Chapter 8: Astama-yama Sadhana - Pastimes at Night
Prema-bhajana Sambhoga (Devotional Love)

The nistha, or firm faith of a devotee who has achieved perfection in pure devotion, with complete dependence on Krsna, is described in the Siksastaka (8) as follows:
aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah (1)
Let Krsna tightly embrace this maidservant, who has fallen at His lotus feet. Let Him trample me or break my heart by never being visible to me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still no one other than the worshipable Lord of my heart. I am a maidservant at the lotus feet of Krsna. He is the embodiment of transcendental happiness and mellows. If He likes He can tightly embrace me and make me feel oneness with Him, or by not giving me His audience, He may corrode my mind and body. Nevertheless, it is He who is the Lord of my life.

The state of one who remembers Krsna's pastimes is that, like Krsna, his body is also sac-cid-ananda. Therefore the Vaisnava's body is not different from Krsna's. Krsna explains this to Uddhava in the following words from Srimad Bhagavatam (11.29.34):
martyo yada tyakta-samasta-karma niveditatma vicikirsito me
tadamrtatvam pratipadyamano mayatma-bhuyaya ca kalpate vai (2)
A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto Me, eagerly desiring to render service unto Me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing My own opulences.

Such a devotee enters into the Lord's pastimes and enjoys with Him. The devotee's bhajana nistha is described in the Manah-siksa in these words:
na dharmam nadharmam sruti-gana-niruktam kila kuru
vraje radha-krsna-pracura-paricaryam iha tanu
saci-sunum nandisvara-pati-sutatve guru-varam
mukunda-presthatve smara paramajasram nanu manah (3)
O my dear mind, please do not perform the religious activities prescribed in the Vedas or the sinful activities prohibited in the scriptures. Just stay in Vraja-dhama, which is manifest on this material plane, and fully engage in the service of the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Always remember Sri Gaurahari, the son of Mother Saci, is nondifferent from Sri Krsna, the son of Maharaja Nanda. And always remember that Sri Gurudeva is the dearmost associate of Mukunda. These feelings are your transcendental wealth.

The devotee's humility is described by Sanatana Gosvami in the next verse, quoted by Srila Rupa Gosvami in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. One who has achieved the stage of rati (bhava) and has firm hope that Krsna will be kind to him prays as follows:
na prema sravanadi-bhaktir api va yoga 'thava vaisnavo
jnanam va subha-karma va kiyad aho saj-jatir apy asti va
hinarthadhika-sadhake tvayi tathapy acchedya-mula sati
he gopi-jana-vallabha vyathayate ha ha mad-asaiva mam (4)
O my Lord, I do not have any love for You, nor am I qualified for discharging devotional service by chanting and hearing. Nor do I possess the mystic power of a Vaisnava, knowledge, or pious activities. Nor do I belong to a very high-caste family. On the whole, I do not possess anything. Still, O beloved of the gopis, because You bestow Your mercy on the most fallen, I have an unbreakable hope that is constantly in my heart. That hope is always giving me pain.

The devotee's introduction to his siddha-deha (spiritual form) is described in the Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi (53):
dukulam vibhranamatha kucatate kancukapatam
prasadam svaminyah svakara-tala-dattam pranayatah
sthitam nityam parsve vividha-paricaryaika-caturam
kisorim atmanam catulaparakiyam nu kalaye (5)
I am a maidservant (manjari) of Radharani in my siddha-deha. With deep affection Srimati Radharani has bestowed on me Her mercy in the form of clothing which She has worn. Wearing this clothing, I will see myself as an adolescent young girl always remaining near Srimati Radharani, and ready to cleverly serve Her in different ways. In this way I will abandon my husband, and day and night serve the lotus feet of Radha in the groves of Vrndavana.

