Today is the auspicious day of Sarat-purnima, which was utilized by Lord Krsna five thousand years ago to celebrate the rasa-lila.
When Lord Krsna saw the beautiful moon rising in the sky on the night of sarat-purnima, He desired to enjoy the rasa dance, and so He went to Vamsivata, near the banks of the Yamuna, and played upon His transcendental flute. When the gopis heard the song of the flute, they desired to follow the sound and meet Lord Krsna. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that many of the cowherd girls were engaged in various household dutiesâ€”some were cooking, some were cleaning, some were churning butter, some were serving their family membersâ€”but when they heard the sound of Krsnaâ€™s flute they immediately dropped everything and rushed to the Lord. Some of the gopis, however, were detained. Their husbands or brothers or fathers stood at the door with sticks and forbade them to leave their houses. But somehow or other, these gopis too, being absorbed in intense thoughts of Krsna in separation, were able to meet the Lord.
This incident is very significant, and the explanation is important, so we will read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, chapters twenty-nine to thirty-three, beginning with Chapter Twenty-nine, â€œKrsna and the Gopis Meetâ€:
tam eva paramatmanam
jahur guna-mayam deham
For those gopis who could not go to see Krsna, intolerable separation from their beloved caused an intense agony that burned away all impious karma. By meditating upon Him they realized His embrace, and the ecstasy they then felt exhausted their material piety. Although Lord Krsna is the Supreme Soul, these girls simply thought of Him as their male lover and associated with Him in that intimate mood. Thus their karmic bondage was nullified and they abandoned their gross material bodies.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti comments upon this verse as follows:
â€œHere Sukadeva Gosvami speaks in a peculiar way: He presents the intimate object the gopis attained as if it were an external idea, thus keeping its true nature secret from outsiders, while at the same time he reveals to the confidential devotees well versed in the scientific conclusions of devotional service the internal meaning that is his real purport. Thus to outsiders Sukadeva says that Krsna gave the gopis liberation, but to the confidential hearers Sukadeva reveals that when the gopis experienced separation from their beloved there arose in them both immeasurable unhappiness and immeasurable happiness, and that they gradually achieved their desired goal.
â€œThus the verse can be understood as follows: Because of their intolerable separation from their beloved, the gopis felt terrible agony, by which they caused all inauspicious things to tremble. In other words, when people in general hear of the gopisâ€™ extreme agony in separation from their beloved, they abandon thousands of inauspicious thingsâ€”things even as fearsome as the subterranean fires of millions of universes or the powerful poison swallowed by Lord Siva. More specifically, those who hear of the gopisâ€™ love in separation give up their terrible false ego and, thinking themselves defeated, are shaken. When the gopis meditated on Lord Acyuta, He became manifest and personally came to them, and they experienced great joy by embracing His body, which was full of transcendental love for them. The gopis also experienced great joy by exhibiting personal characteristics and a sense of identification appropriate to such love. That joy made all their good fortune, both material and spiritual, seem paltry by comparison.
â€œThe implication is that when other persons see how happy the gopis became upon embracing Krsna when He manifested Himself directly before them, these other persons feel that thousands of so-called auspicious objects are insignificant by comparison, including all the sense-gratificatory pleasures found in millions of universes and even the supersensory pleasure of spiritual bliss (brahmananda). Thus hearing of the gopisâ€™ distress and the joy that arose, respectively, out of their separation from the Supreme Lord and their union with Him, anyone can get rid of all the reactions of his past activities, both sinful and pious.â€
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Every conditioned soul is bound by a combination of pious and sinful activities. Pious activities are activities performed according to Vedic injunctions, or within the laws of God, and sinful activities are activities performed against Vedic injunctions, against the laws of God. The result of pious activities is that one takes birth in the material world and enjoys so-called material happiness, and the result of sinful activities is that one takes birth in the material world and suffers material distress. Everyone in the material world engages in some combination of pious material activities and sinful activities. Consequently, everyone in the material world to some extent suffers material miseries and to some extent enjoys material happiness. In order to become liberated from the bondage of material existence, we have to be free from both pious and sinful reactions.
By hearing of Krsnaâ€™s pastimesâ€”and specifically we are discussing Krsnaâ€™s pastimes on sarat-purnimaâ€”one becomes free from all such reactions. How? If one actually hears submissively from a proper authority about the extreme agony of the gopis in separation from the Lord, one will feel that any pain one experiences in the material world is most insignificant compared with the pain the gopis felt in separation from Krsna. Thus one will feel humbled and give up oneâ€™s false ego and stand in awe of the gopis. Similarly, by hearing of the gopisâ€™ transcendental pleasure in meeting Krsna after the separation, one will actually understand that there is no happiness in the material world, or even in the spiritual sky, that can compare with the happiness the gopis experience in service to Krsna. Thus one will abandon the vain pursuit of material happiness and be completely absorbed in thoughts of the pastimes of Krsna and the gopis, relinquishing all identification with material pious activities and sinful activities. Being completely absorbed in the pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, one will be completely purified. One will be liberated and actually give up all interest in the material world.
