Resolving All Apparent Contradictions with the Help of Lord Chaitanya's Philosophy
The metaphysic of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhupu (considered the combined form of Radha and Krishna and the founder of our sampradaya or disciplic line) is called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva or the philosophy that the Lord and all his emanations are inconceivably, simultaneously one and different. To understand this perspective is the key to resolving many religious controversies or parts of our philosophy which some of you have expressed confusion about. Therefore the answers to many questions are not this or that or one or the other side, but both sides.
There are various sects in India propounding different conceptions of God, whether personal or impersonal. Some worship some demigod as supreme or a particular manifestation of Nature. Among Vaishnavas or those who have determined that Vishnu or Krishna is the supreme manifestation of Divinity, there are also different groups. Each one has a particular understanding, perspective, feeling and scriptural lens by which they determine the original manifestation of God--whether Vishnu or Krishna, and whether in awe and reverence or though the highest love (prema) and sweetness (madhurya).
The metaphysic of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhupu (considered the combined form of Radha and Krishna and the founder of our sampradaya or disciplic line) is called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva or the philosophy that the Lord and all his emanations are inconceivably, simultaneously one and different. To understand this perspective is the key to resolving many religious controversies or parts of our philosophy which some of you have expressed confusion about. Therefore the answers to many questions are not this or that or one or the other side, but both.
Question: Do we obtain God through endeavor or grace. Answer: Both.
Question: Is there fate or free will. Answer: Both exist.
Sometimes we make a statement to present a point which may not be ultimately or eternally true—it is just a way of speaking about a subject to allow a concept to be grasped by conditioned souls who may be very concrete or limited in their spiritual reasoning power. Are we fallen and contaminated, or pure and never fallen? Either position can be presented to make a point, though the soul in his natural position is pure, eternal, and not contaminated, just air only appears to be cloudy or dirty yet is always different from those foreign substances. [Clouds and dust are carried by the air, but less intelligent persons say that the sky is cloudy and the air is dirty. Similarly, they also implant material bodily conceptions on the spirit self. SB 1.3.31]
There is obviously much more discussion necessary to demonstrate how two apparently opposite ideas are true, yet the seed is in the one and different idea. The material world and the living entities (our selves) are simultaneously, inconceivably one with and different from the Lord. We Gaudiya Vaishnavas emphasis the difference between the Lord and the infinite souls in order to distinguish our philosophy from the impersonalists or monists, but factually we are equally one and different from Krishna. There is a Vedic aphorism that states that the “cause is in the effect” or another that the Lord's energy and himself are non-different (the fire is one and different from its heat and light) that both speak of this principle. The soul is one in quality with the Lord, yet different in quantity.
I will share here some of the many quotations from Prabhupada’s writings in which he elaborates on this important idea. The idea of inconceivable oneness and difference in right there in the Gita in the 9th chapter vs 4 and 5:
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.”
“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.”
Excerpts from those purports follows:
"Yet one should not conclude that because He is spread all over He has lost His personal existence. To refute such an argument the Lord says, "I am everywhere, and everything is in Me, but still I am aloof." For example, a king heads a government which is but the manifestation of the king's energy; the different governmental departments are nothing but the energies of the king, and each department is resting on the king's power. But still one cannot expect the king to be present in every department personally. That is a crude example. Similarly, all the manifestations that we see and everything that exists, both in this material world and in the spiritual world, are resting on the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The creation takes place by the diffusion of His different energies, and, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita, vistabhyaham idam krtsnam: He is everywhere present by His personal representation, the diffusion of His different energies."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 9.4
"But when Krsna wants to do something, simply by His willing, everything is performed so perfectly that one cannot imagine how it is being done. The Lord explains this fact: although He is the maintainer and sustainer of the entire material manifestation, He does not touch this material manifestation. Simply by His supreme will, everything is created, everything is sustained, everything is maintained, and everything is annihilated. There is no difference between His mind and Himself (as there is a difference between ourselves and our present material mind) because He is absolute spirit. Simultaneously the Lord is present in everything; yet the common man cannot understand how He is also present personally. He is different from this material manifestation, yet everything is resting on Him. This is explained here as yogam aisvaram, the mystic power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 9.5
Here are a few of the great number of quotes about the important philosophical perspective of how the Lord is inconceivably, simultaneously one and different from everything else. I originally put too many quotes in the body of this blog, so now I have put the rest of them in a comment which will make it easier to read in one sitting. Of course from one perspective there is only the Lord that exists, or we could say there is the Lord and his energies. They are one, yet different. Take your time with these quotes or just read a few to get a general idea if you don't have time to read them all:
O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.
