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The Lord’s Potencies are inconceivable (acintya): That which cannot be thought of, understood, imagined or believed. While taking Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma to Mathura, and taking bath in the Yamunā, what Akrura saw in the water was four-armed Lord Vāsudeva. His complexion was dark blue like a fresh raincloud, He wore yellow garments and He lay on the lap of thousand-hooded Ananta Śeṣa. Lord Vāsudeva was receiving the prayers of perfected beings, celestial serpents and demons, and He was encircled by His personal attendants. Serving Him were His many potencies, such as Śrī, Puṣṭi and Ilā while Brahmā and other demigods sang His praises. Akrūra rejoiced at this vision: śriyā puṣṭyā girā kāntyā kīrtyā tuṣṭyelayorjayā vidyayāvidyayā śaktyā māyayā ca niṣevitam ! Also in attendance were the Lord’s principal internal potencies — Śrī, Puṣṭi, Gīra, Kānti, Kīrti, Tuṣṭi, Ilā and Ūrjā — as were His material potencies Vidyā, Avidyā and Māyā, and His internal pleasure potency, Śakti(SB 10.39.55). Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī explains the Lord’s potencies mentioned in these verses: “Śrī is the potency of wealth; Puṣṭi that of strength; Gīra, knowledge; Kānti, beauty; Kīrti, fame; and Tuṣṭi, renunciation. These are the Lord’s six opulances. Ilā is His bhū-śakti, also known as sandhinī, the internal potency of which the element earth is an expansion. Ūrjā is His internal potency for performing pastimes; she expands as the Tulasī plant in this world. Vidyā and Avidyā [knowledge and ignorance] are external potencies who cause the living entities’ liberation and bondage, respectively. Śakti is His internal pleasure potency, hlādinī, and Māyā is an internal potency who is the basis of Vidyā and Avidyā. The word ‘ca’ implies the presence of the Lord’s marginal energy, the jīva-śakti. Being conducted by divine will, material nature, although inferior, acts so wonderfully in the construction and destruction of the cosmic manifestation. The Vedasconﬁrm this as follows: māyāṁ tu prakṛtiṁ vidyān māyinaṁ tu maheśvaram. “Although māyā [illusion] is false or temporary, the background of māyā is the supreme magician, the Personality of Godhead, who is Maheśvara, the supreme controller.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.10) hlādinyā saṁvid-āśliṣṭaḥ sac-cid-ānanda īśvaraḥ –The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller, is always full of transcendental bliss and is accompanied by the potencies known as hlādinī and saṁvit. (CC Madhya 18.114)
Generally yogīs are aspiring after many siddhis (powers) —the yogic perfections. The inhabitants of all the topmost planetary systems beyond Maharloka, like Brahmaloka and Dhruvaloka (the polestar), are empowered with eightfold achievements of mystic perfection. The power of becoming small like a particle (aṇimā-siddhi), or lighter than a soft feather (laghimā-siddhi), to get anything and everything from anywhere and everywhere (prāpti-siddhi), to become heavier than the heaviest (mahimā-siddhi), to act freely even to create something wonderful or to annihilate anything at will (īśitva-siddhi), to control all material elements (vaśitva-siddhi), to possess such power as will never be frustrated in any desire (prākāmya-siddhi) and to assume any shape or form one may even whimsically desire (kāmāvasāyitā-siddhi). The inhabitants of the earth cannot move even to the nearest planet except by mechanical vehicles like spacecraft, but the highly talented inhabitants of such higher planets can do everything very easily. But the ultimate source of all these siddhis- mystic powers is yogeśvara Kṛṣṇa who is ātmārāma, fully self-satisfied.
