Praśnottara (A Question and Answer Concerning Śrī Kṛṣṇa Saṁhitā) is an undated article by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura which was republished in the 18th volume of the Gauḍīya Magazine in 1939. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura answers a question concerning the Bhāgavatam’s narration of kṛṣṇa-līlā, as found in his work, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Saṁhitā.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
An inquirer has sent us the following question in writing. Considering that many people have such doubts, we have published the answer to this question in our magazine to dispel the doubts of the general public.
QUESTION: After reading Śrī Kṛṣṇa Saṁhitā, I have understood that kṛṣṇa-līlā is neither mundane nor historical. Aren’t the narrations about Kṛṣṇa in the Bhāgavata historical? In order to pacify those persons with komala-śraddhā (tender faith), has the worshippable Vyāsadeva presented teachings on kṛṣna-tattva that suggest that Kṛṣna accepted a human form? I would like to know which amongst the narrations in the Bhāgavata are samādhi-labdha-jñāna (realisations attained through samādhi) and which are historical narratives.
ANSWER: The līlā of Śrī Kṛṣṇa which is described in Śrīmad Bhāgavata, which is the embodiment of the essence of the Vedas, is entirely aprākṛta (transcendental to matter) and realised through samādhi. There is nothing mundane or historical about it. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s līlā, birth, activities, form and qualities are all aprākṛta, and there is nothing imaginary about it. It is eternally true and spiritual. In Dvāpara-yuga, the Supreme Truth, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, by His independent will, manifests that nitya-līlā in this material world by the power of His acintya-śakti. There is no material law by which the mysterious happenings of such spiritual principles arises within this material world. However, the acintya-śakti of the Supreme is not subject to any rules and is always independent. Therefore, the nitya-līlā transcends all the laws of nature that arise within the material world. Even though it has arisen, that manifested principle expands as three different realisations according to the three different levels of adhikāra (eligibility) of a jīva. The three kinds of adhikāra of the jīva are karmādhikāra, namely those that are in ignorance and covered over by materialism, jñānādhikāra, or those who are devoid of materialism who aim towards nirviśeṣa (Brahman without any attributes), and bhaktyādhikāra, meaning those who have the ability to realise aprākṛta-tattva. These are the three kinds of realisations – the jaḍa-pratīta, or mundane realisation (wherein Kṛṣṇa and His līlā are perceived as material), the adhyātmika-pratīta, or psychological realisation (where it is observed that the consideration of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the main principle, is covered by the inexplicable knowledge of Brahman, and the manifest līlā of Kṛṣṇa is thought to be due to māyā and are these māyika elements are subject to time, place, circumstance etc.), and the aprākṛta-pratīta, or transcendental realisation (where one accepts Śrī Kṛṣna as possessing all qualities of the Supreme, and through the acintya-śakti, all transcendental principles are seen to be all-victorious). If the principle of līlā is said to be historical, then it is a māyika principle which is subject to place and time. If it is said to be imaginary, then that is impersonal. Pure devotees do not accept either of them.
