Before Lord Brahma plays his role in the cosmic creation, Krishna’s expansions set the stage.

By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture given in New York City on December 19, 1966

Krishna, the eternal cowherd boy who enjoys in the forests of Vrindavana, is the source of the majestic Vishnus who create the material world.

yasyaika-nishvasita-kalam athavalambya
jivanti loma-vilaja jagad-anda-nathah
vishnur mahan sa iha yasya kala-vishesho
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

“Brahma and other lords of the mundane worlds, appearing from the pores of hair of Maha-Vishnu, remain alive as long as the duration of one exhalation of the latter [Maha-Vishnu]. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, of whose subjective personality Maha-Vishnu is the portion of a portion.” – Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 20.281 (quoting Brahma-samhita 5.48)

Krishna’s third expansion is Maha-Vishnu. Maha-Vishnu’s potency is described in the Brahma-samhita: yasyaika-nishvasita-kalam athavalambya. Nishvasita-kala means the breathing period. Jagad-anda-nathah means the supreme creature, the supreme created person, Brahma. Brahma is the principal, supreme creature in each universe. There are innumerable universes, and there are innumerable Brahmas also.

You will find in Chaitanya-charitamrita that when Krishna was here on this planet, Brahma was very proud. “Krishna is now on the earthly planet, and this earthly planet is one of the innumerable planets under my control.” Brahma is the controller, the primal, principal living entity in this universe, so he was little proud. “Krishna is within my control.”

Krishna is Paramatma, the Supersoul, and He knows everything – what one thinks, what one does. So Krishna asked Brahma to come and see Him in Dwarka. Krishna was there as the king.

Brahma came, and Krishna’s doorman asked him, “Who are you, please?”

“Tell Krishna that I am Brahma. I have come to see Him.”

When the doorman informed Krishna, Krishna asked, “Oh, which Brahma?”

The doorman returned to Brahma and asked, “Which Brahma are you?”

Brahma became astonished.

“‘Which Brahma?’ I am the Brahma. I am the supreme creature within this universe.”

He was surprised, and he said, “Tell Krishna that I am four-headed Brahma.”

So Krishna called for him.

“All right, come on.”

Brahma came and offered his obeisances, and he asked Krishna, “Krishna, my Lord, may I ask You a question?”

“What is that?”

“Your doorman asked me, ‘Which Brahma?’ So does it mean there are other Brahmas also?”

Krishna said, “Yes, there are innumerable Brahmas. You are only four-headed. There are eight-headed, there are sixteen-headed, thirty-two-headed, sixty-four-headed, hundred-twenty-eight-headed, and millions of headed. All right, I am calling them all.”

Krishna called all the Brahmas, and by Krishna’s maya, or power, Brahma could see them. But they could not see four-headed Brahma, and each of them came and offered obeisances to Krishna.

They asked, “My Lord, what can I do for You? You have asked for me?”

“Yes. I have not seen you for a long time, so many days, so I have called you.”

Thousands and millions of Brahmas came, offered obeisances, and went away. And four-headed Brahma remained in the corner.

“Oh, what am I?”

This is Krishna’s creation.

The Length of Brahma’s Day

Here it is stated, yasyaika-nishvasita-kalam athavalambya: “Millions of Brahmas are living only during the breathing period of Maha-Vishnu.” You have read in the Bhagavad-gita (8.17) about each Brahma’s period:

ahar yad brahmano viduh
ratrim yuga-sahasrantam
te ’ho-ratra-vido janah

“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” Brahma’s one day is a thousand times 4,300,000 of our years. That is Brahma’s twelve hours. His full day is twenty-four hours. Now calculate one such month, one such year, one such hundred years. That hundred years of Brahma is only the period of one breath of Maha-Vishnu.

During the breathing period, when the breathing is out all these brahmandas, universes, become created, and when He inhales, they are all closed – account closed. This is going on. And Maha-Vishnu is the fourth of Krishna’s expansions. That is stated. Lord Chaitanya is giving evidence from Brahma-samhita (5.48): yasyaika-nishvasita-kalam athavalambya . . . . “I worship Krishna, Govinda, whose fourth expansion is Maha-Vishnu, during whose breathing period all these Brahmas, the principal heads of each brahmanda, live.”

samasta brahmanda-ganera inho antaryami
karanabdhishayi—saba jagatera svami

“Maha-Vishnu is the Supersoul of all the universes. Lying on the Causal Ocean, He is the master of all material worlds.” (Madhya 20.282) Now, this Maha-Vishnu, the purushavatara, or Krishna’s incarnation as the purusha, is the principal Supreme Personality of Godhead of all the many thousands of brahmandas.

eita kahilun prathama purushera tattva
dvitiya purushera ebe shunaha mahattva

“I have thus explained the truth of the first Personality of Godhead, Maha-Vishnu. I shall now explain the glories of the second Personality of Godhead.” (Madhya 20.283) Now Lord Chaitanya says, “Now I have explained to you about the first incarnation, or avatar. Now just try to hear about the second Vishnu.” The first Vishnu has been described. Now the second Vishnu is described.

