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Krsna is Bhagavan Svayam

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Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has advised in Caitanya-caritamrita that we should not shy away from controversy, for it comes to either strengthen our conviction or elevate us to a higher conception. This statement is in relation to his assertion that Krsna is the original Godhead from whom all other incarnations and expansions emanate. More controversial still is the second part of his argument--Sri Caitanya is that same Krsna, svayam bhagavan.




siddhanta baliya citte na kara alasa

iha ha-ita ksrne lage sudrdha manasa


"A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one's mind becomes attached to Sri Krsna."

Praying for the grace of Krsnadasa Kaviraja and subsequent attachment to Sri Krsna, discussion of the Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam) is undertaken herein in response to the challenge of Dr. B.N.K. Sharma.

Dr. Sharma has written a commentary on Madhva's Gita-bhasya. His book is blessed by Sri Visvesa Tirtha, acarya of the Pejavara Matha in Udupi, one of the principal mathas of the Madhva sampradaya. The Madhva sampradaya maintains that the source of all avataras is Narayana, of whom Sri Krsna is an incarnation. Dr. Sharma, in his discussion on the tenth chapter of the Gita, has mentioned our Gaudiya sampradaya and its emphasis on Sri Krsna as the source of all incarnations. He comments on the Bhagavata verse krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (SB 1.3.28), describing our understanding of this verse as a grammatical misunderstanding, resulting in the misconception that Krsna is the source of Narayana. According to Dr. Sharma, we have it backwards, Krsna is not the source of Narayana, rather Narayana is the source of Krsna. Dr. Sharma says that the followers of Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada must "answer to the textual objections raised by the Madhvas against such an interpretation."

Dr. Sharma states:

"The particle 'tu' in krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (Bhag. 1.3.28) is used here for emphatic iteration (and not for drawing a contrast). The distinction sought to be made by some commentators on the Bhagavata that Varaha, Nrsimha and other avataras of the Lord mentioned before are only His amsas (partial aspects) while Krsna avatara is alone the full-fledged, complete, undivided whole (amsi) is not authenticated anywhere else."

About this, Dr. Sharma could not be less than blinded by his love for Narayana to have missed, not only hundreds of scriptural statements in support of Krsna's supreme position, many of which are found in the Bhagavata itself, but the very essence of the Bhagavata as well.

The Gaudiya understanding of tu in krsnas tu bhagavan svayam is that tu (but) is used for drawing a contrast between Sri Krsna and all of his avataras, including Narayana. If one insists that tu is used for emphasis, however, that does not change the meaning of the verse. In this case tu serves to stress the conclusion that Krsna is the source of all incarnations. Tu can be translated as indeed or certainly. Certainly, Krsna is svayam bhagavan as all the scriptures proclaim.

The fifth chapter of Sri Brahma smahita, the hymns of Brahma, who is the adi-guru of the Madhva sampradaya, begins with the statement:

isvarah paramah krsnah


anadir adir govindah



"The supreme controller is Krsna, who has an eternal form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He is known as Govinda and he is the cause of all causes."

Sri Jiva Gosvami's commentary on this verse cites more than fifty statements from the Bhagavata that directly support this statement. Five other verses in this same fifth chapter bring home the same truth with no ambiguity. It is no wonder that Sri Caitanya, who brought the Brahma-samhita to light, had such an appreciation for it. About the Brahma-samhita, Sri Caitanya has said,


siddhanta sastra nahi brahma-samhita'ra sama

govinda-mahima jnanera parama karana

alpaksare kahe siddhanta apara

sakala-vaisnava-sastra-madhye ati sara

"There is no scripture equal to the Brahma-samhita as far as the final spiritual conclusion is concerned. Indeed, that scripture is the supreme revalations of the glories of Lord Govinda, for it reveals the topmost knowledge about him. Since all conclusions are briefly presented in Brahma-samhita, it is essential among all the Vaisnava literatures." (Cc. Madh. 9.239-240)


Yet some like Dr. Sharma may doubt the authenticity of the Brahma-samhita. After all, they doubt that Krsna is the origianal Godhead and do not accept that Sri Caitanya is even an avatara of the Lord, what to speak of being svayam bhagavan Sri Krsna Himself.

If the Brahma-samhita is a questionable source for some, their doubt will be removed after reading Sri Jiva Gosvami's commentary on the text. Such a reading will remove all doubt that the Brahma-samhita is presenting anything less than the essence of all revealed scripture. The Bhagavata is accepted by all, and Jiva Gosvami's references to the Bhagavata in support of the conclusions of the Brahma-samhita are exhaustive.

In Sri Jiva Gosvami's Krsna-sandarbha, he cites every possible statement of the Bhagavata that could possibly be construed to contradict what he describes as the paribhasa-sutra (referring to krsnas tu bhagavan svayam) and explains how they to actually support the Gaudiya siddhanta. By paribhasa-sutra, Jiva Gosvami means a verse that explains how one can understand an entire book in context. It is one statement found in the beginning of a book that serves as a key to understanding its actual purport and the apparently unrelated facts of the book. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam is such an authoritative statement from the most authoritative book (the Bhagavata). The more important question on authority, however, is on what authority did Madhva elect to exclude two chapters of the Bhagavata?

