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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Śrī Rādhāṣṭamī 2009

As on Janmāṣṭami, on this Rādhāṣṭamī I would like to post some of the many rather complicated Janma-līlās of Śrī Rādhikā.

First of all there is the popular story that Śrī Rādhikā was found on a lotus flower by Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and that she was blind until Kṛṣṇa gave Her His darśan. Eager as always to check everything in śāstra I discovered that the lotus-story is going around among the Brajabāsīs only and appears to have no scriptural source, but the blindness-story seems to exist in the Padma Purāṇa, at least Iskcon's Dānavir Goswāmī quotes some texts to that extent in his Garga Saṁhitā-rendering. The Garga Saṁhitā, whose authority is somewhat in doubt because it was never quoted in the Goswāmīs' books, carries one chapter on Rādhā's Janma Rahasya too. In it, Dānavir Goswāmī  quotes a book named Govinda Vṛndāvanam in regards to Śrī Rādhikā's 'creation' -

(Kṛṣṇa says:) "0 Balarāma, please listen and I will tell You something. One day, taking My flute, My heart full of bliss and My form bending in three places, I went under a Kadamba tree and, seeing My own form reflected in a splendid golden platform studded with jewels, I became enchanted. At that moment, My heart became filled with the sweet happiness known as conjugal love, which charms the entire world. My heart now desires to become a woman. I yearn to enjoy Myself as a woman. As the Lord thought in this way, His heart approached itself. From the sweetness of His heart came bliss and from the bliss came Himself, manifested in a second form, a female form of transcendental bliss that could experience the direct perception of Himself. At that time a goddess, whose form was nectar, whose fair complexion was like a host of lightning flashes, and who was decorated with glittering ornaments, appeared from the Lord's left side. She is known as Rādhā, who is half of Kṛṣṇa's body, and who is the mistress of all potencies."

One must presume this is either not śāstra, it is a metaphor or a poetic and devotional glorification. After all, how was the eternal and beginningless Kṛṣṇa enjoying Himself before this then? Is there a beginning to an eternal goddess?

Garga Saṁhitā (8.7) speaks thus of Śrī Rādhikā's time of birth -

ghanāvrte vyomni dinasya madhye
bhādre site nāga-tithau ca some
avākiran deva-ganāh sphuradbhis
tan-mandire nandanajaih prasūnaih

'On Monday, at midday, when the sky was covered with clouds, in the bright fortnight of Bhādra-month, devatās showered flowers from the celestial Nandana Garden."

A pada by Ghanaśyām Dās I posted on Rādhāṣṭamī 2007 says it was a sunny day, but this may not necessarily be a contradiction - Bhādra is in the middle of the rainy season and a delivery takes time. During the delivery it may have been occasionally sunny and occasionally cloudy.

Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpāda's Lalit Mādhava-drama starts right away with the Rādhā Janma Rahasya -

In it, Paurṇamāsī explains to Gārgī that Brahmā blessed Mount Vindhyā with two daughters that would bring him a son-in-law who would defeat Shiva, the son-in-law of Vindhyā's rival Himālaya (the father of Pārvatī). Gārgī asked Paurṇamāsī: "How did Rādhā come from Vindhyā to Gokula?" 
Paurṇamāsī: 'She was brought there by Pūtanā, the Rākṣasī." 
Gārgī fearfully replied: "Normally Rākṣasīs eat the babies they kidnap. This girl was then very lucky to escape!" 
Paurṇamāsī: "Pūtanā was engaged by Kaṁsa in destroying all extraordinary boys and abducting the maidens. Devakī's daughter Devī (the 8-armed Yogamāyā) warned Kaṁsa that Devakī's son would kill him - 'One of these days eight very sweet śaktis will take birth here. After defeating Shiva (in Bāṇāsur's battle) He will eventually marry two sisters among these eight śaktis, that are temples of great qualities." 
Gārgī: "What happened to the second sister?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "When Vindhyā's main priest pronounced witch-killing mantras Pūtanā panicked and ran away, dropping the baby in a river in Vidarbha." 
Gārgī: "My father is omniscient. Why then does he claim that the maiden Rādhā was born from Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu, by the blessing of Durvāsā Muni?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "Petitioned by Brahmā, Hari-māyā (Yogamāyā) withdrew these two maidens from the wombs of Candrabhānu and Vṛṣabhānu's wives and placed them in the womb of Vindhyā's wife." 
Gārgī: "Did you only save Śrī Rādhikā from the lap of that witch?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "No there were moon-faced Lalitā, Candrāvalī's beautiful sakhī Padmā, gentle Bhadrā, auspicious Śaibyā and cheerful Śyāmā too." 
Gārgī: "Who gave these girls to the gopī-mothers?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "I myself quickly and discretely distributed these baby girls to different gopī mothers. Finally I approached Mukharā and told her: "This Śrī Rādhikā is the most qualified of all these girls - she will be the daughter of your son-in-law Vṛṣabhānu."

