In pure devotional service there is no question of sense gratification. Some people mistake the loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs (cowherd girls) for activities of ordinary sense gratification, but these affairs are not lustful because there is no material contamination. As Rūpa Gosvāmī states in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.285),
- premaiva gopa-rāmāṇāḿ kāma ity agamat prathām
- ity uddhavādayo 'py etaḿ vāñchanti bhagavat-priyāḥ
"Although the dealings of the gopīs with Kṛṣṇa are wrongly celebrated by many as lust, great sages and saintly persons like Uddhava hanker for such loving affairs with Kṛṣṇa." Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, has therefore said,
- kāma, prema, — dońhākāra vibhinna lakṣaṇa
- lauha āra hema yaiche svarūpe vilakṣaṇa
"As there is a difference between iron and gold, so there is a difference between material lust and Kṛṣṇa's loving affairs with the gopīs" (CC Ādi 4.164). Although such loving affairs may sometimes resemble material lust, the difference is as follows:
- ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchā — tāre bali 'kāma'
- kṛṣṇendriya-prīti-icchā dhare 'prema' nāma
"The desire to satisfy one's own senses is called lust, while the desire to satisfy the senses of Kṛṣṇa is called prema, love of God" (CC Ādi 4.165).
The impersonalists cannot understand the principle of satisfying Kṛṣṇa's senses because they reject the personality of Godhead. Thus they think God has no senses and therefore no sense satisfaction. But the devotees simply want to satisfy the senses of the Supreme Lord, and so they take part in the pure activities of love of Godhead. There is no question of lust in that category of pure transcendental love.
Lust leads to fruitive activity for sense gratification. There are different kinds of duties for the human being, such as political obligations, performance of Vedic rituals, obligations for maintaining the body, and social formalities and conventions, but all such activities are directed toward satisfying one's own senses. The gopīs, however, simply wanted to satisfy Kṛṣṇa's senses, and thus they completely gave up the conventional path of social restriction, not caring for their relatives or the chastisement of their husbands. They gave up everything for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, showing their strong attachment to Kṛṣṇa to be as spotless as washed white cloth.
It is said that when conjugal affection between a lover and beloved comes to the point of being destroyed and yet is not destroyed, such a relationship is pure love, or prema. In the material world it is not possible to find this kind of love, for it exists only between Kṛṣṇa and His intimate devotees, such as the gopīs. The sentiment between the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa was so strong that it could not be destroyed under any circumstances. Kṛṣṇa praises the gopīs' pure love in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.32.22):
- na pāraye 'haḿ niravadya-saḿyujāḿ
- sva-sādhu-kṛtyaḿ vibudhāyuṣāpi vaḥ
- yā mābhajan durjaya-geha-śṛńkhalāḥ
- saḿvṛścya tad vaḥ pratiyātu sādhunā
"My dear gopīs, I am not able to repay My debt for your spotless service, even within a lifetime of Brahmā. Your connection with Me is beyond reproach. You have worshiped Me, cutting off all domestic ties, which are difficult to break. Therefore please let your own glorious deeds be your compensation."