(This article was originally written by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and first published in the 8th volume of Dainik Nadiya Prakasa on 29th October 1933 under the title, Rasa Yatra).
Today is Rasa-purnima. Many people have gathered in Navadvipa, Santipura, Vrndavana, Puri and other holy places. The purpose of these pilgrims is to take darsana of Sri Krsna’s rasa-lila. It is the opinion of those who are knowledgeable of their spiritual identity that there is no other greater seva than this, and in this respect there is no doubt that it is everyone’s duty to endeavor to gain qualification for this seva. Without first climbing the branch of a tree, trying to reach the fruits is a disturbance.
What tattva is Sri Krsna? What is our svarupa? What is the tattva of Sri Krsna’s Gopis? What is our relationship with Them? Without knowing what is actually rasa-lila, then in our attempt to attain darsana of that rasa, we shall simply try to pursue our desire to enjoy. We will not pursue the real thing. Sri Krsna is aprakrta-vastu (fully spiritual). We cannot comprehend Him through material knowledge. Neither the physical senses nor the knowledge acquiring senses are sufficient to attain knowledge of Krsna. Those Vraja-Gopis with whom Krsna performs His rasa-lila, are just like Sri Krsna in that they are inaccessible to material intelligence. So long as there remains a fraction of lust in our consciousness, then we have no qualification to take darsana of that rasa. Lust can never find a place in the heart of a devotee of Sri Krsna who has eka-nistha-bhakti (one-pointed exclusive devotion). If at any time a devotee of Krsna happens to think about lusty affairs and starts to look at those, then by his good fortune a desire will arise in him to spit. Therefore one mahajana has sung thus:
yad-avadhi mama cetah krsna-padaravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhamany udyatam rantum asit
tad-avadhi bata nari-sangame smaryamane
bhavati mukha-vikarah susthu nisthivanam ca
"Ever since my mind became immersed in the light of ever-new rasas at Krsna’s lotus feet, whenever I recall my previous association with women, my mouth turns in disgust and I spit at the thought." (BRS 2.5.72)
It is especially observed that only the baddha-jivas are inclined towards following the path of sensual enjoyment. Sri Sukadeva has told Maharaja Pariksit:
naitat samacarej jatu
manasapi hy anisvarah
vinasyaty acaran maudhyad
yatha ‘rudro ‘bdhi-jam visam
"One should not engage in these activities if he is not as powerful as the Lord, not even in the mind. If one does so out of foolishness, then he will be destroyed, just as drinking an ocean of poison would destroy someone without Siva’s powers". (Bhag. 10.33.30)
Except for the Lord, these things (the rasa-lila etc.) should not be practiced by anyone, even in the mind. Apart from Rudra, anyone else who drinks an ocean of poison will only invite destruction. If by foolishness someone tries to imitate the Lord’s lila, then he will be destroyed. We can observe in Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in Nilacala – He performed nama-sankirtana only amongst His general associates and with His intimate associates He tasted rasa. The aforementioned divine mellows are complete and flourishing in rasa-lila and are meant to be relished internally by confidential liberated devotees. Now, if we conditioned souls, under the laws of material nature, run after the darsana of rasa-lila then whatever proper or improper sadhana we perform will be reviewed by the highly advanced and learned devotees.
All the materially conditioned people that run after rasa-lila darsana can be divided into two classes – one class is the atheistic moralists, and the other class are the immoral sense enjoyers. In order to show how the aforementioned classes become entangled in difficulties after hearing about the rasa-lila, Maharaja Pariksit, after hearing the rasa-lila from the divine mouth of Sri Sukadeva, masquerading as such a person of that class, asked a question. The inquiry was this:
avatino hi bhagavan
sa katham dharma-setunam
pratipam acarad brahman
"O brahmana, the Lord of the entire universe, has descended to earth in order to destroy adharma and reestablish dharma. Indeed, He is the original creator, follower and guardian of dharma. So how could He have violated them by touching other men’s wives?" (Bhag.10.33.26-27)
Sri Krsna is the highest enjoyer, and the Gopis, His eternal maidservants, cannot be enjoyed by anyone else but Him. They are only the medium of that rasa, which is created by parakiya-bhava. As long as a desire to enjoy lusty affairs remains in our heart and as long as we perform activities that are unfavorable for krsna-bhajana, then even after having ceased relations with our family or pretending that we have ceased, whatever the case may be – until we understand that krsna-bhajana is our only duty in life then we cannot realize such high realities about the Gopis and Krsna. Those spiritual teachings that exist in the manifested pastimes of the Gopis cannot even slightly enter the heads of atheistic moralists because in atheistic morality there is nothing that passes beyond the knowledge of mundane chemistry that is based upon the exploitation of material elements.