There seems to be a similarity between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa's birth-pastimes in the sense that They were both born inside and outside of Vraja and both of Them have original forms that never enter or leave Vraja at the same time.

Śrī Jīva Goswāmī's Gopāl-campū describes Śrī Rādhikā's birth as follows-

satyaṁ bahu suta ratnākaratāṁ sa prāpa gopa dugdhābdhiḥ
kintvamṛta-dyuti rādhā lakṣmī-jana nādagāt pūrtim
sa khalu śrī kṛṣṇa janma- varṣānantara varṣe(ka) sarva-sukha-satre
rādhā nāmni nakṣatre jāteti rādhābhidhīyate

"This Vṛṣabhānu is truly a Milkocean in the form of a cowherd. Certainly he was a vessel filled with many jewel-like sons already, but that had all become fulfilled by this goddess of fortune filled with the prowess of nectar named Rādhā. This baby girl had certainly taken birth in the year following Śrī Kṛṣṇa's birth-festival, during the all-delightful constellation named Anurādhā. Hence everyone called Her Rādhikā."

Here it is confirmed that Śrī Rādhikā is one year and 15 days younger than Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Actually Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja has only one son, Śrīdāma, so this bahu suta, many sons, is a glorification of Rādhikā as the goddess of fortune - one goddess of fortune is better than so many sons, after all....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Śrī Janmāṣṭamī 2009

For this year's Janmāṣṭamī blog I'd like to quote some arguments the Goswāmīs had to claim that Kṛṣṇa actually appeared in Gokula (as well as in Mathura). From Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī's Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta (5.442-450, 454, 461):

442 Līlā Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose vilāsa-form is the great Nārāyaṇa, desired to appear in Gokul and Mathurā, so He first made Saṅkarṣaṇa appear. Eventually He would let the other members of the caturvyūha, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, appear as well, but first He Himself appeared in the heart of Vasudeva Mahāśaya.

443 To relieve the burden of the earth and petitioned to appear by the devatās, He appeared in the 28th catur-yuga, at the end of that particular Dwāpara Yuga. In his commentary Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa adds a verse from the Matsya Purāṇa which says that Lord Vasudeva will appear in 3 forms at the end of Dwāpara Yuga - as Vyāsa, Rohiṇī's son (Balarāma) and Keśava (Kṛṣṇa). Aniruddha, who reclines in the milk ocean, appears in the heart of Vasudeva in Mathurā, merging with Swayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa there. From Vasudeva's heart Śrī Kṛṣṇa penetrates Devakī's heart.

444 Nourished by the nectar of Devakī-devi's vātsalya prema, Hari grew within her heart like the waxing moon.

445 Thus, in the middle of the night on the eighth day of the dark lunar quarter in the month of Bhādra (August-September), through the agency of Yogamāyā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared from Devakī-devi's heart into the lying-in chamber in the Mathurā jail.

446 Under Yogamāyā's spell Devakī and all others present thought that Kṛṣṇa had taken birth happily in the ordinary human way.

