Kṛṣṇa sometimes played with His intimate friends by engaging in fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball, sometimes by playing chess, sometimes by carrying one another on the shoulders, and sometimes by exhibiting their expertness at whirling logs. And the cowherd friends used to please Kṛṣṇa by sitting together with Him on coaches or on swings, by lying together on their beds, by joking together and by swimming in the pool. All these activities are called anubhāva. Whenever all the friends would assemble in the company of Kṛṣṇa, they would immediately engage in all these functions, especially in dancing together. Regarding their wrestling, one friend once asked Kṛṣṇa, "My dear friend, O killer of the Agha demon, You are very proudly wandering among Your friends trying to exhibit Your arms as very strong. Is it that You are envious of me? I know that You cannot defeat me in wrestling, and I also know that You were sitting idly for a long time because You were hopeless of defeating me."
All the friends were very daring and would risk any difficulty, because they were confident that Kṛṣṇa would help them to be victorious in all adventures. They used to sit together and advise one another what to do, sometimes inducing one another to be engaged in welfare work. Sometimes they would offer betel nuts to one another, decorate one another's faces with tilaka or smear pulp of candana on one another's bodies. Sometimes, for the sake of amusement, they used to decorate their faces in strange ways. Another business of the friends was that each of them wanted to defeat Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes they used to snatch His clothing or snatch away the flowers from His hands. Sometimes one would try to induce another to decorate his body for him, and failing this, they were always ready to fight, challenging one another to combat in wrestling. These were some of the general activities of Kṛṣṇa and His friends.
Another important pastime of the friends of Kṛṣṇa was that they served as messengers to and from the gopīs; they introduced the gopīs to Kṛṣṇa and canvassed for Kṛṣṇa. When the gopīs were in disagreement with Kṛṣṇa, these friends would support Kṛṣṇa's side in His presence—but when Kṛṣṇa was not present, they would support the side of the gopīs. In this way, sometimes supporting one side, sometimes the other, they would talk very privately, with much whispering in the ears, although none of the business was very serious.
The servants of Kṛṣṇa were sometimes engaged in collecting flowers, decorating His body with valuable ornaments and trinkets, dancing before Him, singing, helping Him herd the cows, massaging His body, preparing flower garlands and sometimes fanning His body. These were some of the primary duties of the servants of Kṛṣṇa. The friends and servants of Kṛṣṇa were combined together in serving Him, and all of their activities are known as anubhāva.
When Kṛṣṇa came out from the Yamunā after chastising the Kāliyanāga, Śrīdāmā wanted to embrace Him first, but he could not raise his arms because of his great feeling of respect.
When Kṛṣṇa used to play on His flute, it appeared just like the roaring of clouds in the sky during the constellation of Svāti. According to Vedic astronomical calculation, if there is rain during the constellation of the Svāti star, any rain falling on the sea will produce pearls, and rain falling on a serpent will produce jewels. Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa's flute roared like a thundercloud under the Svāti constellation, the resulting perspiration on Śrīdāmā's body appeared to be just like pearls.
When Kṛṣṇa and Subala were embracing one another, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī became a little envious, and hiding Her hot temperament She said, "My dear Subala, you are very fortunate, because even in the presence of superiors you and Kṛṣṇa have no hesitation in putting your arms on each other's shoulders. I think it must be admitted that in your previous lives you have succeeded in many kinds of austerities." The idea is that although Rādhārāṇī was accustomed to put Her arms on Kṛṣṇa's shoulders, it was not possible for Her to do such a thing in the presence of Her superiors, whereas Subala could do so freely. Rādhārāṇī therefore praised his good fortune.
When Kṛṣṇa entered the lake of Kāliya, His intimate friends became so perturbed that their bodily colors faded, and they all produced horrible gurgling sounds. At that time all of them fell down on the ground as if they were unconscious. Similarly, when there was a forest fire all of Kṛṣṇa's friends neglected their own protection and surrounded Kṛṣṇa on all sides to protect Him from the flames. This behavior of the friends toward Kṛṣṇa is described by thoughtful poets as vyabhicārī. In vyabhicārī ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa there is sometimes madness, dexterity, fear, laziness, jubilation, pride, dizziness, meditation, disease, forgetfulness and humbleness. These are some of the common symptoms in the stage of vyabhicārī ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa.
When there are dealings between Kṛṣṇa and His friends which are completely devoid of any feelings of respect, and they all treat one another on an equal level, such ecstatic love in friendship is called sthāyī. When one is situated in this confidential friendly relationship with Kṛṣṇa, one shows symptoms of love such as attraction, affection, affinity and attachment. An example of sthāyī was exhibited when Arjuna*(4) told Akrūra: "My dear son of Gāndinī, please ask Kṛṣṇa when I shall be able to embrace Him in my arms."
When there is full knowledge of Kṛṣṇa's superiority and yet in dealings with Him on friendly terms respectfulness is completely absent, that stage is called affection. There is one brilliant example of this affection. When the demigods, headed by Lord Śiva, were offering respectful prayers to Kṛṣṇa, describing the glorious opulences of the Lord, Arjuna* stood before Him with his hand on His shoulders and brushed the dust from His peacock feather.
- This Arjuna, living in Vṛndāvana, is different from the friend of the same name to whom Bhagavad-gītā was spoken.
When the Pāṇḍavas were banished by Duryodhana and forced to live incognito in the forest, no one could trace out where they were staying. At that time, the great sage Nārada met Lord Kṛṣṇa and said, "My dear Mukunda, although You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-powerful person, by making friendship with You the Pāṇḍavas have become bereft of their legitimate right to the kingdom of the world—and, moreover, they are now living in the forest incognito. Sometimes they must work as ordinary laborers in someone else's house. These symptoms appear to be very inauspicious materially, but the beauty is that the Pāṇḍavas have not lost their faith and love for You, in spite of all these tribulations. In fact, they are always thinking of You and chanting Your name in ecstatic friendship."
Another example of acute affection for Kṛṣṇa is given in the 10th Canto, 15th Chapter, 15th verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In the pasturing ground Kṛṣṇa felt a little tired and wanted to take rest, so He laid down on the ground. At that time, many cowherd boys assembled there and with great affection began to sing suitable songs so that Kṛṣṇa would rest very nicely.