A Lecture at Brooklyn Tech, New York
By Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa)
On my way over here, I noticed that your Student Union will be airing the Woody Allen film, Deconstructing Harry. The film’s title is intriguing, because, in a sense, it directly relates to the subject you want me to discuss tonight: “Is Krishna the God of creation?” While I’m sure the Woody Allen movie has little to do with this complex theological subject, another name for Krishna is Hari, which of course is reminiscent of the name Harry. And to understand Krishna’s place in creation, some “deconstructing” is certainly in order.
The subject of Krishna’s role in creation is complicated, for He is totally Other and unremittingly transcendent — He revels in pastimes of love in His original kingdom, in the spiritual world, which has nothing to do with the material creation. Still, God so loves His rebellious parts and parcels — you and I — that he accommodates our deviant desire. Since we want to usurp His position, becoming imitation lords, of sorts, He gives us terrain in which to indulge our dreamlike fantasy. Since it is borne of an illusory desire, it cannot take place in the spiritual world, where all facets of existence partake of supreme reality. Instead, He creates the material world, so we can play out our imaginary roles, until we realize that these multifaceted roles are just that: imaginary.
And yet, it is not Krishna directly who creates, for, as I already mentioned, He is engaged in eternal pastimes of love. In addition, God is changeless, and so the fluctuations of the material world – creation and destruction –cannot affect His internal, essential nature. Rather, for this purpose, He expands into numerous manifestations and incarnations, and so this is where our project of deconstruction must take place.
The Sanskrit term svayam rupa refers to Krishna, God, in His original form. Actually, this original form can be divided into two: svayam rupa and svayam prakash. There is only subtle difference between these two, but it is the latter form that further expands into incarnations and manifestations in the material world. The former exists solely in the spiritual world.
Once expanded for the purposes of creation, these svayam prakash forms are called tad ekatma forms. These are self-same manifestations of Krishna, resembling the svayam rupa, but there are some differences in “bodily” features – that is to say, in terms of visual appearance, since God doesn’t have a material body — and it is these manifestations who serve His purposes in the material world. In other words, these forms expand for His purposes of creation, which is our proposed theme.
Each of these categories can be further divided into prabhava prakash (pastime manifestation forms), prabhava vilasa (pastime extension forms), vaibhava prakash (emotional manifestation forms) and vaibhava vilasa (emotional extension forms). So, as you can see, it gets pretty complicated, and it certainly needs deconstruction, if it is to be properly understood.
But allow me to clarify how this plays out in the Vaishnava scriptures: Krishna first expands as Balarama, who appears in narrative pastimes as His brother. It is Balarama who incarnates as the three purusha-avataras, namely the Maha-Visnu (or Karanodakashayi) avatara, the Garbhodakashayi avatara and the Kshirodakashayi avatara. These are the tad ekatma forms for the purpose of creation. This is explained in the scriptures as follows: “For material creation, Lord Krishna’s plenary expansion assumes three Vishnu forms. The first one, Maha Vishnu, creates the total material energy, known as mahat-tattva. The second, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, enters into all the universes to create diversity in each of them. The third, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, is diffused as the all-pervading Supersoul in all the universes and is known as Paramatma. He is present even within the atoms. Anyone who knows these three Vishnus can be liberated from material entanglement.” (This is in the Satvata-tantra, which is quoted by Prabhupada in Bhagavad-gita, 7.4 purport)
Let the deconstruction unfold further: 1) MAHA VISHNU lies on the Causal Ocean, which appears in one corner of the spiritual world. He manifests the mahat tattva (or the sum total of material energy). It is into this mahat tattva that He exhales all of the seed-like universes through the pores of His skin. These seed-like universes then expand as the different material elements form coverings around them. Each of the coverings is ten times thicker than the previous covering and form a shell-like covering. When Maha Vishnu impregnates the living entities by His glance into the material nature it begins to manifest its various energies.
2) When the universes have thus developed in the womb of material nature, Maha Visnu expands as GARBHODAKASHAYI VISHNU, Who enters into each universe with the living entities of that particular universe and thus activates each universe by His presence. He lies down on Ananta Sesha, a form of Balarama who lies on the Garbha ocean — a body of liquid composed of the Lord’s divine perspiration, filling half the universe. From His navel comes a lotus bud, which, it is said, represents the total form of all living entities’ fruitive activity. The lotus blossoms and in so doing dissipates the darkness of the as yet unformed universe.
On top of the lotus, Brahma, the first living being, appears. Situated on the lotus, Brahma has no sense – at least not yet — of what goes on around him. He begins entering the stem and climbing down to find its origin. Not finding anything, Brahma again returns to the top of the lotus where he hears the Sanskrit word, ta-pa (“austerity”).
Hearing this sound, Brahma undergoes penance for one thousand celestial years: 6 x 30 x 12 x 1000 earthly years.
Being pleased with Brahma’s tapasya, or austerity, the Lord gives him a vision of the spiritual planets, where Vishnu resides. Seeing Vaikuntha, Brahma becomes happy and bows to the Lord of all. Pleased with Brahma, the Lord expresses His satisfaction and reveals how to create the universe.
3) To maintain the universe Garbhodakashayi Vishnu expands as KSHIRODAKASHAYI VISHNU, who is the all-pervading Supersoul (Paramatma). By entering into every atom and into the hearts of all living beings, He maintains the whole universe. I’ll stop there, though the details revealed in Vedic texts are much more elaborate.
This, then, is my brief deconstruction of Hari, as He exists as Lord of creation. I’m sure it’s not what the Wood Meister had in mind, but, hey, his field is not the Absolute truth, is it? His field is comedy. And all I ask is this: If you go to see that Woody Allen film, keep in mind the source. Keep in mind God, the creator. Without Him, there would be no Woody, no comedy. Indeed, there would be no world.