Sri Vaishnavas believe Krishna to be an incarnation of Vishnu. On the other hand, Gaudiya Vaishnavas say Vishnu is an expansion of Krishna and quote certain verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam to support their views. One of these verses are given below:

narayanas tvam na hi sarva-dehinam
atmasy adhisakhila-loka-saksi
narayano ’ngam nara-bhu-jalayanat
tac capi satyam na tavaiva maya (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.14)

Translation: Are You not the original Narayana, O supreme controller, since You are the Soul of every embodied being and the eternal witness of all created realms? Indeed, Lord Narayana is Your expansion, and He is called Narayana because He is the generating source of the primeval water of the universe. He is real, not a product of Your illusory Maya.

How do Sri Vaishnavas interpret the above verse?

  • 4
    i don't see the point in interpreting this. when you're a son, you're called 'babloo', by your parents. when you're a father, you're called 'papa', by your son. now, which is the 'original' you? 'babloo' or 'papa'.. to your son, 'papa' is the original, and 'babloo' is an 'expansion'. to your parents 'babloo' is the original, and 'papa' is an 'expansion'. There is no difference between the different avataras of paramatma.
    – ram
    Aug 17, 2017 at 23:03
  • @ram Except that Gaudiya Vaishnavas believe that Krishna is Paramatma and that while one may worship all Avataras of SrimannArAyaNa, 'rasa' will be obtained only with Krishna. May 10, 2018 at 13:54
  • This question may be important because while many Hindus in general, and some Vaishnavas in particular, believe that Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu (Narayana), but this Bhagavatam verse says the opposite thing, it says Narayana is an incarnation of Krishna! May 16, 2018 at 19:24
  • why not try and change all the keywords (krsna, visnu, narayana) around and see how you feel?
    – blue_ego
    Jan 28, 2023 at 17:47
  • First is atma in this context means only paramatma, it doesnt deny existence of jivatama. atma is paramatma here. Maya referes only transitory nature of prakruthi.. the world is ever changing it doesnt say that its not real. in other it doesnt anywhere say that may meant is unrealistic nature of prakruthi..
    – Prasanna R
    Oct 26, 2023 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


Here is Vira-Raghavacharya's commentary on that verse: Sanskrit commentary

English translation:

“You directly see the entire world (akhila-lokasäkñé = akhilaà lokaà säkñät paçyati),” therefore: näram eñi jänäsi iti näräyaëaù, “You know the souls, and so You are Näräyaëa.” The verbal root is i[ë] gatau (to go). Verbal roots that have the sense of gati have the sense of buddhi (to know). The affix [l]yu is in the active voice on account of being a nandy-ädi (HNV 820). In case someone thinks, “This is not the real derivation of the word Näräyaëa. The real etymology refers to äpo näräù,” he says: näräyaëo ’ìgam. Nara is Paramätmä, due to the reading of the word Nara among the names of the Lord: jahnur näräyaëo naraù (Viñëu-sahasra-näma 39). “Näräyaëa (He knows the Naras) is a form of Yours” (aìgam = tava mürtiù). The genitive case in tava has the sense of abhedasambandha (relation of nondifference). This means: “He too is You.” “If I am Näräyaëa, how is it that I, the pervader, abide on water that is included in the world?” Because of this, he says tac cäpi satyam. “That You, though Vibhu, are the basis of water is real,” meaning it is unobstructed. He strengthens that with a contrast: na tu mäyä. “That You repose on water is not unreal (na mäyä = na måñä), rather it is real.” “Although there is a difference of various times, concerns, actions, and deeds and although there is a difference in the various forms on account of a difference of Avatäras, there is a major difference in relation to You, the Avatärin. The Avatärin is You, the One. The Avatärin is not manifold.

~ Srimad Bhagavatam - A Symphony of Commentaries on the Tenth Canto (Vol-III)

  • Hmmm...is Viraraghava Acarya that Krishna is the avatarin, and Narayana is the avatara? Or is it that Krishna is Narayana Himself, and on this account He is called the avatarin? Feb 28, 2023 at 0:06
  • Viraraghacharya sees complete non-difference between Krishna and Narayana. That's why he calls Krishna as Avatarin. May 1, 2023 at 1:32

Here is the English translation by Sri G V Tagare.

nārāyaṇastvaṃ na hi sarvadehināṃ ātmāsyadhīśākhilalokasākṣī | nārāyaṇo'ṅ‌gaṃ narabhūjalāyanāt taccāpi satyaṃ na tavaiva māyā || 14 ||

“Are you (Krishna) not Nārāyaṇa? Yes, you are Nārāyaṇa in as much as you are the soul of all embodied creatures, who thus form your dwelling place (and nāra means the aggregate of living beings). You are Nārāyaṇa as you are the Lord who preside over and promote life in all beings, and being the witness to the entire universe, you alone know them all. You are the Nārāyaṇa—the Deity that abide in (and thus are the basis) of all the twenty-four principles evolved out of Nara, as well as waters—your abode for reposing, which is the evolute of Nara who is also your part. Even your reposing on water is also not true, but your māyā, as your form is indiscernible”

This translation suggests that Krishna is (an incarnation of) Narayana, which is the same as the traditional viewpoint of Sri Vaishnavas. (Note: The last part of this translation is a different issue, but it is not relevant to the original question).

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