Śrīman Mahāprabhura Śikṣā

Chapter four
Śrī  kṛṣṇa sarva-śakti-sampanna

rī Kṛṣṇa Possesses All Potencies)

For a long time, the subject of śakti and śaktimān has been discussed. Some say that whatever is perceived in the universe is simply śakti. They doubt that such śakti has any śaktimān. Śakti defines and reveals an object. Thus, an object cannot be experienced alone, it can only be experienced through its śakti. We will present one amongst many examples that they give. “The world has various properties such as shape, size etc. That which we call the world is simply a combination of those properties. If those properties become separated from each other, we cannot say what would remain. Qualities and properties are all śaktis. Therefore, the only principle is śakti.”

However, some people argue against this – “Śakti is nothing! It is merely the intrinsic property of a particular substance. When an object appears, it manifests śakti.”

In regards to this debate, great personalities who seek spiritual essence say that śakti is one principle and the śaktimān is another principle. Though both tattvas are separate, they are also inseparable. The human mind is extremely limited, thus it cannot conceive of the deep mutual relationship between śakti and the śaktimān. Objects are separate from one another, yet an object and the śakti of that object are inseparable. Difference and non-difference exist simultaneously. Thus, a nature of inconceivable difference and non-difference exists between an object and its śakti. This is explained in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta.

rādhā pūra śakti, kṛṣṇa pūra śaktimān
dui vastu bheda nahi, śāstra paramāṇa
mga mada tā’ra gandha yaiche aviccheda
agni, jvālāte, yaiche kabhu nahi bheda
rādhā kṛṣṇa aiche sadā ekai svarūpa
līlā-rasa āsvādite dhare dui rūpa

(“Rādhā is the complete potency, and Kṛṣṇa is the possessor of all potencies. According to evidence from the scriptures, there is no difference between these Two. They are inseperable, just as there is no difference between musk and its fragrance, and fire and its heat. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are of the same nature, yet they have accepted two forms in order to relish the mellows of rasa.” – Caitanya-caritāmta, Ādi-līlā 4.96-98)

This is the conclusion found in the Vedas and the Vedānta. In the śāstra it is seen – śakti-śaktimator abheda(“The śakti and the śaktimān are non-different.”)

When deliberating on the principle of the Absolute Substance (vastu-tattva), there is no other reality except for Kṛṣṇa. It is for this reason that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is referred to as the advaya-tattva (that Reality who is one without a second). Those who aspire for Brahman or Paramātmā cannot immediately perceive Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the para-tattva (Supreme Reality). Although that Reality is only one, it appears in three different ways, according to the various qualifications of the observers. A mountain may be seen from three different angles by three different people. On the northern side of the mountain there is mist. The observer who is seeing from that side considers that it is a large rock enveloped by mist. On the southern side there is sunlight. The observer who is seeing from that side considers it to be a bright rock-face. One side of the mountain has no external covering, the observer who sees it from that angle actually sees the mountain as it is.

Similarly, the wise perceive the non-dual Absolute Truth differently according to their various natural proclivities. Those that only cultivate āna in order to comprehend that Reality whose nature is the opposite of matter, search and conclude that He is without qualities, is formless, without śakti and inactive, and they conclude that this is called ‘Brahman’. However, they have not understood the true nature of that substance. Those who search for that Reality through the process of buddhi-yoga perceive Him within themselves in His peaceful form as the Paramātmā, the companion of the ātmā. Those who perceive the Supreme Reality through the process of pure, unalloyed bhakti-yoga, understand that non-dual Reality as He is, complete with all opulence, completely full of all sweetness and the possessor of all śaktis. He is separately manifested and seen by them as Bhagavān, the parama-tattva. It is written in the Kaha Upaniad 1.2.23:

nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo
na medhayā na bahunā śrutena
yam evaia vnute tena labhyas
tasyaia ātmā vivnute tanu svām

(“One cannot attain the Paramātmā by studying the śāstra such as the Vedas etc., by ones own mental capacity, or by hearing many śāstra. The Supreme reveals His own transcendental form unto that person who declares that, “There is only one Master.” Such a person attains Him.”)

