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Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 15: The Sport of the Infinite

(Rasa-Lila message given on the 22nd of October, 1972.)

There has always been a perpetual, unceasing emanation of light, heat and warmth from the sun, ever since ages. So is God's manifestation in the world as the Incarnations. We use the term 'Incarnation' to denote the manner in which spiritual forces work in the temporal world. The spiritual forces are the messengers of God, the arms of God moving in the world of space and time, the eyes of God operating in the empirical process of perception, the majesty of God proclaiming itself in all its grandeur, whether invisibly manifest or visibly demonstrated before our physical eyes. Such are the Incarnations or Avataras. This divine manifestation is not limited to places, times and persons. As God is all-pervading, His action is also all-pervading. It is an omnipresent, incomprehensible abundance of God's kindness, goodness, knowledge and power which occasionally enters into the world of space and time and makes itself felt in palpable form.

Though God's revelations are perennial, perpetual, endless and beginningless, though it is a ceaseless activity like the flow of the Ganga or the radiance of the sun, yet these manifestations are sometimes too subtle to be capable of being perceived by human eyes. We have various gradations of frequency in light rays and sound waves, but the higher frequencies are not capable of being perceived by the eyes or heard by the ears. We have what we call cosmic rays, X-rays, beta-rays, gamma-rays, alpha-rays and many other rays, which are not perceptible forms of light rays although they are more powerful than the visible, gross light rays such as those emanating from the sun, moon, a candle or a torch light. They are more penetrating in their action, more pervasive in their nature and more effective in the results they produce, and yet they are invisible to the physical eyes and the physical senses of man, inasmuch as our senses work under a low frequency of operation while these light rays are of a higher frequency. There cannot be any physical communion between the lower frequency and the higher frequency. We know very well radio waves do not clash with one another if the frequencies are different. But if all the broadcasting stations are to send messages in sound waves of the same frequency, there will be collision and confusion, and nothing will be known or understood. Different frequencies do not collide with each other and, therefore, we have no such conflict among the broadcasting stations in the world. Likewise, different frequencies of energy in the cosmos work in different realms for different purposes. And this is one of the reasons why we are unable to come in contact with super-physical forces that operate even now under our very nose. Hell and heaven, the seven worlds, the Svargaloka, the Satyaloka and such other supernormal levels of existence which we hear from the scriptures, are existent even here and now. But we cannot contact them, just as we cannot see with our physical eyes the X-rays and the cosmic rays. They are just here and not far off, physically speaking. But for our purposes they are almost non-existent, because simultaneous contact with different frequencies of force is impossible.

Hence, often, manifestations of God and supernormal Avataras, which take place nevertheless, remain incomprehensible to human perceptions. But, sometimes, those invisible rays get grossened into visible forms, such as the sun's rays—then we begin to see them. We can feel their presence and then be benefited by the power of these rays, physically speaking. We do not know how we are influenced by the cosmic rays, for example. We neither know them, nor see them, nor can understand them. But we can see visibly how we are benefited by the rays of the sun. We feel the sun is indispensable. The sun is our life, our breath and our existence. This is because the frequencies of the light rays of the sun are co-extensive and uniform with the frequencies in which our senses operate. We see a physical world before us because the physical particles of nature that we see with our eyes are of a similar frequency as the constitution of our own sense-organs. That is why we can see Bhuloka, but not Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka or Satyaloka. Similarly, we cannot see Patala and the other nether worlds, as they range beyond our sense-capacity.

The physical world is not the only world that exists in the cosmos. It is only one level of frequency of power, energy and force, on account of which we can see only one world at a time, and not two worlds. Neither can we see anything above us nor can we see anything below us. We see only horizontally, and that is the physical world of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether. So we know why we see only one world, though scriptures speak of many worlds. We also know why we see only human beings and not the Devas, gods and celestials. We cannot see them, because they are in a higher level of frequency of consciousness, even as we cannot hear radio waves through our physical ears. We want a transistor for that, because the physical eardrum is gross compared to the subtle, ethereal waves sent by the broadcasting stations in the different parts of the world. So all this is to explain scientifically and understand logically the reason why we are bound to the physical level of perception and experience, and why we are completely oblivious of the existence of supernormal powers and divine manifestations of God.

But God's manifestations are perpetual, endless and beginningless, whether we know them, see them or not, even as the other frequencies of energy like light and sound do exist whether we are able to contact them physically or not. As I have already mentioned, when these frequencies become more and more gross, for reasons we cannot understand, we begin to see the world and feel the forces of nature. Likewise, God sometimes can take incarnations of a type which we can physically observe and sensorily cognise, enjoy and be benefited by. Then, the frequency comes down to the level of our cognitions and perceptions. Such was the case of the series of Incarnations we hear of in the scriptures—Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Rama, Krishna and so on. But these are not the only Avataras of God. Akhanda and ananta, continuous and endless are the Avataras of God, says the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. Like the infinite rays of the sun, like the infinite drops of the ocean and like the infinite particles of space, are the infinite manifestations of God. Notwithstanding the fact that they are infinite in their essence, they are limited in their operations and manifestations when they come to a specific frequency of revelation. These are the visible incarnations like Christ, Buddha and Krishna and such supernormal beings, whom we call supermen, Atimanavas or Avataras.