When the gopis came to meet Krsna, He pretended to be surprised that they had come into the forest of Vrndavana in the middle of night. â€œHave you come to enjoy the beauty of the forest?â€ He asked. When Krsna was speaking in such a tricky way, the gopis felt embarrassed and started looking in different directions. So when Krsna saw that they were looking in different directions, He said, â€œOh, you must have come to look at the trees of Vrndavana or perhaps to see the beautiful full moon.â€ Then Lord Krsna instructed them, â€œYou should go back home. Your family members must be worrying about you. There are so many ferocious animals in the jungle. It is not safe for you to be out at night. You should return home to your husbands and fathers and other relations.â€
After remaining silent for some time, and crying, the gopis finally decided to speak. They appealed to Lord Krsna that just as Lord Narayana reciprocates with His devotees in their endeavor to perform devotional service and become liberated, Krsna also should reciprocate with His devotees. And then they gave the following argument:
yat paty-apatya-suhrdam anuvrttir anga
strinam sva-dharma iti dharma-vida tvayoktam
astv evam etad upadesa-pade tvayise
prestho bhavams tanu-bhrtam kila bandhur atma
Our dear Krsna, as an expert in religion You have advised us that the proper religious duty for women is to faithfully serve their husbands, children, and other relatives. We agree that this principle is valid, but actually this service should be rendered to You. After all, O Lord, You are the dearmost friend of all embodied souls. You are their most intimate relative and indeed their very Self.
Lord Krsna had advised the gopis to go home and, as good religious girls, serve their husbands and children and other relations. The gopis reply here, â€œYou are more intimately related to us than anyone else. You are the most intimate friend, the dearmost relative of the living entity. Therefore we should serve You.â€
There were other exchanges between the gopis and Krsna, but in the end Krsna accepted the gopisâ€™ desire to serve Him, and He reciprocated with them perfectly. He dealt with each gopi so lovingly and intimately that each thought that Krsna was with her alone, and thus each became transcendentally proud, thinking, â€œKrsna is with me; Krsna favors me over all others.â€ Meanwhile, Srimati Radharani was seeing Krsna with all the other gopis and feeling neglected by Him. So to pacify Srimati Radharani, and to show Her special favor, Lord Krsna disappeared.
Chapter Thirty describes how the gopis searched all over the Vrndavana forest looking for Krsna, how they followed His footprints, and how, seeing another pair of footprints beside His, they wondered who was that fortunate gopi with Krsna. â€œShe must have worshiped the Lord better than the rest of us,â€ they thought, â€œand therefore Krsna has gone alone with her.â€ The gopis followed the two pairs of footprints, looking in the sand for different indications. In one place they saw that the two pairs of footprints had become oneâ€”the unknown gopiâ€™s had disappearedâ€”and they concluded that Krsna must have taken her on his shoulders to save her tender feet the pain of walking on the forest floor. In another place they could see only the front part of Krsnaâ€™s footprints and thus understood that Krsna had been standing on His toes, perhaps to pick some flowers to decorate His belovedâ€™s hair.
Eventually, however, the gopis came upon Srimati Radharani Herself, lamenting in separation from Krsna, just like them. Krsna had left Her behind as well, disappearing when She began to feel proud of Herself for having received His exclusive attention. In fact, Her pain in separation was even greater than theirs, and therefore, instead of being envious of Her, they became sympathetic. Thus all the gopis were united in their separation from Krsna, and all together they began to search for Him in the forest.
But although the gopis searched and searched for Krsna, they could not find Him, and finally they decided that they could never find Him in the dark of the forest. â€œIn fact,â€ they spoke among themselves, â€œwe can never find Krsna at allâ€”unless He wants to reveal Himself to us, unless He wants to be present before us.â€ So the gopis considered how to attract Krsnaâ€™s attention and gain His favor. And they concluded that the best way was through sankirtana, singing Krsnaâ€™s glories together. So they decided to return to the banks of the Yamuna, where they had begun the rasa dance with Him, where no trees would block the sound, and there they cried in sankirtana, hoping that Krsna would hear their cries and come to them.
