In the Bhagavad-gītā it is confirmed by the Lord that there is no truth superior to Kṛṣṇa. Śukadeva Gosvāmī also, in order to draw attention to the fact that among all viṣṇu-tattva forms Lord Kṛṣṇa is one hundred percent the Supreme Personality of Godhead, narrated the story of an incident which took place when Lord Kṛṣṇa was present.
Once upon a time in Dvārakā, a brāhmaṇa's wife gave birth to a child. Unfortunately, however, just after being born and touching the ground, the child immediately died. The brāhmaṇa father took the child and went directly to the palace of the King. The brāhmaṇa was very upset because of the untimely death of the child in the presence of his young father and mother. Thus his mind became very much disturbed. Formerly, when there were responsible kings, up to the time of Dvāpara-yuga, when Lord Kṛṣṇa was present, the king was liable to be blamed for the untimely death of a child in the presence of his parents. Similarly, such responsibility was there during the time of Lord Rāmacandra. As we have explained in the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the king was so responsible for the comforts of the citizens that he was to see that there was not even excessive heat or cold. Now the brāhmaṇa whose child had died, thinking there was no fault on his own part, immediately went to the palace door with the dead child in his arms and accused the King as follows.
"The present King, Ugrasena, is envious of the brāhmaṇas!" The exact word used in this connection is brahma-dviṣaḥ. One who is envious of the Vedas, of a qualified brāhmaṇa or of the brāhmaṇa caste is called brahma-dviṣ. So the King was accused of being brahma-dviṣ. He was also accused of being śaṭha-dhī, falsely intelligent. The executive head of a state must be very intelligent to see to the comforts of the citizens, but according to the brāhmaṇa the King was not at all intelligent, although he was occupying the royal throne. Therefore the brāhmaṇa also called him lubdha, which means "greedy." In other words, a king or an executive head of state should not occupy the exalted post of president or king if he is greedy and self-interested. But it is natural that an executive head becomes self-interested when he is attached to material enjoyment. Therefore, another word used here is viṣayātmanaḥ.
The brāhmaṇa also accused the King of being kṣatra-bandhu, which refers to a person born in the family of kṣatriyas, or the royal order, but lacking the qualifications of a royal personality. A king should protect brahminical culture and should be very alert to the welfare of his citizens; he should not be greedy due to attachment to material enjoyment. If a person with no qualifications represents himself as a kṣatriya of the royal order, he is not called a kṣatriya but a kṣatra-bandhu. Similarly, if a person is born of a brāhmaṇa father but has no brahminical qualification, he is called brahma-bandhu or dvija-bandhu. This means that a brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya is not accepted simply by birth. One has to qualify himself for the particular position; only then is he accepted as a brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya.
Thus the brāhmaṇa charged that his newly born baby was dead due to the disqualifications of the King. The brāhmaṇa took it to be most unnatural, and therefore he held the King responsible. We also find in Vedic history that if a kṣatriya king was irresponsible, sometimes a consulting board of brāhmaṇas maintained by the monarchy would dethrone him. Considering all these points, it appears that the post of monarch in the Vedic civilization is a very responsible one.
The brāhmaṇa therefore said, "No one should offer respects or worship to a king whose only business is envy. Such a king spends his time either hunting and killing animals in the forest or killing citizens for criminal acts. He has no self-control and possesses bad character. If such a king is worshiped or honored by the citizens, the citizens will never be happy. They will always remain poor, full of anxieties and aggrievement, and always unhappy." In modern politics the post of monarch has been abolished, and the president is not held responsible for the comforts of the citizens. In this Age of Kali, the executive head of a state somehow or other gets votes and is elected to an exalted post, but the condition of the citizens continues to be full of anxiety, distress, unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
The brāhmaṇa's second child also died at birth, and the third also. He had nine children, who all died at birth, and each time he came to the gate of the palace to accuse the King. When the brāhmaṇa came to accuse the King of Dvārakā for the ninth time, Arjuna happened to be present with Kṛṣṇa. On hearing that a brāhmaṇa was accusing the King of not properly protecting him, Arjuna became inquisitive and approached the brāhmaṇa. He said, "My dear brāhmaṇa, why do you say that there are no proper kṣatriyas to protect the citizens of your country? Is there not even someone who can pretend to be a kṣatriya, who can carry a bow and arrow at least to make a show of protection? Do you think that all the royal personalities in this country simply engage in performing sacrifices with the brāhmaṇas but have no chivalrous power?" Thus Arjuna indicated that kṣatriyas should not sit back comfortably on the pretext of performing Vedic rituals but must rather be very chivalrous in protecting the citizens. Brāhmaṇas, being engaged in spiritual activities, are not expected to do anything which requires physical endeavor. Therefore, they need to be protected by the kṣatriyas so that they will not be disturbed in the execution of their higher occupational duties.
