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itirese ’tarkye nija-mahimani sva-pramitike
anise ’pi drastum kim idam iti va muhyati sati
cacchadajo jñatva sapadi paramo ’ja-javanikam
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
The Supreme Brahman is beyond mental speculation, He is self-manifest, existing in His own bliss, and He is beyond the material energy. He is known by the crest jewels of the Vedas by refutation of irrelevant knowledge. Thus in relation to that Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead, whose glory had been shown by the manifestation of all the four-armed forms of Visnu, Lord Brahma, the lord of Sarasvati, was mystified. “What is this?” he thought, and then he was not even able to see. Lord Krsna, understanding Brahma’s position, then at once removed the curtain of His yoga-maya.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Brahma was completely mystified. He could not understand what he was seeing, and then he was not even able to see. Lord Krsna, understanding Brahma’s position, then removed that yoga-maya covering. In this verse, Brahma is referred to as iresa. Ira means Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, and Iresa is her husband, Lord Brahma. Brahma, therefore, is most intelligent. But even Brahma, the lord of Sarasvati, was bewildered about Krsna. Although he tried, he could not understand Lord Krsna. In the beginning the boys, the calves and Krsna Himself had been covered by yoga-maya, which later displayed the second set of calves and boys, who were Krsna’s expansions, and which then displayed so many four-armed forms. Now, seeing Brahma’s bewilderment, Lord Krsna caused the disappearance of that yoga-maya. One may think that the maya taken away by Lord Krsna was maha-maya, but Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments that it was yoga-maya, the potency by which Krsna is sometimes manifest and sometimes not manifest. The potency which covers the actual reality and displays something unreal is maha-maya, but the potency by which the Absolute Truth is sometimes manifest and sometimes not is yoga-maya. Therefore, in this verse the word aja refers to yoga-maya.
Krsna’s energy His maya-sakti, or svarupa-sakti is one, but it is manifested in varieties. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8). The difference between Vaisnavas and Mayavadis is that Mayavadis say that this maya is one, whereas Vaisnavas recognize its varieties. There is unity in variety. For example, in one tree, there are varieties of leaves, fruits and flowers. Varieties of energy are required for performing the varieties of activity within the creation. To give another example, in a machine all the parts may be iron, but the machine includes varied activities. Although the whole machine is iron, one part works in one way, and other parts work in other ways. One who does not know how the machine is working may say that it is all iron; nonetheless, in spite of its being iron, the machine has different elements, all working differently to accomplish the purpose for which the machine was made. One wheel runs this way, another wheel runs that way, functioning naturally in such a way that the work of the machine goes on. Consequently we give different names to the different parts of the machine, saying, “This is a wheel,” “This is a screw,” “This is a spindle,” “This is the lubrication,” and so on. Similarly, as explained in the Vedas:
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate
svabhaviki jñana-bala-kriya ca
Krsna’s power is variegated, and thus the same sakti, or potency, works in variegated ways. Vividha means “varieties.” There is unity in variety. Thus yoga-maya and maha-maya are among the varied individual parts of the same one potency, and all of these individual potencies work in their own varied ways. The samvit, sandhini and ahladini potencies Krsna’s potency for existence, His potency for knowledge and His potency for pleasure are distinct from yoga-maya. Each is an individual potency. The ahladini potency is Radharani. As Svarupa Damodara Gosvami has explained, radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmat (Cc. Adi 1.5). The ahladini-sakti is manifested as Radharani, but Krsna and Radharani are the same, although one is potent and the other is potency.
Brahma was mystified about Krsna’s opulence (nija-mahimani) because this opulence was atarkya, or inconceivable. With one’s limited senses, one cannot argue about that which is inconceivable. Therefore the inconceivable is called acintya, that which is beyond cintya, our thoughts and arguments. Acintya refers to that which we cannot contemplate but have to accept. Srila Jiva Gosvami has said that unless we accept acintya in the Supreme, we cannot accommodate the conception of God. This must be understood. Therefore we say that the words of sastra should be taken as they are, without change, since they are beyond our arguments. Acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: “That which is acintya cannot be ascertained by argument.” People generally argue, but our process is not to argue but to accept the Vedic knowledge as it is. When Krsna says, “This is superior, and this is inferior,” we accept what He says. It is not that we argue, “Why is this superior and that inferior?” If one argues, for him the knowledge is lost.
This path of acceptance is called avaroha-pantha. The word avaroha is related to the word avatara, which means “that which descends.” The materialist wants to understand everything by the aroha-pantha by argument and reason but transcendental matters cannot be understood in this way. Rather, one must follow the avaroha-pantha, the process of descending knowledge. Therefore one must accept the parampara system. And the best parampara is that which extends from Krsna (evam parampara-praptam). What Krsna says, we should accept (imam rajarsayo viduh). This is called the avaroha-pantha.
Brahma, however, adopted the aroha-pantha. He wanted to understand Krsna’s mystic power by his own limited, conceivable power, and therefore he himself was mystified. Everyone wants to take pleasure in his own knowledge, thinking, “I know something.” But in the presence of Krsna this conception cannot stand, for one cannot bring Krsna within the limitations of prakrti. One must submit. There is no alternative. Na tams tarkena yojayet. This submission marks the difference between Krsna-ites and Mayavadis.
The phrase atan-nirasana refers to the discarding of that which is irrelevant. (Atat means “that which is not a fact.”) Brahman is sometimes described as asthulam ananv ahrasvam adirgham, “that which is not large and not small, not short and not long.” (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 5.8.8) Neti neti: “It is not this, it is not that.” But what is it? In describing a pencil, one may say, “It is not this; it is not that,” but this does not tell us what it is. This is called definition by negation. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna also explains the soul by giving negative definitions. Na jayate mriyate va: “It is not born, nor does it die. You can hardly understand more than this.” But what is it? It is eternal. Ajo nityah sasvato ’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire: “It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. It is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bg. 2.20) In the beginning the soul is difficult to understand, and therefore Krsna has given negative definitions:
nainam chindanti sastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty apo
na sosayati marutah
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can it be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Bg. 2.23) Krsna says, “It is not burned by fire.” Therefore, one has to imagine what it is that is not burned by fire. This is a negative definition.