Chapter Thirty-one describes the songs of the gopis in separation from Krsna. There are many beautiful poetic verses sung by the gopis; I will read just one or two of them that are especially important and often quoted by Srila Prabhupada.
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah
[The gopis address Krsna:] The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate oneâ€™s sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent.
When Lord Caitanya was celebrating the Ratha-yatra in Jagannatha Puri, He took rest in a garden that reminded Him of Vrndavana. At that time, King Prataparudra came in disguise to serve the Lord, and he very humbly and submissively began to massage the Lordâ€™s lotus feet. At the same time, understanding Lord Caitanyaâ€™s mood of separation at Ratha-yatra (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta explains that Lord Caitanya was in the mood of Srimati Radharani in separation from Krsna), King Prataparudra began to recite the thirty-first chapter of the Tenth Canto, called the Gopi-gita. And when he came to the verse that I just read, tava kathamrtam, Lord Caitanya became so overwhelmed with ecstasy that He stood up and embraced King Prataparudra.
King Prataparudra came in disguise because Lord Caitanya had refused to meet him. Lord Caitanya was playing the part of a strict sannyasi, and a strict sannyasi does not associate with materialistic persons. A king is supposed to be most materialistic, because he is always associating with women and money, and so Lord Caitanya refused to meet him. But although Maharaja Prataparudra was a king, actually he was a devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, so he came in disguise when the Lord was taking rest during the Ratha-yatra. Internally the Lord was actually pleased with King Prataparudra, although externally He refused to meet him. So when King Prataparudra began to sing the verse tava kathamrtam, Lord Caitanya, in a mood of ecstatic love, embraced him.
The verse says that those who broadcast the message of Godhead are bhuri-da janah, the greatest welfare workers. So Lord Caitanya was embracing Maharaja Prataparudra and exclaiming, â€œYou are bhuri-da janah! You are the most munificent welfare worker! You are giving the greatest pleasure by reciting the glorious pastimes of Krsna.â€
Then at the end, when the gopisâ€™ separation reached the highest point, they sang the following verse:
yat te sujata-caranamburuham stanesu
bhitah sanaih priya dadhimahi karkasesu
tenatavim atasi tad vyathate na kim svit
kurpadibhir bhramati dhir bhavad-ayusam nah
O dearly beloved! Your lotus feet are so soft that we place them gently on our breasts, fearing that Your feet will be hurt. Our life rests only in You. Our minds, therefore, are filled with anxiety that Your tender feet might be wounded by pebbles as You roam about on the forest path.
Srila Prabhupada often quoted this verse, which shows the gopisâ€™ pure love for Krsnaâ€”that the gopis had no thought other than the happiness of Krsna. Thinking that when Krsna was roaming in the forest His feet might be wounded by thorns or pebbles, the gopis would cry. In other words, they were not at all thinking of their own gratification. They were simply thinking of the happiness of Krsna. They felt happiness in the happiness of the Lord, and they felt pain thinking of the pain of the Lord. Whether the Lord, who has a spiritual body, actually feels pain or not is another question, but when the gopis thought of the Lord feeling pain, they cried.
When Lord Krsna heard the piteous appeals of the gopis, who had no other interest than His happiness and who were crying because they thought His lotus feet might be pained by the grains of sand and pebbles and thorns in the forest of Vrndavana, Lord Krsna appeared before them.
Chapter Thirty-two describes the reunion of Krsna and the gopis. The appearance of Lord Krsna is also described in one very nice verse, which appears repeatedly in the Caitanya-caritamrta:
tasam avirabhuc chaurih
Then Lord Krsna, a smile on His lotus face, appeared before the gopis. Wearing a garland and a yellow garment, He directly appeared as one who can bewilder the mind of Cupid, who himself bewilders the minds of ordinary people.
This verse describes the beautiful form of Krsna the gopis beheld when He reappeared before them. Manmatha refers to Cupid, the demigod in charge of lust. Mana literally means â€œmind,â€ and matha means â€œwhich bewilders.â€ So Cupid, in Sanskrit, means â€œlust.â€ Lust bewilders the minds of ordinary people. Everyone in the material world is impelled by lust. As the poets say, â€œLove makes the world go round.â€ But there is no pure love in the material world; what passes as love is usually lust. So what the poems actually tell us is that lust makes the world go round. And this is true.