The transcendental principle of līlā-tattva is available through samādhi. Samādhi is of two types – adhyātmika (psychological) and sākṣāṭ (directly perceived). Adhyātmika-samādhi cannot reflect the diversity of transcendence because impersonal realisation diminishes the manifestation of transcendence from the very beginning. Sākṣāṭ–samādhi is the specific activity of the jīva’s spiritual eye. That is only obtained due to the vow of the pure devotees to see things from a purely spiritual perspective. Vyāsadeva, by his sākṣāṭ-samādhi, saw the non-difference and eternal variegatedness of the līlā within the eternal dhāma manifested within the material world, which he revealed in the Śrīmad Bhāgavata. Thus:
bhakti-yogena manasi samyak praṇihite ’male
apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ māyāṁ ca tad-apāśrayām
yayā sammohito jīva ātmānaṁ tri-guṇātmakam
paro ’pi manute ’narthaṁ tat-kṛtaṁ cābhipadyate
anarthopaśamaṁ sākṣād bhakti-yogam adhokṣaje
lokasyājānato vidvāṁś cakre sātvata-saṁhitām
yasyāṁ vai śrūyamāṇāyāṁ kṛṣṇe parama-pūruṣe
bhaktir utpadyate puṁsaḥ śoka-moha-bhayāpahā
(“In Vyāsa’s mind which was without any mundanity, and perfectly connected and fully applied to bhakti, he saw the Supreme Person, complete with His māyā potency which is under His control. Although the jīva is separate the three material modes, due to the bewilderment of māyā, he considers himself made to be made of matter and accepts unnecessary material existence. These unnecessary things are mitigated by direct engagement in bhakti-yoga. The learned Vyāsa thus wrote this literature for those persons who are ignorant. By hearing this, bhakti for Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, arises, and it also removes lamentation, illusion and fear in the living entity.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.7.4-7)
Such direct experience of aprākṛta-līlā never occurs in the minds of the karmīs who are corrupted by material sense-objects, or in the minds of the jñānīs who are ruined by impersonalism. Only realisations based on ignorance are available to them. Only in the mirror of the pure mind of those devotees who are free from māyā, that inquire about the special variegatedness of transcendental subjects does the realisation of true knowledge arise. Although kṛṣṇa-līlā manifests in the material world, it is perceived as māyika-līlā by persons devoid of bhakti. Even when the sun rises, it is not visible to men who are born blind, those possessing eyes that are fully diseased, and when there are clouds in the sky. The same is true of kṛṣṇa-līlā when it manifests in the eyes of the material world.
What to speak of those engaged in gross material activities, even for those persons who are seeking knowledge, the aprākṛta-līlā is very distant. When a jīva understands karma and jñāna to be useless, and attains śraddhā for those things related to bhakti, then he takes shelter at the feet of a sādhu-guru and attains instructions on transcendental topics. The continuous practice of cultivating such advice on transcendental topics is called bhajana-kriyā. As long as aprākṛta-tattva is not directly perceived at the stage of sādhana, one’s bhajana remains only in the form of bhajanābhāsa (a mere reflection of bhajana). But when bhajana occurs with great attachment for transcendental rasa-tattva, taking it to be the coveted goal, then only due to the potency transmitted from the mercy of Bhagavān, sākṣāṭ-samādhi, in the form of realisation of one’s svarūpa (original form), takes place. Thus:
bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi dṛṣṭa evātmanīśvare
(“The knot within the heart is pierced and all doubts are destroyed. Upon seeing the Lord within the mind and with the eyes, one’s karma is eradicated.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.21)
In this way, those that are inquiring have no more doubts. Therefore before starting to engage in bhajana, asking questions and attaining answers to those questions never leads to a rise in the perception of one’s svarūpa. If one simply accepts the successive steps in the attainment of one’s svarūpa, then the expected object will be obtained.
All the līlās described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavata are for the kaniṣṭha, madhyama and uttama-adhikārīs. All these līlās have gradations of revelation only according to these differences in adhikāra (qualification). Except for kṛṣṇa-līlā, everything that is described there, such as the biographies of the kings, are historical accounts, but kṛṣṇa-līlā is entirely aprākṛta. It is never the psychological imaginative history of the jñānīs, nor the mundane historical description of the karmīs. Although it is manifest in this material world, kṛṣṇa-līlā never abandons its aprākṛta nature. In other words, it is not subject to time, place etc. Thus, whatever is perceived under the influence of time, place etc, are merely the impure, ignorant realisations of the jīvas, who are the spectators of that līlā, based upon the differences found in their qualifications.
Many people do not understand the purpose of Kṛṣṇa-Saṁhitā and search for a psychological meaning in it. That is useless. If you search for a transcendental meaning, you will understand the purpose of this book.