Monday, June 27, 2011

Brahman’s Inconceivable Manifestations

Some may question Brahman’s capacity to be simultaneously the efficient and the material cause of creation on the basis of the diversity of attributes required to perform all the different creative functions and the display of all metamorphosis that the elements go through, while the spiritual nature is said to be immutable, constant, etc. Here lies one of the distinctive attributes of God: His capacity to remain eternality unchanged although manifesting unlimited spiritual and material creations, a feature that is absent in any material element, in any jīva, and in prakṛti or pradhāna. In other words, Lord Kṛṣṇa is not subject to any of the material, logical limitations that condition everything in this world. The following quotations substantiate His supreme inconceivable powers. In the śruti it is said:

bṛhac ca tad divyam acintya-rūpaṁ sūkṣmāc ca tat sūkṣmataraṁ vibhāti

dūrāt sudūre tad ihānti ke ca paśyatsv ihaiva nihitaṁ guhāyām

(Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, 3.1.7; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

 "The great, divine Supreme Lord shines forth, being smaller than the smallest and endowed with an inconceivable form and. He is farther than the farthest but is also very near for those who can see Him, for He is indeed situated within everyone’s heart.”


Lord Brahmā explains:

tam ekaṁ govindaṁ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaṁ paṣca-padaṁ vṛndāvana-sura-bhūruha-talāsīnaṁ satataṁ sa-marud-gaṇo ‘ham paramayā stutyā toṣayāmi (Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, 1.38; Govinda-bhāṣya, 3.3.62)

 "With excellent prayers, I and the Maruts constantly propitiate Govinda, Whose form consists of eternity, knowledge and bliss, Who is sitting under a desire tree in Vṛndāvana, and who is this five-word mantra."


barhāpīḍābhirāmāya rāmāyākuṇṭha-medhase, veṇu-vādana-śīlāya, lola-kuṇḍala-valgave, vallavī-nayanāmbhoja-māline nṛtya-śāline, namaḥ praṇata-pālāya śrī-kṛṣṇāya namo namaḥ, niṣkalāya vimohāya śuddhāyāśuddhi-vairiṇe, namaḥ kamala-netrāya namaḥ kamala-māline, namaḥ kamala-nābhāya kamalā-pataye namaḥ, ramā-mānasa-haṁsāya govindāya namo namaḥ

(Ibid., 42, 44-45, 47, 41, 42; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

 “Obeisances unto the charming Lord Who is beautifully decorated with a peacock feather on His head, is endowed with sharp intellect, and is fond of playing the flute; Who looks attractive with His swinging earrings, Who is encircled by the lotus eyes of the cowherd damsels, and Who is expert in dancing. Obeisances unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the protector of those Who bow to Him, Who wears a golden necklace, Who is beyond the illusory energy, and Who is pure and hostile to impurity. Obeisances unto the lotus-eyed Govinda, Who wears a garland of lotus flowers, Whose navel is like a lotus flower, Who is the husband of the Goddess of Fortune, and Who is like a swan in the lake of Her heart.”


This proves that the Lord’s body is divine and transcendental, distinct from that of any other living entity, and therefore beyond all the physical laws.


eko vaśī sarvagaḥ kṛṣṇa īḍya eko ‘pi san bahudhā yo ‘vabhāti

(Ibid., 1.23; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.44)

 “Kṛṣṇa is the only all-pervasive and worshipable Supreme Lord. Although one, He appears as many.”


amātro’nanta-mātraś ca dvaitasyopaśamaḥ śivaḥ

oṁkāro vidito yena sa munir netaro janaḥ

(Māṇḍūkya-upaniṣad, 1.29; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

“One who knows that this auspicious syllable Oṁ, the Supreme, is the cessation of duality, has no parts and yet has unlimited parts— such a person is wise, and no one else.”


This demonstrates that the Lord, although one and the same, can manifest Himself in unlimited expansions and still remain the same undivided Supreme Spirit.

It is further stated:

āsīno dūraṁ vrajati śayāno yāti sarvataḥ

(Kaṭhopaniṣad, 1.2.21; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

“Although sitting, He goes very far, and although lying down, He goes everywhere.”


That means, He can simultaneously be situated in a single place as well as in many places, be lying down and at the same time move. This evinces that He can be specifically within the parameters of physical space and beyond it simultaneously, being measurable and immeasurable according to His supreme will. 





viśvataś-cakṣur uta viśvato-mukho viśvato-bāhur uta viśvatas-pāt

saṁ bāhubhyāṁ dhamati saṁ patatrair dyāv ābhūmī janayan deva ekaḥ

(Ibid., 4.17; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

“The Supreme Lord is only one. Yet His eyes, faces, arms, and feet are everywhere. Upon creating heaven and earth, He instigates all beings as if blowing fire with fans in His two hands.”


eṣa devo viśva-karmā mahātmā sadā janānāṁ hṛdaye sanniviṣṭaḥ

hṛdā manīṣā manasābhikḷpto ya etad vidur amṛtās te bhavanti

(Ibid., 4.17; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

 “God is the creator of everything, the Supreme Soul situated within the hearts of all beings. He becomes manifest through absorption in one’s heart, intellect, and mind. Those who know this become liberated.”


sa viśva-kṛd viśva-vid ātma-yoniḥ jñaḥ kālākāro guṇī sarva-vid yaḥ

pradhāna-kṣetrajña-patir guṇeśaḥ saṁsāra-mokṣa-sthiti-bandha-hetuḥ

(Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 6.16; Govinda-bhāṣya, Introduction)

 “The Supreme Soul is the creator of the universe. He is omniscient, the source of Himself, the supreme knower, the controller of time, omniscient, and replete with all transcendental qualities. He is the Lord of the material modes and the ruler of material nature and the living entities. He is the cause of the jīvas’ bondage, permanence within the cycle of birth and death, and liberation from it.”