The method of bhajana and place of residence for one who has attained the above mentioned contemplation is stated in the Upadesamrta (8):
smrtyoh kramena rasana-manasi niyojya
tistan vraje tad-anuragi-jananugami
kalam nayed akhilam ity upadesa-saram (6)
The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time twenty-four hours a day in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja (Goloka Vrndavana-dhama) and serve Krsna under the guidance of His beloved Vrajavasi associates. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service.

The devotee's process of bhajana is described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Under the guidance of the spiritual master, a raganuga devotee should always perform his own cherished eternal service:
krsnam smaran janam casya prestham nija-samihitam
tat-tat-katha-ratas casau kuryad vasam vraje sada (7)
A raganuga devotee should always reside in Vraja by constantly remembering Krsna with His dearmost associates according to his own rasa. If one is not able to physically live in Vraja, he should at least live there mentally. Those persons who are ignorant and always engaged in material sense gratification are never capable of residing in Vraja. However, the maha-bhagavats, who may not be residing in Vraja by external vision, are actually always living only in Vraja.

The devotee's external behavior the symptoms and activities of one situated in prema is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.2.40):
evam-vratah sva-priya-nama-kirtya
jatanurago druta-citta uccaih
hasaty atho roditi rauti gayaty
unmada-van nrtyati loka-bahyah (8)
By chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, one comes to the stage of love of Godhead. Then the devotee is fixed in his vow as an eternal servant of the Lord, and he gradually becomes very much attached to a particular name and form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries or shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion.

The devotee's firm faith in Vraja-lila is found in this verse, recited by Caitanya Mahaprabhu from the Kavya-prakasa, and quoted in Padyavali:
yah kaumara-harah sa eva hi varas ta eva caitra-ksapas
te conmilita-malati-surabhayah praudhah kadambanilah
sa caivasmi tathapi tatra surata-vyapara-lila-vidhau
reva-rodhasi vetasi-taru-tale cetah samutkanthate (9)
That very personality who stole my heart during my youth is now again my master. These are the same moonlit nights of the month of Caitra. The same fragrance of malati flowers is there, and the same sweet breezes are blowing from the kadamba forest. In our intimate relationship, I am also the same lover, yet my mind is not happy here. I am eager to go back to that place on the bank of the Reva under the Vetasi tree. That is my desire.

In the Padyavali, Srila Rupa Gosvami has elucidated the previous sloka in the following words:
priyah so 'yam krsnah sahacari kuru-ksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
tathapy antah-khelan-madhura-murali-pancama-juse
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati (10)
My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Krsna on this field of Kuruksetra. I am the same Radharani, and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamuna beneath the trees of the forest. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within that forest of Vrndavana.

There are no pastimes equal to the pastimes performed in Vrndavana. These pastimes are unknown in other abodes beginning with Vaikuntha. In Vraja these pastimes have two divisions known as vicheda (separation) and sambhoga (meeting). Always enjoy these two transcendental mellows, as they are supremely blissful. The various pastimes performed during the meeting of Radha and Krsna are described in the Ujjvala-nilamani as follows:
te tu sandarsanam jalpah sparsanam vartma rodhanam
madhu-panam vadhu-vesa-dhrtih kapata suptata
bimbadhara-sudhapanam-samprayogadayo matah (11)
When Radha and Krsna meet the following sports usually occur:
1) Sandarsana (looking at each other), 2) Jalpa (talks and making false arguments between each other),
3) Sparsa (touching each other), 4)Vartma-nirodhana (obstructing the path),
5) Rasa-lila, (rasa dance), 6)Vrndavana-krida (sporting in the forests of Vrndavana),
7) Yamuna-khelana (sporting in the water of the Yamuna),
8) Nauka-khela (sporting in a boat),9) Lila-chaurya (stealing the flute, clothes, flowers, etc.),
10)Dana-ghata-lila (pastime of charging tax at the ghata),
11) Kunjadi-linata (hiding in groves), 12) Madhupana (drinking honey),
13) Vadhu-vesa-dharana (dressing like a newly wed girl),
14) Kapata-nidra (pretending to sleep), 15) Dyuta-krida (playing chess),
16) Vastrakarsana (snatching each other's cloth), 17) Cumba (kissing), 18) Aslesa (embracing),
19) Nakharpana (scratching), 20) Bimbadhara-sudhapana (relishing the nectar of each other's lips)
21) Samprayoga (conjugal meeting). These are the different types of pastimes when Radha and Krsna meet.