447 Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa quotes from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa that Devakī beheld Kṛṣṇa in a two-armed form but the Bhāgavata (10.3.39) clearly says catur-bhujaṁ śaṅkha-gadādyudāyudham. How is that contradiction resolved? Both in the four-armed and two-armed form Kṛṣṇa acts like a human being - though He may seem bewildered He is actually omniscient. Even if Kṛṣṇa sometimes reveals a four-armed form the scriptures say the two-armed form is predominant - Rūpa Goswāmī says He never really gives up the feelings, attributes and form of the two-armed form. Why then do the śāstras sometimes make it appear as if the two-armed form is secondary?

448 The answer to that is that when Kṛṣṇa's great prowess is hidden within His two-armed form it may be described as secondary. Nārada told the mourning Yudhiṣṭhir Mahārāja in the Seventh Canto (7.10.48 and 7.15.75) that the Supreme Brahman had lived in his house in a hidden way, in a human form.

449 After Kṛṣṇa's birth Vasudeva brought Him to Gokula, placed Him in the delivery room in Yaśodā's house, took Yaśodā's daughter with him and went out again.

450 Though Kṛṣṇa is Yaśodā's eternal son since beginningless time, in His manifest earthly pastimes He does appear like that. Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa says in his comment that Yaśodā suffered so much labor pain and was so tired that she was not aware of the gender of her baby - she lost consciousness by the influence of Yogamāyā. Viṣṇu appeared to Devakī devī and Yaśodā at the same time. Śrīpāda Baladeva quotes the Harivaṁśa (2.4.11) here:

garbha-kāle tv asampūrṇe aṣṭame māsi te striyau; devakī ca yaśodā ca suṣūvāte samaṁ tadā
'In the eighth month, when the pregnancy was incomplete, both women, Devakī and Yaśodā, delivered simultaneously." 
The eight-armed Devi took birth afterwards. In Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.4.9 Yogamāyā is called the younger sister of Kṛṣṇa, which would indicate that Kṛṣṇa had already been born before her. Śrī Jiva Goswāmī comments on 10.4.9 - śrī visnoḥ śrī ḍevakī yasodayor manasi yugatpat pravistasyeti tasyās tad anujātvam sādhitam anujeti "The fact that Devī is called Kṛṣṇa's younger sister indicates that He entered Śrī Devakī's and Yaśodā's minds simultaneously." Viśvanāth Cakravartī comments: anujā viṣṇor ityanena kṛṣṇasya yaśodā garbhajatvaṁ sūcayati - "The fact that Devī is called the younger sister of Kṛṣṇa indicates that Kṛṣṇa was born from Yaśodā's womb." Just as Vasudeva was lifting Kṛṣṇa up to bring Him from Mathurā to Gokula the goddess Yogamāyā or Aja was born from Yaśodā in Gokula - hence Śukadeva called her Kṛṣṇa's younger sister. Baladeva then quotes Sage Nārada saying in the Ādi Purāṇa - nanda gopa gṛhe putro yaśodā garbha sambhavaḥ  - 'In cowherd Nanda's house a son was born from Yaśodā's womb'. If one asks why there is such a secrecy (in the Bhāgavat) about Kṛṣṇa being born from Yaśodā, the answer is - 'It is the Lord's wish' - "I will appear in the house of both Nanda and Vasudeva. I will however remain only in Nanda's house with one form. If I have two forms, Kaṁsa will know that I have taken birth and will persecute both sets of parents. You (Śukadeva) should recite my story so that the secret is not revealed." This is the intention of the Lord. Accepting the Lord's desire, the author wrote the work accordingly. "
The issue is further discussed in verse 454 - 'Some ancient devotees argue that the first of the Caturvyūha, Vasudeva, took birth in Vasudeva's abode and Līlā Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His Yogamāyā potency appeared in Nanda's house in Gokula. When Yadubar Vasudeva arrived in Gokula to bring Kṛṣṇa he only saw Yogamāyā in the delivery room, not Kṛṣṇa - at that point Vasudeva Kṛṣṇa merged with Līlā Puruṣottama Kṛṣṇa. Śukadeva did not narrate it directly and clearly, though, due to its confidential nature. Then in verse 461, Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī quotes the famous verse vṛndāvanaṁ parityajya pādam ekam na gacchati, which he learned from Śrīman Mahāprabhu, to make the point that if Kṛṣṇa never leaves Vraja He also does not come into Vraja, and therefore he must have been born in Gokula (too).