We have, today, a very auspicious occasion which we call the Rasa Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Asvini, which is associated with the Lilas of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is Shodasa Kala Murti, Purna-Avatara, Divinity condescending to come down to the level of our physical perception. Here the glory of the Infinite is condensed or pressed into and focussed through the finitude of human perception. That was Bhagavan Sri Krishna's Avatara in which we have a very fantastic and inscrutable phenomenon of what they call the Rasa-Lila, a sport which He is supposed to have played on the banks of the Yamuna, in Madhuvana, in the sylvan retreat of the holy Vrindavana, on the night of this particular full-moon day. This is not merely a historical or an epic event that we are narrating, contemplating and reciting, but a spiritual phenomenon, because God cannot but be spiritual. If at all God is anything, He is spiritual. And if He can do anything, it is only spiritual activity. If there is any purpose behind His operations, it is spiritual alone. In and out, through the length and breadth of His creation, it is spirituality that is operating. Materiality is unknown in the world of God. It is a thing that does not exist. So it is a spiritual history that we recite and read in the Srimad Bhagavata and the Mahabharata in connection with the life of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. It is not a mortal biography that we read, because in the realm of God mortality does not exist. Mortality, vicissitude, transience, materiality, externality, pain and death are all limitations of consciousness brought about by an error of perception, and they do not exist by themselves. They have no existence as such, but they are only processes tending towards this Supernal Being.

So, in this wondrous phenomenon called the Rasa dance, the Spirit is dancing with its own manifestations. The Srimad Bhagavata beautifully and significantly puts it: Reme rameso vrajasundaribhih yatharbhakah svapratibimba-vibhramah: As a child plays with its own reflection seen in a mirror, so did the Lord play with the eternal devotees of Vrindavana. He did not play with personalities, even as a child does not play with anybody when it looks at its own self through the mirror. This is the interpretation given in the Srimad Bhagavata itself, in the Dasama Skandha. So it is God playing with God, like a child playing with itself or the Original dancing with its own reflections, connoting the spiritual dance of the cosmos, the attraction of the part towards the Whole, man's inseparability from God, and the soul's agony on account of its bereavement from the Supreme. The restless adventure of the soul in respect of its Original, of which it is an integral part, nay is It Itself, is the quintessence of the dance called the Rasa Dance. 'Rasa' means quintessence. Raso vai sah; rasam hyevayam labdhva anandi bhavati, says the Taittiriya Upanishad. It is ananda that is manifest everywhere in the world. It is Bliss and not pain that we see in the world. Pain is only a refusal on the part of our consciousness to recognise the bliss of God's creation. Ananda is the reality. Pain is not the truth of existence. So it is the ananda, the Supernal Beatitude, Beauty, magnificence and the lustre of God that has revealed itself in this historical epic movement of the Supreme into the temporal realms as Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

Impossible it is for the human mind to understand what the rasa means, because it is not meant for man to understand. It was God dancing to His own tune. This is the eternal Tandava or cosmic dance which is connotative of all the manifestations—personal, social, political and spiritual. It is the remedy that is administered to the soul of man to cure him of the illness of samsara. As Sage Suka puts it towards the end of the description of the Rasa Panchadhyayi, “This is the remedy prescribed for the 'illnesses of the heart'.” 'Hridroga' is the word used, which means illness of the heart, which has only one remedy, viz., the love of God. Our heart disease is our central illness. It does not necessarily mean physical illness of the heart which we call blood pressure, heart attack, etc., but the samsara-­consciousness, the bondage of the soul. Kama, krodha and lobha are the heart attacks, primarily speaking. And these are the essential bondages of the soul. The cure of samsara is supposed to be contained in this hidden import of the Sport of Divinity in the mortal realm. God dances eternally. It may be Siva's dance, Rudra's dance or Krishna's dance. We may call it by any name or appellation we like. It is the Spirit persisting through matter and interfering with every step of the process of evolution in the work of transforming matter into Spirit, converting externality into the universal Beauty of God and insisting that the mortal should become Immortal, because the birthright of man is Divinity.

Such is the magnitude of the meaning contained in the Rasa-Sport of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the irresistible surge of the soul for its Maker, that it is not comparable even with the running of the iron filings to the magnet or the movement of rivers towards the ocean. These comparisons are inadequate in this respect. It is the irresistible surge and urge of the soul. 'Irresistible' is, of course, a poor word that we use for want of a better term. It is humanly impossible of description, because it was not the human power that was working. God's call is not like man calling. It is not like a boss calling a subordinate or a mother calling the child. It is not even the lover calling the beloved. Much more than all the illustrations we can think of, is the meaning, significance, import and the stringency of the call of God to the soul of man.

When God calls the human soul, what happens to it? This, the soul itself cannot understand, let alone the human tongue which is feeble in its expression. The great Veda Vyasa, in his majestic language, and his son, Sage Suka, in his brilliant exposition, try to give us a sort of intimation as to what it could have been. But poor is human understanding to understand its import, and poorer still is the human tongue. Who can understand the Spirit but the Spirit itself! This was the pithy and the short answer given by Sage Suka to King Parikshit when he put a human question in respect of this transcendental matter. “Oh, what is this!” exclaimed Parikshit. “How can I grasp this? How can I stomach this? What do you mean by this description which is not capable of being easily appreciated by the human mind?” To this, Suka gave a divine answer in a divine manner, saying that divinity is different from humanity, and that man is not supposed to understand God through human faculties. Na tu mam sakyase drashtum anenaiva svachakshusha, divyam dadami te chakshuh: “You cannot see Me with your fleshy eyes; I will give you divine vision!” This was Bhagavan Sri Krishna's cosmic reply to the individual encounter of Arjuna with the Visvarupa. If the Visvarupa could not be beheld by a mortal eye, the Rasa Lila cannot be understood by a mortal intellect. It is not a temporal activity that took place but, as the Bhagavata tells us, it is a spiritual drama that was enacted by the Master of all powers. Time ceased to be and the stellar system could not move, says the scripture. It was not a night's dance. It was a long, long-drawn play which hushed the movement of time itself. The stars began to gaze at it, as it were, and the celestials were looking at it with wonderment, not conscious of time, space and personality. All particularity-consciousness was completely obliterated. The consciousness of the personality itself was not there. It was not mortality, not humanity, not individuality, but Spirit dancing to the tune of the Universal Spirit.

Again to reiterate, impossible it is to describe it. Yet it gives us an idea as to what God is, and how God works, and what the goal of our life is. The goal of the soul is unity with God, and restless is the soul until it has a vision of God. Though it is true that it is incapable of being understood, it is not impossible of attainment, because that is the only attainment which the soul is craving for. The insatiable longings and the endless desires of the human mind are demonstration enough of the fact that God cannot be contained in the human mind. What the soul asks for is God, and not the tinsels of the earth. We are not asking for food, clothing, shelter, warmth or protection. The soul is asking for nothing short of God. But this longing of the soul for the Eternal manifests itself as distorted asking and demands for temporal objects, which are the cravings of the soul in its incompetence to comprehend its own longings and aspirations. The soul has gone crazy, as it were. It has gone mad in its pursuit of God, who cannot be seen through the senses. To carry fire with a piece of straw is impossible. But the soul tries to contain Infinity in its finite mind. The impossible attempt of the soul to limit the universality of God into the finitude of the mind is samsaric activity and the pleasures of sense, the titillations of the nerves and the itching of consciousness. But these cannot satisfy us, because we will not be satisfied until we get what we are asking for. And the 'we', the real 'I', is the soul within which asks for the Soul without. The soul in the human being asks for the Oversoul, the Infinite. We are asking for the Oversoul. The finite is asking for the Infinite, because the finite cannot be satisfied with any number of finite objects. The riches of the whole earth cannot satisfy a single soul, because the soul is an expression of the Infinite which is One, and the objects are finite though they are many in number.

This implication was brought home to the minds of people, the devotees, through the description of this enrapturing, maddening and intoxicating Love of God which the Gopis of Vrindavana exhibited in a historical period of time, in a most superhuman fashion. The eternal import hidden behind this Sport is the immortalising of all attempts at devotion. Of all the incidents in the life of Sri Krishna, this is the one which man cannot understand, and man is not supposed to understand. Because, here, in the five chapters of the Srimad Bhagavata describing the Rasa-Lila, the great author has pressed into service infinitude of wisdom and fullness of feeling and understanding. The style of Sanskrit used there is of a superior kind. Suddenly there is a shift of emphasis and rhetoric in the Srimad Bhagavata when the Rasa chapter begins. And we begin to feel a pulsation within our nerves, as it were, when these supernormal experiences are given to us in the language of mankind.

Such was the occasion, the Rasa Purnima, when God entered into the lower frequency of human consciousness and became visible, though He has infinitude in His bosom in higher frequencies of supernormal existence and is incapable of perception. The conclusion is that God is All and nothing but God can be. The human soul has only one desire—unity with God. It has not got many desires. All our economic longings and necessities, physical needs, intellectual aspirations, social necessity and what not—all these are distorted forms of the desire of the soul for God. They are erroneous movements of the soul's aspiration for Divinity. Samsara is nothing but the writhing of the soul, the struggling of the soul and the agony of the soul on account of its bereavement from God. All this weeping and crying of the soul is called samsara. That is what we are experiencing. Restless is our life, and pitiable is the existence of man as long as he has not understood the meaning of his asking and what he asks for. Our life has become wretched merely because of the fact that we have not understood even the meaning of our own asking. We ask for something, but we have understood it to be something else! To rectify this error of man's distorted perception, Bhagavan Veda Vyasa gave us this scripture in the form of the immortal biography of the Immortal Man, the Super-Man of the East, whose eternal Sport we observe and celebrate on the most auspicious Rasa Purnima. Blessed be this day! Blessed be the devotees, seekers of Truth and aspirants who search for God and rest not until He is attained. May the infinite grace of the Almighty be upon us all!