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Govinda: The Primal Cause

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(Analysis of the First Verse of Brahma-samhita)

by Hayagriva Dasa Adhikari

isvarah paramah krsnah
sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah
sarva-karana-karanam

SYNONYMS

isvarah—the controller; paramah—supreme; krsnah—Lord Krsna; sat—comprising eternal existence; cit—absolute knowledge; ananda—and absolute bliss; vigrahah—whose form; anadih—without beginning; adih—the origin; govindah—Lord Govinda; sarva-karana-karanam—the cause of all causes.

TRANSLATION

Krsna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.

This Brahma-samhita, which was often quoted by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the inaugurator of the current Hare Krsna movement, was sung by Brahma, the first created entity in this universe. Brahma, who was born out of a lotus flower sprouting from the navel of the Garbhodakasayi Visnu, a plenary expansion of Lord Sri Krsna, is the greatest of the demigods, being directly empowered by Lord Krsna to create the solar and planetary systems and all life that dwells therein. Despite his great power, at his birth Brahma knew neither his whereabouts nor his identity. Therefore the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, imparted Vedic knowledge into his heart, and these hymns of the Brahma-samhita are Brahma’s articulation of that knowledge. It is not surprising then that the Brahma-samhita is in praise of Govinda (Krsna), the primeval Lord who is the very origin of Brahma.

From the very first verse, the Brahma-samhita asserts that of all the gods and the demigods, Lord Krsna, also called Govinda, is the Supreme. This is also stated in Bhagavad-gita by Lord Sri Krsna Himself: “Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin, for in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and the sages.” (10.2) In the Gita, Arjuna also proclaims the supremacy of Lord Sri Krsna: “You are the father of this complete cosmic manifestation, the worshipable chief, the spiritual master. No one is equal to You, nor can anyone be one with You. Within the three worlds, You are immeasurable.” (11.43)

The word Govinda (one who gives pleasure to the cows) also establishes that the Supreme Godhead is a personality who has characteristic pastimes, such as cowtending. When Lord Sri Krsna descended on this earth some 5,000 years ago, He exhibited His eternal transcendental pastimes in Vrndavana, where He herded and tended cows along with His many cowherd boy friends. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati explains the appellation “Govinda” in this way: “Krsna, as truly envisioned in His variegated pastimes as the owner of transcendental cows, chief of cowherds, consort of milkmaids, ruler of the terrestrial abode Gokula and the object of worship of the beautiful transcendental residents of Goloka, is Govinda.” (Purport to Verse 1 of Brahma-samhita) Indeed, the cow is very dear to Lord Sri Krsna. In Srimad-Bhagavatam the cow and the bull represent the earth and religion respectively. Lord Sri Krsna is also called Govinda because He not only gives pleasure to the cows but to all other living entities as well, being that He is the reservoir of all pleasures. The word go also means senses. The senses are always craving some satisfaction, and to get some satisfaction, the senses are always roving from one object to another, but only Krsna, Govinda, can give the senses unlimited satisfaction, for only Krsna is unlimited. Through the chanting of flare Krsna, the living entity participates in the infinite bliss of Krsna, and thus his senses are automatically satisfied. It is Lord Brahma who laments that he has only four heads with which to praise Krsna. Brahma feels he can not adequately chant His praises with even a thousand heads and thousand tongues.

Of all the demigods, Brahma is considered to be the chief being directly empowered by Lord Sri Krsna to create all beings within the universe. Brahma himself is an isvarah (controller), but in the first verse Lord Brahma says isvarah paramah krsnah, which means that the supreme (paramah) controller is Lord Sri Krsna. Because living entities have some controlling capacity, however great or minute, they are always trying to control one another. One animal tries to devour or conquer another animal, one man tries to conquer another man, or the husband tries to control his wife or children, or one nation tries to control another nation, or the inhabitants of one planet may try to “conquer space,” or the demigods may control a variety of phenomena such as wind, rain, fire, water, etc., but ultimately there is a limit to the control of living entities. There is a point, despite a living entity’s power, beyond which he has no control. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna tells Arjuna: “There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every entity is called infallible. Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Lord Himself, who has entered into these worlds and is maintaining them. Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as that Supreme Person.” (Bg. 15.16-18)

