Chapter 25: Personal and Impersonal Realization

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Lord Caitanya

According to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61-3), the living entities are considered kṣetrajña energy. Although the living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and is fully cognizant, he nonetheless becomes entrapped by material contamination and suffers all the miseries of material life. Such living entities live in different ways in accordance to the degree of their entanglement in material nature. The original energy of the Supreme Lord is spiritual and nondifferent from the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead. The living entity is called the marginal energy of the Supreme Lord, and the material energy is called the inferior energy. Due to his material inebriety, the living entity in the marginal position becomes entangled with the inferior energy, matter. At such a time he forgets his spiritual significance, identifies himself with material energy and thereby becomes subjected to the threefold miseries. Only when he is free from such material contamination can he be situated in his proper position.

According to Vedic instructions, one should understand the constitutional position of the living entity, the position of the Lord, and the position of material energy in their interrelation. First of all, one should try to understand the constitutional position of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. That Supreme Lord has an eternal, cognizant, blissful body, and His spiritual energy is distributed as eternity, knowledge and bliss. In His blissful identity can be found His pleasure potency, and in His eternal identity He can be seen as the cause of everything. In His cognizant identity, He is the supreme knowledge. Indeed, the word kṛṣṇa indicates that supreme knowledge. In other words, the Supreme Personality, Kṛṣṇa, is the reservoir of all knowledge, pleasure and eternity. The supreme knowledge of Kṛṣṇa is exhibited in three different energies — internal, marginal and external. By virtue of His internal energy, He exists in Himself with His spiritual paraphernalia; by means of His marginal energy, He exhibits Himself as the living entities, and by means of His external energy He exhibits Himself as material energy. Behind each and every energetic exhibition there is the background of eternity, pleasure, potency and full cognizance.

The conditioned soul is the marginal potency overpowered by the external potency. However, when the marginal potency comes under the jurisdiction of the spiritual potency, it becomes eligible for love of Godhead. The Supreme Lord enjoys six kinds of opulences, and no one can establish that He is formless or that He is without energy. If someone claims so, his contention is completely opposed to the Vedic instructions. Actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the master of ali energies. It is only the living entity, who is an infinitesimal part and parcel of Him, who is overpowered by the material energy.

In the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad it is stated that there are two birds sitting on the same tree, and one of these birds is eating the fruit of this tree while the other bird is simply witnessing his activities. Only when the bird eating the fruit looks at the other bird does he become free from all anxieties. This is the position of the infinitesimal living entity. As long as he is forgetful of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who witnesses all his activities, he is subjected to the threefold miseries. But when he looks to the Supreme Lord and becomes the Supreme Lord's devotee, he becomes free from all anxieties and material miseries. The living entity is eternally subordinate to the Supreme Lord; the Supreme Lord is always the master of all energies, whereas the living entity is always under the domination of the Lord's energies. Although qualitatively one with the Supreme Lord, the living entity has the tendency to lord it over material nature; however, being infinitesimal, he is actually controlled by material nature. Thus the living entity is called the marginal potency of the Lord.

Because the living entity tends to be controlled by material nature, he cannot at any stage become one with the Supreme Lord. If a living entity were equal to the Supreme Lord, there would be no possibility of his being controlled by material energy. In Bhagavad-gītā the living entity is described as one of the energies of the Supreme Lord. Although inseparable from the energetic, energy is still energy, and it cannot be equal with the energetic. In other words, the living entity is simultaneously one and different from the Supreme Lord. Bhagavad-gītā (7.4-5) clearly states that earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego are the eight elementary energies of the Supreme Lord and are of inferior quality, whereas the living entity is of superior quality. The Vedic literatures confirm the fact that the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge.

The form of the Supreme Lord which is beyond the modes of material nature is not like the forms of this material world. His form is fully spiritual and cannot be compared with any material form. According to Vedic literatures, one who does not accept the spiritual form of the Supreme Lord is an atheist. Because Lord Buddha did not accept these Vedic principles, the Vedic teachers consider him to be an atheist. Although Māyāvādī philosophers pretend to accept the Vedic principles, they indirectly preach Buddhist philosophy, or atheistic philosophy, and do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Māyāvādī philosophy is inferior to Buddhist philosophy, which directly denies Vedic authority. Because it is disguised as Vedānta philosophy, Māyāvādī philosophy is more dangerous than Buddhism or atheism.

