Chapter 6 from the book, Going Beyond Vaikuṇṭha, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja


All of the incarnations of Bhagavān are the same in quality, just as from one candle we can light ten candles and all will be the same in quality. Which one is the original and which ones were lit from that, we can’t tell.

etac ca vṛndā-vipine ’gha-hantur
hṛtvārbha-vatsān anubhūtam asti
śrī-brahmaṇā dvāravatī-pure ca
prasāda-vargeṣu mayā bhramitvā

Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.4.164)

Nārada is saying, “When Brahmā stole the boys and calves in Vṛndāvana, he experienced how Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the killer of the Agha demon, is one and yet expands into many, and I myself experienced it when I visited His palaces in Dvārakā.”
   In Vṛndāvana, the mothers and fathers of the gopīs and gopas, upon seeing the beauty and sweetness of Kṛṣṇa – His speech, His behaviour, all of His charming sweetness – the desire comes in them that He be their son. At the time when the cows are giving milk to their calves, they think, “Sometimes Kṛṣṇa comes and drinks our milk with His own mouth. We desire that He be our calf so we can feed Him milk.” In Vraja-maṇḍala there are so many cows, mothers, and mothers who already have sons, and they all desire that Kṛṣṇa become their son so they can feed Him milk and show Him motherly affection. Not so much when Kṛṣṇa enters their houses, steals milk and drinks it, but in the late afternoon when Kṛṣṇa returns from taking the cows out to graze. At that time, Mother Yaśodā gives Him motherly affection and wipes His face, and all the mothers and cows desire very strongly in their hearts that Kṛṣṇa be their son. Leaving their own children, all the mothers come first to look after Kṛṣṇa. Then they return to their own children, take them in their laps, wipe their faces and give them all affection.
   Kṛṣṇa knows their desire. How does He know? It says in one verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that when Kṛṣṇa is playing with the gopīs and is fully absorbed in performing pastimes, He forgets everything: “Where am I?” Any loss or gain for Himself in this activity, any loss or gain for the world – all of this is forgotten. At this time, if some enemy attacks, what will happen? A demon like Aghāsura or Bakāsura may come, but everything will be forgotten. All household duties, eating, drinking, bathing – all is forgotten. He is so absorbed in relishing the prema of the gopīs that all is forgotten and He is aware of nothing else. The affection of His mothers, the affection of His friends – all is forgotten.
   Regarding that time, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura asks a question. “You devotees are praying, ‘O Kṛṣṇacandra, give me the darśana of Your lotus feet,’ and you are crying and crying, but who will hear this prayer? Kṛṣṇa has already forgotten everything! When Kṛṣṇa has forgotten everything, then sarvajñatā, His quality of knowing what is in everyone’s heart, is diminished. That is an aspect of aiśvarya, one of His opulences. At that time when He is supremely absorbed – sometimes falling at the feet of the gopīs, trying to appease them, serving them and receiving service from them – He is so absorbed in this that He forgets all other things of the world. All sarvajñatā has been abandoned, and all six kinds of opulence have been forgotten. Then who will hear your prayer?
   “Knowing everything is a quality of aiśvarya, so if it comes at this time, the mood of mādhurya will be disturbed. So who will come to hear this prayer? This is a big problem. We are praying, and that is meaningless? If there is no listener, certainly it will be meaningless. Paramātmā is Kṛṣṇa’s expansion; He exists everywhere as the all-pervading witness. Will He know? But if we are praying directly to Govinda and only Paramātmā is aware of it, what is the use? We are praying to the king and the doorman is listening – what will be the benefit in that? We won’t be satisfied with that. So what then? Will our prayer not go directly to Kṛṣṇa? If our prayer doesn’t reach Kṛṣṇa’s ears, then it is as if we are crying and no one can hear. And if no one hears, then who will do something to relieve that crying? If a small baby is crying for milk and no one hears him, what will he do? Our crying will merely be the same. But don’t worry, don’t be disturbed; Kṛṣṇa will hear.”
   We may think, “But how? If He listens, it will be aiśvarya.” To resolve this, Kṛṣṇa possesses two qualities: He is simultaneously mugdha and sarvajña. What is the meaning of mugdha? Becoming so spellbound in love that it is just as if He doesn’t know anything. Yaśodā grabs His ear and says, “You go to the corner and continuously sit down and stand again! Don’t You steal anymore!” And He will really do it! Taking a small stick Yaśodā will say, “Today You will not get away without a beating!” And Kṛṣṇa will say, “Mother! Don’t hit Me!” with tears coming from His eyes. This is called mugdhatā, being spellbound in emotion. Fear itself is afraid of Him, yet He becomes frightened when Mother Yaśodā approaches Him with a stick. She will not beat Him; she just says that she will – but He cries and the tears are flowing. Here, is Kṛṣṇa really crying, or is He just making a show of it? Ordinary people will say, “Will Bhagavān cry? He won’t cry. What could He possibly be afraid of?” But premī devotees will say that He is really crying, and this is called mugdhatā.
   If Jarāsandha, Pūtanā, Aghāsura, Bakāsura, Kaṁsa or Narakāsura come, then this young boy named Kṛṣṇa kills them. This is His quality of sarva-śaktimattā, having all power. He is as well known for this as He is for knowing everything, yet at the same time He becomes spellbound in līlā. For example, once, Kṛṣṇa called for Uddhava: “Uddhava, come over here. Today we have a serious problem.”
