Philosophy of RÂSA (Rasakreeda or Rasalila) – From The Bhagavata Purana

Hari Om

The Bhagavata Purana – SKANDHA X. CHAP. 29-33.

Suka said: —

“Seeing those autumnal nights, gay with Mallika flowers, Bhagavân wished to enjoy Himself by resort to Yogamâyâ.”

(It looks odd that there should be a show of conquering the God of love by enjoyment of others’ wives. But it is really not so. For you have “By resort to Yoga Mâyâ.” “Enjoyed though self enjoyer,” “The subduer of the God of Love Himself,” “With enjoyment all self contained,” and such like passages, which show absolute self dependence. Therefore this show of Râsa play is only meant to recite the conquest of Kâma Deva. This is the real truth. Moreover through this love topic, the five chapters on Râsa are calculated to bring about a complete disinclination to worldly matters. Śridhara).

(“Those nights” Go back to Vraja. These nights you shall enjoy with me — the nights promised by these words. Śridhara.’)

At that time the moon had appeared on the horizon. As the lover reunited after long separation besmears the face of his beloved with orange coloured saffron, so he besmeared the face of the east with the most delightful orange rays which brushed away the sorrows of men (charshani). Krishna looked at the Moon, the lover of the Kumud flower, with unbroken disc, glowing like the face of Lakshmî, orange red like fresh saffron, and he looked at the forest illumined with the tender rays of the Moon and he indulged in song so sweet that it ravished the hearts of good-looking women.

Listening to that passion-exciting song, the women of Vraja, with minds absorbed in Krishna rushed forth to where their lover was without taking notice of each other, their ear-rings moving violently about.

Some left their houses while milking the cow. Some did not wait to see the boiling of the milk. Some did not take down boiled wheat from the oven. Some had been giving food to others, some had been giving milk to their own children. Some had been serving their husbands and some had been taking their own food. But they all left their work half finished. They gave up their household duties and, with clothes and ornaments all in disorder, they hurriedly went to Krishna, (Hearing the voice indicative of Sri Krishna, the Gopis became strongly inclined to Him, and they showed by their acts that then and there they had complete disinclination for works that had the three Vargas, Dharma, Artha and Kâma for their object. They left their half finished work and went over to Krishna straight. Śridhara.)

Their husbands could not keep them back nor their fathers, brothers and friends. Their hearts had been completely charmed by Govinda. They did not turn back. (Obstacles cannot overcome those whose hearts are attracted by Krishna. Śridhara.)

Some Gopis that had been inside their houses could not make their way out. Their thoughts had been already devoted to Krishna, and now with closed eyes, they held Him fast in their minds.

With sins all removed by the acute pain of unbearable separation from the dearest one, the Kârmic effects of good works taken away by the absolute pleasure caused by the embraces of Krishna in meditation, with their bonds completely severed at that very moment, those Gopis gave up their bodies composed of the Gunas, even though they united with Krishna as their paramour. (How could they give up their bodies composed of Gunas while they did not know Krishna as Parama Âtmâ, but knew him only as their paramour, a relation caused by the Gunas? “Even though they &c.” A thing is not dependent for its properties upon what another thinks of it. Drink nectar without knowing it is so. The effects are there. There is another difficulty. The Gopis had their Prârabdha Karma, or Karma that brought about the present birth and its surroundings, and Prârabdha is exhausted only after being worked out. So with the bonds of Prârabdha, how could they give up their body? “With their bonds completely severed at that very time.” But Prârabdha cannot be exhausted without suffering and enjoyment. Where were the suffering and enjoyment in this case? “With sins all removed &c.” The greatest suffering caused by separation removed all demerits and the greatest enjoyment caused by the embraces of Krishna removed the bonds of merits. Therefore when Parama Âtmâ was attained by intense meditation, the suffering and enjoyment of the time completely eradicated Karma and the Gopis gave up their bodies composed of the Gunas. Śridhara.)

