KB 33: Description of the Rāsa Dance
Thus hearing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, speaking to pacify them, the gopīs 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 rāsa dance. A dance in the midst of many girls is called a rāsa dance. So Kṛṣṇa began to dance among the most beautiful and fortunate girls within the three worlds. The gopīs of Vṛndāvana, who were so attracted to Him, danced with Kṛṣṇa, hand in hand.
Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa dance should never be compared to any kind of material dance, such as a ball dance or a society dance. The rāsa dance is a completely spiritual performance. In order to establish this fact, Kṛṣṇa, the supreme mystic, expanded Himself into many forms and stood beside each gopī. Placing His hands on the shoulders of the gopīs on both sides of Him, He began to dance in their midst. The mystic expansions of Kṛṣṇa were not perceived by the gopīs because Kṛṣṇa appeared alone to each of them. Each gopī thought that Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. 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 gopīs and Kṛṣṇa danced together, a very blissful musical sound was produced from the tinkling of their bells, ornaments and bangles. It appeared that Kṛṣṇa was a greenish sapphire locket in the midst of a golden necklace decorated with valuable stones. While Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs 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 gopīs' breasts, clothes and earrings, their cheeks, their hair with flowers—as Kṛṣṇa and the
The necks of the gopīs became tinted with red due to their desire to enjoy Kṛṣṇa more and more. To satisfy them, Kṛṣṇa began to clap His hands in time with their singing. Actually the whole world is full of Kṛṣṇa’s singing, but it is appreciated in different ways by different kinds of living entities. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
When some of the gopīs became very tired from dancing and moving their bodies, they placed their hands on the shoulders of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Then their hair loosened and flowers fell to the ground. When they placed their hands on Kṛṣṇa’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 gopīs touched Kṛṣṇa cheek to cheek, and Kṛṣṇa 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 gopīs spiritually advanced.
The gopīs became tired after long singing and dancing. Kṛṣṇa was dancing beside them, and to alleviate their fatigue they took Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s hand and placed it on their raised breasts. Kṛṣṇa’s hand, as well as the breasts of the gopīs, are eternally auspicious; therefore when they combined, both of them became spiritually enhanced. The gopīs so enjoyed the company of Kṛṣṇa, 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 Kṛṣṇa and dancing and singing with Him, they forgot everything. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam thus describes the beauty of the gopīs while they were rāsa dancing with Kṛṣṇa. 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 Kṛṣṇa, and He was very satisfied.
As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā, all these gopīs are expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure potency. Touching their bodies with His hands and looking at their pleasing eyes, Kṛṣṇa enjoyed the gopīs exactly as a child enjoys playing with the reflection of his body in a mirror. When Kṛṣṇa touched the different parts of their bodies, the gopīs 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 Kṛṣṇa.
While Kṛṣṇa was enjoying the company of the gopīs in the rāsa 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 gopīs had prayed to the goddess Kātyāyanī to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband. Now Kṛṣṇa was fulfilling their desire by expanding Himself in as many forms as there were gopīs and enjoying them exactly like a husband.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī has remarked that Kṛṣṇa is self-sufficient—He is ātmārāma. He doesn’t need anyone else for His satisfaction. But because the gopīs wanted Kṛṣṇa as their husband, He fulfilled their desire. When Kṛṣṇa saw that the gopīs 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 Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs began to look at Him lovingly. They were overjoyed by the auspicious touch of the hand of Kṛṣṇa. Their smiling cheeks shone with beauty, and they began to sing the glories of Kṛṣṇa with transcendental pleasure. As pure devotees, the more the gopīs enjoyed Kṛṣṇa’s company, the more they became enlightened with His glories, and thus they reciprocated with Him. They wanted to satisfy Kṛṣṇa by glorifying His transcendental pastimes. Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all masters, and the gopīs wanted to worship Him for His unusual exhibition of mercy upon them.
The gopīs and Kṛṣṇa entered the water of the Yamunā just to relieve their fatigue from the rāsa dance. The lily-flower garlands around the necks of the gopīs were strewn to pieces due to the gopīs’ embracing the body of Kṛṣṇa, and the flowers were reddish from being smeared with the kuṅkuma on their breasts. The bumblebees were humming about in order to get honey from the flowers. Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs entered the water of the Yamunā just as an elephant enters a water tank with his many female companions. Both the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa forgot their real identities, playing in the water, enjoying each other’s company and relieving the fatigue of rāsa dancing. The gopīs began to splash water on the body of Kṛṣṇa, all the while smiling, and Kṛṣṇa enjoyed this. As Kṛṣṇa was taking pleasure in the joking words and splashing water, the demigods in the heavenly planets showered flowers. The demigods thus praised the superexcellent rāsa dance of Kṛṣṇa, the supreme enjoyer, and His pastimes with the gopīs in the water of the Yamunā.
After this, Lord Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs came out of the water and began to stroll along the bank of the Yamunā, 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 Yamunā, Kṛṣṇa recited various kinds of poetry. He thus enjoyed the company of the gopīs in the soothing moonlight of autumn.
