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Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.3 - Rāma, Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa

(18) The Lord appeared as King Rāma with a green complexion of fresh durvā grass. He appeared during the Tretā yuga of the 24th yuga cycle of Vaivasvata era. In order to please the demigods, He exhibited super human powers by controlling the Indian ocean and then killing the demon Rāvaṇa. His show of great power can be seen even today at Sethubandha. Sometimes the demons and atheists become vary famous due to advancement of material civilization and they challenge the established order of the Lord. Different classes of human beings are accommodated in different planets for particular purposes mentioned in the codes of the Lord. Thus attempting to go to the other planets by material means is a challenge to the established order. This was done by Rāvaṇa also who wanted to deport ordinary men to the planet of Indra without consideration of the necessary qualifications. He challenged Lord Rāma and kidnapped His wife, Sītā. Rāma took up Rāvaṇa’s challenge and killed him. Just as the Lord can make gigantic planets float in the air, He prepared a stone bridge on the sea without any supporting pillar. This is a display of the power of God. Rāma is considered Vāsudeva, Lakṣmaṇa is Saṅkarṣaṇa, Bharata is Pradyumna and Śatrughna is Aniruddha. In Padma Purāna, Rāma is considered as Nārāyaṇa with Lakṣmaṇa as Śeṣa, Bharata as conch and Śatrughna as cakra.

(19, 20) The Lord advented Himself as Lord Balarāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa in the family of the Yadus, and removed the burden of the world. The specific mention of the word bhagavān in this text indicates that the Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa are original forms of the Lord. Kṛṣṇa, dark in complexion with two and four hands, appeared with Devakī as mother and Vasudeva as father. Lord Kṛṣṇa is not an incarnation of the puruṣa, but directly the original Personality of Godhead, and Balarāma is His first plenary manifestation. Some explain that Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu took a black and white hair from His head, and these became Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. This is not correct.

Balarāma appeared from two mothers, Devakī and Rohiṇī, and one father Vasudeva. He had a white complexion like new camphor and wore dark blue cloth. He is Saṅkarṣaṇa, who becomes Śeṣa. Śeṣa is of two kinds: He who holds up the universe is called Saṅkarṣaṇa because Saṅkarṣaṇa empowers him (a jīva). Taking the form of the bed (as īśvara, not jīva), He identifies Himself as a friend and servant of Viṣṇu.

SB 1.3 - Buddha

(21) Then in the beginning of Kali yuga, the Lord would appear as Lord Buddha in the province of Gayā, for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the theist. He is pinkish in color with two hands and appears in the village called Dharmāraṇya. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was composed prior to the beginning of Kali yuga (about 5000 years ago), and Buddha appeared about 2600 years ago. Therefore His appearance is foretold here. There are many such prophecies, and they will indicate the positive standing of Bhāgavatam, which is without trace of mistake, illusion, cheating and imperfection, which are the four flaws of all conditioned souls.

At the time when Buddha appeared, people were in general atheistic and indulged in animal killing on the plea of Vedic sacrifice. Lord Buddha preached non-violence and said he did not believe in the Vedas. The atheists followed his principle and were trained in moral discipline and non violence, which are the preliminary steps for proceeding further on the path of God realization. Those who did not believe in God kept their faith in Buddha, who himself was an incarnation of God, and thus the faithless were made to believe in God.

When the Vedas are not accepted thru the authoritative disciplic succession, the casual readers of the Vedas are misled by the flowery language of that system of knowledge. Thus they are bewildered. To them the ritualistic ceremonies are considered to be all in all. They have no depth of knowledge. But the purpose of the Vedas is to lead one gradually to the Supreme Lord. The whole theme of the Vedas is to know the Lord, the individual soul, the cosmic world and the relation between all these items. When the relation is known, the relative function begins, and as a result one goes back to Godhead. To the bewildered, Lord Buddha is the emblem of theism. He therefore first of all wanted to check the habit of animal killing. There are two types of animal killers. The soul is also sometimes called the ‘animal’. Therefore, both the slaughterers of animals and those who have lost the identity of soul are animal killers.

