show affection for anyone: one is the atma-rama, great sage, who’s just aloof from all of these dualities of material existence, and the other is a person who is the lowest among people, who is simply ungrateful; they are receiving so much, but they are ungrateful for that. But please understand gopis, I am not like that. I only appeared to neglect you when I left you to increase the ecstasies of your love for me. Just like a person who is poor and who gets a great wealth of money, if that person then loses all that money, 24 hours a day all they could do is think of that money. Similarly, when I show my mercy, I attract the hearts of my devotees. And then when I appear to neglect the devotee by leaving them in separation, I do so only to increase their love, only to increase their attachment in their ecstasies of prema. When I left you, I was with you, I was seeing you.” And Krishna apologized. He said, “You gave up your homes, you gave up your safety, you gave up your reputations, you gave up everything in your lives only for me, and even in the entire lifetime of Brahma, I cannot repay you. I have no power to repay you. So please just be satisfied with the love that you have.”
All of the gopis danced with Krishna and each gopi felt that Krishna was only with her. This night Sharad Poornima, Krishna extended it to an entire night of Brahma; that’s how long the gopis and Krishna danced together in the forest.