The Rāsa Dance: Introduction
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that the rāsa dance took place on the full-moon night of the śarat season. From the statements of previous chapters, it appears that the festival of Govardhana-pūjā was performed just after the dark-moon night of the month of Kārttika, and thereafter the ceremony of Bhrātṛ-dvitīyā was performed; then the wrath of Indra was exhibited in the shape of torrents of rain and hailstones, and Lord Kṛṣṇa held up Govardhana Hill for seven days, until the ninth day of the moon. Thereafter, on the tenth day, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana were talking amongst themselves about the wonderful activities of Kṛṣṇa, and the next day Ekādaśī was observed by Nanda Mahārāja. On the next day, Dvādaśī, Nanda Mahārāja went to take a bath in the Ganges and was arrested by one of the men of Varuṇa; then he was released by Lord Kṛṣṇa. Then Nanda Mahārāja, along with the cowherd men, was shown the spiritual sky.
In this way, the full-moon night of the śarat season came to an end. The full-moon night of Āśvina is called śarat-pūrṇimā. It appears from the statements of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that Kṛṣṇa had to wait another year for such a moon before enjoying the rāsa dance with the gopīs. At the age of seven years He lifted Govardhana Hill. Therefore the rāsa dance took place during His eighth year.
From the Vedic literature it appears that when a theatrical actor dances among many dancing girls, the group dance is called a rāsa dance. When Kṛṣṇa saw the full-moon night of the śarat season, decorated with various seasonal flowers – especially the mallikā flowers, which are very fragrant – He remembered the gopīs’ prayers to Goddess Kātyāyanī, wherein they prayed for Kṛṣṇa to be their husband. He thought that the full-moon night of the śarat season was just suitable for a nice dance. So their desire to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband would then be fulfilled.
The words used in this connection in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are bhagavān api. This means that although Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus has no desire that needs to be fulfilled (because He is always full with six opulences), He still wanted to enjoy the company of the gopīs in the rāsa dance. Bhagavān api signifies that this dance is not like the ordinary dancing of young boys and young girls. The specific words used in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are yogamāyām upāśritaḥ, which mean that this dancing with the gopīs is on the platform of yogamāyā, not mahāmāyā. The dancing of young boys and girls within the material world is in the kingdom of mahāmāyā, or the external energy. The rāsa dance of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs is on the platform of yogamāyā. The difference between the platforms of yogamāyā and mahāmāyā is compared in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta to the difference between gold and iron. From the viewpoint of metallurgy, gold and iron are both metals, but the quality is completely different. Similarly, although the rāsa dance and Lord Kṛṣṇa’s association with the gopīs appear like the ordinary mixing of young boys and girls, the quality is completely different. The difference is appreciated by great Vaiṣṇavas because they can understand the difference between love of Kṛṣṇa and lust.
On the mahāmāyā platform, dances take place on the basis of sense gratification. But when Kṛṣṇa called the gopīs by sounding His flute, they very hurriedly rushed toward the spot of the rāsa dance with the transcendental desire to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. The author of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, has explained that lust means sense gratification, and love also means sense gratification – but for Kṛṣṇa. In other words, when activities are enacted on the platform of personal sense gratification, they are called material activities, but when they are enacted for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, then they are spiritual activities. On any platform of activities, the principle of sense gratification is there. But on the spiritual platform, sense gratification is for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, whereas on the material platform it is for the performer. For example, on the material platform, when a servant serves a master, he is trying to satisfy not the senses of his master but rather his own senses. The servant would not serve the master if the payment stopped. That means that the servant engages himself in the service of the master just to satisfy his own senses. On the spiritual platform, however, the servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead serves Kṛṣṇa without payment, and he continues his service in all conditions. That is the difference between Kṛṣṇa consciousness and material consciousness.
As mentioned above, it appears that Kṛṣṇa enjoyed the rāsa dance with the gopīs when He was eight years old. At that time, many of the gopīs were married, because in India, especially in those days, girls were married at a very early age. There are even many instances of a girl’s giving birth to a child at the age of twelve. Under the circumstances, all the gopīs who wanted to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband were already married. At the same time, they continued to hope that Kṛṣṇa would be their husband. Their attitude toward Kṛṣṇa was that of paramour love. Therefore, the loving affairs of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs are called parakīya-rasa. The attitude of a married man who desires another wife or a wife who desires another husband is called parakīya-rasa.
