Introduction by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! he
Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! raksa mam
Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! Krsna! pahi mam
Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! Rama! Raghava! raksa mam
Krsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! Krsna! Kesava! pahi mam
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
While attempting to write this book, Krsna, let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja Prabhupada. Then let me offer my respectful obeisances to the ocean of mercy, Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, appearing in the role of a devotee just to distribute the highest principles of devotional service. Lord Caitanya began His preaching from the country known as Gaudadesa (West Bengal). And as I belong to the Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya, I must therefore offer my respectful obeisances to our disciplic succession. This Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya is also known as Brahma-sampradaya because the disciplic succession originally began from Brahma. Brahma instructed the sage Narada, Narada instructed Vyasadeva, and Vyasadeva instructed Madhva Muni or Madhvacarya. Madhavendra Puri, the originator of the Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya, belonged to the Madhvacarya disciplic succession; he had many renowned disciples both in the sannyasa (renounced) and household orders of life, disciples such as Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu and Isvara Puri. Isvara Puri happened to be the spiritual master of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So let us offer our respectful obeisances to Isvara Puri, Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu, Srivasa Pandit and Sri Gadadhara Pandit. Next, let us offer our respectful obeisances to Svarupa-Damodara, who acted as the private secretary to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu; and let us offer our respectful obeisances to Sri Vasudeva Datta and the constant attendant of Lord Caitanya, Sri Govinda, and the constant friend of Lord Caitanya, Mukunda, and also to Murari Gupta. And let us offer our respectful obeisances to the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Jiva Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami.
Krsna Himself has explained in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Whenever there are discrepancies in the regulative principles of man's religious life and a prominence of irreligious activities, He appears on this earthly planet. In other words, when Lord Sri Krsna appeared, there was a necessity of minimizing the load of sinful activities accumulated on this planet, or in this universe. For affairs of the material creation, Lord Maha-Visnu, the plenary portion of Krsna, is in charge.
When the Lord descends, the incarnation emanates from Visnu. Maha-Visnu is the original cause of material creation, and from Him Garbhodakasayi-Visnu expands, and then Ksirodakasayi-Visnu. Generally, all the incarnations appearing within this material universe are plenary expansions from Ksirodakasayi-Visnu. Therefore, the business of minimizing the overload of sinful activities on this earth does not belong to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself. But when Krsna appears, all the Visnu expansions also join with Him. Krsna's different expansions, namely Narayana, the quadruple expansion of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, as well as the partial plenary expansion of Matsya or the incarnation of fish, and other yuga-avataras (incarnations for the millennium), and the manvantara-avataras, the incarnations of Manus--all combine together and appear with the body of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna is the complete whole, and all plenary expansions and incarnations always live with Him.
When Krsna appeared, Lord Visnu was also with Him. Krsna actually appears to demonstrate His Vrndavana pastimes and to attract the fortunate conditioned souls and invite them back home, back to Godhead. The killing of the demons was simultaneous to His Vrndavana activities and was carried out only by the Visnu portion of Krsna.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Eighth Chapter, 20th verse, it is stated that there is another eternal nature, the spiritual sky, which is transcendental to this manifested and nonmanifested matter. The manifested world can be seen in the form of many stars and planetary systems, such as the sun, moon, etc., but beyond this there is a nonmanifested portion which is not approachable to anyone in this body. And beyond that nonmanifested matter there is the spiritual kingdom. That kingdom is described in the Bhagavad-gita as supreme and eternal. It is never annihilated. This material nature is subjected to repeated creation and annihilation. But that part, the spiritual nature, remains as it is, eternally.
The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is also described in the Brahma-samhita as the abode of cintamani. That abode of Lord Krsna known as Goloka Vrndavana is full of palaces made of touchstone. There the trees are called desire trees, and the cows are called surabhi. The Lord is served there by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. His name is Govinda, the Primeval Lord, and He is the cause of all causes. There the Lord plays His flute, His eyes are like lotus petals, and the color of His body is like that of a beautiful cloud. On His head is a peacock feather. He is so attractive that He excels thousands of Cupids. Lord Krsna gives only a little hint in the Gita of His personal abode which is the supermost planet in the spiritual kingdom. But in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Krsna actually appears with all His paraphernalia and demonstrates His activities in Vrndavana, then at Mathura, and then at Dvaraka. The subject matter of this book will gradually reveal all these activities.