Lord Caitanya explained that not only Kṛṣṇa Loka but also even Vṛndāvana, Lord Kṛṣṇa’s abode on this planet, cannot be estimated as far as potency is concerned. From one point of view, Vṛndāvana is estimated to be about sixteen krośas, thirty-two square miles in area, yet in one part of this Vṛndāvana all the Vaikuṇṭhas exist. How it is all the Vaikuṇṭhas exist there is beyond material calculation. Thus Caitanya Mahāprabhu proclaimed the potencies and opulances of Kṛṣṇa to be unlimited. Whatever He told Sanātana Gosvāmī was only partial, but by such a partial presentation one can try to imagine the whole. While Lord Caitanya was speaking to Sanātana Gosvāmī about the opulances of Kṛṣṇa, He was deep in ecstasy. In that transcendental state He cited a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.2.21) in which Uddhava, after the disappearance of Kṛṣṇa, told Vidura: svayaṁ tv asāmyātiśayas tryadhīśaḥ svārājya-lakṣmyāpta-samasta-kāmaḥ baliṁ haradbhiś cira-lokapālaiḥ kirīṭa-koṭyeḍita-pādapīṭhaḥ — Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of all kinds of threes and is independently supreme by achievement of all kinds of fortune. He is worshiped by the eternal maintainers of the creation, who offer Him the paraphernalia of worship by touching their millions of helmets to His feet. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord of the three worlds, the three qualities of material nature and the three puruṣas (Kāraṇodakaśāyī, Garbhodakaśāyī and Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu). There are innumerable universes, and in each and every universe there are different manifestations of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra. Besides that, there is the Śeṣa-mūrti who bears all the universes on His hoods. And Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of all of them. As the incarnation of Manu, He is the original source of all Manus in innumerable universes. He is the Lord of the three principal potencies, namely cit-śakti, māyā-śakti and taṭasthā-śakti, and He is the complete master of six kinds of fortune (opulances) namely, wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. From revealed scriptures it is understood that Kṛṣṇa lives in three transcendental places. The most confidential residence of Kṛṣṇa is Goloka Vṛndāvana. It is there that He stays with His father, mother and friends, exhibits His transcendental relationships and bestows His mercy amongst His eternal entourage. As stated in Brahma-saṁhitā (5.43), all the Vaikuntha planets in the spiritual sky (known as Viṣṇuloka) are situated in the planet known as Kṛṣṇaloka, Goloka Vṛndāvana. The associates of Kṛṣṇa are also full with six opulances.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam states: tasraḥ koṭyaḥ sahasrāṇām aṣṭāśīti-śatāni ca āsan yadu-kulācāryāḥ kumārāṇām iti śrutam
[In Dwarka] the Yadu family [had so many children] that they employed 38,800,000 teachers to educate them. The next verse says lakṣeṇāste sa āhukaḥ — Maharaja Ugrasena had an entourage of thirty trillion attendants. Prabhupada gives an even more fantastic figure. It is said that King Ugrasena alone had ten quadrillion soldiers as personal bodyguards. “One quadrillion is equivalent to a thousand million millions — a one with 15 zeros following it. The world population today is estimated to be 7.148 billion persons. . In other words, according to Srila Prabhupada, King Ugrasena had over than 100,000 times more personal bodyguards than the entire present population of the earth planet. And aside from that, there were also cooks, laborers, priests, housewives, children, soldiers, and the rest of a variegated population of Dwarka.
Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Ṭhākura offers an explanation in his commentary to the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.90.42 -the term “ayutānām” means. The number here is 3 followed by thirteen zeros (30,000,000,000,000). The present tense term “āste” (are) in this verse is used instead of the past tense “āsīd” (were) and this indicates that this great number is being spoken of by Srila Śukadeva Goswami from the remembrance of the continuous ongoing nitya-līlā of the Lord [in Goloka Vrindavan, and not from the pastimes that happened on earth]
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.12.3, Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur says that the number of Krishna’s cows exceeded one followed by seventeen zeros. That’s in the realm of one hundred quadrillion cows and that was just the young calves, the older cows far exceeded that amount. In his commentary on Bhāgavatam (10.12.3), Srila Jiva Goswami says that the boys and calves of Vrindavan together could not be counted. If the number of calves that they herded in the forest was beyond calculation, how many more calves must have been left back in Vraja–the small calves taking milk from their mothers, as well as the mothers of the calves that went to the forest, other cows, the elder male and female calves, the bulls, whose numbers kept increasing daily by the power of Gopal, and the buffalo as well? Thus the animals, cowherd and cowherd women were unlimited in number. One should not argue that such a large number of cows could not possibly fit into the thirty-two square mile area of Vrindavan, because the dhāma is unlimited by the inconceivable energy of the Lord. Even a small portion of the holy dhāma is sufficient to accommodate billions of universes each measuring fifty million miles in diameter. Krishna showed this to Brahma. The Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta says there is no question of impediments, obstacles or limitations because the Lord, his associates, and his holy dhāma have inconceivable power (acintya-śaktih). Srila Prabhupada similarly writes. We may speak of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions, trillions, tens of trillions, and so on, but when we go further to speak of numbers impossible for us to count, we are speaking of unlimited numbers. Such unlimited numbers are indicated here by the word asaṅkhyātaiḥ. Krishna is unlimited, his potency is unlimited, his cows and calves are unlimited, and His space is unlimited. Therefore, we should not consider the statements of this verse to be mythological. They are factual, but inconceivable. Therefore, in Bhagavad-gītā, He is described as Para Brahman. The word Brahman means unlimited and Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Unlimited, Para Brahman.
