In the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami shows how the Bhāgavata teaches the concept that Kṛṣṇa alone is Svayaṁ Bhagavān. To fortify his interpretation, Śrī Jīva Goswami identifies a four-fold army (caturaṅginī senā) which supports the emperor statement, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayaṁ. His analysis is too vast to reproduce here, extending over many pages. Below, I present the essential elements of his analysis.
The four-fold army consists of the following parts:
1. Supportive Statements – Anucchedas 30–43
2. Kṛṣṇa Is the Subject of the Bhāgavata’s Major Dialogues – Anucchedas 44-73
3. Ṣaṭ-pramāṇa – Anucchedas 74.1-74.3
4. Ṣaḍ-liṅga – Anuccheda 74.4
In the first part, Śrī Jīva Goswami cites statements from the Bhāgavata that unambiguously establish Kṛṣṇa as the source of the līlāvatāras, guṇāvatāras, and puruṣāvatāras.
In the second part, he shows that the sole intention of all the principal speakers and students within the Bhāgavata itself is to speak and hear specifically about Kṛṣṇa. This includes Vidura’s conversation with Maitreya, Parīkṣit’s eagerness to hear about Kṛṣṇa from Śrī Śuka, Śrī Śuka’s eagerness to speak about Him, and likewise of many others including Vyāsa, Nārada, Śaunaka and Sūta.
The third part establishes Kṛṣṇa as the subject of the Bhāgavata on the basis of the six kinds of evidence based on Mīmāṁsic methods of analysis. Of these, we have already seen examples of śruti, liṅga and vākya in recent articles.
The fourth part validates the same conclusion through the principle of abhyāsa or repetition.
Sri Babaji writes in his commentary on Anuccheda 74.4, “Out of these four divisions, the first category of statements may be likened to the charioteers, the second to the elephant division, the third to the cavalry, and the last to the infantry. ”
Beyond the fourfold army
Beyond the fourfold army, Śrī Jīva continues his analysis by citing several statements from the Bhāgavata that are similar to the kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam statement. Finally, he shows by gati-samanya nyāya that all śāstras confirm that Kṛṣṇa is svayaṁ Bhagavān.
Along the way, he refutes several objections to his thesis. One simple objection is that other scriptures proclaim others (e.g. Nārāyaṇa in the Padma Purāṇa ) to be svayam Bhagavān. Śrī Jīva’s reply is that the Bhāgavata over-rides other scriptures because it was compiled after all others, and it was the one that gave even Vyāsa, the compiler of all the scriptures, complete fulfillment. The Bhāgavata’s supremacy was already established in Tattva Sandarbha, which we have examined in articles elsewhere on this site. Other objections include descriptions that seem to call Kṛṣṇa a keśa-avatāra of Viṣṇu, which Śrī Jīva refutes through an exhaustive analysis.
Is it an offense to think that Kṛṣṇa alone as Svayam Bhagavān?
Is it an offense to consider Him as the source of other avatāras such as Nārāyaṇa? The Madhvā school vehemently insists that there is no difference of any kind between the various avatāras.
The reply to this concern is that Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyaṇa or Rāma are not different persons. Rather, they are only one person. When this one person appears in His complete fullness to reciprocate with various types of devotees, He appears as Kṛṣṇa. When He appears as Rāma, He chooses not to display His full range of relationships. For example, Rāma refused to marry more than one wife. Kṛṣṇa was not bound by such restrictions as is well known. Thus, the one supreme person appears differently depending on the desires of His devotees. It is then not at all an offense to think that Kṛṣṇa alone is Svayam Bhagavān, because it is He Himself who appears as the different avatāras.
If one analyzes the Bhāgavata in an unbiased way, the conclusion that Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān is really inescapable. It will be very hard to refute Śrī Jīva’s exhaustive analysis which is grounded in his prodigious scholarship. The popular notion that Kṛṣṇa is an avatāra of Viṣṇu is not supported by the Bhāgavata’s statements. It is not an offense to have faith in the Bhāgavata. At the same time, one should not forget that all the avatāras of Kṛṣṇa are Kṛṣṇa Himself in different moods, reciprocating in different ways with their devotees. Otherwise one is liable to become offensive to Kṛṣṇa.