Actually, Kṛṣṇa is the husband of everyone because He is the supreme enjoyer. The gopīs wanted Kṛṣṇa to be their husband, but factually there was no possibility of His marrying all the gopīs. But because they had that natural tendency to accept Kṛṣṇa as their supreme husband, the relationship between the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa is called parakīya-rasa. This parakīya-rasa is ever-existent in Goloka Vṛndāvana, in the spiritual sky, where there is no possibility of the inebriety which characterizes parakīya-rasa in the material world. In the material world, parakīya-rasa is abominable, whereas in the spiritual world it is present in the superexcellent relationship of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. There are many relationships with Kṛṣṇa – master and servant, friend and friend, parent and son, and lover and beloved. Out of all these rasas, the parakīya-rasa is considered to be the topmost.
This material world is the perverted reflection of the spiritual world; it is just like the reflection of a tree on the bank of a reservoir of water: the topmost part of the tree is seen as the lowest part. Similarly, parakīya-rasa, when pervertedly reflected in this material world, is most abominable. Therefore when people imitate the rāsa dance of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs, they simply enjoy the perverted, abominable reflection of the transcendental parakīya-rasa. There is no possibility of enjoying this transcendental parakīya-rasa within the material world. It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that one should not imitate this parakīya-rasa even in dream or imagination. Those who do so drink the most deadly poison.
When Kṛṣṇa, the supreme enjoyer, desired to enjoy the company of the gopīs on that full-moon night of the śarat season, exactly at that very moment the moon, the lord of the stars, appeared in the sky, displaying its most beautiful features. The full-moon night of the śarat season is the most beautiful night in the year. In the Indian city of Agra, in Uttar Pradesh Province, there is a great monument called the Taj Mahal, which is a tomb made of first-class marble stone. During the night of the full moon of the śarat season, many foreigners go to see the beautiful reflections of the moon on the tomb. Thus this full-moon night is celebrated even today for its beauty.
When the full moon rose in the east, it tinged everything with a reddish color. With the rising of the moon, the whole sky appeared smeared by red kuṅkuma. When a husband long separated from his wife returns home, he decorates the face of his wife with red kuṅkuma. This long-expected moonrise of the śarat season was thus smearing the eastern sky.
The appearance of the moon increased Kṛṣṇa’s desire to dance with the gopīs. The forests were filled with fragrant flowers. The atmosphere was cooling and festive. When Lord Kṛṣṇa began to blow His flute, the gopīs all over Vṛndāvana became enchanted. Their attraction to the vibration of the flute increased a thousand times due to the rising full moon, the red horizon, the calm and cool atmosphere and the blossoming flowers. All the gopīs were by nature very much attracted to Kṛṣṇa’s beauty, and when they heard the vibration of His flute, they became apparently lustful to satisfy the senses of Kṛṣṇa.
Immediately upon hearing the vibration of the flute, they all left their respective engagements and proceeded to the spot where Kṛṣṇa was standing. While they ran very swiftly, their earrings swung back and forth. They all rushed toward the place known as Vaṁśīvaṭa. Some of them were engaged in milking cows, but they left their milking business half finished and immediately went to Kṛṣṇa. One of them had just collected milk and put it in a milk pan on the stove to boil, but she did not care whether the milk overboiled and spilled – she immediately left to go see Kṛṣṇa. Some of them were breast-feeding their small babies, and some were engaged in distributing food to the members of their families, but they left all such engagements and immediately rushed toward the spot where Kṛṣṇa was playing His flute. Some were engaged in serving their husbands, and some were themselves engaged in eating, but caring neither to serve their husbands nor eat, they immediately left. Some of them wanted to decorate their faces with cosmetic ointments and to dress themselves very nicely before going to Kṛṣṇa, but unfortunately they could not finish their cosmetic decorations or put on their clothes in the right way because of their anxiety to meet Kṛṣṇa immediately. Their faces were decorated hurriedly and were haphazardly finished; some even put the lower part of their clothes on the upper part of their bodies and the upper part on the lower part.