If we study Krishna’s potency with our limited knowledge, that potency will never be possible to understand. ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ [Padma Purāṇa quoted in CC. Madhya 17.136] Our blunt senses cannot perceive how he could keep an unlimited number of calves and cows and have unlimited space in which to do so. Although eternity is described as having no past or future, there is still sequence (for there are līlās, pastimes): and knowledge, bliss, and beauty eternally increases. We cannot conceive how realm in which transcendental time, which has neither past nor future, allows for activities-pastimes-and for ever-increasing beauty, joy, and knowledge. A thousand yugas together equals four million three hundred and twenty thousand years. The Bhāgavatam describes that the duration of those thousand yugas entered into a single twelve-hour night in Vrindavan during which the gopīs danced with Krishna. Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur compares this inconceivable expansion of time to the fact that many universes fit within the, thirty-two square miles range of earthly Vrindavan. Similarly, he says, one may consider how Mother Yasoda was unable to encircle the abdomen of her child Krishna using many, many ropes, or how on another occasion Krishna displayed many universes in his mouth to Mother Yasoda. Srila Rūpa Goswami writes in his Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta (1.5.515): ataḥ prabhoḥ priyāṇāṁ ca dhāmnaś ca samayasya ca avicintya-prabhāvatvād atra kiṁ ca na durghaṭam
In Gokula, nothing is impossible for the Lord, the devotees, the abode, and everything in the abode, by the power of the Lord’s inconceivable energy. Here are some references indicating the infinite nature of the material and spiritual sky: “Every universe is covered by seven layers — earth, water, fire, air, sky, the total energy and false ego — each ten times greater than the previous one. There are innumerable universes besides this one, and although they are within the atom unlimitedly large, they move about like atoms in You. Brahma-Saṁhitā says, aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham: the Lord exists within the gigantic universe and Therefore You are called unlimited [ananta].” Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.16.37 When the material creation is unlimitedly large then what to speak of the spiritual sky? The all-powerful Lord is situated in Goloka the wonderful transcendental abode, which is free of old age, and death, five hundred million yojanas (four billion miles) above Vaikuntha in the spiritual sky. And Vaikuntha is ten million yojanas (eighty million miles) away from Brahmaloka of the material world. Once upon a time Sri Narayana Ṛṣi told the story to Nārada in which Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and Yamarāja travelling by speed of a mind went to Vaikuntha Loka, to see Lord Hari and expressed their desire to see Goloka. Lord Hari gave directions to go to Goloka. Following the Lord Hari’s instructions, the demigods, travelling at the speed of mind, penetrating seven layers of walls of this universe and went to the shore of the Virajā River (also known as Causal Ocean) which lies between the spiritual world and the material world. The river is free from the influence of the three modes of material nature; therefore it is called Virajā. The prefix ‘vi’ means vigata (“completelyeradicated”), and rajas means “the influence of the material world” (CC M.19.153). Demigods crossed to the farther shore, where they saw a beautiful mountain with a hundred peaks and many millions of youthful gopīs at rasa dance circle. Then they saw Vṛndāvana forest where Radha and Kṛṣṇa enjoyed pastimes, which was filled with kalpa-vrksa trees. By Radha’s order protected by five hundred million gopīs, filled with thirty-two forests the beautiful secluded Vṛndāvana where there are jewel homes of five hundred million gopas whose forms were like Sri Krsna’s. After seeing beautiful Vṛndāvana, the (three) demigods went to circular Goloka, which was ten million yojanas in size, surrounded by a jewel wall with four gates protected by many gopa gatekeepers, there were five hundred million āśramas of Lord Krsna’s servants. All the āśramas were studded with jewels and filled with many delightful things. Then they saw one billion āśramas of Lord Krsna’s devotees, one hundred million āśramas more beautifully made of precious jewels, of Lord Krsna’s associates, ten million jewel āśramas of the Lord’s intimate associates, whose forms were like Lord Krsna’s. Then 320 million jewel āśramas of gopīs purely devoted to Sri Radha, one hundred million beautiful jewel āśramas of these gopīs’ maidservants, and one billion beautiful āśramas of those who, purified by austerities in a hundred births, became very firm devotees on earth in Bharata-varṣa, awake or asleep rapt in meditation on Lord Hari, and chanting holy names of Radha-Kṛṣṇa! day and night. After gazing at this wonderful place, the (three) demigods went a little further and happily saw a beautiful and eternal banyan tree, five yojanas across and twice as many high, with a thousand trunks and countless branches, and beautiful with jewel platforms and many ripe jewel fruits. At the root of that tree the demigods saw many cowherd boys who had forms like Lord Kṛṣṇa, and who