Asked Râjâ Parikshit: —

“O Muni, they knew Krishna as only one enjoyable and not as Brahmâ. The Gunas were mixed up in their understanding of Krishna. How could there then be a cessation of the flow of the Gunas?”

(Husbands, sons and others, even they themselves were Brahmâ in essence. But a devotion to them could not cause Moksha as they were not known as Brahmâ. How could union with Krishna cause Moksha, when he was not known as Brahmâ? Therefore this doubt. Śridhara.)

Suka replied: —

“O King, I have said before how Sisupâla attained Siddhi even by bearing enmity to Hrishikesha (controller of the senses, Krishna.) What of those to whom Krishna is dear? (The purport is that Brahmâ-hood is eclipsed in the Jiva. But Krishna is controller of the senses. Brahmâ-hood is manifest in him. He does not require to be known. Śridhara). Bhagavân manifests himself for the Moksha of men though in reality, He is without end, without measure, void of all Gunas and their controller.” (Krishna being a manifestation of Bhagavân, there is no comparison between Him and other embodied men. Śridhara.)

“Bear any feeling constantly towards Hari, whether it be a feeling of love, anger, fear, affection, kinship or devotion and you become full of Him. Do not wonder at this. For Krishna is the Lord of all Lords of Yoga. All (even the lowest life forms) attain Mukti from him. When the women of Vraja drew near, Krishna addressed them thus: —

“‘Welcome, ye great ones! What good can I do for you? Is it all safe in Vraja? Tell me the object of your coming here. The night is fearful and dangerous animals are treading round. Go back to Vraja. This is not a place for women. You have got your mothers, fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands. They are seeking you. Do not cause pain to your friends. What more, you have now seen this forest adorned with flowers and illumined by the tender rays of the full moon, where the trees and their tender branches, gently moved by the breeze from the Yamunâ, stand in all their beauty. Now go back, O virtuous girls, speedily to your homes and look after your husbands. The calves and your children are weeping. Go and let them have their drink. Or if you have come here, forced by your love for me, it is only meet and proper, for all people have their love for me. Devotion to husband is the one great religion for women. They are to seek the well being of their friends and to bring up their children. The husband may be wicked, old, diseased or poor. But those who wish for higher Lokas should not give up their husbands. The connection with one not the husband is disreputable and unbecoming. You may bear love to me in other ways than by such a near approach. Therefore go back to your houses.'”

“The Gopis were struck dumb for a time. They became overcome with sorrow. They had given up every thing for the sake of Krishna and they could ill bear to hear these unkind words. At last they broke forth: — ‘O Lord, it is not for Thee to utter these unkind words. We have given up all objects and sought Thy feet. O Thou difficult to be reached, do not forsake us but please think of us, even as the First Purusha thinks of those that seek Moksha. Thou speakest, O love, of our duties to husbands, sons, and friends as if thou wert a religious teacher, but thou art thyself the goal of those religious injunctions. So let them rest in thee. Thou art the greatest friend of all beings, for thou art verily their own self. What do they care for husbands or sons, sources of misery as they are, who are attached to thee, the constant source of happiness?

“‘Therefore do thou show favor to us and permit us to serve Thee.’ Moved by their piteous appeal, Krishna gave his company to the Gopis. Proud of that company, the Gopis deemed themselves superior to all other women on the earth. To put down this loss of mental balance, caused by good fortune and this pride, Krishna suddenly disappeared from amongst them. The Gopis became disconsolate. Their hearts had been too much taken up by the gestures and movements of Krishna. So they imitated his deeds and even called themselves Krishna. They all sang loudly together and madly searched for Krishna from forest to forest. They asked the trees if they had seen their lover. They enquired of the creepers, the earth and the deer. Fatigued at last, they again took to reproducing the deeds of Krishna. Some played the part of Pûtanâ or some other Asura, some played the part of Krishna in connection with some of his manifold deeds. They again made enquiries from the plants. They then found out the footsteps of Krishna marked by the divine symbols (flag, the lotus, the thunder-bolt and the goad). Tracing those steps a little further, they found they were mixed up with the footprints of a girl. The Gopis exclaimed: —

