Spiritual life Is Individual Not Impersonal

When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again…

Posted on June 4, 2011 by Devarsi

Indra uvaca

King Indra said: My dear Lord, Your transcendental form with eight hands and weapons in each of them appears for the welfare of the entire universe, and it is very pleasing to the mind and eyes. In such a form, Your Lordship is always prepared to punish the demons, who are envious of Your devotees. Srimad Bhagavatam 4. 7. 32

It is generally understood from revealed scriptures that Lord Vishnu appears with four hands, but in this particular sacrificial arena Lord Vishnu arrived with eight hands. King Indra said, “Even though we are accustomed to see Your four-handed Vishnu form, this appearance with eight hands is as real as the four-handed form.” As Lord Brahma had said, to realize the transcendental form of the Lord is beyond the power of the senses.

In reply to that statement by Brahma, King Indra said that even though the transcendental form of the Lord is not perceivable by the material senses, His activities and His transcendental form can be understood. The Lord’s uncommon features, uncommon activities and uncommon beauty can be perceived even by an ordinary man. For example, when Lord Krishna appeared just like a six- or seven-year-old boy in Vrindavana, He was approached by the residents there.

There were torrents of rain, and the Lord saved the residents of Vrindavana by lifting Govardhana Hill and resting it on the little finger of His left hand for seven days. This uncommon feature of the Lord should convince even materialistic persons who want to speculate to the limit of their material senses.

The activities of the Lord are pleasing to experimental vision also, but impersonalists will not believe in His identity because they study the personality of the Lord by comparing their personality to His.

Because men in this material world cannot lift a hill, they do not believe that the Lord can lift one. They accept the statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam to be allegorical, and they try to interpret them in their own way. But factually the Lord lifted the hill in the presence of all the inhabitants of Vrindavana, as corroborated by great acaryas and authors like Vyasadeva and Narada. Everything about the Lord—His activities, pastimes and uncommon features—should be accepted as is, and in this way, even in our present condition, we can understand the Lord. In the instance herein, King Indra confirmed: “Your presence with eight hands is as good as Your presence with four hands.” There is no doubt about it. SB 4.7.32

Why impersonalist philosophers don’t see the whole picture and why they avoid Krishna and His devotees.

Looking through most Bhagavad Gitas carefully, we notice that most translators misunderstood the basic teaching: that God is a person, Krishna, and that the goal of life is to develop love for Him. Instead, these “Gitas” claimed that God is an abstract force, an impersonal entity that lies beyond the purview of the senses. The commentators squeezed this out of the Sanskrit itself and often made it the focus of their analyses.

As Krishna Himself says in the Gita (7.24)

Janmastami Lord Krishnas Birth

avyaktam vyaktim apannam
manyante mam abuddhayah
param bhavam ajananto
mamavyayam anuttamam

abuddhayah-the unintelligent; manyante-consider; mam- Me; avyaktamthe unmanifest; apannamto have taken on; vyaktima-manifest form (personality); ajanantah-they are
unaware; mama-of My; param-supreme; avyayam-imperishable;anuttamam-transcendental; bhavam-nature.

The unintelligent consider that I, who am unmanifest and
beyond mundane existence, take birth like an ordinary human
being. They do not know the supreme, excellent, immutable
and transcendental nature of My form, birth, pastimes
and qualities.

Bhagavad Gita 7.25
naham prakasah sarvasya
mudho ‘yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam

na—nor; aham—I; prakasah—manifest; sarvasya—to everyone; yoga-maya—by internal potency; samavritah—covered; mudhah—foolish; ayam—these; na—not; abhijanati—can understand; lokah—persons; mam—Me; ajam—unborn; avyayam—inexhaustible.

I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.

Meaning of Unborn: His personal form is transcendental to any material body, His existence is not dependent on a material covering. There are hundreds of Vedic texts which describe The Absolute as personal and countless verses are spoken by Lord Sri Krishna Himself. We should also understand that Sri Krishna was there before any philosopher came and promoted his own understanding. Therefore we are not interested on what they have to say, we only take knowledge from Krishna who is described in all the Vedas as the first and foremost person, the oldest of all.

And yet, despite the Gita’s emphasis on God’s personhood, the impersonalist dimension of the Gita has become more popular. Teachers in the Krishna conscious tradition suggest that the desire to depersonalize God comes, on a subliminal level, from the desire to avoid surrender. After all, if God is a person, then questions of submission and subservience come into play. If God is a formless abstraction, we can philosophize about it without a sense of commitment, without the fear of having to acknowledge our duty to a higher being. Then again, maybe the popularity of the impersonal conception, at least in relation to the Gita, can be traced, plain and simple, to inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit. Something impersonal does not speak, but Krishna sung the Bhagavad Gita 5000 years ago.

Impersonalism really doesn’t even make sense.
Form is everywhere, from mountain to snowflake. Everything has form. Even invisible things have shape. Consider the atom: Though we don’t see it, we know it occupies definite space, and with the proper equipment we can perceive it. Deep down we know that in this world a thing and its form are inseparable. Also what are you going to do ones merged into the light. And this, of course, is where the theory of impersonalism comes in.

Impersonalists reason that if everything in this world has form, everything in “that” world must be formless, for matter and spirit are seen as diametrically opposed. While the premise here may be true, the conclusion is illogical. The reasoning is like the thinking of a cow that has once run from a burning barn: whenever it sees red, it runs. Similarly, everyone in this world knows that material forms are temporary and limited. This truth is embedded in our consciousness, and we naturally (if sometimes subliminally) apply it to all form, never imagining that spiritual form may have different characteristics altogether.

Radha and Krishna

Spiritual form is the origin of material form, nothingness or nirvesesa brahman as thought by Sri Sankaracharya who preached that the impersonal effulgence has no qualities, no attributes, no shape, no form and no personality is incapable to produce form and that is why those who preach impersonalism and the idea of undifferenciated oneness, fail to explain the existence of all form in this world and personality of Human beings.
We say however, that whatever is in the effect is in the source. We are the effect and God is our source. When we see Krishna we are looking at Gods original form. So people foist formlessness on God and on all spiritual phenomena, inadvertently following a tradition of impersonalism with the enthusiasm of a fire-fearing cow running from red. If one studies the Gita in Krishna consciousness, however, one sees clearly that the person Krishna, also known as Bhagavan (the Lord), reigns Supreme. Nearly every verse stresses service to Him. There is much evidence that the Gita supports the personalistic doctrine. Krishna says, “I am at the basis of the impersonal Brahman [the formless Absolute].” (14.27)

And when discussing the comparative value of the impersonal and the personal, Krishna says in the Gita, “Those who focus their minds on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with intense spiritual faith, are considered by Me to be most perfect.” (12.2) In other words, according to the Gita the conception of God as a person, to whom one may become devoted, is prior to and superior to the conception of God as an impersonal force, into which one may merge.

And what exactly is meant by “merging” Vaishnavas, worshipers of Krishna, shun this idea of becoming “one with God,” saying it is almost as repulsive as gross materialism. Srila Prabhupada says the idea is motivated by fear. In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 4.10 he writes:

It is difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth… . Consequently, they consider the Supreme to be impersonal. For persons who are materially absorbed, the conception of retaining their personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void or light

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