The family in which Krsna appeared is called the Yadu dynasty. This Yadu dynasty belongs to the family descending from Soma, the god in the moon planet. There are two different ksatriya families of the royal order, one descending from the king of the moon planet and the other descending from the king of the sun planet. Whenever the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears, He generally appears in a ksatriya family because He has to establish religious principles or the life of righteousness. The ksatriya family is the protector of the human race, according to the Vedic system. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Ramacandra, He appeared in the family descending from the sun-god, known as Raghu-vamsa; and when He appeared as Lord Krsna, He did so in the family of Yadu-vamsa. There is a long list of the kings of the Yadu-vamsa in the Ninth Canto, 24th Chapter, of Srimad-Bhagavatam. All of them were great powerful kings. Krsna's father's name was Vasudeva, son of Surasena, descending from the Yadu dynasty. Actually, the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not belong to any dynasty of this material world, but the family in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears becomes famous, by His grace. For example, sandalwood is produced in the states of Malaya. Sandalwood has its own qualifications apart from Malaya, but because, accidentally, this wood is mainly produced in the states of Malaya, it is known as Malayan sandalwood. Similarly, Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead belongs to everyone, but just as the sun rises from the east, although there are other directions from which it could rise, so, by His own choice, the Lord appears in a particular family, and that family becomes famous.
When Krsna appears, all His plenary expansions also appear with Him. Krsna appeared along with Balarama (Baladeva), who is known as His elder brother. Balarama is the origin of Sankarsana, of the quadruple expansion. Balarama is also the plenary expansion of Krsna. In this book, the attempt will be made to show how Krsna appeared in the family of the Yadu dynasty and how He displayed His transcendental characteristics. This is very vividly described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam--specifically, the Tenth Canto--and the basis of this book will be Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The pastimes of the Lord are generally heard and relished by liberated souls. Those who are conditioned souls are interested in reading fictional stories of the material activities of some common man. Narrations describing the transcendental activities of the Lord are found in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Puranas. But, the conditioned souls still prefer to study ordinary narrations. They are not so interested in studying the narrations of the pastimes of the Lord, Krsna. And yet, the descriptions of the pastimes of Lord Krsna are so attractive that they are relishable for all classes of men. There are three classes of men in this world. One class consists of liberated souls, another consists of those who are trying to be liberated, and the third consists of materialistic men. Whether one is liberated or is trying to be liberated, or is even grossly materialistic, the pastimes of Lord Krsna are worth studying.
Liberated souls have no interest in materialistic activities. The impersonalist theory that after liberation one becomes inactive and needs hear nothing does not prove that a liberated person is actually inactive. A living soul cannot be inactive. He is either active in the conditioned state or in the liberated state. A diseased person, for example, is also active, but his activities are all painful. The same person, when freed from the diseased condition, is still active, but in the healthy condition the activities are full of pleasure. Similarly, the impersonalists manage to get freed from the diseased conditional activities, but they have no information of activities in the healthy condition. Those who are actually liberated and in full knowledge take to hearing the activities of Krsna; such engagement is pure spiritual activity.
It is essential for persons who are actually liberated to hear about the pastimes of Krsna. That is the supreme relishable subject matter for one in the liberated state. Also, if persons who are trying to be liberated hear such narrations as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, then their path of liberation becomes very clear. Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of Srimad-Bhagavatam. By studying the Gita, one becomes fully conscious of the position of Lord Krsna; and when he is situated at the lotus feet of Krsna, he understands the narrations of Krsna as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Lord Caitanya has therefore advised His followers that their business is to propagate Krsna-katha.