Supreme Controller

In numerous places throughout the Gita, Lord Sri Krsna confirms that He is the supreme controller: “The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end. This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all the moving and unmoving beings, and by its rules this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Bg. 9.8 & 10) Similarly, Isopanisad testifies: isavasyam idam sarvam. “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord.” (Mantra 1) Both material nature (apara prakrti) and the individual spirit souls (para prakrti) are emanations from the Lord, and therefore He is ultimately the controller of everything that exists. The first verse of Brahma-samhita establishes that this supreme controller is not an impersonal entity or concept but is a person having an eternal name, an eternal form, eternal attributes, and eternal pastimes.

The very name Krsna indicates His all-attractive qualities, which are indicated in the second line: sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. “He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body.”

His Own Transcendental Form

One may have a great deal of difficulty accepting the sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah aspect of the Supreme Person, or accepting the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but this is largely due to the frailties of human conceptualization. We think that because Krsna has a body or because He has form He is limited. This is because in the material world all forms have some limitation. I can run just so fast, or I can reach just so far, but the Vedas assert that Krsna’s body is not like this. Although located in one place, His hand can extend anywhere, and He can personally accept what is offered to Him. In Isopanisad it is stated that the Supreme Lord “although fixed in His abode, is more swift than the mind, and He can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He controls those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence.” (Mantra 4) In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna sees all the universes contained within the body of Lord Sri Krsna, and in Brahma-samhita it is said that any one of the organs of the body of the Supreme Person can perform all the actions of all the other parts and that Krsna impregnated material nature simply by glancing at her. In Isopanisad the Supreme Lord’s body is described as asnaviram, which means that it is without veins. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments: “The Supreme Lord is not formless. He has His own transcendental form which is not at all similar to those of the mundane world. The living entities of this world have their forms embodied by the material nature, and they work like any material machines. The physiological and anatomical structure of the body of a living being must have a mechanical construction, with veins and so forth in the embodiment. But in the transcendental body of the Lord there is nothing like veins. It is clearly stated here (Isopanisad, Mantra 8) that He is unembodied. That means that there is no difference between His body and soul. Nor does He accept a body by the law of nature. In the material concept of life, the soul is different from the gross embodiment and subtle mind. The Supreme Lord is apart from any such departmentalized arrangement, however. There is nothing like a difference of body and mind in the Supreme Lord. He is the complete whole, and His mind and body, and He Himself are all one and the same. In the Brahma-samhita there is a similar description of the body of the Supreme Lord. He is described there as sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. This means that He is the eternal form fully representing existence, knowledge and bliss. The Vedic literature states clearly that He has a different kind of transcendental body, and thus He is sometimes described as formless. This formlessness means that He has no form like ours and that He is devoid of a form which we can perceive. In the Brahma-samhita it is further said that the Lord can do anything and everything with any one of the parts of His body. It is said there that with each and every one of the parts of His body, such as the hand, He can do the work of the other senses. This means that the Lord can walk with His hands, He can accept a thing with His legs, He can see by His hands and feet, and He can eat by His eyes. In the sruti mantras it is said that He has no hands and no legs like us, but that He has a different type of hand and leg by which He can accept all that we offer Him, and walk faster than anyone anywhere.”

In the Judaic-Christian tradition, God is sometimes pictured as an old man, but Vedic literatures give quite different information. The Lord is described in the Vedas as ever-youthful and ever-fresh. He never grows old. Although Lord Sri Krsna was a grandfather on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, He still appeared as a beautiful youth around sixteen years of age. Although He is described as “the oldest” because He existed before everyone else in the creation, He should not be thought of as an old man. All of these misconceptions arise from habitual materialistic thinking. Because our bodies are temporary, full of ignorance, and miserable, we think these to be attributes of all bodies. But Lord Sri Krsna’s body is sac-cid-ananda, eternal and unchanging (sat), all-knowing (cit), and full of bliss (ananda).

