GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU
THOUGHT VISION AND PRACTICE
Beach 7: The Art and Science
of Spiritual Love
: The Raas LeelA of Krishna
with the Gopis of Brindavan
The fervent devotion to Krishna
of the celebrated milk-maids (Gopis or Gopikas) of Brindavan, and particularly of RadhA the most
prominent of them all, is the best
example of mAdhura-bhakti (Devotion
through Love) for all time. There is a large variety of legends and
representations of this bhakti in
painting and sculpture that spreads through every part of India.
The first poetic expression of the RadhA-Krishna story was in the Gita-GovindaM of Jayadeva (12th
century A.D.). The principal character in that poem is RadhA, the beloved of Krishna.
She spoke no word except prayer. She moved no step except towards Krishna.
She saw and heard only Krishna. She spoke only of Him,
to Him, for Him, whoever might be in her vicinity. Krishna
filled her heart entirely. This magnificent poem is held in high respect and is
sung all over India
particularly in congregatory singing of Bhajans, the singers often reaching
heights of ecstasy. This lyrical extravaganza of Jayadeva is delightful poetry
without inhibitions. It is at the very center of religious poetry in the Bhakti
tradition, though it may be considered erotic from a Victorian viewpoint. It is venerated as God’s own writing. The
singing and dancing associated with this poem are so absorbing not only in its music
and rhythm but also in its lyric that describes the love-sport of Radha and Krishna.
What is the origin or source of all this?
Is it Jayadeva’s imagination, fancy or invention? No. It all goes back to Shrimad
BhagavataM of Vyasa. In the tenth skanda
of Bhagavatam, there are five chapters (#s 29 to 33) known as ‘RAsa-panchAdhyAyi’. These five chapters describe the Raas LeelA of Krishna
with the Gopis of Brindavan. But wait, before we come to that, we must tune
our minds the right way in order to appreciate it all.
So let us go back to the famous
story of Krishna’s theft of the clothes of the Gopis
while they were bathing in the river. (Bhagavatam, Skanda X, Ch.22). It looks
like an immoral story, with a child of six as the central figure. It is spoken
of as though he were a full-grown man, insulting the modesty of women. Look at
Annie Besant’s handling of this story. She writes:
Gopis were Rishis, and the Lord Supreme as a babe is
teaching them a lesson. But there is more than that. There is a profound occult
lesson behind the story. When the Soul is approaching the Supreme Lord at one
great stage of initiation, it has to pass through a great ordeal. Stripped of
everything on which it has hitherto relied, stripped of everything that is not
its inner self, deprived of all external aid, of all external protection, of
all external covering, the soul itself, in its own inherent life, must stand
naked and alone, with nothing to rely on save the life of the Self within it.
If it flinches before the ordeal, if it clings to anything to which it has
hitherto looked for help, if in the supreme hour, it cries out for friend or
help, or even the Guru himself, the soul fails in that ordeal. Naked and alone
it must go forth, with absolutely none to aid it save the divinity within
itself. And it is that nakedness of the soul as it approaches the supreme goal, that is told of in that story’.
This defence of the conceptual
fabric of Hindu spirituality is important for the proper understanding of the Raas LeelA
of Krishna. In addition, there is another perspective that should never be missed in
any discussion of the Raas LeelA. It is the divinity of Krishna himself.
The first description of His
birth comes to us from the pen of Vyasa himself in his famous Bhagavatam. It
was on that Ashtami day after Shravan Poornima, when the moon was in the asterism
Rohini that Krishna was born in that famous prison of
Kamsa of Mathura. According to the hair-raising description of that birth in
the Shrimad Bhagavatam, tenth canto, third chapter, it was in the dense
darkness of that fateful night, the Lord appeared – mark the word, appeared,
not born – as an unusual child from the womb of Devaki, just like the moon
rising on the eastern horizon! Oh, what a sight it was! Continues the
BhagavataM: (X – 3 -9,10):
vasudeva aikshhata” //
meaning, Vasudeva saw that
wonderful child with four hands, holding a conch, a mace, a chakra and a lotus;
with Srivatsa emblem on His chest; with Kaustubha gem on the neck; with cloth
of golden hue; as beautiful as the blue water-filled cloud; with dense hair flowing
around amidst the adornments of crown and ear-rings radiant with precious gems;
and excellently brilliant with bracelets around the hip and arms.
you believe in all this or you don’t.
If you don’t believe in all this then Raas LeelA of Krishna
is also a fiction in the imagination of Vyasa and there is nothing more to
discuss except some poetry in the literature. If you believe in all this, then Raas-LeelA
of Krishna should also be believed to be true. Not only
should it be believed to be a true happening but you also get a justification
for it. So when doubts arise as to the good or bad of Raas LeelA, remember, you
have accepted that the birth of Krishna in the above
manner is true and that means Krishna is the
all-powerful Absolute Divine.
A discussion of
Raas-LeelA thinking that Krishna
was an ordinary person like you and me
is a misnomer and a non-issue. We shall not enter the discussion of Raas-LeelA
that way. We shall only discuss Raas-LeelA, with the full conviction that Krishna
is the Absolute Transcendental Divinity that is omnipresent, omniscient and
omnipotent. Lacking this conviction we would have denied ourselves the
fundamental eligibility to discuss Raas
LeelA, and more so the prerequisites
to be able to appreciate it.
Now let us come to the actual
Homepage Contents page Organization of Contents
Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy July 2004