According to Nyāya philosophy, “The attributes of an eternal object are also eternal” (nityaṁ gataṁ nityaṁ, Tarka-saṁgraha, 3.6). Bhagavān is eternal, and therefore it follows that all aspects of Him, including His form, His name and His actions are eternal. But every action has a beginning and an end because it happens in time. An action has parts in it of sub-actions, and if each of the parts are eternal, then the action would never take place. For example, if the action of writing a book is to be considered eternal, picking up a pen to write it would also be eternal, and then the action would never move to the next step. How can Bhagavān’s actions be eternal?
There is also the principle that anything that is worshippable has to be eternal, and anything that is not eternal is not worshippable. There are instructions in the scriptures that one should worship Kṛṣṇa as a baby, but if that form is not eternal because He grows up, then there is no point in worshipping Him like that. Similarly, if Bhagavān’s līlā (which is a series of activities or actions) is not eternal, then there is no point in hearing them and the Bhāgavatam’s numerous instructions to do so would be nullified.
Śrī Jīva therefore takes up the task of proving that Bhagavān’s actions are eternal in Anuchheda 47 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha. He raises a question, and then answers it:
ननु कथं जन्मकर्मणोर्नित्यत्वम्? ते हि क्रिये। क्रियात्वं च प्रति निजांशमप्यारम्भपरिसमाप्तिभ्यामेव सिद्ध्यतीति ते विना स्वस्वरूपहान्यापत्तिः।
How can anyone’s birth and actions be eternal? Both are actions and every action consists of parts, each having a beginning and an end; otherwise, it cannot be designated as action.
नैष दोषः। श्रीभगवति सदैवाकारानन्त्यात् प्रकाशानन्त्यात् जन्मकर्मलक्षणलीलानन्त्यादनन्तप्रपञ्चानन्तवैकुण्ठगततत्तल्लीलास्थानतत्तल्लीलापरिकराणां व्यक्तिप्रकाशयोरानन्त्याच् च। यत एवं सत्योरपि तत्तदाकारप्रकाशगतयोस्तदारम्भसमाप्त्योरेकत्रैव ते ते जन्मकर्मणोरंशा यावत् समाप्यन्ते न समाप्यन्ते वा तावदेवान्यत्राप्यारब्धा भवतीत्येवं श्रीभगवति विच्छेदाभावान् नित्ये एव तत्र ते जन्मकर्मणी वर्तते।
This is not an issue, since within the Lord there are eternally unlimited forms, unlimited prakāśa manifestations, unlimited pastimes of birth and other activities. There are also unlimited, individual manifestations of suitable places for these pastimes, and unlimited associates to participate in these pastimes, both in the unlimited material worlds and unlimited Vaikuṇṭhas. This being the case, the beginning and end parts of the birth and actions of one particular form may or may not have ended in one place in a particular prakāśa, while the same parts are just beginning in other places in other prakāśa manifestations. Thus because Bhagavān’s birth and actions never cease beginning and ending, they exist in Him eternally.
The key concept to understand here is the prakāśa form. A prakāśa form is defined in Anuccheda 42 as follows:
अनेकत्र प्रकटता रूपस्यैकस्य यैकदा। सर्वथा तत्स्वरूपैव स प्रकाश इतीर्यते। The appearance of a single form in many places at the same time, but which is, in all respects the same essential form (svarūpa) of the Lord, is called prakāśa.
Bhagavān can appear in different places simultaneously, in the same form, while doing different things, thinking different thoughts, and with a different sense of identity. This was evident from the pastime of His marriage to 16000 wives, in different palaces, doing different things simultaneously. In the same way, when Bhagavān raises a finger, that raising of the finger is being repeated again and again in innumerable places by innumerable prakāśa manifestations. An action may not even be complete in one particular place and that action may begin elsewhere. In this way, the action is eternal. Important in all this, of course, is that Bhagavān is only one, despite His innumerable prakāśas.
Śrī Jīva goes on to also negate the objection that if actions are performed in different times and places, then they cannot be counted as one, but are different actions repeating themselves. His counter is that the same action is being repeated, and therefore it is not counted as different; just as when one says the word “cow” twice, one does not say that two different words have been said, but that one word has been said twice.
Importantly, it is not only Bhagavān who has innumerable prakāśas, but also His associates and His abode, because each of these have to be present in different places for the action to repeat in different universes. Also, the pastimes may begin differently, and there are unlimited variations on His līlās. It is not that His activities are like a movie that one plays again and again, but there is variety- He may wear a different dress, or have a different mood etc.
The foregoing discussion applies not only to Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, but to all pastimes of Bhagavān, including for example Vāmana-deva’s three steps, or Nṛsiṁha-deva’s bursting out of the pillar. These are all eternal pastimes.