Posted November 21, 2006
Some acquaintances of mine recently told me about how wonderful it was to go to what is known as the "Israeli folk dance" at the local synagogue where people of all ages get involved with this style of dancing. Since I was always shy and not really a dancer and also because I am not Jewish, I was reluctant to attend. They told me anyone could go. So I finally decided to take a peek one Sunday evening (after the local ISKCON temple program, ironically) to see what it was all about, just as a casual observer. While both locations were religious or spiritual institutions, each had their own unique atmosphere that were gulfs apart in terms of intent and ideology. I'm glad I went because while driving back home I had these incredible realizations that I would like to share with devotees.
I entered the synagogue and to my surprise there were as many as 100 or more men and women of varying ages all participating in a folk dance that for the most part was very lyrical. The choreography and music was very refreshing and something I had never seen before. There were people from many walks of life and faiths. I thought to myself, how interesting. Interesting that this many people can come together and enjoy the social function of just dancing. My mind of course went to Krsna.
I sat down and spent an hour or so just watching the different people dance and suddenly I thought of the "rasa dance" wherein Lord Krsna expands Himself into millions of duplicate forms and dances with millions of gopis and of course, His eternal beloved consort, Srimati Radharani. Everything began to make sense. This is what people need. Dance is the eternal function of the soul in every culture throughout the entire planet since the beginning of time. But this type of dancing was material, temporary, perhaps an ancient memory of the REAL, eternal dance, transcendental in nature.
Israeli dance to me is a strange blend of Greek, traditional Israeli and even Russian dance steps that have a very elegant quality to it. Sometimes it's fast and modern, sometimes slow and classical. Whereas in modern dance, such as disco, country-western et al the main focus is sense gratification and sex desire, that is, men and women coming together to meet and mate, Israeli dance is somewhat different in that the dancers sometimes form circles and clap and have very unique dance steps. It's not overtly lusty.
I wondered what Srila Prabhupada would make of all this and we all know that he would look at this from a pure Krsna conscious point of view. Fortunately, I could also. Of course, there were no deities. While the concept of bringing men and women together for such a social event may seem pleasing, it is primarily self-centered, in other words, it excluded the center of attraction, Lord Sri Krsna as the supreme enjoyer.
I then wondered what ISKCON would have been like if Srila Prabhupada introduced this kind of temple worship where, rather than having men and women segregated as opposed to dancing together, would the movement have been more popular? Maybe it would because it would not have seemed like a "strict" religious movement. That is, popular in terms of a place where one can congregate without feeling alienated by institutional constraints.
I then said to myself, no, this was not in keeping with the Vedic conclusions and Krsna consciousness in general and besides, men and women in the temple were eventually meeting and marrying anyway, dancing together or not. This would have gone against the original nature of the temple environment Srila Prabhupada established in keeping with the dictates for practicing pure Krsna consciousness. Krsna always had to be in the center, else, ISKCON would have degenerated into just another fad, another mundane religion. In fact, what makes Krsna consciousness so unique is that, to my knowledge it is the only spiritual movement that incorporates sankirtana, congregational dancing into their temple worship, whereas other religions tend to concentrate on singing hymns and listening to sermons. If there is dancing and food, it is usually a separate social function for fund-raising etc.
Still, I enjoyed watching everyone dance and drove home feeling a sense of sadness for these souls caught up, as I sometimes am, in the modes of passion when their eternal rasa is to dance eternally with Krsna in Goloka, Vrndavana in the spiritual sky, their only real home. I also sensed that these dancers were very lonely.
Krsna consciousness is not easy. But just as we became Krsna conscious, we
must, as Srila Prabhupada often said, "Hope against hope," pray that one day
they will also come to grips with the conclusions of the Vedas and join the
progressive march back to Godhead to dance forever in their eternal rasa
with Lord Sri Krsna.