On Goloka, of course, unless…
Where else could He be? He doesn’t set a foot anywhere outside Vrindavana, yet He appeared here on Earth five thousand years ago. To this we can say that our earthly Vrindavan is non-different from Vrindavan in the spiritual world but that opens up a little can of worms because there are several obvious differences.
Krishna’s pastimes in earthly Vrindavan are manifested only for a few short years. In our Vrindavan Krishna was also attacked by demons that do not even exist in the spiritual world. Over there, we’ve been told, there’s only fear of their appearance but no Putana or Trinavarta can actually enter there. Yet they can enter our earthly Vrindavan faily easily.
Devotees are also not the same down here. Here we have sages from Dandakaranya forest who asked Lord Ramachandra for a blessing to be born during His Krishna’s pastimes and they formed a group of gopis who weren’t automatically accepted into the rasa dance. We ourselves are told that before we are accepted into the spiritual Vrindavan we’ll have to take birth during Krishna’s pastimes somewhere in the material world first.
With our understanding of time and space, Krishna always stays in celestial Vrindavan and then once in a day of Brahma He descends and manifests His pastimes down here. So, where is He now? Back on Goloka?
Not so fast – Krishna’s pastimes are ALWAYS manifested in one of the universes. He finishes with one and goes on to the next, like the Sun that is always rising somewhere even if we, fixed in space, can see sunsets, too.
This makes impossible locating Krishna at any given point in time unless we accept that He is simultaneously in Goloka and in one of the universes. How’s that possible? Not so difficult for Him, of course, but then it would raise a question of His original form. During the rasa dance He expanded Himself to be with each gopi at the same time and we have no problem accepting that, seeing it as His special mercy displayed just for the occasion. Now, however, it would appear that we are always dealing with a “copy”. He looks like original Krishna to us but He isn’t, it’s just one of His expansions.
Come to think about it – why only one extra Krishna? Why does He have to wait until the very end of His set of pastimes before He manifests in some other universe? Why not have a “rolling” avatar that finishes killing Putana here and then replays it right away elsewhere? This would require an unlimited number of avatars, each doing something slightly different in each of the universes.
Thinking about it some more, there’s a better solution – there’s one Krishna but it’s the universes that go past Him, just like the Sun is stationary but it’s different points on Earth that get to observe each of its position. So, there’s always one universe that sees Krishna playing His flute and, coming in a line a few minutes behind it, there’s always some other universe in which gopis react to its sound.
This requires us to rethink our time and space model. Goloka, for example, is not somewhere outside our universe, on the other side of casual ocean, across Viraja river. We are not separated by space but by consciousness, it’s always in our hearts, we just don’t have access to it.
This model also has space for our own, universe specific perception of the pastimes. It’s like we have our own projectors on the window through which we see Krishna’s pastimes. We can have projections of the demons, for example, and they won’t be able to touch actual Krishna, and residents of spiritual Vrindavan can only feel the fear of them entering.
Or, alternatively, we have our own screen on which Krishna is projected and we interact with that projection, having our own dramas around His appearance. That’s how we can have our own gopis who are not the part of Krishna’s celestial entourage.
In this model Krishna is always on Goloka and He never leaves, and at the same time He is always visible in unlimited number of material universes. The only trade off is that “our” Krishna is not the original one.
Is it a big contradiction? Not really, Krishna means “all attractive” and He is the embodiment of rasa. In that sense, the rasa perception of the Lord, there’s no difference between the original and “our” Krishna even if the spiritual body might not be the same. From rasa point of view we don’t mind if Krishna descends into our universe through Vishnu, that doesn’t make Him inferior in any way even if in the material understanding of cause and effect it would appear that Vishnu is the source while Krishna is His avatar.
Technically it might be so, in materially conditioned vision of reality, but from the rasa point of view Vishnu doesn’t come even close to Krishna and so can’t be His source.
To be honest, my Saturday brain can’t deal with all this stuff in full, just a bunch of ideas thrown at a wall, hoping that something would stick.