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Who is Supreme? Krishna or Vishnu? Is Krishna an avatar?

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As far as I know, Lord Krishna is the avatar of Lord vishnu, but Shrila Prabhupada says that Vishnu is the avatar of Krishna. Please, clarify.

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This is the doubt that many devotees have and it is natural as there are so many stories about Krishna, Vishnu, avatars, etc.

First , I like to clear the following as said by Srila Prabhupada in Shrimad Bhagavatam lecture on March 28, 1968, in San Frascisco:

1. Krishna is the adi-purusha. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the source of all the deities; He does not directly involve in the creations and He expands into different forms to undertake this process. Lord Krishna is the original form of the Lord who appears in Goloka Vrindavana, plays with the gopas (cowherd boys) and has loving relationships with His dear devotees. Srila Prabhupada would speak of Lord Vishnu as that expansion of the Lord who would take care of business in a more formal way - protecting His devotees, riding on Garuda (Lord Vishnu's great winged carrier), in the heart of each soul.

2. Maha-Vishnu, into whom all the innumerable universes enter and from whom they come forth again simply by His breathing process, is a plenary expansion of Krishna.

3. Generally, Shrila Prabhupada would refer to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shri Krishna interchangeably, as in these quotes below, from the 1st and 2nd chapters of Bhagavad-gita, translated by Shrila Prabhupada.

4. Bhagavad-gita (1.14): "...and wherever the Lord is present, the goddess of fortune is also there because the goddess of fortune never lives alone without her husband. Therefore, victory and fortune were awaiting Arjuna, as indicated by the transcendental sound produced by the conch shell of Vishnu, or Lord Krishna."

5. Bhagavad-gita (2.2): "...Persons who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is realization of the Absolute Truth, Vishnu, or Shri Krishna, and they are captivated by the external features of the material world, and therefore they do not know what liberation is."

6. “Brahma Samhita” beautifully clears your doubt as follows:

yasyaika-nisvasita-kalam athavalambya
jivanti loma-vila-ja jagad-anda-nathah
visnur mahan sa iha yasya kala-viseso
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami


"The Maha-Vishnu, into whom all the innumerable universes enter and from whom they come forth again simply by His breathing process, is a plenary expansion of Krishna. Therefore I worship Govinda, Krishna, the cause of all causes." Therefore one should conclusively worship the personal form of Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead who has eternal bliss and knowledge. He is the source of all forms of Vishnu, He is the source of all forms of incarnation, and He is the original Supreme Personality, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gita." (Brahma-samhita 5.48)

7. “Brahma Samhita” also describes Lord Krishna as the "original candle" from which many candles are lit, and they appear the same, but the original is Lord Shri Krishna!

How Krishna expands into Vishnu?

The adi-purusha Krishna expands into three forms (Purusha Avataras) of Vishnus:

1. Maha Vishnu - who creates the material universes just with a glance through Pradhana & Mahat-tattva;romapada-swami-on-Krishna-Appearance-incarnations.jpg

planetaryhierarchy.jpg2. Garbhodakashayi Vishnu - who enters each and every universe. From His navel, the stem of a lotus flower grows, and on that lotus flower the first creature, Brahma, is born. Within the stem of that lotus flower are fourteen divisions of planetary systems, which are created by Brahma. Within each universe the Lord is present as the Garbhodakashayi Visnu, and He maintains each universe and tends to its needs.

When it is required, this very same Visnu takes the form of Lord Shiva and annihilates the cosmic creation. The three secondary incarnations - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - are the predominating deities of the three modes of material nature. The master of the universe, however, is the Garbhodakashayi Visnu, who is worshiped as the Hiranyagarbha Supersoul. The Vedic hymns describe Him as having thousands of heads. Although He is within the material nature, He is not touched by it.

Milk_Ocean.jpg3. Kshirodakashayi Vishnu: is the third incarnation of Vishnu, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, is also an incarnation of the mode of goodness. He is also the Supersoul of all living entities (residing in our hearts), and He resides on the ocean of milk within the universe.

So, understand, Krishna is the adi-purusha, who is the source for all.

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