sei purusha ananta-koti brahmanda srijiya
ekaika-murtye praveshila bahu murti haña

“After creating the total number of universes, which are unlimited, Maha-Vishnu expanded Himself into unlimited forms and entered into each of them.” (Madhya 20.284) Innumerable universes came out during Maha-Vishnu’s breathing period. Srijiya means “He created.” This Maha-Vishnu again expanded Himself as millions and millions of Vishnu forms and entered into each brahmanda. The same Vishnu, Maha-Vishnu, expanded Himself in millions of other forms.

pravesha kariya dekhe, saba—andhakara
rahite nahika sthana, karila vichara

“When Maha-Vishnu entered each of the limitless universes, He saw that there was darkness all around and that there was no place to stay. He therefore began to consider the situation.” (Madhya 20.285)

nijanga-sveda-jale brahmandardha bharila
sei jale shesha-shayyaya shayana karila

“With the perspiration produced from His own body, the Lord filled half the universe with water. He then lay down on that water, on the bed of Lord Sesha.” (Madhya 20.286) What we are seeing is only half of this universe. The other half is full of water. We cannot see that water, but there is water. The universe is like a ball half filled with water. Where has this water come from? From the Vishnu who entered each universe. From His perspiration He created this water. And He lay down on the water. He is called Seshashayi Vishnu or Garbhodakashayi Vishnu.

Lord Brahma’s Birth

tanra nabhi-padma haite uthila eka padma
sei padme ha-ila brahmara janma-sadma

“A lotus flower then sprouted from the lotus navel of that Garbhodakashayi Vishnu. That lotus flower became Lord Brahma’s birthplace.” (Madhya 20.287) You have seen that picture.

sei padma-nale ha-ila caudda bhuvana
tenho ‘brahma’ haña srishti karila srijana

“In the stem of that lotus flower, the fourteen worlds were generated. Then He became Lord Brahma and manifested the entire universe.” (Madhya 20.288) Brahma is a living being, jiva-tattva. He is not vishnu-tattva. Just see how powerful a living being can be. Brahma was created by Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, and Brahma in his turn created all these planetary systems. There are fourteen planetary systems throughout the universe. There are seven upper planetary systems: Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka, Svargaloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, and Brahmaloka. And there are seven lower planetary systems: Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Patala.

‘vishnu’-rupa haña kare jagat palane
gunatita vishnu—sparsha nahi maya-sane

“In this way, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form of Vishnu maintains the entire material world. Since He is always beyond the material qualities, the material nature cannot touch Him.” (Madhya 20.289) Now, this Vishnu has nothing to do. He is not affected by material contamination. That is the power of Vishnu. When we living entities come into this material world, we become contaminated, affected by the influence of this material nature. But Vishnu, although He is looking after the management of the creation of this brahmanda, is not affected.

‘rudra’-rupa dhari kare jagat samhara
srishti, sthiti, pralaya haya icchaya yanhara

“The Supreme Lord in His form of Rudra [Lord Shiva] brings about the dissolution of this material creation. In other words, only by His will are there creation, maintenance and dissolution of the whole cosmic manifestation.” (Madhya 20.290) When these material worlds, or universes, are to be annihilated, the same Vishnu in His form of Lord Shiva annihilates them. Vishnu creates, Lord Shiva annihilates, and Brahma is in charge of this universe.

brahma, vishnu, shiva—tanra guna-avatara
srishti-sthiti-pralayera tinera adhikara

“Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are His three incarnations of the material qualities. Creation, maintenance and destruction respectively are under the charge of these three personalities.” (Madhya 20.291) Now, this material world is created, it stays for some time, and it is annihilated, just as we have seen in the Bhagavad-gita (8.19):

bhuta-gramah sa evayam
bhutva bhutva praliyate
ratry-agame ’vashah partha
prabhavaty ahar-agame

“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” This material nature is like that. You have seen that a lamp is sometimes lit and sometimes extinguished. Similarly, there is creation, there is maintenance, and there is annihilation of this material world.

These three functions are controlled by three gunavataras, qualitative incarnations of the Supreme Lord. Vishnu is the incarnation of the mode of goodness, Shiva is the incarnation of the mode of annihilation, and Brahma is the in-charge. Brahma is the secondary creator. First of all, everything ­– the principal material ingredients and the gunas, or qualities – is created by Vishnu. Then, with those ingredients, Brahma creates the secondary creation, all these planetary systems. So Brahma is a secondary creator. And then Vishnu maintains.

You may give a carpenter wood and planks and materials and screws and other things, and the carpenter makes a very good cabinet. And you maintain that. Similarly, this brahmanda, the secondary creation, is done by Brahma, and Vishnu is the maintainer. And when it is to be destroyed, it is destroyed by Lord Shiva.