   “What is it?”
   “Today, from Hastināpura, an invitation to the rājasūya-yajña has come, and tomorrow it will commence there. In the opposite direction, Jarāsandha is causing a great disturbance and it is necessary to kill him. We should do both things, but I can’t understand how. You are a clever, intelligent man, My minister and friend; tell Me, what should I do? Should we go now to the Pāṇḍavas’ rājasūya-yajña, or should we go and kill Jarāsandha?”
   Uddhava thought, “Look at this! Svayam Bhagavān, who knows all and has all powers, is asking me? And it seems that He is really asking, not that He is just giving Me respect. It seems that He is not just playing the part of a king, and that He is not just observing the formality of taking advice from a minister. Is Kṛṣṇa really just observing this formality, or is He sincerely asking? It seems from looking at His face that He is sincerely asking me!”
   Then Uddhava replied, “O Lord, according to my consideration, it will be good if we go now to the rājasūya-yajña in Hastināpura. We can accomplish both objectives with one action. For completion of the sacrifice, a horse will be sent off so that any king who wants to present a challenge may do so, and You and Arjuna can follow behind it. Please take Bhīma also. Eventually that horse will arrive in the Māgadha province of Jarāsandha and You can kill him there. Then the rājasūyayajña will be completed, and You can kill Jarāsandha also.”
   Kṛṣṇa patted Uddhava on the back. He was very, very pleased. He could not make the decision Himself, and when His prime minister gave such wise advice, He was very pleased.
   So Bhagavān is both mugdha and sarvajña at the same time. This is not a fault, but rather by His inconceivable potency it is one of His qualities. It is stated in the Vedānta-sutra that all contradictory qualities are completely harmonised in Kṛṣṇa: viruddha-dharmaṁ tasmin na citram. In Kṛṣṇa both mugdhatā and sarvajñatā are going on together, and there is no fault in this. This is not possible for anyone else. If any human being says that they possess this quality, they are only a fraud.
   Kṛṣṇa is sarvajña like this: when the rāsa-līlā starts, Kṛṣṇa sees so many gopīs, and they are all desiring that “Kṛṣṇa will be with me only, He will appease me, and I will be the most fortunate.” Kṛṣṇa knows this, and He dances in such a way that it appears that between every two gopīs is one Kṛṣṇa, and He fulfils their desires. This is sarvajñatā. Such sarvajñatā is not seen even in Rāma or Nārāyaṇa. Along with this, when Śrīmatī Rādhikā disappears from the rāsa dance, Kṛṣṇa thinks, “Where has She gone?” He doesn’t know. He is sarvajña, but still He becomes upset and cries for Her. Just as Rāmacandra really cries for Sītā-devī, here Kṛṣṇa is really crying for Rādhikā. And when They reunite? He becomes Hers only. She says, “Today You decorate My hair,” and taking a flower He follows behind Her. She says, “I am unable to walk any further,” and He takes Her on His shoulders. All of these things are mugdhatā. This is the very pinnacle of both rāsa and bhagavattā, Bhagavān’s nature as the Supreme.
   Regarding the older gopīs, they all desired that Kṛṣṇa would become their son, and all of the cows desired that Kṛṣṇa would become their calf. Kṛṣṇa saw that drinking the milk of one mother would not fill His stomach. The love of one mother would not be sufficient. Similarly, the love of one gopī is not sufficient for Him. For Him, millions of gopīs are necessary. He desires the affection of millions of mothers, and that will fill His “stomach”. Therefore, one day He thought, “Today in Vraja, I will have millions of mothers, I will marry millions of gopīs, and I will become the calf of millions of cows. Let’s see, how will I do it? By connection with the Supersoul it could be done, but in this human-like form, in nara-līlā, it will be very difficult.”
   For this purpose He bewildered Brahmā. He sent inspiration into the heart of Brahmā to come there to Vraja. Then Brahmā saw the killing of Aghāsura and thought, “This is a marvellous thing! How did this young cowherd boy give liberation to that demon?”
   To see more pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, Brahmā could have prayed like this: “O Lord, I want to see more of Your līlā. Please be merciful to me and show me more pastimes.” It is an ordinary prayer, and Kṛṣṇa would have fulfilled it, but Brahmā didn’t do this. He thought, “All right; I will see more of His activities for myself.”
   One way to find out what you want to know is to ask someone. Another way is to just sit patiently and wait for someone to automatically tell you. Leaving aside the desire to know, one may think, “If I am qualified to understand, then he will tell me.” But instead, in order to find out something for himself, Brahmā thought, “I will place an obstacle in His way.” How did this idea come into his mind? In the form of caitya-guru Bhagavān causes something to arise in someone’s heart. He Himself inspired this idea within Brahmā so Brahmā would place an obstacle in His līlā, and then Kṛṣṇa would be able to fulfil all of His objectives yet still remain within nara-līlā, His human-like pastimes.
   Therefore, in the afternoon of the same day He gave liberation to Aghāsura, Kṛṣṇa was with the other cowherd boys. They were very hungry, so they all sat down to eat. With great eagerness and great love, while laughing and playing and amusing one another, they were eating. Brahmā observed this and thought, “This is the right time.” The calves had continued moving on. By the influence of Yogamāyā they had seen some especially green grass for grazing, so they went further and further ahead until they were very far away. Meanwhile, the sakhās were still eating, and when the calves were beyond the eyesight of everyone, Brahmā stole them. Some say that he took them to his own Brahmaloka, and some say that he hid them in the caves of Govardhana. Govardhana is quite extensive and there are many caves there.
