[September 7, 2023 is Janmāṣṭamī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on August 15, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
PROSTITUTION OF WORDS
Today is a special tithi called Janmāṣṭamī. We sometimes specifically refer to it as ‘Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī’, but simply by saying Janmāṣṭamī it is understood to be Kṛṣṇa’s Janmāṣṭamī. Some refer to it as ‘Kṛṣṇa Jayantī’. Nowadays prostitution of words is prevalent [hence people attribute the word Jayantī to personalities other than Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the source of all avatāras]; for example, now there is Gāndhi Jayantī, this Jayantī and that Jayantī, everything has become acceptable nowadays. Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja elucidated on this matter in his article, [something to the effect of] “There Is No Other ‘Jayantī’ [other than Kṛṣṇa Jayantī]”.
HOW CAN BEGINNINGLESS HAVE A BEGINNING?
Now the question is: which Kṛṣṇa – Devakīnandana Kṛṣṇa or Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa? Generally speaking, the scriptures mention that Kṛṣṇa appeared in the prison of King Kaṁsa. If indeed Kṛṣṇa appeared in the prison of Kaṁsa as the son of Vasudeva, then why is He addressed as Nandanandana? Even the festival celebrating his birth is called Nandotsava [Festival of Nanda Mahārāja]. It is not known as the festival of Vasudeva or Vasudevotsava.
In this world it is customary [for the father] to hold a festival when he is blessed with a son. However, it is mentioned in the Brahma-saṁhitā,
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam
Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Parameśvara. He is beginningless (anādi) as well as the beginning (ādi). He is Govinda, the cause of all causes, sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam.
If He is the cause of all causes then who could be His cause? I am not making [casual] statements; I am speaking siddhānta [axiomatic truth based on the revealed scriptures]. If He is the cause of all causes, how can He have a father and a mother? He cannot have parents. But the festival is known by the name Nandotsava; He is known as Nandanandana and so on. What is the reason behind this?
Whose son is Kṛṣṇa? Bhagavān is nobody's son. Despite being aja (unborn), Bhagavān accepts the pastime of being born. This is Bhagavān’s supreme opulence (bhagavatatā). Kṛṣṇa though unborn, accepts the pastime of birth because He is subservient to His devotee. Bhagavān becomes the son of one who has parental affection (vātsalya) for Him. It is said that because Nanda Mahārāja has great affection for Bhagavān, Bhagavān is addressed as Nandanandana. Hence the festival is called Nandotsava. Is it called as Vasudeva’s utsava? The term, “Janmāṣṭamī” implies Kṛṣṇa’s birth. He appeared [was born] in the house of Nanda Mahārāja and [merely] descended (avataraṇa) holding a conch, disc, club and lotus before Vasudeva and Devakī.
KṚṢṆA IS AVATĀRĪ, NOT AVATĀRA
Historically it has been observed that the son of Vasudeva appeared in the prison holding a conch, disc, club and lotus in His four arms and only after Devakī and Vasudeva prayed for Him to appear like an ordinary human child did He do so. First, He appeared in His transcendental (alaukika) four-armed form, holding a conch, disc, club and lotus, and then He turned into an ordinary human child. This is what has been revealed [in the scriptures]. Is this possible? Yes, everything is possible. Kṛṣṇa is the avatārī [the origin of all avatāras or incarnations]. He is not an avatāra, so everything is possible.
THE MERGING OF TWO KṚṢṆAS
From the external consideration, all [His] activities are transcendental. Vasudeva took his child to the house of Nanda to hide Him. On the way, Kṛṣṇa fell in the Yamunā, just then, the Yamunā began to flow backwards and Vasudeva was able to recover Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa did not drown. Yamunā not only gave way for Vasudeva to cross over, but also rose high enough to touch Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. [At the same time] Twins, a son and a daughter, had been born to Yaśodā. Vasudeva brought back the girl child and left his son Vasudevanandana Kṛṣṇa who merged with Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa. Is such a thing possible? That is why it is said 'janma karma ca me divyam - My Birth and activities are transcendental [Bhagavad Gita 4.9].' Like this, everything is transcendental
Our gosvāmīs unearthed [the hidden meanings]. How did they achieve this? They achieved this just by [expanding upon] terms like ‘Nandātmaja’ and ‘Nandanandana’. Compared to others, the gosvāmīs unearthed many pramāṇas (evidences). Some pramāṇa can be derived from every activity [pastime].
NĀRADA MUNI – LOVER OF QUARRELS
Nārada is [known as] kalaha-priya – lover of quarrels. He said to Vasudeva, “When you got a son, you did not celebrate any festival. Now your son has become Dvārakādhīśa, so celebrate a festival.” Thus, a sacrifice was [organized and] performed, and all the three worlds were invited, with the exception of the Vrajavāsīs. The responsibility of inviting all the guests was assigned to Nārada Muni. Being kalaha-priya, he first went to the house of Nanda Mahārāja in Vraja, and glorified him by calling out, “All glories to Nanda Mahārāja! There is a great sacrifice [organized] at Prabhāsa and I have the responsibility to invite the residents of all the three worlds, with an exception of the Vrajavāsīs.” Nanda Mahārāja became grave but did not respond. Nārada realized the objective of his visit was not being accomplished, so he proceeded to meet with Yaśodā instead. Yaśodā very affectionately received Nārada, “O Nārada! What can I feed you? Just let me know, I will prepare anything of your choice.” Nārada replied, “I am very hard pressed for time; I have to go and invite everyone in all the three worlds [for the sacrifice being organized at Prabhāsa], except for the Vrajavāsīs. I have come here only to inform you of this.”
