A cow from Shri Krishna’s herd, climbs the Govardhan Hill and drops her milk on top of a mysterious black arm on the top of the hill. Everyday, in the after noon, she continues to lag behind the rest of her herd to perform her ritual over the protruding arm. Her owner, unaware of her devotion begins t wonder why the cow’s milk giving capacity has reduced. One day he follows her and discovers her secret rite with ShreeNathji. The year marked is 1409 and ShreeNath’s appearance upon the hill seizes the attention of the local brajvasis. They are amazed that whatever they desire is given to them. For this they only need to pray to the raised arm.
The story of ShreeNathji is the amazing history of His worship, travels and lilas. ShreeNathji's manifestation and the subsequent developments were originally revealed by Shri Gokulnathji, the grandson of Shri Mahaprabhuji Vallabhacharya who appeared in India in the year 1479 on exactly the same day that ShreeNathji’s face appeared from hill. ShreeNathji stayed on the Govardhan Hill for as long as Shri Mahaprabhu, his son Shri Gusainji and his seven sons lived on the earth. Shri Gokulnathji was Shri Guisainji’s illustrious fourth son and composed an ocean of devotional literature mostly in Sanskrit and Braja language. The portion of this text the reveals ShreeNathji’s travels from the Govardhan Hill to Mevar all occurred after the lifetime of Shri Gokulnathji.
The “lila” of ShreeNathji is a subtle mixture of the spiritual and material worlds. Wherever ShreeNathji appears false distinctions are removed. This is the non-dualist vision of Shri Maha-prabhuji Vallabhacharya who saw everything as Krishna and nothing but Krishna. He went on to explain what ShreeNathji manifested in form. The wisdom that is required to enter into the realm of ShreeNathji has been laid down by Shri Mahaprabhuji, the incarnation of ShreeNathji’s face.
Who could describe his “lila” better than his main partner Shri Mahaprabhuji, who on one level is an Acharya – who empowers the devotional heart while on the divine level is Shri Svaminji, Shri Krishna’s consort. The combination of a playful God and an insightful guru who illuminates the arena with lightening bolts of Vedant wisdom has allowed the plays to begin.
If divinity is not felt in the world, it becomes a place to either exploit or renounce. ShreeNathji's lila shows a third way, that is to neither want only, enjoy or pridefully renounce. For the bhatas, ShreeNathji was not a stone image but a living divinity who interacts and plays with his bhatas. It is believed that sometimes he leaves the temple to play to play chess with a bhakta, at other times he remains awake the entire night to listen to their music. ShreeNathji through his power of grace descended into the world of His bhaktas and made it divine. Vallabhacharya speaks of the blessed bhakta’s aspirations in his “Subodhini” in the words of Krishna’s beloved:
“We experience Krishna with our eyes; we feel Him through all of our senses. Hari is the desire, the festival of our hearts. To behold Krishna’s form is the ultimate reward. To have conversations with God, To behold Him, to mingle and embrace Him To please Him, To serve Him, To touch Him, To taste the nectar of His lips. Is what we live for. We need to thoroughly enjoy Hari Until ever hair on our bodies Stands erect with bliss.”
The lila of ShreeNathji is the joyful unspoken approach. Some say that God cannot be seen. Others says that no one can live after seeing his face. The bhaktas of ShreeNathji have not only seen his face, some have embraced Him and even tasted the nectar of His lips. The rules have changed, ShreeNathji is unrestricted, he can do, not do, or do what is neither doing or not doing. ShreeNathji empowers souls with grace and this enables them to withstand the force of His love.
When God is lawful, attainment is gained by following His words. When His power of grace is present, accomplishment is through His blissful form. ShreeNathji is a grace-filled divinity, the balanced abode of contradictions. He is a child, yet supports the world. He wants flowers from a lotus pond and at the same time is the pond and the lotus. Shri Krishna is everything yet distinct. Playful, yet for those who consider Him to be totally full, total devoid, or any combination of the two, so He becomes. Although immovable, He plays according to the wishes of his bhakas.
A study of the lila of ShreeNathji is a journey towards understanding Eastern theism. It has the ability to embrace all aspects of divinity, both personal and abstract. He is unknown to even the creator yet will appear and dance for a glass of butter-milk. ShreeNathji is the form of “ras”. The bliss manifestation; His every ornament expresses a total view. He is the perfect combination of Vedant and poetry, of insight nd dance, of form and formlessness, of world and heaven. Him the opportunity to express His refined creation and it is graceful. When His presence charges the world with a sacredness there is no longer any need to discard it in the process of enlightenment.
