Chapter 17: Lightening the Burden of the World
bhuvo nāva ivodadhau
jāto hy ātma-bhuvārthitaḥ
Others say that the world, being overburdened like a boat at sea, is much aggrieved, and that Brahmā, who is Your son, prayed for You, and so You have appeared to diminish the trouble.
Brahmā is directly the son of the Supreme Lord, the supreme father, and was not put into the womb of a mother. Therefore he is known as ātma-bhū. This Brahmā is in charge of further creations in the universe, secondarily reﬂected by the potency of the Omnipotent. Within the halo of the universe there is a transcendental planet known as Śvetadvīpa, which is the abode of the Kṣīrodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu, the Paramātmā feature of the Supreme Lord. Whenever there is trouble in the universe that cannot be solved by the administrative demigods, they approach Brahmājī for a solution, and if it is not to be solved even by Brahmājī, then Brahmājī consults with and prays to the Kṣīrodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu for an incarnation and solution to the problems. Such a problem arose when Kaṁsa and others were ruling over the earth and the earth became too much overburdened by the misdeeds of the asuras. Brahmājī, along with other demigods, prayed at the shore of the Kṣīrodaka Ocean, and they were advised of the descent of Kṛṣṇa as the son of Vasudeva and Devakī. So some people say that the Lord appeared because of the prayers of Brahmājī.
Kuntīdevī is describing the different statements of different persons about why Kṛṣṇa appears. Some say that He appeared at the request of Vasudeva and Devakī, and some say He appeared at the request of Brahmā. Bhārāvatāraṇāyānye bhuvo nāva ivodadhau: “Some say that He appeared just to reduce the burden of the world, which was overburdened like a boat at sea.” When the world is overburdened, there must be war, pestilence, famine, epidemics, and so on. This is nature’s law.
The earth ﬂoats in space among many millions of other planets, all of them bearing huge mountains and oceans. It ﬂoats because Kṛṣṇa enters into it, as stated in Bhagavad-gītā (gām āviśya), just as He enters the atom. The earth is certainly not weightless; rather, it is very heavy. But it ﬂoats because the Supreme Spirit is within it.
Everything is lightened by the presence of spirit. One’s body will ﬂoat in water as long as one is alive, but as soon as the spirit soul leaves, the body immediately sinks. As long as a child is alive we can take it along by one hand, but when the child is dead it is heavy. So now we are heavy, but when we are spiritually advanced we will be free from impediments. Now we cannot ﬂy in the air, but the spirit soul is so light that when freed from the body it can go within a second to Vaikuṇṭha-loka, the spiritual world (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti).
Why then does the world become overloaded? It becomes overloaded due to the presence of demons, those who are against devotional service. When mother earth feels this load to be too heavy, Kṛṣṇa comes just to unburden the earth. If a ship is overloaded, its position is very dangerous, for it may sink at any moment. Therefore when mother earth felt too uncomfortable because of being overloaded with demons (sīdantyā bhūri-bhāreṇa), she approached Brahmā, the chief living being within this universe. When there is a need, the chief personalities in the universe approach Brahmā, who approaches Viṣṇu to ask that He reduce whatever the burden is. Then Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa appears as an incarnation, as stated in Bhagavad-gītā (4.7):
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.”
When there is too much lawlessness and there are too many criminals, the state becomes overburdened and disturbed, and the state administrators are puzzled about what to do. Similarly, when the world is overrun by demons and atheists, they create a burden, and the demigods, the pious administrators of the universe, become perplexed. When the people of a state abide by the laws, administration is easy, but if people are criminals they overburden the state administrators. A similar situation sometimes upsets the balance of the cosmic affairs of this material world. Both the demons and the demigods always exist, but when the demoniac power increases, the world is overburdened. It is then that the demigods approach Lord Brahmā for assistance.
Lord Brahmā is one of the twelve authorities known as dvādaśa-mahājana (svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ kaumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ/ prahlādo janako bhīṣmo balir vaiyāsakir vayam, Bhāgavatam 6.3.20). We have to follow the mahājanas, the great authorities, if we want to receive transcendental knowledge. The Vedic injunction is, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: if one wants to be in knowledge of everything, one must approach a guru, a bona ﬁde authority, a spiritual master. The original guru is Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa taught Arjuna, He also taught Brahmā, as stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye).
