Continuing with tattvavādīs’ argument against Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. Yesterday I said that their attacks on ISKCON is just some internet activism not supported by their leadership or by their doctrine. I think real tattvavādīs had put a stop to it because their site hasn’t be updated in years and it’s mostly broken. The part about Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam is a commentary page on Bhagavad Gītā 10.41 instead of Bhāgavatam which should naturally be suspicious because they have Padaratnāvalī and also Madhvācārya’s own commentary and if nothing is said there then they should admit that their ācāryas had no clear position on this issue. It would be even worse if their ācāryas agreed with our translation but they omitted it.
Going with what they present I said that the context of that Gītā verse and the purport is to distinguish between manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūtis and actual, fully transcendental forms of the Lord and I quoted the relevant part from Śrīla Madhvācārya comment on Gītā and said that we’d agree with it one hundred percent:
He alone is the Bhargava, the Dasharathi, Krishna, etc.; other (great) jIva-s are endowed with His amsha,” thus says the Gautama-khila.
“The R^ishhi-s, the Manu-s, and the devatA-s, the kings who are the sons of Manu, are all, along with Brahma, to be known
to be energized by Hari, only; the forms [of Vishnu] like Krishna, are the self-same Lord,” thus says the Bhagavata.
Having stated that the sages, etc., are endowed with the energy of the Lord, the incarnations like Varaha, are stated to be His own self-same nature…
One could object that it contains the phrase “the forms [of Vishnu] like Krishna, are the self-same Lord” but it’s the translation of SB 1.3.28 by the author of that webpage, Madhvācārya simply quotes Sanskrit there, which is “Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam” and doesn’t have “[of Viṣṇu]” or “like Kṛṣṇa”. The fun begins afterwards.
Now, we should remember how 1.3.28 verse fits in Bhāgavatam narration – first there’s a long list of avatāras with brief descriptions of their pastimes. There are twenty two of those and Kṛṣṇa is listed as the nineteenth. Then there’s a verse about ṛṣis, Manus and demigods, descendants of Manu, Prajāpatis etc. In that verse these particular manifestations are called kalāḥ — “portion of the plenary portion” in our translation, and then comes 1.3.28 and it begins with “ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ” – “all of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord…”
If Śrīla Madhvācārya wanted to stress the difference between avatāras and vibhūtis this would be the right verse to do so – Manus etc in 1.3.27 and bhagavān svayam in 1.3.28. That’s what the last line in the above quote from his commentary on Gīta say – sages are endowed with the energy of the Lord by incarnations like Varāha are of His own self-same nature. That is why we have nothing to argue here but our attackers decided to make this about Kṛṣṇa’s relative position among other avatāras.
So the quote continues:
The word `tu’ is used in the sense of `eva’. There is no other specialty that could be indicated by the use of `tu’. Even for him the same would be indicated, as in the statement `udbabarhAtmanaH keshau’ (he plucked his hairs). By `mR^iDayanti’, the use of the plural would be inappropriate (if Krishna alone were the Bhagavan). Indeed, it is never seen that having stated something vastly different later, without considering what has been stated, some use is indicated of the previous.
I suspect it doesn’t faithfully follow Sanskrit:
tushabda evArthe | anyastu visheshho na kutrApyavagataH |
aMshatvaM tatrApyavagatam.h “udbabarhAtmanaH keshau” iti |
mR^iDayanti iti cha bahuvachanaM chAyuktam.h | na hyantarA.anyaduktvA
pUrvamaparAmR^ishya tatkriyochyamAnA dR^ishhTA kutrachit.h
In “the use of the plural would be inappropriate” the words “(if Krishna alone were the Bhagavan)” are definitely not there but are an addition by the translator. There could be other reasons why Śrīla Madhvācārya thought the use of plural was inappropriate and it’s not clear what he even meant there because we do have “yuge yuge” – in different ages or millennium after millennium. If Madhvācārya’s point was that it’s one Lord who incarnates in different forms at different times then we have no objections.
The last sentence in that quote is too cryptic to understand and it’s expressed in somewhat broken English which indicates we are dealing with a subpar and therefore unreliable translation.
Let’s look at the essence of the argument: “The word `tu’ is used in the sense of `eva'” – no objections, if Madhvācārya meant it that avatāras are CERTAINLY non-different from the Supreme. The verse doesn’t say they are parts of Kṛṣṇa – “ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ”, parts of the Supreme. No objections if he meant Kṛṣṇa is CERTAINLY bhagavān svayam either – now this is funny because our opponents want to prove something quite different.
I’m sure it’s a speculative reading on my part but if you substitute “tu” with “eva” you’ll get exactly that – Kṛṣṇas eva bhagavān svayam while our opponents argue that Kṛṣṇa is nothing special. It looks as if Madvhācārya’s own words completely agree with our Gauḍiyā siddhānta but to our opponents they appear to mean something else. This isn’t unusual in Vedic literature where sometimes outright blasphemy by demons can be read as a subtle glorification of the Lord instead.
“There is no other specialty that could be indicated by the use of `tu’..” – if we are talking about the phrase Kṛṣṇas tu/eva bhagavān svayam then Madhvācārya meant Kṛṣṇa IS bhagavān svayam and there’s no other specialty to be screwed out of it. Not what our opponents want to prove again.
“Even for him the same would be indicated, as in the statement `udbabarhAtmanaH keshau’ (he plucked his hairs).” – again, too cryptic to decipher. This sentence, however, points to some other reading of the previous ones, which still remains elusive.
Our opponents take it to mean that the word “tu” is put there erroneously but surely Śrīla Madhvācārya didn’t mean to correct śāstra or alter its original meaning. That would be convenient for them but it’s still only a conjecture. Understanding Madhvācārya is hard and his commentary on Gītā is known to be terse so the confusion is natural.
What happens next is that different people see different things. Those who want to prove that Madhvācārya argued against clear reading of SB 1.3.28 have done so. I would rather see the passage in overall context of trying to prove that avatāras are not vibhūtis and are the self-same Lord. It is possible that Madhvācārya had shifted his attention to proving that Kṛṣṇa is NOT bhagavān svayam but it’s unlikely – he was speaking on Gītā and not Bhāgavatam and he was quoting SB 1.3.28 to support his point on Gītā, not to start a different discussion.
Next we have Jayatīrtha’s commentary on Madhvācārya’s commentary and I’ll discuss it later.