His Forms Are One and the Same
By devotional service one can understand that Krsna first of all manifests Himself as svayam-rupa, His personal form, then as tadekatma-rupa, and then as avesa-rupa. It is in these three features that He manifests Himself in His transcendental form. The feature of svayam-rupa is the form by which Krsna can be understood by one who may not understand His other features. In other words, the form by which Krsna is directly understood is called svayam-rupa, or His personal form. The tadekatma-rupa is that form which most resembles the svayam-rupa, but there are some differences in the bodily features. The tadekatma-rupa is divided into two manifestations-the personal expansion (svamsa) and the pastime expansion (vilasa). As far as the avesa-rupa is concerned, when Krsna empowers some suitable living entity to represent Him, that living entity is called avesa-rupa, or saktyavesa-avatara.
The personal form of Krsna can be divided into two: svayam-rupa and svayam-prakasa. As far as His svayam-rupa (or pastime form) is concerned, it is in that form that He remains always in Vrndavana with the inhabitants of Vrndavana. This personal form (svayam-rupa) can be further divided into the prabhava and vaibhava forms. For instance, Krsna expanded Himself in multiple forms during the rasa dance in order to dance with each and every gopi who took part in forms in order to accommodate His 16,108 wives. There are some instances of great mystics' also expanding their bodily features in different ways, but Krsna did not expand Himself by any yoga process. Each expansion of Krsna was a separate individual. In Vedic history, Saubhari Rsi, a sage, expanded himself into eight forms by the yoga process, but Saubhari Rsi remained one. As far as Krsna is concerned, when He manifested Himself in different forms, each and every one of them was a separate individual. When Narada Muni visited Krsna at different palaces at Dvaraka, he was astonished at this, and yet Narada is never astonished to see expansions of a yogi's body, since he knows the trick himself. Yet in Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that Narada was actually astonished to see the expansions of Krsna. He wondered how the Lord was present with His queens in each and every one of His 16,108 palaces. With each queen, Krsna Himself was in a different form, and He was acting in different ways. In one form He was engaged in playing with His children, and in yet another form He was performing some household work. These different activities are conducted by the Lord when He is in His "emotional" forms, which are known as vaibhava-prakasa expansions. Similarly, there are other unlimited expansions of the forms of Krsna, but even when they are divided or expanded without limit, they are still one and the same. There is no difference between one form and another. That is the absolute nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that when Akrura was accompanying both Krsna and Balarama from Gokula to Mathura, he entered into the waters of the Yamuna River and could see in the waters all the planets in the spiritual sky. He also saw there the Lord in His Visnu form as well as Narada and the four Kumaras, who were worshiping Him. As stated in the Bhagavata Purana (SB 10.40.7):
There are many worshipers who are purified by different processes of worship-such as the Vaisnavas or the Aryans-who also worship the Supreme Lord according to their convictions and spiritual understanding. Each process of worship involves understanding different forms of the Lord, as mentioned in scriptures, but the ultimate idea is to worship the Supreme Lord Himself.
In His vaibhava-prakasa feature, the Lord manifests Himself as Balarama. The Balarama feature is as good as Krsna Himself, the only difference being that the bodily hue of Krsna is dark and that of Balarama is fair. The vaibhava-prakasa form was also displayed when Krsna appeared before His Mother Devaki in the four-handed form of Narayana, just when He entered the world. At the request of His parents, however, He transformed Himself into a two-handed form. Thus He sometimes manifests four hands and sometimes two. The two-handed form is actually vaibhava-prakasa, and the four-handed form is prabhava-prakasa. In His personal form, Krsna is just like a cowherd boy, and He thinks of Himself in that way. But when He is in the Vasudeva form, He thinks of Himself as the son of a ksatriya and acts as a princely administrator.
In the two-handed form, as the cowherd son of Nanda Maharaja, Krsna fully exhibits His opulence, form, beauty, wealth, attractiveness and pastimes. Indeed, in some of the Vaisnava literatures it is found that sometimes, in His form as Vasudeva, He becomes attracted to the form of Govinda in Vrndavana. Thus as Vasudeva He sometimes desires to enjoy as the cowherd boy Govinda does, although the Govinda form and the Vasudeva form are one and the same. In this regard, there is a passage in the Fourth Chapter of the Lalita-madhava (4.19), in which Krsna addresses Uddhava as follows: "My dear friend, the form of Govinda, the cowherd boy, attracts Me. Indeed, I wish to be like the damsels of Vraja, who are also attracted by this form of Govinda." Similarly, in the Eighth Chapter, Krsna says: "O how wonderful it is! Who is this person? After seeing Him, I am so attracted that I am now desiring to embrace Him just like Radhika."
There are also forms of Krsna which are a little different, and these are called tadekatma-rupa forms. These may be further divided into the vilasa and svamsa forms, which in turn have many different features and can be divided into prabhava and vaibhava forms. As far as the vilasa forms are concerned, there are innumerable prabhava-vilasas by which Krsna expands Himself as Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. Sometimes the Lord thinks of Himself as a cowherd boy, and sometimes He thinks of Himself as the son of Vasudeva, a ksatriya prince, and this "thinking" of Krsna is called His "pastimes." Actually He is in the same form in His vaibhava-prakasa and prabhava-vilasa, but He appears differently as Balarama and Krsna. His expansions as Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are in the original catur-vyuha, or four-handed forms.
There are innumerable four-handed manifestations in different planets and different places, and they are manifested in Dvaraka and Mathura eternally. From the four principal four-handed forms (Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha) there are manifest the principal twenty-four forms called vaibhava-vilasa, and they are named differently according to the placement of different symbols (conch, mace, lotus and disc) in their hands. The four principal manifestations of Krsna are found in each planet in the spiritual sky, and these planets are called Narayanaloka or Vaikunthaloka. In the Vaikunthaloka He is manifested in the four-handed form of Narayana. From each Narayana the forms of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are manifested. Thus Narayana is the center, and the four forms of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha surround the Narayana form. Each of these four forms again expand into three, and these all have different names, beginning with Kesava. These forms are twelve in all, and they are known by different names according to the placement of symbols in their hands.
As far as the Vasudeva form is concerned, the three expansions manifested from Him are Kesava, Narayana and Madhava. The three forms of Sankarsana are known as Govinda, Visnu and Sri Madhusudana. (It should be noted, however, that this Govinda form is not the same Govinda form that is manifested in Vrndavana as the son of Nanda Maharaja.) Similarly, Pradyumna is also divided into three forms known as Trivikrama, Vamana and Sridhara; and the three forms of Aniruddha are known as Hrsikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara.
Link to this page: http://prabhupadabooks.com/tlc/6