Sex desire is especially excited in the autumn season, but the wonderful thing about Kṛṣṇa’s association with the gopīs is that there was no question of sex desire. It was, as clearly stated in the Bhāgavata description by Śukadeva Gosvāmī, avaruddha-saurata—the sex impulse was completely controlled. There is a distinction between Lord Kṛṣṇa’s dancing with the gopīs and the ordinary dancing of living entities within the material world. In order to clear up further misconceptions about the rāsa dance and the affairs of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs, Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the hearer of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, told Śukadeva Gosvāmī, “Kṛṣṇa appeared on the earth to establish the regulative principles of religion and to curb the predominance of irreligion. But the behavior of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs 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 Mahārāja Parīkṣit’s was very much appreciated by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. The answer anticipates the abominable acts of the Māyāvādī impersonalists who place themselves in the position of Kṛṣṇa 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. Kṛṣṇa’s appreciation of the gopīs appeared to be distinctly in violation of these rules. Mahārāja Parīkṣit understood the total situation from Śukadeva Gosvāmī, yet to further clarify the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs in the rāsa dance, he expressed his surprise. This is very important in order to check the unrestricted association with women by the prākṛta-sahajiyās.
In his statement, Mahārāja Parīkṣit has used several important words which require clarification. The first word, jugupsitam, means “abominable.” The first doubt of Mahārāja Parīkṣit was as follows: Lord Kṛṣṇa 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 gopīs 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 Kṛṣṇa have done this?
Another word used here is āpta-kāma. Some may take it for granted that Kṛṣṇa was very lusty among young girls, but Parīkṣit Mahārāja 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. Āpta-kāma 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 gopīs. But Mahārāja Parīkṣit then used another word, yadu-pati, which indicates that Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa have been seduced, even by the gopīs? It is concluded, therefore, that it was not possible for Kṛṇa to do anything abominable. But Mahārāja Parīkṣit was in doubt as to why Kṛṣṇa acted in that way. What was the real purpose?
Another word Mahārāja Parīkṣit used when he addressed Śukadeva Gosvāmī is suvrata, which means to take a vow to enact pious activities. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was an educated brahmacārī, and under the circumstances it was not possible for him to indulge in sex. This is strictly prohibited for brahmacārīs, and what to speak of a brahmacārī like Śukadeva Gosvāmī. But because the circumstances of the rāsa dance were very suspect, Mahārāja Parīkṣit inquired for clarification from Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Śukadeva Gosvāmī 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 Kṛṣṇa is the supreme authority, His activities should be followed. In answer to this argument, Śukadeva Gosvāmī has very clearly said that the īśvara, 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. Śukadeva Gosvāmī warned that the conditioned followers, who are not actually in control, should never even imagine imitating the uncommon activities of the controller. A Māyāvādī philosopher may falsely claim to be God or Kṛṣṇa, but he cannot actually act like Kṛṣṇa. He can persuade his followers to falsely imitate the rāsa dance, but he is unable to lift Govardhana Hill. We have many experiences in the past of Māyāvādī rascals who delude their followers by posing themselves as Kṛṣṇa in order to enjoy rāsa-līlā. In many instances they were checked by the government, arrested and punished. In Orissa, Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda punished a so-called incarnation of Viṣṇu who was imitating the rāsa-līlā with young girls. There were many complaints against the so-called incarnation. At that time Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a magistrate, and the government deputed him to deal with that rascal, and he punished him very severely. The rāsa-līlā dance cannot be imitated by anyone. Śukadeva Gosvāmī warns that one should not even think of imitating it. He specifically mentions that if, out of foolishness, one tries to imitate Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa dance, he will be killed, just like a person who wants to imitate Lord Śiva’s drinking of an ocean of poison. Lord Śiva drank an ocean of poison and kept it within his throat. The poison made his throat turn blue, and therefore Lord Śiva is called Nīlakaṇṭha. But if any ordinary person tries to imitate Lord Śiva by drinking poison or smoking gañjā, he is sure to be vanquished and will die within a very short time. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dealings with the gopīs occurred under special circumstances.
Most of the gopīs in their previous lives were great sages, expert in the study of the Vedas, and when Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared as Lord Rāmacandra they wanted to enjoy with Him. Lord Rāmacandra gave them the benediction that their desires would be fulfilled when He would appear as Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the desire of the gopīs to enjoy the appearance of Lord Kṛṣṇa was long cherished. So they approached Goddess Kātyāyanī to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband. There are many other circumstances which also testify to the supreme authority of Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa as given in the Bhagavad-gītā and should not even imagine imitating Lord Kṛṣṇa in the rāsa dance.
Kṛṣṇa’s lifting of Govardhana Hill and His killing of great demons like Pūtanā are all obviously extraordinary activities. Similarly, the rāsa 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 Kṛṣṇa; that is within his power. Arjuna was a fighter, and Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa and indulge in rāsa-līlā and thus bring about their ruin. One should know with certainty that Kṛṣṇa had no personal interest in whatever He did for the benediction of the gopīs. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, na māṁ karmāṇi limpanti:
Śukadeva Gosvāmī 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 Kṛṣṇa, 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 Kṛṣṇa, who appears by His own internal potency, to be subject to the laws of karma?