Only the animal killer cannot relish the transcendental message of the Supreme Lord. It is nonsensical to say that animal killing has nothing to do with spiritual realization. Many so-called sannyāsīs have sprung up in Kali yuga who preach animal killing under the garb of the Vedas. The animal sacrifice mentioned in the Vedas is different from the unrestricted animal killing in the slaughterhouse. Because the demons put forward the evidence of animal killing in the Vedas, Lord Buddha superficially denied the authority of the Vedas. This was to save people from the vice of animal killing as well as to save the poor animals from the slaughtering process of their big brothers who clamor for universal brotherhood, peace, justice and equanimity. Technically Buddha’s philosophy is called atheistic because there is no acceptance of the Supreme Lord and the denial of the authority of the Vedas. But this is an act of camouflage by the Lord. Lord Buddha preached the preliminary principles of the Vedas in a manner suitable for the time being. He and Śaṅkara both paved the path of theism, and later on Vaiṣṇava ācāryas led the people on the path back to Godhead.

SB 1.3 - Kalki, Hayagrīva, Haṁsa and Pṛśni-garbha

(22) At the conjunction of two yugas, Lord Kalki will appear as the son of Viṣṇu-yaśa. He is an āveśāvatāra. At this time the rulers of the earth will have degenerated into plunderers. This is another foretelling. Kalki will appear at the end of Kali yuga and beginning of Satya yuga. Vasudeva who previously appeared as Manu and Daśaratha will become Viṣṇu-yaśa, as the father of the Lord. Some say that Buddha and Kalki appear in every Kali yuga. '

(23) The Lord appeared as Hayagrīva in a sacrifice performed by Brahmā. He killed the demons Madhu and Kaiṭabha, who stole the Vedas from Brahmā, and the Lord again produced the Vedas from His nostrils.

(24) Haṁsa spoke bhakti yoga and knowledge concerning the Lord along with the svarūpa of the jīva to Nārada, Kumāras and others. He appeared from the water as a swan.

(25) Pṛśni-garbha or Dhruva-priya appeared before Dhruva and awarded him the Dhruva planet. Those dwelling above Dhruva-loka like Bhṛgu and those dwelling below such as the seven sages praise the planet. This avatāra is not mentioned by name in the second canto 7th chapter where a list of incarnations is given. But His activity of blessing Dhruva is mentioned in 2.7.8. and this cannot be attributed to any of the other avatāras listed there. Because Pṛśni-garbha’s actions are mentioned as taking place in the Svāyambhuva manvantara in tenth canto (10.3.32), the avatāra who gave benedictions to Dhruva should be equated with Pṛśni-garbha, according to Rūpa Gosvāmī.

The 13 avatāras: Kumāras, Nārada, Varāha, Matsya, Yajña, Nara-Nārāyaṇa, Kapila, Dattātreya, Hayagrīva, Haṁsa, Pṛśni-garbha, Ṛṣabha and Pṛthu, all appeared during Svāyambhuva manvantara. Varāha and Matsya appeared again in Cākṣuṣa manvantara, although Matsya appears after every manvantara. The eight avatāras: Vāmana, Paraśurāma, Rāma, Vyāsa, Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa, Buddha and Kalki appear in Vaivasvata manvantara.

The 25 avatāras listed are called kalpāvatāras because they generally appear once in every kalpa (day) of Brahmā. Of course some like Varāha, Matsya and others appear more than once.

SB 1.3 - The countless and the not so well known incarnations

The incarnations of the Lord are innumerable, like rivulets flowing from inexhaustible sources of water. The Lord manifests as many incarnations as there are species of life to maintain the faithful and to annihilate the faithless. The Lord incarnates as Lord Caitanya in Kali yuga in the garb of a devotee. All incarnations are distinguished by specific extraordinary feats which are impossible for the living being to perform. Some incarnations mentioned above are plenary portions of the Lord. The Kumāras are empowered with transcendental knowledge, Nārada with devotional service, Pṛthu with executive function and so on. The Matsya incarnation is a plenary portion.

