A major problem many have with Bhagavān’s form, is that a form is limiting. The surface of any object with form is its limit or boundary, which separates the universe outside that form from what is inside the form.
If Bhagavān has a form, then He is limited. He is not infinite, and not everything is contained inside Him. The world is divided in what is Bhagavān and what is not Bhagavān. Bhagavān is confined to what constitutes His form. This means Bhagavān cannot be the supreme truth, because He is not all-encompassing, and not the only thing in existence. Furthermore, the Supreme cannot have a form as by definition, form is limiting.
The dāma-bandhana līlā shows that Bhagavān is simultaneously limited and unlimited. In the dāma-bandhana līlā, Krṣṇa broke the pot of yogurt out of anger, and Yaśodā hastened to punish Him for the misdeed. She picked up a rope, and tried to coil it around Krṣṇa’s waist in order to tie Him to a mortar. To Yaśodā’s surprise, her rope fell short. She brought more ropes, started tying them together, and every time, her rope fell short again. She began to tire, but her determination did not flag. Krṣṇa who looked three feet tall, was proving to be impossible to tie a rope around! She was astonished but did not give up.
Śrīdhar swami’s commentary on the Dāma-bandhana Līlā delves into this topic in some detail, and Śrī Jīva examines his commentary in Bhagavat Sandarbha Anuccheda 31. To tie an object, one has to encircle it with rope, but Krṣṇa’s body has no inside and outside (na cāntar bahir yasya). His body is all-pervading, has no divisions, no beginning or end. His body is not limited by space.
Eventually though, Krṣṇa relented and Yaśodā was finally able to bind Him. The fact that He was bound shows that His form as the barely three-feet tall Krṣṇa was limited. The fact that Yaśodā could not bind Him with extremely long ropes shows that Krṣṇa’s body cannot be measured if He does not wish it.
One might think that perhaps Krṣṇa showed Yaśodā His unlimited form first, and then followed it by a smaller form. But this possibility is not admissible because He was simultaneously visible to Yaśodā in the child form and also experienced by her as being too large to tie a rope around. Therefore He is simultaneously limited and unlimited. These two properties are completely contradictory, but are simultaneously present in Bhagavān. The above Dāmodara-līlā establishes this key point about Bhagavān.
Prema causes only Bhagavān’s limited form to be perceived. This raises the question: why did Yaśodā not perceive Bhagavān’s unlimited form? As we examined in another post, Bhagavān is perceived according to the consciousness of the perceiver. Yaśodā had no interest in Bhagavān’s unlimitedness. It was the greatness of her love for Him, that Bhagavān appeared to Her as a small child. Bhagavān, under whose control is the entire universe, was afraid of her when she got angry at Him. This is the amazing thing about prema, which cannot perceive Bhagavān’s unlimitedness or aiśvarya. Conversely, those who are aware of Bhagavān’s aiśvarya cannot love Him, because love implies service, but what is the need for service for the unlimited?
As Śrī Babaji comments on this Anuccheda, knowledge of Bhagavān’s unlimitedness promotes awe and perhaps even fear, which causes love to contract. Intimacy with Him is inversely proportional to knowledge of His majesty.
Śrī Brahmā’s prayers substantiate that Bhagavān’s body is unlimited. Śrī Jīva goes on to explain in Anuccheda 32 that others like Śrī Brahmā also experienced Bhagavān’s body as unlimited. Śrī Brahmā speaks of such type of experience in the verses beginning with SB 10.14.11:
kvāhaṁ tamo-mahad-ahaṁ-kha-carāgni-vār-bhū-saṁveṣṭitāṇḍa-ghaṭa-sapta-vitasti-kāyaḥ kvedṛg-vidhāvigaṇitāṇḍa-parāṇu-caryā-vātādhva-roma-vivarasya ca te mahitvam
” How can we be compared- I, an ignorant being, having a body just seven spans tall, consisting of this pot-like universe, surrounded by the seven coverings of cosmic intellect (mahat-tattva), ego, ether, air, fire, water and earth; and You, who are so great that countless such universes pass through the pores of Your body, like atoms through a window?” (SB 10.14.11)
Brahmā offered these prayers to Krṣṇa in His child form. Thus, Brahmā also experienced that the limited form of Krṣṇa was actually unlimited, unimaginably bigger than himself. He further added that everything in existence include himself was actually inside Krṣṇa’s belly (SB 10.14.12).
Krṣṇa showed His mother that the material world was inside Him and also outside it. Śrī Brahmā further substantiated his prayers in SB 10.14.16 by reminding Krṣṇa of how, when He opened His mouth while His mother was feeding Him once, He showed Yaśodā the entire material world in His mouth. And yet, the visible material world was clearly also outside of Him. The purpose of this līlā is to show again that Krṣṇa’s body is simultaneously limited and all-pervading. When His limited form is perceived, He is seen inside the universe, but when His unlimited form is perceived, the universe is seen inside of him.
The Advaita interpretation of the dāma-bandhana līlā is incorrect. The Advaitins interpret these verses as suggesting that the all-pervading Brahman accepted a human form due to māyā. However Śrī Jīva uses grammatical analysis to show that the verses in question, SB 10.9.13-14, state that the one who has neither inside nor outside is the same person who was bound. Krṣṇa’s body is the basis of Brahman. Brahman is only all pervading because Krṣṇa’s body is all pervading; this becomes obvious once it is understood that Brahman is Krṣṇa perceived without His qualities.
Bhagavān’s body is inconceivably, simultaneously all-pervading and limited. That this is not an illusion like that of a magician, but a real feature of Bhagavān was clear from Yaśodā’s thoughts when she saw the universe in His mouth (this is a different pastime when He had eaten dirt). She thought:
kiṁ svapna etad uta devamāyā kiṁ vā madīyo bata buddhi-mohaḥ
atho amuṣyaiva mamārbhakasya yaḥ kaścanautpattika ātma-yogaḥ
Is this a dream, or an illusion created by the gods? Or is it my own intelligence that has been bewildered somehow? It seems, rather, that this is a manifestation of my son’s inherent yogic power of the self. (SB 10.8.40)
Śrīdhar swami comments on her thoughts (SB 10.8.40):
Yaśodā wondered, “Is this a dream?” She then looked around and saw everything was normal, and concluded that she was not dreaming. She then asked herself, “Is this māyā created by the gods, i.e. by Śrī Hari?” If it were, then others would also have seen it. So, she then wondered if she had seen a reflection of the universe in the mouth of her son, owing to her own bewildered intelligence. If she had, then how was it that she saw Krṣṇa there as well? In a reflection, the mirror itself is not seen. Moreover, the worlds within and without His mouth appeared to be exactly the same, whereas an object and its reflection in a mirror ordinarily appear in reverse. Therefore, she finally concluded, “Oh, even though He is my own, it must be some inherent yogic power of His.”
Śrī Jīva comments that her final deliberation was correct, because this display occurred only due to Krṣṇa’s acintya śakti.
In summary, Krṣṇa’s body is different from the universe, pervades it, is the basis of Brahman perception and is not a manifestation of māyā.