Similarly, it is written in the Bhāgavatam 10.14.29:

athāpi te deva-padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda leṣānughīta eva hi
jānāti tattva bhagavān mahimnā
na cānya eko’pi cira vicinvan

 (“O Lord! Only those who attain a slight touch of the mercy from Your two lotus feet can  understand the reality of Your glories. But those that simply deliberate upon the śāstras, cannot understand You in truth even after a long time.”)

The realisations of Brahman and Paramātmā are limited, in other words, by perceiving the limitations of māyā, one realises it’s opposite, which is Brahman. And by perceiving the limitations of māyā as well as the non-dual nature of the Absolute, one realises Paramātmā. But only when one sees that substance with unrestricted, divine eyes, he sees the spiritual form of Bhagavān. That substance manifests from Bhagavān’s form and śaktitattva manifests from His prime śakti (parā-śakti). When one perceives Bhagavān as being devoid of śakti, he has realisation of Brahman without distinctions. According to their inclination, some persons think that this is the ultimate realisation. In reality, realisation of Bhagavān as niḥśakti (without śakti), and nirviśeṣa (without distinction), is Brahman, and Brahman as saviśeṣa (with distinction) and as śaktimān is Bhagavān. Therefore, Bhagavān is the svarūpatattva (the intrinsic form of the Absolute Truth), Brahman is only the manifestation of the effulgence of His form. Paramātmā is His expansion that enters the material universe. He appears to be Brahman when one searches  for that which is nirviśeṣa, yet Bhagavān in His inconceivable form, is replete with qualities, ever-existing, and separate from the world and jīvas. Thus, the Bhāgavata (1.2.11) says;

vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattva yaj jñānām advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate

 “That advayajñāna (knowledge of that non-dual Entity), in other words, that knowledge about the One who is advitīya (without a second), who is the vāstavavastu (that true, abiding substance) – that is the tattvavastu (Supreme Reality) spoke of by the jñānīs. That tattvavastu is first realised as Brahman, secondly as Paramātmā and thirdly as Bhagavān.”

Realization of advayajñāna as subtle and without śakti is Brahman. Realisation of that when He  enters the universe in a subtle form is Paramātmā. When that advaya-jñāna is realised with all attributes, that is realisation of Bhagavān. It should be understood that when aiśvarya is most prominent, then Bhagavān manifests the Name, Śrīpati Nārāyaṇa (the Lord of Lakṣmī), when mādhurya is most prominent, then Bhagavān manifests the Name, Rādhānātha Kṛṣna (the Lord of Rādhā). Therefore Kavirāja Gosvāmī says, rādhā pūrṇa-śakti, kṛṣṇa pūrṇa-śaktimān (“Rādhā is the complete śakti, and Kṛṣṇa is śaktimān“). Whatever is written in this verse is important.

Including His partial manifestations of Brahman and Paramātmā, He completely obscures the aiśvarya of Nārāyaṇa with His nature of mādhurya. Thus, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, with His citśakti, is the only advaya-tattva. Therefore, the Śvetāśvatara Upaniad describes Him thus:

na tasya kārya karaa ca vidyate
na tat samaś cābhyadhikaś ca dṛśyate
parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śruyate
svābhāvikīāna-bala-kriyā ca