The cutting of the umbilical cord (nābhi-cheda)-pastime usually shows where which śāstra is at. Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa canto 4, chapter 9, verse 60, describes this scene after Vasudeva had brought Kṛṣṇa to Gokula:

dhātri tam snāpayamāsa sīta-toyena bālakam
ciccheda nāḍim bālasya harṣād gopyo jayaṁ daduḥ

"The midwife bathed the infant boy with cool water and cut the umbilical cord as the gopīs glorified Him."

It is a bit strange though that this text was never quoted by the Goswāmīs, who all agreed on the fact that Kṛṣṇa was born in Gokula, and must have been eager to prove it from śāstra. This verse would have been a golden opportunity to prove this. Thus the text could be an interpolation. In the Gopāl campu (4.29-30) it is described that there was no more umbilical cord on Kṛṣṇa when the midwife was to cut it in Gokula, which would indicate that it had been cut by Devakī devī in Mathurā already.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The avatāra is always here

I had another interesting exchange with Dr. Satya Nārāyan Dās, this time about the concept of avatāra (a good introduction to Janmāṣṭami) -

9 august 2009
Prabhuji Rādhe Rādhe
"About the word avatāra Śrī Haridās Śāstriji says that when it is said that 'Kṛṣṇa descended from so far away', it is just to encourage the bhaktas. Does that refer to the supposed distances He crossed from the spiritual sky or to the fact that Kṛṣṇa is just here all the time anyway, but not manifest to us because of the working of Yogamaya (yogamāyā samāvṛta, B Gītā 7.25)? I think of Bhagavad Gītā 4.6-8, where it is nowhere said that He comes down, but that He appears instead. sambhavāmyātma māyayā (I appear through My own māyā) and tad ātmānāṁ sṛjāmyaham ("I create Myself through Myself"). I also notice in the Sanskrit dictionary that 2 out of 3 meanings of the word avatāra are actually 'appearance' and not 'descent'. Should we see Kṛṣṇa's avatāra as a manifestation of Him who is already here in this world, or does He really come down like a rocket capsule descending from the sky?"

Dr. Satya Nārāyan Dās :
10 august 2009
Prabhuji please read verse no 3-2-6 of SB beginning with śanakaih. This should answer your question. If it is still not clear I will answer.

(I quote and translate the verse for the readers' comfort:)

śanakair bhagavallokān nṛ-lokaṁ punar āgataḥ
vimṛjya netre viduraṁ pratyāhoddhava utsmayan

"Gradually Uddhava returned from the loka (world) of Bhagavān to the world of the humans. Wiping his eyes, he replied to Vidura in wonder."

Yes Prabhu it is an amazing śloka, 3.2.6, but there are varying ṭīkās to it. Jīva Goswāmī does seem to think in terms of location, not of consciousness, in his ṭīkābhagavallokāt nitya līlā-maya-dvārakākhyāt. nṛ-lokaṁ bahir dṛśyamānaṁ vidurādi-mayaṁ manuṣya-lokaṁ āgataḥ anusadadhānaḥ ("From the bhagaval-loka means from Dwārkā, which is filled with eternal pastimes. The human world means the externally visible. He came to the human world filled with Vidura and others")

Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda seems to give 2 options, location and consciousness -
tatasca bhagavallokāt sva-premodrekeṇa prāpitān nitya-līlā-maya dvārakākhyāṁ nṛ-lokaṁ vidura premṇā ākṛṣyamāṇaḥ svannāgataḥ punar iti.
("Then he came from the loka of Bhagavan, which he had achieved through his own abundant prema. After attaining this Dwārkā, which is filled with eternal pastimes, he returned to the human world, attracted by the prema of Vidura...") dvitīya mūrcchā-bhaṅge satītyarthaḥ. ("The second meaning is that his swoon broke")

Śrīdhar Swāmī does seem to speak of consciousness: bhagavān eva lokas tasmān nṛ-lokaṁ dehānusandhānaṁ pratyāgata... ("He returned from Bhagavān's loka to the human world with its bodily consciousness") So how to understand it? The ācāryas seem to give different explanations.