Vedānta-sūtra is compiled by Vyāsadeva for the benefit of all living entities. It is through Vedānta-sūtra that the philosophy of bhakti-yoga can be understood. Unfortunately, the Māyāvādī commentary, Śārīraka-bhāṣya, has practically defeated the purpose of Vedānta-sūtra. In the Māyāvādī commentary, the spiritual, transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has been denied, and the Supreme Brahman has been dragged down to the level of the individual Brahman, the living entity. Both the Supreme Brahman and the individual Brahman have been denied spiritual form and individuality, although it is clearly stated that the Supreme Lord is the one supreme living entity and the other living entities are the many subordinate living entities. Thus reading the Māyāvādī commentaries on Vedānta-sūtra is always dangerous. The chief danger is that through these commentaries one may come to consider the living entity to be equal to the Supreme Lord. It is easy for a conditioned living entity to be falsely directed in this way, and once he is so directed he can never come to his actual position or enjoy his eternal activity in bhakti yoga. In other words, the Māyāvādī philosophy has rendered the greatest disservice to humanity by promoting the impersonal view of the Supreme Lord. Thus Māyāvādī philosophers deprive human society of the real message of Vedānta-sūtra.

From the very beginning of Vedānta-sūtra it is accepted that the cosmic manifestation is but an energetic display of the Supreme Lord. The very first aphorism (janmādy asya [SB 1.1.1]) describes the Supreme Brahman as He from whom everything emanates. Everything is maintained by Him, and everything is dissolved in Him. Thus the Absolute Truth is the cause of creation, maintenance and dissolution. The cause of a piece of fruit is the tree; when a tree produces a piece of fruit, one cannot say that the tree is impersonal. The tree may produce hundreds and thousands of fruits, but it remains as it is. The fruit is produced, and it develops and stays for some time; then it dwindles and vanishes. This does not mean that the tree also vanishes. Thus from the very beginning the Vedānta-sūtra explains the doctrine of by-products. These activities of production, maintenance and dissolution are carried out by the inconceivable energy of the Supreme Lord. The cosmic manifestation is a transformation of the energy of the Supreme Lord, although the energy of the Supreme Lord and the Supreme Lord Himself are nondifferent and inseparable. A touchstone may produce great quantities of gold in contact with iron, but still the touchstone remains as it is. Despite His producing huge material cosmic manifestations, the Supreme Lord is always in His transcendental form.

Māyāvādī philosophy has the audacity to reject the purpose of Vyāsadeva, as explained in the Vedānta-sūtra, and to attempt to establish a doctrine of transformation which is totally imaginary. According to the Māyāvādī philosophy, the cosmic manifestation is but the transformation of the Absolute Truth, and the Absolute Truth has no separate existence outside the cosmic manifestation. This is not the message of Vedānta-sūtra. The transformation has been explained by Māyāvādī philosophers as false, but it is not false. It is only temporary. The Māyāvādī philosophers maintain that the Absolute Truth is the only truth and that this material manifestation known as the world is false. Actually this is not the case. The material contamination is not exactly false; because it is relative truth, it is temporary. There is a difference between something that is temporary and something that is false.

Praṇava, or oḿkāra, is the chief vibration found in the Vedic hymns, and oḿkāra is considered to be the sound form of the Supreme Lord. From oḿkāra all Vedic hymns have emanated, and the world itself has also emanated from this oḿkāra sound. The words tat tvam asi, also found in the Vedic hymns, are not the chief vibrations but are explanations of the constitutional position of the living entity. Tat tvam asi means that the living entity is a spiritual particle of the supreme spirit, but this is not the chief motif of the Vedānta or Vedic literatures. The chief sound representation of the Supreme is oḿkāra.

All these faulty explanations of Vedānta-sūtra are considered atheistic. Because the Māyāvādī philosophers do not accept the eternal transcendental form of the Supreme Lord, they are unable to engage in real devotional service. Thus the Māyāvādī philosopher is forever bereft of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and Kṛṣṇa's devotional service. The pure devotee of the Personality of Godhead never accepts the Māyāvādī philosophy as an actual path to transcendental realization. The Māyāvādī philosophers hover in the moral and immoral material atmosphere of the cosmic world and consequently are always engaged in rejecting and accepting material enjoyment. They have falsely accepted the nonspiritual as the spiritual, and as a result they have forgotten the spiritual eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as well as His name, quality and entourage. They consider the transcendental pastimes, name, form and qualities of the Supreme to be products of material nature. Because of their acceptance and rejection of material pleasure and misery, the Māyāvādī philosophers are eternally subjected to material misery.

The actual devotees of the Lord are always in disagreement with the Māyāvādī philosophers. There is no way that impersonalism can possibly represent eternity, bliss and knowledge. Being situated in imperfect knowledge of liberation, the Māyāvādī decries eternity, knowledge and bliss as materialism. Because they reject devotional service, they are unintelligent and unable to understand the effects of devotional service. The word jugglery they use in an attempt to amalgamate knowledge, the knowable and the knower simply reveals them to be unintelligent. The doctrine of by-product is the real purport of the beginning of Vedānta-sūtra. The Lord is empowered with innumerable unlimited energies, and consequently He displays the by-products of these energies in different ways. Everything is under His control. The Supreme Lord is also the supreme controller, and He is manifested in innumerable energies and expansions.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness