Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains a mystery within the Śikṣāṣṭakam.
Śrīla Guru Mahārāj explained the Śikṣāṣṭakam, and I am surprised by his explanation of the very finest point within it: vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam. It is very heavy.
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam
Everything in this verse is understandable except vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam. What does it mean? That is the main thing, and nobody explains it. Everywhere I have looked in Bengali and Sanskrit, it is given as vidyā-vadhū-jīvana-svarūpa: Hari-nām is the life of vidyā-vadhū [‘the wife of knowledge’]). Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur has explained vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam in gist, but in a guarded way. Śrīla Guru Mahārāj has very wisely explained it, and everybody will be interested in that. Nowhere have we seen an explanation like that of Śrīla Guru Mahārāj. But to understand it, the capacity to catch the meaning is necessary. Even if you read The Golden Volcano of Divine Love, you may not understand it. We often say “conjugal love”, but how does that come to us? Interest, heartfelt desire, and hankering for that are necessary. Otherwise, it will not come to us. In Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī wrote,
vyatītya bhāvanā-vartma yaś chamatkāra-bhāra-bhūḥ
hṛdi sattvojjvale bāḍhaṁ svadate sa raso mataḥ
(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: 2.5.132)
What is rasa? First of all, it is inconceivable. Vyatītya bhāvanā-vartma: rasa-loka [the plane of rasa] begins from a level beyond the highest idea of rasa we can form. Yaś chamatkāra-bhāra-bhūḥ: in that plane, we will see the Sweet Absolute playing in transcendental motion within a transcendental environment. There everything is chintāmaṇi. That means everything can immediately supply you with whatever you desire. If you come to a neem tree and think, “I need a mango”, you will receive one. Everything is possible everywhere for everyone there, and there everything is always beautifully set up.
yasyaḥ kadāpi vasanañchala-khelanottha-
yogindra-durgama-gatir madhusūdano ’pi
tasyāḥ namo ’stu vṛṣabhānubhuvo diśe ’pi
When Kṛṣṇa stands with His father and mother and the wind blows through Rādhārāṇī’s sari towards Kṛṣṇa as She walks by, Kṛṣṇa feels, “I am so fortunate to feel this breeze.” In this way, the Sweet Absolute’s play goes on in Vṛndāvan.
When a devotee surrenders, not only surrenders in the ordinary sense, but fully surrenders at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet, then Kṛṣṇa shines the light of prema [divine love] upon them. Kṛṣṇa of Vṛndāvan has no property—nothing to give His devotees—other than prema. Devotees become enlightened by the light of that prema and automatically receive the form of a servitor. There are many classes of servitors, and the highest class are those in conjugal love. Amongst them, the supremely highest class are those in paramour conjugal love, and vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam describes that class.
In Bengali, Sanskrit, and similar languages, when the word vadhū is spoken, it is immediately understood to mean a married girl standing with her face covered in a very happy yet shy mood. Chaṇḍī Dās explained this on the highest level, and one who knows that explanation can immediately catch the meaning vadhū in the Śikṣāṣṭakam.
vayase kiśorī rājāra kumārī tāhe kula-vadhū bālā
(Śrī Chaṇḍī Dāsera Padāvalī: 86.4)
[“Adolescent in age, She is a princess, a chaste, youthful wife.”]
This is from Chaṇḍī Dās’s explanation of Rādhārāṇī’s first pūrva-rāga for Kṛṣṇa. He also described Rādhārāṇī’s experience of hearing Kṛṣṇa’s Name.
kebā sunāila śyāma‑nāma
kānera bhitara diyā marame paśila go
ākula karila mama prāṇa
[Rādhārāṇī: “Who caused Me to hear Śyām’s Name? Entering through My ears into the core of My being, Śyām’s Name has overwhelmed My heart.”]
The wives in Vraja serve their husbands, but internally they always think of their paramour Kṛṣṇa. They always remember Kṛṣṇa’s Pastimes with them, but outwardly they perform their work, maintain their households, and serve their husbands. Śrīman Mahāprabhu described this to Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī,
para-vyasaninī nārī vyagrāpi gṛha-karmasu
tad evāsvādayaty antar nava-saṅga-rasāyanam
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 1.211)
[“Although a wife captivated by a paramour is dedicated to her household duties, she internally relishes the pleasure of her paramour’s association.”]
Mahāprabhu advised Rūpa Goswāmī in Rāmakeli, “Go home, continue your work, and always think of Kṛṣṇa in this way”, and Śrīla Guru Mahārāj interpreted vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam in the same way.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj explains vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam in two instances in The Golden Volcano of Divine Love:
(1) Vidyā-vadhī-jīvanam: the Holy Name prepares us for the wholesale surrender to Kṛṣṇa that is found in conjugal love (madhura-rasa), where the devotees surrender themselves infinitely at the disposal of Kṛṣṇa.
(2) Under the guidance of the svarūp-śakti, the Lord’s internal energy yogamāyā, we come to the vadhū conception: we are potency, we are to serve Kṛṣṇa unconditionally. Vadhū means that rasa which gives full connection with the Lord (madhura-rasa).
In the second passage, yogamāyā, the Lord’s svarūp-śakti, is a gloss of vidyā. Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s description of Kṛṣṇa enlightening a fully surrendered devotee with the light of prema also glosses vidyā [‘knowledge’]. Such enlightenment (revelation of the svarūp-śakti) brings about realisation of one’s eternal form as a vadhū (wife) in Śrī Vraja Dhām. Vadhū is thus understood in the verse not only to suggest that vidyā means śakti, but to indicate that the singular aim in chanting the Holy Name Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s line is service to Kṛṣṇa in madhura-rasa under the guidance of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Her associates led by Lalitā Devī and Śrī Rūpa.
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa‑saṅkīrtanam
“Śrī Kṛṣṇa‑saṅkīrtan cleanses the mirror of consciousness, extinguishes the raging forest fire of material existence, shines moonlight on the evening lotus of good fortune, is the life of those enlightened with paramour love for the Lord, expands the ocean of ecstasy, is the taste of full nectar at every moment, and soothes the entire self. May Śrī Kṛṣṇa‑saṅkīrtan be supremely victorious!”