Decorating Radha-Krsna is described in the Stavavali, Seva-sankalpa-prakasa-stotra (9):
sphuran-mukta gunja mani sumanasam hara-racane
mudendor lekha me racayatu tatha siksana-vidhim
yatha taih samkanthaptair dayita-sarasi madhya-sadane
sphutam radha krsnavayam api jano bhusayati tau (12)
May Indulekha, who is my guru, instruct me in the art of making beautiful garlands of pearls, jewels, gunja and different flowers, so that I can charmingly decorate Sri Sri Radha and Krsna within the jeweled mandira in the middle of Radha-kunda.

In the mood of separation, the Gopi-gita should be read. The gopis declare therein, Srimad Bhagavatam (10.31.9), that one who distributes the nectar of krsna-katha is the most munificent person.
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah (13)
The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one's sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the messages of Godhead are most munificent.

One is introduced to the gopis' deep affection for Krsna by hearing of the great sorrow they experience while thinking of Krsna wandering throughout the forests of Vraja. They express their sorrow in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.31.11):
calasi yad vrajac carayan pasun nalina-sundaram natha te padam
sila-trnankuraih sidatiti nah kalilatam manah kanta gacchati (14)
Dear master, dear lover, when You leave the cowherd village to herd the cows, our minds are disturbed with the thought that Your feet, more beautiful than a lotus, will be pricked by the spiked husks of grain and the rough grass and plants.

Without seeing Krsna's beautiful face, decorated with curly hair, a moment appears like a hundred yugas for the gopis. This is expressed by the gopi's in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.31.15):
atati yad bhavan ahni kananam truti yugayate tvam apasyatam
kutila-kuntalam sri-mukham ca te jada udiksatam paksma-krd drsam (15)
When You go off to the forest during the day, a tiny fraction of a second becomes like a millennium for us because we cannot see You. And even when we can eagerly look upon Your beautiful face, so lovely with its adornment of curly locks, our pleasure is hindered by our eyelids, which were fashioned by the foolish creator.

The topmost position of gopi-bhava is meant only for Krsna's pleasure. An example of the gopi's bhava is given in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.31.19):
yat te sujata-caranamburuham stanesu
bhitah sanaih priya dadhimahi karkasesu
tenatavim atasi tad vyathate na kim svit
kurpadibhir bhramati dhir bhavad-ayusam nah (16)
O dearly beloved! Your lotus feet are so soft that we place them gently on our hard breasts, fearing that Your feet will be hurt. Our life rests only in You. Our minds, therefore, are filled with anxiety that Your tender feet might be wounded by pebbles as You roam about on the forest path.

An emotional outburst in sambhoga is described in the Krsna-karnamrta (12):
kim api vahatu cetah krsna padambujabhyam (17)
Let my heart attain indescribable pleasure from the lotus feet of Krsna, which are the abode of the most sweet ever-sportive pastimes of Srimati Radharani, who is the goddess of fortune of all transcendental planets. His lotus feet defeat the pride of clusters of lotus flowers and they are highly esteemed due to their providing safety for the Lord's devotees.

