Description of the Rasa Dance
Thus, hearing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, speaking to pacify them, the gopis became very much pleased. They became completely relieved of the great suffering of separation, not only by hearing the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead but also by touching His hands and legs. After this, the Supreme Personality of Godhead began His rasa dance. A dance in the midst of many girls is called a rasa dance. So, Krishna began to dance among the most beautiful and fortunate girls within the three worlds. The gopis of Vrindavana, who were so attracted to Him, danced with Krishna, hand in hand.
Krishna's rasa dance should never be compared to 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, Krishna, the supreme mystic, expanded Himself into 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 Krishna were not perceived by the gopis because Krishna appeared alone to each of them. Each gopi thought that Krishna was dancing with her alone. Above that wonderful dance flew many airplanes carrying the denizens of the heavenly planets, who were very eager to see the wonderful dance of Krishna with the gopis. The Gandharvas and Kinnaras began to sing, and, accompanied by their respective wives, all the Gandharvas began to shower flowers on the dancers.
As the gopis and Krishna danced together, a very blissful musical sound was produced from the tinkling of their bells, ornaments and bangles. It appeared that Krishna was a greenish sapphire locket in the midst of a golden necklace decorated with valuable stones. While Krishna 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 to appear like clouds, thunder, snow and lightning. Krishna's bodily features appeared just like a group of clouds, the gopis' songs were like thunder, their beauty 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, the gopis and Krishna fully engaged in dancing.
The necks of the gopis became tinted with red due to their desire to enjoy Krishna more and more. To satisfy them, Krishna began to clap His hands in time with their singing. Actually, the whole world is full of Krishna'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 tams tathaiva bhajamy aham [Bg. 4.11]. Krishna is dancing, and every living entity is also dancing, but there is a difference between the dancing in the spiritual world and that in the material world. This is expressed by the author of the Chaitanya-charitamrita, who says that the master dancer is Krishna and everyone else is His servant. Everyone is trying to imitate Krishna's dancing. Those who are actually in Krishna consciousness respond rightly to the dancing of Krishna: they do not try to dance independently. But those in the material world try to imitate Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The living entities are dancing under the direction of Krishna's maya and are thinking that they are equal to Krishna. But this is not a fact. In Krishna consciousness, this misconception is absent, for a person in Krishna consciousness knows that Krishna is the supreme master and everyone else is His servant. One has to dance to please Krishna, not to imitate or attempt to become equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The gopis wanted to please Krishna, and therefore as Krishna 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 Krishna. Then their hair loosened and flowers fell to the ground. When they placed their hands on Krishna'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 Him. Some gopis touched Krishna cheek to cheek, and Krishna began to offer them chewed betel nuts from His mouth, which they accepted with great pleasure by kissing. And by accepting those betel nuts, the gopis spiritually advanced.
The gopis became tired after long singing and dancing. Krishna was dancing beside them, and to alleviate their fatigue they took Sri Krishna's hand and placed it on their raised breasts. Krishna'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 Krishna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, that they forgot that they had any other husbands in the world, and upon being embraced by the arms of Krishna and dancing and singing with Him, they forgot everything. Srimad-Bhagavatam thus describes the beauty of the gopis while they were rasa dancing with Krishna. There were lotus flowers over both their ears, and their faces were decorated with sandalwood pulp. They wore tilaka, and there were drops of perspiration on their smiling mouths. From their feet came the tinkling sound of ankle bells and bangles. The flowers within their hair were falling to the lotus feet of Krishna, and He was very satisfied.
As stated in the Brahma-samhita, all these gopis are expansions of Krishna's pleasure potency. Touching their bodies with His hands and looking at their pleasing eyes, Krishna enjoyed the gopis exactly as a child enjoys playing with the reflection of his body in a mirror. When Krishna 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 adjusted properly. Their hair and garments became scattered, and their ornaments loosened as they forgot themselves in the company of Krishna.
While Krishna 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 Krishna as their husband. Now Krishna was fulfilling their desire by expanding Himself in as many forms as there were gopis and enjoying them exactly like a husband.
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has remarked that Krishna is self-sufficient — He is atmarama. He doesn't need anyone else for His satisfaction. Because the gopis wanted Krishna as their husband, He fulfilled their desire. When Krishna saw that the gopis were tired from dancing with Him, He immediately began to wipe His hands over their faces so that their fatigue would be relieved. In order to reciprocate the kind hospitality of Krishna, the gopis began to look at Him lovingly. They were overjoyed by the auspicious touch of the hand of Krishna. Their smiling cheeks shone with beauty, and they began to sing the glories of Krishna with transcendental pleasure. As pure devotees, the more the gopis enjoyed Krishna's company, the more they became enlightened with His glories, and thus they reciprocated with Him. They wanted to satisfy Krishna by glorifying His transcendental pastimes. Krishna 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.