Maharaja Pariksit, though he was a bhagavata, asked the aforementioned question because, due to their offensive tendency, atheistic moralists accuse Sri Krsna of debauchery. The crest jewel of eternally liberated maha-bhagavatas, Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, answered his query. We have already mentioned the answer of Sri Sukadeva.
Immoral, licentious people go to hear the rasa-lila simply to satisfy their personal dispositions. And the disciples of Kali, for a wage of two-paisa, having obtained some material scholarship and a little knowledge of anusvara and visarga, with lustful consciousness, pose as reciters of rasa-lila. In a ‘fit of bhava’ they drench their breasts with a flood of tears. Moreover it has been said, “When the recitation is over and the time comes to accept donations of money, clothes etc, they suddenly regain their consciousness!” All glories to Kali-yuga for such a performance!
During a stay in Nilacala at Purusottama Matha, the famous zamindar, the pride of the Kayasthas, Rajarsi Sriyukta Saradindu Narayana Raya (MA), Prajna-vedanta-bhusana Mahasaya of Dinajpur, once informed me about a recital of the rasa-pancadhyaya by a particular famous reciter of the class mentioned above, who had a beautiful voice. Explaining the gist of the sloka, naitat samacarejjatu, I told him that a baddha-jiva such as myself had no qualification to hear and speak about the rasa-lila. He informed the main reciter of my words, and the reciter replied by quoting the following sloka in order to establish that he indeed had the adhikara to speak and that his audience was also qualified to hear him speak about the rasa-lila:
vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh
sraddhanvito ‘nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah
"If a self-controlled person listens with faith to the confidential pastimes of Sri Krsna with the damsels of Vraja, from the mouth of Sri Guru and glorifies it at every second, then he immediately obtains transcendental devotion towards the Supreme Lord and becomes capable of distancing himself from the heart disease of lust without delay." (Bhag. 10.33.40)
Without meditating upon the actual meaning of this verse, if we are only eager to hear about the rasa-lila for the sake of listening without discretion, and if we attempt to enjoy the rasa-lila when we are afflicted by a licentious consciousness, then we will fall into a state of severe illusion.
It was my misfortune to be introduced to this aforementioned reciter. He was in babaji-vesa. One day I saw him at the Puri station with a nice pair of fashionable shoes adorning his feet. Thereafter, I undertook a special enquiry and discovered that he had two or three matajis. Naturally, while visiting a disciple’s house, the matajis don’t accompany the babaji but stay nearby at an akhra. The babaji is almost elderly. For many years he has been reciting the Bhagavata – even so, why has the heart disease of lust not subsided? Why has his state gradually come to resemble that of Yayati?
Reciters should take note of the word ‘dhira’ in the aforementioned verse. The rasa-lila should only be heard and continuously sung by a self-controlled person. It is not a subject matter for discussion by one who is afflicted with lust. Except for the pure Vaisnava, others cannot be considered to be dhira. Because their minds are running here and there for the sake of worldly sense objects, they are adhira. Therefore, they have no qualification to hear and preach about the rasa-lila.
From whom does a completely self-controlled person hear about the rasa-lila? Not from a person afflicted with lust, but from the lotus feet of Sri Guru who is free from lust. And in front of whom does he perform kirtana? Not in front of an unqualified person, but confidentially and individually to a qualified person. For what purpose does he continuously glorify the topic of rasa? Not for the sake of earning money, but out of love for Krsna. What is the result? As regards the result, the self-controlled never pray for any other result other than the pleasure of Krsna – and in his heart, even if somewhere there is a small amount of lust hidden, then by the auspicious desire of Sri Krsna it is removed and that excellent self-controlled devotee stays absorbed in the pleasure of service.
Therefore, to gain qualification to see or hear the rasa-lila, one should become dhira. Being self-controlled one should serve the lotus feet of the sad-guru (bona-fide spiritual master) and should be patient to gain that qualification. Without first climbing the branch of a tree, the fruits can never be reached.