When Kṛṣṇa was starting for Mathurā on the chariot driven by Akrūra and the gopīs were blocking the way, Kṛṣṇa assured them that He was coming back just after finishing His business in Mathurā. He told them not to be overwhelmed and in this way pacified them. But when He failed to come back with Nanda Mahārāja, it appeared that He either cheated them or could not keep His promise. Expert devotees, however, have decided that Kṛṣṇa was neither a cheater nor a breaker of promises. Kṛṣṇa, in His original identity, returned with Nanda Mahārāja and stayed with the gopīs and mother Yaśodā in His bhāva expansion. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma remained in Mathurā not in Their original forms but in Their expansions as Vasudeva and Saṅkarṣaṇa. The real Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were in Vṛndāvana in Their bhāva manifestation, whereas in Mathurā They appeared in the prabhava and vaibhava expansions. This is the expert opinion of advanced devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Externally, however, They were absent from Vṛndāvana. Therefore, when Nanda Mahārāja was preparing to return to Vṛndāvana, there was some discussion between him and the boys concerning how they could live in separation. The conclusion to separate was reached by mutual agreement.
Vasudeva and Devakī, who happened to be the real parents of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, wanted to keep Them now because of the death of Kaṁsa. While Kaṁsa was alive, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were kept under the protection of Nanda Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana. Now, naturally, the father and mother of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma wanted Them to remain, specifically for the reformatory function of purification, the sacred thread ceremony. They also wanted to give Them a proper education, for this is the duty of the father. Another consideration was that all the friends of Kaṁsa outside Mathurā were planning to attack Mathurā. For that reason also Kṛṣṇa’s presence was required. Kṛṣṇa did not want Vṛndāvana disturbed by enemies like Dantavakra and Jarāsandha. If Kṛṣṇa were to go to Vṛndāvana, these enemies would not only attack Mathurā but would go on to Vṛndāvana, and the peaceful inhabitants of Vṛndāvana would be disturbed. Kṛṣṇa therefore decided to remain in Mathurā, and Nanda Mahārāja went back to Vṛndāvana. Although the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana felt separation from Kṛṣṇa, the resulting ecstasy (bhāva) caused them to perceive that Kṛṣṇa was always present with them by His līlā, or pastimes.
Since Kṛṣṇa had departed from Vṛndāvana and gone to Mathurā, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, especially mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the gopīs and the cowherd boys, were simply thinking of Kṛṣṇa at every step. They were thinking, “Here Kṛṣṇa was playing in this way. Here Kṛṣṇa was blowing His flute. Kṛṣṇa was joking with us in this way, and Kṛṣṇa was embracing us like this.” This is called līlā-smaraṇa, and it is the process of association with Kṛṣṇa most recommended by great devotees; even Lord Caitanya, when He was at Purī, enjoyed līlā-smaraṇa association with Kṛṣṇa. Those in the most exalted position of devotional service and ecstasy can live with Kṛṣṇa always by remembering His pastimes. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has given us a transcendental literary work entitled Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, which is full with Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Exalted devotees can remain absorbed in Kṛṣṇa-thought by reading such books. Any book of kṛṣṇa-līlā, even this book, Kṛṣṇa, or our Teachings of Lord Caitanya, is actually solace for devotees feeling separation from Kṛṣṇa.
That Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma did not return to Vṛndāvana can be adjusted as follows: They did not break Their promise to return to Vṛndāvana, nor were They absent, but Their presence was necessary in Mathurā.
In the meantime, Uddhava, a cousin-brother of Kṛṣṇa’s, came to see Kṛṣṇa from Dvārakā. He was the son of Vasudeva’s brother and was almost the same age as Kṛṣṇa. His bodily features resembled Kṛṣṇa’s almost exactly. After Kṛṣṇa returned from His teacher’s home, He was pleased to see Uddhava, who happened to be His dearmost friend. Kṛṣṇa wanted to send him to Vṛndāvana with a message to the residents to pacify their deep feelings of separation.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.11), ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: Kṛṣṇa is very responsive. He responds in proportion to the devotee’s advancement in devotional service. Thus, as the gopīs were thinking of Kṛṣṇa in separation twenty-four hours a day, so Kṛṣṇa was also always thinking of the gopīs, mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja and the other residents of Vṛndāvana. Although He appeared to be away from them, He could understand how they were transcendentally aggrieved, and so He immediately wanted to send Uddhava to give them a message of solace.
Uddhava is described as the most exalted personality in the Vṛṣṇi dynasty, being almost equal to Kṛṣṇa. He was a great friend of Kṛṣṇa’s, and being the direct student of Bṛhaspati, the teacher and priest of the heavenly planets, he was very intelligent and sharp in decision. Intellectually, he was highly qualified. Kṛṣṇa, being his very loving friend, wanted to send him to Vṛndāvana just to study the highly elevated ecstatic devotional service practiced there. Even if one is highly elevated in material education and is even the disciple of Bṛhaspati, he still has to learn from the gopīs and the other residents of Vṛndāvana how to love Kṛṣṇa to the highest degree. It was Kṛṣṇa’s special favor to Uddhava to send him to Vṛndāvana with a message for the residents there, which was meant to pacify them.