The means for returning home, for going back to Godhead, is devotional service, but everyone has a different taste in the Lord’s service. One may be inclined to serve the Lord in servitude (dāsya-rasa), fraternity (sakhya-rasa) or parental love (vātsalya-rasa), but none of these can enable one to enter into the service of the Lord in conjugal love. To attain such service, one has to follow in the footsteps of the gopīs in the ecstasy of sakhī-bhāva. Then only can one understand the transcendental mellow of conjugal love.
In the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (Sakhī-prakaraṇa 1), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī advises:
- samyag vistārikā sakhī
- viśrambha-ratna-peṭī ca
One who expands the conjugal love of Kṛṣṇa and His enjoyment among the gopīs is called a sakhī. Such a person is a confidential gopī in the conjugal affairs. Such assistants are like jewels in the form of Kṛṣṇa’s confidantes. The actual business of the sakhīs is described thus in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (Sakhī-prakaraṇa 88-91):
- mithaḥ prema-guṇotkīrtis tayor āsakti-kāritā
- abhisāro dvayor eva sakhyāḥ kṛṣṇe samarpaṇam
- narmāśvāsana-nepathyaṁ hṛdayodghāṭa-pāṭavam
- chidra-saṁvṛtir etasyāḥ paty-ādeḥ parivañcanā
- śikṣā saṅgamanaṁ kāle sevanaṁ vyajanādibhiḥ
- tayor dvayor upālambhaḥ sandeśa-preṣaṇaṁ tathā
- nāyikā-prāṇa-saṁrakṣā prayatnādyāḥ sakhī-kriyāḥ
In the conjugal pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa is the hero (nāyaka), and Rādhikā is the heroine (nāyikā). The first business of the gopīs is to chant the glories of both the hero and the heroine. Their second business is to gradually create a situation in which the hero may be attracted to the heroine and vice versa. Their third business is to induce both of Them to approach each other. Their fourth business is to surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, the fifth is to create a jovial atmosphere, the sixth to give Them assurance to enjoy Their pastimes, the seventh to dress and decorate both hero and heroine, the eighth to show expertise in expressing Their desires, the ninth to conceal the faults of the heroine, the tenth to cheat their respective husbands and relatives, the eleventh to educate, the twelfth to enable the hero and heroine to meet at the proper time, the thirteenth to fan the hero and heroine, the fourteenth to sometimes reproach the hero and heroine, the fifteenth to set conversations in motion, and the sixteenth to protect the heroine by various means.
Some materialistic sahajiyās who cannot actually understand the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa manufacture their own life-styles without referring to authority. Such sahajiyās are called sakhī-bhekī, and sometimes they are called gaura-nāgarī. They believe that the material body, which is fit to be eaten by jackals and dogs, is enjoyable for Kṛṣṇa. Consequently they artificially decorate the material body to attract Kṛṣṇa, thinking themselves sakhīs. But Kṛṣṇa is never attracted by the artificial grooming of the material body. As far as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Her gopīs are concerned, their bodies, homes, dresses, ornaments, endeavors and activities are all spiritual. All of these are meant to satisfy the spiritual senses of Kṛṣṇa. Indeed, they are so pleasing and endearing to Kṛṣṇa that He is subjugated by the influence of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Her friends. They have nothing to do with anything mundane within the fourteen planetary systems of the universe. Although Kṛṣṇa is attractive to everyone, He is nonetheless attracted by the gopīs and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
One should not be misled by mental concoctions, supposing his material body to be perfect and deeming oneself a sakhī. This is something like ahaṅgrahopāsanā, that is, a Māyāvādī’s worship of his own body as the Supreme. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has cautioned mundaners to abstain from such conceptions. He also warns that thinking oneself one of the associates of the Supreme without following in the footsteps of the gopīs is as offensive as thinking oneself the Supreme. Such thinking is an aparādha. One has to practice living in Vṛndāvana by hearing about the talks of the gopīs with Kṛṣṇa. However, one should not consider himself a gopī, for this is offensive.