   When they didn’t see the calves, the boys said, “Where have the calves gone?” Kṛṣṇa suggested, “I will go and bring them back Myself. I will just play the flute and they will return of their own accord. You all just continue eating; I am going.”
   Why did Kṛṣṇa do this? To play a trick on Brahmā, and so that He could become the boys and calves Himself. Therefore He arranged precisely what Brahmā desired – that He would somehow become separated from the other boys. Brahmā saw this and thought, “The very thing I desired has now happened! I wanted to kidnap the boys when Kṛṣṇa was not watching, and now I have the perfect opportunity! Of His own accord Kṛṣṇa has gone away.”
   Kṛṣṇa went away, and how did He go? In the carefree manner of a young cowherd, with a handful of yoghurt and rice. But searching and searching, He thought, “Where have the calves gone?” This is also mugdhatā.
   After a little while, when He couldn’t find the calves, He returned to the lunch area and saw that the boys had also vanished. Brahmā had also taken them and confined them within a cave. Kṛṣṇa actually didn’t know anything. Searching and searching, He couldn’t see His friends, and the calves were nowhere to be found. He still had that uneaten rice in His hand, and His face became withered from unhappiness. He became overwhelmed with fear, thinking, “What will I say to all of their mothers? All the calves have been lost, and now I do not see the boys either. What will I tell all of the mothers and Vrajavāsīs?” Kṛṣṇa was very worried. His limbs were covered with dust, and His face was withered from hunger, thirst and unhappiness. Sarvajñatā was absent here.
   After a little while, Yogamāyā thought, “I should offer some service.” She suddenly appeared there to render service, and then Kṛṣṇa remembered, “Oh yes, through Yogamāyā I engineered this entire situation to create this pastime and to fulfil the desires of the Vrajavāsīs.”
   Then Kṛṣṇa expanded and assumed forms identical to those of the boys and calves. He sat His friends back down and fed them Himself, and everyone was very happy. Their eating, drinking and laughing went on as it had before, and then in the late afternoon they all returned to their homes. All the mothers thought, “Ahh, my son has returned!” Previously they had gone first to Kṛṣṇa to look after Him and give Him motherly affection, and then attended to their own children. But that day they all looked after their own children first, and forgot about Kṛṣṇa. Only Yaśodā looked after Kṛṣṇa, and the rest of the mothers looked after their own children. That day the cows disregarded their younger calves, and showed more attention to the older calves who had returned from the forest with Kṛṣṇa, feeding them milk and licking them. For one year the līlā went on like this.
   Then Baladeva Prabhu thought, “What is this? The calves have come running from Govardhana, and the cows are showing affection first to the older ones, not caring for the younger ones? Why is this? And the mothers who used to attend to Kṛṣṇa first are now tending their own children first. Why? What has happened? Why is it like this?” Because Kṛṣṇa had become those children and calves Himself, He received much more affection. All of the mothers and cows had their desire to have Kṛṣṇa as their son or calf fulfilled, and He received the affection that He desired from millions of mothers. Also in that very year He married millions of kiśorīs. Through all those boys that He became, He married all the young girls of Vṛndāvana, so all of His objectives were accomplished.
   Now that everything was completed, Kṛṣṇa sent some internal inspiration to Baladeva to bring this pastime to a close. Otherwise Baladeva wouldn’t have known anything of it. Baladeva said, “My dear brother, I don’t understand. Whose illusory potency is this? Is it the illusory energy of the demigods, or Mahāmāyā, or someone else? This is not My illusory potency, and if it were the illusory potency of the demigods or Mahāmāyā, then I would understand.” Then He thought, “Oh, Kṛṣṇa Himself has become all of these boys and calves? Why has He done it?” He asked Kṛṣṇa, “My dear brother, what is this? Until today I didn’t understand, but today I see something unique. Why have You become so many boys and calves also? What is this?” Kṛṣṇa smiled. To fulfil the desires of so many people and to bewilder Brahmā, through the medium of His own Yogamāyā potency He engineered this pastime.
   After a little while, Brahmā came from his own abode, worried. He had found that there was no place for him on his own planet. Kṛṣṇa had also assumed the form of Hiraṇyagarbha Brahmā and had gone to Brahmaloka. There He told the doorman, “If someone taking my form as Brahmā comes here, don’t allow him to enter.”
   When Brahmā returned to his abode after stealing the boys and calves, six months passed. It was only one minute for him, but his one minute is six months for us. He arrived at his Brahmaloka and the doorman asked him, “Who are you? Our grandfather Brahmā is here, and he has said that if any other four-headed Brahmā comes here, he is not allowed to enter. You cannot enter; stay outside! You must be a creation of māyā.” Brahmā thought, “Oh! Kṛṣṇa Himself has come here? I have committed an offence at His feet; I must return to Earth immediately.” In coming back to Vraja, another six months elapsed. Altogether one Earth year had passed.

