The Most Famous Person
My first visit to a Hare Krishna temple was to attend a Sunday feast. The theme of the lecture that day was that the Vedic literature defines God as the person who possesses six primary qualities in full: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. Because God has these qualifications, He is called Bhagavan (bhaga = fortune; van = possessor). The lecturer said that because Krishna is the most beautiful person, the wealthiest, the strongest, and so on, we know that He is God.
I had a doubt about one item on the list. Is Krishna really the most famous person? Two days before, I’d never heard of Him.
After the lecture, I asked a devotee about this point. He replied that everyone has heard of God, Krishna is God, and therefore Krishna is the most famous. But that’s circular reasoning, I thought. The lecturer was saying that because Krishna is all-famous He’s God, not that He’s God (the point to be proven) and therefore all-famous.
So just how famous is Krishna? One argument Srila Prabhupada gives in support of Krishna’s being the most famous person is the longevity of His fame. Krishna appeared on earth fifty centuries ago, and people still know about Him and revere His Bhagavad-gita (“The Song of Bhagavan”). His fame is not of the fifteen-minute variety. Although He became known in the West a relatively short time ago, He has been famous in India throughout the millennia since His time there.
The historic period we live in heavily influences our perception of things. We tend to think of anyone’s fame in the context of the current view of human history, which extends back a mere few thousand years. But those of us who acknowledge the authority of the Vedic literature understand that advanced human beings have been on earth for millions of years. And throughout that time, there has always been a civilization guided at least somewhat by the Vedic literature, which includes not only the original Vedas, but also the Puranas, the Itihasas, and other related works. Although Krishna appeared on earth five thousand years ago, He was already known through the Vedic literature, especially the Puranas and Itihasas, which include the Mahabharata.
Some readers might challenge the idea that historical works like the Mahabharata existed before Krishna’s time on earth. But Srila Jiva Goswami in his Tattva-sandarbha cites scriptural evidence to prove that all the Vedic literary works exist eternally and, like Krishna’s avatars, periodically appear and disappear according to Krishna’s inconceivable plan.
A verse found in the Hari-vamsha (a supplement to the Mahabharata) and elsewhere tells us, “In the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata, from the very beginning to the end, as well as within the middle, only Hari [Krishna], the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is explained.”
Hari is a common name for Krishna. For example, here’s a verse speaking about Krishna in Vrindavan: “Thus deeply considering the situation, the all-merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari revealed to the cowherd men His abode, which is beyond material darkness.” (Bhagavatam 10.28.14) The Hari-vamsha verse tells us that not only is Krishna known in the Vedic literature, but it’s actually all about Him.
Granted, there are people today who have not heard of Krishna, but that doesn’t mean He’s not famous perennially and – in the literal sense – universally. Maybe He’s hiding from them. If they look for the Absolute Truth by reading the scriptures Srila Prabhupada gave us, they’ll discover just how famous Krishna is.
– Nagaraja Dasa