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Is Krishna an Avatar of Vishnu?
Sometimes people think that Krishna is one among the 10 avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu. But a more complete understanding is that Krishna is the source of all the Vishnu forms including Maha Vishnu, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu and Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. There are 24 lila avatars like Matsya avatar, Kurma avatar etc., and all these avatars originate from Krishna. This is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.28): ete camsha kalah pamsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam "All the lists of the incarnations of Godhead submitted herewith are either plenary expansions or parts of the plenary expansions of the Supreme Godhead, but Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself."
In the Vedic literature names like Narayana and Vishnu may be found more frequently than the name Krishna. This is because such names refer to the Lord's activities in relation to the material creation ("Vishnu" means "all-pervading" and "Narayana" means "the shelter of all living entities") But Krishna never takes any part in creation, maintenance or annihilation. He always remains aloof from all these and merrily plays in His own abode. Lord Krishna is like the owner of a company who just relaxes and leaves the monitoring of the profit-loss account of the company to the managers. Similarly to conduct the affairs of the material creation, Lord Krishna expands as the Vishnu forms - Maha Vishnu, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, Ksirodakashayi Vishnu.
When Krishna is in His natural mood in Goloka Vrindavana, He enjoys multifarious loving pastimes with His eternal associates such as cow-herding, wrestling, singing and dancing. But when He expands as Maha Vishnu, He takes on a sober role of creating millions of universes by lying in the Causal Ocean. The difference between Krishna and Vishnu is like the difference between a police subinspector at home and the same police subinspector on duty. At home, a police subinspector wears simple loose dress and plays with his children just like a child. He may even carry his child on his back like an elephant. But when he takes the duty of a police subinspector, he wears the police uniform and takes on a serious role, though He is the same person. Similarly, Krishna is the original Vishnu -Vishnu at home. The difference between Krishna and Vishnu is like the difference between the Prime minister at home enioying with his relatives and friends and the same person in the parliament conducting the affairs of the country. The subordinates of the Prime minister at work deal with him in a mood of great reverence and respect. We see this type of relationship between Lord Vishnu and His devotees or Lord Ramachandra and His devotees like Hanuman, rather than a playful intimate relationship as seen between Lord Krishna and His devotees.