etac ca vṛndā-vipine ’gha-hantur
hṛtvārbha-vatsān anubhūtam asti

Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (2.4.164)

   After stealing the cowherd boys and calves, Brahmājī experienced how Kṛṣṇa is simultaneously one and millions. Eko bahu syām: Kṛṣṇa is one and becomes many, yet becoming many still remains one. First Brahmā saw, “Here Kṛṣṇa is sitting with rice in His hand and eating, just as He was that day one year ago, and with Him are so many boys and calves. Are they the same ones that I stole, or are they different ones? It is possible that by His own māyā Kṛṣṇa has taken them from the caves. Who are they? Which are the real ones?”
   To see about this, he went to Govardhana Hill. He saw that the boys and calves were just as he had left them, sleeping in yoganidrā. Then returning to Kṛṣṇa, he saw that the boys and calves were there also. He thought, “When I come here, Kṛṣṇa brings the boys and calves here, and when I go to Govardhana, He places them back there.”
   Therefore, with two of his faces and four of his eyes, he looked in the direction of the cave, and at the same time with the other two faces and four eyes he looked over to where Kṛṣṇa was. He saw that the boys and calves were sleeping in the cave, and simultaneously they were eating and drinking with Kṛṣṇa, performing pastimes. Then suddenly he saw that the entire scene had disappeared, and that all of the boys and calves with Kṛṣṇa had assumed the forms of four-armed Nārāyaṇa. In addition, he saw how the human beings, Brahmās, Śaṅkaras, demigods, animals, plants and so on of each and every brahmāṇḍa were all offering prayers to these four-armed Nārāyaṇas and performing kīrtana.
   Brahmā saw that each of the four-armed forms had all of the qualities of the original: all were sac-cid-ānanda, all were full of the six opulences, all were fully omniscient, and all had the sixty qualities of Bhagavān. Only Kṛṣṇa Himself has four more. The boys had so many blankets, sticks, flutes, horns and other things, and they also assumed four-armed forms. Witnessing this, Brahmā became very astonished and began offering prayers. “O Bhagavān, first You showed that You were alone, then You showed that all of the boys and calves are all Bhagavān, and finally You showed that everything is Bhagavān. Without Bhagavān, nothing can have its existence. No jīva can exist, and no material object can exist, but at the same time everything is not directly Bhagavān. But I have seen that all of the boys and calves are You only. All have the qualities of Bhagavān; it is not that some forms are inferior or superior. After this I looked again, and all of these forms had disappeared, and only You, Kṛṣṇa, remained.”
   After witnessing this pastime, Brahmā said, “O Bhagavān, who can describe the glories of Your inconceivable potency (acintya-śakti)?”

