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Even though I am a great devotee of Sri Krishna,It has always been troublesome for me to understand Rasa Lila and Sri Krishna's relation with Gopikas. Some were even married.

Sukhadeva's explaination to Maharaja Parikshit doesn't help either.

Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: The status of powerful controllers is not harmed by any apparently audacious transgression of morality we may see in them, for they are just like fire, which devours everything fed into it and remains unpolluted. [Bhagavatam 3.33.29]

One who is not a great controller should never imitate the behavior of ruling personalities, even mentally. If out of foolishness an ordinary person does imitate such behavior, he will simply destroy himself, just as a person who is not Rudra would destroy himself if he tried to drink an ocean of poison. [Bhagavatam 3.33.30]

So this means God is not bound to moral decisions but we humans should not even think of transgressing moral values. But that doesn't sound convincing to me , infact Lord Rama despite being troubled so many times never compromised His moral values.

This is even supported by Sri Krishna Himself in Bhagavad Gita.

Whatever a superior person does, another person does that very thing! Whatever he upholds as authority, an ordinary person follows that. [Bhagavad Gita 3.21]

In all the three worlds, O Partha, there is no duty whatsoever for Me (to fulfil); nothing remains unachieved or to be achieved. (Still) I continue in action. [Bhagavad Gita 3.22]

For, O Partha, if at any time I do not continue vigilantly in action, men will follow My path in every way. [Bhagavad Gita 3.23]

Thus even Sri Krishna Himself says that men will follow Him in every path therefore He also performs His prescribed duty.

Please note that I have nothing but admiration and love for Sri Krishna, it's just that this particular aspect of His life present in few scriptures is so difficult for me to digest. Particularly the claim of few Hinduphobes that adultery supported in Hindu scriptures. I didn't want to ask this question but many have already insulted Hinduism and Sri Krishna's rasa lila, particularly bollywood, comedians, people from other religions etc. Many so called Hindus themselves criticize rasa lila and some fools even try to attempt it.

So in short I want to know how can we can reconcile Sri Krishna's relation with Gopikas and Sri Krishna's statements in Bhagavad Gita as quoted above.

Please don't answer with the concept of rasa being bodiless spiritual activity or Gopikas being Rishis in previous avatars or even the argument about God being allowed to do anything He want since He also slays Asuras. My question is to clarify for those who either insult Rasa Lila and Sri Krishna or try to foolishly imitate Rasa on mundane materialistic platform.

Edit - A Swarajya magazine article about the same. "Could Krishna be guilty of adultrey?"

According to this article, description of Sri Krishna in Mahabharata only (Not Puranas) should be considered authentic.

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  • I have already answered your doubts @RishX in this answer, but since you say you're not looking for that argument so, just giving as comment. But know that, there cannot be a better explanation than the one provided by god Shiva for these doubts. Besides, there can be answers from symbolic perspectives but again, you're looking for a logical answer, I'm guessing, which imo, is not possible for Krishna and his pastimes. Divinity does not follow mundane logic, that's a apriori, and people who demonize the leelas must read better sources, imho
    – Vivikta
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 2:42
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    Follow what Rama DID and Krishna SAID. The PM of country doesn't stop at red lights. Does it mean all of us can do so ? No. Does it mean PM is setting bad examples for citizens ? No. If we can accept that a simple man in position of authority can do things that laymen should not do, why can't we accept that BHAGAVAN can do things that mortals should not do. @Athrey
    – ram
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 5:15
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    the question says BG 3.23 is proposed but transgressed by the Lord. Here, Lila may seem to be an exception..But conviction, faith over Bhagavans acts,is the minimum prerequisite to rightly construe it, @mar
    – Athrey
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 13:12
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    @mar actually in BG 3.21-23 Sri Krishna admits that wise men follow Him, that's why even He follow His prescribed duty even though He has need to.
    – RishX
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:08

2 Answers 2

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Rasa Lila is not for ordinary mortals. It is an example of madhur bhava. It is only people who have gone beyond all sexual feeling who can have such ecstatic love for God. The problem of teaching madhur bhava is that it necessarily requires sexually charged imagery which is then wrongly interpreted by ordinary desire soaked people.

