In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.7.26, Brahmājī introduces the avatāra named “Krishna.” It is an exceedingly deep and wondrous śloka, so I would like to avail myself of the honor and pleasure of discussing it to some extent with those of you who might chance to happen upon this page.
kleśa-vyayāya kalayā sita-kṛṣṇa-keśaḥ
jātaḥ kariṣyati janānupalakṣya-mārgaḥ
To erase the Earth’s suffering from the burdensome hordes of vile schemes, the brilliantly-black Master of Pleasure, Krishna, appeared. His extraordinarily uncommon ways demonstrated the unsurpassable greatness of his being.
“Suffering from the Burdensome Hordes of Vile Schemes”
On the surface, this phrase (“Erasing the Earth’s suffering from the burdensome hordes of vile schemes” – bhūmeḥ suretara-varūtha-vimarditāyāḥ kleśa-vyayāya) refers to a proliferation of armies by ambitious, militaristic kings. The actual fruit inside the “banana peel” of this surface meaning, however, is that Krishna comes to erase the suffering we all cause to ourselves by proliferating our armies and armies of selfish schemes for self-centered happiness and enjoyment.
Selfishness, self-centeredness, is the core of all suffering – for it is antithetical to the essential nature of what we are (a small part of the glorious whole). Krishna’s avatāra has the specific purpose of destroying selfishness.
The rest of the verse explains how.
The Brilliantly-Black Master of Pleasure
Krishna erases our selfishness by showing us himself, the brilliant black Master of Pleasure. We are selfish because we have the misplaced notion that we will obtain pleasure by focusing on ourselves. Krishna’s avatāra, however, vividly demonstrates that we obtain unsurpassable pleasure by focusing on the glorious whole, Krishna – the brilliantly black Master of Pleasure.
This phrase, “Brilliantly-Black Master of Pleasure” is expressed in Sanskrit as sita-kṛṣṇa-keśa. In his commentary on this śloka, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravatī discusses this phrase in detail. The main meanings of the words in this phrase are
sita: (1) bound/joined, (2) bright/white, (3) beautiful.
kṛṣṇa: (1) black, (2) the person Krishna
keśa: (1) hair, (2) emanating rays, (3) ka-īśa, the master of pleasure
So, the primary meaning is: Krishna, the bright-black master of pleasure. Another meaning is that Krishna has beautifully set, brilliantly black hair.
Another meaning can be taken if the phrase is not separated from the word that follows it: sita-kṛṣṇa-keśa jātaḥ. Now, the phrase can mean “born from white and black hairs.” Viśvanātha Cakravartī discusses this at length. He cites Viṣṇu Purāṇa and Mahābhārata which describe Krishna and Balarāma as expanding from a white and black hair that Mahā-Viṣṇu (the Puruṣa, and source-via-medium for all avatāra) pulled from his body.
The Ṭhākura makes the point that Viṣṇu has jet black hair, because he never ages. His hair does not grey. Thus the “white hair” cannot be seen as a “grey hair” in that sense. The hair may be white because it comes from a unique part of his body, perhaps the śrīvatsa. This is my own timid suggestion as to where the “white hair” of the ever-youthful puruṣa may come from. Viśvanātha suggests that the one hair was not “white” but “brilliant” (sita). Viṣṇu pulled out two hairs, one of them glimmered brilliantly indicating the white color of Balarāma. He references Śrīla Sanātana Goswāmī’s Laghu-Bhāgavatāmṛta and Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī’s Kṛṣṇa-Sandarbha which support the conclusion that the idea of Viṣṇu having grey hair is a mistake, that his hair is brilliantly black, and beautifully bound into topknots and other wonderful styles.
The phrase in this śloka, sita-kṛṣṇa-keśa is an indirect reference to the circumstantial “origin” of Krishna and Balarama’s avatar, but much more directly it is a description of the beauty of Krishna – the beauty which attracts our hearts away from the ugliness of selfishness, the beauty of the brilliantly black Master of Pleasure, Krishna.
Extraordinarily Uncommon Ways Demonstrating his Unsurpassable Glories
Krishna’s avatāra is for the purpose of erasing the armies of vile selfish desires burdening our hearts. He wipes out these armies by being so beautiful and blissful (sita-kṛṣṇa-keśa). How does he display his blissful beauty?
He displays (kariṣyati) his heart-stealing beauty in “extraordinarily uncommon ways” (janānupalakṣya-mārga). This is really a beautiful phrase, and reveals the intimate connection between the motive of the Krishna avatāra and the motive of the subsequent Krishna-Caitanya avatāra. Krishna will do things, will behave in ways (mārga) that the people of this world have never seen before (jana-anupalakṣya). This unconventional, unprecedented behavior of Krishna, what does it do (karmāṇi)? It “demonstrates the unsurpassable glory of his being” (ātma-mahima upanibandhanāni).
Krishna attracts our hearts away from their stubborn fixation on selfishness by demonstrating the unsurpassable glory his being. So, he displays the unparalleled bliss of the Master of Pleasure. How? By showing us a glimpse of true pleasure, and thus demonstrating ways of life that human beings simply have not even imagined possible. This refers directly and explicitly to his unmatchably sweet interactions with his mother, with his friends, and with his lovers, whose enchanting attractiveness far surpasses any earthly supermodel, any heavenly courtesan of paradise, any manifestation of master goddesses, any Lakṣmī in Vaikuṇṭha, and even any Divine Queen of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The epitome of what this phrase refers to is the rāsa-līlā and the events and circumstances which lead up to and support it. The main essence of the reason for Krishna’s avatāra is to give us a small glimpse of the pristine and compellingly captivating beauty and pleasure overflowing from the pure divine love expressed romantically in the exquisite setting of the Rāsa Dance. By receiving a glimpse of that divine dance – provided that we are not cursed by some vile misunderstanding of it – the focus of our hearts will be forcefully abducted from our vile armies of selfish schemes, and thrown completely to focus selflessly upon, in any small way, enhancing and augmenting the unparalleled pleasure effusing abundantly from sweet, romantic divine love, epitomized in the Rāsa Dance.