The Gopis: An Ambrosial Dance Crew or Something More?
By Venu Gopal Das
A day in the life of Shri Krishna is filled with numerous activities: tending cows, playing pranks on the women of the village, feasting on sumptuous food with the cowherd boys and vanquishing an ill-fated demon whose misfortune brings him wandering into Krishna’s abode. Considering all this, one might ask why Krishna would choose to lose sleep over dancing with a group of mere milkmaids.
The Adi Purana narrates a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. The Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, describes the gopis as follows: “Oh Arjuna, there are no greater receptacles of deep love for Me than the gopis…Oh Partha, the gopis know My greatness, My loving service, respect for Me, and My mentality. Others cannot really know these. Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, the goddess of fortune and even My own self are not as dear to Me as the gopis.”
The Brahma-samhita 5.37 reveals that there are sixtyfour activities which the Lord commonly shares with the gopis. Apart from dancing, these activities are both diverse and intricate, some of which include: staging theatrical performances, jewellery making and the study of botanical medicine. However, the deeper reason for Krishna’s attachment to the gopis is the purity of their service attitude. Lord Krishna’s eternal consort is Shrimati Radharani, and the gopis are responsible for arranging all Their interactions. The gopis quickly complete their daily duties and engage all their time in making these arrangements. They set the time of meeting, search for the perfect location, manage all food preparations, decorate the site and determine what mood will suffice. They select the musical style needed, along with other entertainment. The gopis teach us how to utilize all our energy, facility and skills to please the Lord, but most importantly they teach not to expect anything in return. This is the highest spiritual milestone realized in the Vedas and all religious scriptures— to use all qualities and benedictions, regardless of how small, to selflessly serve the Lord.
The consciousness of the gopis is exemplary.The entire day they think of how to serve Krishna. Their minds are not focused on material desires or selfish delusions. When they meet amongst each other, instead of going on about themselves, they constantly glorify the Lord and teach His message without discrimination. These are indicators of those who have surrendered themselves to God. Their actions, thoughts and words are never independent of the Lord.
From the gopis, we are taught an essential lesson on how Krishna reciprocates with His devotees.
The gopis had no brahmanical training, nor had they studied the Vedas, yet they still won the favour of the Lord. Our situation in the Kaliyuga, the age of quarrel, is quite similar. Most of us don’t have access or opportunity to be trained brahmans, let alone study the Vedas. However, Krishna states in Bhagavad-gita 9.26, that these methods are not necessary: “If one offers Me with love and devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” Therefore the only qualification one needs to serve the Lord is love and devotion. Krishna further states, “To those who are constantly devoted to serving me with love, I give the understanding by which they come to me.” (Bg. 10.10) This statement implies that spiritual knowledge can be realized intrinsically, as long as one is sincere about making progress in this endeavour.
Both these statements are practically instructed from the lives of the gopis…if ever you have doubt in performing some activity for the Lord, think of the gopis, and remember, in the eyes of Krishna, no action goes unnoticed.
Hare Krishna News – Published by ISKCON Durban. Used with permission