But in order to realize God, one must assume one of these attitudes: santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, or madhur.

"Santa, the serene attitude. The rishis of olden times had this attitude toward God. They did not desire any worldly enjoyment. It is like the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband. She knows that her husband is the embodiment of beauty and love, a veritable Madan.

"Dasya, the attitude of a servant toward his master. Hanuman had this attitude toward Rama. He felt the strength of a lion when he worked for Rama. A wife feels this mood also. She serves her husband with all her heart and soul. A mother also has a little of this attitude, as Yasoda had toward Krishna.

"Sakhya, the attitude of friendship. Friends say to one another, 'Come here and sit near me.' Sridama and other friends sometimes fed Krishna with fruit, part of which they had already eaten, and sometimes climbed on His shoulders.

"Vatsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child. This was Yasoda's attitude toward Krishna. The wife, too, has a little of this. She feeds her husband with her very life-blood, as it were. The mother feels happy only when the child has eaten to his heart's content. Yasoda would roam about with butter in her hand, in order to feed Krishna.

"Madhur, the attitude of a woman toward her paramour. Radha had this attitude toward Krishna. The wife also feels it for her husband. This attitude includes all the other four."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 4, Advice to Householders

Gopi’s zeal for the Lord

MASTER (to the devotees): "As the tiger devours other animals, so does the 'tiger of zeal for the Lord' eat up lust, anger, and the other passions. Once this zeal grows in the heart, lust and the other passions disappear. The gopis of Vrindavan had that state of mind because of their zeal for Krishna.

"Again, this zeal for God is compared to collyrium. Radha said to her friends, 'I see Krishna everywhere.' They replied, 'Friend, you have painted your eyes with the collyrium of love; that is why you see Krishna everywhere.'

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 9, Advice to the Brahmas

Though I am never loath to grant salvation, I hesitate indeed to grant pure love. Whoever wins pure love surpasses all; He is adored by men; He triumphs over the three worlds.

Listen, Chandravali! I shall tell you of love: Mukti a man may gain, but rare is bhakti. Solely for pure love's sake did I become King Vali's door-keeper Down in his realm in the nether world.

Alone in Vrindavan can pure love be found; Its secret none but the gopas and gopis know. For pure love's sake I dwelt in Nanda's house; Taking him as My father, I carried his burdens on My head.

The Master said to the kathak: "The gopis had ecstatic love, unswerving and single-minded devotion to one ideal. Do you know the meaning of devotion that is not loyal to one ideal? It is devotion tinged with intellectual knowledge. It makes one feel: 'Krishna has become all these. He alone is the Supreme Brahman. He is Rama, Siva, and Sakti.' But this element of knowledge is not present in ecstatic love of God. Once Hanuman came to Dwaraka and wanted to see Sita and Rama. Krishna said to Rukmini, His queen, 'You had better assume the form of Sita; otherwise there will be no escape from the hands of Hanuman.'(Because Rama and Sita were Hanuman's Chosen Ideals.) "Once the Pandava brothers performed the Rajasuya sacrifice. All the kings placed Yudhisthira on the royal throne and bowed low before him in homage. But Bibhishana, the King of Ceylon, said, 'I bow down to Narayana and to none else.' At these words the Lord Krishna bowed down to Yudhisthira. Only then did Bibhishana prostrate himself, crown and all, before him.

"Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like the attitude of a daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family — her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth —, bringing them water to wash their feet, fetching their towels, arranging their seats, and the like; but with her husband she has a special relationship.

"There are two elements in this ecstatic love: 'I-ness' and 'my-ness'. Yasoda used to think: 'Who would look after Gopala if I did not? He will fall ill if I do not serve Him.' She did not look on Krishna as God. The other element is 'my-ness'. It means to look on God as one's own —'my Gopala'. Uddhava said to Yasoda: 'Mother, your Krishna is God Himself. He is the Lord of the Universe and not a common human being.' 'Oh!' exclaimed Yasoda. 'I am not asking you about your Lord of the Universe. I want to know how my Gopala fares. Not the Lord of the Universe, but my Gopala.'