“‘Surely this girl had made Ârâdhanâ (devout prayer for the Lord). Govinda left us that he might take her to a secret retreat. Sacred are the dust particles of Govinda’s feet; even Brahmâ, Śiva and Lakshmî hold them on their head for the extinction of sins. Look here we no longer see the foot marks of that girl. It seems Krishna carried her here on his back and his footprints are therefore deeply marked. Here He placed her down to pluck flowers and touched the earth with his toes only, for the steps are not fully marked. Surely he placed the girl on his lap here and adorned her hair with flowers.’ And what of that girl? She deemed herself very fortunate that Krishna should shew particular attention to her. With this sense of superiority she spoke to Krishna. ‘I can not walk. Take me to where I like on thy back.’ Krishna said, ‘Get up on my back.’ But when she would do so, Krishna had already disappeared. The girl was loudly lamenting, when the other Gopis joined her. They heard her story and became very much surprised. (It is necessary to draw the special attention of the readers to the girl, who had made Ârâdhanâ of Hari. She is the Râdhikâ of Nârada Pancharâtra and of later day Vaishnavism. Râdhikâ means literally one who makes Râdhanâ or Ârâdhanâ. But I shall not touch upon her in a study of the Bhâgavata Purâna. The study of this Purâna is incomplete without a study of Chaitanya’s teachings. And if I succeed in taking up those teachings, I shall consider the lofty ideal of Râdhikâ).

“The Gopis all returned to the forest and searched for Krishna as long as there was moonlight. They gave up their search when it was dark. With thoughts all directed to Krishna, with conversations all about Him, with gestures and movements all after Him, with songs all about His deeds, the Gopis, all full of Krishna, they did not think of their homes. They went to the banks of the Yamunâ, and all sang in a chorus about Krishna, ardently praying for his return. (I shall not touch with my profane hand the songs of the Gopis. They are far too sacred for any rendering into English and they baffle any attempt to do so. Sweet as nectar, the melody of those songs is inseparable from their very essence, and he would be murdering Bhâgavata who would attempt to translate those songs. For the continuity of our study it is only necessary to translate the fourth sloka.)

“‘Thou art not surely the son of Yasodâ. Thou art the inmost seer of all things. Implored by Brahmâ thou hast appeared, O friend, in the line of the Sâtvats, for the protection of the Universe.’ While the Gopis were thus bewailing in melodious tunes, Krishna appeared with a smiling face. They formed a circle round Him and were so pleased to see Him that they reached the very limit of their joy. The Gopis spread out their outer garments as a seat for Sri Krishna, on the river bank. When Krishna sat down, they addressed him thus: —

“‘Some seek those only that seek them; some do the contrary, (i.e. seek those even who do not seek them), others seek neither those that seek them nor those that do not seek them. Please tell us, what is all this.’

“Said Śri Krishna: — ‘Those that seek each other are guided in their efforts by selfishness. There is neither friendship nor virtue in that mutuality. It is all for a selfish end. (Even the beasts seek mutual good. Śridhara. And do not the Utilitarians and the evolutionists do so)? Those that seek the unseeking are either kind-hearted men or they are guided by affection like the parents. It is pure virtue in the former case and friendship in the latter.

“‘Those that do not seek the people that seek them and far less those that do not seek them fall under one of the following four classes: —

“‘(1) Those that seek pleasure in self (and not in the outside world), (2) those that are satiated, (3) the ungrateful and (4) the treacherous. But I do not belong to any of these classes, I do not seek those that seek me in order to make them seek me continually and constantly. For when a poor man gains wealth and then loses it, he becomes so full of that loss that no other thought can enter his mind (i.e. to help the continuity and constancy of the devotional feeling, I do not show open favor to a devotee. This is an act of supreme kindness and friendship). You have given up for my sake all worldly concerns, the Vedas and even your own relations. I seek you from behind, being out of sight. Therefore you ought rightly to be angry with me. Even with the life of a God, I cannot make any return for your devotion to me, for you have burst asunder the ever fresh chains of home life, in order to seek me. So let your own goodness be the only recompense for your devotion.'”


