Bhagavān’s punishment is not punishment

Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is seen to punish the asuras such as Jarāsandha and to assist the devatās like Brahmā. As Brahmā has a predominance of sattva guṇa and the asuras have rajas and tamas, this appears to indicate that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is ‘controlled’ by the guṇas. This goes against the Vaiṣṇava assertion that Bhagavān is transcendental to the guṇas.

Śrī Jīva takes up this question in great detail in the Paramātmā Sandarbha. This must have been a really important topic for him as he devoted long anucchedas to it. Here we present his analysis from Anuccheda 93.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s punishment is manifestation of the hlādinī śakti

Śrī Jīva notes in Anuccheda 93 that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s actions are independent of māyā, being manifestations of His svarūpa śakti. His hostility toward those who oppose His devotees nourishes His affection for His devotee, and therefore is actually a vṛtti or transformation of His hlādinī śakti. Naturally, His punishment must also bestow welfare on the punished. Śrī Jīva explains that He awards brahma-kaivalya, or a sense of oneness with Brahman upon those who are hostile to His devotees. This completely destroys the material misery and material desires of the asuras. Alternatively, He sometimes sends the asuras to a special heaven filled with intense sensual pleasures.

The jñānis aspire for oneness with Brahman and achieve it (if they are lucky) only after great struggle over many many lifetimes. Thus, what appears as Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s punishment is not punishment.

At the same time, Śrī Jīva writes that such oneness with Brahman looks like punishment to the bhaktas of Śrī Kṛṣṇa because it resembles dhvaṁsa-abhāva or non-existence of an object after its destruction. Thus, for the bhaktas, His actions in relation to the asuras appear like the worst punishment possible.

The reason for Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s awarding of uttama bhakti to Putanā

The above principle of the awarding of Brahman to those hostile to His devotees seems to be contradicted in the case of Putanā. She tried to kill Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and in return, He awarded the same destination to her as His uttama bhaktas. In resolving this contradiction, Śrī Jīva teaches a very important principle. He writes:

yat tu pūtanādāv uttama-bhakta-gatiḥ śrūyate, tad-bhaktānukaraṇa-māhātmyenaiveti tatra tatra spaṣṭam eva, yathā sad-veṣād api pūtanāpi sakulā [bhā.pu. 10.14.35] ity-ādi |

In those scriptural passages, however, where it is learnt that even [wicked persons] such as Putana attained the same destination as the most exalted devotees (uttama-bhaktas), it is perfectly clear that these incidents occur exclusively through the glory of imitating such devotees. This has been described in statements such as, “Even Putana along with her family attained You merely by dressing in the guise of a mother” (sb 10.14.35)

Śrī Jīva has taught the importance of dress here! Culture matters to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Bhaktas who commit aparādha do not get brahma-kaivalya

What then is the fate of those sādhaka bhaktas who commit some aparādha toward a realized bhakta such as the guru? Śrī Jīva notes that the committing of an aparādha toward a saintly bhakta is an extremely rare event that happens by some misfortune. The result of such an aparādha is an intense hatred for bhaktas and for Bhagavān, which he compares to an underwater volcano. The volcano is so intense that even the presence of the mighty ocean above it cannot quench it. Similarly the hatred born out of aparādha does not subside for a long time.

But because these persons were bhaktas before the aparādha, they possessed the bhakti latā bīja, or the seed of bhakti. This seed is indestructible and beyond the guṇas. Thus, when these former bhaktas come in contact with Bhagavān, their offenses are destroyed, and they attain Bhagavān’s abode. They do not get brahma-kaivalya, because Bhagavān is not truly angry at them. Śrī Jīva likens His anger toward them to that of a mother toward her children.


The essence of all actions of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is bliss. His actions bestow welfare on all, but in a reciprocal way. His punishment is not punishment because it relieves the punished from their misery and awards liberation.

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  1. Praņāms! So can it be assumed that Putana was previously a bhakta who committed some aparadha which led to her being in the state of a rākşasī? After she performed the action that was slightly favourable to Krishna, he being pleased sent her to his own abode, giving her the position of His nurse(janani-gatim) instead of brahmakaivalya like the other asuras?

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