Dr. Satya Nārāyan Dās :
I will give you the clue. Consciousness manifested everything.

Advaita Dās -
Yes, I understood that now from the context - Śrīmad Bhāgavat 3.2.4-5 do refer to Uddhava being in a state of consciousness, not in a Dwarka location. ("Completely immersed in the nectar flowing from the lotus-feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and transported with joy through intense devotion, he remained mute for nearly an hour. The hair stood erect all over his body and tears burst from his closed eyes. Seeing him overpowered with a flood of affection, Vidura came to know that he had realized the object of his life".)

My next question is - if Kṛṣṇa manifests Himself here, as in Bhagavad Gītā 4.6-8, where does He come from? Is He always here and now He just pops up from out of the veil of Yogamāyā?

Dr. Satya Nārāyan Dās :
He is always here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dāna Keli Kaumudī.

Syamakund in the early 1970s

Review of the English translation by Kuśakratha Dās.

In his type-out of the text on the Grantha Mandir, Jagat used the same verse numbering as Kuśakratha did in his translation and he (Jagat) added the verse numbering of most editions of Dāna Keli Kaumudī (that goes up to 414) to the footnotes, so it was possible to follow the questioning on the book somehow. This review is based on the verse numbering by Kuśakrath. My Bengali copy (Mahesh Library, translator Rām-Nārāyan Vidyāratna) says the ṭīkā is by Jīva Goswāmī but I think this is wrong, it should be Viśvanātha Cakravartī instead. One friend read the book and asked me some questions, some of which I was unable to solve because I could not understand it myself either and some I have omitted from this blog due to the intimate details sometimes given in the booklet. As with most other English translations of rasik śāstra, most of the puns are lost to the reader unless one knows Sanskrit, Bengali or Prakrita because the puns are not translatable into English. I had no access to the edition of Bhūmipati Dās, so this review is just on Kuśakrath's work.

Verse 9: The ghee is not sold but donated (upaharaṇīya).

Verse 36 The 'five girlfriends' (pañcālikā) is a synonym of 'becoming stunned like a doll (pañcālikā)'

Verse 45: Hā Hā is the name of a Gandharva and also an exclamation of wonder.
The word Paurṇamāsī is wrong, the ārya in this verse is Jaṭilā, according to Viśvanātha.

Verse 50: Rāhu here refers to Rādhā, the Prakrita word Rāhūtthāne (the rising of Rāhu) is translated as Rādhotthāne (the rising of Radha) in Sanskrit. It seems the Goswāmīs do not only expect us to know the rules of literature and Sanskrit but even Prakrita. Without Viśvanātha's ṭīkās most of us would be lost!

Bhakta: "Rādhā says here 'O mark of the Cakra! Your poison has no power' How can a cakra spread poison?"

Advaitadas: "The word used in the ṭīkā is cakra-lakṣaṇa, which means nāga or snake, and a snake has poison of course. Viśvanātha writes: cakra-lakṣaṇa-phaṇa-cihna-dhāri 'A snake wears the marks of the cakra on its hoods'. It should be translated: "O you who bear the mark of the cakra (snake)!"

Bhakta: "In the same verse, what means girl of the tolls?"

Advaitadas: "Rūpa Goswāmī writes 'śulka nāgarī' which means lady-love of the toll post actually. Generally in India famous persons are so much identified with their abodes that just mentioning the abode means mentioning the person. If you say Dakṣiṇeśvara in Bengal, they know you mean Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who lived in that place. The god/dess is also often identified with his/her carrier - Haṁsa (swan) for Brahmā, Vṛṣa means Shiva etc."

Bhakta: Verse 51: Rādhā says: "When You are mocked, You think people are glorifying You. That is called the height of pride. When a flower garland is placed on Your horns, You think everything has become auspicious." How can Kṛṣṇa have horns?"

Advaitadas: "This is another Sanskrit/Prakrita pun which is lost when translated into English.
Translated into Sanskrit Rādhā says śṛṅgāropita dāma vilakṣaṇo bhavasi sarvatobhadra
'There is a garland hung on your horns, as you are auspicious in all respects." bhadra means ukṣa or bull."

Bhakta: "In verse 52 Rādhā calls Kṛṣṇa: Boy who serves a thousand parrots. What does that mean?"

Advaitadas: 'The pun is here also hidden in the Sanskrit: sarvadābhisārikā sahasra sevā rata, can mean 'who is always engaged in the service of thousands of she-parrots (sārikās. That 'she' was forgotten by the translator), but it can also mean he who is always going out to meet (abhisārikā) girls, a vana-lampaṭa. Vana lampat means a forest-debauch. In strict India the only place to meet a paramour is in a secluded bush."
"There is another very funny footnote which is not included in this English translation, to verse 61, where Rādhikā says: "(smiling) I don't see that You have any big money-chests. Where will the money go?" Viśvanātha comments (probably inspired by a similar sentence in the Dāna Keli Cintāmaṇi): madhumaṅgala-dvārā vrajān mahā-śakaṭādayas tad-vāhakā vṛṣa-mahiṣa-kharoṣṭrāś cānīyantām "Madhumangal should bring great carts from Vraja with bulls, buffaloes, donkeys and camels to pull them"

Bhakta: "In verse 65 Lalitā speaks of a goddess of toll collecting. What is that?"

Advaitadas: "The text says ghaṭṭi-devyā, yes. Well in Indian villages every phenomenon has a presiding god or goddess, rightly or wrongly. The point is here that Lalitā is putting Kṛṣṇa down by saying that He is dependent for the fulfillment of His desires even on a goddess like that. Having said that, in India even the power current is a goddess - Bijuli devi. She is praised whenever the current returns in the sweltering hot summer and the fans come back on - Bijuli devi ki jay! you hear everywhere. Bijuli probably comes from the Sanskrit word vidyut, which means lightning. Since electricity was brought to India by the British in the 19th century, no need to look this up in a Sanskrit dictionary."

Verse 68: I don't see the word trumpeteer in the Sanskrit text, nor in the Bengali translation. The cascade of rhyme in Sanskrit is what counts here but that is lost in the English translation, regardless of the quality of the translation.

Verse 71: The word pañcamī here refers to the Śrāvaṇa Pañcamī called Nāga Pañcamī, a day for celebrating snakes, and Punnaga can mean a great snake. It seems Jagat forgot one line in the ṭīkā here that mentions this.

Verse 72: There is no 'coming and going' in this text. āgataṁ kāraṇam means the coming of the reason of their pride.

Verse 74: 'The glory of youth' should be mañjunā nava yauvanena, 'by a lovely young person' instead.

Verse 88: In footnote 24 Kuśakrath makes own interpretation, which is not given by Viśvanāth in the ṭīkā, but it is OK. Kṛṣṇa's speech, following Citrā's - 'kāma prayogena' also means 'through amorous means'.

Verse 88: The five twigs here are the hand, which has five fingers.

Verse 91, first speech - 'mantra' should be perfect drug (siddhauṣadhi) instead.
Last speech of Rādhā - 'tears in the eyes' is not in the text.

Verse 98, Kṛṣṇa says I acknowledge that the debt is paid.
Paurṇamāsī says: 'There is no need for any other petty payment of tax."
Paurṇamāsī says: "mayā cintāmaṇir iyaṁ prastutā - by me this Cintāmaṇi jewel has been manufactured," not 'I think of her as a Cintāmaṇi gem'. 'A beautiful girl' is not to the point - kāntā maṇi means a jewel of female lovers. This is a juxtaposition of Paurṇamāsī's vatsalya rati and Kṛṣṇa's madhurya rati for the same person.
'Gentle boys' is also wrong because the word is nāgarendra, which means the king of playboys.
The whole text is a juxtaposition of the money granted by a Cintāmaṇi jewel and the amorous satisfaction offered by a Kāntā maṇi, jewel of ladyloves. Vṛndā means to say that in the presence of Pūrṇamāsī, the full moon, how can Kalānidhi (Kṛṣṇa, the master of arts), or the full moon, not be full but a sliver instead? In this way she praises both Kṛṣṇa and Paurṇamāsī."