of the Rasa Lila Dance
"Thus hearing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, speaking to pacify them, the gopis became very much pleased. And not only by hearing His words, but also by touching the hands and legs of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they became completely releaved from the great suffering of separation. After this, the Supreme Personality of Godhead began His rasa dance. When one dances in the midst of many girls, it is called a rasa dance. So Krsna began to dance among the most beautiful and fortunate girls within the three worlds. The gopis of Vrndavana, who were so attracted to Him, danced with Krsna, hand in hand. (Krishna Book ACBSP)
Krsna's rasa dance should never be compared with any kind of material dance, such as a ball dance or a society dance. The rasa dance is a completely spiritual performance. In order to establish this fact, Krsna, the supreme mystic, expanded Himself in many forms and stood beside each gopi. Placing His hands on the shoulders of the gopis on both sides of Him, He began to dance in their midst. The mystic expansions of Krsna were not perceived by the gopis because Krsna appeared alone to each of them.
Each gopi thought that Krsna was dancing with her alone. Above that wonderful dance flew many airplanes carrying the denizens of the heavenly planets, who were very anxious to see the wonderful dance of Krsna with the gopis. The Gandharvas and the Kinnaras began to sing, and, accompanied by their respective wives, all the Gandharvas began to shower flowers on the dancers.
As the gopis and Krsna danced together, a very blissful musical sound was produced from the tinkling of their bells, ornaments and bangles. It appeared that Krsna was a greenish sapphire locket in the midst of a golden necklace decorated with valuable stones. While Krsna and the gopis danced they displayed extraordinary bodily features. The movements of their legs, their placing their hands on one another, the movements of their eyebrows, their smiling, the movements of the breasts of the gopis and their clothes, their earrings, their cheeks, their hair with flowers--as they sang and danced these combined together to appear like clouds, thunder, snow and lightning. Krsna's bodily features appeared just like a group of clouds, their songs were like thunder, the beauty of the gopis appeared to be just like lightning in the sky, and the drops of perspiration visible on their faces appeared like falling snow. In this way, both the gopis and Krsna fully engaged in dancing.
The necks of the gopis became tinted with red due to their desire to enjoy Krsna more and more. To satisfy them, Krsna began to clap His hands in time with their singing. Actually the whole world is full of Krsna's singing, but it is appreciated in different ways by different kinds of living entities. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita: ye yatha mam prapadyante. Krsna is dancing, and every living entity is also dancing, but there is a difference in the dancing in the spiritual world and in the material world. This is expressed by the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, who says that the master dancer is Krsna and everyone is His servant. Everyone is trying to imitate Krsna's dancing. Those who are actually in Krsna consciousness respond rightly to the dancing of Krsna: they do not try to dance independently. But those in the material world try to imitate Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The living entities are dancing under the direction of Krsna's maya and are thinking that they are equal to Krsna. But this is not a fact. In Krsna consciousness, this misconception is absent, for a person in Krsna consciousness knows that Krsna is the supreme master and everyone is His servant. One has to dance to please Krsna, not to imitate or to become equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The gopis wanted to please Krsna, and therefore as Krsna sang, they responded and encouraged Him by saying, "Well done, well done." Sometimes they presented beautiful music for His pleasure, and He responded by praising their singing.
When some of the gopis became very tired from dancing and moving their bodies, they placed their hands on the shoulders of Sri Krsna. Then their hair loosened and flowers fell to the ground. When they placed their hands on Krsna's shoulder they became overwhelmed by the fragrance of His body which emanated from the lotus, other aromatic flowers, and the pulp of sandalwood. They became filled with attraction for Him, and they began to kiss one another. Some gopis touched Krsna cheek to cheek, and Krsna began to offer them chewed betel nuts from His mouth, which they exchanged with great pleasure by kissing. And by accepting those betel nuts, the gopis spiritually advanced.
The gopis became tired after long singing and dancing. Krsna was dancing beside them, and to alleviate their fatigue they took Sri Krsna's hand and placed it on their raised breasts. Krsna's hand, as well as the breasts of the gopis, are eternally auspicious; therefore when they combined, both of them became spiritually enhanced. The gopis so enjoyed the company of Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, that they forgot that they had any other husband in the world, and upon being embraced by the arms of Krsna and dancing and singing with Him, they forgot everything. The Srimad-Bhagavatam thus describes the beauty of the gopis while they were rasa dancing with Krsna. There were lotus flowers over both their ears, and their faces were decorated with sandalwood pulp. They wore tilaka, and there were drops of sweat on their smiling mouths. From their feet came the tinkling sound of ankle bells as well as bangles. The flowers within their hair were falling to the lotus feet of Krsna, and He was very satisfied.