"If the brāhmaṇas feel unwanted separation from their wives and children," Arjuna continued, "and the kṣatriya kings do not take care of them, then such kṣatriyas are to be considered no more than stage players. In dramatic performances in the theater, an actor may play the part of a king, but no one expects any benefits from such a make-believe king. Similarly, if the king or the executive head of a state cannot give protection to the head of the social structure, he is considered merely a bluffer. Such executive heads simply live for their own livelihood while occupying exalted posts as chiefs of state. My lord, I promise that I shall give protection to your children, and if I am unable to do so, then I shall enter into blazing fire so that the sinful contamination which has infected me will be counteracted."
Upon hearing Arjuna speak in this way, the brāhmaṇa replied, "My dear Arjuna, Lord Balarāma is present, but He could not give protection to my children. Lord Kṛṣṇa is also present, but He also could not give them protection. There are also many other heroes, such as Pradyumna and Aniruddha, carrying bows and arrows, but they could not protect my children." The brāhmaṇa directly hinted that Arjuna could not do that which was impossible for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He felt that Arjuna was promising something beyond his power. The brāhmaṇa said, "I consider your promise to be like that of an inexperienced child. I cannot put my faith in your promise."
Arjuna then understood that the brāhmaṇa had lost all faith in the kṣatriya kings. Therefore, to encourage him, Arjuna spoke as if criticizing even his friend Lord Kṛṣṇa. While Lord Kṛṣṇa and others were listening, he specifically attacked Kṛṣṇa by saying, "My dear brāhmaṇa, I am neither Saṅkarṣaṇa nor Kṛṣṇa nor one of Kṛṣṇa's sons like Pradyumna or Aniruddha. My name is Arjuna, and I carry the bow known as Gāṇḍīva. You cannot insult me, for I have satisfied even Lord Śiva by my prowess when we were both hunting in the forest. I had a fight with Lord Śiva, who appeared before me as a hunter, and when I satisfied him by my prowess he gave me the weapon known as Pāśupata. Do not doubt my chivalry. I shall bring back your sons even if I have to fight with death personified." When the brāhmaṇa was assured by Arjuna in such exalted words, he was somehow or other convinced, and thus he returned home.
When the brāhmaṇa's wife was to give birth to another child, the brāhmaṇa began to chant, "My dear Arjuna, please come now and save my child." After hearing him, Arjuna immediately prepared himself by touching sanctified water and uttering holy mantras to protect his bows and arrows from danger. He specifically took the arrow presented to him by Lord Śiva, and while going out he remembered Lord Śiva and his great favor. In this way, he appeared in front of the maternity home, equipped with his bow, known as Gāṇḍīva, and with various other weapons.
Arjuna, who apparently had not left Dvārakā because he had to fulfill his promise to the brāhmaṇa, was called at night when the brāhmaṇa's wife was to give birth to the child. While going to the maternity home to attend to the delivery case of the brāhmaṇa's wife, Arjuna remembered Lord Śiva, and not his friend Kṛṣṇa; he thought that since Kṛṣṇa could not give protection to the brāhmaṇa, it was better to take shelter of Lord Śiva. This is another instance of how a person takes shelter of the demigods. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā: kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ prapadyante ’nya-devatāḥ (BG 7.20). "A person who loses his intelligence because of greed and lust forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead and takes shelter of the demigods." Of course, Arjuna was not an ordinary living entity, but because of his friendly dealings with Kṛṣṇa he thought that Kṛṣṇa was unable to give protection to the brāhmaṇa and that he would do better to remember Lord Śiva. Later it was proved that Arjuna's taking shelter of Lord Śiva instead of Kṛṣṇa was not at all successful. Arjuna, however, did his best by chanting different mantras, and he shot arrows up and down to guard the maternity home from all directions. The brāhmaṇa's wife delivered a male child, and as usual the child began to cry. But suddenly, within a few minutes, both the child and Arjuna's arrows disappeared into the sky.
It appears that the brāhmaṇa's house was near Kṛṣṇa's residence and that Lord Kṛṣṇa was enjoying everything that was taking place, apparently in defiance of His authority. It was He who played the trick of taking away the brāhmaṇa's baby as well as the arrows, including the one given by Lord Śiva, of which Arjuna was so proud. Anta-vat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām: "Less intelligent men take shelter of the demigods due to bewilderment and are satisfied with the temporary benefits they award."
In the presence of Lord Kṛṣṇa and others, the brāhmaṇa began to accuse Arjuna: "Everyone see my foolishness! I put my faith in the words of Arjuna, who is impotent and who is expert only in false promises. How foolish I was to believe Arjuna. He promised to protect my child when even Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Lord Balarāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa had failed. If such great personalities could not protect my child, then who can do so? I therefore condemn Arjuna for his false promise, and I also condemn his celebrated bow Gāṇḍīva and his impudence in declaring himself greater than Lord Balarāma, Lord Kṛṣṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. How can anyone save my child, who has already been transferred to another planet? Due to sheer foolishness only, Arjuna thought he could bring back my child from another planet."
