It was full moon night of Sharat Ritu and Krishna wanted to fulfill his promise to the gopis. So Krishna began to play divine music on his transcendental flute. Hearing the vibrations of the of the flute, the gopis left all their work and rushed to spot in the Vrindavana forest, where Krishna was playing his flute.
Initially Krishna tried to dishearten the gopis by jugglery of words and asked them why they had come to the forest at this late hour in the night? Were they not afraid of the animals that were freely loitering in the jungle? He advised them to go back home for it was not appropriate for the ladies to be with another person except their husbands or relatives at this hour of night. The gopis became sad and anxious over this rude behavior of Krishna and bowed down their heads, looking on the ground and drawing lines in the sand with their toes and shedding tears as they asked Krishna why he was speaking so heartlessly to them? They had come there leaving aside their worldly relations just to surrender themselves and embrace Him as their supreme beloved.
On hearing the anxious pleas of the gopis and satisfied with their whole-hearted devotion, Krishna started wandering with them in the Vrindavana forest, singing and dancing with them. In this way they reached the cool sandy banks of River Yamuna. In this transcendental atmosphere when Krishna touched the bodies of gopis, their desire to embrace him increased. They all enjoyed the pastimes without a tinge mundane sex life. The gopis however soon began to feel proud, considering themselves to be the most fortunate of the women in the universe by being favored by Krishna. Lord Krishna immediately disappeared from the scene in order to curb their pride.
When Krishna suddenly disappeared from the company of the gopis, they started searching for him in every place. Unable to find him, they started behaving in strange manner. They asked the trees, plants and animals in the forest whether they have seen Krishna? Unable to get any answer from them, they asked each other about the whereabouts of Krishna. After much searching, they all sat down fatigued and started imitating the different pastimes they had with Krishna. Some gopis found the footprints of Krishna and begin to follow them Soon they saw another set of footprints beside the imprints of lotus-feet of Lord Krishna.
They concluded that these were the footprints of gopi Radha Rani, whom Krishna loved very dearly. Krishna had taken her with him, because when all the other gopis were feeling very proud of their company with Krishna, Radha was deeply immersed in the contemplation of Krishna. So Krishna, took her with him because at there was no pride in her. As they traversed some distance Radha Rani requested Krishna to decorate her hairs with flowers. Krishna did as desired by Radha Rani. When they reached deep in the forest, Radha Rani told Krishna that she was very tired and could not go any further. Krishna then lifted her on his shoulders. But as soon as she seated herself on the shoulder of Krishna, she started thinking in a manner unusual to her. She was assailed by the satvik ahankar (gentle proud) that Krishna left all gopis and came with her. He decorated and lifted her on his shoulder as she commanded. As Krishna walked a few steps more, Radha Rani caught hold of the branch of a tree.
That very moment Krishna immediately disappeared under her and Radha Rani was left hanging on the branch. All the gopis came where Radha Rani was hanging from the branch of the tree and heard everything from her. They felt sympathetic about her and together, they proceeded in search of Krishna. When they were unsuccessful in their endeavor, they set down on the bank of River Yamuna and started chanting the glories of Krishna. They repeatedly requested Krishna to appear again. On hearing their plea, Krishna reappeared before the gopis and tried to pacify them.
THE RASA DANCE:
Thus hearing Krishna speaking to pacify them, the gopis became very happy. After this Krishna began the Rasa dance. Krishna danced amidst the gopis. Krishna multiplied himself into many Krishnas and each form stood beside every gopi, so that each gopi thought that Krishna was dancing with her alone. There were three kinds of rasa going on simultaneously. One: Kanha and one gopi, personal meeting. One: Kanha and two gopis, social meeting. One: Gopis encircling Radha Rani and Krishna while all their senses centred around Krishna, the final and lasting meeting. The dance was a perfect tuning of rhythm, body movements and music. The movements of their extremities, earrings, hair with flowers and their smiling at each other produced a wonderful dance. To see this wonderful dance, many demi-gods accompanied by their wives had arrived in the sky. The Gandharvas and Kinnaras began to sing and showered flowers on the dancers.
When some of the gopis became tired from dancing, they sat down with Krishna and rested their hands on the shoulders of Krishna. The gopis were unaware of the state of their clothes and their ornaments. Their hairs had loosened and the flowers in their hairs had fallen down on the ground. They were only aware of the fragrance that was emanating from the body of Krishna and was making them mad and flaming the desire to enjoy Krishna’s company more and more.