Yaśodā announced, “I will surely go, but not to meet with anyone - I will simply take darśana of my lālā [dear son] and return. I will not even drink water there. What is the harm in that?” Nanda Mahārāja, however, objected, “Please do not go. It does not reflect well to go uninvited to such a grandly organized and arranged sacrifice.” But Yaśodā insisted, “I will surely go.” So along with others she went but could not meet [Kṛṣṇa] as all the four entrances were guarded by gate-keepers. Moreover, Bhīma and Arjuna were patrolling from their airplanes above. Nobody [without an invitation] could enter. Initially, they [the Vrajavāsīs] repeatedly pleaded and even cried, but to no avail. By this pastime it was proven that nothing will be achieved by prayers and weeping alone [one has to take shelter of nāma-kīrtana].
NĀMA-KĪRTANA REIGNS SUPREME
Then Yaśodā's maid-servant suggested to her, “O Yaśodā! Please call out to your son by uttering His name.” This pastime demonstrates how powerful nāma-kīrtana is. When Yaśodā performed nāma-kīrtana by calling out, “Gopāla! Gopāla!” Kṛṣṇa immediately left the sacrifice He was engaged in and came to Yaśodā [seating Himself on her lap in the form of Gopāla]. When the cowherd friends called out, “Kanhaiyā! Kanhaiyā! Having come all the way here, should we return bereft of Your darśana?”, then Kṛṣṇa went there in the form of Kanhaiyā [as their cowherd friend]. Rādhārāṇi also called out, “O Śyāmasundara! Will I not get Your darśana? Will I have to return as it is?” In response, Kṛṣṇa went there in the form of Śyāmasundara. Kṛṣṇa reciprocated with each devotee according to his or her priya-nāma [name of Kṛṣṇa that is most dear to that devotee like Gopāla, Kanhaiyā or Śyāmasundara]; depending on the mood with which they called out to Kṛṣṇa, He appeared to them in that very form.
At the sacrifice Nārada Muni informed Devakī, “Your son is being taken away by Yaśodā. Please manage the situation.” There were only five minutes left to complete the sacrifice, [and if it was not completed, it would be fruitless] yet Kṛṣṇa did not mind, He simply got up and left. What was proven by this pastime? There is so much power in nāma-saṅkīrtana that all fruitive activities such as this sacrifice were not given any precedence [compared to nāma-saṅkīrtana]. This is the point.
KṚṢṆA’S REAL MOTHER
Is Kṛṣṇa the son of Yaśodā or Devakī? How can we determine this? It was adjudged that whoever’s breasts overflowed with milk [out of vātsalya upon seeing Kṛṣṇa] would be considered His real mother. Milk flowed from the breasts of Yaśodā, not Devakī. So whose son is He? He is the son of Yaśodā and Nanda. Therefore the festival is called Nandotsava, Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī. These are all very confidential subject matters, not easily understood.
THE CONFIDENIAL MEANING
Regardless, Janmāṣṭamī and Nandotsava are celebrated in a grand way. You all consider this day as the festival of Janmāṣṭamī. Everybody uses these terms, ‘Janmāṣṭamī! Janmāṣṭamī! Nandotsava! Nandotsava!’ yet no one deliberates about their confidential meaning. No one. Simply by repeating how does one come to believe that when Vasudeva left his son [Vasudeva Kṛṣṇa] at Nanda Mahārāja's house, He merged with Nanda Mahārāja's son [Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa]? Is this worthy of being believed? This was proven when Akrūra was sent by Kaṁsa to bring Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma to Mathurā from Vṛndāvana to witness the dhanur-yajña.
NANDANANDANA KṚṢṆA NEVER LEAVES VṚNDĀVANA
While returning to Mathurā with Them, when Akrūra bathed at Akrūra Ghāṭa, he saw Kṣṇa simultaneously seated on the chariot as well as inside the waters of the Yamunā. When he took another dip, he had the same vision again. Akrūra wondered, “This is not a reflection [of Kṛṣṇa] because if it were so, it would have to be upside down.” To confirm, Kṛṣṇa asked him, “Did you see anything?” Akrūra could not even reply. Through this pastime Kṛṣṇa showed that Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa did not take even a step outside of Vṛndāvana at any time [and that there are two Kṛṣṇas – Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa and Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa]
Thus it is said:
kṛṣṇo ’nyo yadu-sambhūto yaḥ pūrṇaḥ so ’sty ataḥ paraḥ vṛndāvanaṁ parityajya sa kvacin naiva gacchati
[The Kṛṣṇa known as Yadu-kumāra is Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa. He is different from the Kṛṣṇa who is the son of Nanda Mahārāja. Yadu-kumāra Kṛṣṇa manifests His pastimes in the cities of Mathurā and Dvārakā, but Kṛṣṇa the son of Nanda Mahārāja never leaves Vṛndāvana at any time.]
Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa never left Vṛndāvana. The difference is Devakīnandana Kṛṣṇa killed many demons, whereas Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa did not kill any. This has been demonstrated, but to comprehend [the transcendental activities of the Lord] is very difficult. Everyone celebrates the festival, yet they are not able to understand its confidential meaning.