Sri Krsna's Vrindavan Associates – Arjuna Sakha
BY: SUN STAFF
Painting by Haridas Thakur das
Feb 24, 2011 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of Sri Krsna's transcendental Vrindavan associates.
Today we continue our series on the transcendental associates of Sri Krsna, beginning with another of the divine personalities who shared the Lord's pastimes in Vrindavan. Like Subala, Ujjvala and Vasanta, Arjuna sakha is also one of the Lord's priya-narma associates – one of His dearmost confidential friends.
"There are other friends who are still more confidential. They are called priya-narma, or intimate friends. Counted among the priya-narma friends are Subala, Arjuna, Gandharva, Vasanta and Ujjvala. There was talk among the friends of Radharani, the gopis, about these most intimate friends. One gopi addressed Radharani thus: "My dear Krsangi [delicate one], just see how Subala is whispering Your message into Krsna's ear, how he is delivering the confidential letter of Syama-dasi silently into Krsna's hand, how he is delivering the betel nuts prepared by Palika into Krsna's mouth, and how he is decorating Krsna with the garland prepared by Taraka. Did you know, my dear friend, that all these most intimate friends of Krsna are always engaged in His service in this way?"
(Nectar of Devotion 41)
The identity of the Vraja cowherd Arjuna is sometimes confused with Arjuna Pandava. The former is usually distinguished by the name 'Arjuna sakha' or 'Arjuna gopa', which helps clarify the pastime in which this divine personality took part. But this doesn't always eliminate confusion because in Bhagavad-Gita, Krsna also addresses his sambandhi devotee Arjuna as 'sakha':
"That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend [me sakha] …" (BG 4.3)
Likewise in Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.43 there is krsna-sakha -- 'O friend of Arjuna'.
There is also the extraordinary subject matter of both Vraja Arjuna-gopa and Arjuna Pandava coming together in the appearance of Ramananda Raya in Caitanya Lila. Srila Prabhupada commented on this in Caitanya-caritamrta and in a lecture on Bhagavad-gita.
As the slokas below illustrate, Ramananda Raya has been described as being an incarnation, co-jointly, of Arjuna-gopa and Arjuna Pandava. He is also said to be an incarnation of Arjuniya-gopi. In addition, there are differing opinions as to whether Ramananda Raya is the incarnation of Lalita-gopi or Visakha-gopi.
Caitanya-caritamrta Adi lila 10.134:
ei panca putra tomara mora priyapatra
ramananda saha mora deha-bheda matra
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu told Bhavananda Raya, "Your five sons are all My dear devotees. Ramananda Raya and I are one, although our bodies are different."
The Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (120-24) states that Ramananda Raya was formerly Arjuna. He is also considered to have been an incarnation of the gopi Lalita, although in the opinion of others he was an incarnation of Visakhadevi. He was a most confidential devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "Although I am a sannyasi, My mind is sometimes perturbed when I see a woman. But Ramananda Raya is greater than Me, for he is always undisturbed, even when he touches a woman." Only Ramananda Raya was endowed with the prerogative to touch a woman in this way; no one should imitate him. Unfortunately, there are rascals who imitate the activities of Ramananda Raya. We need not discuss them further."
Here are the related passages from Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika by Srila Kavi Karnapura:
"120. The cowherd boy Arjuna who was a close friend of the Lord in Vrndavana, and the Pandava Arjuna, both joined to become Ramananda Raya, who was very dear to Lord Caitanya.
121. This exalted personality, Ramanda Raya, for many days described to Lord Caitanya the true nature of pure love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.
122-124 Some say that Ramananda Raya is the incarnation of Lalita-gopi, and others say that because Lord Caitanya directly told Ramananda Raya's father, Bhavananda Raya, that he was the incarnation of Maharaja Pandu, Arjuna's father, therefore Ramananda Raya must be the incarnation of Pandava Arjuna. The most learned devotees say that Ramananda Raya is the incarnation of both the Pandava Arjuna, and a gopi named Arjuniya. This explanation is also supported by the statements of the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda. From all this we may conclude that Ramananda Raya is the incarnation of Lalita-gopi, Arjuniya-gopi, and Pandava Arjuna."
In his lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.5, June 10, 1968 in Montreal, Srila Prabhupada stated:
"There is a book, Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. So somebody says that Arjuna appeared as Ramananda Raya. There is statement, who came, who is who. That you can find out in the book which is known as Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. Gaura-gana, the associates of Lord Caitanya, and who were there, they, in the past. That is mentioned."
Tomorrow we will continue to discuss the identity and transcendental pastimes of Krsna's confidential Vraja friend, Arjuna.
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