When the Gopis heard the song of Shri Krishna’s flute, many of them left their homes and went to meet Him in the forest. Others who could not leave their homes because they were stopped by their husbands, sat down and meditated upon Him in their hearts and left their material forms upon attaining Him. Shri Mahaprabhuji explains that even though they put an end to their karmas and attained liberation, they were not as blessed as those who were able to engage in dalliance with Hari here in the world. The blessed Svaminis who were able to bring Hari into their world speak out in the Bhagavata:
“O friends, we know the reward Of imbibing Balaram and Krishna Playing their flutes as they Herd their cows through Vrindavan forests. It is the fruit of having eyes. It is the endowment of the senses. Having experienced this we now have no use For any other enlightenment or liberation.”
To behold ShreeNathji with eyes or better yet with all the senses is the bhakta’s enlightenment. It was with this view in mind that ShreeNathji appeared from the hill.
Shri Mahaprabhuji explains that those who have appeared from ShreeNathji’s mind wander according to their limited view. Others who have manifested from His speech try to locate God through His words. Those that have come forth from His bliss form appear in this world to join in His lila. They are grace filled ones and surround ShreeNathji.
Krishna decided to appear as ShreeNathji in a five foot stone image from the depths of the Govardhan Hill. He came to life on the Govardhan Hill for His special devotees. During the times of Shri Vallabhacharya and Shri Gusainji, ShreeNathji actually came to play with the bhaktas. Their exchanges created a unique history, an eternal one that appears in the world. Beyond the effects of time and karma it arises where Brahman expresses Brahman according to the devotion of His bhaktas. In this and karma it arises where Brahman expresses Brahman according to the devotion of His bhaktas. In this remarkable locus, ShreeNathji celebrates the mutual enjoyment which occurs between Bhagavan and the bhaktas. A bit of that play is spread throughout these pages. Submersion into the ocean of ras. The nectar sarovar, comes from “darshan”, the direct vision of divinity. This type of devotion arises with the wisdom that can separate not only milk from water but more importantly poison from nectar. After this arising, if one is fortunate to avoid the pride of attainment, a sensitive and overwhelming love for Hari arises. This is called bhakti or devotion and liberation is given along the way towards entrance into the realm of Hari, the lila locus.
“Darshan” is part of the devotional process. Darshan has been spoken of in four different ways. Darshan of hari can be experienced in the heart, through celestial voice, in a dream or just before you. When SheeNathji appeared during the times of Shri Mahaprabhuji, he appeared in front of too many bhaktas in his most direct and rare fashion, right before them.
In the Bhagavata Gita, when Krishna showed Arjuna His expansive universal from, Arjuna could not sustain the intensity of the darshan. Arjuna’s hair stood on end he prayed to have the darshan withdrawn. ShreeNathji’s darshans are never so awesome, they are sweet.
The nectar form of ShreeNathji appeared to a number of bhaktas during the times of shri Mahaprabhuji and shri Gusainji. Many other emarkable meetings have been disclosed in the accounts of Shri Mahaprabhuji’s and Shri Gusainji’s disciples. By the time ShreeNathji Decided to Move to Mevar to fulfill the wish of one of his bhaktas, the only person Shreenathji freely conversed with was an elderly woman by the name of Gangabai. She is a central figure in the story and is Shreenathji’s voice for the rest of the world. Every time ShreeNathji’s chariot gets stuck she comes to rescue with a direct messege from Shri Krishna Himself.
Although in the age of struggle God almost never appears personally before the bhakta there are some bhaktas like Gangabai who break the mold, bhakta poet Nandadas explains:
In three other eras, the Lord appears before the bhakta But not in this age of struggle. So Rup Manjari had to meet Krishna in a dream What one desires day and night He bequeaths… Even if the scriptures say He is most unattainable, From pure love one can come Exceedingly close to God. This union is not found in talking But in undertaking. A lamp shine not bye discussion But only when it is lit.
The inner ShreeNathji appeared when the light of bhakti is lit and sets the bhakta’s world aflame with devotion. The desire to meet ShreeNathji expands until even ShreeNathji cannot contain it and then He appears from the bhakta’s joyful heart in front of him or her. It is the direct darshan. The brilliance of bhakti illuminates the heart and creates a clear inwards recognition that Overflows into the outward world.