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes the original source of the creation, and this should be the actual subject matter of our research work. What is the original source of creation? Janmādy asya yataḥ: the original source of everything is the source of janma, sthiti, and pralaya – creation, maintenance, and dissolution. Our body has taken birth at a certain date, it lasts for some years – ten years, twenty years, ﬁfty years, or whatever, according to the body – and then it will be ﬁnished. Where did this body come from, and when it is destroyed where will it go? There are scientiﬁc laws concerning the conservation of energy. What is the source of that energy? There is a source (yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante), and that source is identiﬁed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
That source is not blind. Rascals think that everything has come from nothing. But how can something come out of nothing? There is no proof that such a thing happens, but fools claim that it does, and therefore they are blind. What is the nature of the original source from whom everything has come, in whom everything exists, and within whom everything will enter? The Bhāgavatam (1.1.1) says, janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ. The word abhijñaḥ indicates that the source of everything is completely conscious.
The word jña means “knowledge,” and abhi means “speciﬁc.” We have inadequate knowledge of where we have come from and where we shall go after death, and therefore we are not abhijña, supremely conscious. But the supreme source is abhijña. He is not a stone or a void. How could He be? The creation itself is evidence of the consciousness of the Supreme. Everyone can appreciate the cosmic manifestation and how nicely it is working. The sun and moon rise exactly on time, without deviating even one ten-thousandth of a second, and the seasons change in the same way, bringing with them fruits and ﬂowers. In this way the entire cosmic manifestation is going on in a very orderly, systematic way. So unless there is some abhijña – some very clever intelligence who knows everything – how could all this have been created? Some people say that all this has come from nothing. What is this nonsense? Can such a creation come from nothing? Does this idea show very good reasoning? The Bhāgavatam says no.
The Bhāgavatam tells us that everything comes from the person who is abhijña, very intelligent and experienced, and that original intelligent person transmitted knowledge to ādi-kavi, the original created being, Lord Brahmā (tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye). Brahmā, the original created being, has an original source, and he is in contact with that source. We understand that we get knowledge from another person with whom we are face to face. But when Brahmā was created he was alone. Therefore, how did he receive knowledge? That is explained in the Bhāgavatam: tene brahma hṛdā. The word hṛdā means “through the heart.” The Supreme Person, Paramātmā, is within the heart of every living being, including Brahmā. Therefore although Brahmā was alone, he received knowledge dictated by the Supreme. The word brahma means “Vedic knowledge.” Thus the Vedic knowledge was given ﬁrst to Lord Brahmā.
The Vedic knowledge is given to everyone because Kṛṣṇa is within everyone’s heart (sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ), but one must be qualiﬁed to receive that knowledge. Kṛṣṇa helps us by giving us knowledge both from within as the Supersoul (caitya-guru) and from without as the spiritual master.
Brahmā receives knowledge from Kṛṣṇa and distributes that Vedic knowledge, and therefore he is an authority. There are four sampradāyas, or chains of disciplic succession, through which Vedic knowledge is distributed – one from Brahmā, one from Lakṣmī, one from Lord Śiva, and one from the four Kumāras. We have to approach an authoritative representative of Kṛṣṇa appearing in one of these sampradāyas, and then we can receive real knowledge. Thus the earth personiﬁed approached Brahmā, who prayed to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, “The world is now overburdened with demons, and therefore I request You to appear.” Some say, therefore, that the Lord appeared at the request of Brahmā that He lighten the burden of the world.
When Kṛṣṇa appears, He protects the devotees and kills the demons. Therefore Kṛṣṇa in His Nārāyaṇa form has four hands. In two hands He holds a disc and club with which to kill the demons, and in the other two hands He holds the conchshell and lotus with which to bless and protect the devotees. The Lord says, kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati. Thus Kṛṣṇa bugles with His conchshell, “My devotees will never be vanquished.” And with the lotus ﬂower He extends His blessings. The lotus ﬂower, which sometimes also appears in the hand of Lakṣmī, is a symbol of blessings.
Now some may say that Kṛṣṇa appeared for this purpose or that purpose, but the real conclusion is that Kṛṣṇa appears for His own pleasure, not because He is bound by any other cause. We take our birth because we are bound by our karma, but Kṛṣṇa, being fully independent, does not come because of someone else’s request or because of karma. Rather, He comes by His own free will (ātma-māyayā). We are compelled to take birth because of Kṛṣṇa’s external, material energy, but Kṛṣṇa is not controlled by the māyā, or energy, of anyone else, and therefore He does not take birth in such a condition. Māyā, the illusory energy, is under the control of Kṛṣṇa, so how could māyā control Him? One who thinks that Kṛṣṇa, like us, is controlled by māyā is described in Bhagavad-gītā as mūḍha, a fool (avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam).
