Cultivating Smaranam Step by Step

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.87.23 - Cultivating Smaranam Step by Step (download mp3)
by Mukunda Mala Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 10.87.23
nibhrta-marun-mano-’ksa-drdha-yoga-yujo hrdi yan
 munaya upasate tad arayo ’pi yayuh smaranat
striya uragendra-bhoga-bhuja-danda-visakta-dhiyo
 vayam api te samah sama-drso ’nghri-saroja-sudhah

Simply by constantly thinking of Him, the enemies of the Lord attained the same Supreme Truth whom sages fixed in yoga worship by controlling their breath, mind and senses. Similarly, we srutis, who generally see You as all-pervading, will achieve the same nectar from Your lotus feet that Your consorts are able to relish because of their loving attraction to Your mighty, serpentine arms, for You look upon us and Your consorts in the same way.

According to Acarya Sri Jiva Gosvami, the few srutis — such as the Gopala-tapani Upanisad — who identify the cowherd boy Krsna with absolute Brahman in its highest aspect had so far been patiently waiting for their turn to speak. But after hearing the other srutis offer prayers openly glorifying the Lord’s personality, these intimate srutis could no longer contain themselves, and so they spoke out of turn in this verse.

Followers of the path of mystic yoga subdue their senses and minds by practicing breath control and severe austerities. If they succeed in thoroughly purifying themselves by this regimen, they may eventually begin to realize the Paramatma, the personal form of Brahman within the heart. And if they continue this meditation without deviation for a long time, they may in the end come to the point of true God consciousness. But the same objective achieved in this difficult and uncertain way was also attained by the demons who were killed by Lord Krsna during His pastimes on the earth. Obsessed with enmity toward Him, demons like Kamsa and Sisupala quickly obtained the perfection of liberation simply by His killing them.

Speaking for themselves, however, the personified Vedas here state that they would prefer to develop love of Godhead by learning to emulate the favorable surrender of Lord Krsna’s confidential devotees, especially the young gopis of Vraja. Though they appeared to be simple women attracted conjugally to the Lord’s physical beauty and strength, the goddesses of Vraja exhibited the highest perfection of meditation. The srutis wish to become just like them.

In this regard, Lord Brahma relates the following historical account in the supplement to the Brhad-vamana Purana:

brahmananda-mayo loko
 vyapi vaikuntha-samjñitah
tal-loka-vasi tatra-sthaih
 stuto vedaih parat-parah

“The infinite world of spiritual bliss is called Vaikuntha. There the Supreme Truth lives, being glorified by the personified Vedas, who are also present there.”

ciram stutva tatas tustah
 paroksam praha tan gira
tusto ’smi bruta bho prajña
 varam yam manasepsitam

“Once, after the Vedas had elaborately praised Him, the Lord felt especially satisfied and spoke to them in a voice whose source remained invisible: ‘My dear sages, I am very satisfied with you. Please ask of Me some benediction that you secretly desire.’”

yatha tal-loka-vasinyah
 kama-tattvena gopikah
bhajanti ramanam matva
 cikirsajani nas tatha

“The srutis replied, ‘We have developed the desire to become like the cowherd women of the mortal world who, inspired by lust, worship You in the mood of a lover.’”

durlabho durghatas caiva
 yusmakam sa manorathah
mayanumoditah samyak
 satyo bhavitum arhati

“The Lord then said, ‘This desire of Yours is difficult to fulfill. Indeed, it is almost impossible. But since I am sanctioning it, your wish must inevitably come true.’”

agamini viriñcau tu
 jate srsty-artham udite
kalpam sarasvatam prapya
 vraje gopyo bhavisyatha

“‘When the next Brahma takes birth to faithfully execute his duties of creation, and when the day of his life called the Sarasvata-kalpa arrives, you will all appear in Vraja as gopis.’”

prthivyam bharate ksetre
 mathure mama mandale
vrndavane bhavisyami
 preyan vo rasa-mandale

“‘On the earth, in the land of Bharata, in My own district of Mathura, in the forest of Vrndavana, I will become your beloved in the circle of the rasa dance.’”

jara-dharmena su-sneham
 su-drdham sarvato ’dhikam
mayi samprapya sarve ’pi
 krta-krtya bhavisyatha

“‘Thus obtaining Me as your paramour, you will all gain the most exalted and steadfast pure love for Me, and in this way you will fulfill all your ambitions.’”

srutvaitac cintayantyas ta
 rupam bhagavatas ciram
ukta-kalam samasadya
 gopyo bhutva harim gatah

“Lord Brahma said: After hearing these words, the srutis meditated on the Personality of Godhead’s beauty for a long time. When the designated time ultimately arrived, they became gopis and obtained the association of Krsna.”

A similar account can be found in the Srsti-khanda of the Padma Purana, which describes how the Gayatri mantra also became a gopi.

Regarding the development of bhakti, Lord Krsna further states in the Gopala-tapani Upanisad (Uttara 4), aputah puto bhavati yam mam smrtva, avrati vrati bhavati yam mam smrtva, niskamah sa-kamo bhavati yam mam smrtva, asrotri srotri bhavati yam mam smrtva: “By remembering Me, one who is impure becomes pure. By remembering Me, one who follows no vows becomes a strict follower of vows. By remembering Me, one who is desireless develops desires [to serve Me]. By remembering Me, one who has studied no Vedic mantras becomes an expert knower of the Vedas.”

The Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (4.5.6) refers to the gradual steps in the process of becoming Krsna conscious: Atma va are drastavyah srotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyah. “It is the Self which must be observed, heard about, thought of and meditated upon with fixed concentration.” The idea here is that one should realize the Supreme Self as directly visible in His full personality by the following means: First one should hear the instructions of a qualified representative of the Paramatma and take the words of such a spiritual master into one’s heart by offering him humble service and striving in all ways to please him. One should then ponder the divine message of the spiritual master continuously, with the aim of dispelling all one’s doubts and misconceptions. Then one can proceed to meditate on the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet with total conviction and determination.

So-called jñanis may think that the Upanisads praise nirvisesa (impersonal) realization of the Supreme as more complete and final than sa-visesa (personal) worship of the Supreme Godhead. All honest Vaisnavas, however, join in adhering to the devotional service of the Supreme Lord, always meditating with pleasure on His infinitely wonderful, variegated spiritual qualities. In the words of the sruti-mantras, yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas/ tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam: “To that person whom the Supreme Soul chooses, He becomes attainable. To that person the Supreme Soul reveals His personal form.” (Katha Upanisad 1.2.23 and Mundaka Upanisad 3.2.3)

Srila Sridhara Svami concludes with the prayer,

carana-smaranam premna
 tava deva su-durlabham
yatha kathañcid nr-hare
 mama bhuyad ahar-nisam

“O Lord, loving remembrance of Your lotus feet is very rarely achieved. Please, O Nrhari, somehow arrange for me to have that remembrance day and night.”