Kṛṣṇa does not perform any activity with the aid of mundane senses, this is because he does not possess a material form nor material senses. His divine form is completely spiritual, thus, unlike a material body, His beauty is cannot be restricted only to a particular time, nor can He not be everywhere. Although Kṛṣṇa’s form with it’s unlimited beauty, is immeasurable and omniscient, He specifically performs His nityalīlā in His own transcendental Vṛndāvana. Even so, He is the Supreme Truth. No other form can be equal or greater than Him, since it is the source of the inconceivable potency (avicintyaśakti). The reason it is inconceivable is that it cannot be harmonised by the jīva’s limited intelligence. The name of that avicintyaśakti is parā-śakti. Though it is one, this natural potency has three variances – knowledge (samvit), strength (sandhinī) and action (hlādinī). Therefore in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 2.96, 101-104) it is said:

kṛṣṇera svarūpa āra śakti traya jñāna
yāṅra haya, tāṅra nahi kṛṣṇete ajñāna
cic-chakti svarūpa-śakti antaraṅgā-nāma
tāhāra vaibhāva ananta vaikuṇṭhādi dhāma
māyā śakti bahiraṅgā jagat-kāraa
yāhāra vaibhāva ananta brahmaṇḍera gaa
jīva śakti taasthākya nahi yāra anta
mukhya tina śakti tāra vibheda ananta
ei ta’ svarūpa gaa āra tina śakti
āra āśraya kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇe sabāra sthiti

(“One who knows the intrinsic nature of Kṛṣṇa and His three potencies has no ignorance regarding Him. The cit-śakti, also known by the name ‘svarūpa-śakti’ or antaraṅga-śakti, manifests unlimited Vaikuṇṭha abodes. The māyāśakti, or bahiraṅga, is the cause of the cosmos, and in manifests unlimited material universes. The jīva-śakti, which is known as marginal, has no end. These are the three principle potencies which have unlimited subdivisions. Thus, these are the forms of the Lord and His three potencies. They all take shelter of Kṛṣṇa and He maintains them all.”)

Elsewhere (Madhya-līlā 20.111), the Lord says:

kṛṣṇera svābhāvika tina śakti pariati
cic chakti, jīva-śakti āra māyā śakti

 (“The three intrinsic potencies of Kṛṣṇa transform – they are the cit-śakti, the jīva-śakti and the māyā-śakti.”)

The kārikā says:

śakti svābhāvikī kṛṣṇe trida cety upapadyate
sandhinī tu bala samvij jñāna hlādakarī kriyā
śakti-śaktimato bhedo nāstīti sāra sagraha
tathāpi bheda-vaicitryam acintya-śakti-kāryata
sandhinyā sarvam evaitat nāma-rūpa-guṇādikam
cin-māyā-bhedato bhedo viśva-vaikuṇṭhayo kila
samvidā dvi-vidhaāna cin-māyā bhedata kramāt
cin-māyā-bhedata siddha hlādinyā dvi-vidha sukham
hlādinī śrī svarūpā yā saiva priyaṅkarī
mahābhāva-svarūpa sā hlādinī vārabhānavī

 (In the śāstra, Kṛṣṇa’s threefold intrinsic potencies are described. They are bala [sandhinī], āna [samvit] and kriyā [hlādinī]. The śakti and śaktiman are identical – this is the essence of all the śāstra. However, through the functions of the acintya-śakti, variety can be observed. The function of the sandhinī-śakti is to produce the name, form and attributes of all things. This achieves a distinction between sandhinī’s material and spiritual existence in both the material realm and within Vaikuṇṭha. There are also two types of jñāna – material samvit and spiritual samvit. Similarly there is a spiritual hlādinī and a material hlādinī and these produce the two kinds of pleasure – cid-sukha (spiritual happiness) and māyika-sukha (material happiness). Śrī Svarūpinī, the hlādinīśakti is the dear servant of Kṛṣṇa. She is Śrīmatī Rādhikā, the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu, the manifestation of mahā-bhāva).

