The innermost abode of all is His playground with the gopis.
sthūlaṁ sūkṣmaṁ kāraṇaṁ brahma-turye
kṛṣṇasyātho goṣṭha-vṛndāvanaṁ tad
gopy-ākrīḍaṁ dhāma vṛndāvanāntaḥ ||
You can find anything you want within this Vrindavan:
the gross, the subtle, the causal,
and the fourth state of consciousness, Brahman;
you will find Vaikuntha, Dwaraka and the birthplace, Mathura,
as well as the Vrindavan of Krishna’s pasturing fields
But the innermost abode of all is
his playground with the gopis. (1.8)
This hierarchy of spiritual abodes corresponds to the concept of Radha and Krishna as the supreme form of Divinity. There are many verses like this in Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, so we will be able to return to the subject later.
For Prabodhananda, Vrindavan is principally divided into three domains. There is the goṣṭha, where he enjoys his relationships with the cowherds and his parents, etc., the vana, which is where he has his pastimes with numerous gopis, and the kunja, which is reserved for his loving affairs with Radha exclusively. The kunja is glorified in the next verse.
(1.9) Radhika’s Kunjavati
atyāścaryā sarvato’smād vicitrā
śrīmad-rādhā-kuñja-vāṭī cakāsti |
ādyo bhāvo yo viśuddho’tipūrṇas
tad-rūpā sā tādṛśonmādi sarvāḥ ||
There, in the kunja, glows Radha’s amazing
beautiful flower grove cottage,
more marvelous than all these others,
for it embodies the original mood of love
in its purest and most perfect form,
by which all the Vraja gopis are inebriated. (1.9)
In this and the next verse, Prabodhananda may be said to complete the vastu-nirdeśa portion of his introduction to the Mahimāmṛta. Actualy, our beloved author and acharya of Braja-vasa-sadhana wants us to focus more and more clearly on the actual secret-most treasure of Braja Dham, which is the union of the Divine Couple in Radha’s kunj.
In the previous verse, Prabodhananda listed the hierarchy of Dhams of the Lord and stated that they could all be found in Vrindavan. But now he makes it clear that Radha’s kunja is at the top of all these. “All the others” in the verse refers to those listed in the previous verse.
As we have seen in the commentary to the previous verse also, the establishment of hierarchies is the entire task of the Hindu religious or theological literature. The basic question is, “What is the Absolute Truth?” The Upanishads and Vedantins make, “Not this” or radical doubt their rule of thumb. Since the Absolute Truth cannot be defined, it is turned into a kind of ethereal fundamental substance that pervades all things, including consciousness, and is characterized by the peace that comes with the reduction to nothingness.
The Vaishnava acharyas, whose philosophical premise is, “Not this not this.” In other words, “No, there is something real. Because the Absolute Truth is defined as rasa. And rasa, even though fleeting, has a certain eternal staying power that cannot be reduced to temporal phenomena.”
Rasa is equated with happiness. The happiness of peace exists within rasa, but rasa is so much more than peace. This fits with the criterion mentioned in the previous verse — the essential qualities of each established higher happiness must be contained within the highest happiness. The highest happiness must be all-inclusive.
And finally rasa, which is happiness, is love, prema. Therefore, the perfection of rasa is the perfection of prema, and the sādhanā of rasa is the sādhanā of prema. The understanding of rasa is, therefore, a part of sambandha-tattva, not prayojana-tattva, where it is primarily being experienced. It is sambandha-tattva in the realm of prema. How do we know? Because it is constantly telling us how this tattva of Vrindavan Prema is at the pinnacle of possible human experience.
So the hierarchy is not expressed only in terms of a certain image, like Radha’s kunj, where she and Krishna are eternally united, but also in the description of the devotee:
dhanyo loke mumukṣur hari-bhajana-paro dhanya-dhanyas tato’sau
dhanyo yaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāmbuja-rati-paramo rukmiṇīśa-priyo’taḥ |
yāśodeya-priyo’taḥ subala-suhṛd ato gopī-kānta-priyo’taḥ
śrīmad-vṛndāvaneśvary-atirasa-vivaśārādhakaḥ sarva-mūrdhni ||
Fortunate in this world are those who aspire for liberation;
Yet more fortunate are those who have dedicated themselves to Lord Hari’s worship:
More fortunate than they are those who have become attached to Sri Krishna’s lotus feet.
And those who love Rukmiṇī‘s king are above even them.
Those dear to the son of Yashoda, those who are friends to Subal’s friend,
and then those who love the Lord, lover of the gopīs,
are each more fortunate than the previous.
Yet, standing at the head of all devotees in the creation are those who worship Him,
whose thoughts have been washed away by the flood of sacred rapture emanating
from the daughter of King Vrishabhanu (VMA 2.34)
Since it has now been established that the science of Braja bhakti is the science of love and happiness, let us go straight to Radha’s kunj to see what is the essence of prema and rasa. Prabodhananda significantly mentions here in this verse is the phrase ādyo bhāvaḥ:
śyāmam eva paraṁ rūpaṁ purī madhupurī varā |
vayaḥ kaiśorakaṁ dhyeyamādya eva paro rasaḥ ||
Black Shyama’s form of all is best; Of his dhams, Braj outdoes the rest;
Contemplate Krishna in his youth; the original rasa is rasa’s highest truth. (Padyāvali 82)
“Love in its purest and most perfect form” means that this is the archetypal and original essence of love as it exists in the Divine Couple, the source from which all love expands, just as the universe is created from a “big bang”, which contained everything in potential, that original image of love’s potentiality is there in Radha’s kunj.