The word asaṅkhyeyā means not countable. However, there is another meaning: not well known (asamyak khyāta). Some like the puruṣāvatāras are well known. Others are not so well known. Prahlāda confirms in SB 7.9.38 that the Lord appears covered (channaḥ) in Kali yuga and so is not well known. This indicates Mahāprabhu.

After listing the avatāras, the vibhūtis of the Lord are enumerated as the sages, Manus, devatās, powerful humans (sons of Manu) and Brahmā’s sons, the Prajāpatis.

SB 1.3 - kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayaṁ

All the above mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists, and the Lord appears to protect the theists. All incarnations mentioned and not mentioned here, who are portions of Mahā-Viṣṇu or empowered jīvas, create happiness (mṛdayanti) in the world whenever (yuge yuge) it is afflicted (vyākulam) by the demons (indrāri) and their ideas. But Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate form of Bhagavān. Here Kṛṣṇa is distinguished from other incarnations. He is counted among the avatāras, because He descends from His abode to this world. Sometimes He comes Himself, and sometimes He sends His plenary portions. Originally the Lord is full of all opulences. When they are partly manifested thru the plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, certain manifestations of His different powers are required for their particular functions.

Some of the aṁśas are Matsya, Kūrma etc, and some of those who are kalā are the Kumāras, Nārada and other āveśāvatāras. Kumāras are invested with knowledge and Nārada is empowered with bhakti. Pṛthu and Paraśurāma are also empowered incarnations, invested with kriyā-śakti (action). At the end of Kali yuga, Vāsudeva enters into Kalki. Some are invested with great powers and are called avatāras, whereas those with less powers such as Marīci are called vibhūtis. All these forms are parts of the first puruṣa described (Mahā-Viṣṇu). Kṛṣṇa, who is Bhagavān, the avatārī, is the source of this puruṣa as explained in 1.3.1, where it is said that Bhagavān accepted the form of the puruṣa.

Lord Paraśurāma and Lord Nṛsiṁha displayed unusual opulence (power) by killing the disobedient kings 21 times and killing the powerful demon Hiraṇyakaśipu respectively. But even the demon was cut into small pieces by the nails of Lord Nṛsiṁha. The Lord’s empowered incarnation Nārada and indirectly empowered Lord Buddha created faith in the mass of people by showing dharma. The incarnations of Rāma and Dhanvantari displayed His fame, and Balarāma, Mohinī and Vāmana displayed His beauty. Dattātreya, Matsya, Kumāra and Kapila exhibited His transcendental knowledge. Nara and Nārāyaṇa exhibited His renunciation. Thus different incarnations manifested different features, but Lord Kṛṣṇa exhibited the complete features of Godhead. And the most extraordinary feature exhibited by Kṛṣṇa was His internal energetic manifestation of His pastimes with the cowherd girls.

SB 1.3 - Kṛṣṇa, the summum bonum

Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of all incarnations. All the symptoms of the Supreme Truth in full are present in the person of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and in Bhagavad gītā the Lord emphatically declares that there is no truth greater than Him. The word svayam is particularly mentioned here to confirm that Kṛṣṇa has no other source than Himself, and it signifies the supremacy as the summum bonum. Kṛṣṇa is one without a second. He has expanded Himself as svayam-rūpa, svayam-prakāśa, tad-ekātmā, prābhava, vaibhava, vilāsa, avatāra, āveśa and jīvas, all provided with innumerable energies just suitable to the respective personalities.

The summum bonum has 64 principal attributes. All the expansions or categories of the Lord possess only some percentages of these attributes. Kṛṣṇa is the possessor of these attributes cent percent. And His personal expansions up to the categories of the avatāras who are all viṣṇu-tattva, possess up to 93 percent of these attributes. Lord Śiva, who is neither avatāra nor āveśa, nor in between them, possesses almost 84 percent of the attributes. But the jīvas possess up to 78 percent of the attributes. In the conditioned state, the living being possesses these attributes in very minute quantity, varying in terms of the pious life of the living being. Brahmā, the most perfect of living beings, has these 78 percent of the attributes in full. The perfection of a human being is to develop these attributes up to 78 percent in full. A living being can never become God, but can become a Brahmā in due course of time. By developing 78 percent of the attributes in fullness, a living being can enter the planet of Kṛṣṇaloka, which stands above all spiritual planets.