jānanta eva jānantu
kiṁ bahūktyā na me prabho
manaso vapuṣo vāco
vaibhavaṁ tava go-caraḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.38)

Those people who say that they know Bhagavān, that they know the glories of Bhagavān – in reality they know nothing. Until today I also thought like that, but actually I am unable to describe His glories.

   What to speak of Brahmā, even Kṛṣṇa Himself cannot describe His own glories. He cannot find the depth of the glories of His own name, qualities and form. Assuming the complexion and sentiment of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, He became Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He descended in this form to investigate His own glories, but He still couldn’t find their depth. In this way Kṛṣṇa is inconceivable. He is one, but becomes many. He is mugdha, and simultaneously He is sarvajña. All contradictory qualities are harmonised in Him. Don’t attempt to understand this through mental speculation! Only if one is completely surrendered to Him can one know a little of His glories. Think only of serving Him. Trying to count or measure His glories will only be troublesome. Therefore Brahmā said, “I cannot find the depth of Your inconceivable glories.” The glories of Bhagavān are limitless. Who can find the depth of them? Brahmā couldn’t, Baladeva Prabhu couldn’t, even Kṛṣṇa Himself couldn’t. Therefore don’t try to fathom the glories of Bhagavān through logic and debate. By rendering service to Him we will obtain some understanding of His glories. Therefore we should make an effort only for bhakti.
   Another reason that Kṛṣṇa showed this pastime was for the bewilderment of Brahmā. In the midst of his life Brahmā was sometimes in illusion. Thinking himself to be the master of the entire universe, once Brahmā went to Dvārakāpurī to meet with Kṛṣṇa. Arriving at the gates, he said to the doorman, “I have come to see kṛṣṇa.”
   The doorman went to Kṛṣṇa and said, “Someone named Brahmā has come to see You.”
   Kṛṣṇa said, “Go and ask him ‘Which Brahmā?’ ”
   The doorman returned and asked, “Which Brahmā are you?”
   He replied, “I am four-headed Brahmā, the grandfather of all!”
   The doorman went to Kṛṣṇa and repeated exactly what Brahmā had said. Kṛṣṇa smiled and thought, “I have given him this post, and just see how he has become proud.” So Kṛṣṇa said, “Go and call him.”
   Brahmā entered the Sudharmā assembly hall. In that place even if millions and millions of people entered, there would still be space for them. It could become very extensive, and it could also become very small. On hot days it would become cool, and on cold days it would be warm. Just as one desired, it would become. When Brahmā entered, he saw this vast royal assembly hall, and Kṛṣṇa was seated in the middle. There were millions of other Brahmās present there. The smallest of them, an eight-headed Brahmā, was seated in the back. In the front there were Brahmās with thousands of heads. Their crowns were composed entirely of jewels, and when they were getting up from offering obeisances, the sound of the crowns clanging together resounded in the four directions. He saw other Brahmās with sixteen heads, others with sixty-four heads, and all of them were much, much larger than himself. His pride was now destroyed, he went and offered his prostrated obeisances to Kṛṣṇa. Getting up, he saw that everything had disappeared and only Kṛṣṇa was left, smiling.  Such are His glories – unlimited. And for one who has gone to Vaikuṇṭha as Gopa-kumāra has, he will see that the glories of not just one but of all the incarnations are like this.

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