कृष्णं विदु: परं कान्तं न तु ब्रह्मतया मुने । गुणप्रवाहोपरमस्तासां गुणधियां कथम् ॥ १२ ॥
kṛṣṇaṁ viduḥ paraṁ kāntaṁ
na tu brahmatayā mune
tāsāṁ guṇa-dhiyāṁ katham
śrī-parīkṣit uvāca — Śrī Parīkṣit said; kṛṣṇam — Lord Kṛṣṇa; viduḥ — they knew; param — only; kāntam — as their beloved; na — not; tu — but; brahmatayā — as the Absolute Truth; mune — O sage, Śukadeva; guṇa — of the three modes of material nature; pravāha — of the mighty current; uparamaḥ — the cessation; tāsām — for them; guṇa-dhiyām — whose mentality was caught up in those modes; katham — how.
Śrī Parīkṣit Mahārāja said: O sage, the gopīs knew Kṛṣṇa only as their lover, not as the Supreme Absolute Truth. So how could these girls, their minds caught up in the waves of the modes of nature, free themselves from material attachment?
King Parīkṣit was sitting in an assembly of great sages and other important personalities, listening to the words of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī, as Śukadeva began speaking of the gopīs’ conjugal love for Kṛṣṇa, the King noticed the expressions on the faces of some of the more materialistic persons present there and realized the doubt lurking in their hearts. Therefore, although the King thoroughly knew the purport of Śukadeva’s words, he presented himself as experiencing personal doubt so that he could eradicate the doubt of others. That is why he asked this question.