As stated in the Brahma-samhita, all these gopis are expansions of Krsna's pleasure potency. Touching their bodies with His hands and looking at their pleasing eyes, Krsna enjoyed the gopis exactly as a child enjoys playing with the reflection of his body in a mirror. When Krsna touched the different parts of their bodies, the gopis felt surcharged with spiritual energy. They could not adjust their loosened clothes, although they tried to keep them properly. Their hair and garments became scattered, and their ornaments loosened as they forgot themselves in company with Krsna.
While Krsna was enjoying the company of the gopis in the rasa dance, the astonished demigods and their wives gathered in the sky. The moon, being afflicted with a sort of lust, began to watch the dance and became stunned with wonder. The gopis had prayed to the goddess Katyayani to have Krsna as their husband. Now Krsna was fulfilling their desire by expanding Himself in as many forms as there were gopis and enjoying them exactly as a husband.
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has remarked that Krsna is self-sufficient--He is atmarama. He doesn't need anyone else for His satisfaction. Because the gopis wanted Krsna as their husband, He fulfilled their desire. When Krsna saw that the gopis were tired from dancing with Him, He immediately began to smear His hands over their faces so that their fatigue would be relieved. In order to reciprocate the kind hospitality of Krsna, the gopis began to look at Him lovingly. They were overjoyed by the auspicious touch of the hand of Krsna. Their smiling cheeks shone with beauty, and they began to sing the glories of Krsna with transcendental pleasure. As pure devotees, the more the gopis enjoyed Krsna's company, the more they became enlightened with His glories, and thus they reciprocated with Him. They wanted to satisfy Krsna by glorifying His transcendental pastimes. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all masters, and the gopis wanted to worship Him for His unusual exhibition of mercy upon them.
Both the gopis and Krsna entered the water of the Yamuna just to relieve their fatigue from the rasa dance. The lily flower garlands around the necks of the gopis were strewn to pieces due to their embracing the body of Krsna, and the flowers were reddish from being smeared with the kunkuma on their breasts. The bumblebees were humming about in order to get honey from the flowers. Krsna and the gopis entered the water of Yamuna just as an elephant enters a water tank with his many female companions. Both the gopis and Krsna forgot their real identity, playing in the water, enjoying each others' company and relieving the fatigue of rasa dancing. The gopis began to splash water on the body of Krsna, all the while smiling, and Krsna enjoyed this. As Krsna was taking pleasure in the joking words and splashing water, the demigods in the heavenly planets began to shower flowers. The demigods thus praised the superexcellent rasa dance of Krsna, the supreme enjoyer, and His pastimes with the gopis in the water of Yamuna.
After this, Lord Krsna and the gopis came out of the water and began to stroll along the bank of the Yamuna, where a nice breeze was blowing, carrying the aroma of different kinds of flowers over the water and land. While strolling on the bank of the Yamuna, Krsna recited various kinds of poetry. He thus enjoyed the company of the gopis in the soothing moonlight of autumn.
Sex desire is especially excited in the autumn season, but the wonderful thing about Krsna's association with the gopis is that there was no question of sex desire. It was, as clearly stated in the Bhagavata description by Sukadeva Gosvami, avaruddha-saurata, namely the sex impulse was completely controlled. There is a distinction between Lord Krsna's dancing with the gopis and the ordinary dancing of living entities within the material world. In order to clear up further misconceptions about the rasa dance and the affairs of Krsna and the gopis, Maharaja Pariksit, the hearer of Srimad-Bhagavatam, told Sukadeva Gosvami, "Krsna appeared on the earth to establish the regulative principles of religion and to curb the predominance of irreligion. But the behavior of Krsna and the gopis might encourage irreligious principles in the material world. I am simply surprised that He would act in such a way, enjoying the company of others' wives in the dead of night." This statement of Maharaja Pariksit's was very much appreciated by Sukadeva Gosvami. The answer anticipates the abominable acts of the Mayavadi impersonalists who place themselves in the position of Krsna and enjoy the company of young girls and women.
The basic Vedic injunctions never allow a person to enjoy sex with any woman except one's own wife. Krsna's appreciation of the gopis appeared to be distinctly in violation of these rules. Maharaja Pariksit understood the total situation from Sukadeva Gosvami, yet to further clear the transcendental nature of Krsna and the gopis in rasa dance, he expressed his surprise. This is very important in order to check the unrestricted association with women by the prakrta-sahajiya.