SB 1.3 - The paribhāṣa-sūtra of Bhāgavatam

Now how can we establish Kṛṣṇa is the complete form of God on the basis of one statement when there are apparently other statements that refute this. For instance SB 10.1.2 says to describe the wonderful activities of the expansion of Lord Viṣṇu, who appeared in the Yadu dynasty (tatra amśenāvatīrṇasya viṣṇor). SB 10.2.41 says the Supreme Lord Himself as an expansion is now within the womb of Devakī (amśena sākṣād bhagavān).

In the beginning of Bhāgavatam, this chapter concerning the appearance of the Lord is called a sūtra, since it threads together statements concerning all avatāras. And in this chapter this verse 1.3.28 is a paribhāṣa-sūtra, which supplies a general definition for the whole work. A paribhāṣa-sūtra regulates something that is not otherwise regulated; it creates a rule or restriction where none existed previously. A book’s paribhāṣa-sūtra acts as a lens thru which the entire book can be seen. It dictates how all succeeding points in the book should be interpreted. In a lengthy Sanskrit work containing many indirect meanings, the author’s true and consistent intention can be understood thru the book’s paribhāṣa-sūtra. Both Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīdhara Svāmī accept this verse as the paribhāṣa-sūtra of Bhāgavatam. Thus wherever avatāras are described in the Bhāgavatam, others should be knows as expansions of the puruṣāvatāras, but Kṛṣṇa should be known as svayam bhagavān. Thus the above objection that Kṛṣṇa is an aṁśa is addressed.

SB 1.3 - Kṛṣṇa's presence throughout the Bhāgavatam

This scripture is named Bhāgavatam because it explains Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Original Personality of Godhead (svayam bhagavān). Almost half the book is dedicated to descriptions of Kṛṣṇa. And the tenth canto especially deals exclusively with Kṛṣṇa in 90 chapters. No other incarnation is described in such detail in the book.

The many exalted hearers and speakers of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam present a single, unified conclusion: Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Original Personality of Godhead. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is repeatedly described in the 18,000 verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and He is described at great length in the First, Tenth, and Eleventh Cantos.

In the Second Canto, Lord Kṛṣṇa is described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the account of the conversation between Brahmā and Nārada. In the Third Canto, Lord Kṛṣṇa is also described in the account of the conversation between Vidura and Uddhava. In the Fourth Canto, Lord Kṛṣṇa is elaborately described, and the following verses: "That Nara-Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, who is a partial expansion of Kṛṣṇa, has now appeared in the dynasties of Yadu and Kuru merged into the forms of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna respectively, in order to mitigate the burden of the world." (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.1.59), and "Pṛthu Mahārāja was a powerful incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s potencies; consequently any narration concerning His activities is surely very pleasing to hear, and it produces all good fortune". (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.17.6) may be presented as evidence to show that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the actual subject described in the verses of the Bhāgavatam.

In this connection we may also quote the following verse from the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.6.18): "My dear king, the Supreme Person, Mukunda, is actually the maintainer of all the members of the Pāṇḍava and Yadu dynasties. He is your spiritual master, worshipable Deity, friend, and the director of your activities." The description of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is also found in the Sixth Canto. The following verse (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.8.20) may be quoted in this connection: "May Lord Keśava protect me with His club in the first portion of the day, and may Govinda, who is always engaged in playing His flute, protect me in the second portion of the day."

That Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also described in the conversation between Nārada Muni and Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira recorded in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The unequalled power and opulence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is described in the Eighth Canto of the Bhāgavatam. In this Canto we find the story of Kālanemi, a demon killed by Lord Viṣṇu, who is never defeated by anyone. When killed by Lord Viṣṇu, the demon Kālanemi did not attain liberation, but again appeared in the material world as King Kaṁsa. When that same demon was again killed by Lord Kṛṣṇa, the same demon immediately became liberated. From this account we may understand that demons directly killed by Lord Kṛṣṇa immediately attain liberation, although
demons killed by Lord Viṣṇu, or other forms of the Lord, do not necessarily attain liberation. By this we may see the singular power and greatness of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is certainly the central theme of the Ninth and Tenth Cantos of the Bhāgavatam, and even at the very end of the Bhāgavatam we find the following quote (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 12.11.26): "O Kṛṣṇa, O friend of Arjuna, O chief among the descendants of Vṛṣṇi, you are the destroyer of those political parties which are disturbing elements on this earth. Your prowess never deteriorates. You are the proprietor of the transcendental abode, and You are glorified by the gopīs of Vrajabhūmi, who have all become Your maidservants. To hear Your transcendental glories brings the supreme auspiciousness. O Lord, please protect us, who are Your dependant servants."

SB 1.3 - Kṛṣṇa's independent form

One should not state a predicate before its subject. Thus kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān means that Kṛṣṇa (the subject) fulfills completely the qualities inherent in Bhagavān, the predicate. It does not mean that Kṛṣṇa is another form of Bhagavān. Thus it means Kṛṣṇa alone is Bhagavān, the basis of every other form. This is made clear by the word svayam. This means Kṛṣṇa is superior to the puruṣāvatāras called Bhagavān and even to Mahā-Nārāyaṇa.

SB 10.1.23 says that sākṣād-bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, who has full potency (puruṣaḥ paraḥ), will appear in the house of Vasudeva. Brahmā speaks these words (vasudeva-gṛhe sākṣād bhagavān puruṣaḥ paraḥ), originally spoken by Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu to him, to the demigods. So Kṛṣṇa is not Kṣīrodakaśāyī. He is not Garbhodakaśāyī because He is called para-puruṣa, the supreme puruṣa, whereas Garbhodakaśāyī is the second form of the puruṣa. Is Kṛṣṇa then Mahā-Viṣṇu, the first puruṣa? No, because He is called bhagavān. Is He then the Lord of the spiritual sky, Nārāyaṇa? No, because He is called sākṣāt-bhagavān, the form of Bhagavān who is not dependent on any other person.

SB 1.3 - Kṛṣṇa superior to the puruṣa

In Chandogya Upaniṣad (3.12.6) the puruṣa is said to be greater than Brahman. In 3.14.1 it said everything is Brahman. After these descriptions of Brahman and the puruṣa, Ghora Aṅgirasa in 3.17.6 says to Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī, that at the moment of death a knower of Brahman should meditate on the following truths: ‘Thou art the imperishable’, ‘Thou art the changeless reality’ and ‘Thou art the source of life or the essence of prāṇa’. This highest knowledge of Brahman, having drunk of which one never thirsts again, was said by Ghora to Kṛṣṇa. This implies that the knower of Brahman should meditate on Kṛṣṇa being the imperishable, the changeless and source of life because Ghora is addressing Kṛṣṇa with the word ‘Thou’. Viśvanātha Cakravartī quotes Chandogya 3.12.6 and 3.14.1 and then says everything is summarized by saying kṛṣṇāya devakī-putrāya: the puruṣa is subservient to Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī. (There are some who do not accept this verse as referring to Lord Kṛṣṇa since it seems like Ghora Aṅgirasa is instructing Kṛṣṇa to meditate on the three statements, with the ‘Thou’ referring to Brahman).

The Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad (1.4.1) says ‘ātmaivedam agra āsīt puruṣa-vidhaḥ’ indicating that Kṛṣṇa existed even before the appearance of the puruṣa incarnation. In Bhagavad gītā (15.18) Kṛṣṇa says that He is superior to puruṣa-kṣara and puruṣa-akṣara. The akṣara-puruṣa or Mahā-Viṣṇu throws His glance over prakṛti, but the Puruṣottama existed even before that.