Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Lord's multiple oneness

It is a material condition the fact that an object cannot occupy more than a single space. If two different spaces are occupied, we have to conclude that there are two distinct objects. Similarly, we cannot speak of a variety of attributes belonging to the same object if there concomitance is not possible, like hot ice, or soft rock. But if we want to understand a bit about the potencies of God, we have to set aside these rational limitations. The sruti confirms that Lord Visnu is one, although He manifests Himself in many forms:

eko vasi sarvagah krsna idya eko 'pi san bahudha yo 'vabhati
tam pithastham ye tu yajanti dhiras tesam sukham sasvatam netaresam
(Gopala-tapani Upanisad, 1.21; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.38)

"Lord Krsna is the worshipable, all-pervading supreme controller, and although He is one, He manifests Himself in many forms. Those who are intelligent worship that Supreme Lord Who remains in His spiritual abode. Those persons attain the eternal transcendental happiness which is not available for others."

If one erroneously applies the material rational estimations in regard to the innumerable manifestations of God, he will come to the faulty conclusion that there are many gods, what undermines the whole concept of bhakti unto a supreme person. To emphasize the necessity of discarding all material conceptions and to corroborate the inconceivable potency of Lord Krsna, the Brahma-sutras state:

na sthanato’pi parasyobhaya-lingam sarvatra hi

“The essential nature of the Supreme Lord, though differentiated by space, does not undergo any change of characteristics, because He simultaneously exists everywhere.”
(Brahma-sutras, 3.2.11)

That means, no material condition can limit His potency. So being, He can become manifest in unlimited places at the same time, and still remain the very same one Personality of Godhead, or He can assume slightly different features, or absolutely different features in each different manifestation, and still this would in no regard affect His supremacy. That is one of the modes by which God is able to personally reciprocate in a very particular way with each of His devotees, for every one of them also has a unique mood and feeling towards the Lord. If He were not able to expand unlimitedly in all aspects, it would not be possible for Him to properly deal with His worshippers, and this would disqualify Him as the all-powerful One. Similarly, there is no limitation regarding the quality or number of distinct attributes that God can assume in the very same form or in diverse forms, even if they apparently show contradiction. For example, in His very sweet form as a cowherd boy in Vrndavana, He manifested Himself as fierce death to many demons, while in His terrific form as Nrsimhadeva, He displayed a very affectionate mood towards Prahlada. But in spite all these multiple displays, it must be understood that we are speaking of the very same Supreme Personality of Godhead. To corroborate this fact, the sruti declares:

indro mayabhih puru-rupah iyate yukta hy asya harayah satadasety ayam vai harayo’yam vai dasa ca sahasrani ca bahuni canantani ca tad etad brahmapurvam anaparam anantaram abahyam ayam atma brahma sarvanubhutir ity anusasanam
(Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 2.5.19; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.12)

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead along with His transcendental potencies is manifested as the thousand Visnu forms, as the ten avataras, and as unlimited other forms, but He is the very same primeval, matchless, unlimited, all-pervasive, omniscient Parabrahma.”

This is another aspect of the acintya-bhedabheda-sakti of the Lord, through which He performs what no one else can. The sruti and smrti also confirm His multiple ability to display Himself unlimitedly:

amatro’nanta-matras ca dvaitasyopasamah sivah
omkaro vidito yena sa munir netaro janah
(Mandukya-karika, 26-29)

“He who knows the Om-kara as partless, and yet full of infinity parts, the destroyer of all false knowledge, and blissful, is a sage, no one else.”

eka eva paro visnuh sarvatrapi na samsayah
aisvaryad rupam ekam ca suryavad bahudheyate
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.13)

“The Supreme Lord Visnu is undoubtedly only one, though existing
everywhere. By His mystic opulence He appears as many, just like the sun.”

Although it is not possible to find any parallels in the material platform, still Baladeva gives some analogies to better appreciate this mystic opulence of the Lord: the vaidurya gem, though one, is seen by different people from different angles as possessing different forms and colors; an actor on stage, though remaining the same person, assumes different characters and expresses different emotions according to the role he is playing. Similarly, the one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead displays different forms to display particular rasas, without ever abandoning His original forms or status. These analogies are backed up by the sastras in the following words:

manir yatha vibhagena nila-pitadibhir yutah
rupa-bhedam avapnoti dhyana-bhedat tathacyutah
(Narada-pancaratra, quoted by Jiva Gosvami in his Bhagavat-sandarbha, 40)

“When the jewel known as vaidurya touches other materials, it appears to be separated into different colors. Consequently the forms also appear different. Similarly, according to the meditational ecstasy of the devotee, the Lord, Who is known as Acyuta (infallible), appears in different forms, although He is essentially one.”

yat tad vapur bhati vibhusanayudhair avyakta-cid-vyaktam adharayad dharih
babhuva tenaiva sa vamano vatuh sampasyator divya-gatir yatha natah

“The Lord appeared in His original form, with ornaments and weapons in His hands. Although this ever-existing form is not visible in the material world, He nonetheless appeared in this form. Then, in the presence of His father and mother, He assumed the form of Vamana, a brahmana-dwarf, a brahmacari, just like a theatrical actor.”
(Bhagavatam, 8.18.12)