One of Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s first followers in New York was Bruce Scharf, later initiated as Brahmananda dasa. Brahmananda was studying English literature, and he had a professor who gave a Freudian interpretation to the literature, saying that the impetus for all the activities in the literature was lust, or sex drive. Brahmananda Prabhu told Srila Prabhupada that he, on the other hand, gave a spiritual interpretation to what was taking place. Srila Prabhupada replied, â€œYour professor is right. Everything in the material world is impelled by lust, or sex desire.â€
So, manmatha. The mind of everyone is bewildered by the attraction of sex desire, or Cupid, but Lord Krsna is so beautiful that even Cupidâ€™s mind becomes bewildered by His beauty. Thatâ€™s how beautiful Krsna is. There is a story that once Cupid went to Vrndavana and wanted to shoot his arrow at Krsna. Even in Western poetry we find the image of Cupid with bow and arrow. Actually, it is true that Madan, or Manmatha, has a bow and arrow. And if someone is struck by the arrow of Cupid, he immediately becomes afflicted by lust. Srila Prabhupada says that if a man is struck by Cupidâ€™s arrow he can become attracted even to a woman who is completely ugly. That is the power of Cupidâ€™s arrow. So, Cupid went to Vrndavana with the idea of shooting Krsna with an arrow, and he happened to arrive on the very night of the rasa dance. But when he took up his bow to aim his arrow, he couldnâ€™t focus on Krsna, because Krsna and the gopis were dancing so quickly that as soon as Madan would fix his aim on Krsna, the face of a gopi would immediately appear. Madanâ€™s mind became so bewildered by the beauty of Krsna and the gopis that he dropped his bow and arrow and fainted in the sand of Ramana-reti.
Krsna is so beautiful He is manmatha-manmathah: He bewilders the mind of Cupid, who bewilders the mind of everyone with sex attraction. Later, the Bhagavatam describes that as beautiful as Krsna is, He becomes even more beautiful in the circle of the gopisâ€”just like a gem, a dark blue sapphire, is very beautiful, but if the beautiful sapphire is placed in a gold ring, it becomes even more beautiful. Krsna alone is so beautiful that He is manmatha-manmathahâ€”He bewilders the mind of Cupid, who bewilders the mind of everyoneâ€”but in the circle of the gopis He is even more beautiful.
The gopis had been as if dead in separation from Krsna, but when Krsna reappeared before them, they felt as if the air of life had returned to their bodies. And thus they got up, and in different ways they reciprocated with Krsna. But within their hearts they harbored some feeling about Krsnaâ€”that in coming to Him they had left their husbands, children, fathers, relatives, homes, comforts, and everything to serve Him, and that He should have reciprocated their love. To their minds, Krsna had not reciprocated but rather had abandoned them, which, in their opinion, He should not have done. So they wanted to point out the defect in Krsnaâ€™s behavior, and to do so they very tactfully and intelligently phrased a question for Krsna to answer.
bhajato â€™nubhajanty eka
nobhayams ca bhajanty eka
etan no bruhi sadhu bhoh
The gopis said: Some people reciprocate the affection only of those who are affectionate toward them, while others show affection even to those who are indifferent or inimical. And yet others will not show affection toward anyone. Dear Krsna, please properly explain this matter to us.
In other words, the gopis discussed three categories of lovers. In the first, one person loves another to the extent that the other loves him. If you love me, I will love you. In the second category is the person who loves the other person even if the other person does not love him: You may be indifferent to meâ€”you may even be inimical to meâ€”but still I love you. And in the third category is the person who does not love anyone: Whether you love me or not, I wonâ€™t love you.
The gopis are hinting that Krsna is in the third category: Even though they loved Him more than their own lives, He did not love them back. But they wanted to hear what Krsnaâ€™s actual position was directly from Krsnaâ€™s own mouth. In other words, without saying it themselves, they wanted to induce Krsna to admit that He had not properly reciprocated their love.
mitho bhajanti ye sakhyah
svarthaikantodyama hi te
na tatra sauhrdam dharmah
svarthartham tad dhi nanyatha
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: So-called friends who show affection for each other only to benefit themselves are actually selfish. They have no true friendship, nor are they following the true principles of religion. Indeed, if they did not expect benefit for themselves, they would not reciprocate.
One typical example is politicians. Politicians come together to help each other get into power; they praise and support each other during the elections. Then, when their interests are served, they donâ€™t reciprocate with each other anymore. More or less the same situation may exist everywhere, but because Mauritius is such a small country we can see the phenomenon there very clearly. Two parties will come together to form a coalition government, and each so-called friend will support the other. But then, when they actually get into power, they start to quarrel among themselves and the one who thinks he doesnâ€™t need the other anymore may let him go. Or sometimesâ€”because itâ€™s a coalition government and the leaders of both parties may want to become the prime ministerâ€”the number-two man thinks, â€œI should become the prime ministerâ€ and threatens to withdraw his support from the prime ministerâ€™s party. Such friendship is not real friendship. Itâ€™s business. A businessman is friendly with his customer because he wants to make a sale, and the customer is friendly with the businessman because he wants to get a good deal. But actually there is no true friendship, because each is thinking of his own interest, and there is no true principle of religion. Lord Krsna does not appreciate people who are like businessmen and give only as much as they get.