While all the gopīs were hurriedly leaving their respective places, their husbands, brothers and fathers were all struck with wonder to know where they were going. Being young girls, they were protected either by husbands, elder brothers or fathers. All their guardians forbade them to go to Kṛṣṇa, but they disregarded them. When a person becomes attracted by Kṛṣṇa and is in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he does not care for any worldly duties, even though very urgent. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so powerful that it gives everyone relief from all material activities. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written a very nice verse wherein one gopī advises another, “My dear friend, if you desire to enjoy the company of material society, friendship and love, then please do not go to see that smiling boy Govinda, who is standing on the bank of the Yamunā and playing His flute, His lips brightened by the beams of the full moonlight.” Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī indirectly instructs that one who has been captivated by the beautiful smiling face of Kṛṣṇa has lost all attraction for material enjoyments. This is the test of advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness: a person advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness must lose interest in material activities and personal sense gratification.
Some of the gopīs were factually detained from going to Kṛṣṇa by their husbands and were locked up by force within their rooms. Being unable to go to Kṛṣṇa, they began to meditate upon His transcendental form by closing their eyes. They already had the form of Kṛṣṇa within their minds. They proved to be the greatest yogīs; as is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, a person who is constantly thinking of Kṛṣṇa within his heart with faith and love is considered to be the topmost of all yogīs. Actually, a yogī concentrates his mind on the form of Lord Viṣṇu. That is real yoga. Kṛṣṇa is the original form of all viṣṇu-tattvas. The gopīs who could not go to Kṛṣṇa personally, so they began to meditate on Him as perfect yogīs.
In the conditioned stage of the living entities, there are two kinds of results of fruitive activities: the conditioned living entity who is constantly engaged in sinful activities has suffering as his result, and he who is engaged in pious activities has material enjoyment as a result. In either case – material suffering or material enjoyment – the sufferer or enjoyer is conditioned by material nature.
The gopī associates of Kṛṣṇa who assembled in the place where Kṛṣṇa was appearing were from different groups. Most of the gopīs were eternal companions of Kṛṣṇa. As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā, ānanda-cin-maya-rasa-pratibhāvitābhiḥ: in the spiritual world the associates of Kṛṣṇa, especially the gopīs, are manifestations of the pleasure potency of Lord Kṛṣṇa. They are expansions of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. But when Kṛṣṇa exhibits His transcendental pastimes within the material world in some of the universes, not only the eternal associates of Kṛṣṇa come but also those who are being promoted to that status from this material world. So some of the gopīs who joined Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes within this material world were coming from the status of ordinary human beings. If they had been bound by fruitive action, they were fully freed from the reactions of karma by constant meditation on Kṛṣṇa. Their severely painful yearnings caused by their not being able to see Kṛṣṇa freed them from all sinful reactions, and their ecstasy of transcendental love for Kṛṣṇa in His absence ended all their reactions to material pious activities. The conditioned soul is subjected to birth and death, either by pious or sinful activities, but the gopīs who began to meditate on Kṛṣṇa transcended both positions and became purified and thus elevated to the status of the gopīs already expanded by His pleasure potency. All the gopīs who concentrated their minds on Kṛṣṇa in the spirit of paramour love became fully purified of all the fruitive reactions of material nature, and some of them immediately gave up their material bodies developed under the three modes of material nature.
Mahārāja Parīkṣit heard Śukadeva Gosvāmī explain the situation of the gopīs who assembled with Kṛṣṇa in the rāsa dance. When he heard that some of the gopīs, simply by concentrating on Kṛṣṇa as their paramour, became freed from all contamination of material birth and death, he said, “The gopīs did not know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They accepted Him as a beautiful boy and considered Him to be their paramour. So how was it possible for them to get freed from the material condition just by thinking of a paramour?” One should consider here that Kṛṣṇa and ordinary living beings are qualitatively one. The ordinary living beings, being part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, are also Brahman, but Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme – Para-brahman. The question is, If it is possible for a devotee to get free from the material, contaminated stage simply by thinking of Kṛṣṇa, then why should this not be possible for others who are also thinking of someone? If one is thinking of a husband or son, or if anyone at all is thinking of another living entity, then, since all living entities are also Brahman, why are all those who thus think of others not freed from the contaminated stage of material nature? This is a very intelligent question, because there are always atheists imitating Kṛṣṇa. In these days of Kali-yuga, there are many rascals who think themselves to be as good as Kṛṣṇa and who cheat people into believing that thinking of them is as good as thinking of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Parīkṣit Mahārāja, apprehending the future dangerous condition of blind followers of demoniac imitators, therefore asked this question, and fortunately it is recorded in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to warn innocent people that thinking of an ordinary man and thinking of Kṛṣṇa are not the same.
