Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #45 – Why No Detail?

November 9th, 2020

There are thousands of volumes of elaborate descriptions in Vaiṣṇava literature about Radha and Krishna’s forms, qualities, and pastimes. They are all based on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but the descriptions of the exchanges between Krishna and the gopīs, and ultimately with Radha, are found in just five chapters of the book, encompassing less than 200 verses. Who then filled in the details, what was their right to do so, and how much of that was borrowed from the historical period in which it was composed?


I think to answer this question we first have to understand something about the Vaiṣṇava conception of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Vaiṣṇavas believe that God, being Absolute, is non- different from His name and also non-different from descriptions about Him. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, like Krishna, is thus a person and not just a book. One can’t therefore understand either Krishna or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam fully just by studying Them devoid of a mood of service, any more than one can fully understand anyone unless that person is inspired to open their heart by one’s service mood. The method of understanding the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is therefore the use of one’s intellect in the service of Krishna in a mood of humility and devotion with the realization that full revelation of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam will only be given to one who inspires the text and Krishna to reveal Their full splendor through such prayerful study.


The elaborate and detailed books about Radha and Krishna were thus written by spiritually elevated Vaiṣṇava scholars who analyzed the text while praying to and worshipping each word.  Volumes of meaning thus poured forth from the codes of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which were then recorded in their commentaries and books, which also conformed to and enhanced their own direct experience of Krishna’s form and activities. We thus have a fairly consistent description of Krishna and His pastimes in the lineage of our self-realized teachers, which allows us, under their guidance, to also fully see Krishna in the pages of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.


It is not that Krishna is not fully described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam; He is. But how much we can actually perceive is limited by an intelligence that is skewed by the filter of our own mundane conceptions and attachments. By somewhat hiding its full nature in the codified verses of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, it also forces the sincere reader to go beyond our imperfect intellect and humble ourself in devotion to fully perceive Krishna in the message of the Bhagavat.


How much of the description is borrowed from the historical period in which it is written? Our acharyas inform us that Krishna’s manifest pastimes are a replica of the spiritual world. Obviously, in order to communicate something clearly it must be done in the language and mode of understanding of the audience to which it is directed. Descriptions of Krishna may therefore slightly vary in their expression according to how the author feels his realizations are most effectively communicated, but still all such expressions are based on how Krishna appeared in this world. For example, in the various paintings of Krishna, we see that Krishna’s complexion, which is blue, may vary in shades according to the artist, but Krishna’s color is not red or yellow. He is the color of a bluish-dark monsoon cloud, and by meditating on any of those slightly varied descriptions we can certainly realize the beautiful complexion of Krishna.


Why no detail? The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is rich in detail about the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Krishna, but the fullest manifestation of Krishna, especially His deep intimate life, is revealed within the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam only to the pure devotional scholars who wrote voluminously about Him and to those who humbly follow in their footsteps.


“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Bg.10.10)



“Wearing a peacock-feather ornament upon His head, blue karṇikāra flowers on His ears, a yellow garment as brilliant as gold, and the Vaijayantī garland, Lord Krishna exhibited His transcendental form as the greatest of dancers as He entered the forest of Vṛndāvana, beautifying it with the marks of His footprints. He filled the holes of His flute with the nectar of His lips, and the cowherd boys sang His glories.” (Bhag. 10.21.5)




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