What makes the worship of Shreenathji unique is that it evolved from his bhakta’s inner experience and then manifested into a sacred world wherein ShreeNathji become adored. The movement between the inward and outward experience of ShreeNathji reveals the two-fold nature of “ras”, ShreeNathji’s loving nectar. His nectar mood of love embraces union and separation. This movement between union and separation supports, nourishes and heightens the ras, the elixir of devotion. ShreeNathji is the Lord of ras, Shri Mahaprabhuji describes His from His lips are sweet His face is sweet His eyes are sweet His heart is sweet ShreeNathji likes to play. Although you may argue that God needs nothing yet it is the desires of the bhaktas that create his personality. They make Him full and complete his nature. When God is lawful, the soul falls under His control but when He’s filled with grace He falls under the domination of the bhakta’s devotion. Shreenathji’s bhakta kumbhandas was a devotee of grace. He was so attached to ShreeNathji that he would never even look at another from Krishna. One night h was tricked into leaving the area of ShreeNathji’s temple and was led to Gokul where the image of child Krishna resided. As the sun rose, he saw Gokul before him and realizing he was far away from his beloved ShreeNathji he ran back to ShreeNathji’s temple some fifteen miles away, Although ShreeNathji normally arises at 5 am., on that day because kumbhandas was not there to sing for him, he did not wake up until His bhakta returned several hours after sunrise.
We also see how Shreenathji on more than one occasion stops His chariot until some desire, sometimes rather childish, is fulfilled. Once he brought his chariot to a stop and said that he would not move until someone brought him lotuses from nearby pond. At another point in his adventure ShreeNathji refuses to move until the braja vasi’s insult him. Krishna as jagat guru explains in the Gita that he corresponds to the way people worship him. This keeps ShreeNathji in a continual process of becoming. He is filled with magical virtues and the bhaktas keep bringing forth His different manifestation according to their personal sentiments of devotion. Their “bhava”.
Limitation dose not diminish Shreenathji’s glory. It is through limitations that anything of value is attained. Without one pointed focus in yoga there is no attainment. To limit in the devotional sense means to contain Krishna within the walls of your home, within your heart. Limitation means to make Krishna your own. All pervasive Krishna never really appears or moves.
The bhakta Dayaram express the grace filled view Beloved of all life, I humbly request: Let me savor the nectar of devotion. Give your knowledge to those Who follow the path of emancipation I have no interest… O Lord, liberation never even enters the minds. Of your special servants. With delight I daily gaze at your Krishna. The great joy that wells from you within my heart Could never arise from being In absolute unity with you where… The pleasures of a married woman Remain totally unknown Even in a dream.
Goswamiji’s comments on this poem:
“Shri Mahaprabhuji teaches that this entire Universeis a sport, a play of Bhagvan, the Super Soul. We are all conscious beings and are able to eloquently express the nature of that Lila. We can also perfectly within that Lila setting while playing out own individual roles. Hari has filled us with a sense of me and mine for the purpose of being able to carry out our own activities and also to express our roles within that Lila. This is the greatest boon of life, to have the lila bhava – fill our actions, activities, understanding and love. If we do not vibrate with that Lila bhava then there is no greater curse.
“Within every situation, our dharma, practice and the way we lie as well as our sense of me and mine can either be healthy or can be harmful to our special development. Worldly attachment is like mud and devotion is like the lotus. Our awareness of Pusthi is the dawn that makes the lotus blossom within the mud of the world. The worldly wandered is the one who enjoys only the mud around the lotus… if you forget God and start to simply enjoy the world, tat can never be devotion. To just accept that God is everywhere and relax
With that idea is also not ideal. You must relish creation while you are playing and eating, sleeping and awaking. It should all be filled with Krishna. This is the way of the Braja Bhaktas and is the height of the Pusthi Devotion”
A key to understanding ShreeNathji’s Appearance is to grasp the Relationship Between the world, Brahmin, who is all pervasive and effulgent and the personal Krishna. The Brilliance of Shri Mahaprabhuji’s teaching is seen in how he bring unity into all realm. He is the incarnation of fire and fire is speech. It is through words that Shri Mahaprabhuji’s ties together the three-fold nature of world, Brahman and ShreeNathji’s. To do so, he uses the Ganges river to demonstrate his point. When the non-differentiated view that embraces Krishna as everything is attained then the position of ShreeNathji’s can be deciphered, otherwise is a risk of confusing ShreeNathji as a mere lifeless idol.
I Shri Mahaprabhuji’s words:
“ According to the vedas, Akshara Brahman, the undifferentiated Brahman Becomes the world and it should be understood in terms of the two forms of the Ganges River. One from is water. The other form is the majestic form, which grants enjoyment and liberation and is worshiped by those who follow the lawful way. Understand Akshara Brahman in a similar way. But sometimes the Goddess form is seen by the one who practices bhati and perceives due to the water’s special qualities no difference between the river and the Goddess. This perception is not in all, but it is there for those who have an extraordinary desire for the water. This perception is known from both the scripture and experience. Like the Ganga waters, so is the world; like her spiritual powers, so is Akshara Brahmin; and like the Goddess, so is Krishna.”
Shri Mahaprabhuji’s says that for the development of devotion you need a pure view that embraces a oneness between the material world and the source of the world, what he calls Akshara Brahman. Akshara Brahman is that glorious Brahman devoid of name form from which all of this came to be. Akshara Brahman is full as well as voiced. Where the real mystery arises is the Deity of Akshara Brahman?
