Q: How do we understand the quotes that many of our acaryas pull from the various Puranas about the glories of the dhama?
First you have to accept and understand that there are a few different types of statements in śāstra. Some of them are literal information. Others are analogs / analogies. Others are motivational. Others are told through fiction. You have to check the context of the statement to know whether it is a part of a literal, figurative, motivational, or fictional (etc) conversation.
Knowing this, you should be able to make sense of what you’ve quoted below.
Motivational statements are not “incorrect” nor are they “exaggerations” they are simply motivational and phrased in a way that highlights our ability to actually achieve a goal.
Q: To quote a few examples that I’ve seen in Sri-Rupa’s Mathura-Mahatmya:
“The bliss at the stage of prema, which is rarely obtained even by serving all the holy places in the 3 worlds, is available just by touching Mathura.” – (quoted in BRS 1.2.212).
How is this so? Many people touch Mathura, but how many got prema in doing so? Also, I thought that prema could only be acheived by mercy or sadhana? Is this one way it is achieved by mercy? Simply by touching the dhama?
You say that many people touch Mathura. This is similar to saying that many people chant “Hare Krishna.” The truth however, is that practically no one truly chants “Hare Krishna” and practically known even knows what Mathurā is, what to speak of actually touching it.
It requires Sādhana to be able to touch Mathurā. Otherwise we only contact dhāma-abhāsa, or aparādhā-dhāma.
But the statement highlights the fact that even touching the abhāsa of the dhāma will strongly incline one to sādhana, which will then eventually allow one to touch the śuddha-dhāma, and thereby gain these results.
“One who, going to Mathura only on business, and takes a bath there becomes free from all sins and goes to the spiritual world.” – (quoted in Mathura-mahatmya verse 11)
Is this and many other quotes like it, to entice those materialistic persons in search of dissolving sins to reside in Mathura, so that they may make further advancement in devotion to the Lord?
No, it means that even if you don’t go there for a non-spiritual reason you get a spiritual result. It is phrased to make it seem like the result is immediate and effortless. In truth the result is that you become inclined towards bhakti-sādhana, and through that attain the results mentioned. So it is not an exaggeration, but it is phrased in a way to make us want to go to Mathurā. It is motivational.
“Mathura, where Lord Hari stayed, and where no sin can enter, is supremely opulent” – (quoted in MM verse 72)
Why does it state that no sins enter Mathura, if there is a section previous to this titled, “Mathura Removes the Sins Performed There” (verses 23-28)? Plus, sinful people appear to be in Mathura now, as well as in the past. Is their a difference in the Mathura spoken of in this statement, as opposed to that other section?
No impurity exists in the śuddha-dhāma Mathurā. Contact with the abhāsa-dhāma inclines one to behavior which removes impurity and thereby reveals the śuddha-dhāma.
“The deaf, dumb, blind, foolish, and they who have no austerity or sense-control, who in the course of time die in Mathura, go to Lord Visnu’s palace.” (quoted in the Mathura-mahatmya verse 100)
What if we don’t want to go to Visnuloka, or go to the Vaikuntha planets and attain a four-armed form (verse 103)? Are we forced to go anyways, if we don’t have an intensified specific attraction to be like one of the inhabitants of Vraja?
Vraja is also a Vaikuṇṭha. It is the supreme Vaikuṇṭha.
By contact with Mathurā we become inclined to develop specific attachment to Krishna, practice Rāga-sādhana, and attain the supreme Vaikuṇṭha.
Q: what is the difference between Goloka and Gokula?
Sometimes the word Goloka can specifically mean the eternal Goloka in Vaikuntha and Gokula can be used to refer to the manifestation on earth. But this is just conventional meaning. In essence the terms are identical (as are the “eternal” and “earthly” Goloka).
Q: How should we exist at the dhama? How to prepare for that existence?
Saturate yourself in Krishna-nāma. Remain dressed always in it. Then you can enter the dhāma. The nāma should be supported by discussion of Krishna’s form, qualities and pastimes. Drench yourself in that. Then you can touch the dhāma, or hope to.
Vraja Kishor (www.vrajakishor.com)