He is the Supersoul, the master of all transcendental qualities, and He is the master of this cosmic manifestation in regard to bondage to the conditional state of material existence and liberation from that bondage.”

niṣkalaṁ niṣkriyaṁ śāntaṁ niravadyaṁ nirañjanam

amṛtasya paraṁ setuṁ dagdhendhanam ivānalam

(Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 6.19; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.1.27)

 “The peaceful Supreme has no parts, no actions, no defects, and no blemishes. He is like a bridge to immortality, a fire that blazes even after the fuel is burnt.”


All these statements corroborate Lord Govinda’s inconceivable potency with which He creates, maintains and destroys all the material universes while His Own nature remains totally unaffected. Therefore, the Kūrma Purāṇa establishes the principle below in order to look through the Lord’s puzzling attributes :

asthūlaś cānaṇuś caiva sthūlo ‘ṇuś caiva sarvataḥ

avarṇaḥ sarvataḥ proktaḥ śyāmo raktākta-locanaḥ

aiśvarya-yogād bhagavān viruddhārtho ‘bhidhīyate

tathāpi doṣāḥ parame naivāhāryāḥ kathañcana

guṇā viruddhā apy ete samāhāryāḥ samantataḥ

 "By dint of His inconceivable potencies, the Supreme Lord is said to possess contrary attributes, such as being thoroughly solid and yet not solid, thoroughly immense and yet small, thoroughly devoid of color and yet dark-complexioned and having reddish eyes. Nevertheless, the defects cannot at all be present in the Supreme Lord, while good qualities, despite opposite to one another, accrue within Him all around."


God being one, it might be expected that when He manifests Himself, He does so in the same way. The Brahma-sutrās (3.2.35), however, explain that God is free to manifest Himself in unlimited ways according to the situation and the devotee, just as the same light appears distinct when reflected in walls carved with gems. Vidyābhūṣaṇa also gives the example  of sound, which even being of the same pitch, has a different timber according to the instrument played, and that too might vary in speed and intensity. Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa and His avatāras display Their pastimes in a way just suitable to all the circumstances involved. For example, it would be incompatible for Him to appear in a form predominantly in the mood of the Vaikuṇṭha opulence (aiśvarya) for a devotee in the mood of the Vrajavāsīs’ spontaneous conjugal love (mādhurya), as when He showed His Nārāyaṇa form to the gopīs when they were roaming through the forest looking for Govinda. It would also not be fair for Him to display a huge form like Kūrma on this tiny earth planet or a form like Nṛsiṁhadeva to devotees who feel parental loving devotion for Him.

The Brahma-sūtras (3.3.10) explain:

vyāpteś ca samañjasam

“And because the Supreme Lord is all-pervading, meditation on His different features in childhood, youth, and so on, is appropriate.”


The purport is that the Supreme Lord’s form can have infinite modalities, and each of them is unique. A devotee may choose any of them to worship or meditate, and there will never be any difference from the ontological point of view. Those forms vary according to His own will, never due to any material factor, and for this reason, one should not think that when the Lord plays as a human being He is also going through the same influence of time and nature. For example, when Lord Kṛṣṇa displays pastimes in different stages as childhood (kaumāra), boyhood (paugaṇḍa), and youth (kaiśora), He shifts His external appearance by the power of His mystic yoga, never by the regular process of aging to which all the living beings are subject. 

 An objection might be raised: “If the Lord’s manifestations in His pastimes are eternal, then we have to imply that every one of those devotees that take part in each activity, and each activity as well, must also be eternal. In this case, we have an inconsistent picture, for we see a sequence of activities performed both by the Lord and His devotees, and each of them has a particular beginning and end, otherwise there would be no diversity of activities at all. However, this contradicts the definition of eternal. Moreover, there is a constant change of devotees who take part in every pastime. Therefore, how can the Lord’s activities be called eternal at all?” This is another example of improper material reasoning applied to God. Lord Kṛṣṇa, His activities and His associates have nothing to do with the influence of kāla, time, for in the transcendental platform there is another frame of time that is distinct from the one predominant in this world. The śāstras also describe the Lord as comprising all frames of time within Himself:

yad bhūtaṁ bhavac ca bhaviṣyac ca (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 3.8.3)

“Past, present, and future are situated within the Supreme Lord.”


Although there may be a continuous succession of events and interactions in the Lord’s pastimes, they are essentially all of the same spiritual nature, and therefore not subject to the abovementioned arguments. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself qualifies His own activities in this way:

janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ

tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna

(Bhagavad-gītā, 4.9)

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

This evinces how His pastimes are of a divine (divyam) nature, and by definition must be eternal. The non-eternal activities of the Lord are manifested through the agency of prakṛti and kāla, which produce all movable and non-movable things within the material universe. These are prone to be destroyed by those very agents, but the Lord’s pastimes are totally beyond their influence. By the agency of the Lord’s internal potency, His pastimes appear to be within a time frame and thus we can speak of His appearance and disappearance.

 In this way, even in the minor details, every manifestation of God is a very detailed organized spiritual affair in which His yogamāyā makes all the arrangements so that He can apparently fit in the parameters of this relative world. Vidyābhūṣaṇa further points out  that the motivator factor that impels the Lord to act in a particular way is essentially the feelings of His devotees towards Him, which surcharge the Lord with that same mood. Thus, the displays of God are a dynamic emotional exchange between Him and His devotees.