Nāma Kaumudī’s fundamental definition of the word krishna is, “The supreme spiritual substance.” This harkens to Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, which explains (in pūrva.1.1) that krish- means “existence.” and –ṇa means “carefree.” The word krishna therefore indicates an entity whose existence is effortless, self-establishing, causeless, without defects, and blissful. That entity is brahman, the supreme spiritual substance — consciousness itself in its pure, original, wholesome form.
But Nāma Kaumudī further specifies that krishna refers not merely to the latent potential state of brahman as a homogenous, effortless state of undifferentiated consciousness, it also and especially refers to the kinetic source of brahman: a specific carefree and effortlessly self-manifest, blissful and flawless person. “Krishna” the Nāma Kaumundī continues, “denotes the one whose complexion is as black as a tamāla tree.”
The word krishna indicates the color black because that color pulls in (krish-) all light (-na). Viṣṇu’s complexion is as black as a tamāla tree. Indeed, the Amara-kośa Sanskrit dictionary states, “Viṣṇu, Krishna, Vaikuṇṭha, and Nārāyaṇa are synonyms.” I will explain why.
Viṣṇu literally means “all-pervasive,” denoting the substance which is the essence of everything: consciousness itself. Viṣṇu and krishna are synonyms because they both indicate the effortlessly self-manifest all-pervading substance of reality, consciousness — especially in it’s kinetic, specific fountainhead as a blissful and flawless personality.
Vaikuṇṭha literally means “carefree,” again denoting consciousness, and especially the realm of unfettered consciousness and the fountainhead of consciousness. It is therefore synonymous with viṣṇu and krishna.
Nārāyaṇa literally means “the reservoir of personhood” and denotes the fountainhead of consciousness. Therefore it is another synonym.
Krishna denotes all manifestations of Bhagavān Viṣṇu — the carefree and effortlessly self-manifest personality who is the fountainhead of all-pervasive consciousness. But Nāma Kaumudī finishes its definition by stating that the word krishna specifically refers to someone who was “raised on Yaśodā’s breast.” So, although krishna refers to consciousness itself (brahman) and although it refers to Viṣṇu as the source of all consciousness (paramātmā) and the epitome of all personality (bhagavān), in the ultimate focus this word denotes a very specific form of Bhagavān: the one who is raised by the loving breast-milk of the queen of Vraja, Śrī Yaśodā Devī. Ultimately, the word krishna refers to the famous Gopa of Vṛndāvana whom the Bhāgavata Purāṇa lauds as the fountainhead of all Viṣṇus, who are themselves the fountainheads of all consciousness, which is the very substance of reality itself.
The most literal, basic meaning of krish- is simply, “pull.” Earlier I quoted Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad stating that krish- means “existence.” It has this meaning because existence is the tangible coagulation of consciousness, a structure pulled into place by consciousness’ gravity. The primary trait of Krishna is that he “pulls,” like a magnet, like gravity.
What does he pull? He pulls upon -ṇa. Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad said -ṇa means “carefree.” What is carefree? Pure consciousness. Therefore Monier’s Sanskrit dictionary states that native Sanskrit lexicographers also define -ṇa as knowledge, the power of knowledge, consciousness.
Krish-na: he who pulls on consciousness.
What does it mean to “pull on consciousness”? It means to attract, fascinate, delight, and enthrall. Krishna emits all consciousness, like a star emitting light, and then, like a black hole, he attracts, fascinates, and enthralls the emitted consciousness – forming a circuit, a loop.
Loops amplify. What does Krishna amplify? Carefree existence, bliss – which attains its thickest reality in the form of love, prema.
Krishna: the all-attractive amplifier of prema.
Vraja Kishor dās