"How faithful to Krishna the gopis were! After many entreaties to the door-keeper, the gopis entered the royal court in Mathura, where Krishna was seated as king. The door-keeper took them to Him; but at the sight of King Krishna wearing the royal turban, the gopis bent down their heads and said among themselves: 'Who is this man with a turban on his head? Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him? Where is our beloved Krishna with the yellow robe and the bewitching crest with the peacock feather?'

"Did you observe the single-minded love of the gopis for Krishna? The ideal of Vrindavan is unique. I am told that the people of Dwaraka worship Krishna, the companion of Arjuna, but reject Radha."

A DEVOTEE: "Which is the better, ecstatic love or love mixed with knowledge?"

MASTER: "It is not possible to develop ecstatic love of God unless you love Him very deeply and regard Him as your very own.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 10, The Master with the Brahmo Devotees (II)

Meera Bai worshipped Krishna as her husband. She had a madhur bhava relationship with Krishna. Sex never came in the picture.

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    @RishX, Gopis were worshipping in madhur bhava. God is kalpataru and always fulfils the wishes of His great devotees. What choice does Sri Krishna have in this matter? Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 2:49
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    @RishX great sinners will not love God and that kind of situation will not arise. If a great sinner does change (think of Ratnakar who changed to Valmiki) then he will not commit any further sin. BG 4.11 is only valid when the spiritual aspirant changes his sinful behavior. Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 4:39
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    @RishX here you have a pre accquired thought about Rāsa being a sensual activity. People indeed follow Krishn, in Vrindavana Vaishnava sadhus and saints take a part in Rāsa dance as Sakhis in front of Radha ramanlal ju. See, all these comes from the upasana you follow, those sadhus follow Sehcharini bhaav(a bhaav of being frnds of Radharani) and thus enter Rāsa mandal. Now coming to what really is rasa? It's the highest state of ecstasy, not just अंग से अंग milao sajna of Bollywood. As you said about meat, so I must say if you read the charitra of Sadna Kasai, (continued in next comment) Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 1:37
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    @RishX he used to weigh meat using Shaligram. Wht sadna did was from ignorace.But, his devotion was such that thou his hands were been cut, yet he didn't cried in pain. Does anyone of us have that bhakti? Everyone wants to talk of siddh saints, why have anyone thought, what level of Bhakti they had? How much sadhana they did? Anyone can say offer your leftover to lord like Shabri, won't Hari accept? Lol, you know Shabhari till her oldage wept daily for lord, and then lord came to eat her bair that too just for 1 day and then moved on. Can we match tht level? Ur question is thus answered ! Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 1:44
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    @RishX people who do all kinds of materialistic pleasures in worst way are no devotees and will get nothing from God. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 3:19
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From an ordinary state of consciousness its inexplicable and impossible to understand / comment on the state of Gopis(their plane of awareness).

Unless one attains that superior State , it's infeasible to truly know what it means.

So any justification on this is improbable for a common man

Swami Vivekananda comment, throws light on this subject. as quoted by SN.Sastri

However concerning, moral standards,as mentioned in the question,BG 3.20, 21,25 that details loka sangraha(welfare of the common good , social order, moral standards) 3.25 esp., says a Jnani, though transcended all karmas,worldly needs, should not deter a common man from performing his duties or from moral standards , and it's true that King Janaka, are Lord Rama have set an example., despite of , them not being bound by it.

But in the case of Gopis,

The gopikas had completed effaced their individuality and had identified themselves with Krishna. The butter which they lovingly offered to Krishna represents their heart. Butter is white and soft. Whiteness stands for purity. The implication of the offering of butter is that the gopikas surrendered their hearts, which were absolutely pure and soft, always melting in love for Krishna, to Krishna Himself. Sri Sankara says in Sivanandalahari that the only offering we can make to the supreme, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Lord is our hearts.The great sage Narada extols the devotion of the gopikas in the Narada Bhakti sutras. Narada defines Bhakti as 'supreme love of God'. Love of God becomes supreme only when (1) it is totally free from any selfish desire, (2) there is no place whatsoever for any love of a worldly nature in the mind, and (3) the devotee completely forgets himself or herself and sees only the object of his love, God, everywhere. All these are found in the love of the gopikas for Krishna. Narada says further in sutras 19 to 24.Thus the foremost devotee is also a Jnaani, one who has ceased to identify himself with his limited personality.
S N Sastri

Gopis are akin to Jnani, despite not abiding by the standards of Lokasangraha,It was their state or it was how they were.

