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Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva?



By Madana-mohana dasa
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to
Srila Prabhupada.
This complilation of quotes is meant to clarify Srila
Prabhupada’s view on Srila Vyasadeva’s
ontological status.
We may safely say that while various acaryas
differ in their views on the ontological status of
Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasadeva, Srila Prabhupada
seems to be very clear and unequivocal that Vyasa
is a **liberated jiva** especially empowered by
Krsna through Narada Muni to compile Srimad
Please note that that Srila Prabhupada is
specifically talking about our current Krsna-
dvaipayana Vyasa and not a generic Vyasa of
other divya-yugas, as one may argue. This is clear
from the following quote:
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.2-4
Durban, October 14, 1975
So Vyasadeva, he is also living entity, although he
is empowered, so apasyat purusam purnam, he
saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead. AndTOP
mayam ca tad-apasrayam, and the back side is
and he makes another clear statement about Vyasa as jivatattva in the following letter:
Letter to: Jayadvaita 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 2 of 7

Los Angeles
12 July, 1970
…Regarding your second point, all incarnations should be proper nouns and therefore capitalized. It
does not matter whether they are Visnutattva or jivatattva, saktyavesa-avatara. or plenary
expansion. The incarnations listed however may be classified as follows:
Visnutattva: Kapila, Nara Narayana, Rama, Balarama, Krsna, the Purusas, the Boar, Yajna, Rsabha,
Matsya, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini and Kalki.
Jivatattva (empowered): Narada, Vyasa, Buddha, Kumaras, Dattatreya, Prthu and Bhrgupati…
and therefore all his other statements on the topic are perfectly consistent with the ones above:
SB 1.1.7 purp.:
Srila Vyasadeva is designated herein as the Personality of Godhead because he is the authorized
empowered incarnation.
SB 1.3.43 purp.:
And prior to His departure from this material world, He empowered Sri Vyasadeva through Narada
to compile the messages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and thus both the Bhagavad-gita and the
Srimad-Bhagavatam are like torchbearers for the blind people of this age.
Cc Adi 1.91 purp.:
This verse appears in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2). The words maha-muni-krte indicate that
Srimad-Bhagavatam was compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva, who is sometimes known as
Narayana Maha-muni because he is an incarnation of Narayana. Vyasadeva, therefore, is not an
ordinary man but is empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He compiled the beautiful
Bhagavatam to narrate some of the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His
CC Adi 20.123 purp:
As the saktyavesa-avatara Vyasadeva, Krsna teaches the conditioned soul through the Vedic
Adi 1.67
brahma visnu siva tina gunavatare gani
sakty-avesa sanakadi, prthu, vyasa-muni
Brahma, Visnu and Siva are qualitative incarnations. Empowered incarnations are those like the
Kumaras, King Prthu and Maha-muni Vyasa [the compiler of the Vedas].
Madhya 20.122
PURPORT: Out of His causeless mercy and compassion, Krsna has compiled various Vedic
literatures in His incarnation as Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva is a saktyavesa-avatara of Lord Krsna. He
has very kindly presented these literatures to awaken the conditioned soul to his senses.
Madhya 21.104
PURPORT: Krsna has many pastimes, of which His pastimes in Goloka Vrndavana (the gokula-lila)
are supreme. He also has pastimes in the Vaikunthas, the spiritual world, as Vasudeva,
Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. In His pastimes in the spiritual sky, He lies down in the
Causal Ocean as Karanarnavasayi, the purusa-avatara. His incarnations as a fish, tortoise and so 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 3 of 7