Actually, even thinking of the demigods cannot compare with thinking of Kṛṣṇa. It is warned in the vaiṣṇava-tantra that one who puts Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa or Kṛṣṇa on the same level as the demigods is called a pāṣaṇḍī, or rascal. On hearing this question from Mahārāja Parīkṣit, Śukadeva Gosvāmī replied, “My dear king, your question is already answered, even before this incident.” Because Parīkṣit Mahārāja wanted to clear up the situation, his spiritual master answered him very intelligently: “Why are you again asking about the same subject matter which has already been explained to you? Why are you so forgetful?” A spiritual master is always in the superior position, so he has the right to chastise his disciple in this way. Śukadeva Gosvāmī knew that Mahārāja Parīkṣit asked the question not for his own understanding but as a warning to the future innocent people who might think others to be equal to Kṛṣṇa.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī then reminded Parīkṣit Mahārāja about the salvation of Śiśupāla. Śiśupāla was always envious of Kṛṣṇa, and because of his envy Kṛṣṇa killed him. But since Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śiśupāla gained salvation simply by seeing Him. If an envious person can get salvation simply by concentrating his mind on Kṛṣṇa, then what to speak of the gopīs, who are so dear to Kṛṣṇa and always think of Him in love? There must be some difference between the enemies and the friends. If Kṛṣṇa’s enemies could get freed from material contamination and become one with the Supreme, then certainly His dear friends like the gopīs can achieve such freedom and much more.
Besides that, in the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa is called Hṛṣīkeśa. Śukadeva Gosvāmī also said that Kṛṣṇa is Hṛṣīkeśa, the Supersoul. Whereas an ordinary man is a conditioned soul covered by the material body, Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s body are the same because He is Hṛṣīkeśa. Any person making a distinction between Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s body is fool number one. Kṛṣṇa is Hṛṣīkeśa and Adhokṣaja. These two particular words have been used by Śukadeva Gosvāmī in this instance. Hṛṣīkeśa is the Supersoul, and Adhokṣaja is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, transcendental to the material nature. Just to show favor to the ordinary living entities, out of His causeless mercy He appears as He is. Unfortunately, foolish persons mistake Him to be an ordinary person, and so they become eligible to go to hell.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued to inform Mahārāja Parīkṣit that Kṛṣṇa is not an ordinary person but rather the Supreme Personality of Godhead – imperishable, immeasurable and without any material qualities but full of all spiritual qualities. He appears in this material world out of His causeless mercy, and whenever He appears, He appears as He is, without change. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, where the Lord says that He appears by His spiritual potency. He does not appear under the control of the material potency. The material potency is under His control. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is stated that the material potency is working under His superintendence. It is also confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā that the material potency, known as Durgā, is acting just like a shadow of the substance. The conclusion is that if one somehow or other becomes attached to Kṛṣṇa or attracted to Him, either because of His qualities of beauty, opulence, fame, strength, renunciation or knowledge, through affection or friendship, or even through lust, anger or fear, then one’s salvation and freedom from material contamination are assured.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, eighteenth chapter, the Lord states that one who is engaged in preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness is very dear to Him. A preacher has to face many difficulties in his struggle to preach pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Sometimes he has to suffer bodily injuries, and sometimes he has to meet death also. All this is taken as a great austerity on behalf of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa therefore has said that such a preacher is very, very dear to Him. If Kṛṣṇa’s enemies can expect salvation simply by concentrating their minds on Him, then what to speak of persons who are so dear to Kṛṣṇa? The conclusion should be that the salvation of those who are engaged in preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the world is guaranteed in all circumstances. But such preachers never care for salvation, because factually one who is engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service, has already achieved salvation. Śukadeva Gosvāmī therefore assured King Parīkṣit that he should always rest assured that one who is attracted by Kṛṣṇa attains liberation from material bondage because Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental master of all mystic power.
