Avatāra is a popular concept in Hinduism. It means that the Supreme Divinity descends into the cosmos and becomes visible to people in general. Viṣṇu is accepted as the Supreme God among the trinity of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. Usually it is Viṣnu who manifests as an avatāra. There are various forms of avatāras. Among them, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are the most popular. The general belief held among Hindus of all schools of thought (sampradāyas) is that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is an avatāra of Viṣṇu. The school of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, however, is an exception to this. This school propounds that far from being an avatāra, Kṛṣṇa is actually the source of the source of all avatāras. This conclusion is based on Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which the school accepts as the highest scriptural authority. In Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, one of the foremost scholars of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, makes an extensive analysis of the third chapter of the first book of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. This article deals with the topic of avatāra to establish Kṛṣṇa as the original form of Supreme Reality, Svayaṁ Bhagavān. No other scholar has done such an investigation. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s analysis is unique, original
and has not been refuted by anyone.
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