on are called His causal incarnations. He incarnates in the modes of nature as Lord Brahma, Lord
Siva and Lord Visnu. He also incarnates as empowered living entities like Prthu and Vyasa. The
Supersoul is His localized incarnation, and His all-pervasive aspect is the impersonal Brahman.
TLC 19
Vyasadeva, who is an incarnation of the power of Narayana, has compiled the Vedanta-sutra
Lecture on SB 1.16.22
It is said… Vyasadeva, before writing… Writing book is not a whimsical, whatever I like. No. You
must be empowered by superior authority; then you can deliver the right things. So Vyasadeva
was empowered by his guru, Narada.
Bhagavad-gita 2.26
Los Angeles, December 6, 1968
So Vyasadeva, he was liberated soul. So in clean heart, clean mind, he experienced, he saw the
Supreme Personality of Godhead, and maya, tad-apasrayam, and maya standing behind Him. Maya
is darkness. Maya cannot stand before Krsna. Just like darkness cannot stand in front of the light.
Now here is light. There is no darkness. In the backside you’ll find some darkness. Is it not? Not in
the front. So maya cannot stand before Krsna. Maya stands behind Krsna. So if you put always
Krsna or if you are always Krsna consciousness, then maya cannot touch you. Krsna surya-sama
maya haya andhakara, yahan krsna tahan nahi mayara adhikara. So Vyasadeva, in clear
consciousness, in Krsna consciousness, he saw Krsna and this maya.
Srila Jiva Goswami acknowledges the ambiguity of Srila Vyasadeva’s ontological status in the
following passage in Krsna-sandarbha while not showing preference to any of them:
Anuccheda 21
tatah saptadase jatah
satyavatyam parasarat
cakre veda-taroh sakha
drstva pumso ‘lpa-medhasah
tatah-thereafter; saptadase-in the seventeenth incarnation;
jatah-advented; satyavatyam-in the womb of Satyavati; parasarat-by Parasara Muni; cakre-
prepared; veda-taroh-of the desire tree of the Vedas; sakhah- branches; drstva-be seeing;
punsah-the people in general; alpa-medhasah-less-intelligent. spastam-the meaning is clear.
The seventeenth incarnation is described in the next verse of
Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.21):
“Thereafter, in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of
Satyavati through Parasara Muni, and he divided the one Veda into several branches and sub-
branches, seeing that the people in general were less intelligent.”*
Sarva-samvadini Comment
tatah ity asya purva-janmany apantaratamatva-sravanad avesa iti kecit. tat-samyujyad ayam
saksad amsa evety anye.
tatah iti asya-in this verse beginning with the word “tatah”;
purva-janmani-in his previous birth; ap-antaratamatva-within the water; sravanat-from the TOP
scriptures; avesah-empowered incarnation; iti-thus; kecit-some; tat-samyujyat-from being one
with the Lord; ayam-he; saksat- directly; amsah-a part; eva-certainly; iti-thus; anye- others.
Some say Vyasa is an empowered incarnation because there is description of his previous birth as
the sage Apantaratama, as described in some scriptures, and others claim that he is actually visnu-
tattva, a direct expansion of Lord Visnu.
************************************************* 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 4 of 7