When all the gopīs assembled, as described, before Kṛṣṇa, He began to speak to them, welcoming them as well as discouraging them by word jugglery. Kṛṣṇa is the supreme speaker; He is the speaker of the Bhagavad-gītā. He can speak on the highest elevated subjects of philosophy, politics, economics – everything. And He also spoke before the gopīs, who were so dear to Him. He wanted to enchant them by word jugglery, and thus He began to speak as follows.
“O ladies of Vṛndāvana,” Kṛṣṇa said, “you are very fortunate, and you are very dear to Me. I am very pleased that you have come here, and I hope everything is well in Vṛndāvana. Now please order Me. What can I do for you? What is the purpose of your coming here in the dead of night? Kindly take your seats and let Me know what I can do for you.”
The gopīs had come to Kṛṣṇa to enjoy His company, to dance with Him, embrace Him and kiss Him, and when Kṛṣṇa began to receive them very officially, showing all kinds of etiquette, they were surprised. He was treating them like ordinary society women. Therefore they began to smile among themselves, and though they very eagerly listened to Kṛṣṇa talk in that way, they were surprised. Then Kṛṣṇa began to instruct them: “My dear friends, you must know that it is now the dead of night and the forest is very dangerous. At this time all the ferocious jungle animals – the tigers, bears, jackals and wolves – are prowling in the forest. Therefore it is very dangerous for you. You cannot select a secure place now. Everywhere you go you will find that all these animals are loitering to find their prey. I think, therefore, that you are taking a great risk in coming here in the dead of night. Please turn back immediately, without delay.”
When He saw that they continued to smile, He said, “I very much appreciate your bodily features. All of you have nice, very thin waists.” All of the gopīs there were exquisitely beautiful. They are described by the word sumadhyamā; the standard of beauty of a woman is said to be sumadhyamā when the middle portion of the body is slender.
Kṛṣṇa wanted to impress on them that they were not old enough to take care of themselves. Actually, they required protection. It was not very wise for them to come in the dead of night to Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa also indicated that He was young and that they were young girls. “It does not look very well for young girls and boys to remain together in the dead of night.” After hearing this advice, the gopīs did not seem very happy; therefore Kṛṣṇa began to stress the point in a different way.
“My dear friends, I can understand that you have left your homes without the permission of your guardians; therefore I think your mothers, your fathers, your elder brothers and even your sons, and what to speak of your husbands, must be very anxious to find you. As long as you are here, they must be searching in different places, and their minds must be very agitated. So don’t tarry. Please go back and make them peaceful.”
When the gopīs appeared to be a little bit disturbed and angry from hearing the free advice of Kṛṣṇa, they diverted their attention to looking at the beauty of the forest. At that time the whole forest was illuminated by the bright shining of the moon, and the air was blowing very silently over the blooming flowers, and the green leaves of the trees were moving in the breeze. Kṛṣṇa took the opportunity of their looking at the forest to advise them. “I think you have come out to see the beautiful Vṛndāvana forest on this night,” He said, “but you must now be satisfied. So return to your homes without delay. I understand that you are all very chaste women, so now that you have seen the beautiful atmosphere of the Vṛndāvana forest, please return home and engage in the faithful service of your respective husbands. Some of you must have babies by this time, although you are very young. You must have left your small babies at home, and they must be crying. Please immediately go back home and just feed them with your breast milk. I can also understand that you have very great affection for Me, and out of that transcendental affection you have come here, hearing My playing on the flute. Your feelings of love and affection for Me are very appropriate because I am the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All living creatures are My parts and parcels, and naturally they are affectionate to Me. So this affection for Me is very welcome, and I congratulate you for this. Now you can go back to your homes. Another thing I must explain to you is that for a chaste woman, service to the husband without duplicity is the best religious principle. Not only should a woman be faithful and chaste to her husband but she should also be affectionate to the friends of her husband, obedient to the father and mother of her husband, and affectionate to the younger brothers of her husband. And most importantly, a woman must take care of her children.”