Kṛṣṇa has one intrinsic potency known as the parāśakti. She consists of vicitra-vilāsa (varieties of pastimes) and vicitra-ānanda-samvadhinī (the potency to increase varieties of bliss). Although the influence of this śakti is unlimited, from the jīva’s perspective, this influence has three specific interactions. These threefold influences are called cit-śakti, jīva-śakti and māyāśakti. There are many places within the Vedic statements that describe this śakti’s threefold influences. For example (in regards to the citśakti, the mantra in Śvetāśvatara 4.8):

co akare parame vyoman yasmin devā adhiviśve niedu
yas tan na veda kim ca kariyati ya ittad vidus ta ime samāsate

 (“The g Veda speaks about indestructible paravyoma (spiritual sky) – this is where all the Devas reside, yet for one who does not know this, of what use is this ṛk? Those who understand this become successful.”)

Here is a kārikā:

viṣṇu-śaktih parā proktā purāṇe vaiṣṇave tu yā
sā caivātrātmā śaktitve varitā tattva-niraye

 (“In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, the parāśakti of Viṣṇu is mentioned. Within philosophical discourses, this potency of Bhagavān is described as the svarūpa-śakti.”)

In the mantra (1.3) of the Śvetāśvatara is is also said”

te dhyāna-yogānugatā apaśyan devātmāśaktim sva-gunair nigūḍām
ya kāraṇāni nikhilāni tāni kālātmā-yuktāny adhi tiṣṭhaty eka

 That Supreme, who is the śaktimān, manifests along with the jīva and the time factor, as the naturally essential cause and regulator of all things. Those persons who are knowers of Brahman, worship His energy, which possesses His own qualities and influence, through the process of dhyānayoga. They perceive this as the cause of everything.

Concerning the māyāśakti, there is a kārikā:

avidyā-karma saā vā vaisave hy anuvaryate
māyākhyayā ca sā proktā hy āmnāyārtha-viniraye


(“The śakti known as the ‘avidyā-karma saā’ [that ignorance that impels one to perform activities] in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, is called the māyāśakti in the philosophical portion of the Vedas.”)

Thus, it is said in mantra 4.8 of the Śvetāśvatara:

chandāṁsi yajñāḥ kratavo vratāni
bhūta bhavya yac ca vedā vadanti
asmān māyī sjyate viśvam etat
tasmiṁś cānyo māyayā sanniruddha

(“Whatever has been sung about in the Vedas such as the agniṣṭoma yajñā etc., aśvamedha kratu, the candrāyaṇa, past and future – everything is created by the Supreme Person, the controller of māyā. In this world, all other jīvas are bound by māyā.”)

Regarding the taastha-śakti, there is a kārikā:

ketra-jñakhyā ca yā śaktih sā taasthā nirūpitā
jīva-śaktir iti proktā yayā jīvāś cānekadhā

(In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.7.61 – “In regards to the śakti known as ketra-jña which has been mentioned, that is what is meant by ‘taṭasthā’. It is called the ‘jīva-śakti’ and from this potency, unlimited jīvas originate.”)

In the Śvetāśvatara (4.5.) it says:

ajām ekāṁ lohita-śukla-kṛṣṇāṁ
vahvīḥ prajāḥ sjamānāṁ sarūpāḥ
ajo hy eko juamāno’ nuśete
jahaty enāṁ bhukta-bhogām ajo’nya

(“The unborn person, jīva is serving the unborn material nature, which generates numerous material bodies for the living entities and is composed of goodness, passion and ignorance. The other unborn person, paramātmā, is detached from the enjoyment of material nature.

(‘The one who is unborn, who is known as Prakṛti, the who accepts the form of a respectable mother, who creates innumerable progeny and consists of the material modes of sattva, rajaḥ and tama,  is served and worshiped by another unborn personality (the jīva).  Another unborn personality (Paramātmā) is detached from enjoying this Prakṛti.”)