In his statement, Maharaja Pariksit has used several important words which require clarification. The first word, jugupsitam, means abominable. The first doubt of Maharaja Pariksit was as follows: Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead who has advented Himself to establish religious principles. Why then did He mix with others' wives in the dead of night and enjoy dancing, embracing and kissing? According to the Vedic injunctions, this is not allowed. Also, when the gopis first came to Him, He gave instructions to them to return to their homes. To call the wives of other persons or young girls and enjoy dancing with them is certainly abominable according to the Vedas. Why should Krsna have done this?
Another word used here is aptakama. Some may take it for granted that Krsna was very lusty among young girls, but Pariksit Maharaja said that this was not possible. He could not be lusty. First of all, from the material calculation He was only eight years old. At that age a boy cannot be lusty. Aptakama means that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is self-satisfied. Even if He were lusty, He doesn't need to take help from others to satisfy His lusty desires. The next point is that, although not lusty Himself, He might have been induced by the lusty desires of the gopis. But Maharaja Pariksit then used another word, yadu-pati, which indicates that Krsna is the most exalted personality in the dynasty of the Yadus. The kings in the dynasty of Yadu were considered to be the most pious, and their descendants were also like that. Having taken birth in that family, how could Krsna have been induced, even by the gopis? It is concluded, therefore, that it was not possible for Krsna to do anything abominable. But Maharaja Pariksit was in doubt as to why Krsna acted in that way. What was the real purpose?
Another word Maharaja Pariksit used when he addressed Sukadeva Gosvami is suvrata, which means to take a vow to enact pious activities. Sukadeva Gosvami was an educated brahmacari, and under the circumstances, it was not possible for him to indulge in sex. This is strictly prohibited for brahmacaris, and what to speak of a brahmacari like Sukadeva Gosvami. But because the circumstances of the rasa dance were very suspect, Maharaja Pariksit inquired for clarification from Sukadeva Gosvami. Sukadeva Gosvami immediately replied that transgressions of religious principles by the supreme controller testify to His great power. For example, fire can consume any abominable thing; that is the manifestation of the supremacy of fire. Similarly, the sun can absorb water from a urinal or from stool, and the sun is not polluted; rather, due to the influence of sunshine, the polluted, contaminated place becomes disinfected and sterilized.
One may also argue that since Krsna is the supreme authority, His activities should be followed. In answer to this question, Sukadeva Gosvami has very clearly said that isvaranam, or the supreme controller, may sometimes violate His instructions, but this is only possible for the controller Himself, not for the followers. Unusual and uncommon activities by the controller can never be imitated. Sukadeva Gosvami warned that the conditioned followers, who are not actually in control, should never even imagine imitating the uncommon activities of the controller. A Mayavadi philosopher may falsely claim to be God or Krsna, but he cannot actually act like Krsna. He can persuade his followers to falsely imitate rasa dance, but he is unable to lift Govardhana Hill. We have many experiences in the past of Mayavadi rascals deluding their followers by posing themselves as Krsna in order to enjoy rasa-lila. In many instances they were checked by the government, arrested and punished. In Orissa, Thakura Bhaktivinoda also punished a so-called incarnation of Visnu, who was imitating rasa-lila with young girls. There were many complaints against him. At that time, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was magistrate, and the government deputed him to deal with that rascal, and he punished him very severely. The rasa-lila dance cannot be imitated by anyone. Sukadeva Gosvami warns that one should not even think of imitating it. He specifically mentions that if, out of foolishness, one tries to imitate Krsna's rasa dance, he will be killed, just like a person who wants to imitate Lord Siva's drinking of an ocean of poison. Lord Siva drank an ocean of poison and kept it within his throat. The poison made his throat turn blue; and therefore Lord Siva is called Nilakantha. But if any ordinary person tries to imitate Lord Siva by drinking poison or smoking ganja, he is sure to be vanquished and will die within a very short time. Lord Sri Krsna's dealing with the gopis was under special circumstances.
Most of the gopis in their previous lives were great sages, expert in the studies of the Vedas, and when Lord Krsna appeared as Lord Ramacandra they wanted to enjoy with Him. Lord Ramacandra gave them the benediction that their desires would be fulfilled when He would appear as Krsna. Therefore the desire of the gopis to enjoy the appearance of Lord Krsna was long cherished. So they approached goddess Katyayani to have Krsna as their husband. There are many other circumstances also which testify to the supreme authority of Krsna and show that He is not bound to the rules and regulations of the material world. In special cases, He acts as He likes to favor His devotees. This is only possible for Him, because He is the supreme controller. People in general should follow the instructions of Lord Krsna as given in the Bhagavad-gita and should not even imagine imitating Lord Krsna in the rasa dance.
Krsna's lifting of Govardhana Hill, His killing great demons like Putana and others are all obviously extraordinary activities. Similarly, the rasa dance is also an uncommon activity and cannot be imitated by any ordinary man. An ordinary person engaged in his occupational duty, like Arjuna, should execute his duty for the satisfaction of Krsna; that is within his power. Arjuna was a fighter, and Krsna wanted him to fight for His satisfaction. Arjuna agreed, although at first he was not willing to fight. Duties are required for ordinary persons. They should not jump up and try to imitate Krsna and indulge in rasa-lila and thus bring about their ruin. One should know with certainty that Krsna had no personal interest in whatever He did for the benediction of the gopis. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, na mam karmani limpanti: Krsna never enjoys or suffers the result of His activities. Therefore it is not possible for Him to act irreligiously. He is transcendental to all activities and religious principles. He is untouched by the modes of material nature. He is the supreme controller of all living entities, either in human society, in the demigod society in heavenly planets, or in lower forms of life. He is the supreme controller of all living entities and of material nature; therefore, He has nothing to do with religious or irreligious principles.
Sukadeva Gosvami further concludes that the great sages and devotees, who are washed clean of all conditional life, can move freely even within the contamination of material nature by keeping Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead within their heart. In this way also they do not become subject to the laws of pleasure and pain in the modes of material nature. How, then, is it possible for Krsna, who appears in His own internal potency, to be subjected to the laws of karma?
In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord clearly says that whenever He appears He does so by His internal potency; He is not forced to accept a body by the laws of karma like an ordinary living entity. Every other living entity is forced to accept a certain type of body by his previous actions. But when Krsna appears, He always appears in a body; it is not forced upon Him by the action of His past deeds. His body is a vehicle for His transcendental pleasure which is enacted by His internal potency. He has no obligation to the laws of karma. The Mayavadi monist must accept a certain type of body, being forced by the laws of nature; therefore, his claim to be one with Krsna or God is only theoretical. Such persons who claim to be equal with Krsna and indulge in rasa-lila create a dangerous situation for the people in general. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already present as Supersoul within the bodies of the gopis and their husbands. He is the guide of all living entities, as is confirmed in the Katha Upanisad, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. The Supersoul directs the individual soul to act, and the Supersoul is the actor and witness of all action.
It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that Krsna is present in everyone's heart, and from Him come all action, remembrance and forgetfulness. He is the original person to be known by Vedic knowledge. He is the author of Vedanta philosophy, and He knows the Vedanta philosophy perfectly well. The so-called Vedantists and Mayavadis cannot understand Krsna as He is; they simply mislead followers by imitating the actions of Krsna in an unauthorized way. Krsna, the Supersoul of everyone, is already within the body of everyone; therefore if He sees someone or embraces someone there is no question of propriety.
Some ask that if Krsna is self-sufficient, why should He at all manifest pastimes with the gopis, which are disturbing to the so-called moralists of the world? The answer is that such activities show special mercy to the fallen, conditioned souls. The gopis are also expansions of His internal energy, but because Krsna wanted to exhibit the rasa-lila, they also appeared as ordinary human beings. In the material world, pleasure is ultimately manifested in the sex attraction between man and woman. The man lives simply to be attracted by women, and the woman lives simply to be attracted by men. That is the basic principle of material life. As soon as these attractions are combined, people become more and more implicated in material existence. In order to show them special favor, Krsna exhibited this rasa-lila dance. It is just to captivate the conditioned soul. Since they are very much attracted by sexology, they can enjoy the same life with Krsna and thus become liberated from the material condition. In the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Maharaja Pariksit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Krsna are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Krsna they become relieved from the material disease. They are addicted to material enjoyment and are accustomed to reading sex literature, but by hearing these transcendental pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, they will be relieved from material contamination.
How they should hear and from whom is also explained by Sukadeva Gosvami. The difficulty is that the whole world is full of Mayavadis, and when they become professional reciters of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and when people, without knowing the effect of the Mayavada philosophy, hear from such persons, they become confused. Discussion of rasa-lila among people in general is not recommended because they are affected by the Mayavada philosophy, but if one who is advanced explains, and people hear from him, certainly the hearers will be gradually elevated to the position of Krsna consciousness and liberated from materially contaminated life.
