Unlimited Forms of Godhead
According to the Vaisnava almanac, the twelve months of the year are named according to the twelve Vaikuntha forms of Lord Krsna, and these forms are known as the predominating Deities for the twelve months. This calendar begins with the month of Margasirsa, which is equivalent to late October and early November. The remainder of November is known by Vaisnavas as Kesava. December is called Narayana, January is called Madhava, February is Govinda, March is Visnu, April Sri Madhusudana, May Trivikrama, June Vamana, July Sridhara, August Hrsikesa, September Padmanabha, and early October is known as Damodara. (The name Damodara was given to Krsna when He was bound by ropes by His mother, but the Damodara form in the month of October is a different manifestation). Just as the months of the year are known according to the twelve different names of the Supreme Lord, the Vaisnava community marks twelve parts of the body according to these names. For instance, the tilaka mark on the forehead is called Kesava, and on the stomach, breast and arms the other names are also given. These are the same names as those given the months.
The four forms (Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha) are also expanded in the vilasa-murti. These are eight in number, and their names are Purusottama, Acyuta, Nrsimha, Janardana, Hari, Krsna, Adhoksaja and Upendra. Out of these eight, Adhoksaja and Purusottama are the vilasa forms of Vasudeva. Similarly, Upendra and Acyuta are the forms of Sankarsana; Nrsimha and Janardana are the forms of Pradyumna, and Hari and Krsna are the vilasa forms of Aniruddha. (This Krsna is different from the original Krsna.)
These twenty-four forms are known as the vilasa manifestation of the prabhava (four-handed) form, and they are named differently according to the position of the symbolic representations (mace, disc, lotus flower and conch shell). Out of these twenty-four forms there are vilasa and vaibhava forms. Names mentioned herein, such as Pradyumna, Trivikrama, Vamana, Hari and Krsna, are also different in features. Then, coming to the prabhava-vilasa of Krsna (including Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha), there are a total of twenty further variations. All of these have Vaikuntha planets in the spiritual sky and are situated in eight different directions. Although each of them is eternally in the spiritual sky, some of them are nonetheless manifest in the material world also.
In the spiritual sky all the planets dominated by the Narayana feature are eternal. The topmost planet in the spiritual sky is called Krsnaloka and is divided into three different portions: Gokula, Mathura and Dvaraka. In the Mathura portion, the form of Kesava is always situated. He is also represented on this earthly planet. In Mathura, India, the Kesava murti is worshiped, and similarly there is a Purusottama form in Jagannatha Puri in Orissa. In Anandaranya there is the form of Visnu, and in Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, there is the form of Hari. Many other forms are also situated in various places on the earth. Not only in this universe but in all other universes as well the forms of Krsna are distributed everywhere. It is indicated that this earth is divided into seven islands, which are the seven continents, and it is understood that on each and every island there are similar forms, but at the present moment these are found only in India. Although from Vedic literatures we can understand that there are forms in other parts of the world, at present there is no information of their location.
The different forms of Krsna are distributed throughout the universe to give pleasure to the devotees. It is not that devotees are born only in India. There are devotees in all parts of the world, but they have simply forgotten their identity. These forms incarnate not only to give pleasure to the devotee but to reestablish devotional service and perform other activities which vitally concern the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some of these forms are incarnations mentioned in the scriptures, such as the Visnu incarnation, Trivikrama incarnation, Nrsimha incarnation and Vamana incarnation.
In the Siddhartha-samhita, there is a description of the twenty-four forms of Visnu, and these forms are named according to the position of the symbolic representations in Their four hands. When one describes the positions of objects in the hands of the Visnu murti, one should begin with the lower right hand then move to the upper right hand, upper left hand and, finally, to the lower left hand. In this way, Vasudeva may be described as being represented by mace, conch shell, disc and lotus flower. Sankarsana is represented by mace, conch shell, lotus flower and disc. Similarly, Pradyumna is represented by disc, conch shell, mace and lotus flower. Aniruddha is represented by disc, mace, conch shell and lotus flower. In the spiritual sky the representations of Narayana are twenty in number and are described as follows: Sri Kesava (flower, conch shell, disc, mace), Narayana (conch, flower, mace and disc), Sri Madhava (mace, disc, conch and flower), Sri Govinda (disc, mace, flower and conch), Visnu-murti (mace, flower, conch and disc), Madhusudana (disc, conch, flower and mace), Trivikrama (flower, mace, disc and shell), Sri Vamana (conch, disc, mace and flower), Sridhara (flower, disc, mace and shell), Hrsikesa (mace, disc, flower and conch), Padmanabha (shell, flower, disc and mace), Damodara (flower, disc, mace and shell), Purusottama (disc, flower, shell and mace), Acyuta (mace, flower, disc and shell), Nrsimha (disc, flower, mace and shell), Janardana (flower, disc, shell and mace), Sri Hari (shell, disc, flower and mace), Sri Krsna (shell, mace, flower and disc), Adhoksaja (flower, mace, shell and disc), and Upendra (shell, mace, disc and flower).
According to the Hayasirsa-pancaratra, there are sixteen forms, and these forms are named differently according to the situations of the disc and mace. The conclusion is that the Supreme Original Personality of Godhead is Krsna. He is called lila-purusottama, and He resides principally in Vrndavana as the son of Nanda. It is also learned from the Hayasirsa-pancaratra that there are nine forms protecting each of the two Puris known as the Mathura Puri and the Dvaraka Puri: Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha protect one, and Narayana, Nrsimha, Hayagriva, Varaha and Brahma-protect the other. These are different manifestations of the prakasa and vilasa forms of Lord Krsna.
