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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.


  1. Nara lila in Gokul - aisvarya lila in Mathura so respectively the birth would be in one place ordinary (like to any other child) and at other place divine. In other words, in Mathura there was no need of cutting the umbilical chord, Krishna just appeared outside of Devaki's, womb first as a four handed Visnu etc., but in the krsna janma gokula naralila there would be some cutting of umbilical chord. Of course, as that happened during the night Krsna's appearance might have been also without umbilical chord since no personality is mentioned who did cut the chord.

  2. How wonderful the modern technology - phoned Sadhu Baba Ashram for the first time directly on Janmastami day on a cheap phone connection in Holland (1 c/m) to the new mobile phone in the ashram. Got Nomita Di on the phone and spoke with her for a few minutes. She stressed that I should fast till midnight and break fast without anna (grains). She expressed grief that I dont come to the ashram from Vrindavan whenever I am in India, and told me about the preparations for the midnight abhisekh in the Ashram. It sounded very quiet there, which is typical for the ashram. I was never there on Janmastami day, also not in Sadhu Baba's days, I wonder what it was like there then. I may phone Tapan Da on the same cheap line later today to ask him.

  3. Radhe Radhe!
    Great post! Keep up the good work.

  4. I think that's the best part about calling India--being able to hear all the sounds. Sometimes I think I can smell the dust, too.

  5. Jai Sri Krishna! Namasthe.

    I have always wondered how and why a European turns to Vaishnavism.

    How do you hear about it? What convinces you? What were you looking for? What have you found?

    There are huge conversion programs (to Christianity) going on India. They are always linked by the converters to social issues.

    I would be grateful if you and your friends could shed some light on my questions. I hope I have not given any offence.

    You may reply using my e-mail address if you wish.

    Satya Sarada

  6. Satya, welcome.
    A brief reply to your query here - the Geeta (7.16) says that 4 types of virtuous people come to Krishna - the distressed, the poor, the curious and the wise. Generally westerners are among the curious and the distressed, many are both. Overindulgence in sensual activities often creates a craving for catharsis - this group forms a large segment of western Vaishnava converts. They have enough of sense enjoyment and want to counteract it with tapasya. Also many westerners are curious for oriental wisdom. Finally, Vaishnavism offers tangible spiritual experiences, which is quite unlike the rather shallow and hollow lithurgy of Christianity.

  7. Thank you for your quick, detailed and honest response. I understand what you are saying and I shall ponder over it.

    I recently visited Rishikesh and the image of a white man in a spotless white dhoti-uttariyam looking for Hindi/Sanskrit classes took root in my mind.

    I couldn't ask him then, so I carried my question to you.

  8. Advaitadas you wrote:

    "It is a bit strange though that this text was never quoted by the Goswamis, who all agreed on the fact that Krishna was born in Gokula, and must have been eager to prove it from shastra. This verse would have been a golden opportunity to prove this."

    May I ask why you believe the Goswamis "must have been eager to prove ...from shastra"? If the incidents in the lives of the Goswamis are to be taken as literal lessons, we must then consider the famous incident of Rupa Goswami rebuking Jiva for defeating Vallabha Bhatta in debate. It appears that, rather, Rupa Goswami was teaching that proving an argument isn't priority in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It can, in fact, become a hindrance [in the development of the proper mood of a Gaudiya Vaishnava].

  9. Anon, the GV sampradaya with its head theologians the 6 Goswamis are alone in claiming that Krishna was born from Yashoda (too). Thus the Brahma Vaivarta Purana verse would have been a golden opportunity for that, but they never quoted it still. Hence the doubt. Please explain what Rupa Goswami's chastisement of Jiva Goswami has to do with that. I cant see the link.

  10. It was already explained in my previous post: " If the incidents in the lives of the Goswamis are to be taken as literal lessons, we must then consider the famous incident of Rupa Goswami rebuking Jiva for defeating Vallabha Bhatta in debate. It appears that, rather, Rupa Goswami was teaching that proving an argument isn't priority in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It can, in fact, become a hindrance [in the development of the proper mood of a Gaudiya Vaishnava]"

  11. Anop - If you mean to say that the Acaryas should not refute other opinions, then perhaps you should read their writings. You will see that there are literally lakhs of refutations of opposing philosophies in all the acaryas books. sad dharma samsthapakau - they established the true religion. How? nana shastra vicaranaika nipunau - they were expert in scrutinizing various scriptures. Bhakti Ratnakara narrates Rupa Goswami's rejection of Jiva Goswami in chapter 5, verses 1641-3, as follows:

    sri rupa kohen sri jivere mRdu bhASe; more kRpA kori bhaTTa AilA mora pAshe. more hita lAgi grantha shudhibo kohilA; e ati alapa vAkya sohite nArilA. tAhe pUrba desha shighro koroho gamana; mon sthir hoile AsibA vRndAvan

    'With a soft voice Sri Rupa told Sri Jiva: 'Bhatta was so kind to come and edit my book, just for my benefit, but you could not tolerate even the slightest word from him. So quickly go back to your ancestral land, and when your mind is stable again you may return to Vrindavan."

    That is all. It is clear that he chastised Jiva for a breach of etiquette, since Vallabha Bhatta was senior to Jiva. Mahaprabhu told Sanatan Goswami and Jagadananda Pandit for the same reason 'maryAdA langhan Ami sohite nA pAri 'I cannot tolerate breach of the etiquette' (CC Antya 4). It is not mentioned one should not refute other opinions, otherwise the Goswamis' books would be only half their size.

  12. " It is not mentioned one should not refute other opinions, otherwise the Goswamis' books would be only half their size."

    Yet you point out yourself that the Goswamis apparently missed a "golden opportunity" to prove a point that they apparently considered very important. So perhaps even more important still, for them, was to not prove things all of the time, but rather, sometimes, just let it be.

  13. I am sorry I failed to state my conclusion in that blog clearly, which is that the verse from Brahma Vaivarta Purana might be an interpolation. If the Goswamis ever 'let it be' you cannot explain how they covered literally every philosophical point in literally lakhs of refutations in countless books [as well as making lakhs of positive statements as well].

  14. Well, if it is in fact an interpolation, then of course we have a different scenario. Considering the whole of your argument, I can see that it could indeed be the case. But if not... How to know for sure? It seems at some point, or at least in some cases, we have to settle for opinions.

  15. The possibility that the Goswamis had overlooked this verse is next to nil - their scholarship was next to unlimited, and their eagerness to prove this rather unique siddhanta of Krishna being the 'physical' son of both Yasoda and Devaki was great as well, considering how many verses and texts they wrote on it. Of course there can be no 100% full proof evidence that I am right but I believe the logic is overwhelming here.

  16. So perhaps its my turn to apologize: I failed to see that your point [this time] was to disprove certain claims in shastra, like the one in question, by using logic and common sense. Now I see your point. Very good.

  17. With this Janmastami blog I did not want to drive home a certain conclusion, that might have contributed to the confusion. Also the Brahma Vaivarta verse issue was added separately without proper explanation.