Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Story 48 - Story of Raasa leela- 01

Remembering that each and every story of Bhagavatham has for its main import the ultimate reality of Lord and realization of our very nature of Lord, we will enter into the next story of Bhagavatham.

The next important aspect of Sri Krishna’s life is the Raasa leela which is loosely translated as the divine play of Krishna with the gopis of Vrindavan.

Rasa or essence is one of the words used to denote the ultimate reality of Brahman or Lord in the scriptures. Thus Raasa leela would interpret as the leela of the Lord or the leela of the Lord in order to make us realize the truth of Lord. The entire world that we see is only an illusion in the reality of Lord. There is no purpose for the world from the perspective of a jnaani. From the perspective of an ajnaani (ignorant person), the only purpose that we can attribute to the world is that the entire world is a play of the Lord to make us realize the Lord, to take us from the illusory world to the reality of Lord and to take give us bliss out of the experiences of the world by considering them as essentially the Lord alone. From this perspective, Krishna’s leela can be considered as the play of the Lord or Brahman; Vrindavan is the world that we perceive; the cows and calves of Vrindavan are our sense organs; gopis and gopas are the various modifications or thoughts of our mind. Even as we initially tend to forget the ultimate reality of Lord, the gopis didn’t know that their playmate was none other than the Lord. But gradually due to the Lord’s divine play and grace, the gopis came to know that Krishna is none other than the Lord. Similarly gradually due to the Lord’s grace, we will also come to know that the entire world is but an illusory play of the Lord. By learning this divine play of the Lord, we will be able to apprehend the world in its true nature thereby not getting sorrow out of the world but being ever blissful irrespective of external surroundings and environment in the world. This is the real aim of learning raasa leela unlike what most of the devotees think; most of the devotees think that playing, dancing around, singing the names of the Lord etc. is the purpose of learning about the raasa leela of the Lord. This is completely wrong. The real purpose of learning about the raasa leela is to be ever blissful with the knowledge that the Lord alone is present here, one without a second.

We may argue that gopis were highly devoted yet didn’t have any knowledge at all. This is also wrong. The very first sloka of gopi gitam (song sung by the gopis about the Lord) has the gopis praising the Lord as “na khalu gopika nandano bhavaan; akhila dehinaam antharaatma drik” or “you are not the son of nanda gopal but you are the indwelling Self of all beings”.

Narada also points out gopis as the ultimate authority of devotion and anticipating this doubt that gopis didn’t have knowledge says “tatraapi na maahatmya jnaana vismrithi apavaadah; anyathaa jaaraanaam iva” or “there also (in gopis) we cannot doubt that gopis didn’t know the Mahatmya of the Lord (maahaatmya means divine nature of the Lord as the substratum of the illusory world); because that would lead to love being false like the case of a cheating wife”.

Thus real raasa leela is when we are aware that the entire world is but an illusory play of the Lord (lokavat tu tat leela kaivalyam – the world is but a divine play of the Lord – thus says Brahma Sutra as well). When we consider it that way, we will be always fixed on the ultimate reality of Lord rather than on the illusory world. Thereby we will be unaffected by the sorrow and sufferings of the world thus leading a life full of bliss, peace, contentment and satisfaction. It is this bliss that we all are seeking each and every moment of our life. It is only due to knowledge of the very nature of the Lord and abiding in that knowledge that we will consider this world as a divine illusory play thereby being ever blissful.

We will start this story in the next day remembering that we all have to take part in the raasa leela by knowing the very nature of the Lord and being ever blissful irrespective of what we are doing in the world.

Day by day the belief of gopis that Krishna was none other than Ishwara (or Brahman) increased. With the protection of them through lifting of govardhana mountain, the belief got strengthened like the foundation of a house. Remembering Krishna’s deeds each and every moment, the gopis turned their daily activities into Krishna Puja.


Bhagavatham here beautifully tells us in brief as to what we should do in our life in order to realize the ultimate reality of Lord. There are many fools who will claim that taking sanyaasa alone will make us realized or that marrying and begetting children alone will make us realized or singing the names of Lord through daily listening of Bhagavatham alone will give us bliss. All of these are completely wrong. Realization has nothing whatsoever with the external activity that we are doing. Realization can be achieved only through always fixing our mind unto the ultimate reality of Lord.

