Is Śrī Kṛṣṇa the supreme enjoyer?

We frequently hear these days that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer. Presumably these ideas come from the following type of statements that He has made in the Gītā (9.24):

ahaṁ hi sarva-yajñānāṁ bhoktā ca prabhur eva ca |

na tu mām abhijānanti tattvenātaś cyavanti te ||

Indeed, I alone am the one for whom all yajñas are intended and the one who bestows their results. But they do not know Me in truth, and therefore they fall down.

The notion that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer creates the false notion that the jīvas are the ‘enjoyed’, and that Śrī Kṛṣṇa somehow needs them for His enjoyment. In reality, the jīvas are utterly insignificant, and have no ability to give Him any enjoyment. Such ideas are at best a subtle sense of self-flattery- that we matter because we can give enjoyment of some type to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Further, it conjures notions of Śrī Kṛṣṇa being some kind of ‘tyrant’ who enjoys others and other things. In that sense, He is not much different from us who wish to enjoy in this world; except that He is the supreme enjoyer.

This notion can and has created quite a twisted idea of who Śrī Kṛṣṇa actually is. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not some petty God above, waiting to give punishment to those who do not give Him enjoyment, and exploiting those who submit to Him. Bhaktas with these strange notions alternatively nurture resentment for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or resentment of themselves for refusing to submit themselves to His enjoyment. What an unhealthy frame of mind!

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not the supreme enjoyer

The point of the above verse is to simply state that yajñas of the Vedas bring fruit when Kṛṣṇa is pleased, because the devatās are not independent of Him. The system of the yajñas is made by Kṛṣṇa to benefit the jīva; it is not that He wants the fruits of the yajñas for His own enjoyment.

When one understands the Bhāgavata as taught by a great ācārya like Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī, one understands the principle that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is actually the bhakta of His bhaktas, and that is how He enjoys. Factually speaking, Kṛṣṇa is the supreme bhakta, and because bhakti is the supreme form of happiness, He may be considered the supreme enjoyer.

There are many līlās in the Bhāgavata that teach the principle that Kṛṣṇa is completely controlled by His bhaktas and derives happiness from serving them. I will provide two examples below.

Brahmā-vimohana līlā

Consider the famous Brahmā-vimohana līlā in which Brahmā steals the cowherd boys and calves, and in which Śrī Kṛṣṇa confuses him by replicating each of the cowherd boys and calves right down to their toenails, and to the last detail of their personalities, mannerisms and so on. When the cowherd boys who were Śrī Kṛṣṇa went back to their mothers, their mothers loved their boys even more. This is because they loved Śrī Kṛṣṇa more than their own boys. Now that He had become their sons, they loved their new sons more than their original sons.

There is, however, a potential problem here which Śrī Viśvanātha astutely recognizes in his commentary. He writes:

nanu śrīdāmādīṣu tan mātṝṇāṁ yāvān snehas tāvān eva putrī-bhūte kṛṣṇe’pi bhavitum arhati yāvac chīla-guṇābhidhākṛti-vayo yāvad vihārādikam iti pūrvokteḥ |

The love of the mothers for Kṛṣṇa who had become their son, ought to have been the same as their love for śrīdāma and the others [their actual children]. This is because it was said earlier that He had exactly the same nature [such as talkativeness or skill or calmness of personality], qualities [such as compassion], names or speech, actions, age and so on [as the original sons].

He resolves the question as follows:

ucyate kṛṣṇo hi mahā-maheśvaratvāt svādhīnī-kṛta-brahmādi-svāṁśa-paryanto’pi premṇaḥ khalvadhīna eva premā tu na tasyādhīnaḥ iti

We reply: even though Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a mahā-maheśvara [great lord of all lords] who has subjugated others ranging from Brahmā upto His own svāṁśa expansions, He remains subordinate to prema [love]. Prema is not subordinate to Him.

Here Śrī Viśvanātha explains that prema is not under the control of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and is not subordinate to Him. He explains this more clearly:

premṇi tasya prabhutvābhāvāt premā saṅkucito-kartum aśakyaḥ ata eva svāmi-caraṇair apy uktam etāvat tu vaiṣamyaṁ kṛṣṇenāpi durnivāram iti

Because His Lordship is absent in matters of prema, He is unable to cause prema to contract. This is why Śrīdhar Swami-pāda also had said that this much inequality, however, is impossible for even Śrī Kṛṣṇa to dispel.

