avajānanti māḿ mūḍhā
mānuṣīḿ tanum āśritam
paraḿ bhāvam ajānanto
mama bhūta-maheśvaram

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 9.11

Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

From the other explanations of the previous verses in this chapter, it is clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although appearing like a human being, is not a common man. The Personality of Godhead, who conducts the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the complete cosmic manifestation, cannot be a human being. Yet there are many foolish men who consider Krishna to be merely a powerful man and nothing more. Actually, He is the original Supreme Personality, as is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita (ishvarah paramah krishnah); He is the Supreme Lord.

There are many ishvaras, controllers, and one appears greater than another. In the ordinary management of affairs in the material world, we find some official or director, and above him there is a secretary, and above him a minister, and above him a president. Each of them is a controller, but one is controlled by another. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that Krishna is the supreme controller; there are many controllers undoubtedly, both in the material and spiritual world, but Krishna is the supreme controller (ishvarah paramah krishnah). and His body is sac-cid-ananda, nonmaterial.

Material bodies cannot perform the wonderful acts described in previous verses. His body is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. Although He is not a common man, the foolish deride Him and consider Him to be a man. His body is called here manusim because He is acting just like a man, a friend of Arjuna’s, a politician involved in the Battle of Kurukshetra. In so many ways He is acting just like an ordinary man, but actually His body is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1]—eternal bliss and knowledge absolute. This is confirmed in the Vedic language also. Sac-cid-ananda-rupaya krishnaya: “I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, who is the eternal blissful form of knowledge.” (Gopala-tapani Upanishad 1.1) There are other descriptions in the Vedic language also. Tam ekam govindam: “You are Govinda, the pleasure of the senses and the cows.” Sac-cid-ananda-vigraham: “And Your form is transcendental, full of knowledge, bliss and eternality.” (Gopala-tapani Upanishad 1.35)

Despite the transcendental qualities of Lord Krishna’s body, its full bliss and knowledge, there are many so-called scholars and commentators of Bhagavad-gita who deride Krishna as an ordinary man. The scholar may be born an extraordinary man due to his previous good work, but this conception of Sri Krishna is due to a poor fund of knowledge. Therefore he is called mudha. for only foolish persons consider Krishna to be an ordinary human being. The foolish consider Krishna an ordinary human being because they do not know the confidential activities of the Supreme Lord and His different energies. They do not know that Krishna’s body is a symbol of complete knowledge and bliss, that He is the proprietor of everything that be and that He can award liberation to anyone. Because they do not know that Krishna has so many transcendental qualifications, they deride Him.

Nor do they know that the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in this material world is a manifestation of His internal energy. He is the master of the material energy. As has been explained in several places (mama maya duratyaya), He claims that the material energy, although very powerful, is under His control, and whoever surrenders unto Him can get out of the control of this material energy. If a soul surrendered to Krishna can get out of the influence of material energy, then how can the Supreme Lord, who conducts the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the whole cosmic nature, have a material body like us? So this conception of Krishna is complete foolishness. Foolish persons, however, cannot conceive that the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, appearing just like an ordinary man, can be the controller of all the atoms and of the gigantic manifestation of the universal form. The biggest and the minutest are beyond their conception, so they cannot imagine that a form like that of a human being can simultaneously control the infinite and the minute. Actually although He is controlling the infinite and the finite, He is apart from all this manifestation. It is clearly stated concerning His yogam aishvaram, His inconceivable transcendental energy, that He can control the infinite and the finite simultaneously and that He can remain aloof from them. Although the foolish cannot imagine how Krishna, who appears just like a human being, can control the infinite and the finite, those who are pure devotees accept this, for they know that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore they completely surrender unto Him and engage in Krishna consciousness, devotional service of the Lord.

There are many controversies between the impersonalists and the personalists about the Lord’s appearance as a human being. But if we consult Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, the authoritative texts for understanding the science of Krishna, then we can understand that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is not an ordinary man, although He appeared on this earth as an ordinary human. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, First Chapter, when the sages headed by Saunaka inquired about the activities of Krishna, they said:

kritavan kila karmani
saha ramena keshavah
ati-martyani bhagavan
gudhah kapata-manusah 

“Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with Balarama, played like a human being, and so masked He performed many superhuman acts.” (Bhag. 1.1.20) The Lord’s appearance as a man bewilders the foolish. No human being could perform the wonderful acts that Krishna performed while He was present on this earth. When Krishna appeared before His father and mother, Vasudeva and Devaki, He appeared with four hands, but after the prayers of the parents He transformed Himself into an ordinary child. As stated in the Bhagavatam (10.3.46), babhuva prakritah sisuh: He became just like an ordinary child, an ordinary human being. Now, here again it is indicated that the Lord’s appearance as an ordinary human being is one of the features of His transcendental body. In the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita also it is stated that Arjuna prayed to see Krishna’s form of four hands (tenaiva rupena catur-bhujena). After revealing this form, Krishna, when petitioned by Arjuna, again assumed His original humanlike form (manusam rupam). These different features of the Supreme Lord are certainly not those of an ordinary human being.

Some of those who deride Krishna and who are infected with the Mayavadi philosophy quote the following verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.29.21) to prove that Krishna is just an ordinary man. Aham sarveshu bhutesu bhutatmavasthitah sada: “The Supreme is present in every living entity.” We should better take note of this particular verse from the Vaishnava acaryas like Jiva Gosvami and Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura instead of following the interpretation of unauthorized persons who deride Krishna. Jiva Gosvami, commenting on this verse, says that Krishna, in His plenary expansion as Paramatma, is situated in the moving and the nonmoving entities as the Supersoul, so any neophyte devotee who simply gives his attention to the arca-murti, the form of the Supreme Lord in the temple, and does not respect other living entities is uselessly worshiping the form of the Lord in the temple. There are three kinds of devotees of the Lord, and the neophyte is in the lowest stage. The neophyte devotee gives more attention to the Deity in the temple than to other devotees, so Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura warns that this sort of mentality should be corrected. A devotee should see that because Krishna is present in everyone’s heart as Paramatma, every body is the embodiment or the temple of the Supreme Lord; so as one offers respect to the temple of the Lord, he should similarly properly respect each and every body in which the Paramatma dwells. Everyone should therefore be given proper respect and should not be neglected.

There are also many impersonalists who deride temple worship. They say that since God is everywhere, why should one restrict himself to temple worship? But if God is everywhere, is He not in the temple or in the Deity? Although the personalist and the impersonalist will fight with one another perpetually, a perfect devotee in Krishna consciousness knows that although Krishna is the Supreme Personality, He is all-pervading, as confirmed in the Brahma-samhita. Although His personal abode is Goloka Vrindavana and He is always staying there, by His different manifestations of energy and by His plenary expansion He is present everywhere in all parts of the material and spiritual creation.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

“That well known maha purusa lying on the Karana Ocean with sac cid ananda form, spreading himself through millions of universes, who creates the universe by his own energy, is indeed you. But some say in deprecation that when you come as the son of Vasudeva with human-like form it is just an amsa of that maha purusa.” In response the Lord speaks this verse.

Yes, they deride this human-like form that I assume. They do not know that this human-like body is the supreme form (param bhavam), it is my svarupa, my actual form, more attractive than and superior to the maha purusa lying on the Karana Ocean and other forms as well. What type of form is this? It is the great lord of the brahman (bhuta), which is called satya or bhuta. The phrases “great lord” distinguishes Krishna’s human form from brahman. According to the Amara kosa, bhuta means truth, the elements like earth, or connection.

The sruti says:

tam ekam govindam sac-cid-ananda-vigraham vrndavana-sura-bhuruha-bhavanasinam satatam sa-marud-gano
‘ham paramaya stutya tosayami

I constantly satisfy with praises along with the Maruts that one Govinda with sac cid ananda form sitting beneath a desire tree. Gopala Tapani Upanisad 1.35

The smrti says narakrti para brahma:  the supreme brahman has a human form. (Visnu Purana  4.11.2) Thus my knowledgeable devotees describe my human like body as being sac cid ananda.

My mother Yasoda also saw that sac cid ananda form during my childhood, that form which pervades the whole universe.

Or another meaning of param bhavam is as follows. The last line describes the reality of that manuslrh tanum. That human form is the most exalted state  (param bhavam), visuddha sattva,a svarupa of sac cid ananda. Amara Kosa says bhdva means state, ones nature or intention. That highest state is then detailed. I am the great lord of beings such as Brahma (bhuta) whom I create (mama bhuta mahesvaram). This means that I, the Supreme Lord of Brahma and others, unlike the jivas, being their Lord, am not different from my human body. I am my body. My body is me. That body is brahman. Sukadeva, who is knowledgeable says my body is directly brahman:

sabdam brahma dadhad vapuh

Then, in the Satya-yuga, the lotus-eyed Supreme Personality of Godhead, being pleased, showed Himself to that Kardama Muni and displayed His transcendental form, which can be understood only through the Vedas. SB 3.21.8

Those blinded by material energy can only accept that truth faith, through the scriptures (sabda brahma).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

9.11 Because of their evil actions (Karmas), fools disregard Me — the great Lord of all beings, the Omniscient, whose resolves are true, who is the sole cause of the entire universe, and who has taken the human body out of great compassion so that I might become the refuge of all. They consider Me to be a man like themselves. The meaning is that they disregard Me, not knowing My higher nature which is an abode of compassion, generosity, condescension and parental solicitude. This nature of mine is the cause of My resorting to the human shape. But without understanding this, the ignorant consider Me as of the same nature as others, because I have assumed the human form.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