Incarnations of Qualities

These three gunavataras – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – are incarnations of Krishna’s gunas, or qualities, of goodness, passion, and ignorance. In other words, it is to be understood that the three gunas are coming from Krishna. So therefore, for Krishna there is no such distinction.

Several times I have explained that the distinction of material, spiritual, and qualitative differences is for us, not for Krishna. How is that? A government has got different departments – criminal department, civil department, this department, that department, so many departments. Now, for us, the criminal department may not be so pleasing and the civil department may be very much pleasing, but for the government, the departments are equal, because the government has to maintain them equally, whether the criminal department or the civil department. The government cannot make the distinction that “This is the criminal department; therefore this department should be neglected” or “It is inferior.” No. Rather, the government may spend more in the criminal department than in the civil department.

Similarly, these qualitative distinctions – matter, spirit, and the different kinds of modes, or qualities – are distinctions for us, not for Krishna. He is absolute. To the Absolute there are no such distinctions. Therefore when Krishna comes to this material world, He is not affected by it. Suppose the minister, the secretary of the president, goes to the criminal department to see the prison house. He is not affected by the prison rules. It is simple to understand. If the prisoner thinks, “Oh, he is also one of the prisoners because he has come here,” this is nonsense. He is not a prisoner. Similarly, when Krishna comes to this material world, if a foolish man thinks that He is also one of us, he is fool number one. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (9.11) Lord Krishna says,

avajananti mam mudha
manushim tanum ashritam
param bhavam ajananto
mama bhuta-maheshvaram

“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.”

So here it is stated:

brahma, vishnu, shiva—tanra guna-avatara
srishti-sthiti-pralayera tinera adhikara

“Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are His three incarnations of the material qualities. Creation, maintenance and destruction respectively are under the charge of these three personalities.” (Madhya 20.291)

‘sahasra-shirshadi’ kari’ vede yanre gai

“Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, known within the universe as Hiranyagarbha and the antaryami, or Supersoul, is glorified in the Vedic hymns, beginning with the hymn that starts with the word sahasra-shirsha.” (Madhya 20.292) In the Vedas there is a prayer called Sahasra-shirsha. That is a very famous prayer. That prayer is offered to this Vishnu. Which Vishnu? Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, the Vishnu who has entered into every universe.

ei ta’ dvitiya-purusha—brahmandera ishvara
mayara ‘ashraya’ haya, tabu maya-para

“This second Personality of Godhead, known as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, is the master of each and every universe and the shelter of the external energy. Nonetheless, He remains beyond the touch of the external energy.” (Madhya 20.293) Although this Vishnu is the shelter of the material energy, still He has nothing to do with this material energy. He is free from the contamination of the material energy. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.4) it is said:

bhakti-yogena manasi
samyak pranihite ’male
apashyat purusham purnam
mayam cha tad-apashrayam

“Thus he [Vyasadeva] fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service [bhakti-yoga] without any tinge of materialism, and thus he saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead along with His external energy, which was under full control.” When Vyasadeva was attempting to write Srimad-Bhagavatam, by bhakti-yoga he saw two things: the Supreme Personality, purusham purnam, and the material energy, mayam, who was far away from Him – apashrayam.

Maya’s Thankless Task

Maya’s task is a very thankless task, because she is in charge of the conditioned souls, and her business is to always give all the conditioned souls miseries. You might not have seen, but there is a picture of Durga, or Maya, and she has got a trident, trishula. Her trishula represents the three kinds of miseries. Maya, this material nature, is always inflicting upon the conditioned soul three kinds of miseries so that they can come to their consciousness, Krishna consciousness. But the conditioned souls are so foolish and so dull that they have accepted, “Oh, these miseries are very palatable.” Yes. They have no sense that they are always in three kinds of miseries: adhyatmika, miseries from their own body and mind; adhibhautika, miseries from other living entities; and adhidaivika, miseries from nature. This is constantly going on.

In the prison house, when the prisoners are there, it is not meant that they should be comfortably situated there. The prison house is meant for always giving them some trouble so that they can come to their consciousness that “We are lawbreakers. Therefore we are punished here.” But the prisoner may be so foolish that he thinks, “All right. I don’t care for this prison. Let me finish this term and again commit nuisance and again come to this prison.” That is going on.

What is the position of the conditioned souls who are not coming to their senses? The grace of some special representative of the Supreme Lord, or of the Supreme Lord Himself, is offered to these conditioned souls. “This is not your place. You are part and parcel of God. Your place is in the kingdom of God. Your place is there. You are struggling very hard within this material nature. Just try to understand your position.”

These things are described in the scriptures, in the Vedas, so that these foolish conditioned souls may come to their senses and try to become Krishna conscious and make their life successful so that they can go back home, back to Godhead.

Thank you very much.