Thus , either the general audience must be dissuaded from what they can't truly know , else (as in the question quotation 3.33.29,30, its sure to harm those who imitate,with evil intentions/who cannot see it in Letter and Spirit also they may have to reap the effect of their actions as they aren't untouched by karma)

update :-

Why Sri. Krishna performs Rasa?The ans. could be, as in BG 4.11,On whatever path Gopis have chosen to surrender to Sri Krishna, He reciprocated in the same path. Lord Krishna is a sakshi and karma phala dhatha ..( saakshi for Gopis pure-intentions, bestower of their karma phala, by reciprocating in their path.)

Although Lord has undertaken several roles and responsibilities,abiding BG 3.23 a Lila seems to be an exception.Pseudo devotees, may not try to emulate, combating with Kaalinga or lifting Govardhan though.

However ,those without faith, conviction over Sri Krishna to be the transcendental supreme divinity , imposters should be dissuaded , (as the purport would be misconstrued.) as far as possible.

Nevertheless commentaries of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekanda , several other traditional sampradhayas might reveal the right sense of Intrepretion,

update 1
__________

What is Lila?
Jivas birth is consequential,caused by karma,thereby any action done by a Jiva is impelled by its vasanaas(innate nature) intrinsic in jiva (vasanaas--BG 16.(1-3) Daivi sampath,BG16.(4-24)Asuri sampath--how vasanaas are acquired is as per BG 15.2). But Avatara(BG 4.6) can subjugate the Maya(subdued by the Lord), ensuing the action by Lord to be spontaneous(unlike Jiva),Thus known as Lila.Hence Ishwara is never a Kartha(does not initiate an action).

Lila is elaborated in https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/16182/what-exactly-is-a-leela-लीला-is-there-a-scriptural-definition-of-leela-लीला

Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1-2, and Sv Up. 4.6-7, speak of two birds allegory reveals Iswara is the witness/saakshi (Omniscient). Here, as in the case of Kannapar, (ShivanandaLahari- 63)offeres uncooked meat to Lord Shiva, who confers highest good shreyas to Kannapar.So inner state (intentions) takes precedence over outer actions. Lord as a witness knows the inner state of a sinner and a devotee(who transgress social norm) , and reciprocates correspondingly. It is due to the superior competency of Lord, Lila is an exception. In Practical reality ,a common man cannot possibly speculate ,who is a sinner and who is a devotee, so should not encourage any imitation of a Lila ,and abide by dharma. Nevertheless, one may get the right sense of Intrepretion of any Lila thru commentaries.(In my understanding)

PS- The cornercase of the transgress of BG 3.23 can be reconciled through SB 1.9.37.(Bhishma stuti in Srimad Bhagavad Puran),'Just to fulfill a devotees vow, Lord would transgress His own promise' ,as He is a bhakthavatsala

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    Question is why Sri Krishna performed rasa in the first place, I mean isn't it contradicting BG verses quoted? Infact BG 3.23 proves Sri Krishna was also talking about His own conduct. Also, it's less related about Gopis but more to Krishna Himself
    – RishX
    Commented Jun 19, 2022 at 18:10
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    The second part of your answer.. about dissuading general audience is not possible. That's why so many misconceptions about Rasa Lila.
    – RishX
    Commented Jun 19, 2022 at 18:11
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    updated in ans.
    – Athrey
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 13:06
  • @RishX - Krishna never transgressed any rule. The rule is - 'mental/physical relations of lust with married women are prohibited'. HE never had such relations with the gopis. Antaryami Bhagavan is the Pati for all Jivas, whether male of female, because he is Param Purush. He can do raas lila with men also.
    – ram
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 14:05
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    Excellent addition sir. BG 4.11 does mean that. But if that's true will God accept those devotees who are great sinners and still love God but can't stop sinning? Since it's their way to worship God. Suppose a butcher offers meat as prasadam to God( Sri Krishna), though it's not accepted by Sri Krishna, will he still please the God?
    – RishX
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:16

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