In Anuccheda 56 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami brings out the concept that Bhagavān’s personal form [meaning His personal service] is the ultimate end of all that is to be aspired for. Śrī Babaji’s commentary on this Anuccheda explains the rationale for why loving Kṛṣṇa is the highest goal as explained below.
Everyone loves their self above everything else
This is a simple truth that everyone can agree on. In the Bṛhad Araṇyaka Upaniṣad, Yājñavalkya instructs Matreyī as follows:
न वा अरे पत्युः कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति आत्मनस्तु कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति।
It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that the husband is loved, but for the sake of the self that he is loved. (B.A.U. 4.5.6)
Everyone loves the self. As everyone identifies the self with their body, everyone loves the body. To the extent that others are favorable to one’s body, such as children, relatives or friends, to that extent they are lovable. Conversely, those that are threats to the body are despised.
And yet, the real self is the ātmā and not the body. It is only because one mistakes the body for the self that one loves the body. Hypothetically speaking, if someone identified their self with an external object, say a cell phone, then that would be the dearest object to them. One can therefore conclude that one loves the body only because it is mistaken for the self, and one actually loves the self, which is the ātmā.
Thus Vidura gives advice to Dhṛṭarāṣṭra in the Mahābhārata that the whole world can be given up for the self i.e. ātmā –
त्यजेत् कुलार्थं पुरुषं ग्रामस्यार्थे कुलं त्यजेत्
ग्रामं जनपदस्यार्थे आत्मार्थे पृथिवीं त्यजेत्।
One may give up a family member to save the family, and abandon a family for the sake of the village. One can renounce a village for the sake of the nation, but one must be prepared to sacrifice the entire earth for the sake of the self (ātmā). (MB 5.37.17)
Kṛṣṇa is the Self of all selves and therefore He is the most beloved
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the source of the self. Thus, He is the dearest of the dear. This is the reason love for Him is the highest goal. He Himself instructs this to Brahmā –
अहं आत्मात्मनां धातः प्रेष्ठः सन् प्रेयसामपि
अतो मयि रतिं कुर्याद् देहादिर् यत्कृते प्रियः।
O creator of the world! I am the Self of every self and the dearest of all that is beloved. Therefore, love is meant for Me, on account of whom the body and everything else are dear. (SB 3.9.42)
The above principle is beautifully illustrated in the tenth canto of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which describes the Brahmā-vimohana līlā- the līlā of the bewilderment of Brahmā. Brahmā stole calves and cowherd boys in Vraja to trick Kṛṣṇa. However, Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself to replace every one of them in perfect detail as explained in chapter 13 of the tenth canto –
यावद् वत्सपवत्सकाल्पकवपुर्यावत् कराङ्घ्र्यादिकं
यावद् यष्टिविषाणवेणुदलशिग् यावद् विभूषाम्बरम् ।
यावच्छीलगुणाभिधाकृतिवयो यावद् विहारादिकं
सर्वं विष्णुमयं गिरोऽङ्गवदज: सर्वस्वरूपो बभौ ।।
The unborn Lord took the forms of every one of the boys and the calves, even the smallest of them, with the exact same hands, feet and other physical features, carrying the exact same sticks, horns, flutes and lunch bags, the same clothes and ornaments, the same personalities, qualities, appearance and age, and with the same activities and gestures, as if to show the truth of the statement that everything in the universe is nothing but Śrī Viṣṇu. (SB 10.13.19)
The chapter further describes how the older gopīs and the cows felt intense love for their children and calves, and this love kept on increasing without limit. They were completely unaware that Kṛṣṇa had taken the forms of their children as He had replicated the forms in perfect detail. And yet, they loved their children more than they had ever loved them before. Why was this?
Upon hearing this story, Parīkṣit Mahāraja asked why the gopīs felt such love for Kṛṣṇa [in the form of their children], which they did not feel for their own children. Śukadeva Goswami answered with seven verses (SB 10.14.50-56), out of which Śrī Jīva quoted verse 10.14.55 in Anuccheda 56 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha:
जगद्धिताय सोSप्यत्र देहीवाभाति मायया ।
You should know this Kṛṣṇa to be the Self of all selves. For the benefit of the world, He appears here just like an embodied being by the influence of His māyā.
The gopīs were filled with love for Kṛṣṇa. Their love for Him was more than they loved their very own selves. This is why they loved Him more than their own children even though He was in the form of their own children. Their love remained unobstructed by their lack of awareness that their children were actually Kṛṣṇa.
- We love the body the most.
- We love the body only because we mistake it for the real self, which is the ātmā. We should therefore aspire to realize the ātmā.
- But Kṛṣṇa is the self of the self (ātmā of the ātmā). Therefore we should aspire to love Kṛṣṇa, who is the reason we love our self (the ātmā). In fact, we should aspire to love Him more than our own selves, and this is the symptom of uttama-bhakti.