Thus condemned by the brāhmaṇa, Arjuna empowered himself with a mystic yoga perfection so that he could travel to any planet to find the brāhmaṇa's baby. It seems that Arjuna had mastered the mystic yoga power by which yogīs can travel to any planet they desire. He first of all went to the planet known as Yamaloka, where the superintendent of death, Yamarāja, lives. There he searched for the brāhmaṇa's baby, but was unable to find him. He then immediately went to the planet where the King of heaven, Indra, lives. When unable to find the baby there, he went to the planet of the fire demigod, then to the planet of the Nirṛti demigod, and then to the moon planet. Then he went to Vāyuloka and Varuṇaloka. When unable to find the baby on those planets, he went down to the Rasātala planet, the lowest of the planetary systems. After traveling to all these different planets, he finally went to Brahmaloka, where even mystic yogīs cannot go. By the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna had that power, and he went above the heavenly planets to Brahmaloka. When he was unable to find the baby even after searching all possible planets, he then attempted to throw himself into a fire, since he had promised the brāhmaṇa he would do so if unable to bring back his baby. Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, was very kind toward Arjuna because Arjuna was the most intimate friend of the Lord. Lord Kṛṣṇa persuaded Arjuna not to enter the fire in disgrace. Kṛṣṇa indicated that since Arjuna was His friend, if he were to enter the fire in hopelessness, indirectly it would be a blemish on Him. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore checked Arjuna, assuring him that He would find the baby. He told Arjuna, "Do not foolishly commit suicide."
After addressing Arjuna in this way, Lord Kṛṣṇa called for His transcendental chariot. He mounted it along with Arjuna and proceeded north. Lord Kṛṣṇa, the all-powerful Personality of Godhead, could have brought the child back without effort, but we should always remember that He was playing the part of a human being. As a human being has to endeavor to achieve certain results, so Lord Kṛṣṇa, like an ordinary human being, or like His friend Arjuna, left Dvārakā to bring back the brāhmaṇa's baby. By appearing in human society and exhibiting His pastimes as a human being, Kṛṣṇa definitely showed that there was not a single personality greater than He. "God is great." That is the definition of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So at least within this material world, while He was present, Kṛṣṇa proved that there was no greater personality within the universe.
Seated on His chariot with Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa proceeded north, crossing over many planetary systems. These are described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as sapta-dvīpa. Dvīpa means "island." These planets are sometimes described in the Vedic literature as dvīpas. The planet on which we are living is called Jambūdvīpa. Outer space is taken as a great ocean of air, and within that great ocean of air there are many islands, which are the different planets. On each and every planet there are oceans also. On some of the planets the oceans are of salt water, and on some of them there are oceans of milk. On others there are oceans of liquor, and on others there are oceans of ghee or oil. There are different kinds of mountains also. Each and every planet has a different type of atmosphere.
Kṛṣṇa passed over all these planets and reached the covering of the universe. This covering is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as great darkness. The material world as a whole is described as dark. In the open space there is sunlight, and therefore it is illuminated, but in the covering, because of the absence of sunlight, it is naturally dark. When Kṛṣṇa approached the covering layer of this universe, the four horses which were drawing His chariot—Śaibya, Sugrīva, Meghapuṣpa and Balāhaka—all hesitated to enter the darkness. This hesitation is also a part of the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa because the horses of Kṛṣṇa are not ordinary; it is not possible for ordinary horses to go all over the universe and then enter into its outer covering layers. As Kṛṣṇa is transcendental, His chariot and His horses and everything about Him are also transcendental, beyond the qualities of this material world. We should always remember that Kṛṣṇa was playing the part of an ordinary human being, and His horses also, by the will of Kṛṣṇa, played the parts of ordinary horses in hesitating to enter the darkness.
Kṛṣṇa is known as Yogeśvara, as stated in the last portion of the Bhagavad-gītā. Yogeśvaro hariḥ: all mystic powers are under His control. In our experience we can see many human beings who have yogic mystic power and who sometimes perform very wonderful acts, but Kṛṣṇa is understood to be the master of all mystic power. Therefore, when He saw that His horses were hesitant to proceed into the darkness, He immediately released His disc, known as the Sudarśana cakra, which illuminated the sky a thousand times brighter than sunlight. The darkness of the covering of the universe is also a creation of Kṛṣṇa's, and the Sudarśana cakra is Kṛṣṇa's constant companion. Thus He penetrated the darkness by keeping the Sudarśana cakra before Him. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that the Sudarśana cakra penetrated the darkness just as an arrow released from the Śārṅga bow of Lord Rāmacandra penetrated the army of Rāvaṇa. Su means "very nice," and darśana means "observation"; by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa's disc, Sudarśana, everything can be seen very nicely, and nothing can remain in darkness. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna crossed over the great region of darkness covering the material universes.