In this way, Kṛṣṇa explained the duty of a woman. He also stressed the point of serving the husband: “Even if he is not of very good character, or even if he is not very rich or fortunate, or even if he is old or invalid on account of continued diseases, whatever her husband’s condition, a woman should not divorce her husband if she actually desires to be elevated to the higher planetary systems after leaving this body. Besides that, it is considered abominable in society if a woman is unfaithful and goes searching for another man. Such habits will deter a woman from being elevated to the heavenly planets, and the results of such habits are very degrading. A married woman should not search for a paramour, for this is not sanctioned by the Vedic principles of life. If you think that you are very much attached to Me and you want My association, I advise you not to personally try to enjoy Me. It is better for you to go home, simply talk about Me and think of Me, and by this process of constantly remembering Me and chanting My names you will surely be elevated to the spiritual platform. There is no need to stand near Me. Please go back home.”
The instruction given herein by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to the gopīs was not at all sarcastic. Such instructions should be taken very seriously by all honest women. The chastity of women is specifically stressed herein by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore this principle should be followed by any serious woman who wants to be elevated to a higher status of life. Kṛṣṇa is the center of all affection for all living creatures. When this affection is developed for Kṛṣṇa, one surpasses and transcends all Vedic injunctions. This was possible for the gopīs because they saw Kṛṣṇa face to face. This is not possible for any women in the conditioned state. Unfortunately, sometimes a rascal, following the philosophy of monism, or oneness, very irresponsibly takes advantage of this rāsa-līlā to imitate the behavior of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs, entice many innocent women and mislead them in the name of spiritual realization. As a warning, Lord Kṛṣṇa has herein hinted that what was possible for the gopīs is not possible for ordinary women. Although a woman can actually be elevated by advanced Kṛṣṇa consciousness, she should not be enticed by an imposter who says that he is Kṛṣṇa. She should concentrate her devotional activities in chanting about Kṛṣṇa and meditating upon Him, as is advised herein. One should not follow the men called sahajiyās, the so-called devotees who take everything very lightly.
When Kṛṣṇa spoke in such a discouraging way to the gopīs, they became very sad, for they thought that their desire to enjoy the rāsa dance with Kṛṣṇa would be frustrated. Thus they became full of anxiety. Out of great sadness, the gopīs began to breathe very heavily. Instead of looking at Kṛṣṇa face to face, they bowed their heads and looked at the ground, and they began to draw various types of curved lines on the ground with their toes. They were shedding heavy tears, and their cosmetic decorations were being washed from their faces. The water from their eyes mixed with the kuṅkuma on their breasts and fell to the ground. They could not say anything to Kṛṣṇa but simply stood there silently. By their silence they expressed that their hearts were grievously wounded.
The gopīs were not ordinary women. In essence they were on an equal level with Kṛṣṇa. They are His eternal associates. As it is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā, they are expansions of the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa, and as His potency they are nondifferent from Him. Although they were depressed by the words of Kṛṣṇa, they did not like to use harsh words against Him. Yet they wanted to rebuke Kṛṣṇa for His unkind words, and therefore they began to speak in faltering voices. They did not like to use harsh words against Kṛṣṇa because He was their dearmost, their heart and soul. The gopīs had only Kṛṣṇa within their hearts. They were completely surrendered and dedicated souls. Naturally, when they heard such unkind words, they tried to reply, but in the attempt torrents of tears fell from their eyes. Finally they managed to speak.
“Kṛṣṇa,” they said, “You are very cruel! You should not talk like that. We are full-fledged surrendered souls. Please accept us, and don’t talk in that cruel way. Of course, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead and can do whatever You like, but it is not worthy of Your position to treat us in such a cruel way. We have come to You, leaving everything behind, just to take shelter of Your lotus feet. We know that You are completely independent and can do whatever You like, but we request You, don’t reject us. We are Your devotees. You should accept us as Lord Nārāyaṇa accepts His devotees. There are many devotees of Lord Nārāyaṇa who worship Him for salvation, and He awards them salvation. Similarly, how can You reject us when we have no shelter other than Your lotus feet?