Srila Rupa Goswami in Laghu-bhagavatamrta seems to acknowledge the difference of opinions over
this question as well while not making any definite statement himself:
Laghu-bhagavatamrta 1.3.84:
Text 81
sri-vyasah tatraiva
“tatah saptadase jatah
satyavatyam parasarat
cakre veda-taroh sakha
drstva pumso ‘lpa-medhasah” iti
sri-vyasah-Vyasadeva; tatra-there; eva-certainly; tatah-therefore; saptadase-in he seventeenth
incarnation; jatah-advented; satyavatyam- in the womb of Satyavati; parasarat-by Parasara Muni;
cakre- prepared;
veda-karoh-of the desire tree of the Vedas; sakhah- branches; drstva-be seeing; pumsah-the
people in general; alpa-medhasah-less intelligent; iti-thus.
Lord Vyasa is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.21:
“Thereafter, in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of
Satyavati through Parasara Muni, and he divided the one Veda into several branches and sub-
branches, seeing that the people in general were less intelligent.”*
Text 82
“dvaipayano ‘smi vyasanam”
iti saurir yad ucivan
ato visnu-pruanadau
visesenaiva varnitah
dvaiapayanah-Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa; asmi-I am; vyasanam-among compilers of the Vedas; iti-
thus; saurih-Lord Krsna; yat-which; ucivan-said;
atah-therefore; visnu-purana-in the Visnu Purana; adau-and other Vedic literatures; visesena-
specifically; eva-certainly; varnitah- described.
Lord Krsna Himself said: “Of dividers of the Veda I am Dvaipayana.” In Visnu Purana and other
scriptures He is also described in this way.
Text 83
“krsna-dvaipayanam vyasam
viddhi narayanam smrtam
ko hy anyah pundarikaksan
mahabharata-krd bhavet”
yatha-just as; krsna-dvaipayanam vyasam-Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa; viddhi- please know;
narayanam-Lord Narayana; smrtam-is described in the Vedic literatures; kah-who?; hi-indeed;
anyah-other; pundarika-aksat-than the lotus eyed Supreme Personality of Godhead; mahabharata-
of the Mahabharata; krt-the author; bhavet-may be.
For example (Visnu Purana 3.4.5 explains):
“Know that Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa is Lord Narayana. Who, other than the lotus-eyed Supreme
Lord, could have written the Mahabharata?”
Text 84
sruyate ‘pantaratama-
dvaipayanyam agad iti
kim sayujyam gatah so ‘tra
visnu-amsah so ‘pi va bhavet
tasmad avesa evayam
iti kecid vadanti ca
sruyate-described in some Vedic literatures; apantaratama-as Apantaratama Muni; dvaipayanyam-
Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa; agat-became; iti- thus; kim-whether; sayujyam-sayujya-mukti; gatah-
attained; sah-he; atra- here; visnu-of Lord Visnu; amsah-portion; sah api-he; va-or; bhavet-may
be; tasmat-therefore; avesa-avesa-avatara; eva-certainly; ayam-he; iti- thus; kecit-some;
vadanti-say; ca-also. 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 5 of 7

In the scriptures it is said that Apantaratama Muni became Dvaipayana Vyasa. Is Vyasa a jiva who
attained sayujya-mukti, or is He an amsa-avatara of Lord Visnu? Some say He is an avesa-avatara.
However, Srila Rupa Goswami later lists Srila Vyasadeva among other prabhava-avataras of the
Lord and thus, seemigly, describes him as a visnu-tattva:
Laghu-bhagavatamrta 1.4.45
Prabhava-avataras and Vaibhava-avataras
The personal forms of Lord Hari that are less than His paravastha form are called by different
names according to the differing degrees of their powers.
Texts 46 and 47
prabhavas ca dvidha tatra
drsyante sastra-caksusa
eke nati-cira-vyakta
te mohini ca hamsas ca
sukladyas ca yuganugah
apare sastra-kartarah
prayah syur muni-cestitah
dhanvantary-rsabhau vyaso
dattas ca kapilas ca te
prabhavah-prabhava-avataras;a ca-also; dvidha-of two kinds; tatra-there; drsyate-are seen;
sastra-of the scriptures; caksusa-by the eyes; eke-some; na-not; ati-very; cira-for a long time;
vyaktah-manifested; na-not; ati-very; vistrta-expanded; kirtayah-fame; te-They; mohini-Mohini;
ca-and; hamsah-Hamsa; ca-and; sukla-Sukla; adyah-beginning with; ca-also; yuga-anugah-yuga-
avataras; apare-others; sastra-of the Vedic literatures; kartarah-authors; prayah-generally; syuh-
are; muni-cestitah-sages; dhanvantari-Dhanvantari; rasabhau-and Rasabha; vyasah-Vyasa;
dattah-Dattatreya; ca-also; kapilah-Kapila; ca-and; te-they.
With the eye of the scriptures the prabhava-avataras are seen to be of two kinds. The first kind is
briefly manifest and not very famous. Among them are Mohini, Hamsa, and the yuga-avataras
beginning with Sukla. The second kind are authors of scriptures. Generally they are great sages.
Among them are Dhanvantari, Rsabha, Vyasa, Dattatreya, and Kapila.
However, in his earlier editions of Caitanya-caritamrta Srila Prabhupada makes it clear that even
saktyavesa-avataras are sometimes listed as prabhava-manifestations:
Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter 2 [Handwritten]
Now the author of Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita turns towards the description of the Personality of
Godhead Krishna in His innumerable expansions. Primarily He expands Himself in two categories
namely Vilas and Prakash. The Prakash Forms are divided into prabhava and baibhava or Forms
who are full potential like Shri Krishna and Forms who are partially potential less than Shri Krishna.
Prabhava is in relation with potencies but Baibhava is in relation with excellencies. Such potential
Prabhava manifestations are also of two varieties, one of them is an external feature and the other
is temporary. For examples of “Mohini” “Hansa” “Sakla” manifestations are temporary and in terms
of a particular age only. The other Prabhavas are not very famous in material estimation and they
are for example like “Dhanwantari” “Rishava” “Vyas” “Dattatreya” “Kapila.” Examples of Baibhava
Prakash are like “Kurma” “Matsa” “Nara Narayan” “Varaha” “Hayagriva” “Prishnigarva” “Valadeva”
“Vibhu” “Yajna” “Satyasena” “Hari” “Vaikuntha” “Ajita” “Vamana” “Sarbabhouma” “Rishava” “Viswa
(?)” “Dharmasetu” “Sudhama” “Jogeswar” “Vrihatvani” etc.
The Vilas Forms are sixteen in number.
And the incarnations are of two varieties namely “Shaktavesh” (empowered) and “Amsa” (Part)
These incarnations also do come within the categories of Prabha and Baibhava manifestations. TOP
also the characters of the empowered incarnations.
According to Vidvan Gauranga Prabhu, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana in his commentary on SB
opines that Srila Vyasadeva is visnu-tattva with no difference between his body and the soul.
Baladeva also favors this opinion in his commentary on Laghu-bhagavatamrta. 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 6 of 7