The gopis and Krishna 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 the gopis' embracing the body of Krishna, 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. Krishna and the gopis entered the water of the Yamuna just as an elephant enters a water tank with his many female companions. Both the gopis and Krishna forgot their real identities, playing in the water, enjoying each other's company and relieving the fatigue of rasa dancing. The gopis began to splash water on the body of Krishna, all the while smiling, and Krishna enjoyed this. As Krishna was taking pleasure in the joking words and splashing water, the demigods in the heavenly planets showered flowers. The demigods thus praised the superexcellent rasa dance of Krishna, the supreme enjoyer, and His pastimes with the gopis in the water of the Yamuna.
After this, Lord Krishna 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, Krishna 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 Krishna'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 — the sex impulse was completely controlled. There is a distinction between Lord Krishna'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 Krishna and the gopis, Maharaja Parikshit, the hearer of Srimad-Bhagavatam, told Sukadeva Gosvami, "Krishna appeared on the earth to establish the regulative principles of religion and to curb the predominance of irreligion. But the behavior of Krishna 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 Parikshit'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 Krishna and enjoy the company of young girls and women.
The basic Vedic injunctions never allow a person to enjoy sex with any woman except his own wife. Krishna's appreciation of the gopis appeared to be distinctly in violation of these rules. Maharaja Parikshit understood the total situation from Sukadeva Gosvami, yet to further clarify the transcendental nature of Krishna and the gopis in the rasa dance, he expressed his surprise. This is very important in order to check the unrestricted association with women by the prakrta-sahajiyas.
In his statement, Maharaja Parikshit has used several important words which require clarification. The first word, jugupsitam, means "abominable." The first doubt of Maharaja Parikshit was as follows: Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had 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 Krishna have done this?
Another word used here is apta-kama. Some may take it for granted that Krishna was very lusty among young girls, but Parikshit 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. Apta-kama 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 seduced by the lusty desires of the gopis. But Maharaja Parikshit then used another word, yadu-pati, which indicates that Krishna 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 Krishna have been seduced, even by the gopis? It is concluded, therefore, that it was not possible for Krishna to do anything abominable. But Maharaja Parikshit was in doubt as to why Krishna acted in that way. What was the real purpose?
Another word Maharaja Parikshit used when he addressed Sukadeva Gosvami is suvrata, which means to take a vow to enact pious activities. Sukadeva Gosvami was an educated brahmachari, and under the circumstances it was not possible for him to indulge in sex. This is strictly prohibited for brahmacharis, and what to speak of a brahmachari like Sukadeva Gosvami. But because the circumstances of the rasa dance were very suspect, Maharaja Parikshit 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 the sunshine, the polluted, contaminated place becomes disinfected and sterilized.
One may also argue that since Krishna is the supreme authority, His activities should be followed. In answer to this argument, Sukadeva Gosvami has very clearly said that the isvara, or supreme controller, may sometimes violate His own instructions, but this is possible only 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 Krishna, but he cannot actually act like Krishna. He can persuade his followers to falsely imitate the rasa dance, but he is unable to lift Govardhana Hill. We have many experiences in the past of Mayavadi rascals who delude their followers by posing themselves as Krishna in order to enjoy rasa-lila. In many instances they were checked by the government, arrested and punished. In Orissa, Thakura Bhaktivinoda punished a so-called incarnation of Vishnu who was imitating the rasa-lila with young girls. There were many complaints against the so-called incarnation. At that time Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a 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 Krishna'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 Krishna's dealings with the gopis occurred under special circumstances.
Most of the gopis in their previous lives were great sages, expert in the study of the Vedas, and when Lord Krishna appeared as Lord Ramachandra, they wanted to enjoy with Him. Lord Ramachandra gave them the benediction that their desires would be fulfilled when He would appear as Krishna. Therefore, the desire of the gopis to enjoy the appearance of Lord Krishna was long cherished. So, they approached goddess Katyayani to have Krishna as their husband. There are many other circumstances which also testify to the supreme authority of Krishna and show that He is not bound by the rules and regulations of the material world. In special cases, He acts as He likes to favor His devotees. This is possible only for Him, because He is the supreme controller. People in general should follow the instructions of Lord Krishna as given in the Bhagavad-gita and should not even imagine imitating Lord Krishna in the rasa dance.
