As stated in the Padma Purāṇa:
- ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi
- na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
- sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
- svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
- (CC Madhya 17.136)
"One cannot understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through one's materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him." Since Kṛṣṇa and His transcendental name, form and activities are all of a transcendental nature, ordinary persons or those who are only slightly advanced cannot understand them. Even big scholars who are nondevotees think that Kṛṣṇa is fictitious. Yet although so-called scholars and commentators do not believe that Kṛṣṇa was factually a historical person whose presence on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra is recorded in the history of Mahābhārata, they feel compelled to write commentaries on Bhagavad-gītā and other historical records. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ: [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.234] Kṛṣṇa's transcendental name, form, attributes and activities can be revealed only when one engages in His service in full consciousness. This confirms Kṛṣṇa's own words in Bhagavad-gītā (BG 18.55):
- bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
- yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
- tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
- viśate tad-anantaram
"One can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God." Only by sevonmukha, by engaging oneself in the Lord's service, can one realize the name, form and qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"O Lord," the demigods say, "the impersonalists, who are nondevotees, cannot understand that Your name is identical with Your form." Since the Lord is absolute, there is no difference between His name and His actual form. In the material world there is a difference between form and name. The mango fruit is different from the name of the mango. One cannot taste the mango fruit simply by chanting, "Mango, mango, mango." But the devotee who knows that there is no difference between the name and the form of the Lord chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, and realizes that he is always in Kṛṣṇa's company.
For persons who are not very advanced in absolute knowledge of the Supreme, Lord Kṛṣṇa exhibits His transcendental pastimes. They can simply think of the pastimes of the Lord and get the full benefit. Since there is no difference between the transcendental name and form of the Lord, there is no difference between the transcendental pastimes and the form of the Lord. For those who are less intelligent (like women, laborers or the mercantile class), the great sage Vyāsadeva wrote Mahābhārata. In the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa is present in His different activities. Mahābhārata is history, and simply by studying, hearing, and memorizing the transcendental activities of Kṛṣṇa, the less intelligent can also gradually rise to the standard of pure devotees.
The pure devotees, who are always absorbed in the thought of the transcendental lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and who are always engaged in devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are never to be considered to be in the material world. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has explained that those who are always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness by body, mind and activities are to be considered liberated even within this body. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: those who are engaged in the devotional service of the Lord have already transcended the material position.
Kṛṣṇa appears in order to give a chance to both the devotees and the nondevotees for realization of the ultimate goal of life. The devotees get the direct chance to see Him and worship Him. Those who are not on that platform get the chance to become acquainted with His activities and thus become elevated to the same position.
The Brahma-saṁhitā (BS 5.38) says:
- santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
- yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
Although Kṛṣṇa's transcendental form is presented as black, devotees who are in love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead appreciate the Lord as Śyāmasundara, having a very beautiful blackish form. The Lord's form is so beautiful that the Brahma-saṁhitā (BS 5.38) also states:
- veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
- barhāvataṁsam asitāmbuda-sundarāṅgam
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who plays on His transcendental flute. His eyes are like lotus flowers, He is decorated with peacock plumes, and His bodily color resembles the color of a fresh black cloud, although His bodily features are more beautiful than millions of Cupids." This beauty of the Supreme Lord can be seen by devotees who are in love with Him, devotees whose eyes are anointed with love of Godhead (premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena (BS 5.38)).
The Lord is also known as Giridhārī or Girivara-dhārī. Because Kṛṣṇa, for the sake of His devotees, lifted Govardhana Hill, the devotees appreciate the Lord's inconceivable strength; but nondevotees, in spite of directly perceiving the Lord's inconceivable strength and power, regard the Lord's activities as fictitious. This is the difference between a devotee and a nondevotee. Nondevotees cannot give any nomenclature for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet the Lord is known as Śyāmasundara and Giridhārī. Similarly, the Lord is known as Devakī-nandana and Yaśodā-nandana because He accepted the role of son for mother Devakī and mother Yaśodā, and He is known as Gopāla because He enjoyed the sport of maintaining the cows and calves. Therefore, although He has no mundane name, He is addressed by devotees as Devakī-nandana, Yaśodā-nandana, Gopāla and Śyāmasundara. These are all transcendental names that only devotees can appreciate and nondevotees cannot.
The history of Kṛṣṇa the person has been openly seen by everyone, yet only those who are in love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead can appreciate this history, whereas nondevotees, who have not developed their loving qualities, think that the activities, form and attributes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are fictitious. Therefore this verse explains, na nāma-rūpe guṇa janma-karmabhir nirūpitavye tava tasya sākṣiṇaḥ. In this connection, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has given the example that persons suffering from jaundice cannot taste the sweetness of sugar candy, although everyone knows that sugar candy is sweet. Similarly, because of the material disease, nondevotees cannot understand the transcendental name, form, attributes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although they actually see the Lord's activities, either through authority or through history. The Purāṇas are old, authentic histories, but nondevotees cannot understand them, especially Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the essence of Vedic knowledge. Nondevotees cannot understand even the preliminary study of transcendental knowledge, Bhagavad-gītā. They simply speculate and present commentaries with absurd distortions. In conclusion, unless one elevates himself to the transcendental platform by practicing bhakti-yoga, one cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His name, form, attributes or activities. But if by chance, by the association of devotees, one can actually understand the Lord and His features, one immediately becomes a liberated person. As the Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā (BG 4.9):
- janma karma ca me divyam
- evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
- tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
- naiti mām eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has therefore said that by affection and love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, devotees can express their mind to Him with their words. Others, however, cannot do this, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ (BG 18.55)).