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Is Krishna the Creator of all the Worlds?

Question: How can we understand that Kṛṣṇa does not create the jīvas? He is God; He is the creator of everything. We always hear that not even a blade of grass moves without His permission. Also in Bhagavad Gītā, He says many times that He is the creator of everything. The most famous śloka is probably BG 10.8:

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo

mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate

iti matvā bhajante māṁ

budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ 

I am the source of everything. Due to Me everything operates. Convinced by this knowledge, the intelligent persons, endowed with love, worship Me.

Answer: From your statement, “He is God; He is the creator of everything,” it seems that your definition of God is one who is the creator of everything. And in support of this, you cite Bhagavad Gītā. This statement as well as some other statements that describe Kṛṣṇa as the creator of everything relate only to the material world. In such statements, the subject described is the material creation and not the individual living beings or Vaikuṇṭha. In the Gītā’s second chapter, Kṛṣṇa very clearly and repeatedly says that there is no birth or creation for the ātmā. He clearly says that there was never a time when the living beings did not exist (Gītā 2.12).The ātmā is never born and never dies (Gītā 2.20). You can read Gītā 2.12-30 and 15.7 for the birthless nature of ātmā. He also says that both prakṛti and puruṣa or jīva is beginningless, anādi. That means they were never created. If the ātmā were created by Kṛṣṇa, then He would have said so. But He never says that anywhere. Rather, He says just the opposite. The statement, “God is the creator of everything,” applies only to the material world and not to the ātmā (jīva) or to Vaikuntha and His eternal associates. Everything in Vaikuṇṭha is eternal, just like Kṛṣṇa Himself.

Question: Thank you so much, Babaji. I have a follow up question. In Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākura’s commentary, translated by Bhanu Swami, the words aham sarvasya prabhavah (Gītā 10.8) are translated as “I am the source of everything.” Viśvanātha Cakravarti comments as follows: “Here He speaks of His vibhūti characterized by great power. I am the cause of the existence and manifestation of everything—both material and spiritual (prabhavaḥ).” And in Bhaktivedanta Swami’s Bhagavad Gītā, the word-for-word translation includes:

sarvasya—of all, and; prabhavaḥ—the source of generation. For the verse translation, he writes: “I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds.” 

So I’m confused as to whether Kṛṣṇa speaks only in regard to the material world. What exactly is the meaning of the world prabhavaḥ? According to Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākura, one could conclude that Kṛṣṇa also says that He is the creator of the spiritual world, which would include the ātmā

Answer: Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākura uses two different words for material and spiritual objects while glossing the word prabhavaḥ. For material objects, he used the word utpatti or “creation,” while for spiritual objects, he uses the word prādurbhāva or “appearance.” Spiritual objects are not created but they can appear and disappear, or manifest and unmanifest. For example, Kṛṣṇa takes birth. But His birth is not like our birth. Our bodies are created and His body becomes manifest. I am sure you understand the difference (see Gītā 4.9).

If we accept that the spiritual world is created like the material world, then that means that pāriṣads like Rādhā or Balarāma were created at some point in time. That would further imply that before that point, Kṛṣṇa was alone. That means His līlā is not eternal. But this is against śāstra.

When we study śāstra, we should not just quote one verse and argue. We can raise questions to understand a verse. We have to ensure that the meaning we take from a verse does not contradict another part of śāstra. The meaning must reconcile śāstric statements. This is called samanvaya. Otherwise, śāstra would have no value. If we accept that the ātmā is created, then all the verses of Bhagavad Gītā that I referred to in my previous reply, and hundreds of such verses found in Śrīmad Bhāgavata, Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra, etc. would be contradicted.