Lord Krsna continues:
bhajanty abhajato ye vai
karunah pitarau yatha
dharmo nirapavado â€™tra
sauhrdam ca su-madhyamah
My dear slender-waisted gopis, some people are genuinely merciful or, like parents, naturally affectionate. Such persons, who devotedly serve even those who fail to reciprocate with them, are following the true, faultless path of religion, and they are true well-wishers.
Ideally, parents should serve their children without any expectation of return. Sometimes the children appreciate the parentsâ€™ service and sometimes they donâ€™t. But the parents love and serve the children anyway, whether the children reciprocate or not. And then there are those, not parents, who also love others even if the others donâ€™t love them. They serve others even if others donâ€™t reciprocate. They are devotees, the true followers of religion, the true well-wishersâ€”like Srila Prabhupada, who went all over the world to bestow mercy upon the fallen souls, whether the fallen souls appreciated it or not. Srila Prabhupada used to sign his letters â€œYour Ever Well-wisher,â€ and he actually was.
Then, coming to the third category, Lord Krsna says:
bhajato â€™pi na vai kecid
bhajanty abhajatah kutah
atmarama hy apta-kama
Then there are those individuals who are spiritually self-satisfied, materially fulfilled, or by nature ungrateful, or simply envious of superiors. Such persons will not love even those who love them, what to speak of those who are inimical.
Here Lord Krsna discusses the third category. They do not love even people who love them, what to speak of loving those who are inimical toward them. Lord Krsna mentions four categories of persons who do not reciprocate with anyone, whether the others love them or not.
The first category is atmarama, persons who are completely self-satisfied. Self-realized souls are atmarama. They take pleasure in the self, in the soul within, and they donâ€™t need to go out of themselves to experience pleasure. So they donâ€™t reciprocate. One might think that Lord Krsna is atmarama, self-satisfied, and that therefore He didnâ€™t reciprocate with the gopis. He didnâ€™t need the gopisâ€™ love, and He didnâ€™t need the gopisâ€™ service.
The second category is apta-kama. Such persons have desires, but their desires are already fulfilledâ€”like someone who was hungry but after eating a full meal is satisfied. If then you offer him some more food, he will not accept, because his desire is already satisfied.
The third category is akrta-jna, â€œungrateful.â€ Perhaps the gopis thought that Krsna was akrta-jna, ungrateful for all they had sacrificed and done for Him.
The fourth category, the worst, is guru-druhah. Guru-druhah means â€œone who is envious of superiors.â€ The guru does so much for the disciple, but the disciple may be envious of the guru. He may even kill the guru, which is the greatest offense. So guru-druhi, someone who kills his guru, is considered the worst.
Then Lord Krsna explains to the gopis that although they might think that He is in the category of people who donâ€™t reciprocate, actually He does reciprocate. And He explains how:
naham tu sakhyo bhajato â€™pi jantun
bhajamy amisam anuvrtti-vrttaye
yathadhano labdha-dhane vinaste
tac-cintayanyan nibhrto na veda
But the reason I do not immediately reciprocate the affection of living beings even when they worship Me, O gopis, is that I want to intensify their loving devotion. They then become like a poor man who has gained some wealth and then lost it, and who thus becomes so anxious about it that he can think of nothing else.
If someone has some treasure, he may take it for granted; but if he loses it, he becomes so absorbed in thought of the lost treasure that he thinks of nothing else but how to get it back. For example, although our chanting beads are our connection to Krsna, our lifeline, sometimes we donâ€™t think of them and we leave them somewhere, and then we canâ€™t find them. Then we become very worried: â€œWhere are my beads?â€ Now, of course, devotees may think, â€œOh, well, Iâ€™ll ask Guru Maharaja to chant on my beads again.â€ But if one of Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s disciples lost his or her beads chanted on by Srila Prabhupada, he or she would be looking everywhere and thinking of nothing else but â€œWhere are my beads? Where are my beads?â€
Here Krsna says that although He appears to be in the third category (people who do not reciprocate the love of those who love them), actually He is not. He does reciprocate. The devotee has no desire other than to love Krsna, and he always prays that his love for Krsna will grow stronger and stronger. Krsna knows the desire of the devotee, and thus He reciprocates by appearing not to reciprocate, so that the devoteeâ€™s love for Krsna will become intensified.