“O dear Kṛṣṇa,” they continued, “You are the supreme instructor. There is no doubt about it. Your instructions to women to be faithful to their husbands and merciful to their children, to take care of household affairs and to be obedient to the elderly members of the family, are surely just according to the tenets of the śāstras. But we know that one may perfectly observe all these instructions of the śāstras by keeping oneself under the protection of Your lotus feet. Our husbands, friends, family members and children are all dear and pleasing to us only because of Your presence, for You are the Supersoul of all living creatures. Without Your presence, one is worthless. When You leave the body, the body immediately dies, and according to the injunction of the śāstras, a dead body must immediately be thrown into a river or burned. Therefore, ultimately You are the dearmost personality in this world. By placing our faith and love in Your personality, we are assured of never being bereft of husband, friends, sons or daughters. If a woman accepts You as the supreme husband, then she will never be bereft of her husband, as in the bodily concept of life. If we accept You as our ultimate husband, then there is no question of being separated, divorced or widowed. You are the eternal husband, eternal son, eternal friend and eternal master, and one who enters into a relationship with You is eternally happy. Since You are the teacher of all religious principles, Your lotus feet have to be worshiped first. Accordingly, the śāstras state, ācārya-upāsanā: the worship of Your lotus feet is the first principle. Besides that, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, You are the only enjoyer, You are the only proprietor, and You are the only friend. As such, we have come to You, leaving aside all so-called friends, society and love, and now You have become our enjoyer. Let us be everlastingly enjoyed by You. Be our proprietor, for that is Your natural claim, and be our supreme friend, for You are naturally so. Let us thus embrace You as the supreme beloved.”
Then the gopīs told lotus-eyed Kṛṣṇa, “Please do not discourage our long-cherished desires to have You as our husband. Any intelligent man who cares for his own self-interest reposes all his loving spirit in You. Persons who are simply misled by the external energy, who want to be satisfied by false concepts, try to enjoy themselves apart from You. The so-called husband, friend, son, daughter, father and mother are all simply sources of material misery. No one is made happy in this material world by having a so-called father, mother, husband, son, daughter and friend. Although the father and mother are expected to protect the children, there are many children who are suffering for want of food and shelter. There are many good physicians, but when a patient dies, no physician can revive him. There are many means of protection, but when one is doomed, none of the protective measures can help, and without Your protection the so-called sources of protection simply become sources of continued distress. We therefore appeal to You, dear Lord of all lords: please do not kill our long-cherished desires to have You as our supreme husband.
“Dear Kṛṣṇa, as women, we are certainly satisfied when our hearts are engaged in the activities of family affairs, but our hearts have already been stolen by You. We can no longer engage them in family affairs. Besides that, although You have repeatedly asked us to return home, and that is a very appropriate instruction, unfortunately we have been stunned here. Our legs have no power to move a step from Your lotus feet. Therefore, if even at Your request we return home, what shall we do there? We have lost all our ability to act without You. Instead of engaging our hearts in family affairs as women, we have now developed a different type of lust which is continually blazing in our hearts. Now we request You, dear Kṛṣṇa, to extinguish that fire with Your beautiful smile and the transcendental vibration emanating from Your lips. If You do not agree to do us this favor, we shall certainly be burned in the fire of separation. In that condition, we shall simply think of You and Your beautiful features and give up our bodies immediately. In that way we think it will be possible for us to reside at Your lotus feet in the next life. Dear Kṛṣṇa, if You say that if we go home our respective husbands will satisfy the lusty flame of our desire, we can only say that that is no longer possible. You have given us a chance to be enjoyed by You in the forest and have touched our breasts once in the past, which we accepted as a blessing, as do the goddesses of fortune, who are enjoyed in the Vaikuṇṭha-lokas by You. Since we have tasted this transcendental enjoyment, we are no longer interested in going to anyone but You for the satisfaction of our lust. Dear Kṛṣṇa, the lotus feet of the goddess of fortune are always worshiped by the demigods. Although she is always resting on Your chest in the Vaikuṇṭha planets, she underwent great austerity and penance to have some shelter at Your lotus feet, which are always covered by tulasī leaves. Your lotus feet are the proper shelter of Your servitors, and the goddess of fortune, instead of abiding on Your chest, comes down and worships Your lotus feet. We have now placed ourselves under the dust of Your feet. Please do not reject us, for we are fully surrendered souls.