To relieve the fatigue of the dance, Krishna and the gopis entered the water of River Yamuna just as an elephant enters in the water with his many female companions. They started splashing water at each other and enjoyed this game. After this they came out of the water and began to stroll along the banks of River Yamuna and enjoyed the fragrant breeze blowing there. In this way by singing, dancing and discussing they passed the whole night. When it was near to dawn, Krishna asked the gopis to leave for their homes. Though they were not willing to leave Krishna’s company, they immediately left and returned to their home.
Gopis’ love for Krishna was not a physical passion. It was supreme love. For them Lord Krishna was the living God. He was the moving image of the Supreme Lord. Their faith was intense. When they thought of Lord Krishna they forgot their worldly activities. They were merged in the love of Krishna.
Lord Krishna attracted their hearts from His very boyhood. He was a very beautiful child. He was beauty incarnate. So the Gopis began to love Krishna from His very birth. They caressed and loved Krishna as they would do their own children. The Gopa girls of Brindavan loved Krishna as their own brother. Is there any sexual love between brother and sister? A sister loves her younger brother. She fondles him and plays with him. Such was the relationship between the Gopis and Krishna.
Gradually the love for Krishna assumed the shape of intense Prema (divine love). They thought of Krishna alone when they churned the curd, when they took water from the well. They sang His praises when they took bath. They remembered Him when they took food and at all times. Their minds became Krishnamaya by incessant practice of Smarana (remembrance) of the Lord.
It is possible that when the Gopis grew of age they might have been moved by physical love also, as it is the case with every animated being. Sleep, food and sex are common to all living beings.
But Lord Krishna knew the hearts of the Gopis. He turned the hearts of the Gopis to the proper direction by completely eradicating lust from their minds. It is with this purpose in view that Lord Krishna played the Rasa Lila with the Gopis.
At the time of Rasa Lila, He multiplied Himself into so many Krishnas. The Gopis were struck with wonder and amazement. All their idea of physical love entirely vanished due to this miracle. They witnessed the showers of flowers poured from the skies by the Devas. They saw the Vidyadharas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Charanas, etc., singing the praise of the Lord. They enjoyed the blissful company of the Lord at the time of Rasa Lila, a bliss millions of times greater than the bliss they would enjoy through sense objects. They enjoyed the bliss of Samadhi or union with God.
‘This is this, this is that’—this conception of difference is only the delusion of a man whose mind is distracted and uncontrolled and is not united to the Lord. The man of uncontrolled mind falls into the error that there is plurality of objects. This error leads to merit and demerit, or right and wrong, good and evil. The uncontrolled Jiva, who is bewildered and deluded by this diversity created by the natural outward tendency of the senses, fancies himself as a separate unit in the world and begins to entertain desires and enjoys sensual objects. Duty, non-performance of duty and the performance of forbidden acts (Karma, Akarma and Vikarma) result from this delusion of diversity caused by the mind, senses and intellect. The differences of action, inaction and evil action pertain only to the man who has notions of merit and demerit, right and wrong, good and bad. It is the delusion born of the conception of differences, that causes the experiences or notions of right and wrong, good and bad, merit and demerit. The Vedas speak of the performance of prescribed work, the non-performance of prescribed work, and the performance of prohibited work, for those only who have got the ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, merit and demerit. One should abandon the sense of egoism, control the mind and the senses and behold everything in the universe as Brahman. One should realise the essence of one’s own nature, bliss and harmony with the universe and behold the wide-spread universe in the Self and the Self in the Supreme Lord.
He who has risen above good and bad does not refrain from doing what is prohibited from a sense of fear of evil consequences nor does he do the prescribed duty in the hope that it will conduce to merit; but he acts only like a child. The sense of right and wrong will be natural in him independently of scriptural teachings. He has destroyed all egoism. The laws of the world do not affect him. He has no more duties to perform. He is above Karma and Karmas cannot touch him. He may, for the instruction of the world, perform works or refrain from forbidden acts. He will exceed the limits of both right and wrong.
This wonderful and unprecedented experience made the Gopis firmly believe that Krishna was not an ordinary mortal. They had firm conviction that Krishna was the Lord Himself, though sometimes they saw Him as the son of Nanda and Yasoda only. The idea of Lord Krishna as God was not strong in them till the time of Rasa Lila due to the Yoga Maya of the Lord.
