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Krishna/Vishnu in Bhagavatam

From: Martin Gansten (
Date: Mon Apr 24 2000 - 02:24:38 PDT

Dear Krishna Susarla,

Unfortunately I deleted your latest post by mistake, but as I recall, you
were asking for shastric evidence concerning (among other things) Krishna
being an avatara of Vishnu. As a former GV and member of ISKCON for more
than a decade (now concverted to SV), I know how sensitive this issue can
be, and I appreciate your initiative to base such a discussion strictly on
shastras, and not on sectarian prejudice.

For evidence on Krishna being an avatara of Vishnu, we need not go outside
the Bhagavatam itself (though corroborative evidence could be collected
from other Puranas, Mahabharata, and Agamas; and I believe Sri Anand has
already given a few references of this latter kind). For instance, Bhag.
10.1.2 reads:
	yadoz ca dharmaziilasya nitaraa.m munisattama /
	tatraA.MZENAAVATIIR.NASYA VI.S.NOR za.msa na.h //
The direct meaning here is 'of Vishnu, descended through a part (amsha) [of
Himself]'. Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami (doubtless following earlier GV acaryas)
takes the instrumental (a.mzena) as indicating association: 'along with a
part', which he interprets as referring to Balarama. Even if this is
accepted, however, it does not change the fact that Krishna is here
referred to as 'Vishnu descended'. Likewise, Bhag. 10.3.8 reads:
	niziithe tama-udbhuute jaayamaane janaardane /
	devakyaa.m devaruupi.nyaa.m VI.S.NU.H sarvaguhaazaya.h /
	aaviraasiid yathaa praacyaa.m diziindur iva pu.skala.h //
-- and the following verses, as you are surely aware, describe the infant
Krishna as 'caturbhujam za"nkhagadaadyudaayudham', etc.

I think an independent observer would agree that the direct meaning
(mukhyartha) of these and similar Bhagavatam verses is that Vishnu has
appeared in the form of Sri Krishna, rather than vice versa. And certainly
that has been the understanding of all Vaishnava sampradayas except the
Gaudiyas (including the Maadhvas, from whom some Gaudiyas trace their
origin), as well as of the smaarta community. The only texts explicitly
advocating Krishna as avataarin are exclusively Gaudiya texts, like the
Brahmasamhita reportedly discovered by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

In the light of such explicit verses as the above, I think it obvious that
the word 'ete' in Bhag. 1.3.28 (recently discussed) must refer to the
categories listed in the verse immediately preceding, and not to the entire
list of avataras in 1.3.6-25. There are at least two further text-internal
arguments to support such a conclusion:
	1. Bhag. 1.3.3-5 describes a shuddha-sattva form of the Lord (bhagavato
ruupa.m vizuddha.m sattvam), endowed with thousands of limbs, etc
(sahasrapaadorubhujaananaadbhutam), as the sources of all avataras
(naanaavataaraa.naa.m nidhaanam). This is clearly not the two-armed Krishna
	2. Bhag. 1.3.23 explicitly includes Krishna in the list of avataras
emerging from this shuddha-sattva form. This would be inconsistent with any
intention of distinguishing Krishna as the avataarin.

Martin Gansten

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