“All glories to Kunja-vihari, whose forehead is decorated with a splendorous tilaka made of mineral pigments, whose garland made of champaka flowers moves during His play, and who meets with the girls of beautifully decorated eyebrows in the mountain caves.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 7)
subhruvām jayati kuñja-vihārī
The wife makes herself look good not just to raise her self-esteem. Sure, if you’re wearing something nice, you’ll feel more comfortable walking around in public, but with the married woman in the Vedic tradition, her voluntarily accepted obligation is to please her husband. Therefore she makes sure to look good for him, to please him with her beauty. Yet in the above referenced verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam we see that women of beautifully decorated eyebrows go to meet with someone in a remote cave , and that someone is not their husband in the traditional sense. But then again there is nothing ordinary about Him.
To break the vows of a marriage is sinful. A sin carries a negative reaction, namely with respect to karma. Karma is fruitive work, action that carries a reaction. I place my hand into a fire and my hand gets burned. The action is the hand going into the fire, and the reaction is the burned hand. On a larger scale, I go to school, do my homework and study, and then get a degree. The conscious action leads to the intended reaction. Oh, but there are unintended consequences as well. The long hours I put in at the library mean that my social life will suffer. I might not do so well in my relationships if all my focus is on school.
Karma can also mean prescribed duty. Man has inherent qualities assumed at the time of birth, and based on those qualities there is ideal work. If you follow your ideal work, with faith and detachment, you will advance in the future. In the afterlife you’ll ascend to the heavenly planets, enjoy for a long time, and then return to earth in auspicious circumstances. You’ll take on a new body, with its owns set of qualities and corresponding work, to start the cycle over again.
If you go against karma, you’re delaying the progress that you really want. If you go against karma, you’re acting like an animal, which has no prescribed duties. The monkeys jump up and down, but their behavior is not karma; as they are not given any work for advancement. There is no sin for the animal because they don’t know any better. Think of it like forgiving a child for their mistakes. The child is not very intelligent, so they are not expected to know right and wrong. The child can gather intelligence, whereas the animal is stuck in an ignorant state.
Even if you follow karma, there is the repeating cycle of action and reaction, in lifetime after lifetime. There is an ideal goal, however. His name is Krishna. He is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He originally instituted the system of karma, which brings its prescribed sacrifices and regulations, to help the individual spirit soul attain ultimate happiness in its constitutional position, that of servant of God.
In the constitutional position, there is no question of karma. There are actions and reactions, but they are not materially related. And how could they be? If the person who created the system of karma is the beneficiary of your work, why would you have to worry about repeating the cycle of birth and death? Why would He force you to leave His company if you don’t want to? Seeing just a little sincere devotion, He will instead create more and more opportunities for you to continue in devotional service, which transcends all the rules of society.
Shri Krishna is all-attractive. He has a transcendental form, which means that God is not just an abstract concept to be pondered in a faculty lounge discussion. He is a real person, though His features are inconceivable. The saints nevertheless try to remember some of those features because that remembrance gives them pleasure. This remembrance, smaranam, is not jnana or karma; it is neither study nor work. It is yoga in devotion, the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, which is another way to describe God.
The cowherd women of Vrindavana are fully surrendered to Krishna. By material estimation, they are married women, and so their prescribed work, karma, is dedication to their husbands. But they have no desire for enjoyment in the heavenly planets or advancement to a higher birth in the next life. They get to think about Krishna all the time, and they have an intense desire to be with Him. In this sense, they have the highest birth already. Their occupational duty with respect to Krishna is something they voluntarily accept and never let go of, regardless of what society may think of them.
The Supreme Lord is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. Therefore He knows how the gopis feel about Him. He goes to the caves in the mountains of Vrindavana, wearing His beautiful tilaka made of mineral paste and His garland of champaka flowers. Krishna arrives beautifully decorated and so do the gopis. Among many other features, the eyebrows of the gopis are perfectly decorated for the occasion. The eyebrows are prominent in the glances the gopis throw at Krishna, which excite His transcendental senses.
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
Typically, such behavior is considered sinful because it keeps one in ignorance. If I’m so attracted to someone else that is not my spouse, I obviously don’t know that every living entity is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. Marriage exists to curb the desire for sexual relations, which are driven by the illusion of outward attractiveness. With Krishna, however, there is never ignorance. He does not have a material body, and so attraction to Him is not harmful. It is actually quite wonderful, and the object of attraction in this instance is the only person who can fully reciprocate the loving sentiments offered Him.
As Ajita, Krishna never knows defeat,
Except by affection of the gopis He is beat.
Their homes they courageously leave,
So that in caves beloved Krishna they’ll see.
Reaction to work to only those in karma applies,
Not for the gopis of beautifully decorated eyes.
Yashoda’s son with splendid tilaka on His head,
By His vision away from birth and death be led.