Krishna as avatarin?

Martin Gansten Martin.Gansten at TEOL.LU.SE
Fri Jun 16 10:08:43 UTC 2000

>there is only that one line (1.3.28) that clearly
>pronounces that Krishna is the source of other aMSas, as opposed to being
>an aMSa himself (I'm not sure I agree that this would be a strained
>reading of this particular verse, at least, although no doubt Madhva and
>the post-Ramanujans would have their own way of accounting for it -- do
>you have any of their commentaries on hand?)

Regrettably, no. But note that the verse in question does not even
pronounce Krishna to be 'a source of other amshas'. It runs:
        ete caa.mzakalaa.h pu.msa.h k.r.s.nas tu bhagavaan svayam /
Here, 'a.mzakalaa' is oppsed to 'bhagavaan svayam', not to 'a.mzin' or any
such term. And a.mzakalaa need not be taken as a dvandva compound; it might
be a determinative, which would remove any inconsistency in relation to the
verses describing Krishna as an amsha of Vishnu. Furthermore, there is the
question of what 'ete' refers to. In my view, it would most naturally refer
to the categories listed in the immediately preceding verse:
        .r.sayo manavo devaa manuputraa mahaujasa.h /
        kalaa.h sarve harer eva saprajaapatayas tathaa //
The list of specified avataras (twenty in the past, of Krishna is the
latest, and two -- Buddha and Kalki -- yet to come) came to an end with
verse 25, followed by the statement in verse 26 that the avataras of Hari
are innumerable, like thousand of water-streams, etc. Then in verse 27
there is this mention of the apparently inferior manifestations known as
kalaas, comprising rishis, manus, and so forth. And in verse 28 it is
pointed out that Krishna -- the latest avatara and main subject of the
Bhagavata -- does not belong to this category of (a.mza)kalaa, but is
Bhagavan himself. This need not be construed as contradicting the statement
earlier in the chapter that all avataras (among which Krishna is listed)
have their source in a cosmic divine form with thousands of arms, etc --
and indeed, such a contradiction would have been surprising. This was my
reason for talking of 'strained exegeses'.

>What is of interest is the several references in the 10th to Krishna as
>BhagavAn coming as aMSena.  The instrumental case of the latter could be
>taken to mean he is BhagavAn coming *by means of* his aMSa in the form of
>Krishna, viz, that Krishna is the aMSa of BhagavAn (NArAyaNa), or it could
>mean Krishna is BhagavAn coming *accompanied by* his aMSa, which is taken
>by the Krishnaite commentators (including the pre-Gaudiya Sridhar, by the
>way, who is clearly advaitic in places) to refer to SaNkarSaNa --

Yes. I agree with you that the former reading is more likely, and that a
compilation of parallel usages of a.mzena should clear it up.

>the Bh.P texts itself shows surprisingly little
>grounds for considering Krishna to be the Supreme, as opposed to an
>incarnation of the supreme. The Gita makes a better case.

Agreed -- at least if the latter is taken out of its epic context.

Martin Gansten

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