This opinion has its legitimate place due to the ambiguity acknowledged by Srila Jiva Goswami and
Srila Rupa Goswami.
However, it seems that whatever Srila Vyasadeva’s ontological status may be, he himself chose to
make it irrelevant for the readers of Srimad Bhagavatam.
What he did make relevant, however, is that he depicted himself as a humble and obedient disciple
of his spiritual master. This is how he chose to portray himself in the highest Vedic pramana,
Srimad Bhagavatam — and even the accomplishment of this masterpiece he humbly ascribes to
Srila Narada Muni’s instructions and blessings.
On the other hand, as Srila Prabhupada’s followers, we are supposed to accept Srila Prabhupada’s
side on the issue, which is — Srila Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasadeva is a saktyavesa-jiva empowered
by Krsna through Narada to compile Srimad Bhagavatam.
Even though, as we said, his ontological status is irrelevant for the readers of SB, it is relevant for
SP’s followers to accept Srila Prabhupada’s views on all matters, including this one, as final.

GBC Resolutions 2007

Cremation of HG Suhotra
prabhu's body

2 Responses to “Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva?”


Hare Krsna Prabhu


Thank you for the information on Srila Vyasadeva. As you already said: “his
ontological status is irrelevent for the readers of SB…”

We also should remember that whenever a great personality appears, we shouldn’t

get too involved with all those “where, when and who” details about that certain
personality, but “why” he/she appeared.

Still (since I love details) I compiled a 24-page research-article on Srila Vyasadeva

last year, I would like to share with you (if you are interested), but how do I get in
touch with you? Are we allowed to share E-mail addresses on this forum?

Thanks again. Haribol!

Ys, jaya vijaya das


Dear Jaya Vijaya Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you for your comment. I would be grateful to get your research on Srila TOP

Vyasadeva. You can send it at m2m _at_ where _at_ stands for @

Many thanks.

ys, Mmd 20/02/2018
Dandavats | Srila Vyasadeva — Visnu or jiva? Page 7 of 7

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