The Unseen Force

Next, Brahma states that Krsna, who is the Supreme Godhead, who possesses an eternal, blissful, spiritual body and individual pastimes, is the origin of everything (anadir adir govindah). This is also stated by Lord Sri Krsna Himself throughout Bhagavad-gita. Being the origin of everything, He Himself has no origin, which means that He is beginningless. This is a reassertion of His eternality. And not only is He the origin of everything. but He is the prime cause of all causes, or the ultimate cause. In Western philosophy, there has been much speculation on this subject of cause and effect. The philosopher Hume asserted in his classic thesis that external objects, as they appear to the senses in the material world, have no necessary connection with one another. “There is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, anything which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connection.” (David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, section 7) This posits that the connection between objects in the material universe is simply perceived in the mind: in actuality, there is no real connection between objects and events. “This connection, therefore, which we feel in the mind, this customary transition of the imagination from one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or impression from which we form the idea of power or necessary connection … When we say, therefore, that one object is connected with another, we mean only that they have acquired a connection in our thought, and give rise to this inference by which they become proofs to each other’s existence.” (Ibid.) This implies that materially one object cannot give impetus to another object or cause another object to come into existence. It then follows that the cause of objects in the material universe must be a force which is nonmaterial, a force which is outside the material universe. Many scientists today also agree that because everything in the universe is subject to creation and annihilation, that which causes the universe must be beyond creation and annihilation and must therefore be a nonmaterial or spiritual force.

Dr. John Cleveland Cotran, Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of Science & Mathematics Division, University of Minnesota, writes: “Chemistry discloses that matter is ceasing to exist, some varieties exceedingly slowly, others exceedingly swiftly. Therefore the existence of matter is not eternal. Consequently matter must have had a beginning. Evidence from chemistry and other sciences indicates that this beginning was not slow and gradual; on the contrary, it was sudden, and the evidence even indicates the approximate time when it occurred. Thus at some rather definite time the material realm was created and ever since has been obeying law, not the dictates of chance. Now, the material realm not being able to create itself and its governing laws, the act of creation must have been performed by some nonmaterial agent. The stupendous marvels accomplished in that act show that this agent must possess superlative intelligence, an attribute of mind. But to bring mind into action in the material realm, as, for example, in the practice of medicine and the field of parapsychology, the exercise of will is required, and this can be exerted only by a person. Hence our logical and inescapable conclusion is not only that creation occurred but that it was brought about according to the plan and will of a person endowed with supreme intelligence and knowledge (omniscience), and the power to bring it about and keep it running according to plan (omnipotence) always and everywhere throughout the universe (omnipresence). That is to say, we accept unhesitatingly the fact of the existence of ‘the supreme spiritual Being, God, the Creator and Director of the universe’ …” (The Evidence of God In An Expanding Universe, pp. 41-42, edited by John Clover, Monsma, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, N.Y., 1958). Similarly, Dr. Marlin Books Dreider, an eminent physiologist, University of Maryland, writes; “I see at the beginning of the cosmic road not eternal energy or matter, not ‘inscrutable fate,’ not a ‘fortuitous conflux of primordial elements,’ not ‘the great Unknown’—but the Lord God Almighty.” (lbid, p. 68)

Revival Of Krsna Consciousness

Lord Brahma, then, predates the current discoveries of science in asserting that the cause of the universe is not only nonmaterial but that it has personality and a body that has no origin and is eternally situated in its abode. The name Krsna, as stated before, denotes that this supreme entity is all-attractive, and this implies that He is the object for loving affections. Being the origin of all, He maintains control over all plural created entities by dint of the charm of His original contact. Lord Krsna speaks of the plural spiritual entities as “eternal fragments of Myself,” which are thrown into the material spheres. These fragments appear to have some individuation, and yet they are unified in their origin. “Although the Supersoul appears to be divided, He is never divided. He is situated as one. Although He is the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that He devours and develops.” (Bg. 13.16)

