Different Visions of Krishna

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Seeing Kṛṣṇa as per One’s Bhāva

Question: In a Bhagavat Sandarbha lecture, you mentioned that God appears in a mutually exclusive way to devotees, such that if one sees Him as a child, then one cannot see God’s Majesty. You cited the examples of Yaśodā and of Arjuna. However, Vyāsa saw Him in His complete manifestation, including the avatāras and Bhagavān Himself. What was the purpose of Vyāsa’s vision of all aspects of Kṛṣṇa?

Answer: These two examples that you refer to have two different purposes. Yaśodā and Arjuna see Kṛṣṇa as per their bhāva because their purpose is to relate with Him accordingly. Vyāsa, however, wants to know the Absolute Reality, so that He can describe it for our benefit. His purpose is not to relish the relationship as per His bhāva. Therefore, he saw Him in His complete manifestation so that he could describe Him in His Supreme form as Kṛṣṇa. This was the instruction given to him by Śrī Nārada.

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Virāt-Puruṣa

Question: In Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, it is said that the Lord takes the Virāt Puruṣa into His belly and lies down in the Garbhodaka Ocean. Later, it is said that the system of planets meditated upon as the Virāt Puruṣa is an imagination. 

Is there really a Universal form or is it all an imagination by the yogīs for the sake of meditation? Are other Universal forms, such as the one shown to Arjuna in the Gītā, or the one shown to Yaśodā, real although temporary? 

Answer: The meditation described in the Second Canto of the Bhāgavata beginning with verse 2.1.26—pātāla is the sole of His foot, etc.— is not a real form but an imagined form for meditation. It is not some specific form other than the cosmos. The Cosmos is described as the form of Bhagavān for the purpose of meditation. But the form that Arjuna witnessed was real form.

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Are Names of Kṛṣṇa Common or Proper Nouns

Question:   We hear that “Kṛṣṇa is the source of all avatāras.” According to one Śrī Vaiṣṇava scholar, Kṛṣṇa is a common noun and Nārāyaṇa is a proper noun; therefore, all names are the names of Nārāyaṇa. Here is their argument:

There is a rule in Pūrva-mīmāṃsā known as chāga paśu nyāyā, (viśeṣa śabdārtha prathipādita arthe sāmānya sada ganārtha paryavasānam). Comprehending the meaning of common nouns using the meaning conveyed by the particular noun and identifying the common nouns with the entity that is denoted by the particular noun in the given relevant context is Chāga Paśu Nyāyā. Common nouns occurring in the same context as a specific term (proper nouns like Nārāyaṇa) would make these general terms connote the specific term. As per vyākaraṇa (Aṣṭādhyāyī, 8.4.3), Nārāyaṇa is a proper noun. All other names e.g., Śiva, Indra, Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, are common nouns; thus, they all mean Nārāyaṇa only. Anywhere a common noun is used like “Supreme deity,” it means Nārāyaṇa only.

What is your opinion on this view? 

Answer: I fail to understand how on the basis of Aṣṭādhyāyī vyākaraṇa sūtra 8.4.3 you can say that Nārāyaṇa is the proper noun and all other names are common nouns. This sūtra only injuncts that if a word (pada) that contains “r” or “” and is followed by another pada that contains “n,” then the “n” will change to “” if both padas combined are a name (sañjñā). For example, the word Nārāyaṇa is a name and it is made of two pads, namely nara + ayana. By this sūtra, the “n” of second pada i.e., ayana is changed to “” because the first pada has “n” in it. 

This rule does not say anything about only Nārāyaṇa being a proper noun and not Kṛṣṇa or Rāma, etc. What you can deduce with the help of this rule is that Nārāyaṇa is a proper noun, otherwise it would have been nārāyana. But this rule does not deny that Kṛṣṇa is a proper noun. According to Śrīmad Bhāgavata, Kṛṣṇa is the original form of Bhagavān, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam (SB 1.3.28). I fail to understand why the word Kṛṣṇa would mean Nārāyaṇa here. Why would Kṛṣṇa not be a proper noun? I understand that Nārāyaṇa is a proper noun, but I fail to understand what makes Kṛṣṇa a common noun instead of a proper noun.

While giving a list of avatāras, Sūta Gosvāmī said the 20th avatāra will be Kṛṣṇa (SB 1.3.23).

 According to Viṣṇū Purāṇa (5.9.6.), Garga Muni performed the name giving ceremony for Kṛṣṇa, and named Him Kṛṣṇa. 

jyeṣṭhaṁ ca rāmamityāha kṛṣaṁ caiva tathāvaram
gargo matimatāṁ śreṣṭho nāma kurvann mahamatiḥ 

“The wise Gargācārya, the best of scholars, while performing the name-giving ceremony [to the sons of Nanda Mahārāja], named the elder one Rāma and the younger one Kṛṣṇa.”

So it would be very strange to think that Kṛṣṇa is not His name but a common noun (in other words, adjective) that refers to Nārāyaṇa.

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Forms of Viṣṇu

Question: Other than Brahma Saṁhitā, is there any mention of the three different forms of Viṣṇu—Mahāviṣṇu, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu?

Answer: The three forms of Viṣṇu are described in the verse below from Sātvata-tantra (1.30). This verse is cited by Jīva Gosvāmī, Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Śrīdhara Svāmī in their works. These three forms are described in Śrīmad Bhāgavata also, although they are called Puruṣas. The verse from Sātvata-tantra (1.30) is given below:

viṣṇos tu trīṇi rūpāṇi puruṣākhyāny atho viduḥ
ekaṃ tu mahataḥ sraṣṭṛ dvitīyaṃ tv aṇḍa-saṃsthitam
tṛtīyaṃ sarva-bhūta-sthaṃ tāni jñātvā vimucyate

“Lord Viṣṇu has three forms called Puruṣas, or the immanent Self. The first, Mahāviṣṇu, is He who sets in motion the total material energy [mahat-tattva], the second is Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, who is situated within each egg-like [or womb-like] universe, and the third is Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, who is immanent within the heart of every living being. He who intuitively knows these three is liberated from conditional existence.”

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