“Dear Kṛṣṇa, You are known as Hari. You destroy all the miseries of all living entities, specifically of those who have left their homes and family attachment and have completely taken to You. We have left our homes with the hope that we shall completely devote and dedicate our lives to Your service. We are simply begging to be engaged as Your servants. We do not wish to ask You to accept us as Your wives. Simply accept us as Your maidservants. Since You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead and like to enjoy the parakīya-rasa and are famous as a transcendental woman hunter, we have come to satisfy Your transcendental desires. We are also after our own satisfaction, for simply by looking at Your smiling face we have become very lusty. We have come before You decorated with all ornaments and dress, but until You embrace us, all our garments and beautiful features remain incomplete. You are the Supreme Person, and if You complete our dressing attempt as the puruṣa-bhūṣaṇa, or the male ornament, then all our desires and bodily decorations are complete.
“Dear Kṛṣṇa, we have simply been captivated by seeing You with tilaka and with earrings and by seeing Your beautiful face covered with scattered hair and bearing Your extraordinary smile. Not only that, but we are also attracted by Your arms, which always give assurance to the surrendered souls. And although we are also attracted by Your chest, which is always embraced by the goddess of fortune, we do not wish to take her position. We shall simply be satisfied by being Your maidservants. If You accuse us, however, of encouraging prostitution, then we can only ask, Where is that woman within these three worlds who is not captivated by Your beauty and the rhythmic songs vibrated by Your transcendental flute? Within these three worlds there is no distinction between men and women in relation to You because both men and women belong to the marginal potency, or prakṛti. No one is actually the enjoyer, or the male; everyone is meant to be enjoyed by You. There is no woman within these three worlds who cannot but deviate from her path of chastity once she is attracted to You, because Your beauty is so sublime that not only men and women but also cows, birds, beasts and even trees, fruits and flowers – everyone and everything – become enchanted, and what to speak of ourselves? It is, however, definitely decided that as Lord Viṣṇu is always protecting the demigods from the onslaught of demons, so You have also advented in Vṛndāvana just to give the residents protection from all kinds of distress. O dear friend of the distressed, kindly place Your hand on our burning breasts as well as on our heads, because we have surrendered unto You as Your eternal maidservants. If You think, however, that Your lotuslike palms might be burned to ashes if placed on our burning breasts, let us assure You that Your palms will feel pleasure instead of pain, as the lotus flower, although very delicate and soft, enjoys the scorching heat of the sun.”
Upon hearing the anxious plea of the gopīs, the Supreme Personality of Godhead smiled, and being very kind to the gopīs, the Lord, although self-sufficient, began to embrace them and kiss them as they desired. When Kṛṣṇa, smiling, looked at the faces of the gopīs, the beauty of their faces became a hundred times enhanced. When He was enjoying them in their midst, He appeared just like the full moon surrounded by millions of shining stars. Thus the Supreme Personality of Godhead, surrounded by hundreds of gopīs and decorated with a flower garland of many colors, began to wander within the Vṛndāvana forest, sometimes singing to Himself and sometimes singing with the gopīs. In this way the Lord and the gopīs reached the cool, sandy bank of the Yamunā, where there were lilies and lotus flowers. In such a transcendental atmosphere, the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa began to enjoy one another. While they were walking on the bank of the Yamunā, Kṛṣṇa would sometimes put His arms around a gopī’s head, breast or waist. Pinching one another and joking and looking at one another, they enjoyed. When Kṛṣṇa touched the bodies of the gopīs, their lust to embrace Him increased. They all enjoyed these pastimes. Thus the gopīs were blessed with all mercy by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for they enjoyed His company without a tinge of mundane sex life.
The gopīs, however, soon began to feel very proud, thinking themselves to be the most fortunate women in the universe due to being favored by the company of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Keśava, could immediately understand their pride caused by their great fortune of enjoying Him personally, and in order to show them His causeless mercy and to curb their false pride, He immediately disappeared from the scene, exhibiting His opulence of renunciation. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always full with six kinds of opulences, and this is an instance of the opulence of renunciation. This renunciation confirms Kṛṣṇa’s total nonattachment. He is always self-sufficient and is not dependent on anything. This is the platform on which His transcendental pastimes are enacted.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the twenty-ninth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “The Rāsa Dance: Introduction.”
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