When Brahma establishes the supremacy of Lord Krsna, he simultaneously asserts the three potencies of the Godhead—omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. By His omnipotence He can be present by His name alone. Therefore it is said that Krsna and Krsna’s name are nondifferent. This is the meaning of absolute. In the relative world, someone may call me in my apartment, but if I am not there, I will not suddenly appear just because my name is called. But Krsna, being absolute, is different. He is always present, and the invocation of His name revives our awareness of this fact. This revival of awareness of Krsna’s presence is called Krsna consciousness. The omnipresence of Krsna is like the sunlight which pervades everything. Wherever there is sunlight, there is no darkness, and wherever there is Godhead, there is no nescience. His omnipresent potency, by which He is present in every atom of the creation, is called Paramatma. The omnipresent effulgence emanating from His spiritual body is called Brahman. Omniscience refers to His total knowledge. Being present everywhere, He automatically knows everything. And being the origin and cause of everything, He is naturally intimately acquainted with the functionings of everything. Apart from all these potencies, which are impersonal, He has a personality known as Govinda or Krsna.

Brahma is establishing this fact in the way of praise, for Brahma is created by Krsna, and Brahma-samhita is his kirtana, or celebration of the Supreme. Since Lord Krsna is the origin of all, it is He who originates the words of the Brahma-samhita as spoken by Brahma. When Lord Brahma says that Krsna is the origin of all, it is to be understood that He is the origin of Lord Brahma. Brahma himself is the cause of this material universe, being the creator god, but Lord Krsna, who is the “prime cause of all causes,” is the cause of Brahma. Brahma is born out of the stem of the lotus flower that comes from the navel of the Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and this Garbhodakasayi Visnu is the second Visnu incarnation of Lord Krsna. A description of Lord Brahma given in the Brahma-samhita (Chapter 5, verse 49) likens Brahma to valuable stones reflected in the rays of the sun, and the sun is likened to the Garbhodakasayi Visnu. This sun in its turn expands from the supreme sun, which is Krsna.

Eternal Father

We all acknowledge the origin of this body to come from our parents, who acknowledge the origin of their bodies to come from their parents, and so on. The ultimate origin of all our bodies is lost in time. But even if we have the knowledge to trace back to the remotest times, we can not find a causeless material origin for this material body. We could regress to a hypothetical first man called “Adam,” or whatever, but we are always left with the fact that Adam also has a father. It is at this point that we must make the leap from the material to the spiritual. Thus Christian theology holds that Adam, or the first man, has no material father, just as Brahma, the first created entity, has no material father. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness … ‘ So God created man in His own image …” (Genesis, I, 26-27) Thus man, created by God out of nothing, was not born by material parent. Conceding that God is the father of the first man, one might question the origin of the Godhead, to which all scriptures answer that God is the eternal father without beginning, and that which is eternal is nonmaterial by definition. Thus God is the eternal spiritual father who is the origin of all material beings.

Krsna; Origin, Source, Preserver

Being the origin of all, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is necessarily greater than His creation. He is the ultimate reality, the ultimate perfection. An effect cannot possess a greater reality than the cause that produces it, nor can it possess more perfection than its cause. Again the speculations of Western philosophy echo the Vedic conclusions: “It follows not only that what is cannot be produced by what is not, but likewise that the more perfect—in other words, that which contains in itself more reality—cannot be the effect of the less perfect …” (Rene Descartes, “The Meditations of God: that He Exists”) It is interesting that the philosopher Descartes accepted as proof of God the very idea of God Himself. He maintained that, being finite, man could not even have an idea of the infinite unless that idea were given to him by the infinite. The nature of the infinite is that it cannot be comprehended or intellectualized by the finite. Therefore the very fact that we can predicate an infinite or even speak of an infinite is proof that this infinite exists. “By the name God, I understand a substance infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself, and every other thing that exists, if any such there be, were created. But these properties are so great and excellent, that the more attentively I consider them, the less I feel persuaded that the idea I have of them owes its origin to myself alone. And thus it is absolutely necessary to conclude from all that I have foresaid that God exists: for though the idea of substance be in my mind owing to this, that I myself am substance, I should not, however, have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite.” (Descartes, “The Meditations,” Ibid.)