were dressed in yellow garments, attached to playing, handsome, decorated with jewel ornaments, and all of whose limbs were anointed with sandal paste. After going a short distance they saw the beautiful asrama of Sri Radha that was a great circle of six gavyutis, (gavyuti is equal to two miles). Ashram had a hundred palaces, shone with the splendor of many jewels, was made of the best of the best of priceless jewels, and a series of seven gates that led, one after the other, to a place of sixteen gates. Then they went a small distance behind that asrama. There they saw a billion āśramas of many gopas and gopīs. After thus seeing all of Goloka, the demigods returned to the beautiful circle of Vṛndāvana forest. They saw beautiful dancing, heard beautiful, beautifully rhythmic, nectar songs there about the glories of Sri, Sri Radha-Kṛṣṇa, the demigods fainted. Regaining consciousness in a moment, and their thoughts now fixed on Lord Kṛṣṇa, the demigods gazed at the many beauties and wonders there in place after place. They saw all the beautiful gopīs dressed in many different kinds of garments, some with Mridangas in their hands, some with Vinas in their hands. Going a little further, they saw the āśramas of Radha’s thirty-three gopī friends, and their homes, which were made of jewels. These are the boundaries of the universe and what lies beyond the universe i.e. the Spiritual World. All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe, at one and the same time. Such is the primeval Lord whom I adore.” Brahma Saṁhitā 5.35.Lord Brahma indicates here that each unlimited universe is springing from Lord Kṛṣṇa, and that each universe is composed of infinite atoms, yet in each atom the same unlimitedly potent Govinda exists from whom more unlimited universes could expand. This phenomena that Lord Brahma describes was experienced by Mother Yasoda (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.8) on the occasion of her looking into Krsna’s mouth to see if He had been eating dirt and saw in His mouth the whole cosmic manifestation including her looking into His mouth. It was also experienced by Markandeya Ṛṣi (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.9 and Mahabharata, Vana Parva: Markandeya-Samasya Parva, 188) who after asking for the benediction of experiencing the Lord’s illusory energy was floating in the pralaya ocean for millions of years and then saw a small child sucking its toe under a banyan tree. The child inhaled Markandeya Ṛṣi into Himself wherein Markandeya Ṛṣi found himself inside another universe where everything was normal. And, after trying unsuccessfully for millions of years to find the limits of this new universe was exhaled back into the pitch darkness of the Pralaya Ocean into the presence of the baby (Kṛṣṇa) sucking His toe under the banyan tree – vatasya patrasya pute sayānam bālam mukundam manasā smarāmi. Even within the boundary of material universe above Brahmaloka is the planet of the cows, which is protected by the Sandhyas. O Kṛṣṇa, that great planet is infinitely expansive, pervading the unlimited spiritual sky.” Brhad Bhāgavatāmṛta 3.7.81. This planet of cows known as Surabhi loka is mentioned in pastime of Lord Kṛṣṇa lifting Govardhana for seven successive days until Indra finally understood Kṛṣṇa’s mystic power and ordered the clouds to withdraw. Embarrassed by his defeat Indra went to Lord Brahma who chastised him and advised to go to Surabhi loka planet of cows and get the help of cow Surabhi. Indra, along with the cow Surabhi, then performed a bathing ceremony for Kṛṣṇa, using the water of the heavenly Ganges and the milk of mother Surabhi. Indra and the cow took this opportunity to bestow upon the Lord the name Govinda
The ātmā is only one ten thousandth of the tip of a hair in size, and it is thus absurd to suggest that we could ever truly comprehend Lord Krsna’s unlimited potencies. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite, unless the infinite gives its blessings (Bhagavad-Gita 10.10): To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ… However, the analogies are somewhat useful in appreciating the concept of infinity. Kṛṣṇa can only be understood, through Sāstra-“Sāstra yonit vat” – Vedanta Sutra 1.1.3, not by mental speculation of demons. When Lord Nrsimha appeared from the pillar with tumultuous noise bewildered Hiraṇyakaśipu and other demons could not find the source of that noise even though they were right near the pillar. The sound was so powerful it seemed that the covering of the universe would crack. In contrast to demons, when demigods heard from a distance they realized that no one can make such loud noise except the Supreme Personality of Godhead. What to speak of the Supreme Lord but by the mercy of the Lord, His pure devotees also can display some power. For example, Bharata Mahārāja in the body of a brāhmaṇa, Jaḍa Bharata, remained like dull, deaf and dumb so much so that when he was brought before the goddess Kālī to be killed as a sacrifice, he never protested but remained silent. However, due to the Brahman effulgence of Jaḍa Bharata, the deity of, the goddess Bhadra Kālī was fractured. He was a God-realized soul therefore, the goddess Bhadra Kālī became immediately alarmed due to the mistreatment of a devotee and emerged from the fractured deity to give protection to the Lord’s devotee.