In the Bhagavad-gītā 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 Kṛṣṇa 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 Māyāvādī monist must accept a certain type of body, being forced by the laws of nature; therefore, his claim to being one with Kṛṣṇa, or God, is only theoretical. Such persons who claim to be equal with Kṛṣṇa and indulge in rāsa-līlā create a dangerous situation for the people in general. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was already present as the Supersoul within the bodies of the gopīs and their husbands. He is the guide of all living entities, as is confirmed in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad: nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām. 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-gītā that Kṛṣṇa 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 Vedānta philosophy, and He knows the Vedānta philosophy perfectly well. The so-called Vedāntists and Māyāvādīs cannot understand Kṛṣṇa as He is; they simply mislead their followers by imitating the actions of Kṛṣṇa in an unauthorized way. Kṛṣṇa, 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 Kṛṣṇa is self-sufficient, why did He at all manifest the pastimes with the gopīs, 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 gopīs are expansions of His internal energy, but because Kṛṣṇa wanted to exhibit the rāsa-līlā, 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, Kṛṣṇa exhibited this rāsa-līlā dance. It is just to captivate the conditioned souls. Since they are very much attracted by sex, they can enjoy the same life with Kṛṣṇa and thus become liberated from the material condition. In the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Mahārāja Parīkṣit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Kṛṣṇa, 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 Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs, they will be relieved of material contamination.
How they should hear and from whom is also explained by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. The difficulty is that the whole world is full of Māyāvādīs, and when they become professional reciters of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and when people, without knowing the effect of the Māyāvāda philosophy, hear from such persons, they become confused. Discussion of the rāsa-līlā among people in general is discouraged because they are affected by the Māyāvāda philosophy, but if one who is advanced explains and people hear from him, certainly the hearers will be gradually elevated to the position of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and liberated from materially contaminated life.
Another important point is that none of the gopīs who danced with Kṛṣṇa were in their material bodies. They danced with Kṛṣṇa in their spiritual bodies. All their husbands thought that their wives were sleeping by their sides. The so-called husbands of the gopīs were already enamored with the influence of the external energy of Kṛṣṇa; so by dint of this very energy they could not understand that their wives had gone to dance with Kṛṣṇa. What then is the basis of accusing Kṛṣṇa of dancing with others’ wives? The bodies of the gopīs, which were their husbands’, were lying in bed, but the spiritual parts and parcels of Kṛṣṇa were dancing with Him. Kṛṣṇa is the supreme person, the whole spirit, and He danced with the spiritual bodies of the gopīs. There is therefore no reason to accuse Kṛṣṇa in any way.
After the rāsa dance was over, the night—a night of Brahmā, a very, very long period, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā—turned into the brāhma-muhūrta. The brāhma-muhūrta 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 maṅgala-ārati and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. This period is very convenient for the execution of spiritual activities. When that auspicious moment arrived, Kṛṣṇa asked the gopīs to leave. Although His beloveds were not willing to quit His company, they were very obedient to Him. As soon as Kṛṣṇa asked them to go home, they immediately left and returned home. Śukadeva Gosvāmī concludes this episode of the rāsa-līlā by pointing out that if a person hears from the right source about the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, who is Viṣṇu Himself, and the gopīs, 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 rāsa-līlā 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 rāsa-līlā from Māyāvādīs and they themselves are Māyāvādīs, people become more and more implicated in sex life. The conditioned soul should hear the rāsa-līlā 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.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī has used the word śraddhānvita for one who is trained in spiritual life. Śraddhā, or faith, is the beginning. One who has developed his faith in Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Spirit Soul, can both describe and hear the rāsa-līlā. Śukadeva also uses the word anuśṛṇuyāt. 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 Māyāvādī or an ordinary man. Anuśṛṇuyāt means that one must hear from an authorized person who is in the disciplic succession and is always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When a person hears the rāsa-līlā in this way, the effect will be sure: he will be elevated to the highest position of spiritual life.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī uses two specific words, bhaktim and parām. Bhaktiṁ parām 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. Bhaktiṁ parām 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 rāsa-līlā dance surely achieves the transcendental position. He surely loses all traces of lust in his heart.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura points out that according to the Bhagavad-gītā, Brahmā’s day and Brahmā’s night are periods of solar years expanding to 4,300,000 multiplied by 1,000. According to Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, the rāsa dance was performed during the long period of Brahmā’s night, but the gopīs could not understand that. In order to fulfill their desire, Kṛṣṇa extended the night to cover such a great period of time. One may ask how this was possible, and Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura reminds us that Kṛṣṇa, 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 gopīs wanted to enjoy Kṛṣṇa, they were given the opportunity to associate with Him for a long period. This was done according to His promise. When Kṛṣṇa stole the garments of the gopīs while they were taking a bath at Cīraghāṭa on the Yamunā, He promised to fulfill their desire in some future night. In one night, therefore, they enjoyed the company of Kṛṣṇa as their beloved husband, but that night was not an ordinary night. It was a night of Brahmā, lasting millions and millions of years. Everything is possible for Kṛṣṇa, for He is the supreme controller.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Thirty-third Chapter of