Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj describes how the Vraja-gopīs sing in separation.
Devotee: Mahārāj, you said that the phrase tapta-jīvanam has many meanings.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj:
kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham
śravaṇa-maṅgalaṁ śrīmad ātataṁ
bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ
Tapta means burned. Burning is of different types: from even the ordinary to the highest degree. In the verse ātmārāmāś cha munayo (SB: 1.7.10), the word ātmārāmāḥ has different meanings: those who take pleasure in the body, in the intelligence, in the soul, and so on. There is a gradation. Even an ordinary man who is suffering in separation after the death of his son feels some satisfaction if he hears Kṛṣṇa’s kathāmṛta [nectarean words].
Kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham: the poets say that Kṛṣṇa-kathā does away with kalmaṣa, our sins, but the positive side is ignored by them. Why should we only go to clear away dust? There are higher and higher positive attainments. Kavibhir means Brahmādibhir, Vyāsādibhir [Brahmā, Vyāsa, and other authors of Vedic literature]. So kalmaṣāpaham [the destruction of sin] does not only refer to ordinary sins.
Through Kṛṣṇa-kathāmṛta, that is also finished, and one can arise into pure devotion.
Śravaṇa-maṅgalam: when we get a touch of Kṛṣṇa-kathāmṛta, real benefit, real good begins to awaken within us. Śreyaḥ kairava chandrikā vitaraṇa (Cc: Antya, 20.12) [“Kṛṣṇa-kathāmṛta shines moonlight on the evening lotus of our good fortune.”]
Śrīmad ātatam can mean bhaktimadbhiḥ ātatam: the devotee becomes madly engaged in their service. Śrīla Sanātan Goswāmī has perhaps given śrīmadbhiḥ as bhaktimadbhiḥ. Śrī can mean different types of wealth, and ultimately it means prema-sampadbhiḥ [the wealth of divine love]. So, in general, it means that in all stages of life, souls flock together around Kṛṣṇa for His connection.
Tava kathāmṛtaṁ tapta-jīvanam: here the gopīs say, “We are suffering. We are burned by Your separation. It is Your creation, but You are the cure. We are suffering from pangs of separation. They have been created by You, but Your kathāmṛta gives us life and sustenance. We are eager to hear Your voice from Your lips, Your kathāmṛtam, Your consolation. Then we may feel that we are getting our life back. There is no other medicine for our condition than Your assurance, Your consolation. Only that can save us from these pangs in our burning hearts.
“Kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham: so many poets talk about You, and say that sins are brushed away by Your kathāmṛta, but we do not care for that. In our case, we feel encouragement to commit more sin, to cross the orders of scripture and society (ārya-pathaṁ cha hitvā [SB: 10.47.61: the gopīs forsake the Vedic path]). So the removal of sin is not applicable in our case. We find that our kalmaṣa, sins, are increasing. Our relatives tell us this. The poets have said that Your kathāmṛta removes sins, but that is simply their imagination. We find that it produces the opposite result within us.
“Śravaṇa-maṅgalam: ‘When we listen to Your sweet words, we have much hope.’ This is said. Many say they get bright hope by hearing from You. This is mentioned in the scriptures, but what sort of good fortune are we getting from it? We only hear that good fortune comes from Your kathāmṛta. Substantially it is not present. With our ears we hear that there will be good fortune, but that is only ear-deep [superficial].
“Śrīmad ātatam: Your kathāmṛta is full of beautiful promises. Those who desire their own best prospect crowd around You on all sides to hear Your consolation speeches.”
sapadi gṛha-kuṭumbaṁ dīnam utsṛjya dīnā
bahava iha vihańgā bhikṣu-charyāṁ charanti
“Śrībhiḥ—Lakṣmībhiḥ, Your soothing and assuring words captivate even Lakṣmī Devī. In comparison to Her, what is our position? You have that fascinating capacity that all are attracted to You.
“Bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ: Your talks, and talk about You, has great, wonderful attraction. You are always surrounded by different persons of high rank. We are told that those in this world who talk about You give the highest thing. But why are You so merciless, so cruel to us? Please give Your company to us.
“Śrīmadbhiḥ ātatam: We were required by You for Your Pastimes, but now You have left us. Perhaps a serving section higher than us has surrounded You. Perhaps they have deceived You and snatched You away from us. Perhaps they have surrounded You, captured You, and taken You away from us. This is Your nature.
“Bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ: we are told that those who give You to the world give the highest thing, that their gift is the highest in the world. They give something more than sufficient, more than enough: ānandāmbuddhi-vardhanam prati pradam pūrṇāmṛtāsvādam (Cc: Antya, 20.12) [“Their gift expands the ocean of ecstasy and is the taste of the highest nectar at every moment.”]
How much can we take? Our demand is very small, and eka bindu jagat ḍubāya (Cc: Anyta, 15.19) [“One drop of it floods the world.”] Rain can inundate an area, but when there is draught, not a drop of water is available. Like clouds, those who speak Your kathāmṛta inundate the world.
In this way the meaning of the verse may be developed.
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gauraharibol.
Tapta-jīvanam: those who are tapta [burned] are of different types. Jīvan [life] is also of different types. The demand of all living beings is not the same. Even the anyābhilāṣīs [enjoyers], karmīs [elevationists], and jñānīs [liberationists] are also captivated by Your connection.
Kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham: there are two types of kavis [poets]: those who use their imagination, and those who are real—the śreṣṭha brāhmāṇs, Vyāsādhibhiḥ [Vyāsadev and the other authors of Vedic literature].
The verse may also be considered from this angle:
So bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ: “Those who distribute You in the world consider that it is enough, but we don’t find it to be so. We feel that You are burning our heart. We feel as though we have drunk poison. If we had never entered this charming area [Your association], it would have been better for us.”
“Tapta-jīvanam: we are suffering to the utmost. Your kathāmṛta was created by Vidhātā [Providence] only to burn the hearts of people like us. We were innocent, but through our fate You have come to us, and now, anyhow, we are burning. Your kathāmṛta it is meant only to burn the lives of others. Upon hearing it, they cannot find any satisfaction anywhere else. It is so. Such a fire is lit within the heart by hearing Your kathāmṛta.” Ha ha.
“We are burning in separation from You, and You are giving us advice from the Vedānta. What permits this? The fate of one who has come in connection with You is doomed. They won’t find even a drop of peace anywhere. Their life is finished.”
This is called vyāja-stuti [apparent praise].
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaurahari Gaurahari Nitāi Gauraharibol.
I heard a song by Ravi Tagore:
tomrā ye balo divasa-rajanī ‘bhālabāsa’ ‘bhālabāsa’—
sakhī, bhālabāsa kāre kaya! se ki kevala‑i yātanāmaya
se ki kevala‑i chokera jala? se ki kevala‑i duḥkhera śvāsa?
loke tabe kare kī sukera‑i tare emana duḥkhera āśa
In Madras, a gentleman came to me and said, “Oh! Your highest ideal is Chaitanyadev?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “At the end of His life, Chaitanyadev only shed tears. He led a disappointed, vacant life, madly searching for His ideal. This is a position of great suffering. Who will go to that side? Who will accept this idea? How miserable was Chaitanyadev’s later life? In disappointment, He was always crying aloud. Is that an ideal life for anyone? Why should we accept it?”
Śrīla Kavirāj Goswāmī mentions:
There is an English poem that comes to my help also: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts”. These expressions describe virahe milan [union in separation].
We are talking about such high things, but who are we?
ataeva tomāya āmāya ha‑i sama-tula
kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham
śravaṇa-maṅgalaṁ śrīmad ātataṁ
bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ
Meaning in general:
“O Lord, narrations of Your nectarean Pastimes are the very life of those who are burning in the miseries of material existence. They are expounded by the greatest poets and destroy all sin. They bestow all good fortune upon anyone who listens to them and are replete with all spiritual power. Those who spread these narrations are the most munificent souls in this world.”
Meaning spoken by the Vraja-gopīs in praise of Kṛṣṇa:
“O Beloved, Your nectarean words are the very life of those whose hearts are afflicted with the burning pain of separation from You. They are praised by connoisseurs of rasa. They destroy the distress of the fever of separation from You. They are most pleasing to the ear and endowed with all spiritual power. Those who chant Your nectarean words are the most munificent souls in this world.”
These two meanings support the vyāja-stuti meaning given by Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj in this article.
“Even those who are satisfied within the self and the sages who are free from all entanglements render unconditional service to the all-powerful Lord. Śrī Hari’s beauty is such.”