Going back to the Ganga, Shri Mahaprabhuji explains that the Ganga Goddess can be seen on her banks by the Bhakta who understands not only the Ganga waters that increase and decrease according to the season, but who can also understand the nature of Ganga as a holy place. Knowing her as a holy place and feeling her unseen divine attributes, there arises in some the rare opportunity to come face to face with Ganga as a Goddess. This appearance is due to devotion. It lets the blessed bhakta understand with their senses, Krishan as the material manifestation. They see Him as undifferentiated through their wisdom and through their bhati as Krishan, shree nathji himself. This allows then lila entrance. It makes them “jivan muktas”- liberated living beings.
Many claim that Akshara Brahman can have no deity, that all from arise from a disturbance. They go on to conclude that the final purity is achieved in absolute oneness. The pure vedic mind embraces Divinity in every manifestation, it knows God as personal and nirguna, beyond material qualities. He is allowed to play everywhere and is never demoted. He plays with those who understand his three-fold nature of world, Akshara Brahman and Krishna. The festival truly begins when the bhaka embraces the ecstatic merging of knowing and feeling then the mind and heart travel the same path. Then there is humble knowledge and unconditional love for the Deity. When the bhava becomes intense it makes the hue of Krishna apper like a rain filled cloud, ready to burst upon the bhakta’s world.
This all bring us back to shreenathji’s raised arm that appeared to a cow in the year 1409. ShreeNathji’s favorite game is lila. The play that is ever increasing with bliss and devoid of fatigue. It is his product, program and pleasure. It is his indistinguishable omnipresent and almost perfectly blissful impersonal self, comes forth creation. The lila players who take part in creation live in the world yet are witness. They are waiting for ShreeNathji to return at the end of the afternoon from the forest with his Cows. They are witness and have a rare passion for him.
ShreeNathji appeared on the Govardhan Hill to uplift all while Shri Vallabhacharya’s presence is to establish lila connection for the pushti or lila souls. His son Shri Vitthanathji Gusainji later embellished the seva of Shreenathji established by Shri Mahaprabhuji and his elaborate tradition continues today. Millions of people come to visit Shreenathji. They crowd His chambers and, flow with the tide, as they push their way in and out of the darshan area, often you can only stay before ShreeNathji as long as the darshan flow allows. Suddenly you are pushed out of the arena while the crowd chants, “ Giriraja dharana ki jai”, “Glories to the one who held up the Govardhan Hill.”
Today Shreenathji lives in nathdwara near to Udaipur in Rajasthan. The town is totally centered around him. ShreeNathji’s Full name is Shri Govardhan Nathji. Tradition tell us not take the name of our guru, wife, husband, close friend or personal Deity. For this reason Govardhan Nathji is called Shreenathji.
Shreenathji who used to make the trip from the Govardhan Hill to Rajasthan to play with his Bhaka Ajaba now daily goes from Rajasthan back to his Beloved hill. His Bhaktas feel that he spends the night there in the caves and groves around the mountain. His Bhaktas feel that he spends the night there in the caves and grives around the mountain. His presence there is honored every night with His ornamentation at Mukharvinda, Just in front of Shri Mahaprabhuji’s temple at jatipura. After the evening arti, lights are waved, the ornamentation is removed and ShreeNathji disappears into the hill. All that remains is the face of the Govardhan stone upon which the ornaments and form of ShreeNathji was Presented.
ShreeNathji’s worship is eightfold. He is awaken, adorned as a cow lad and then offered lunch. In the afternoon he is called for the afternoon darshan of Uttaphan and then offerd Fruit. Afterwards ShreeNathji returns from the forest at “sandhya Arti” and then prepares for his evening lilas.
ShreeNathji’s account reads like a Purana, a divine history filled accounts that could only happen in devotional realms. The beauty of ShreeNathji is that he likes to be treated naturally. He is not a God that resides on high but a young lad who rushes back to the temple when he hears his beckoning conch call. Once, in his haste to return to his temple on time, a piece of his garment got caught on a tree. When Shri Gusainji came to know how the tear happened he informed the other worshippers not to open the temple doors immediately after the conch is blown. He explains that need to wait a few minutes so that Shreenathji can leisurely make his way bank to the temple.
The development of seva, the devotional worship is a continuous process that revolves in the minds and hearts of his bhakas. Shreenathji plays with the bhaktas and leads them from the awareness of his divinity to the consciousness of relationship. He then further inspires then to enter fully into his alliance and finally appears to them in a personal manner. This account of Shreenathji and his Bhaktas creates a space where devotional creation can come to life; they reveal to us a very personal devotional development. With this bhava I present my translation of ShreeNathji’s appearance