Again in the Krsna-karnamrta (18) it is said:
tarunaruna karunamaya vipulayata nayanam
kamalakuca-kalasibhara-vipuli-krta pulakam
muralirava-tarali-krta-muni-manasa nalinam
mama khelatu mada-cetasi madhuradharam amrtam (18)
May the nectar of Krsna's sweet lips intoxicate my heart by sporting within. His wide youthful eyes, reddish like the rising sun, are full of compassion seeing the fatigued condition of His beloved Srimati Radharani. Out of happiness, His hair is standing on end from the touch of the pitcherlike breasts of Kamala (Radharani). The sound of His flute is melting the hearts of the sages, which thus become soft like the lotus flower, and the already lotus-soft hearts of the gopis who have undertaken a vow of silence due to anger or shyness are further softened.

The Ujjvala-nilamani describes in the following words the various services performed within the mind of one situated in his eternal form:
mithah prema-gunotkirttis tayor asakti-karita
abhisara-dvayor eva sakhyah krsne samarpanam
narmmasvasana-nepathyam hrdayodghata-patavam
chidra-samvrtir etasyah patyadeh parivancana
siksa-sangamanam kale sevanam vyajanadibhih
tayor dvayor upalambhah sandesa-presanam tatha
nayika prana samraksa prayatnadyah sakhi-kriyah (19)
In the conjugal pastimes of Krsna, Krsna is the hero (nayaka), and Radhika is the heroine (nayika). The first service of the gopis is to chant the glories of both the hero and the heroine. Their second service is to gradually create a situation in which the hero may be attracted to the heroine and vice versa. Their third service is to induce both of Them to approach one another. Their fourth service is to offer Radharani to Krsna, the fifth is to create a jovial atmosphere, the sixth to give Them assurance of Their meeting, the seventh to dress and decorate both hero and heroine, the eighth to cleverly inspire Radha and Krsna to express Their minds, the ninth to conceal the faults of the heroine, the tenth to cheat their respective husbands and relatives, the eleventh to give instruction, the twelfth to enable both hero and heroine to meet at the proper time, the thirteenth to fan both hero and heroine, the fourteenth to sometimes reproach the hero and heroine, the fifteenth to send messages, and the sixteenth to protect the heroine by various means.

In Stavavali, Vraja-vilasa-stava (38) it is said:
vrndaranya-mahesvarim priyataya yas tosayanti priyah
prana-prestha-sakhi-kulad api kilasankocita bhumikah
keli-bhumisu rupa-manjari-mukhas ta dasikah samsraye (20)
By offering Them betel nuts, massaging Their feet, bringing Them water, arranging Their secret meetings, and by performing many other services, many maidservants affectionately please Radharani, the supreme controller of the Vrndavana forest. When the Divine Couple enjoy Their conjugal pastimes, these maidservants are not at all shy and they move freely without hesitation, even more than the prana-prestha-sakhis (such as Lalita and Visakha). I take shelter of those maidservants, who have Rupa-manjari as their leader.

Pride in one's service is found in these words of the Gosvamis:
navyam divyam kavyam svakrtam atulam nataka-kulam
praheligudharthah sakhi-rucira vina-dhvani gatih
kada snehollasair lalita-lalita-prerana balat
salajjam gandharva sara-sama-sakrc-chiksayati mam (21)
When will Srimati Radharani, at the request of Lalita, teach me in delighted affection and modesty the incomparable dramas She has composed, along with new poems with deep meanings and charming ragas for the vina.

Acceptance of Visakha-sakhi, whose voice defeats the singing of the cuckoo, as a guru for learning the art of music is given in the Stavavali, Prarthana:
kuhukanthi-kanthad api kamala-kanthi mayi punar
visakha ganasyapi ca rucira-siksam pranayatu
yathaham tenaitat yuva-yugalam ullasya saganal
labhe rase tasman mani-padaka haran iha muhuh (22)
I pray that Visakhadevi, whose voice is more enchanting than the cuckoos, may teach me the art of singing sweetly. By singing during the rasa dance songs learnt from her, I may please the youthful Divine Couple with Their associates. I will thus receive gifts such as Their jeweled lockets and necklaces.