“This verse explains how the Lord is all-pervasive by His diverse material and spiritual energies. The Supreme Lord can be preliminarily perceived by His different energies, and in this way He is realized impersonally. As the demigod in the sun is a person and is perceived by his all-pervading energy, the sunshine, so the Lord, although in His eternal abode, is perceived by His all-pervading diffusive energies. The taste of water is the active principle of water. No one likes to drink sea water, because the pure taste of water is mixed with salt. Attraction for water depends on the purity of the taste, and this pure taste is one of the energies of the Lord. The impersonalist perceives the presence of the Lord in water by its taste, and the personalist also glorifies the Lord for His kindly supplying tasty water to quench man's thirst. That is the way of perceiving the Supreme. Practically speaking, there is no conflict between personalism and impersonalism. One who knows God knows that the impersonal conception and personal conception are simultaneously present in everything and that there is no contradiction. Therefore Lord Caitanya established His sublime doctrine: acintya bheda-and-abheda-tattva -- simultaneous oneness and difference.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 7.8
"He is compared to a mine of gold, and the cosmic creations in so many different forms are compared to objects made from the gold, such as gold rings, necklaces and so on. The gold ring and the gold necklace are qualitatively one with the gold in the mine, but quantitatively the gold in the mine is different. Therefore, the Absolute Truth is simultaneously one and different. Nothing is absolutely equal with the Absolute Truth, but at the same time, nothing is independent of the Absolute Truth."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.1.1
"Nothing is apart from the substance, but at the same time the energies are different from the substance. This conception is not contradictory. Srimad-Bhagavatam explicitly promulgates this simultaneously-one-and-different philosophy of the Vedanta-sutra, which begins with the "janmady asya" [SB 1.1.1] sutra."
"This knowledge that the energy of the Lord is simultaneously one with and different from the Lord is an answer to the mental speculators' attempt to establish the energy as the Absolute. When this knowledge is factually understood, one sees the conceptions of monism and dualism to be imperfect. Development of this transcendental consciousness grounded in the conception of simultaneously-one-and-different leads one immediately to the stage of freedom from the threefold miseries. The threefold miseries are (1) those miseries which arise from the mind and body, (2) those miseries inflicted by other living beings, and (3) those miseries arising from natural catastrophes over which one has no control. Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the surrender of the devotee unto the Absolute Person. The devotee is fully aware that he is one with the Absolute and at the same time in the eternal position of servant to the Absolute."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.1.2
"Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living beings are undoubtedly qualitatively one, but the Lord is the controller of the illusory energy, whereas the living entity is controlled by the illusory energy. Thus the Lord and the living beings are simultaneously one and different."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.7.5
"Both the Lord and the living entity are cognizant, and both have the sense of identification, of being conscious as a living force. But the living being under the condition of material nature, called mahat-tattva, misidentifies himself as being different from the Lord. The whole scheme of Vedic wisdom is targeted to the aim of eradicating such a misconception and thus liberating the living being from the illusion of material identification. When such an illusion is eradicated by knowledge and renunciation, the living beings are responsible actors and enjoyers also. The sense of enjoyment in the Lord is real, but such a sense in the living being is a sort of wishful desire only. This difference in consciousness is the distinction of the two identities, namely the Lord and the living being. Otherwise there is no difference between the Lord and the living being. The living being is therefore eternally one and different simultaneously. The whole instruction of the Bhagavad-gita stands on this principle."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.15.27
"The Supreme Lord is one, and His expansions are various. He is therefore the Supersoul of everything. When a man sees anything, he must know that his seeing is secondary and the Lord's seeing is primary. One cannot see anything without the Lord's having first seen it. That is the instruction of the Vedas and the Upanisads. So whatever we see or do, the Supersoul of all acts of seeing or doing is the Lord. This theory of simultaneous oneness and difference between the individual soul and the Supersoul is propounded by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.39
I found 402 direct references to this topic in the writings of my guru, Shrila Prabhupada, and there are many indirect references as well. The point being that to really understand what Krishna consciousness is and to appreciate its' sublimity one must understand this metaphysic of Lord Chaitanya. There is no Krishna consciousness movement without Shri Krishna Chaitanya. His name actually means Krishna consciousness, and he showed by his practical life how to live the life of devotion. His disciples and generations of followers in disciplic succession have elaborated on his teachings. He only wrote one 8 verse prayer, but no books.
He primarily taught by his example (which is why he is said to be God teaching how to be a devotee of Krishna by his example or "acharya-lila"). His disciples and future generations have unpacked that example to make it accessible. It is said that the deeply esoteric teachings of Shri Chaitanya are like a huge powerful waterfall (like--say--Niagara falls), and the writings of his followers like approachable, accessible lakes.