Krsna-katha means narrations about Krsna. There are two Krsna-kathas: narrations spoken by Krsna and narrations spoken about Krsna. Bhagavad-gita is the narration or the philosophy or the science of God, spoken by Krsna Himself. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the narration about the activities and transcendental pastimes of Krsna. Both are Krsna-katha. It is the order of Lord Caitanya that Krsna-katha should be spread all over the world, because if the conditioned souls, suffering under the pangs of material existence, take to Krsna-katha, then their path of liberation will be open and clear. The purpose of presenting this book is primarily to induce people to understand Krsna or Krsna-katha, because thereby they can become freed from material bondage.
This Krsna-katha will also be very much appealing to the most materialistic persons because Krsna's pastimes with the gopis (cowherd girls) are exactly like the loving affairs between young girls and boys within this material world. Actually, the sex feeling found in human society is not unnatural because this same sex feeling is there in the original Personality of Godhead. The pleasure potency is called Srimati Radharani. The attraction of loving affairs on the basis of sex feeling is the original feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we, the conditioned souls, being part and parcel of the Supreme, have such feelings also, but they are experienced within a perverted, minute condition. Therefore, when those who are after sex life in this material world hear about Krsna's pastimes with the gopis, they will relish transcendental pleasure, although it appears to be materialistic. The advantage will be that they will gradually be elevated to the spiritual platform. In the Bhagavatam it is stated that if one hears the pastimes of Lord Krsna with the gopis from authorities with submission, then he will be promoted to the platform of transcendental loving service to the Lord, and the material disease of lust within his heart will be completely vanquished. In other words, it will counteract the material sex life.
Krsna will be appealing to the liberated souls and to persons who are trying to be liberated, as well as to the gross, conditioned materialist. According to the statement of Maharaja Pariksit, who heard about Krsna from Sukadeva Gosvami, Krsna-katha is equally applicable to every human being, in whatever condition of life he is in. Everyone will appreciate it to the highest magnitude. But Maharaja Pariksit also warned that persons who are simply engaged in killing animals and in killing themselves may not be very much attracted to Krsna-katha. In other words, ordinary persons who are following the regulative moral principles of scriptures, no matter in what condition they are found, will certainly be attracted, but not persons who are killing themselves. The exact word used in the Srimad-Bhagavatam is pasughna, which means killing animals or killing oneself. Persons who are not self-realized and who are not interested in spiritual realization are killing themselves; they are committing suicide. Because this human form of life is especially meant for self-realization, by neglecting this important part of his activities, one simply wastes his time like the animals. So he is pasughna. The other meaning of the word refers to those who are actually killing animals. This means persons who are animal eaters (even dog eaters), and they are all engaged in killing animals in so many ways, such as hunting, opening slaughterhouses, etc. Such persons cannot be interested in Krsna-katha.
King Pariksit was especially interested in hearing Krsna-katha because he knew that his forefathers and particularly his grandfather, Arjuna, were victorious in the great battle of Kuruksetra only because of Krsna. We may also take this material world as a battlefield of Kuruksetra. Everyone is struggling hard for existence in this battlefield, and at every step there is danger. According to Maharaja Pariksit, the battlefield of Kuruksetra was just like a vast ocean full of dangerous animals. His grandfather Arjuna had to fight with such great heroes as Bhisma, Drona, Karna, and many others who were not ordinary fighters. Such warriors have been compared to the timingila fish in the ocean. The timingila fish can very easily swallow up big whales. The great fighters on the battlefield of Kuruksetra could swallow many, many Arjunas very easily, but simply due to Krsna's mercy, Arjuna was able to kill all of them. Just as one can cross with no exertion over the little pit of water contained in the hoofprint of a calf, so Arjuna, by the grace of Krsna, was able to very easily jump over the ocean of the battle of Kuruksetra.
Maharaja Pariksit very much appreciated Krsna's activities for many other reasons. Not only was his grandfather saved by Krsna, but he himself also was saved by Krsna. At the end of the battle of Kuruksetra, all the members of the Kuru dynasty, both the sons and grandsons on the side of Dhrtarastra, as well as those on the side of the Pandavas, died in the fighting. Except the five Pandava brothers, everyone died on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. Maharaja Pariksit was at that time within the womb of his mother. His father, Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna, also died on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, and so Maharaja Pariksit was a posthumous child. When he was in the womb of his mother, a brahmastra weapon was released by Asvatthama to kill the child. When Pariksit Maharaja's mother, Uttara, approached Krsna, Krsna, seeing the danger of abortion, entered her womb as the Supersoul and saved Maharaja Pariksit. Maharaja Pariksit's other name is Visnurata because he was saved by Lord Visnu Himself while still within the womb.