The song of the Gopis (Gopi Gitam) in Bhagavata (Skanda X-Ch. 31) bears ample proof of the fact that they regarded Krishna as the Supreme Lord. They got rid of the least tinge of sex-passion in them and were attached to the Lord by the bonds of intense Prema (divine love).
The superhuman miracles of Krishna in his childhood made them believe in his Omniscience and Omnipotence. Would there be a worse fool in this world who would have lower passion towards the Lord who is the bestower of all desires of men? The Lord is the supreme cause for all happiness that men experience. Having seen Him face to face, what greater fool is there who could crave for lower pleasures. Would anybody crave for black sugar (Gur) when sugarcandy is available in plenty?
From this it is clear that the love of Gopis towards Krishna was of a divine nature. They had Ananya Bhakti and they were free from all lower and base desires for sexual enjoyment.
Secret of Rasa Lila
Rasa Lila is divine sport (Kreeda) with the devotees for bringing about their union with the Lord through Prema or pure divine love. Rasa is the sweetest juice of Prema. It is the manifestation of divine love or higher emotion which takes the devotee to the magnanimous height of holy communion with the Lord.
Lord Krishna’s Rasa Lila is the mystery of mysteries. It is the secret of secrets. It is not a matter for intellectual discussion. It is a holy matter for silent meditation for devotees. It should not be divulged to insincere critics or those who have no devotion to the Lord. It should be studied with reverence and faith. It contains Madhurya Rasa, the crowning glory of Bhakti, which leads to absolute self-surrender and absorption in the Lord.
Sri Krishna performed the Rasa Lila to destroy carnality by means of pure love or Prema. He taught humanity through the Rasa Lila how to convert passion into dispassion and pure love, and how to wean the mind from the sexual Vasanas and instincts. He showed that through Madhurya Rasa one can effect total self-surrender or Atma-Nivedan, and attain Sayujya or absorption in the Lord or husband of our hearts.
Rasa Lila was a sport (Kreeda) which was meant to build up the faith, to strengthen spirituality towards holiness, to improve the minds of the Gopis in particular and humanity in general.
Krishna was ten years old when he performed the Rasa Lila. During the dance, the Gopis saw Krishna only, within, without, around and everywhere. They forgot all about their homes, husbands, children and parents. Their hearts melted in Lord Krishna, the Supreme Soul. The fire of devotion brought about a fusion of hearts. The glue of Prema cemented their hearts with Krishna. The Gopis were not ordinary women. They were exalted personages.
The five chapters of the Bhagavata which describe the Rasa Lila are the 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd of the tenth Skanda. When Rasa Kreeda commenced, Krishna disappeared in the course of it to put down the pride of Gopis. Gopis went in search of Sri Krishna. They assembled on the sands of the Yamuna expecting His return. Gopis sang song (Gopi Gitam). Sri Krishna suddenly appeared in the midst of complaining Gopis. Sri Krishna danced with Gopis.
The tenth Skanda of the Bhagavata is regarded as the quintessence of the whole of the Bhagavata. The five chapters on Rasa Lila are rightly considered to be the very quintessence of the whole of the tenth Skanda. You cannot find in the whole range of the vast Sanskrit literature a treatise like the Rasa-panchadhyayi of Srimad Bhagavata. These chapters are soul-stirring, sublime and mystical. They are extremely profound and subtle in their philosophical contents.
He who has perfect faith in the Sastras and the existence of God, who is devoted to his Guru, who has controlled his passions and the senses, who is endowed with purity, dispassion, discrimination, who yearns for the Darshan of the Lord and communion with Him, and who lives in the midst of devotees and sages is a proper Adhikari or qualified person to study Rasa Lila. For him alone the mysteries of Rasa Lila and its divine significance and import will be truly revealed, like the Amalaka fruit in the palm of the hand.
For a passionate man, whose heart is surcharged with carnality and sexual Vasanas, who has allowed his senses to run riot, who does not wish to rise above the life in the senses, who does not believe in supersensuous things and higher superconscious divine life of bliss and ecstasy, these five chapters which deal with the divine Lilas of Lord Krishna are nothing but some kind of profane literature. He will not be benefited in the least by the study of this portion of Bhagavata.