Devotional service following in the footsteps of the gopis of Vrndavana or the queens at Dvaraka 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 Vrndavana. 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 Vrndavana. 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 Vrndavana 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 Vrndavana, 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 Ramacandra was an ideal king and could not accept more than one wife; but Lord Krsna, being the full-fledged Personality of Godhead, could fulfill the desires of all of them in Vrndavana. 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 blest 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 Vrndavana. 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 Dvaraka, where the devotee becomes the queen of the Lord. Those who develop conjugal love for Krsna as a lover are promoted to Goloka Vrndavana, 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 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 Dvaraka.
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. Every one of them got Him as their husband."

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