In other words, despite having recreated all the minute details of their sons, He is unable to reduce the prema of the mothers for Him. As such, they continue to love Him in the form of their sons, more than their own sons.

sa ca premā vātsalyādi-rūpas tan mātrādiṣu virājaye iti kṛṣṇaḥ svamātrādi-samīpe svaiśvaryamanana-sandhāno’dhīnībhūta eva sadā tiṣṭhati yathā mahā-rāja-cakravartinaḥ samīpe maṇḍaleśvara iti na ca mahā-maheśvarasya tasyaivaṁ pāratantryaṁ dūṣaṇam iti vācyaṁ pratyuta bhūṣaṇam eva yathā jīvasya māyāpāratantryaṁ duḥkhārthakaṁ tathaiveśvarasyānanda-rasamayasyāpi prema-pāratantryaṁ pratikṣaṇa-vardhamāna-niratiśayānandārthakam eveti mahānubhāvair anubhūtam ||25||

That prema, in the form of vātsalya etc., shines forth in His mothers and others. In the vicinity of His mothers, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is unable to assert His Lordship, and stays always as subdued by them. This is similar to how a minor king remains subdued in the company of a great emperor. One should not consider such lack of independence of the great Lord of all Lords as a fault, but it is actually an ornament. Just as a jīva’s subjugation by māyā is the cause of its distress, subjugation by prema is the cause of the increase of unsurpassed bliss at every moment for the Lord, whose very essence is the rasa of bliss. This is the experience of the great devotees.

In other words, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is subjugated by His devotees. He does not sound like a supreme enjoyer to me.

Aghāsura līlā

Another example is the Aghāsura līlā, in which the cowherd boys decide to walk into the snake’s mouth. They go in happily, thinking that Śrī Kṛṣṇa would protect them if necessary. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa saw them begin to go in, He wanted them to immediately stop. But they walked in anyway. Here there is a similar problem which again is articulated by Śrī Viśvanātha. He writes:

na cātra bhagavataḥ satya-saṅkalpatā vyabhicarati smetyāśaṅkanīyam satya-saṅkalpatā

One should not think think that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s satya-saṅkalpatā, the quality that whatever He wishes is always fulfilled, has been contravened here.

The problem is that He wished they not go in, but they went anyway. This seems to undermine His Lordship. Śrī Viśvanātha provides the solution:

asmān kim atra grasitā niviṣṭān ayaṁ tathā ced-bakavad vinaṅkṣyati iti bhakta-saṅkalpasyāpy atra vartamānatvāt mat saṅkalpa-mad bhakta-saṅkalpayor madhye mad bhakta-saṅkalpasyaiva garīyas tvam iti bhaktavaśyena bhagavataiva prāk kṛtāyā maryādāyās tathā līlā-śakteś ca sarvopamardinyāḥ sarvadā jāgarūkatvāt

The devotees had previously said, “What if this is a serpent, and he tries to swallow us who have ventured inside? Then he will die just like Baka [at the hands of Śrī Kṛṣṇa]. ” [Śrī Kṛṣṇa thought,] “their desire being so, between their desire and my desire [that they should not go in], their desire [that they should go and that the snake should die] must be fulfilled”. [He thought so] because this principle has been established previously by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself owing to being under the control of His devotees, and because His līlā-śakti is always aware and therefore overrides [even His will].

It is not that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is consciously aware when His desire is defeated by a desire of His devotees. That happens automatically, and is orchestrated by His līlā-śakti who is ever vigilant and never sleeps. That His desire will be always over-ridden by His devotees’ desire, is an unchanging principle that He Himself has established. As such, it is ridiculous to think of Him as some kind of enjoyer who wishes to enjoy others. Instead, He wishes to serve His devotees always.


When there is opposition between the desire of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s devotees, and His own desire, the devotees will always win. This is a principle created by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, and enforced by His līlā-śakti. Śrī Kṛṣṇa always remains subjugated by His devotees like His mother, because this position of serving His mother is most pleasing to Him. It is therefore unfair to Him to think of Him as a Supreme Enjoyer. He is, instead, a Supreme Bhakta. And His devotion finds its highest expression in Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Categories: Bhagavān

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply