All incarnations are either direct expansions of Kṛṣṇa or, indirectly, expansions of the expansions of Kṛṣṇa. However, the name of Kṛṣṇa indicates the original Personality of Godhead. It is He who appears on this earth, in this universe or in any other universe, when there is a disturbance created by the demons, who are always trying to disrupt the administration of the demigods.
There are three different processes by which Kṛṣṇa can be understood: the empiric process of philosophical speculation, the process of meditation according to the mystic yoga system, and the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or devotional service. By the method of philosophical speculation, the impersonal Brahman feature of Kṛṣṇa is understood. By the process of meditation or mystic yoga, the feature of the Supersoul, the all-pervading expansion of Kṛṣṇa, is understood. And by devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the original Personality of Godhead is realized. Lord Caitanya also quotes this verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.2.11):
- vadanti tat tattva-vidas
- tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
- brahmeti paramātmeti
- bhaga vān iti śabdyate
"Those who are knowers of the Absolute Truth describe the Absolute Truth in three features as impersonal Brahman, localized all-pervading Supersoul, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa." In other words, Brahman, the impersonal manifestation, Paramātmā, the localized manifestation, and Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are one and the same. However, according to the process adopted, He is realized as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
By realizing the impersonal Brahman, one simply realizes the effulgence emanating from the transcendental body of Kṛṣṇa. This effulgence is compared to the sunshine. There is the sun-god, the sun itself and the sunshine which is the shining effulgence of that original sun-god. Similarly, the spiritual effulgence (brahmajyoti), impersonal Brahman, is nothing but the personal effulgence of Kṛṣṇa. To support this analysis, Lord Caitanya quotes one important verse from Brahma-saṁhitā in which Lord Brahmā says:
- yasya prabhā prabhavato jagadaṇḍa-koṭi-
- koṭiṣv aśeṣa-vasudhādi-vibhūti-bhinnam
- tad-brahma niṣkalam anantam aśeṣa-bhūtaṁ
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by whose personal effulgence the unlimited brahmajyoti is manifested. In that brahmajyoti there are innumerable universes, and each is filled with innumerable planets." (Bs. 5.40)
Lord Caitanya further points out that the Paramātmā, the all-pervading feature situated in everyone's body, is but a partial manifestation or expansion of Kṛṣṇa, but because Kṛṣṇa is the soul of all souls, He is called Paramātmā, the Supreme Self. In this regard, Caitanya quoted another verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam concerning the talks between Mahārāja Parīkṣit and Śukadeva Gosvāmī. While hearing of the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, Mahārāja Parīkṣit inquired from his spiritual master, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, as to why the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana were so much attached to Kṛṣṇa. To this question Śukadeva Gosvāmī answered:
- kṛṣṇam enam avehi tvam
- ātmānam akhilātmanām
- jagaddhitāya so 'py atra
- dehīvābhāti māyayā
"Kṛṣṇa should be known as the soul of all souls, for He is the soul of all individual souls and the soul of the localized Paramātmā as well. At Vṛndāvana He was acting just like a human being to attract people and to show that He is not formless." (SB 10.14.55)
The Supreme Lord is as much an individual as other living beings, but He is different in that He is the Supreme and all other living beings are subordinate to Him. All other living beings can also enjoy spiritual bliss, eternal life and full knowledge in His association. Lord Caitanya quotes a verse from Bhagavad-gītā in which Kṛṣṇa, telling Arjuna of His different opulences, points out that He Himself enters this universe by one of His plenary portions, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and also enters into each universe as the Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and then expands Himself as the Supersoul in everyone's heart. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself indicates that if anyone wants to understand the Supreme Absolute Truth in perfection, he must take to the process of devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then it will be possible for him to understand the last word of the Absolute Truth.