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Krishna’s Disappearance Lila
Gaudiya Philosophy Questions & Answers Shastra

Krishna’s Disappearance Lila

Question: I am wondering about Kṛṣṇa’s disappearance. It is not something devotees like to discuss or write about, and although the Bhāgavata covers His disappearance, it makes a point of moving it to the next canto—all Kṛṣṇa-līlā is in the Tenth Canto except for this one pastime. That seems significant, and I think it has to do with the distastefulness, or the emotional stress, of having to describe the Lord’s departure. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment?

Answer: His disappearance is not described as not to destroy rasa, called rasa-bhaṅga. There are two types of kāvya, poetic composition, called dṛśya (to be seen) and śravya (to be heard). The first type is what you depict on a stage with actors, called a play. There are ten major types of nātaka and about 18 types of nāṭikā. The second type does not include physical acting. The Bhāgavata is the second type of kāvya, śravya kāvya.

Every kāvya depicts a prominent rasa, such as mādhurya, vīra, śānta, etc. It has a hero, nāyaka, with a character appropriate to the rasa. There are primarily four types of them: dhirodātta, etc. The hero cannot die. If the hero dies, that will be rasa-bhaṅga. Therefore, no Sanskrit play depicts the death of a hero. Even in Indian movies, the hero never dies.

Most love stories, like Indian love movies, end with the marriage of the hero and heroine. Then they live happily together. Any struggle, the villain, a love triangle, etc., is shown before the marriage. The end should be pleasant; madhureṇa samāpayet is the basic principle. As an example, during meals, sweets are served at the end.

Therefore, the Tenth Canto that depicts Kṛṣṇa-līḷā does not show Kṛṣṇa’s disappearance. Instead, it is described at the end of the 11th Canto. The end of the Tenth Canto describes Kṛṣṇa’s family life.

Here’s a little more on the madhureṇa samāpayet principle in relation to Kṛṣṇa-līlā. If you notice, the concluding verse of Kṛṣṇa-līla in the last chapter of the Tenth Canto is the famous jayati jananivāso verse (10.90.48). Here Śukadeva uses the verb jayati, “is glorious,” in present tense. However, when he was describing it, Kṛṣṇa had already disappeared; thus, he should have used past tense, which he used while relating the other stories. The present tense here signifies the eternality of Kṛṣṇa-līlā, just as one may say, “The sun rises in the east.”

Moreover, he includes both Vraja- and Dvārakalīlā in this verse by saying vraja-pura-vanitānām vardhayan kāmadevam. Here pura refers to Dvāraka Puri. Again the word vardhayan—“while increasing” —is in present continuous tense. All this is done while keeping the rasa in mind.

Similarly, you see that in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja does not mention Mahāprabhu’s disappearance. Now you know why.

Question: I have a related question:

As you know, Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.23.117–118 says that the entire disappearance episode is illusory. Do our ācāryas give any reason why the Bhāgavata, the Amala Purāṇa, would include “an illusion by the Lord to bewilder the demons?” It seems like that would be the task of lesser literature. Why wouldn’t it present the truth as it is?

Answer: The Bhāgavata presents Kṛṣṇa’s mādhurya or human-like līlā as well as aiśvarya or godly-līlā. A human being takes birth and dies, so both birth and disappearance are depicted in the Bhāgavata. The devotees are not bewildered by this. Moreover, the Bhāgavata does not describe Kṛṣṇa’s death but does His ascension to Vaikuṇṭḥa, meaning His entering into aprakaṭa-līlā from prakaṭa-līlā.

There was a need to separate the devas from His eternal associates, and thus mausala-līlā was enacted from the nara-līlā point of view. Otherwise, the Bhāgavata’s description would have remained incomplete. Then people would believe only in the other Purāṇas, which describe that He died and that His body was burnt. Caitanya-caritāmṛta does not disclose Mahāprabhu’s disappearance, so now we are left only with other versions.

Why do you say that Bhāgavata describes “an illusion by the Lord to bewilder the demons”? Moreover, even if it does, what is wrong with that? Just because it is Amala Purāṇa does not mean it describes everything literally. It describes “The Truth,” but truth can be described directly or indirectly. As said above, the Bhāgavatais a kāvya, and a kāvya describes through mukhyā, lakṣaṇā and vyañjanā vṛtti.

Question: Does any śāstra or ācārya comment on who Jara was in his previous birth? I have read that he was Bali of Rāmāyaṇa fame, but I have also read that he was Bhṛgu Muni. I have not seen a convincing pramāṇa for either theory. 

Answer: I have not read any explanation. It is understood that Kṛṣṇa wanted that the curse pronounced by the brāhmaṇa sages not to become false, therefore, one of Kṛṣṇa’s associates came as Jarā, the hunter.