In the preliminary phase, the suffering of the separated one—the virahini—was acute, but in time, as a very consequence of this suffering, she achieved salvation. The intensity ofRadha’s longing was so great and the concentration of all her reflexes on the object of desire so sustained that she became one with the object itself. Radha, separated from Krishna, became Krishna. She achieved oneness with him (aikya), a state of blissful absorption in him (tanmayate).
The absence of Krishna did not however render him, in the eyes of the gopis, an abstraction. Their recollection of him may have acquired philosophical overtones, qualitatively different from the passion aroused in the rasa, but it was not a recollection deprived of the colour of his personality. The realization that he, as the personification of the infinite, was accessible even in his absence may have dawned, but this did not mean that his being had become attributeless, or that the appeal of his personality in the form that they knew it, had ceased to have relevance. The vision of the gopis sought to define the Lord in terms of their own experience. It was a vision that brought them into the larger arena of the basic debate in Hindu philosophy: What is the nature of the Absolute?
Surdas and Nandadas (1533-83), two luminaries of the Bhakti movement, adroitly used the viraha of the gopis to project the ideological superiority of the devotional mode of worship of a personal god. The Bhagavata had mentioned that Krishna, soon after reaching Mathura, sent Uddhava, one of his most trusted friends, to Vrindavan to console his grieving parents and the suffering gopis. Uddhava sought to fulfill this task by urging Nanda, Yasoda and the gopis not to grieve over Krishna’s identifiable form as they had known it. The way to overcome this grief, Uddhava said, was by concentrating solely on the acquisition of knowledge of Krishna’s metaphysical reality.
‘Nanda, think on him as the Parabrahman/ Uddhava gently prodded, ‘and not as your son. If you do that you will realize that he has no feelings like an ordinary man has. He is beyond the feelings. No one is dear to him and he hates no one. He has no desires and he has no likes and dislikes. He is not attached to anyone or anything. To him no one is high and neither does he consider anyone to be low. Equality and inequality do not exist for him. He has no motlier: no father: no wife or children. He has no friends nor has he enemies. He is not confined by a body and so he has no birth or death.’
The gopis were sceptical. The memory of Krishna amidst them was, as yet, too overwhelming for them to accept the detached philosophical rationalization of Uddhava. In this early phase of their viraha, their pain had also a sharp tinge of anger at the way in which Krishna had abandoned them. They had heard of Krishna’s liaison with Kubja in Mathura, and seeing Uddhava, they gave full vent to their spleen.
Lovers abandon the women they have loved like a veshya (prostitute] does a man who has no wealth: like subjects abandon the king who is impure: like students give up their teachers after they have learnt everything from them . . . like birds desert a tree which is stripped of its fruits: like guests take leave of the house where they have had their food: like a deer runs away from the forest which is burnt in a fire . ..