It may be wondered that since the Supreme Lord Krishna is the topmost attainment and paramount controller of all why are not all people worshipping Him as the Supreme Lord? This question is being answered in this verse and the next beginning with the descriptive word mudhah meaning the fools and the ignorant. Although the Supreme Lord’s body is purely spiritual composed of sat eternal existence cit transcendental knowledge and ananda unending bliss the ignorant not knowing His supreme position disregard Him and the fools deride Him because Lord Krishna appears in a human looking form to interact and reciprocate with His devotees in order to please them.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Now Lord Krishna explains those who do not know about His Supreme position and why. For those who are deluded their human body appears to be what they are and not simply a container for the jiva or the embodied soul. Therefore in the Moksa Dharma it is stated: In this world all the things associated with the body are endowed with the five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether as ordained by the will of the Supreme Lord who is the sole source of all creation. The Supreme Lord Krishna is also paramatma or the Supreme Soul residing within all living entities as the eternal witness of everything. He exists with form and He exists without form. He is the giver of blessings and boons and He is the master of the unmanifest power which regulates destruction and creation.

Regarding the Vedic scriptures documenting the descent of Lord Krishna’s avatars or incarnations in numerous and diverse manifestations. It should be understood without any doubt that there is absolutely no difference in essence of any of the Supreme Lord’s forms in past, present or future. All Lord Krishna’s avatars are sac-cid-ananda or sat of eternal existence, cit or transcendental knowledge and ananda or unending bliss and are the sovereign master of all creation. Whether these avatars are appearing as a fish such as Lord Matsya, or animal such as Lord Varaha the boar incarnation or half -human like Lord Narasimha the half man and half lion incarnation or as human incarnations such as Lord Rama and Lord Buddha; they are all different manifestations of the supreme absolute truth and the ultimate reality of the Supreme Lord. Therefore there should never be any misconception or delusion that there is any difference between the Supreme Lord Krishna and any of His avatars which are always verified by the authority of the Vedic scriptures.

Without beginning and without end of purely spiritual form the Supreme Lord is the source of Brahma and Shiva and all created beings. From His breath has manifested the four Vedas. The brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence is His impersonal manifestation. He is Isvara Parama the Supreme controller of all creation. The word bhuta-mahesvaram in this verse means the Supreme Lord of all beings and this has also been stated in the Babhravya section of the Sama Veda.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna is the supreme omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent controller of all. Although the source of all creation He is unattached to His creation while still being compassionate to all living entities. Why then does not everyone take the mercy of the Supreme Lord and attain moksa or liberation from the material existence. The words avajananti mam mudah means ignorant fools blaspheme the Supreme Lord. This is because due to accumulations of sins since time immemorial they become infatuated by their material designations and possessions and so deluded are unable to recognise the paramount position of the Supreme Lord Krishna or even achieve the association of His devotees. Such fools think the Supreme Lord is an ordinary human being because He appears to be human although factually He possesses an eternal transcendental, spiritual form which only appears human. These ignorant wretches deride and disrespect the Supreme Lord and refuse to accept Him as the Lord of the entire creation; at times even substituting their own inferior gods as the Supreme Lord without having the authoritative evidence to support such fallacious misrepresentations. Such deluded fools falsely think of Lord Krishna as they do any other person and thus are beguiled and bewildered by maya or illusory perceptions superimposed upon the mind.

The Supreme Lord Krishna is the original cause and source of everything in existence. He is the ultimate bestower of all rewards for all actions and the final beatitude for those who have attained moksa. All living entities and everything in creation emanate from Him first. The purpose of His divine appearances is exclusively for the benefit of mankind by protecting the righteous and annihilating the unrighteous.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

9.11 Ajanatah, not knowing; mama, My; param, supreme; bhavam, nature-My supreme Reality, which is like space, nay, which is subtler and more pervasive than space; as bhuta-maheswaram, the Lord of all beings, the great Lord of all beings who is their Self; mudhah, foolish people, the non-discriminating ones; avajananti, disregard, belittle; mam, Me, although I am by nature thus eternal, pure, intelligent, free and the Self of all beings; and asritam, who have taken; manusim tanum, a human body common to men, i.e… when I act with the help of a human body. As a result of that, as a result of continously disrespecting Me, those wretches get ruined. How?

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

9.11 Avajananti etc. I am reclining within all that is born Being the Self of all, I become the object of disrespect. For, [they raise the question] : ‘Apart from the fourteen types of creation, like man etc., no Lord is found; hence how can He exist ?’

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

avajananti mam mudha
manusim tanum asritam
param bhavam ajananto
mama bhuta-mahesvaram

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

avajānanti — deride; mām — Me; mūḍhāḥ — foolish men; mānuṣīm — in a human form; tanum — a body; āśritam — assuming; param — transcendental; bhāvam — nature; ajānantaḥ — not knowing; mama — My; bhūta — of everything that be; mahā-īśvaram — the supreme proprietor.