In the Bhagavad-gīta 9.10, 7.4-5):

prakti svām avaṣṭabhya visjāmi puna puna
bhūta-grāmam ima ktsnam avaśa prakter vaśāt
mayādhyakea prakti sūyate sacarācaram
hetunānena kaunteya jagad viparivartate
bhumir apo’nalo vayu kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkara itīya me bhinna praktir aöadhā
apareyam itas tv anya prakti viddhi me param
jīva-bhūtam mahābāho yayeda dhāryate jagat

(“My prakṛti (māyā), with its threefold modes of nature, takes shelter of Me, and that creates the living beings again and again. My personal nature is never disturbed by that.  O Arjuna! Under My shelter, that śakti performs her activities. According to My desire I glance upon that prakṛti. All these activities are under My superintendence. Impelled by that glance, prakṛti creates that which is animate and inanimate in this world. That is why the world manifests over and over again. O Arjuna! My inferior or mundane nature consists of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – these are the eight divisions. Apart from this I have another superior potency. That is the nature of consciousness [caitanya] and the living being [jīva-bhūta]. From that śakti, all the jīvas emanate and they consider the material world to be an object of enjoyment.”)

Through the influence of these three śaktis, the spiritual world, the realm of the jīvas, and the mundane world are created. Within each of these three, the influence of sandhinī, samvit and hlādinī are present. All kinds of spiritual opulence has arisen within the transcendental dhāma,  transcendental time, transcendental variety etc. as a result of the influence of sandhinī within cit-śakti. Kṛṣṇa’s form, name, qualities and pastimes all manifest due to the activities of sandhinī. The influence of samvit upon the cit-śakti results in the manifestation of all the bhāvas which are like transcendental touchstones. The influence of hlādinī on the cit-śakti results in the cultivation of all the bliss of prema. The influence of the sandhinī on the jīvaśakti results in the appearance of the jīva’s spiritual existence, name and residence. The influence of samvit on the jīvaśakti results in the emergence of brahmajñāna (knowledge of the Supreme).

The influence of hlādinī on the jīva-śakti results in the attainment of brahmānanda (transcendental bliss). The bliss of samādhi, or the bliss of attaining oneness with Brahman by practicing aṣṭāṅga-yoga, are also due to this. The influence of sandhinī upon māyāśakti results in the creation of the material cosmos comprising of the fourteen planetary systems, the gross and subtle bodies of the conditioned jīvas, the desired attainment of the conditioned jīvas such as Svarga etc. and the material senses. The material name, form, attributes and activities of the conditioned jīva all arise from this. The influence of samvit upon the māyā-śakti results in the concerns, hopes, imagination and reasoning of the conditioned jīva. The influence of hlādinī on the māyā-śakti results in gross material bliss and the subtle material happiness of Svarga.

In this way, one should understand that the three influences of sandhinī, samvit and hlādinī manifest their pure, absolute, full form in the cit-śakti along with their eternal activities. In the jīva-śakti, these appear in an extremely minute quantity. In the māyā-śakti these appear in a perverted way or only in the form of a glimmer. For the jīva, all the influences of māyā are insignificant. The jīva-śakti’s own influences are not insignificant, but they are meagre. Without any connection between the hlādinī and the cit-śakti, the jīva cannot attain full bliss. This is impossible without the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and the mercy of one who is a recipient of His mercy.

In this regard, a few kārikās have been given thus:

virodha-bhañjikā śakti yuktasya saccidātmāna
vartante yugapad-dharmāḥ paraspara-virodhina
sarūpatvam arūpatva vibhutva mūrtir eva ca
nirlepatva kpāvatvam ajatva jāyamānatā
sarvārādhyatva gopatva sarva-jña nara bhāvatā
saviśeatva-sampattis tathā ca nirviśeatā
sīmāvad yukti-yuktānām asīma-tattva-vastuni
tarko hi viphalas tasm
āc chraddhāmnāye phala pradā

 Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose form is sacchidānanda, has one śakti known as avicintya-virodha-bhañjikā (His inconceivable potency which breaks all contradictions). It is by this śakti that all contradictory natures become non-contradictory and coexist together eternally. Possessing form and being formless, omnipotent and also limited in the form of the Deity, unattached and also showing mercy to His devotees, unborn but also taking birth, most worshipable and accepting the form of a cowherd, omniscient and accepting the position of a human, possessing no qualities but full of qualities etc. – all such unlimited contradictory qualities appear in the beautiful form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and assist His own activities in service Śrī Rādhā, the hlādinī-śakti who is replete with mahābhāva. Those who argue about this are utterly deprived. At the very outset of arguing, one should bear in mind that the mind of a human being is extremely limited, and thus it is not possible to determine such an inconceivable principle. A fortunate person abandons dry logic and accepts the statements of the āmnāya with śraddhā. From the seed of śraddhā, the bhakti-latā (creeper of bhakti) sprouts, and eventually one attains the feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. There are many  statements in the āmnāya about all this. At this point we will quote one or two.

apāṇipādo javano grahītā paśyaty acaku sa śṛnoty akara
sa vetti vedya na ca tasyāsti vettā tam āhur agrya purua mahāntam
(Śvetāśvatara  3.19)

 (Bhagavān has no material hands or feet, yet He accepts things and can go everywhere. He has no material eyes, yet He sees the three phases of time, and He is without material ears, and He hears. He knows all things, but no one ca know him. Those who know the Supreme refer to Him as the primeval Supreme Person.)

tad ejati tan naijati tad dūre tadvantike
tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyāsya bahyata

(That Supreme Ātmā is moving and non-moving, far and near, within the universe and also present outside it.)

saparyagāc chukram akāyam avranam asnāvira śuddham apāpaviddham
kavir manīṣī paribhu svaya bhur yathātyato’rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhya samābhya

 (The Paramātmā pervades everything, He is pure, without a mundane form, invincible, without veins, beyond material designations, transcendental to māyā, intelligent, omniscient, self-manifest and the greatest. Through His own acintya-śakti, He has allocated all eternal substances with their individuality.)

The Talavakāra Upaniad (mantra 3.6) describes His acintya-śakti thus:

 tasmai tṛṇa nidadhāv etad daheti tad upapreyāya sarva javena tan na śaśāka dagdhum
sa tata eva nivavte naitad aśaka vijïātu yad etad yakam iti

 (During the struggle between the Devas and the Asuras, when they conquered the Asuras, the Devas became proud, and in order to reduce their pride, Bhagavān, placed a blade of grass in front of Agni, the foremost of the Devatās. Agni approached the blade of grass, yet even using all his strength, he could not burn it. Coming before the Devatās he said, “I am unable to know this worshippable Personality.”

The Chāndogya Upaniad (8.13.1) speaks of His omnipotence and form:

 śyāmāc cavala prapadye
śamalāc chyāma prapadye

 (The translation of this can be found in Chapter 2)

Also in the Gopāla Tāpanī Upaniad (Pūrva 13.1):

gopaveśa sat-puḍarīka-nayana meghābha vaidyutāmbaram
dvibhuja mauna-mudrāöyam vana-mālinam īśvaram

 (With the dress of a cowherd, divine lotus-eyes, the complexion of a rain cloud,  wearing yellow cloth, having two arms, exhibiting the mauna-mudrā and decorated with a garland of forest flowers – I offer respects unto the Son of Nanda.)

In regards to śakti-tattva, one should always consider the statements found within the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta:

kṛṣṇera ananta śakti tā’te tina pradhāna
cic cakti, m
āyā śakti, jīva śakti nāma
antaraṅgā, bahiragā, taṭastha kahi yā’re
antaraṅgā svarūpa śakti sabāra upare

(“Kṛṣṇa has unlimited śaktis amongst which there are three that are primary. These are called the cit-śakti, māyā-śakti and jīva-śakti. We refer to these as antaraṅgā, bahiragā and taṭastha. The antaraṅgā,or svarūpa-śakti, is superior to all of them.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.151-152)

sac cid ānanda maya kṛṣṇera svarūpa
ataeva svarūpa śakti haya tina rūpa
ānandāṁśe hlādinī, sadaṁśe sandhinī
cidaṁśe samvit, yā’re jñāna kari’ māni