Thus everyone, in any condition of life, should be interested in hearing about Krsna and His activities because He is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. He is all-pervading; He is living within everyone's heart, and He is living as His universal form. And yet, as described in the Bhagavad-gita, He appears as He is in the human society just to invite everyone to His transcendental abode, back to home, back to Godhead. Everyone should be interested in knowing about Krsna, and this book is presented with this purpose: that people may know about Krsna and be perfectly benefited in this human form of life.
In the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Baladeva is described as the son of Rohini, a wife of Vasudeva. Vasudeva, the father of Krsna, had sixteen wives, and one of them was Rohini, the mother of Balarama. But Balarama is also described as the son of Devaki, so how could He be the son of both Devaki and Rohini? This was one of the questions put by Maharaja Pariksit to Sukadeva Gosvami, and it will be answered in due course. Maharaja Pariksit also asked Sukadeva Gosvami why Sri Krsna, just after His appearance as the son of Vasudeva, was immediately carried to the house of Nanda Maharaja in Vrndavana, Gokula. He also wanted to know what the activities of Lord Krsna were while He was in Vrndavana and while He was in Mathura. Besides that, he was especially inquisitive to know why Krsna killed His maternal uncle, Kamsa. Kamsa, being the brother of His mother, was a very intimate superior to Krsna, so how was it that He killed Kamsa? Also, he asked how many years Lord Krsna remained in human society, how many years He reigned over the kingdom of Dvaraka, and how many wives He accepted there. A ksatriya king is generally accustomed to accept more than one wife; therefore Maharaja Pariksit also inquired about His number of wives. The subject matter of this book is Sukadeva Gosvami's answering of these and other questions asked by Maharaja Pariksit.
The position of Maharaja Pariksit and Sukadeva Gosvami is unique. Maharaja Pariksit is the right person to hear about the transcendental pastimes of Krsna, and Sukadeva Gosvami is the right person to describe them. If such a fortunate combination is made possible, then Krsna-katha immediately becomes revealed, and people may benefit to the highest possible degree from such a conversation.
This narration was presented by Sukadeva Gosvami when Maharaja Pariksit was prepared to give up his body, fasting on the bank of the Ganges. In order to assure Sukadeva Gosvami that by hearing Krsna-katha he would not feel tired, Maharaja Pariksit expressed himself very frankly: "Hunger and thirst may give trouble to ordinary persons or to me, but the topics of Krsna are so nice that one can continue to hear about them without feeling tired because such hearing situates one in the transcendental position." It is understood that one must be very fortunate to hear about Krsna-katha seriously, like Maharaja Pariksit. He was especially intent on the subject matter because he was expecting death at any moment. Every one of us should be conscious of death at every moment. This life is not at all assured; at any time one can die. It does not matter whether one is a young man or an old man. So before death takes place, we must be fully Krsna conscious.
At the point of his death, King Pariksit was hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam from Sukadeva Gosvami. When King Pariksit expressed his untiring desire to hear about Krsna, Sukadeva Gosvami was very pleased. Sukadeva was the greatest of all Bhagavata reciters, and thus he began to speak about Krsna's pastimes, which destroy all inauspiciousness in this age of Kali. Sukadeva Gosvami thanked the King for his eagerness to hear about Krsna, and he encouraged him by saying, "My dear King, your intelligence is very keen because you are so eager to hear about the pastimes of Krsna." He informed Maharaja Pariksit that hearing and chanting of the pastimes of Krsna are so auspicious that the processes purifies the three varieties of men involved: he who recites the transcendental topics of Krsna, he who hears such topics, and he who inquires about Him. These pastimes are just like the Ganges water which flows from the toe of Lord Visnu: they purify the three worlds, the upper, middle and lower planetary systems.
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