Then, at the end of the chapter, are two famous verses spoken by Lord Krsna in appreciation of the gopisâ€™ love:
svanam hi vo mayy anuvrttaye â€™balah
mayaparoksam bhajata tirohitam
masuyitum marhatha tat priyam priyah
My dear girls, understanding that simply for My sake you had rejected the authority of worldly opinion, of the Vedas, and of your relatives, I acted as I did only to increase your attachment to Me. Even when I removed Myself from your sight by suddenly disappearing, I never stopped loving you. Therefore, My beloved gopis, please do not harbor any bad feelings toward Me, your beloved.
Krsna is trying to pacify the gopis: â€œAlthough I disappeared from your sight to make your love for Me more intense, I was never far away. I was always thinking of you with love. So please do not be angry.â€
na paraye â€™ham niravadya-samyujam
sva-sadhu-krtyam vibudhayusapi vah
ya mabhajan durjara-geha-srnkhalah
samvrscya tad vah pratiyatu sadhuna
I am not able to repay My debt for Your spotless service, even within a lifetime of Brahma. Your connection with Me is beyond reproach. You have worshiped Me, cutting off all domestic ties, which are difficult to break. Therefore please let your own glorious deeds be your compensation.
Although Lord Krsna said that He sometimes reciprocates with His devotees, who desire to increase their love for Him, by not being present before them, here He admits that He cannot fully reciprocate the gopisâ€™ love for Him: â€œYour love for Me is so great I cannot reciprocate; I cannot repay you for your love for Me.â€
He further says that the gopisâ€™ love for Him is beyond reproach. Someone might reproach the gopis: â€œTo serve Krsna you left your relatives, you left your husbands, you left your children.â€ But Krsna says, â€œNo. Your love for Me is beyond reproach. It is completely pure.â€ And He continues, â€œYou have given up all family connections for Me, which is very difficult to do.â€ People generally are very attached to their families, and they cannot give them up, even for Krsna.
Here Krsna is explaining why He cannot fully reciprocate the gopisâ€™ love for Him: they gave up their families but He didnâ€™t give up His. He didnâ€™t give up Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yasoda. He would sneak out at night, but they wouldnâ€™t know, so He didnâ€™t actually jeopardize His relationship with His family. But the gopis, when they heard Krsnaâ€™s flute, dropped everything to meet Krsna, not caring even for their family relationships. So Krsna says, â€œYou could sacrifice your ties with your families, but I couldnâ€™t sacrifice My ties with My family. So your love is greater than Mine. Thus I am unable to reciprocate your loving service.â€
There are many meanings to these verses, but the conclusion is that Krsna ultimately admits to the gopis: â€œIt is true. I couldnâ€™t reciprocate your love for Me. Your love for Me is too great and powerful. So what can I do? Even if I tried for as long as a lifetime of Brahma, I could not repay you. Please be satisfied by your own pure love. I am unable to repay you.â€
Hearing Krsna admit defeat in such a humble way (the reciprocation of the Lord and the devotee is so sweet), the gopis thought, â€œKrsna has defeated us. We could not admit defeat, that Krsnaâ€™s love is greater than ours, but Krsna admitted to us that our love is greater than His. Therefore He is greater than we are. Actually, we are defeated.â€
Krsnaâ€™s sweet words to the gopis completely washed away all of their bad feelings from His separation from them. And then, to fulfill the gopisâ€™ desires, Krsna reinstated the rasa dance.
The entire pastime of the rasa-lila raises some interesting philosophical issues, and King Pariksit, anticipating the doubts that might arise in the minds of others, asked certain critical questions.
When Maharaja Pariksit was cursed to die and went to the banks of the Ganges (or Yamuna), many sages and saintly persons gathered there, and not all of them were pure devotees. So when Sukadeva Gosvami was describing the rasa dance, Maharaja Pariksit thought that some of the audience may have had doubts about the propriety of the rasa dance and the actions of Lord Krsna. Therefore he asked Sukadeva Gosvami certain important questions.
avatirno hi bhagavan
sa katham dharma-setunam
pratipam acarad brahman
Pariksit Maharaja said: O brahmana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Lord of the universe, has descended to this earth along with His plenary portion to destroy irreligion and reestablish religious principles. Indeed, He is the original speaker, follower, and guardian of moral laws. How, then, could He have violated them by touching other menâ€™s wives?
Maharaja Pariksit is paraphrasing the words of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita: dharma-samsthapanarthayaâ€”He comes to establish dharma. But Krsna Himself appears to be violating dharma, thus defeating His own purpose. So please explain this contradiction.
krtavan vai jugupsitam
kim-abhipraya etan nah
samsayam chindhi su-vrata
O faithful upholder of vows, please destroy our doubt by explaining to us what purpose the self-satisfied Lord of the Yadus had in mind when He behaved so contemptibly.