(“The form of Kṛṣṇa is saccidānanda, thus the svarūpaśakti has three forms. Hlādinī is the manifestation of bliss, sandhinī is the manifestation of spiritual existence, and samvit is the manifestation of cognizance, which is also accepted as jñāna.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.154-155)

kṛṣṇake āhlade ta’te nāma ahlādinī
sei śakti dvāre sukha āsvāde āpani
sukha rūpa kṛṣṇa kare sukha āsvādana
bhakta gae sukha dite hlādinī kāraa
hlādinīra sāra aṁśa tā’ra prema nāma
ānanda cinmaya rasa premera ākhyāna
premera parama sāra mahābhāva jāni
sei mah
ābhāva rūpa rādhā hakurāni

(“That which gives pleasure to Kṛṣṇa is known as hlādinī. Through this śakti He relishes bliss. Kṛṣṇa, the personification of bliss, relishes bliss. Hlādinī is also the cause of the bliss experienced by the devotees. The essential part of hlādinī is called prema. Prema is explained as ānanda-cinmaya rasa. The topmost essence of prema is known as mahābhāva, and that mahābhāva takes the form of Rādhā Ṭhākurāni.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.151-160)

Through this acintya-svarūpa-śakti, the supremely independent Śrī Kṛṣṇa descends to the material world along with His personal abode and associates. By His unlimited compassion, the transcendental dhāma, name, form, qualities and līlā become manifest to the bound jīvas. All these cannot be experienced directly via the ability of the material senses, but by the influence of the acintya-śakti and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, one is able to be perceive them by the material senses. Sometimes He descends as His plenary portions (svāṁśa-vilāsa) such as Matysa, Kurma, Varāha, Nṛsimha, Vāmana, Rāma etc. to perform His līlā.  In all these matters, the truth is that Kṛṣṇa is the avatārī (source of all other avatāras) and all His other manifestations are avatāras. The svayaṁ (original) or svāmśa-avatāras (expansions) are all transcendental. They do not accept the assistance of māyā and do not take on a material body. Sometimes Kṛṣṇa’s śakti manifests within an appropriate jīva and he appears as a śaktyāveśa-avatāra. This is how the

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta establishes the avataras:

prābhāva vaibhāva rūpe dvi-vidha prakāśa

(“The Lord expands into two kinds of form – prābhāva and vaibhāva.” – Caitanya-caritāmta, Madhya-līlā 20.167)

prābhāva vaibhāva bhede vilāsa dvidhākāra
prakāśa vilāsera ei kaila vivaraa

(“The vilāsa expansions are divided into two – prābhāva and vaibhāva. The manifestations of the vilāsa forms are of various varieties.” – Caitanya-caritāmta, Madhya-līlā 20.185)

svāṁśera bheda ebe śuna sanātana

(“Listen Sanātana, about the different svāṁśa-avatāras.” – Caitanya-caritāmta, Madhya-līlā 20.243)

saṅkarana matsyādika dui bheda tāṅra

(“Saṅkarṣaṇa, Matysa etc, are two types.” – Caitanya-caritāmta, Madhya-līlā 20.244)

avatāra haya kṛṣṇera aḍ vidha prakāra
puruṣāvatāra eka līlāvatāra āra
guṇāvatāra āra manvantāra āra
yugāvatāra āra śaktyāveśāvatāra

(“Kṛṣṇa has six kinds of avatāra. The puruṣāvatāras are one,  another is the līlāvatāras. There are the guṇāvatāras and the manvantārāvatāras, the yugāvatāras and the śaktyāveśāvatāras.”Caitanya-caritāmta, Madhya-līlā 20.245-246)

Further descriptions and tattva of all the avatāras may be specifically found in the 20th chapter of Madhya-līlā and the book, Śrī Laghu-Bhāgavatāmta.