Lord Caitanya also informs Sanatana Gosvami that there are different forms of svamsa as well, and these are divided into the Sankarsana division and the incarnation division. From the first division come the three purusa-avataras-the Karanodakasayi Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu and Ksirodakasayi Visnu-and from the other division come the lila-avataras, such as the Lord's incarnations as a fish, tortoise, etc.
There are six kinds of incarnations: (1) the purusa-avatara, (2) the lila-avatara, (3) the guna-avatara, (4) the manvantara-avatara, (5) the yuga-avatara, and (6) the saktyavesa-avatara. Out of the six vilasa manifestations of Krsna, there are two divisions based on His age, and these are called balya and pauganda. As the son of Nanda Maharaja, Krsna in His original form enjoys both of these childhood aspects-namely balya and pauganda.
It is thus safe to conclude that there is no end to the expansions and incarnations of Krsna. Lord Caitanya explains some of them to Sanatana just to give him an idea of how the Lord expands and enjoys. These conclusions are also confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.26). There it is said that there is no limit to the incarnations of the Supreme Lord, just as there is no limit to the waves of the ocean.
Krsna first incarnates as the three purusa-avataras, namely the Maha-Visnu or Karanodakasayi avatara, the Garbhodakasayi avatara and the Ksirodakasayi avatara. This is confirmed in the Satvata-tantra. Krsna's energies can also be divided into three: His energy of thinking feeling and acting. When He exhibits His thinking energy, He is the Supreme Lord; when He exhibits His feeling energy, He is Lord Vasudeva; when He exhibits His acting energy, He is Sankarsana Balarama. Without His thinking, feeling and acting, there would be no possibility of creation. Although there is no creation in the spiritual world-for there the planets are beginningless-there is creation in the material world. In either case, however, both the spiritual and material worlds are manifestations of the energy of acting, in which Krsna acts in the form of Sankarsana and Balarama.
The spiritual world of the Vaikuntha planets and Krsnaloka, the supreme planet, is situated in His energy of thinking. Although there is no creation in the spiritual world, which is eternal, it is still to be understood that the Vaikuntha planets depend on the thinking energy of the Supreme Lord. This thinking energy is described in Brahma-samhita (5.2), where it is said that the supreme abode, known as Goloka, is manifested like a lotus flower with hundreds of petals. Everything there is manifested by Ananta, the Balarama or Sankarsana form. The material cosmic manifestation and its different universes are manifest through maya, or material energy. However, one should not think that material nature or material energy is the cause of this cosmic manifestation. Rather, it is caused by the Supreme Lord, who uses His different expansions through material nature. In other words, there is no possibility of any creation without the superintendence of the Supreme Lord. The form by which the energy of material nature works to bring about creation is called the Sankarsana form, and it is understood that this cosmic manifestation is created under the superintendence of the Supreme Lord.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.46.31) it is said that Balarama and Krsna are the origin of all living entities and that these two personalities enter into everything. A list of incarnations is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3), and they are as follows: (1) Kumaras, (2) Narada, (3) Varaha, (4) Matsya, (5) Yajna, (6) Nara-narayana, (7) Kardami Kapila, (8) Dattatreya, (9) Hayasirsa, (10) Hamsa, (1 1) Dhruvapriya or Prsnigarbha, (12) Rsabha, (13) Prthu, (14) Nrsimha, (15) Kurma, (16) Dhanvantari, (17) Mohini, (18) Vamana, (19) Bhargava (Parasurama), (20) Raghavendra, (21) Vyasa, (22) Pralambari Balarama, (23) Krsna, (24) Buddha (25) Kalki. Because almost all of these twenty-five lila-avataras appear in one day of Brahma, which is called a kalpa, they are sometimes called kalpa-avataras. Out of these, the incarnation of Hamsa and Mohini are not permanent, but Kapila, Dattatreya, Rsabha, Dhanvantari and Vyasa are five eternal forms, and they are more celebrated. The incarnations of the tortoise Kurma, the fish Matsya, Nara-narayana, Varaha, Hayasirsa, Prsnigarbha, and Balarama are considered to be incarnations of vaibhava. Similarly, there are three guna-avataras, or incarnations of the qualitative modes of nature, and these are Brahma, Visnu and Siva.
Of the manvantara-avataras, there are fourteen: (1) Yajna, (2) Vibhu, (3) Satyasena, (4) Hari, (5) Vaikuntha, (6) Ajita, (7) Vamana, (8) Sarvabhauma, (9) Rsabha, (10) Visvaksena, (11) Dharmasetu, (12) Sudhama, (13) Yogesvara, (14) Brhadbhanu. Out of these fourteen manvantara-avataras, Yajna and Vamana are also lila-avataras, and the rest are manvantara-avataras. These fourteen manvantara-avataras are also known as vaibhava-avataras.
The four yuga-avataras are also described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Satya-yuga, the incarnation of God is white; in the Treta-yuga He is red; in the Dvapara-yuga, He is blackish; and in the Kali-yuga He is also blackish, but sometimes, in a special Kali-yuga, His color is yellowish (as in the case of Caitanya Mahaprabhu). As far as the saktyavesa-avataras are concerned, they include Kapila and Rsabha, Ananta, Brahma (sometimes the Lord Himself becomes Brahma), Catuhsana (the incarnation of knowledge), Narada (the incarnation of devotional service), King Prthu (the incarnation of administrative power), and Parasurama (the incarnation who subdues evil principles).
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