The scriptures speak about the Brahma Yajna wherein everything that has an effect or part in action is considered as the ultimate reality of Brahman (or Lord). The Lord summarizes this in the 4th chapter of Gita thus:

Brahma arpanam brahma havih brahma agnau brahmanaa hutam
Brahmaiva tena ganthavyam brahma karma samaadhinah

If the experience of the world is considered as a yajna to be performed, Brahman is the oblation; Brahman is the ghee poured into the homa; Brahman is the fire in the homa kunda; Brahman is the one doing the yajna; Brahman alone is the goal to be achieved through the yajna; this yajna is done with the thought and conviction that everything is Brahman.

It is this same concept that the Lord again repeats in the 9th chapter thus:

Yat karoshi yad ashnaasi yad juhoshi dadaasi yat
Yat tapasyasi kaunteya tad kurushva mad arpanam

Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer to homa kunda, whatever you give and whatever austerities you do offer it all unto me.

We generally think that for us to do spiritual activities, we need to be wearing the sacred bhasma, go to temples, do sandhya vandanam, chant various sahasranamas-rudras etc. But these don’t make us real spiritual sadhakas nor devotees of the Lord. Gopis didn’t know the basics of the scriptures yet they became well versed in the truth of the scriptures and were able to ever abide in the Lord. On the other hand we find many Sanskrit scholars well versed in the scriptures yet a slave to various emotions thereby indulging in mere intellectual pride. Any action when done with the right attitude is a spiritual activity. Any activity even though it might be sandhya vandhanam or the highest of learning scriptures is not a spiritual activity without the right attitude.

What is the right attitude?
The Lord has beautiful explained it in the above two slokas and Bhagavatham is just giving it in simple terms using the gopis as an example. Ramana Maharshi gives this in very simple Sanskrit verse thus in his Upadesa Saram:

Ishwara arpitham na icchayaa kritham
Chitta shodakam mukthi sadhakam

Work done as an offering to the Lord and without any craving for the desires of the fruit helps in purification of the mind thereby in realization.

It is this selfless attitude while doing actions that the gopis did after being convinced about the God-hood of Krishna. They performed all actions (all worldly actions) but with remembrance of the Lord. The very thought of Lord when associated with an action turns the action into a pooja which in turn purifies our mind and leads us to realization. Therefore the only thing that we need to do in order to be real sadhakas is remembrance of the Lord while doing all actions. We don’t need to do specific actions like japa, dhyaana etc. but just have to remember the Lord (all-pervasive and non-dual Consciousness) while doing the actions. It is for those who are unable to remember the Lord while doing worldly activities that the various activities like japa, dhyana etc. have been prescribed. Once such people become capable of remembering the Lord even while doing normal activities, then they can give up those activities of japa, dhyaana etc. But those very people get attached to the action of sandhya vandana, japa, dhyana etc. instead of concentrating on the Lord. They remember everything about the action (even that they have to do it before partaking food – they cannot live without doing the actionJ) except the Lord. The one thing that is to be remembered is forgotten and thereby the action becomes binding like any other worldly action. Thus when such people end their life, they criticize Ishwara for not letting them do sandhya vandhanam. If they really knew the import of such activities, they would be happily remembering the Lord during their end instead of brooding over sandhya vandhanam and cultivating hatred against the Lord.

Thus we all have to be real devotees of the Lord by understanding that the activities of japa, dhyana etc. are only for a person to become capable of remembering the Lord even while doing worldly activites.

Oh, then isn’t doing adharmic activities bad?
JNo. Any activity when done with remembrance of the Lord and as an offering to the Lord is a DHARMIC activity.

JNo, the above is not my words. It is the words of the Lord himself in the 9th and 4th sloka.

Api chet suduraachaaro bhajathe maam ananyabhaak
Sadhureva sa mantavyah samyak vyavasitho hi sah

If a person is doing the worst possible action yet remembering me, then he is to be considered as SADHU as his mind is fixed unto me.

He may be a SADHU but will he realize?

Kshipram bhavathi dharmaatma shashvat shaanthim nigacchathi
Kaunteya prathijaaneehi na me bhakthah pranashyathi
Soon he will become a fully spiritual person thereby attaining eternal peace. O Arjuna! Know for sure that my devotee never ever perishes.

These are not mere words of the Lord but the eternal truth which has stood all times and will still stand testimony to the various sadhakas of the world.

Just because it is enough to remember the Lord while doing any actions doesn’t mean that we can get rid of the various activities of japa, dhyana etc. It depends from one seeker to another. Some might need those activities in order to purify their minds and others might not. We just need to do those activities remembering that emphasis is not on the activity as such but on remembrance of the Lord. If this is so, then we will not end up being attached to the activity rather than getting attached to the Lord.

Remembering the gopis, let us all try to perform the brahma yajna for the next week – doing normal activities yet trying to remember the ultimate reality of Lord and offering all activities unto him.

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