Madhura-rati, or attachment in conjugal love, is described as follows: The conjugal relationship is experienced between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the young damsels of Vrajabhumi, and due to their conjugal love they continuously exist in eight kinds of remembrances called madhura-rati. This intimate relationship brought about by conjugal love produces movements of the eyebrows, glancing, sweet words and exchanges of joking words.
The gopis, the young girls, serve Krsna in conjugal love. Above all of these are Srimati Radharani and Her assistants, the gopis Lalita, Visakha and others, who embody conjugal love. In this way all five mellows - santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya - exist eternally in Vrajabhumi. They are compared respectively to copper, bell metal, silver, gold and touchstone, the basis of all metals. Srila Kaviraja Gosvami therefore refers to a mine eternally existing in Vrndavana, Vrajabhumi.
In the madhurya-rasa, one can become like Srimati Radharani or Her lady friends such as Lalita, and Her serving maids (manjaris) like Rupa and Rati. In conjugal love there are the damsels of Vraja, Vrndavana, and the queens and goddesses of fortune in Dwarka. No one can count the vast number of devotees in this rasa.
"It appears that Krsna enjoyed the rasa dance with the gopis when He was eight years old. At that time, many of the gopis were married, because in India, especially in those days, girls were married at a very early age. There are even many instances of a girl giving birth to a child at the age of twelve. Under the circumstances, all the gopis who wanted to have Krsna as their husband were already married. At the same time, they continued to hope that Krsna would be their husband. Their attitude toward Krsna was that of paramour love. Therefore, the loving affairs of Krsna with the gopis are called parakiya-rasa. A married man who desires another wife or a wife who desires another husband is called parakiya-rasa.
Actually, Krsna is the husband of everyone because He is the supreme enjoyer. The gopis wanted Krsna to be their husband, but factually there was no possibility of His marrying all the gopis. But because they had that natural tendency to accept Krsna as their supreme husband, the relationship between the gopis and Krsna is called parakiya-rasa. This parakiya-rasa is ever-existent in Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual sky where there is no possibility of the inebriety which characterizes parakiya-rasa in the material world. In the material world, parakiya-rasa is abominable, whereas in the spiritual world it is present in the superexcellent relationship of Krsna and the gopis. There are many other relationships with Krsna: master and servant, friends and friend, parent and son, and lover and beloved. Out of all these rasas, the parakiya-rasa is considered to be the topmost.
This material world is the perverted reflection of the spiritual world; it is just like the reflection of a tree on the bank of a reservoir of water: the topmost part of the tree is seen as the lowest part. Similarly, parakiya-rasa, when pervertedly reflected in this material world, is abominable. When people, therefore, imitate the rasa dance of Krsna with the gopis, they simply enjoy the perverted, abominable reflection of the transcendental parakiya-rasa. There is no possibility of enjoying this transcendental parakiya-rasa within the material world. It is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that one should not imitate this parakiya-rasa even in dream or imagination. Those who do so drink the most deadly poison.
Krsna Book, Chapter 29
"Devotional service following in the footsteps of the gopis of Vrindaban or the queens at Dwarka is called devotional service in conjugal love. This devotional service in conjugal love can be divided into two categories. One is indirect conjugal love, the other direct. In both of these categories, one has to follow the particular gopi who is engaged in such service in Goloka Vrindaban. To be directly attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in conjugal love is technically called keli. This keli performance means to directly join with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are other devotees who do not wish direct contact with the Supreme Person, but who relish the conjugal love affairs of the Lord with the gopis. Such devotees enjoy simply by hearing of the activities of the Lord with the gopis.
This development of conjugal love can be possible only with those who are already engaged in following the regulative principles of devotional service, specifically in the worship of Radha and Krsna in the temple. Such devotees gradually develop a spontaneous love for the Deity, and by hearing of the Lord’s exchange of loving affairs with the gopis, they gradually become attracted to these pastimes. After this spontaneous attraction becomes highly developed, the devotee is placed in either of the above-mentioned categories.
This development of conjugal love for Krsna is not manifested in women only. The material body has nothing to do with spiritual loving affairs. A woman may develop an attitude for becoming a friend of Krsna, and, similarly, a man may develop the feature of becoming a gopi in Vrindaban. How a devotee in the form of a man can desire to become a gopi is stated in the Padma Purana as follows: In days gone by there were many sages in Dandakaranya. Dandakaranya is the name of the forest where Lord Ramacandra lived after being banished by His father for fourteen years. At that time there were many advanced sages who were captivated by the beauty of Lord Ramacandra and who desired to become women in order to embrace the Lord. Later on, these sages appeared in Goloka Vrindaban when Krsna advented Himself there, and they were born as gopis, or girl friends of Krsna. In this way they attained the perfection of spiritual life.
The story of the sages of Dandakaranya can be explained as follows. When Lord Ramacandra was residing in Dandakaranya, the sages who were engaged in devotional service there became attracted by His beauty and immediately thought of the gopis at Vrindaban, who enjoyed conjugal loving affection with Krsna. In this instance it is clear that the sages of Dandakaranya desired conjugal love in the manner of the gopis, although they were well aware of the Supreme Lord as both Krsna and Lord Ramacandra. They knew that although Ramacandra was an ideal king and could not accept more than one wife, Lord Krsna, being the full-fledged Personality of Godhead, could fulfill the desires of all of them in Vrindaban. These sages also concluded that the form of Lord Krsna is more attractive than that of Lord Ramacandra, and so they prayed to become gopis in their future lives to be associated with Krsna.
Lord Ramacandra remained silent, and His silence shows that He accepted the prayers of the sages. Thus they were blessed by Lord Ramacandra to have association with Lord Krsna in their future lives. As a result of this benediction, they all took birth as women in the wombs of gopis at Gokula, and as they had desired in their previous lives, they enjoyed the company of Lord Krsna, who was present at that time in Gokula Vrindaban. The perfection of their human form of life was thus achieved by their generating a transcendental sentiment to share conjugal love with Lord Krsna.
Conjugal love is divided into two classifications-namely, conjugal love as husband and wife and conjugal love as lover and beloved. One who develops conjugal love for Krsna as a wife is promoted to Dwarka, where the devotee becomes the queen of the Lord. One who develops conjugal love for Krsna as a lover is promoted to Goloka Vrindaban, to associate with the gopis and enjoy loving affairs with Krsna there. We should note carefully, however, that this conjugal love for Krsna, either as gopi or as queen, is not limited only to women. Even men can develop such sentiments, as was evidenced by the sages of Dandakaranya. If someone simply desires conjugal love, but does not follow in the footsteps of the gopis, he is promoted to association with the Lord at Dwarka.
In the Maha-kurma Purana it is stated, “Great sages who were the sons of fire-gods rigidly followed the regulative principles in their desire to have conjugal love for Krsna. As such, in their next lives they were able to associate with the Lord, the origin of all creation, who is known as Vasudeva, or Krsna, and all of them got Him as their husband.”
Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 16
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.