The bewilderment of Brahma (Brahma-vimohana-lila) in the Bhagavata was a source of bewilderment to Madhvacarya. Yet in Chapter Fourteen of the Tenth Canto, where Brahma was bewildered about the position of Krsna, we find what Krsnadasa Kaviraja describes as the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam.


ei sloka tattva-laksanna bhagavata-sara

paribhasa-rupe ihara sarvatradhikara


"The truth indicated in this verse (SB 10.14.14) is the essence of the Srimad Bhagavatam. This conclusion, through synonyms, applies everywhere."

This verse from the Brahma-vimohana-lila is the opinion of Brahma on the issue under discussion.


narayanas tvam na hi sarva-dehinam

atmasy adhisakhila-loka-saksi

narayano 'ngam narabhu-jalayanat

tac capi satyam na tavaiva maya


"O Lord of lords, You are the seer of all creation. You are indeed everyone's dearest life. Are You not, therefore, my father, Narayana? Narayana refers to one Whose abode is in the water born from Nara [Gar bhodakasayi Visnu], and that Narayana is your plenary portion. All Your portions are transcendental. They are abosolute and are not creations of maya."

Here Brahma is speaking to Sri Krsna after having witnessed innumerable forms of Narayana emanating from the trancendental body of Krsna. If universes emanate from the body of Narayana, and Narayana emanates from the body of Krsna, it is fair to say that Dr. Sharma has it backwards, not us. In this pastime Sri Krsna is demonstrating among other things the super-opulence of Vrndavana. Although madhurya (sweetness) overrides the aisvarya (opulence) of Vrndavana, this lila makes it clear that Vrndavana is not only sweeter than Vaikuntha, but it is more opulent as well. Sri Krsna's abode exceeds the Vaikuntha lokas in aisvarya. Sri Krsna is the source of all opulence, yet his sweetness and charm is something that is greater than all of his majesty.

Dr. Sharma cites a reference from the Visnu Purana, which he and others of his stamp interpret to mean that Krsna is an incarnation of the hair (kesa) of Narayana. Therefore, Dr. Sharma reasons, why should we accept Krsna as svayam bhagavan? There are other so-called references to Krsna being an incarnation of the hair of Narayana as well. Yet all of the verses said to describe Krsna as a black hair and Balarama as a white hair are misunderstood by foolish commentators. Where in any scripture has the Lord been describe as having white hair? He has black hair. If he drew from his head a black and white hiar as they misconstrue, from where did the gray hair come? The Lord is eternally youthful. His hairs do not turn gray over time. Sridhara Svami refutes this foolish idea by explaining that the word kesau in the Visnu Purana sloka is used in the sense of splendor. The complexions of Krsna and Balarama are thus being described as beautiful or splendorous. The Visnu Purana states: ujjaharatmanah kesau. Sridhara Svami explains that this phrase properly understood means "The Lord in his splendid origianl forms as Balarama and Krsna relieved the burden of the earth."

The misunderstanding of the word kesau as hair is further defeated by the explanation of Vopadeva Gosvami in his Muktaphala-tika. Vopadeva states that kesau means ka (blissful) and isau (the two personalities). A comprehensive refutation of the misunderstanding of the so-called kesa avatara is presented by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Laghu-Bhagavatamrta, verses 156-164, in the chapter entitled Krsnamrta. Rupa Gosvami's opinion is also supported by the commentary of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who was originally initiated into the Madhva sampradaya.

Grammatical syntax, says Dr. Sharma, seems to be lacking in the krsnas tu bhagavan svayam verse under analysis, if we accept the Gaudiya understanding of the text. Srila Prabhupada's translation of the text is what Dr. Sharma would call an example of this.




ete camsa-kalah pumsah

krsnas tu bhagavan svayam

indrari-vyakulam lokam

mrdayanti yuge yuge

"All of the above mentioned incarnations are either portions or parts of plenary portions of the Lord, but Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead. All of Them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists in order to protect the theists."

Dr. Sharma explains that "the plural verb mrdayanti (they protect the world harassed by the enemies of Indra) will not agree with its subject in the singular." In other words, krsnas and bhagavan svayam, which are singular, seem to conflict with the plural mrdayanti. If, as has been done in Srila Prabhupada's translation, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam is taken as a parenthetical phrase in order to overcome the difficulty of case agreement, and ete (all these incarnations) becomes the subject of mrdayanti, Dr. Sharma argues that such an arrangement would be grammatically awkward. It is only as awkward, however, as the phrase krsnas tu bhagavan svayam is, in Dr. Sharma's words, "an intrusion of an unconnected topic." But this phrase is hardly unconnected, rather it is central to the entire chapter and to the proper understanding of the entire Bhagavata!

Dr. Sharma insists that there is no need to break up the unity of thought (which only he perceives has occurred in this translation) by assuming that the word krsna in this verse refers to the personality of Krsna. Rather he says that the verse is better constructed grammatically if we understand krsna here in its etymological sense as the one who absorbs the world within himself (pralaya). Krsna also means to bring an end to the world, krs, a grand arrangement, na, to bring an end to, or karsati, who attracts all the worlds, as during the cosmic annihilation (pralaya).

Dr. Sharma would translate this verse thus: "All these incarnations are either parts or plenary portions of the Lord Himself, who destroys all the worlds. They appear in the world whenever there is a disturbance created by the demons." Even if we were to grant Dr. Sharma that grammatical syntax might be better kept intact by his translation, does he really believe that Vyasadeva after mentioning Krsna only five verses earlier would use the same word krsna here to indicate destruction of the world, when any number of other unambiguous words could have been used? Furthermore, why should we grant him this when the Nyaya-sastra states, tata etad anu guna tvenaivottara-grantho 'pi vyakhyeyah. "The generally understood meaning of a word is its primary meaning, and etymology based meanings are secondary to that generally understood meaning."

At this point in the Bhagavata, although other avataras have been mentioned along with a description of Their characteristics, Krsna's characteristics have not been mentioned. Yet if anyone insists that His characteristics have been described earlier, they can only be referring to the word bhagavan (rama-krsnav iti bhuvo bhagavan aharad bharam [sB 1.3.23]), which is not used when describing any of the other incarnations. In the paribhasa-sutra (SB 1.3.23), the characteristic of Krsna as svayam bhagavan is described, reiterating with emphasis what has been cited earlier (SB 1.3.23), however awkward Dr. Sharma may perceive it to be. Furthermore, the fact that this description has been left until the end of the description of the incarnations serves to emphasize the conclusion that Krsna alone is svayam bhagavan, and for this reason it has been placed there. As per the rules of literary composition, facts meant to be emphasized should be placed at the end of the composition. The fact that Krsna is mentioned earlier is not sufficient reason to conclude that this verse is not also ultimately about Him. Even if the grammar is somewhat awkward, which we are not willing to concede to, the author of the Bhagavata, Vyasadeva, has compensated for that in his statement yasmin prat-slokam abaddhavaty api. Here abaddhavaty means irregularity in composition. Vyasadeva has said that in such literature even if there is any irregularity in composition, it should not be allowed to get in the way of the urgency of the message. The urgent message of the Bhagavata is that Krsna is the ultimate expression of Godhead, the reservoir of all transcendenal loving exchange (rasa).

There are ten subjects discussed in the Bhagavata. The first nine are asrita, dependents requiring shelter, and the tenth is the asraya, the object providing shelter. Among the asrita is isanukatha, discussion of the incarnations of Godhead. The asraya, however, is their source and shelter, svayam bhagavan Sri Krsna. No one can argue that the Bhagavata does not reach its apex in the discussion of Krsna-lila. This discussion constitutes the entire Tenth Canto, which is almost three times longer than any other canto. Krsna and his family members are also the exclusive subject of the Eleventh Canto. Together these two cantos make up more than half of the entire Bhagavata. Why so much attention to Krsna? Because Krsna is the asraya-tattva, the summum bonum of the Bhagavata, and thus even Narayana is his plenary portion. Sridhara Svami has stated this in his commentary on the Bhagavata:




dasame dasamam laksyam


sri-krsnakhyam param dhama

jagad-dhama namami tat


"The Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata reveals the tenth subject, who is the shelter of all. He is known as Sri Krsna, and he is the ultimate source of all the worlds. Let me offer my obeisances unto him."


At this point, it must be asked what is more inept, to awkwardly state the truth or to artistically miss the point? Dr. Sharma has missed the point of the Bhagavata, and our sampradaya seeks to make it clear. Krsna is the source of all incarnations, and He has appeared in this Kali-yuga as Sri Caitanya.

Sripada Madhvacarya is a great devotee, a parama Vaisnava. Sri Caitanya appreciated his emphais on the form of God, as opposed to Sankara's emphasis on the formless aspect of divinity. Our sampradaya is known not only as the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, but also as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. Yet there are ten differences in siddhanta, or conclusion, between our Gaudiya sampradaya and the Madhva sampradaya.

We hold that Madhva ultimately wanted to preach the gospel of Sri Caitanya after receiving the darsana of Sri Caitanya during his visit to Navadvipa. Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes this vision in Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya. At that time, Sri Caitanya told Madhva that He Himself intended to preach His own gospel, and that Madhva should in the meantime keep his dasya-bhaktas. It is implied from this, and later in the same book directly stated by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, that a time would come when all of the sampradayas join together under the banner of Sri Caitanya. That time is not so far off when all will join together in nama-sankirtana, the universal yuga-dharma. If devotees like the learned Dr. Sharma insist on going to Vaikuntha, we have no objection. He will go there that much sooner, however, by embracing the extension of the Madhva sampradaya in the shape of the divine precepts of Sri Caitanya.

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