Brahmā was completely mystified. He could not understand what he was seeing, and then he was not even able to see. Lord Kṛṣṇa, understanding Brahmā's position, then removed that yogamāyā covering. In this verse, Brahmā is referred to as ireśa. Irā means Sarasvatī, the goddess of learning, and Ireśa is her husband, Lord Brahmā. Brahmā, therefore, is most intelligent. But even Brahmā, the lord of Sarasvatī, was bewildered about Kṛṣṇa. Although he tried, he could not understand Lord Kṛṣṇa. In the beginning the boys, the calves and Kṛṣṇa Himself had been covered by yogamāyā, which later displayed the second set of calves and boys, who were Kṛṣṇa's expansions, and which then displayed so many four-armed forms. Now, seeing Brahmā's bewilderment, Lord Kṛṣṇa caused the disappearance of that yogamāyā. One may think that the māyā taken away by Lord Kṛṣṇa was mahāmāyā, but Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments that it was yogamāyā, the potency by which Kṛṣṇa is sometimes manifest and sometimes not manifest. The potency which covers the actual reality and displays something unreal is mahāmāyā, but the potency by which the Absolute Truth is sometimes manifest and sometimes not is yogamāyā. Therefore, in this verse the word ajā refers to yogamāyā.
Kṛṣṇa's energy—His māyā-śakti, or svarūpa-śakti—is one, but it is manifested in varieties. parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8 (CC Madhya 13.65, purport)). The difference between Vaiṣṇavas and Māyāvādīs is that Māyāvādīs say that this māyā is one, whereas Vaiṣṇavas recognize its varieties. There is unity in variety. For example, in one tree, there are varieties of leaves, fruits and flowers. Varieties of energy are required for performing the varieties of activity within the creation. To give another example, in a machine all the parts may be iron, but the machine includes varied activities. Although the whole machine is iron, one part works in one way, and other parts work in other ways. One who does not know how the machine is working may say that it is all iron; nonetheless, in spite of its being iron, the machine has different elements, all working differently to accomplish the purpose for which the machine was made. One wheel runs this way, another wheel runs that way, functioning naturally in such a way that the work of the machine goes on. Consequently we give different names to the different parts of the machine, saying, "This is a wheel," "This is a screw," "This is a spindle," "This is the lubrication," and so on. Similarly, as explained in the Vedas,
- parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate
- svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca
- (CC Madhya 13.65, purport)
Kṛṣṇa's power is variegated, and thus the same śakti, or potency, works in variegated ways. Vividhā means "varieties." There is unity in variety. Thus yogamāyā and mahāmāyā are among the varied individual parts of the same one potency, and all of these individual potencies work in their own varied ways. The saṁvit, sandhinī and āhlādinī potencies—Kṛṣṇa's potency for existence, His potency for knowledge and His potency for pleasure—are distinct from yogamāyā. Each is an individual potency. The āhlādinī potency is Rādhārāṇī. As Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī has explained, rādhā kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī śaktir asmāt (CC Adi 1.5). The āhlādinī-śakti is manifested as Rādhārāṇī, but Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī are the same, although one is potent and the other is potency.
Brahmā was mystified about Kṛṣṇa's opulence (nija-mahimani) because this opulence was atarkya, or inconceivable. With one's limited senses, one cannot argue about that which is inconceivable. Therefore the inconceivable is called acintya, that which is beyond cintya, our thoughts and arguments. Acintya refers to that which we cannot contemplate but have to accept. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has said that unless we accept acintya in the Supreme, we cannot accommodate the conception of God. This must be understood. Therefore we say that the words of śāstra should be taken as they are, without change, since they are beyond our arguments. Acintyāḥ khalu ye bhāvā na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet: "That which is acintya cannot be ascertained by argument." People generally argue, but our process is not to argue but to accept the Vedic knowledge as it is. When Kṛṣṇa says, "This is superior, and this is inferior," we accept what He says. It is not that we argue, "Why is this superior and that inferior?" If one argues, for him the knowledge is lost.
This path of acceptance is called avaroha-panthā The word avaroha is related to the word avatāra, which means"that which descends." The materialist wants to understand everything by the āroha-panthā—by argument and reason—but transcendental matters cannot be understood in this way. Rather, one must follow the avaroha-panthā, the process of descending knowledge. Therefore one must accept the paramparā system. And the best paramparā is that which extends from Kṛṣṇa (evaṁ paramparā-prāptam (BG 4.2)). What Kṛṣṇa says, we should accept (imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ). This is called the avaroha-panthā.
Brahmā, however, adopted the āroha-panthā. He wanted to understand Kṛṣṇa's mystic power by his own limited, conceivable power, and therefore he himself was mystified. Everyone wants to take pleasure in his own knowledge, thinking, "I know something." But in the presence of Kṛṣṇa this conception cannot stand, for one cannot bring Kṛṣṇa within the limitations of prakṛti. One must submit. There is no alternative. Na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet. This submission marks the difference between Kṛṣṇa-ites and Māyāvādīs.
The phrase atan-nirasana refers to the discarding of that which is irrelevant. (Atat means "that which is not a fact.") Brahman is sometimes described as asthūlam anaṇv ahrasvam adīrgham, "that which is not large and not small, not short and not long." (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 5.8.8) Neti neti: "It is not this, it is not that." But what is it? In describing a pencil, one may say, "It is not this; it is not that," but this does not tell us what it is. This is called definition by negation. In Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa also explains the soul by giving negative definitions. Na jāyate mriyate vā: "It is not born, nor does it die. You can hardly understand more than this." But what is it? It is eternal. Ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre: "It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. It is not slain when the body is slain." (BG 2.20) In the beginning the soul is difficult to understand, and therefore Kṛṣṇa has given negative definitions:
- nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi
- nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
- na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo
- na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
"The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can it be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind." (BG 2.23) Kṛṣṇa says, "It is not burned by fire." Therefore, one has to imagine what it is that is not burned by fire. This is a negative definition.