Kṛṣṇa is the original Nārāyaṇa, the original source of the entire cosmic manifestation. Brahmā, or the ﬁrst living being born just after the creation, is the direct son of Nārāyaṇa, who as Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu ﬁrst entered the material universe. Without spiritual contact, matter cannot create. Those who are seeking the original cause of the material creation should know that the creation takes place when the spirit soul is present. Matter is activated by the spirit soul; it is not that the soul is created by matter.
According to the Buddhist theory, the living force – the living energy we all have – is created by material conditions. At the present moment, the entire world is inﬂuenced by this Buddhist theory. The actual fact, however, is that matter develops because of the presence of the living force. We can understand this very easily. After a child is born, he grows, and his body develops, but if the child is born dead – if the spirit soul is not present – the body will not develop. Therefore the spirit is the basis for the development of matter, and not vice versa. Why does a dead child not grow? Because the spirit is not present. A tree grows as long as there is life in it. If we sow the small seed of a banyan tree in good soil and favor it with water, it will grow because the spirit soul is present. But if we were to fry such a seed in ﬁre and then sow it, it would fail to grow because the spirit soul would not be there.
Matter grows and develops because of the presence of the spirit soul, and this principle has been followed from the very beginning of the creation. At the beginning of creation the Supreme Spirit entered the universe, and the ﬁrst living being, Brahmā, was born on a lotus ﬂower grown from the transcendental abdomen of Viṣṇu. Accepting that the lotus on which Brahmā was born is matter, we should understand that it is also grown from spirit. Therefore spirit is the basis of creation.
Because the lotus ﬂower on which Lord Brahmā is born is grown from the navel of Viṣṇu, Lord Viṣṇu is known as Padmanābha. Brahmā is known as ātma-bhū because he was begotten directly from the father, Nārāyaṇa, or Viṣṇu, without the contact of mother Lakṣmījī. Lakṣmījī was present near Nārāyaṇa, engaged in the service of the Lord, but still, without contact with Lakṣmījī, Nārāyaṇa begot Brahmā. That is the omnipotency of the Lord. When we want to beget a child, we need the help of a wife because we cannot beget a child alone. But Kṛṣṇa, Lord Viṣṇu, produced Lord Brahmā without the help of His wife, Lakṣmī, although she was present, because He is not dependent on anything. One who foolishly considers Nārāyaṇa to be like other living beings should take a lesson from this.
The Vedic literature forbids one to think that other living beings are on an equal level with Nārāyaṇa.
yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ
sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam
Someone has invented the word daridra-nārāyaṇa, trying to show that Nārāyaṇa has become poor and that the beggar who comes to my door to beg is also Nārāyaṇa. This is not authorized in the Vedic literature. Nārāyaṇa is the master of Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, and only fools think that He somehow becomes poverty-stricken. Rascals say that Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā, Śiva, all the demigods, you, I, and everyone else are all on the same level. This is foolishness. Nārāyaṇa is asamaurdhva. This means that no one can be equal to or greater than Him. Therefore Kṛṣṇa Himself, the original Nārāyaṇa, says in Bhagavad-gītā, mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat: “There is no one superior to Me.” Nor is anyone equal to Him. The word asama means that no one is equal to Him, and anūrdhva means that no one is greater than Him. This is the position of the Lord.
Nārāyaṇa is not an ordinary living being. He is the Personality of Godhead Himself, and He has all the potencies of all the senses in all parts of His transcendental body. An ordinary living being begets a child by sexual intercourse and has no other means to beget a child than the one designed for him. But Nārāyaṇa is all-powerful, and therefore He can beget a child from His navel. Every part of His body has full potency, as explained in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.32), aṅgāni yasya sakalendriya-vṛttimanti. For example, I can see with my eyes, but Kṛṣṇa can also eat with His eyes. Foolish rascals will say, “You are offering food to Kṛṣṇa, but what has He eaten? It is still here. He has not eaten anything.” Such people do not know that Kṛṣṇa can eat just by seeing, for He can do anything with any part of His transcendental body. When a washerman refused to supply cloth to Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā, Lord Kṛṣṇa displayed His transcendental potency by cutting off the man’s head with His hand. How was this possible? It was possible by the Lord’s omnipotence.
The Lord is complete and independent to do anything and everything by His various potencies. This is explained in the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by the words abhijñaḥ sva-rāṭ. The word sva-rāṭ indicates that He is self-sufﬁcient, not dependent on anyone. That is the qualiﬁcation of God. Nowadays there are so many self-proclaimed incarnations of God, but as soon as they have some toothache they immediately say, “Ooooooh, doctor, help me. Save me.” If you are God, save yourself. Why go to a doctor? Such people are rascals, and they make it very difﬁcult to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The whole world is now overburdened by such rascals and demons, and therefore the atom bomb is waiting for them by the will of the Supreme.