Krishna's lifting of Govardhana Hill and His killing of great demons like Putana 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 Krishna; that is within his power. Arjuna was a fighter, and Krishna 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 Krishna and indulge in rasa-lila and thus bring about their ruin. One should know with certainty that Krishna had no personal interest in whatever He did for the benediction of the gopis. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, na mam karmani limpanti: [Bg. 4.14] Krishna never enjoys or suffers the results of His activities. Therefore, it is not possible for Him to act irreligiously. He is transcendental to all religious duties and principles. He is untouched by the modes of material nature. He is the supreme controller of all living entities, whether in human society, in demigod society in the heavenly planets, or in lower forms of life, and He is also the supreme controller 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 conditioned life, can move freely even within the contamination of material nature by keeping Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, within their hearts. In this way they also do not become subject to the laws of pleasure and pain in the modes of material nature. How, then, is it possible for Krishna, who appears by 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 Krishna appears, He always appears in a body that is not forced upon Him by the action of His past deeds. His body is a vehicle for His transcendental pleasure pastimes, which are 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 being one with Krishna, or God, is only theoretical. Such persons who claim to be equal with Krishna and indulge in rasa-lila create a dangerous situation for the people in general. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was already present as the Supersoul within the bodies of the gopis and their husbands. He is the guide of all living entities, as is confirmed in the Katha Upanishad: 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 Krishna is present in everyone's heart and that from Him come all knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. He is the original person to be known by Vedic knowledge. He is the author of the Vedanta philosophy, and He knows the Vedanta philosophy perfectly well. The so-called Vedantists and Mayavadis cannot understand Krishna as He is; they simply mislead their followers by imitating the actions of Krishna in an unauthorized way. Krishna, the Supersoul of everyone, is already within the body of everyone; therefore, if He sees someone or embraces someone there is no question of impropriety.
Some ask that if Krishna is self-sufficient, why did He at all manifest the 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 expansions of His internal energy, but because Krishna wanted to exhibit the rasa-lila, they 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, Krishna exhibited this rasa-lila dance. It is just to captivate the conditioned soul. Since they are very much attracted by sex, they can enjoy the same life with Krishna and thus become liberated from the material condition. In the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Maharaja Parikshit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Krishna are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Krishna, they become relieved of the material disease. They are addicted to material enjoyment and are accustomed to reading sex literature, but by hearing these transcendental pastimes of Krishna with the gopis, they will be relieved of 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 the rasa-lila among people in general is discouraged 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 Krishna consciousness and liberated from materially contaminated life.
Another important point is that none of the gopis who danced with Krishna were in their material bodies. They danced with Krishna 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 with the influence of the external energy of Krishna; so, by dint of this very energy they could not understand that their wives had gone to dance with Krishna. What then is the basis of accusing Krishna 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 Krishna were dancing with Him. Krishna is the supreme person, the whole spirit, and He danced with the spiritual bodies of the gopis. There is therefore no reason to accuse Krishna in any way.
After the rasa dance was over, the night (the night of Brahma, a very, very long period, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita) turned into the brahma-muhurta. 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-arati and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. This period is very convenient for the execution of spiritual activities. When that auspicious moment arrived, Krishna asked the gopis to leave. Although His beloveds were not willing to quit His company, they were very obedient to Him. As soon as Krishna asked them to go home, they immediately left and returned home. Sukadeva Gosvami concludes this episode of the rasa-lila by pointing out that if a person hears from the right source about the pastimes of Krishna, who is Vishnu Himself, and the gopis, who are expansions of His energy, then he will be relieved of the most dangerous type of disease, namely lust. In other words, one who actually hears the rasa-lila will become completely freed from the lusty desire of sex life and elevated to the highest level of spiritual understanding. Generally, because they hear the rasa-lila 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 spiritual life. Sraddha, or faith, is the beginning. One who has developed his faith in Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Spirit Soul, can both describe and hear the rasa-lila. Sukadeva also uses the word anusrnuyat. One must hear from the disciplic succession. Anu means "following," and anu also means "always." So, one must always follow the disciplic succession and not hear from any stray professional reciter, whether a Mayavadi or an ordinary man. Anusrnuyat means that one must hear from an authorized person who is in the disciplic succession and is always engaged in Krishna consciousness. When a person hears the rasa-lila in this way, the effect will be sure: he 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 the rasa-lila dance surely achieves the transcendental position. He surely loses all traces of lust in his heart.
Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura points out that according to the Bhagavad-gita, Brahma's day and Brahma's night are periods of solar years expanding to 4,300,000 multiplied by 1,000. According to Vishvanatha Chakravarti 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, Krishna extended the night to cover such a great period of time. One may ask how this was possible, and Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura reminds us that Krishna, 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 Krishna, they were given the opportunity to associate with Him for a long period. This was done according to His promise. When Krishna stole the garments of the gopis while they were taking a bath at Chiraghata on the Yamuna, He promised to fulfill their desire in some future night. In one night, therefore, they enjoyed the company of Krishna 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 Krishna, for He is the supreme controller.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Thirty-third Chapter of Krishna, "Description of the Rasa Dance."