All of the incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28) The meaning of this verse in a different way is: “All these, however, are either part manifestations or rays of the Supreme Person; while Sri Krishna is the Lord Himself. All these avatars or manifestations of the Lord appear from age to age and protect the world when it is oppressed by the enemies of Indra.” [Srimad-Bhagavatam, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Book one, Discourse III, Verse 28]
Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad-gita which is spoken by Himself (God’s spoken Gita), “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself. And I myself appear millennium after millennium to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of religion.” [These religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Himself] [Gita 4.7 & 8]
All the living entities in the conditioned world are His (Lord Krishna’s) eternal fragmental parts. [Gita 15.7]
1. Lord Krishna is the source of all incarnations
Krishna’s manifestations or avatars are briefly described here as per the Vedic literatures. In the spiritual sky there are innumerable spiritual worlds (Vaikuntha planets), and from these planets the expansions or incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead including Himself descend on the different planets of the material world as also the different species of life to fulfil particular missions. [As per the Padma Purana, there are 84 1akhs species starting from the lowest microbes to the most advanced stage of human forms of lives having created by the Supreme Lord].
In the beginning of the creation, the Supreme Lord expanded Himself in the universal form of the Purusa incarnation, known as Maha-Visnu and He then manifested all the ingredients for the material creation. The sixteen principles of material action were created. Maha-Visnu who is lying within the casual ocean is the Lord of time, nature, cause and effect, mind, ego, the five elements, the three modes of nature, the senses and the universal form. [As per Srimad-bhagavatam there are 28 elements including the individual soul and the Supersoul (God)). Maha-Visnu is said to be the master of all objects movable and immovable, but He is totally independent. It is said that the modes of nature and time have no influence on the liberated and eternally living associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the spiritual abodes. Maha-Visnu then glances over the material nature to impregnate the matter with the living entities. Simply by His glance, consciousness is created. This consciousness is known as mahat-tattva. The predominating Deity of the mahat-tatra is Vasudeva (Krishna’s expansion).
The consciousness has three activities viz. consciousness in the mode of goodness, consciousness in the mode of material passion and consciousness in the mode of ignorance. The cosmic manifestation is a combination of all these modes. In this way, innumerable universes are created having produced from the pores of Maha-Visnu’s body. His energies are all spiritual and they have nothing to do with the material energy. Maha-Visnu is the original Supersoul of all the universes and He is the master as well.
Garbhodakasayi-Visnu, the second Visnu incarnation enters each and every universe created by MahaVisnu and spreads water from His body, and lies down on that water. The first creator of all the living entities, Brahma is born from the stem of a lotus flower growing from His navel. Brahma, then created fourteen divisions of planetary systems within the stem of that lotus flower.
Garbhodaksayi-Visnu by being present in each and every universe maintains each universe and tends to its needs. Whenever it is required Garbhodaksayi-Visnu takes the form of Lord Siva and annihilates the cosmic creation.
Brahma, Visnu and Siva are the three secondary incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and they are the predominating deities of the three modes of nature viz. mode of passion, mode of goodness and mode of ignorance respectively. Garbhodaksayi-Visnu who is worshipped as the Hiranyagarbha Supersoul is the master and is not touched by the material nature, though He is within the material nature.
The third incarnation, Ksirodakasayi-Visnu is the Supersoul of all living beings and He resides on the ocean of milk within the universe. He is an incarnation of the mode of goodness. The other incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are: ‘pastime’ or lila-avataras (no limit of such incarnations), qualitative incarnations or guna-avataras (Brahma, Visnu and Siva), manvantaraavataras (not described here) and yuga-avataras (Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali-millennia).
Of the qualitative incarnations, Brahma is directly empowered by the Garbhodaksayi-Visnu to create innumerable living beings. Brahma is superior to ordinary jivas, but he is not the direct divinity. Whereas, Lord Siva is not one of the living entities, he is, more or less, Krishna Himself. But he is an expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Krishna) and thus He cannot act as Krishna, nor can we derive the spiritual restoration from Lord Siva. The example of milk and yogurt is made of Krishna and Siva, as yogurt is a preparation of milk and it cannot be used as milk.
Regarding Krishna and Visnu, Visnu is a part but Krishna is the whole. Although Visnu is equal to Krishna, Krishna is the original source. An example is that Krishna is the original candle and the Visnu expansion is the second candle. Both candles are of equal power, one is the original and the other is the second one said to be kindled from the original.
Of the millennia avataras viz. Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali, the colours of the Supreme Lord’s principal incarnations are different – white in the Satya-yuga, red in the Treta-yuga, blackish (Krishna) in the Dvapara-yuga, and in the Kali-yuga the colour of the principal incarnation is yellow (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu). This is confirmed in Srimad-bhagavatam (10.8.13) by Gargamuni, an astrologer who calculated Krishna’s horoscope in the house of Nanda Maharaja.
This particular incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is narrated by Sukadev Goswami in Srimad-8hagavatam (11.5.32): “In the age of Kali (said to be 28th Kali), intelligent persons perform congregational chanting (Sankirtana movement) to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.”
In the age of Kali, there is no use in meditation, sacrifice and temple worship as was done in Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga and Dvapara-yuga. Simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna (mahamantra-chanting), one can achieve perfect self-realisation or liberation (or mukti) of the conditioned soul of the individual living being.
One is to be careful about accepting a genuine incarnation by way of examining the two important characteristics of a person as an incarnation viz. the principal feature called personality and the marginal feature in the activities, and also one needs to refer to the authoritative scriptures.
—to be contd.