The ecstasy of rasa-lila is described in the Gita-govinda. Sri Krsna along with the damsels of Vrndavana always enjoy the pastime of rasa dance.
visvesam anuranjanena janayannanandam-indivara-
sreni syamala-komalair upanayann angair anangotsavam
svacchandam vraja-sundaribhir abhitah pratyangam alingitah
srngarah sakhi murttiman iva madhau mugdho harih kridati (23)
My dear friends, just see how Sri Krsna is enjoying the season of spring! With the gopis embracing each of His limbs, He is like Cupid personified. He enlivens the gopis and the entire creation with His transcendental pastimes. With His soft bluish-black limbs, which resemble blue lotus flowers, He has created a spring festival for Cupid. In the sweet land of Vrndavana, during the season of Vasanta, the bumble bees become mad and they come in a line to obtain nectar from the beautiful flowers. The most sweet king of transcendental rasa, Sri Krsna, enjoys the rasa dance with the sweetest nectarean sports along with the sweet gopis, who are expert at dancing. The sweet sounds of the karatalas and other instruments are heard as Krsna sweetly engages in dancing with the gopis. Vidyapati has come to know this sweet song which is full of mellows.

The happiness of seeing Krsna is described in the Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka. The gopis therein express their great appreciation for meeting Krsna after separation from Him.
yada yato daivan madhu-ripur asau locana-patham
tadasmakam ceto madana-hatakenahrtam abhut
punar yasminn esa ksanam api drsor eti padavim
vidhasyamas tasminn akhila-ghatika ratna-khacitah (24)
If by chance the transcendental form of Krsna comes before my path of vision, my heart, injured from being beaten, will be stolen away by Cupid, happiness personified. Because I could not see the beautiful form of Krsna to my heart's content, when I again see His form I shall decorate the phases of time with many jewels.

An introduction to ratri-lila (night pastime) is given in Govinda-lilamrta:
tav utkau labdha-sangau bahu-paricaranair vrndayaradhyamanau
presthalibhir lasantau vipina-viharanair gana-rasadilasyaih
nana-lila-nitantau pranaya-sahacari vrnda-samsevyamanau
radha-krsnau nisayam sukusuma-sayane prapta-nidrau smarami (25)
I remember Radha and Krsna, who at night are anxious for each other's company. After They meet, Vrndadevi serves Them in various ways as They roam throughout the forest. Radha and Krsna appear very charming with Their sakhis as They sing and dance in Their rasa pastimes. Becoming fatigued from Their sportive activities, They are served by Their many loving friends (manjaris). As the night ends, They lie on a bed of flowers where They sleep. The sakhis drown in an ocean of ecstasy as they observe these pastimes. O mind, remember and worship with a desire to enter into this pastime of Radha and Krsna's sleeping.

One gradually attains perfection by always remembering the treasure of these eight-fold daily pastimes while engaged in devotional service. That sadhaka who attains the stage of svarupa-siddhi while practicing gopi-bhava relishes these asta-kala pastimes while residing in Vraja manifested in the material world. After achieving Krsna's mercy, when he leaves his material body, such a devotee attains the service of Radha and Krsna as Their associate within Vraja of the spiritual world.

In that state there is no perception of the gross or subtle material bodies. By chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra in this state of eternal liberation, one easily achieves complete ecstatic love. O brother, the holy name never loses potency either at the stage of practice or perfection. Therefore, chant the holy name and consider it your sole objective. Don't consider any other means of sadhana.

Thus ends the Astama-yama Sadhana of the Sri Bhajana-rahasya.

Chapter 1: Prathama-yama Sadhana  - Bhajana at the End of Night - Sraddha (Dawning of Faith)
Chapter 2: Dvitiya-yama Sadhana - Bhajana in the Morning
Chapter 3:  Trtiya-yama Sadhana - Bhajana at Forenoon
Chapter 4:  Caturtha-yama Sadhana - Bhajana at Midday
Chapter 5-7: Pancama-yama Sadhana - Pastimes at Night