One could argue that Krsna established the principles of dharma but that because He had some desire, He Himself had violated them. If someone has some desire or need, he might violate a rule that he himself established. But here Maharaja Pariksit makes the point that Lord Krsna has no need to fulfillâ€”He is apta-kamaâ€”so why would He violate His own principle?
isvaranam ca sahasam
tejiyasam na dosaya
vahneh sarva-bhujo yatha
Sukadeva Gosvami said: The status of powerful controllers is not harmed by any apparently audacious transgression of morality we may see in them, for they are just like fire, which devours everything fed into it and remains unpolluted.
Maharaja Pariksit asked the question on behalf of others, and Sukadeva Gosvami gave the answer that the powerful controllers of the universe, called isvaras, may appear to violate dharma, but because they are so powerful they are not affected, just as a strong fire can consume any amount of fuel without being affected. Srila Prabhupada often gave the example that the sun can go to a filthy place and evaporate urine but not become contaminated. The powerful controllers are like the sun. They burn off contamination and cannot be harmed by apparent transgressions of morality.
Now here is a very important instruction:
naitat samacarej jatu
manasapi hy anisvarah
vinasyaty acaran maudhyad
yatharudro â€™bdhi-jam visam
One who is not a great controller should never imitate the behavior of ruling personalities, even mentally. If out of foolishness an ordinary person does imitate such behavior, he will simply destroy himself, just as a person who is not Rudra would destroy himself if he tried to drink an ocean of poison.
The demigods and the demons were churning the ocean, and the ocean became filled with poison. Lord Siva drank the whole ocean of poison and kept it in his throat, and his throat became bluish. Thus Lord Siva is called nila-kantha, and he is considered even more beautiful because of the blue. But if an ordinary person imitates Lord Siva by drinking an ocean of poison, he will die immediately. The conclusion is that we should not try to imitate the powerful controllers. If we do so, we will finish ourselves.
isvaranam vacah satyam
tesam yat sva-vaco-yuktam
budhimams tat samacaret
The statements of the Lordâ€™s empowered servants are always true, and the acts they perform are exemplary when consistent with those statements. Therefore one who is intelligent should carry out their instructions.
The powerful controllers give instructions meant for us, and they also act in exemplary ways when they follow those instructions. But because they are powerful controllers, they need not always follow them. Still, we should follow their instructions, because their instructions are always true. One should be intelligent (buddhiman) and follow the instructions of the Lordâ€™s empowered servants, not imitate the powerful.
Once, a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada about Lord Brahmaâ€™s becoming attracted to his daughter. Srila Prabhupada asked, â€œWhy are you bringing up this point?â€ Then Srila Prabhupada said that Lord Brahma is acarya. So when we hear that Lord Brahma was attracted by his daughter, we should think, â€œSex attraction is so powerful that even Lord Brahma became attracted, so what to speak of me. How careful I must be! I am just an insignificant creature compared with Lord Brahma.â€ So Srila Prabhupada asked, â€œWhy you are bringing this point? You mean to say that â€˜Lord Brahma became passionate, so I will also become passionate? I am strict follower of the acarya.â€™ That is not the idea.â€
We should follow the instructions of the Lordâ€™s empowered servants, the instructions of Lord Brahma. And if he does something that happens to go against his instructions, we should not imitate but should strictly adhere to his instructionsâ€”because he is powerful, and there may be some special purpose in his action that we do not understand.
iha svartho na vidyate
My dear Prabhu, when these great persons who are free from false ego act piously in this world, they have no selfish motives to fulfill, and even when they act in apparent contradiction to the laws of piety, they are not subject to sinful reactions.
A self-realized soul doesnâ€™t engage in pious activities for any benefit. Ordinary people engage in pious activities because they want to enjoy economic development, sense gratification, elevation to heavenly planets, and so on. But the powerful controllers or the self-realized souls have nothing to gain by engaging in pious activities. Similarly, they have nothing to lose if they appear to transgress the rules of piety, because they are above pious and impious material activities.
Then Sukadeva Gosvami says, â€œHow then could the Lord of all created beingsâ€”animals, men, and demigodsâ€”have any connection with the piety and impiety that affect His subject creatures?â€ (SB 10.33.33) Even Lord Brahma and Lord Siva are not affected by apparent transgressions of moral laws, so what to speak of Lord Krsna, who is the master of demigods, including Lord Brahma and Lord Siva.