Krsna is not only the origin of the creation, but is the preserver as well. (“The conservation of a substance in each moment of its duration requires the same power and act that would be necessary to create it.” Descartes, Ibid.) In Srimad-Bhagavatam Lord Krsna tells Brahma that He is not only the cause of the creation but is, in fact, the creation itself. And it follows that being the force that brings about the appearance of an object and that maintains that object during its duration, Krsna is also the cause of the annihilation of that object by dint of His withdrawing potency. Therefore it is said that when Lord Krsna wants someone killed, there is no possibility of his being saved, and when He wants someone to live, there is no possibility of killing him. This is what is meant by ultimate controller.

The conception of origin also implies separation. Etymologically the word “origin” comes from the Latin word oriri, meaning to rise or to arise out of. The word “source,” coming from the word “surge,” has its origin in the Latin word surgere, also meaning to rise. Therefore the idea of origin or source can be compared to the rising of waves from the ocean, the surging of the billows, their brief manifestation, and their lapsing and falling back into the ocean. The waves never exist outside the ocean, yet they are distinct from the ocean which is their source. Nor do the waves effect the ocean in any substantial way. They are simply the surface play of the ocean, as the material creation is but one of the manifestations of Krsna’s incidental energies, one of His waste products or gratuities. The play of the waves on the surface is forever removed from the great depths inhabited by the mighty denizens, the great souls swimming in the effulgence of the Lord. “Again everything that is created does not rest on Me. Behold My mystic opulence: although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Bg. 9.5)

The absurdity of any created entity maintaining that he is God is obvious here. To extend the simile, it is as ridiculous as asserting a wave to be the entire ocean. One should notice that the existence of waves is very brief, that they appear to have no individuality, that they are countless, that they seem to have been appearing from time immemorial, that their motion cannot be stopped, that they never perish, that they return to the ocean to eventually become another wave and that each wave in its own right is infinite, having arisen from infinite waves, composed of infinite bubbles. One of the wonders of God’s creation is that one particle, like the wave or bubble, can reflect the totality.

Hare Krsna

No one can understand who or what Krsna is or the extent of His creation, but we can come to some finite understanding of the limitlessness of His being and of our finite relation to Him. He communicates to us by sabda, His sound potency, utilizing the orthodox symbols of the Sanskrit language, which for us are translated into English and entitled “The Song of the Opulent One,” or, in Sanskrit, Bhagavad-gita. These words, symbols, give us mental impressions of the cosmic situation and eventually exhort us to make an emotional-spiritual conviction, which is to surrender to Him who is beyond our knowledge and to whom the Gita points—Krsna. Once surrendered, we can come to understand that the sabda of Krsna (Hare Krsna) is nondifferent from Krsna Himself and that He is contained in it in His full potency.

This first verse of the Brahma-samhita, like the Gita, proclaims the supremacy and eternality of Lord Krsna. Once one accepts this verse, his next logical course of action is to direct his worship to Krsna. “I am the source of everything: from Me the entire creation flows. Knowing this, the wise worship Me with all their hearts.” (Bg. 10.8) Simply by realizing the knowledge of the first verse of Brahma-samhita, one can enter into the spirit of Brahma-samhita and Bhagavad-gita and thus join Brahma in his praise: Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is inaccessible to the Vedas but obtainable by pure unalloyed devotion of the soul, who is without a second, who is not subject to decay, who is without a beginning, whose form is endless, who is the beginning, the eternal soul, and who is a person possessing the beauty of blossoming youth.” (Brahma-samhita, 33)

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