Gopaldas' Vallabhakhyan is a lila praise of Shri Krishna and the great 16th century bhakti masters Shrimad Vallabhacharya and his son Shri Vitthalnathji. Gopal, a mute child until Shri Vitthalnathji dropped his chewed betal nut into his mouth, sang these nine impromptu praises, each one a devotional ecstasy. They are precious evidence of Gopaldas' realization and his lila insights. Sung by millions of practitioners, these higher tastes of the enlightened bhakta have been sensitively translated into English by Shri Shyamdasji, a practitioner of the Pushti tradition for over twenty-five years. This text has been supplemented with notes and historical background, as well as the original text and its transliteration.
Shyamdas was born in Connecticut, USA, on February 11, 1953, as Stephen Schaffer. When he was eighteen, he journeyed to India in search of the well-known saint, Neem Karoli Baba. He found Mabarajji in Vrindavan and them fell in love with the Vraja area, the site of Radha & Krisbna's lilas. Shyamdas then studied with many bhakti yoga teachers in that enchanted place and took bhakti initiation from His Holiness Shri Goswami Prathameshji, one of the most respected descendants of vallabhacharya. Shyamdas has written numerous books about the path of Grace and has translated devotional materiel from Braja Bhasha, Hindi, Gujarat, and Sanskri. He presently divides his time between Vrindavan and the United States, where he teaches, sings and continued to write on the Blessed Path of Devotion.
Gokul, the village of Shri Krishna's childhood, is nestled on the banks of the Yamuna River in Braja, the land of Vrindavan, the playground of God that is so highly praised in the pages to follow. The regions of Braja embrace those areas associated with the cow-herding and dairy-maid loving of Shri Krishna. The Dark God Shri Krishna is both the darling son of Yashoda as well as the Lord of accomplished Yogis.
He is the source of creation and most often referred to in poetic devotional texts as the beloved of the renowned Gopis, the Svaminis of Vrindavan.
Besides the holy sands of the land, the Goverdhan Hill and the meandering Yam una River, that which has brought me to this region for the past twenty-five years is the association I have found with saints and bhaktas who have also been drawn to this amazing land.
"Satsang" is "pure association". It is to have the company of, dialogue and exchange with other kindred types. The mere contact with such souls can create a spiritual renaissance. That spiritual renaissance is not easily awakened through other practices. The tradition of "satsang" prevails in the Braja region. This has been my draw to Gokul where much of my time has been spent in small rooms behind crumbling palace walls; "satsang" is hidden from the public. It is tucked away from the loudspeakers and pan shops of the bazaar. The spirit of "satsang" is infectious and obstacles such as no running water, scant electricity, extreme weather and notoriously bothersome monkeys are all a pittance to pay for the fine spiritual fellowship I have found here.
"Satsang" is not merely a recitation of a holy text. It arises when the speaker and the listener have arrived at the same karmic point and share similar spiritual addictions. In "satsang" they glow. For a bhakta, the moments spent in "satsang" are the precious moments of life.
The mood of "satsang" is one of divine fantasy tempered with sacred imagination. It is always original and devoid of caprice or shallow whim. It emulates the enlightened bhakti lineage and like a soaked cloth dampens a dry one, "satsang" drenches one heart and then another with devotional elixir.
I have spent many years in this pilgrim guest house, listening to the "satsang" of the bhaktas who live downstairs. The monkey- bars between their rooms and mine are the only barriers between us. The sweet fragrance of their bhakti-soaked voices wafts into my room at about 4:30am and continues throughout the day into the late night. These voices have nourished me. They have been my inspiration for undertaking the translation of Gopaldas' 16th century Shri Vallabhakhyan, originally composed in Gujarati. When you hear something that is refined, uplifting and lyrical repeated again and again, it takes effect even if you don't grasp its total meaning.
The Vallabhakhyan is recited by the bhaktas downstairs every evening. It is then, while hearing their "raga" that I look up towards the Vrindavan sky, where Shri Krishna resides as the moon, and I taste a bit of what they have been living. If a small portion of that essence appears in this work, then my efforts in this joyful undertaking have been well spent.
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