SB 1.3 - The subtle universal form

Sūta Gosvami then describes the next step in spiritual understanding: materialist to spiritual impersonalist. Beyond this gross conception of form is another, subtle conception of form which is without shape and is unseen, unheard and unmanifest. Superior to the gross universal form is that form which is invisible, devoid of specific bodily parts, since it cannot be seen or heard. This is like the subtle body of the jīva, which is the instrument of rebirth for the jīva.

There are two concepts explained here. First, a learned soul sees beyond the ever shifting material varieties to the one, all pervading, non dual spiritual substance called Brahman. Secondly, beyond the gross material body with which a living entity identifies is something subtle, eternal and spiritual. Beyond the gigantic body of the Lord, there is also a conception of His subtle form. Just as yogīs worship the visible form of the universe as the Lord, even though it is material, other yogīs worship a subtle form of the universe as the Lord, even though it is also material. The wise do not accept these two forms of the Lord since they are composed of matter.

The subtle form is invisible because it is devoid of specific forms. The gross body of the jīva is his false designation for enjoyment in this world. Why do we need to make another false designation? Because by this subtle body the jīva takes repeated births, which would otherwise be impossible. These forms are attributed to the Lord, but are not actually the Lord because both the gross and subtle bodies are material. Their souls are the jīvas individually and collectively. It is said that the universal form of matter, Hiraṇyagarbha (the form of the collective jīvas), as the cause of the universe is false.

But all these gross or subtle conceptions of the body are in relation with the living beings. The living being has his spiritual form beyond this gross material or subtle psychic existence. When the gross body is not acting when the living being is sound asleep, we know that he is within the body. So his passing away when the body dies does not mean that there is no existence of the soul. The Lord is eternally existent in His transcendental form, which is neither gross nor subtle like that of the living being. All such conceptions of God’s body are imaginary. The spiritual form of the living being is conditioned only by his material contamination.

The summary of these few paragraphs regarding the virāṭ form is this: The neophytes conceive of the Lord as having a material form in the shape of the universe. Being attached to material forms, they implant bodily conceptions of the self. They also conceive of a subtle form of the Lord. All these conceptions of the material forms of the Lord, be it gross or subtle, are imaginary. The living being also has his eternal spiritual form beyond all gross and subtle bodies.