Govinda commenced Râsa with his devoted band. (Râsa is a kind of dance in which many dancing girls take part.) The Gopis formed a circle, and Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, was between every two of them and he pressed them all unto his shoulders, and each of them thought that Krishna was near to her. (How could one Krishna stand between every two of them and how could each Gopi think that he was near to her only, when he was near to them all? Therefore “the Lord of Yoga” i.e. of unimaginable powers. Śridhara.) The sky became filled with hundreds of chariots of Devas and Deva girls, eager to witness the scene. Drums beat and flowers rained. The Gandharva kings with their wives sang the pure glory of Krishna. Loud was the clash of the Gopis’ ornaments. They danced and sang in great excitement. The moon lingered on with amazed look and the night became prolonged. So the dance continued till at last the Gopis became fatigued. Krishna wiped off their sweat and went with them to bathe in the Yamunâ. After the bath they most reluctantly took leave of Krishna.

In these enjoyments Krishna was self-contained.

Asked Râjâ Parikshit: —

“The Incarnation of Íśvara is for the spread of Dharma and the putting down of Adharma. What is this enjoyment of others’ wives, contrary to all injunctions and hateful in itself, by one who is at once the originator and preserver of all Dharma?”

Suka said: — Even the great are seen to violate what we call Dharma and the gods become over bold. But this does not bespeak any evil of them, as they have got superior force, even as fire eats everything but is ever pure. But he who is not capable (i.e. who is a slave to his body and its attributes) is not to perform such acts even in mind. If he does such acts through ignorance, he is sure to be ruined. It is only Śiva that could drink the poison that appeared from the ocean of milk. The words of the Lords (Ísvara) are true. Their deeds are only sometimes true, (i.e. their exceptional life, which is governed by extraordinary consideration and unusual conditions, is not meant always as an example for ordinary beings. But what they say is always for the good of the universe and is to be followed as a teaching. What is given as their life is also sometimes allegorical and has to be understood in another sense). The wise man therefore follows such of their deeds as are consistent with the other words of the great ones. They have nothing to gain or lose by good or bad deeds. For they have no Egoism in them. What is good and what is bad to him who is the Lord of all beings? By devotion to His feet and by power of Yoga, even Munis are freed from the bonds of good and evil. The Lord did only assume a body at will. Whence could there be any bondage in His case? (And was there really an enjoyment of others’ wives? No for He dwells in all beings, even the Gopis and their husbands. He is the manifestor of all the senses. The assumption of the body is only a playful fancy. It is for the good of all beings that He became a man. His indulgences are such as are likely to make one devoted to Him, when heard of. Even the minds of those that are very much turned away from Íśvara are attracted towards Ísvara, by means of Sringâra Râsa or love topics. Hence the love matter of Sri Krishna. This is the purport. Śridhara) The people of Vraja, deluded by the Mâyâ of Krishna, thought that their wives were by their side. They bore no ill-feeling towards Krishna. (It follows that those who perform such acts without such powers are sinners. Śridhara.)

When it was Brahmâ Muhurta, (the part of the night immediately preceding the dawn), the Gopis, with the permission of Śri Krishna, reluctantly left Him and went home.

He who hears or recites this play of Vishnu with the women of Vraja acquires supreme devotion to Bhagavat and shakes off in no time that disease of the heart called Kâma or passion for women (Excerpts from “The Bhagavata Purana or Esoteric Hinduism”).

Underlined Philosophy or Realistic Meaning of Rasalila or Rasakreeda

There are two illustrations of Rasakreeda or Rasalila of The Bhagavata Purana which are familiar to All.

