These devotional biographies recount the lives and songs of the Ashta Chaap poets of Braj. For these 16th c. poets, Shri Krishna was not an image, but the living Supreme Being. Their poems reveal the intimate divine plays of the Lord as well as the greatness of the Lord, guru, and fellow practitioners, and are like mantras able to evoke the seed devotion and yield the divine fruit of bhava realization. For the exceptional, bhava-inspired soul, Krishna Lila can be experienced anytime and anywhere. For the rest of us, the bhava of accomplished ones like the Ashta Chaap should be relished and emulated.
The Ashta Chaap poets display a rare combination of artistic perfection, renunciation, and passionate devotion. Their lives and songs enhance even Shri Krishna’s flavor. For hundreds of years, their songs have been sung, their life accounts told and retold in the homes of devotional practitioners all over India. How this nectar is dispersed was forecasted by the Ashta Chaap poet Paramanandadas:
Upon seeing Shri Radha’s full moon face,
an ocean of bliss swells in Krishna’s body
and overflows into Vraj and Vrindavan.
Here, it is stopped by the Yamuna River,
and there, by the Gopis.
A little of the remaining nectar is spread
throughout the three worlds,
but it never touches the practitioners
on the paths of action and knowledge.
It remains within the hearts of those
who savor the highest mood.
They slowly take it all in,
through the power of their intelligence.
Krishna makes such lilas every moment
for the sake of His bhaktas.
By the grace of Nanda’s son,
a bit of this nectar flow can be seen
in those who have contact with Supreme Bliss.
Shri Krishna loves to steal butter, soft like our most tender emotions. He is the divine Thief who may return at any moment, even now in the twenty-first century, and sweeten our lives with His love-provoking antics. It is the sincere hope of the author that the Ashta Chaap poets’ inspirations will seep into these pages and creep into the hearts of the readers.
Hardcover, 400 pp