The Raas LeelA of Krishna with the Gopis of Brindavan

 

Continued from page 1

 

Now let us come to the actual story part. Remember Krishna was a ten-year old boy at that time. Probably even less. The Gopis of Brindavan did a month-long Katyayani vrata. The purpose: To get Lord Krishna as their husband (pati, in Sanskrit). The vrata itself was a very complicated one: Bathing in the Yamuna at daybreak, making an image of the Goddess Parvati  with  sand on the river bank and worshipping Her with all the formalities. It was at the end of this month-long worship, the incident (as described earlier)  of the robbing of their clothes by the Lord happened. The Lord chastised them that they had no business to bathe naked in the river, particularly when they were supposed to be engaged in  this Katyayani vrata. After telling them that his treatment of them was in punishment of their misbehaviour, he gave  them back their clothes; but also promised them that very soon their desire for sporting with the Lord, for which they did the Katyayani vrata, would  be fulfilled. And in this context, he makes a very important statement which is significant for our understanding of the Ras Leela:

 

‘In the case of whomsoever that has turned their minds towards Me, the desire or lust that thereby arises in them would not result in bad, just as a fried or baked seed would not sprout again’

(X -22 – 26):

 

na may-yAveshita-dhiyAM kAmaH kAmAya kalpate /

bharjitA kathitA dhAnA prAyo bIjAya neshhyate //

 

Recall that all books of Vedanta tell us how a man of wisdom

(Brahma-jnAni) has no karma chasing him, because they are like

a fried seed in his case and it will not sprout!

 

The night of that fulfillment arrived in the autumn following. The requisites for the divine play were all created by Him by His mAyA.  yogamAyAm-upAshritaH  (resorting to His yoga-mAyA) says the text (10-29-1). On that moonlit night, His melodious note on His flute, played in the woodlands adjoing the Yamuna, went all the way to the ears of the gopis and enraptured them.  It pleasantly distracted every one and everything from normal activity and enchanted them to revel in ecstasy. Even shrubs and trees, flowers and leaves, birds and animals ‘stood enchanted’ with that rapturous divine musical rendering.

 

No sooner the Gopis heard the music of His flute, than  they were all captivated by the symphony of joy that emanated from it. They came from all sides to the spot where He was playing the flute. Some were milking their cows, some were serving food to their husbands, some were keeping  busy with their cosmetics, some were cleaning their houses,  -- but all of them dropped their work just where it was and ran towards Krishna. Their husbands, brothers and parents did try to stop them but of no avail. The minds of the Gopis  had been lured away by the music of the flute and  by the thought of Lord Krishna and they forgot all about themselves.

 

Some of the gopis, however, could not manage to get out of their houses, and instead they remained home with eyes closed, meditating upon Him in pure love. For these gopis  the intolerable separation from their beloved caused an intense agony that burned away  all impious karma (“tIvra-pApa-dhutA-shubhAH” – X-29-10). By meditating upon Him they realized His embrace, and the ecstasy they then felt exhausted their material piety. Although Lord Krishna is the Supreme Soul, these girls simply thought of Him as their lover and associated with Him in that intimate mood. Thus their karmic bondage was nullified and they abandoned, as it were,  their gross material bodies.

 

At this point, King Parikshit asks a pertinent question to Sage Suka who is narrating the story: O sage, the gopis knew Krishna only as their lover, not as the Supreme Absolute Truth. So how could these girls, their minds caught up in the waves of worldly love, free themselves from material attachment? And the Rishi replies:  Since even Sisupala, who hated Krishna, achieved perfection, then what to speak of the Lord’s dear devotees. The Supreme Lord is inexhaustible and immeasurable, and He is untouched by Prakrti because He is its controller. His personal appearance in this world is meant for bestowing the highest benefit on humanity. Persons who constantly direct their lust, anger, fear, protective affection, feeling of impersonal oneness or friendship toward Lord Hari are sure to become absorbed in thought of Him. You should not be so astonished, Oh King, because you are the unique one who had the benefit of seeing His beatific presence even while you were in your mother’s womb. (X-29-13 to 16).

 

Krishna saw them all coming, and when they had gathered, he told them to go back. He waved them back saying that their first duty was in their home with their husbands and relatives. He says: “I know you have ties of attachment for Me. It is but proper. All creatures in the world will find delight in Me (‘prIyante mayi jantavaH’ : X-29-23). But your duty is elsewhere. For a woman from a respectable family, petty adulterous affairs are always condemned. They bar her from heaven, ruin her reputation and bring her difficulty and fear”. And He ends this sermon by making a famous declaration (X-29-27) which He himself repeats later:

 

shravaNAt darshanAt dhyAnAt mayi bhAvo’nukIrtanAt /

na tathA sannikarshheNa pratiyAta tato gRhAn // meaning,

 

“Transcendental love for Me arises by the devotional processes of hearing about Me, seeing My Deity form, meditating on Me and faithfully chanting My glories. The same result is not achieved by mere physical proximity. So please go back to your homes”.

 

But the Gopis don’t listen. To his argument that their duty is to their husbands and families, they reply that He is the pati, the husband of the entire world and therefore of them all, and so their first duty is to Him. “Not only that, Oh Lord, our minds which were all along with our families and our work have now been totally captivated by You. Our hands and feet are not ours. Our minds are not ours. They are all yours. They refuse to do any work which is not directed at You. So don’t throw us back.  Deign to accept us as your servants”. And they were steadfast in this determination. Seeing their steadfastness, Krishna decided to please them.

 

iti viklavitaM tAsAM shrutvA yogeshvareshvaraH /

Prahasya sadayaM gopIH AtmArAmo’pyarIramat // X-29-42

 

Smiling upon hearing these despondent words from the gopîs, Lord Krishna, the supreme master of all masters of mystic yoga, mercifully satisfied  them, although He is Himself Self-satisfied.

 

For some pictures from the Iskcon archives on these scenes, go to Raslila pictures.

 

He was Himself AtmArAma, that is One who is fulfilled in Himself, by Himself for Himself.  He has nothing to obtain which He does not already have. (cf. nAnavAptam-avAptavyam, ... Gita III-22). When He thus moved in intimate terms with the Gopis, very soon they thought highly of themselves. They thought they were the greatest women on Earth. And the Lord became aware of their pride and arrogant thought, and intending to bless them with the right kind of spirituality, immediately vanished!

 

And then begins a long wailing and searching, by the Gopis. They could not stand this separation from the Lord. They lose their head and become really mad for Him.  This is called the experience of ‘viraha’, separation. It is said by all exponenets of bhakti that the highest form of bhakti is the experience of this viraha from the Lord. We think we are all very devoted to God. But do we feel the pangs of separation from Him as the gopis felt?

 

People say God does not take the offering we give Him ; but do we offer it the way Sabari offered Him? [ “lok kahte hai bhagwAn khAte nahiM; kyA haM shabarI kI taraH khilAte haim?” ].

 

People say that God does not come to our rescue; but do we call Him with that conviction and pangs of anxiety  that was characteristic of Draupadi’s call? [ “lok kahte hai bhagwAn Ate nahiM; kyA haM draupadI kI taraH bulAte haiM?”].

 

People say that God does not bless us; but do we love Him with that intensity of Radha’s love? [“lok kahte hai bhagwaan prasAd karte nahiM; kyA ham rAdhA kI tarah pyAr karte haiM?”].

To continue our story, .....

 

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Copyright ©  V. Krishnamurthy      July 2004