The commentaries on SB 2.7.31 by Viśvanātha and Prabhupāda are very interesting to compare. The verse itself is
nandaḿ ca mokṣyati bhayād varuṇasya pāśād
gopān bileṣu pihitān maya-sūnunā ca
ahny āpṛtaḿ niśi śayānam atiśrameṇa
lokaḿ vikuṇṭham upaneṣyati gokulaḿ sma
He freed Nanda, his father, from the fearful noose of Varuṇa; and freed the cowherd boys from the caves that Maya’s son locked them in. When all of Gokula lay down at night, so exhausted from working hard throughout the day, he showed them Vaikuṇṭha.
It’s interesting that this verse, which starts by saying how Krishna freed his father from ropes, comes right after the previous verse, which was about how Krishna’s mother couldn’t bind him with ropes. It is impossible to overestimate how beautifully cinematic and artistically exquisite Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is. We who are born without knowledge of Sanskrit and its cultural context are really disadvantaged by birth – we should frankly admit. Those who have direct access to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam are potentially the most fortunate beings in existence.
Anyway, the part I intended to post about…
ahny āpṛtaḿ niśi śayānam atiśrameṇa
This is the part that says “during the day, working, at night, sleeping, so exhausted” [literal translation]. Viśvanātha’s commentary is that this refers directly to what happened after Nanda was arrested by Varuṇa. Krsna entered the waters, and the rest of Gokula spent the whole day looking everywhere in extreme distress for Krishna and his father. After they were completely exhausted, they collapsed at night – then Krishna and Nanda emerged again from Varuṇa’s realm and came of from the waters. Krishna encouraged everyone by showing them Gokula’s Vaikuṇṭha majesties.
Following the previous verse, this verse keeps the same theme – how the sweet, intimate affection of the Vrajavāsīs is so powerful that it overwhelms and subsums the awareness of Krishna’s majesty, which they do certainly possess (previous verse showed Yaśoda Mātā fully aware that all of existence was within her child, this verse shows all of Gokula fully aware that all of Vaikuṇṭha is within Vṛndāvana).
Prabhupāda’s translation and purport comes from a different angle, very interesting. He makes the point that the residents of Gokula were working hard day and night for Krishna – they were not practicing yoga or studying scriptures or even doing Bhakti-Sādhana. But because their activities were already at the highest level of Krishna consciousness (giving 200% of their energy constantly to pleasing Krishna), they attain the highest spiritual revelations.
ISKCON members would certainly be tempted to misuse this purport to justify the “Work now, samadhī later” abuse. Certainly it will appeal to the idea that, we just have to work hard for Srila Prabhupada there is no need to concentrate on bhajan, on sadhana. However, I have to point out my opinion that this is a ludicrous metaphor resulting from latent sahajiya outlooks. It is cheap (sahajiya) to equate ones own daily activities with the eternally liberated activities of the eternally liberated Vrajavāsīs. Our activities of managing affairs in ISKCON are heavily mixed with our own karmic propensities. Our activities of studying scripture are similarly heavily mixed with our own propensities to become wealthy in knowledge for the purpose of being promoted to positions of respect and command. We cannot say that our busy-ness is equal to the business of the Vraja Vasis. It is offensive. We need – urgently – to practice bhakti-sādhanas so that one day we can be fit to absorb the compassionate mercy of the Vrajavāsī nitya-siddhas. This must scrupulously be understood and no compromise should be allowed – in my opinion, for whatever it may be worth.
Śrīla Prabhupada and Śrīla Viśvanātha say that the Vrajavāsīs worked all day trying to find Krishna. Let us follow that example.