Another important point is that all the gopis who danced with Krsna were not in their material bodies. They danced with Krsna in their spiritual bodies. All their husbands thought that their wives were sleeping by their sides. The so-called husbands of the gopis were already enamored by the influence of the external energy of Krsna; so by dint of this very energy they could not understand that their wives had gone to dance with Krsna. What then is the basis of accusing Krsna of dancing with others' wives? The bodies of the gopis, which were their husbands', were lying in bed, but the spiritual parts and parcels of Krsna were dancing with Him. Krsna is the supreme person, the whole spirit, and He danced with the spiritual bodies of the gopis. There is therefore no reason to accuse Krsna in any way.
After the rasa dance was over, the night turned into the brahma-muhurta (the night of Brahma, a very, very long period, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita). The brahma-muhurta takes place about one and a half hours before sunrise. It is recommended that one should rise from bed at that time and, after finishing daily ablutions, take to spiritual activities by performing Mangala-aratrika and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. This period is very convenient for the execution of spiritual activities. When that auspicious moment arrived, Krsna asked the gopis to leave. Although they were not willing to quit His company, they were very obedient and dear to Him. As soon as Krsna asked them to go home, they immediately left and returned home. Sukadeva Gosvami concludes this episode of rasa-lila by pointing out that if a person hears from the right source of the pastimes of Krsna, who is Visnu Himself, and the gopis, who are expansions of His energy, then he will be relieved from the most dangerous type of disease, namely lust. If one actually hears rasa-lila, he will become completely freed from the lusty desire of sex life and elevated to the highest level of spiritual understanding. Generally, because they hear from Mayavadis and they themselves are Mayavadis, people become more and more implicated in sex life. The conditioned soul should hear the rasa-lila dance from an authorized spiritual master and be trained by him so that he can understand the whole situation; thus one can be elevated to the highest standard of spiritual life, otherwise one will be implicated. Material lust is a kind of heart disease, and to cure the material heart disease of the conditioned soul, it is recommended that one should hear, but not from the impersonalist rascals. If one hears from the right sources with right understanding, then his situation will be different.
Sukadeva Gosvami has used the word sraddhanvita for one who is trained in the spiritual life. Sraddha, or faith, is the beginning. One who has developed his faith in Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Spirit Soul, can both describe and hear. Sukadeva also uses the word anusrnuyat. One must hear from disciplic succession. Anu means following, and anu means always. So one must always follow the disciplic succession and not hear from any stray professional reciter, Mayavadi or ordinary man. Anusrnuyat means that one must hear from an authorized person who is in the disciplic succession and is always engaged in Krsna consciousness. When a person wants to hear in this way, then the effect will be sure. By hearing rasa-lila, one will be elevated to the highest position of spiritual life.
Sukadeva Gosvami uses two specific words, bhaktim and param. Bhaktim param means execution of devotional service above the neophyte stage. Those who are simply attracted to temple worship but do not know the philosophy of bhakti are in the neophyte stage. That sort of bhakti is not the perfectional stage. The perfectional stage of bhakti, or devotional service, is completely free from material contamination. The most dangerous aspect of contamination is lust or sex life. Bhaktim param devotional service is so potent that the more one advances in this line, the more he loses his attraction for material life. One who is actually deriving benefit from hearing rasa-lila dance surely achieves the transcendental position. He surely loses all traces of lust in his heart.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura points out that according to Bhagavad-gita, the Brahma day and Brahma night are periods of solar years expanding to 4,300,000 multiplied by 1,000. According to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the rasa dance was performed during the long period of Brahma's night, but the gopis could not understand that. In order to fulfill their desire, Krsna extended the night to cover such a great period of time. One may ask how this was possible, and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura reminds us that Krsna, although bound by a small rope, could show His mother the whole universe within His mouth. How was this possible? The answer is that He can do anything for the pleasure of His devotees. Similarly, because the gopis wanted to enjoy Krsna, they were given the opportunity to associate with Him for a long period. This was done according to His promise. When Krsna stole the garments of the gopis while they were taking bath at Ciraghata on Yamuna, Krsna promised to fulfill their desire in some future night. In one night, therefore, they enjoyed the company of Krsna as their beloved husband, but that night was not an ordinary night. It was a night of Brahma, and lasted millions and millions of years. Everything is possible for Krsna, for He is the supreme controller".
Taken from the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Thirty-third Chapter
of Krsna Book,
entitled, "Description of the Rasa Dance."