भवतीनां वियोगो मे न हि सर्वात्मना क्वचित् ।
यथा भूतानि भूतेषु खं वाय्वग्निर्जलं मही ।
तथाहं च मन:प्राणभूतेन्द्रियगुणाश्रय: ॥ २९ ॥
bhavatīnāṁ viyogo me
na hi sarvātmanā kvacit
yathā bhūtāni bhūteṣu
khaṁ vāyv-agnir jalaṁ mahī
tathāhaṁ ca manaḥ-prāṇa-
śrī-bhagavān uvāca — the Supreme Lord said; bhavatīnām — of you women; viyogaḥ — separation; me — from Me; na — is not; hi — indeed; sarva-ātmanā — from the Soul of all existence; kvacit — ever; yathā — as; bhūtāni — the physical elements; bhūteṣu — in all created beings; kham — the ether; vāyu-agniḥ — air and fire; jalam — water; mahī — earth; tathā — so; aham — I; ca — and; manaḥ — of the mind; prāṇa — vital air; bhūta — material elements; indriya — bodily senses; guṇa — and of the primal modes of nature; āśrayaḥ — present as their shelter.
The Supreme Lord said: You are never actually separated from Me, for I am the Soul of all creation. Just as the elements of nature — ether, air, fire, water and earth — are present in every created thing, so I am present within everyone’s mind, life air and senses, and also within the physical elements and the modes of material nature.
According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī, the apparently philosophical language of the Lord’s statement conceals a deeper meaning. The Supreme Lord was secretly telling the gopīs that He, by way of reciprocating their special love for Him, was present with them, not only as the Soul of all creation but also as their special lover. In this sense of the verse, the word guṇa indicates the gopīs’ special divine qualities, which attracted Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the word sarvātmanā, which we have here translated in reference to Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself (corresponding to the word me, which is also in the instrumental case), is also understood in the sense of sarvathā, or “completely.” In other words, although in one sense Lord Kṛṣṇa was absent, He could never be completely absent, since in His spiritual form He is always in the hearts and minds of the gopīs.
In Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and other books, Śrīla Prabhupāda has elaborately explained that the reason Lord Kṛṣṇa separated Himself from the gopīs was to intensify their love for Him and, as Uddhava noted, to bless other devotees by revealing to them the intensity of the gopīs’ love. In fact, the Lord was spiritually present with the gopīs, since they are His eternal associates.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī further points out that foolish persons will conclude that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s use of philosophical language meant that the Lord was trying to bring the gopīs to the point of liberation by explaining basic points of Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy. In truth, the gopīs are the most exalted liberated souls, and their pastimes with Śrī Kṛṣṇa must be understood with the help of authorized ācāryas. When the gopīs came for the rāsa dance, Śrī Kṛṣṇa tried to preach karma-yoga to them, emphasizing ordinary ethics and morality, but the gopīs were beyond that. Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa now offers them jñāna-yoga, or metaphysical philosophy, but this is also inadequate for the gopīs, who have achieved spontaneous, unalloyed love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa.