[Commentary and Compilation by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada]
ye strī-saṅga muni-gaṇe karena nindana
tāṅrāo rāmera rāse karena stavana
Sages condemn the association of women, yet they glorify Lord Balarāma’s association with the cowherd girls in the rāsa dance.
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (2.1.3-4) Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī condemns the association of women and those who are attached to women in the following statement to Parīkṣit Mahārāja: “O King, the lifetime of such an envious householder is passed at night either in sleeping or in sex indulgence, and in the daytime either in making money or maintaining family members. Persons devoid of ātma-tattva do not inquire into the problems of life, being too attached to the fallible soldiers like the body, children, and wife. Although sufficiently experienced, they still do not see their inevitable destruction.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (3.31.32-42) Lord Kapiladeva says to His mother, Devahūti, “If, therefore, the living entity again associates with the path of unrighteousness, influenced by sensually minded people engaged in the pursuit of sexual enjoyment and the gratification of the palate, he again goes to hell as before. He becomes devoid of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, spiritual intelligence, shyness, austerity, fame, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, fortune, and all such opportunities. One should not associate with a coarse fool who is bereft of the knowledge of self-realization and who is no more than a dancing dog in the hands of a woman. The infatuation and bondage which accrue to a man from attachment to any other object is not as complete as that resulting from attachment to a woman or to the fellowship of men who are fond of women. At the sight of his own daughter, Brahmā was bewildered by her charms and shamelessly ran up to her in the form of a stag when she took the form of a hind. Amongst all kinds of living entities begotten by Brahmā, namely men, demigods, and animals, none but the sage Nārāyaṇa is immune to the attraction of māyā in the form of woman. Just try to understand the mighty strength of My māyā in the shape of woman, who by the mere movement of her eyebrows can keep even the greatest conquerors of the world under her grip. One who aspires to reach the culmination of yoga and has realized his self by rendering service unto Me should never associate with an attractive woman, for such a woman is declared in the scripture to be the gateway to hell for the advancing devotee. The woman, created by the Lord, is the representation of māyā, and one who associates with such māyā by accepting services must certainly know that this is the way of death, just like a blind well covered with grass. A living entity who, as a result of attachment to a woman in his previous life, has been endowed with the form of a woman, foolishly looks upon māyā in the form of a man, her husband, as the bestower of wealth, progeny, house, and other material assets. A woman, therefore, should consider her husband, her house, and her children to be the arrangement of the external energy of the Lord for her death, just as the sweet singing of the hunter is death for the deer.”
Nārada Muni speaks the following words to Mahārāja Prācīnabarhi in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (4.25.6): “Those who are interested only in a so-called beautiful life—namely remaining as a householder entangled by sons and a wife and searching after wealth—think that such things are life’s ultimate goal. Such people simply wander in different types of bodies throughout this material existence without finding out the ultimate goal of life.”
Nārada Muni describes the story of Purañjana and Purañjanī to Mahārāja Prācīnabarhi in the Fourth Canto of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from Chapter Twenty-five, verse 10, to Chapter Twenty-nine, verse 51. Yet he particularly points out the ill effects of associating with women and the benefits of pleasing Lord Hari in verse 28 of the Twenty-eighth Chapter.
Again in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (4.29.54-55) Nārada Muni further explains to Mahārāja Prācīnabarhi, “My dear King, woman, who is very attractive in the beginning but in the end very disturbing, is exactly like the flower, which is attractive in the beginning and detestable at the end. With woman, the living entity is entangled with lusty desires, and he enjoys sex, just as one enjoys the aroma of a flower. He thus enjoys a life of sense gratification—from his tongue to his genitals—and in this way the living entity considers himself very happy in family life. United with his wife, he always remains absorbed in such thoughts. He feels great pleasure in hearing the talks of his wife and children, which are like the sweet humming of bumblebees that collect honey from flower to flower. He forgets that before him is time, which is taking away his life-span with the passing of day and night. He does not see the gradual diminishing of his life, nor does he care about the superintendent of death, who is trying to kill him from behind. Just try to understand this. You are in a precarious position and are threatened from all sides. My dear King, just try to understand the allegorical position of the deer. Be fully conscious of yourself, and give up the pleasure of hearing about promotion to heavenly planets by fruitive activity. Give up household life, which is full of sex, as well as stories about such things, and take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the mercy of the liberated souls. In this way, please give up your attraction for material existence.”
In his narration about the householder Vaiṣṇava, King Priyavrata, Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī spoke to Parīkṣit Mahārāja in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (5.1.29) as follows: “He greatly loved his wife Barhiṣmatī, and with the increase of days, their exchange of nuptial love also increased. By her feminine behavior as she dressed herself, walked, got up, smiled, laughed, and glanced about, Queen Barhiṣmatī increased his energy. Thus although he was a great soul, he appeared lost in the feminine conduct of his wife. He behaved with her just like an ordinary man, but actually he was a great soul.”
In the same chapter of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, verse 37, King Priyavrata condemned his life of material enjoyment as follows: “Alas, how condemned I have become because of my sense gratification! I have now fallen into material enjoyment, which is exactly like a covered well. I have had enough! I am not going to enjoy any more. Just see how I have become like a dancing monkey in the hands of my wife. Because of this, I am condemned.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (5.5.2, 7-9) Lord Ṛṣabhadeva speaks to His sons as follows: “It is the verdict of all śāstras and great personalities that by serving a pure devotee, one attains the path of liberation. However, by associating with materialistic people who are attached to material enjoyment and women, one attains the path of darkness. Even though one may be very learned and wise, he is mad if he does not understand that the endeavor for sense gratification is a useless waste of time. Being forgetful of his own interest, he tries to be happy in the material world, centering his interests around his home, which is based on sexual intercourse and which brings him all kinds of material miseries. In this way one is no better than a foolish animal. The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence. On the basis of this misconception, which ties together the hearts of the male and female, one becomes attracted to his body, home, property, children, relatives, and wealth. In this way one increases life’s illusions and thinks in terms of ‘I and mine.’ When the strong knot in the heart of a person implicated in material life due to the results of past action is slackened, one turns away from his attachment to home, wife, and children. In this way, one gives up the basic principle of illusion [I and mine] and becomes liberated. Thus one goes to the transcendental world.”
After Ajāmila was freed from the clutches of the Yamadūtas by the mercy of the Viṣṇudūtas, he condemned his life of material enjoyment in the following verses from the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (6.2.36-38): “Because of identifying oneself with the body, one is subjected to desires for sense gratification, and thus one engages in many different types of pious and impious action. This is what constitutes material bondage. Now I shall disentangle myself from my material bondage, which has been caused by the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s illusory energy in the form of a woman. Being a most fallen soul, I was victimized by the illusory energy and have become like a dancing dog led around by a woman’s hand. Now I shall give up all lusty desires and free myself from this illusion. I shall become a merciful, well-wishing friend to all living entities and always absorb myself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Simply because I chanted the holy name of the Lord in the association of devotees, my heart is now becoming purified. Therefore I shall not fall victim again to the false lures of material sense gratification. Now that I have become fixed in the Absolute Truth, henceforward I shall not identify myself with the body. I shall give up false conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and fix my mind on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (6.3.28) Yamarāja says to his servants, “Paramahaṁsas are exalted persons who have no taste for material enjoyment and who drink the honey of the Lord’s lotus feet. My dear servants, bring to me for punishment only persons who are averse to the taste of that honey, who do not associate with paramahaṁsas, and who are attached to family life and worldly enjoyment, which form the path to hell.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (6.4.52-53) it is described how Prajāpati Dakṣa and his descendants, who were expert in associating with women and who followed the path of pravṛtti, or sense enjoyment, were instructed by Lord Hari to continually engage in material enjoyment and follow the nondevotional path of associating with women.
When the king of the Vidyādharas, Citraketu, saw the lord of the paramahaṁsas and foremost of the avadhūtas, Lord Śiva, embracing Pārvatī, he spoke the following words in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (6.17.8): “Ordinary conditioned persons generally embrace their wives and enjoy their company in solitary places.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.6.11-13, 17) Prahlāda Mahārāja instructs his demoniac friends as follows: “How can a person who is most affectionate to his family, the core of his heart being always filled with their pictures, give up their association? Specifically, a wife is always very kind and sympathetic and always pleases her husband in a solitary place. Who could give up the association of such a dear and affectionate wife? Simply for the satisfaction of two important senses—the genitals and the tongue—one is bound by material conditions. How can one escape?”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.9.45) Prahlāda Mahārāja says to Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva: “Sex life is compared to the rubbing of two hands to relieve an itch. Gṛhamedhis, so-called gṛhasthas who have no spiritual knowledge, think that this itching is the greatest platform of happiness, although actually it is a source of distress. The kṛpaṇas, the fools who are just the opposite of brāhmaṇas, are not satisfied by repeated sensuous enjoyment. Those who are dhīra, however, who are sober and who tolerate this itching, are not subjected to the sufferings of fools and rascals.”
While describing the four āśramas, Śrī Nārada Muni spoke to Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira the following verses in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.12.6-7, 9-11): “Fully controlling his senses, he should associate only as much as necessary with women or those controlled by women. A brahmacārī, or one who has not accepted the gṛhastha-āśrama [family life], must rigidly avoid talking with women or about women, for the senses are so powerful that they may agitate even the mind of a sannyāsī, a member of the renounced order of life. Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. Therefore a man should avoid associating even with his own daughter in a secluded place. Similarly, he should also avoid association with other women. One should associate with women only for important business and not otherwise. As long as a living entity is not completely self-realized—as long as he is not independent of the misconception of identifying with his body, which is nothing but a reflection of the original body and senses—he cannot be relieved of the conception of duality, which is epitomized by the duality between man and woman. Thus there is every chance that he will fall down because his intelligence is bewildered. All the rules and regulations apply equally to the householder and the sannyāsī, the member of the renounced order of life. The gṛhastha, however, is given permission by the spiritual master to indulge in sex during the period favorable for procreation.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.14.12-13) Nārada Muni says to Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja, “Therefore if one can give up his attachment to such a wife, he conquers the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never conquered by anyone. Through proper deliberation, one should give up attraction to his wife’s body because that body will ultimately be transformed into small insects, stool, or ashes. What is the value of this insignificant body? How much greater is the Supreme Being, who is all-pervading like the sky?”
Nārada Muni further explains to Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.15.18): “One who is driven by the senses, especially by the tongue and genitals, must accept the position of a household dog to satisfy his senses.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (9.6.51) Saubhari Muni repents after his extended association with women as follows: “A person desiring liberation from material bondage must give up the association of persons interested in sex life and should not employ his senses externally [in seeing, hearing, talking, walking, and so on]. One should always stay in a secluded place, completely fixing his mind at the lotus feet of the unlimited Personality of Godhead, and if one wants any association at all, he should associate with persons similarly engaged.”
While describing the characteristics of Lord Rāma and Sītā, Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī says to Parīkṣit Mahārāja in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (9.11.17): “The attraction between man and woman, or male and female, always exists everywhere, making everyone always fearful. Such feelings are present even among the controllers like Brahmā and Lord Śiva and is the cause of fear for them, what to speak of others who are attached to household life in this material world.”
In Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī’s description of the topics of Urvaśī and Purūravā to Parīkṣit Mahārāja, Urvaśī speaks the following statement in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (9.14.36-38): “My dear King, you are a man, a hero. Don’t be impatient and give up your life. Be sober and don’t allow the senses to overcome you like foxes. Don’t let the foxes eat you. In other words, you should not be controlled by your senses. Rather, you should know that the heart of a woman is like that of a fox. There is no use making friendship with women. Women as a class are merciless and cunning. They cannot tolerate even a slight offense. For their own pleasure they can do anything irreligious, and therefore they do not fear killing even a faithful husband or brother. Women are very easily seduced by men. Therefore, polluted women give up the friendship of a man who is their well-wisher and establish false friendship among fools. Indeed, they seek newer and newer friends, one after another.”
See also the Ninth Canto, Nineteenth Chapter, particularly verses 1-20 and 24-28, wherein Mahārāja Yayāti, speaking to Devayānī, condemns the association of women with the story of a he-goat and she-goat.
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.3.18-19) Śrī Prabuddha, one of the Nine Yogendras speaks the following words to Mahārāja Nimi, the king of Videha: “Accepting the roles of male and female in human society, the conditioned souls unite in sexual relationships. Thus they constantly make material endeavors to eliminate their unhappiness and unlimitedly increase their pleasure. But one should see that they inevitably achieve exactly the opposite result. In other words, their happiness inevitably vanishes, and as they grow older their material discomfort increases. Wealth is a perpetual source of distress, it is most difficult to acquire, and it is virtual death for the soul. What satisfaction does one actually gain from his wealth? Similarly, how can one gain ultimate or permanent happiness from one’s so-called home, children, relatives, and domestic animals, which are all maintained by one’s hard-earned money?”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.5.13, 15) Śrī Camasa instructs King Nimi as follows: “Religious sex life is also permitted, but only in marriage for begetting children, and not for sensuous exploitation of the body. Unfortunately, however, the less intelligent materialists cannot understand that their duties in life should be performed purely on the spiritual platform. The conditioned souls become completely bound in affection to their own corpselike material bodies and their relatives and paraphernalia. In such a proud and foolish condition, the conditioned souls envy other living entities as well as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, who resides in the heart of all beings. Thus enviously offending others, the conditioned souls gradually fall down into hell.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa’s narration to Uddhava on the conversation between Mahārāja Yadu and the self-realized mendicant, who tells the story of a pigeon and his wife in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.7.52-74) may also be discussed in this regard.
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.8.1, 7-8, 13-14, and 17-18) the mendicant brāhmaṇa further instructs Mahārāja Yadu as follows: “O King, the embodied living entity automatically experiences unhappiness in heaven or hell. Similarly, happiness will also be experienced, even without one’s seeking it. Therefore a person of intelligent discrimination does not make any endeavor to obtain such material happiness. One who has failed to control his senses immediately feels attraction upon seeing a woman’s form, which is created by the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, when the woman speaks with enticing words, smiles coquettishly, and moves her body sensuously, his mind is immediately captured, and thus he falls blindly into the darkness of material existence, just as the moth maddened by the fire rushes blindly into its flames. A foolish person with no intelligent discrimination is immediately aroused at the sight of a lusty woman beautifully decorated with golden ornaments, fine clothing, and other cosmetic features. Being eager for sense gratification, such a fool loses all intelligence and is destroyed just like the moth who rushes into the blazing fire. A saintly person should never touch a young girl. In fact, he should not even let his foot touch a wooden doll in the shape of a woman. By bodily contact with a woman he will surely be captured by illusion, just as the elephant is captured by the she-elephant due to his desire to touch her body. A man possessing intelligent discrimination should not under any circumstances try to exploit the beautiful form of a woman for his sense gratification. Just as an elephant trying to enjoy a she-elephant is killed by other bull elephants also enjoying her company, one trying to enjoy a lady’s company can at any moment be killed by her other lovers who are stronger than he. A saintly person dwelling in the forest in the renounced order of life should never listen to songs or music promoting material enjoyment. Rather, a saintly person should carefully study the example of the deer, who is bewildered by the sweet music of the hunter’s horn and is thus captured and killed. Becoming attracted to the worldly singing, dancing, and musical entertainment of beautiful women, even the great sage Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, the son of Mṛgī, fell totally under their control, just like a pet animal.”
Piṅgalā’s words of frustration are narrated by Lord Kṛṣṇa to Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.8.30-34) as follows: “Just see how greatly illusioned I am! Because I cannot control my mind, just like a fool I desire lusty pleasure from an insignificant man. I am such a fool that I have given up the service of that person who, being eternally situated within my heart, is actually most dear to me. That most dear one is the Lord of the universe, who is the bestower of real love and happiness and the source of all prosperity. Although He is in my own heart, I have completely neglected Him. Instead I have ignorantly served insignificant men who can never satisfy my real desires and who have simply brought me unhappiness, fear, anxiety, lamentation, and illusion. Oh, how I have uselessly tortured my own soul! I have sold my body to lusty, greedy men, who are themselves objects of pity. Thus practicing the most abominable profession of a prostitute, I hoped to get money and sex pleasure. This material body is like a house in which I, the soul, am living. The bones forming my spine, ribs, arms, and legs are like the beams, crossbeams, and pillars of the house, and the whole structure, which is full of stool and urine, is covered by skin, hair, and nails. The nine doors leading into this body are constantly excreting foul substances. Besides me, what woman could be so foolish as to devote herself to this material body, thinking that she might find pleasure and love in this contraption? Certainly in this city of Videha I alone am completely foolish. I neglected the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who awards us everything, even our original spiritual form, and instead I desired to enjoy sense gratification with many men.” Please see verses 35, 39, and 42 in the same chapter.
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.9.27) the mendicant brāhmaṇa instructs King Yadu as follows: “A man who has many wives is constantly harassed by them. He is responsible for their maintenance, and thus all the ladies constantly pull him in different directions, each struggling for her self-interest. Similarly, the material senses harass the conditioned soul, pulling him in many different directions at once. On one side the tongue is pulling him to arrange tasty food; then thirst drags him to get a suitable drink. Simultaneously the sex organs clamor for satisfaction, and the sense of touch demands soft, sensuous objects. The belly harasses him until it is filled, the ears demand to hear pleasing sounds, the sense of smell hankers for pleasant aromas, and the fickle eyes clamor for pleasing sights. Thus the senses, organs, and limbs, all desiring satisfaction, pull the living entity in many directions.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.10.7, 25, 27-28) as follows: “One should see one’s real self-interest in life in all circumstances and should therefore remain detached from wife, children, home, land, relatives, friends, wealth, and so on. Accompanied by heavenly women, the enjoyer of the fruits of sacrifice goes on pleasure rides in a wonderful airplane, which is decorated with circles of tinkling bells and which flies wherever he desires. Being relaxed, comfortable and happy in the heavenly pleasure gardens, he does not consider that he is exhausting the fruits of his piety and will soon fall down to the mortal world. If a human being is engaged in sinful, irreligious activities, either because of bad association or because of his failure to control his senses, then such a person will certainly develop a personality full of material desires. He thus becomes miserly toward others, greedy and always anxious to exploit the bodies of women. When the mind is so polluted one becomes violent and aggressive and without the authority of Vedic injunctions slaughters innocent animals for sense gratification. Worshiping ghosts and spirits, the bewildered person falls fully into the grip of unauthorized activities and thus goes to hell, where he receives a material body infected by the darkest modes of nature.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.14.29): “Being conscious of the eternal self, one should give up association with women and those intimately associated with women. Sitting fearlessly in a solitary place, one should concentrate the mind on Me with great attention.”
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.17.33, 56) Lord Kṛṣṇa says to Uddhava: “Those who are not married—sannyāsīs, vānaprasthas, and brahmacārīs—should never associate with women by glancing, touching, conversing, joking, or sporting. Neither should they ever associate with any living entity engaged in sexual activities. But a householder whose mind is attached to his home and who is thus disturbed by ardent desires to enjoy his money and children, who is lusty after women, who is possessed of a miserly mentality, and who unintelligently thinks, ‘Everything is mine and I am everything,’ is certainly bound in illusion.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa gives the following instructions to Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.21.18-21): “By refraining from a particular sinful or materialistic activity, one becomes freed from its bondage. Such renunciation is the basis of religious and auspicious life for human beings and drives away all suffering, illusion, and fear. One who accepts material sense objects as desirable certainly becomes attached to them. From such attachment lust arises, and this lust creates quarrel among men. From quarrel arises intolerable anger, followed by the darkness of ignorance. This ignorance quickly overtakes a man’s broad intelligence. O saintly Uddhava, a person bereft of real intelligence is considered to have lost everything. Deviated from the actual purpose of his life, he becomes dull, just like a dead person.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa further instructs Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.26.3): “One should never associate with materialists, those dedicated to gratifying their genitals and bellies. By following them one falls into the deepest pit of darkness, just like a blind man who follows another blind man.”
In the same chapter, verses 4 through 24 describe the results of association with women obtained by Ilā’s son, Purūravā.
In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (Dakṣiṇa 5.72) the following verse is found: “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Kṛṣṇa, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure, I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.”
Also in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (Uttara 7.8) it is stated: “Alas, how can an intelligent person who has awakened even a little attachment for Kṛṣṇa enjoy this material body, which is full of blood, covered with skin and flesh, and stinks of mucus.”
And in the Eighth Wave it is said:
(1) “Alas, I am enthusiastically engaged in relishing varieties of enjoyment in this gross body, which is composed of mucus, semen, and blood and covered by skin! O my God! I’m so wretched that I am too lazy to remember Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supersoul and the personification of transcendental bliss.”
(2) “When will I give up affection for this gross body, which is full of flesh, blood, and pus and again expertly engage with love in the service of fanning with cāmara the Supreme Lord Hari, who is beyond the reach of argument and who sits on a golden throne?”
(3) “A devotee of Lord Viṣṇu who intensely loathes seeing a padminī woman endowed with all good qualities, considering her bad association, can travel anywhere, dancing and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord.”
(4) “As soon as remembrance of associating with women awakens in my mind, my lips curl with disgust. My mind is not satisfied with the activities meant to attain impersonal samādhi, like hearing and remembering, and I have no interest for attaining the mystic perfections, because, O Lord, my mind is extremely attached only to the worship of Your lotus feet.”
Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva are the eternal shelter of all devotees, They are the suitable personalities for enjoying with the gopīs, who are under the shelter of mādhurya-rasa. The gopīs have no material conceptions like conditioned souls. In other words, the living entities of this material world consider themselves enjoyers and enjoy the company of women only due to material conceptions. But when Lord Balarāma, who is the source of all viṣṇu-tattvas, performs rāsa-līlā there is no possibility of any material abominations or illicit behavior. Therefore when the most fortunate munis who are conversant with the Supreme Lord Baladeva’s glories see His pastimes through divine eyes, they offer prayers with folded hands.
CB Ādi-khaṇḍa 1.30