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Resolving All Apparent Contradictions with the Help of Lord Chaitanya's Philosophy

Lord ChaitanyaThe 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.

For instance:
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.

Combined comments from old site

Sun, 12/21/2008 - 06:11 — Karnamrita.das
Rearranged quotes

I took many of the quotes out of the body of this blog because I realized it was way too long to read in one sitting, and could prevent us from having a discussion. Thus I have put them here. Anyone can find quotes---and I think they are good to include in moderation--yet here we are meant to speak about what Krishna consciousness is in our own words from different angles of vision and then discuss and question. That is how we will all gain more understanding and go deeper. Thanks for your input and insights.

Your friend in Krishna,


"The whole material creation, therefore, is one with and different from Narayana, simultaneously, and this supports the acintya-bhedabheda-tattva philosophy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Being an emanation from the glancing potency of Narayana, the whole material creation is nondifferent from Him. But because it is the effect of His external energy (bahiranga maya) and is aloof from the internal potency (atma-maya), the whole material creation is different from Him at the same time. The example given in this verse very nicely is that of the dreaming man. The dreaming man creates many things in his dream, and thus he himself becomes the entangled seer of the dream and is also affected by the consequences. This material creation is also exactly a dreamlike creation of the Lord, but He, being the transcendental Supersoul, is neither entangled nor affected by the reactions of such a dreamlike creation. He is always in His transcendental position, but essentially He is everything, and nothing is apart from Him. As a part of Him, one should therefore concentrate on Him only, without deviation; otherwise one is sure to be overcome by the potencies of the material creation, one after another. "

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.39

"There is no cause for all these phenomenal activities but Him, Hari, the Supreme Lord, who is the primeval cause of all causes. This does not mean, however, that the Lord Himself is distributed impersonally. He is aloof from all these interactions of the external and marginal potencies. In the Bhagavad-gita (9.4) it is confirmed that by His potencies alone He is present everywhere and anywhere. Everything that is manifested rests on His potency only, but He, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is always aloof from everything. The potency and the potent are simultaneously one and different from one another."

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.7.50

"The creator "I" and the created "I" are both accepted in the Vedas as qualitatively one because both of them are nityas and cetanas. But the singular "I" is the creator "I," and the created "I's" are of plural number because there are many "I's" like Brahma and those generated by Brahma. It is the simple truth. The father creates or begets a son, and the son also creates many other sons, and all of them may be one as human beings, but at the same time from the father, the son and the grandsons are all different. The son cannot take the place of the father, nor can the grandsons. Simultaneously the father, the son and the grandson are one and different also. As human beings they are one, but as relativities they are different. Therefore the relativities of the creator and the created or the predominator and the predominated have been differentiated in the Vedas by saying that the predominator "I" is the feeder of the predominated "I's," and thus there is a vast difference between the two principles of "I." "

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.9.33

"Since the Lord is the Absolute, there is no distinction between Him and His glories. The glories of the Lord as chanted by the Vaisnava sannyasi are as substantial as the Lord Himself, and thus while glorifying the Lord the devotee becomes one with Him in transcendental interest, although he remains eternally a transcendental servitor. This simultaneously one and different position of the devotee makes him eternally purified, and thus his life becomes a complete success."

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.6.36

"A clear conception of the complete whole is given herewith. The living entity is different from the material elements, and the supreme living entity, the Personality of Godhead, who is the creator of the material elements, is also different from the individual living entity. This philosophy is propounded by Lord Caitanya as acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Everything is simultaneously one with and different from everything else. The cosmic manifestation created by the Supreme Lord by His material energy is also simultaneously different and nondifferent from Him. The material energy is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord, but at the same time, because that energy is acting in a different way, it is different from Him. Similarly, the individual living entity is one with and different from the Supreme Lord. This "simultaneously one and different" philosophy is the perfect conclusion of the Bhagavata school, as confirmed here by Kapiladeva."

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.28.41

"The difference between the Vedas and the Puranas is like that between the brahmanas and the parivrajakas. The brahmanas are meant to administer some fruitive sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas, but the parivrajakacaryas, or learned preachers, are meant to disseminate transcendental knowledge to one and all. As such, the parivrajakacaryas are not always expert in pronouncing the Vedic mantras, which are practiced systematically by accent and meter by the brahmanas who are meant for administering Vedic rites. Yet it should not be considered that the brahmanas are more important than the itinerant preachers. They are one and different simultaneously because they are meant for the same end, in different ways."

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.4.13

"Narada is known as the son of Brahma, as Lord Krsna is known as the son of Vasudeva. The Personality of Godhead and His liberated devotees like Narada appear in the material world by the same process. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, the birth and activities of the Lord are all transcendental. Therefore, according to authorized opinion, the birth of Narada as the son of Brahma is also a transcendental pastime. His appearance and disappearance are practically on the same level as that of the Lord. The Lord and His devotees are therefore simultaneously one and different as spiritual entities. They belong to the same category of transcendence."

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.6.29