â€œMaterial activities never entangle the devotees of the Supreme Lord, who are fully satisfied by serving the dust of His lotus feet. Nor do material activities entangle those intelligent sages who have freed themselves from the bondage of all fruitive reactions by the power of yoga. So how could there be any question of bondage for the Lord Himself, who assumes His transcendental forms according to His own sweet will?â€ (SB 10.33.34)
Sukadeva Gosvami says that even devotees are completely satisfied by serving the dust of the Lordâ€™s lotus feet and therefore have no material desires, so how could the Lord have any material desires? What to speak of devotees, even intelligent sages can give up fruitive activities and become free from material bondage. So how could the Lord be entangled in material activities?
Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu explain that many of the gopis who danced with Krsna were actually great sages in their past lives. So Sukadeva Gosvami says that devotees and great sages are never entangled in material reactionsâ€”because someone could argue, â€œAll right, Lord Krsna is above sinful reactions, but what about the gopis? They are not powerful controllers; they are not the Supreme Personality of Godhead.â€ So Sukadeva Gosvami gives the answer that even devotees are so satisfied serving the dust of the lotus feet of the Lord that they have no material desires; materially they have nothing to gain or to lose. Similarly, sages, including those who took birth as gopis, are beyond material reactions.
â€œHe who lives as the overseeing witness within the gopis and their husbands, and indeed within all embodied living beings, assumes forms in this world to enjoy transcendental pastimes.â€ (SB 10.33.35)
Krsna is in the heart of each and every living entityâ€”in the hearts of the gopis, in the hearts of the husbands, in the hearts of everyone. He is already in intimate contact with them all. So if He comes out of the hearts of the gopis and appears before them, what is the harm? Someone may say that He shouldnâ€™t touch their bodies, but He is already in their hearts. He is already touching them. So where is the question of blame?
The next verse is also very famous and was often quoted by Srila Prabhupada.
manusam deham asthitah
bhajate tadrsih krida
yah srutva tat-paro bhavet
When the Lord assumes a humanlike body to show mercy to His devotees, He engages in such pastimes as will attract those who hear about them to become dedicated to Him.
Why does the Lord appear? Of course, paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam: to deliver the devotees and annihilate the miscreants. And dharma-samsthapanarthaya: to establish the principles of religion. But the Lord could do that in any form. Why does He come specifically in the form of Krsna, in a two-handed humanlike form? The answer is that the Lord descends in the form of a human being to attract human beings to His pastimes and thus divert their attention from morbid material thoughts and activities.
â€œThe cowherd men, bewildered by Krsnaâ€™s illusory potency, thought their wives had remained home at their sides. Thus they did not harbor any jealous feelings against Him.â€ (SB 10.33.37)
This is another mystery: when the gopis who were lying in bed heard the sound of Krsnaâ€™s flute, they left their homes and danced with Krsna in their spiritual bodies, but their husbands thought that their wives were sleeping by their sides, so they had no jealous feelings.
â€œAfter an entire night of Brahma had passed, Lord Krsna advised the gopis to return to their homes. Although they did not wish to do so, the Lordâ€™s beloved consorts complied with His command.â€ (SB 10.33.38)
By ordinary calculations the gopis spent only one night with Krsna, maybe a few hours of one night. But here Sukadeva Gosvami says that â€œone entire night of Brahma had passed,â€ which is four billion three hundred million years. How could four billion three hundred million years fit in a few hours of a human beingâ€™s night? Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives the answer that Krsna can do anything. When the cowherd boys accused Krsna of eating dirt and Mother Yasoda looked into Krsnaâ€™s mouth, she saw all the universes. If Krsna could fit all the universes in His mouthâ€”the mouth of a small cowherd boyâ€”then He could fit an entire night of Brahma into one night in the forest of Vrndavana.
Now we come to Srila Sukadeva Gosvamiâ€™s final statement:
vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh
sraddhanvito â€™nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah
Anyone who faithfully hears or describes the Lordâ€™s playful affairs with the young gopis of Vrndavana will attain the Lordâ€™s pure devotional service. Thus he will quickly become sober and conquer lust, the disease of the heart.
Hrd-rogam, â€œthe disease of the heart,â€ is lust. Unless we conquer lust, we cannot attain absolutely pure devotional service. Although the pastimes of Krsna with the gopis may appear lusty, they are actually transcendental. And if one hears about the Lordâ€™s pastimes with faith, sraddha, then by such hearing one will become purified of the heart disease called lust. And when the heart is completely cleansed by absorption in krsna-katha, one can attain the Lordâ€™s pure devotional service. That is the great value of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
October 16, 1997