1. RadhaKrishna standing in the centre and all of the gopis circling them in ecstatic motion (cover picture).

2. RadhaKrishna standing (as shown below) in the centre and dancing, all of the gopis dancing with a form of Krishna.

We can draw a parallel between Raaslila in the Vaishnava and Lasya-Tandava in the Shaiva traditions.

The basis of Hindu philosophy has always been the union of masculine and feminine forces (Purush-Prakriti).

Lasya emerges from Parvati. Tandav comes from Shiva. They join together and thus, these contrasting energies unite and attain completion.

In Rasakreeda, it is Radha who contributes Rasa (bliss) to the Leela of Krishna. Without Rasa, the leela would not be enjoyable. The feminine and masculine energies join together and attain completion here. When the gopis circle them, the gopis represent the jivatmas. The Jivatma has only one goal – to realize that it is none other than Paramatma essentially.

Paramatma in this lila, does not only constitute a masculine form or a feminine form. It is both masculine and feminine. (Ardhnareeshwara). This aspect is to be emphasized, because there has been a tendency to regard one form of God higher than the other which is contrary to the very foundational basis of Hinduism. Purush & Prakriti are one. No one is superior.

Radha and Sri Krishna represent these twin forms of God. The Gopis are jivatmas who are on the path of devotion towards RadhaKrishna. In blissful ecstasy, they dance around RadhaKrishna while RadhaKrishna represent the transcendental twin energies of Paramatma.

Prakriti is the manifested form of Shakti (primordial feminine power). Radha represents the Shakti here. Shakti is dynamic and creative. With the help of Purusha, Prakriti creates this unfathomable Universe. Purusha aids Her by being the Atman in each Jiva. Hence, each Jiva is a combination of Purusha and Prakriti. Following this principle, Radha extends Her feminine energy and becomes each of the gopis. She does this in conjunction with Krishna. When Prakriti manifests something, Purusha will cooperate. Because Purusha never remains separate from Prakriti, Purusha is static energy and remains dormant until He unites with Prakriti the dynamic force (or energy). So when Radha(Prakriti) extends to become each gopi, Krishna (Purusha) extends His energy to accompany or enliven each gopi.

Each gopi (Radha) dancing with Krishna in Rasalila conveys this idea that Prakriti who is the creative feminine power will keep on expanding and the Purusha who is the static dormant consciousness will accompany to enliven Prakriti in all of Her forms.

So the gopis are treated as pure jivatmas who are devoted to the ultimate Paramatma and also extensions of Prakriti.

Another important aspect of Rasalila is that Krishna plays the flute and the Gopis go to Him. Krishna as Purusha represents the static Consciousness here; it doesn’t change, it doesn’t move. It is in supreme bliss all the time. Krishna stays rooted to His spot and awaits gopis to come to him. It is Shakti / Prakriti who changes and flourishes. Radha is Mula Prakriti (The most elemental form of Prakriti) and each Gopi is Her energy component. By virtue of being the active Prakriti, Radha and gopis traverse the journey to reach Krishna. This means that it is Prakriti who has to undertake the journey of uniting with Consciousness/Atman. This is another facet of Purush-Prakriti union.

This can also be understood symbolically as —The thoughts, words or acts appearing in our daily lives are like Gopis and all these manifest (appear) on the continuing substratum of Absolute Consciousness (Sri Krishna). If there is no identification with the manifest ego in the form of thoughts which lead to words or actions in transactional world, we cannot miss Sri Krishna the ever existent continuous background–the supreme consciousness or Paramatma. Each thought is like a gopi appearing between Krishna(s). Because we fail to realize Krishna, we as individual jivatmas (Ego) suffer the apparent separation from Sri Krishna (our True Self).

Therefore, it is to be understood essentially that Rasalila is a reiteration of the fact that Supreme Consciousness will always co-exist with Supreme Shakti.

GF’ Blessings.