I have really appreciated the last few issues of BTG. After sort of taking it for granted, I have recently started reading it carefully again. Thank you.
New Vrindavan, West Virginia, USA
I have come across Back to Godhead through a friend in Mauritius, and most especially the correspondence column. I like it. Now, I agree that this movement is a very scientific movement, and also I appreciate the philosophical aspect of God-realization. However, I have also studied the main scriptures, and I have some doubts that come as strumbling blocks to fully surrender to Krsna. I am not trying to find fault, but trying to clear my misunderstandings.
My doubts have to do with your contention that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Godhead, above even Lord Visnu, Lord Siva, and others. Here is some evidence to the contrary.
(1) The Visnu-sahasra-nama, a genuine book appearing in the Padma Purana, mentions that Lord Visnu is the original Supreme Lord and He has sahasra-nama ["a thousand names"], of which "Rama" and "Krsna" are prominent.
(2) In the Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, and in the Visnu Purana, it is said that Lord Visnu is Vasudeva, which means "the all-pervading One."
(3) In the Bhavisyat Purana, Lord Siva declares, "They who consider me or Brahma to be different from Visnu are endowed with crooked minds. They are tortured in the hells below."
(4) In the Harivamsa (Kailasa-yatra chapter) Lord Siva addresses Sri Krsna: "I am you, O all pervading Lord. You are verily myself, O Janardana. Between us, there is no difference, either in words or in their import."
Mr. S. Ramsahye
Quatre Bornes, Mauritius
Kalakantha Dasa Replies:
Srila Prabhupada has proven a consistent and logical understanding of the scriptures based on bhakti, surrender to Krsna. So drawing solely from what I have received from Srila Prabhupada, here are some answers to your questions:
(1) To indicate the superiority of Lord Krsna, Srila Prabhupada quotes a verse in the Brahmanada Purana which states that chanting the name of Krsna once is equal to chanting the thousand names of Visnu three times. (See Srila Prabhupada's Purports to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 9.32-33.)
(2) Lord Krsna has many incarnations and expansions, and Lord Visnu is in the category of full expansions, those that display the omnipotence of God. So, like Lord Krsna, Lord Visnu can be called Vasudeva, or all-pervading, but that doesn't mean He is the origin of Lord Krsna.
In the Brahma-samhita (5.39 and 5.33), Lord Brahma says:
ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
nanavataram akarod bhuvanesu kintu
krsnah svayam samabhavat paramah puman yo
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
"I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rama, Nrsimha, and many sub-incarnations as well, but who is the original Personality of Godhead known as Krsna, and who incarnates personally also."
advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam
adyam purana-purusam nava- yauvanam ca
vedesu durlabham adurlabham atma- bhaktau
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
"I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], who is the original person absolute, infallible, without beginning. Although expanded into unlimited forms, He is still the same original, oldest person, always appearing as a fresh youth. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing forms of the Lord are usually understood by the best Vedic scholars, but they are always manifest to pure, unalloyed devotees."
To further clarify Krsna's relationship with His incarnations, Srila Prabhupada says, "There is no difference, however, among Them. This is very nicely explained in the Brahma-samhita (5.46): diparcir eva hi dasantaram abhyupetya. With one candle one may light a second candle, with the second a third and then a fourth, and in this way one can light thousands of candles, and no candle is inferior to another in distributing light. Every candle has the full potential candlepower, but there is still the distinction that one candle is the first, another the second, another the third, and another the fourth. Similarly, there is no difference between the immediate expansion of the Lord and His secondary expansion."
Krsna appears in countless incarnations, including Lord Visnu. They are all equally worshipable, and yet Lord Krsna holds a few special distinctions. An important verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28) states, ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "All the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead."
(3) Srila Prabhupada explains that Lord Brahma and Lord Siva are known as "qualitative incarnations" of Lord Visnu, an expansion of Lord Krsna. Lord Brahma is in charge of the mode of passion, and Lord Siva the mode of ignorance. Brahma and Siva are in fact devotees of Lord Krsna and Lord Visnu. Lord Brahma is the head of the sampradaya (disciplic succession) to which ISKCON belongs, and Lord Siva is known as the greatest devotee of Lord Visnu (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh).
As great devotees and partial incarnations, Lord Brahma and Lord Siva should not be considered different from Lord Krsna. They are one with His purpose and desire. At the same time, they are not Krsna. They are endowed with many of Lord Krsna's qualities, but they are not fully empowered (visnu-tattva) expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore they are not God, but exalted demigods, empowered by the Supreme Lord to fulfill essential purposes.
(4) Lord Caitanya taught the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means the inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference of the Supreme Lord and all other living beings. We are one with God because we are also spiritual by nature, but we are different from Him because He is infinite and we are small.
We can also be said to be one with God when we are one with Him in purpose, as is the case with Lord Siva and other exalted beings. In the verse you quote, Lord Siva says that Lord Krsna's words are his words. We can easily understand this statement in the context of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. If you say something and I repeat it, your words are my words, but I have not become you.
The statements of the Vedic scriptures may sometimes seem contradictory. So we have to hear from self-realized souls like Srila Prabhupada. I feel fortunate to have his guidance in understanding the Vedic conclusions. If we try to track down Krsna through intellectual prowess, we'll be unsuccessful. We need Krsna's mercy, delivered by His pure devotees, to understand Him.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. Fax: (022) 618-4827. E-mail: email@example.com