Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.3 - The multi forms of the Lord are one

Since there are many different avatāras and Kṛṣṇa Himself has two-armed and four-armed forms, and as well displays ages such as kaumāra and kaiśora, and they are all said to be eternal, still it does not mean there are many Gods. SB 10.40.7 says He is one God manifested as many. The jīva at different times in saṁsāra shows different temporary forms with less or more power, but the one Supreme Lord by His inconceivable energy can simultaneously have infinite eternal forms which are not different from Him. The jīvas show infinite variety simply because there are infinite jīvas. The Lord shows infinite variety of forms by being one person. Thus when the jīva sees the Lord, he perceives the Lord as if there are many Lords, like jīvas.

The Mahā-varāha Purāṇa says that all the forms of the Lord are eternal, appearing constantly within the material world with bodies of Paramātmā, without any destructible elements made of prakṛti. Though the forms are perfect and complete, they are called aṁśa because they display only various degrees of the Lord’s qualities such as sweetness, power and mercy. Real completeness means fully displaying all the powers which takes place in the aṁśī. And SB 3.8.4 also says that Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa meditates upon His Supreme Lord, Vāsudeva. There is nothing contradictory if there are differences between the aṁśī and aṁśa, since the Lord is spiritual substance. There are two types of aṁśas, the expansions of the Lord and the jīvas.

Whoever carefully recites the mysterious appearances of the Lord, with devotion in the morning and in the evening, gets relief from all miseries of life. In the gītā it is said that one who knows the principles of the transcendental birth and activities of the Lord will go back to Godhead after leaving one’s body. Thus the birth and activities of the Lord are not ordinary. Only one who goes deep into the matter by spiritual devotion can understand the mystery of the Lord.

SB 1.3 - The virāṭ rūpa of the Lord

Next Sūta describes the virāṭ form of the Lord. The conception of the virāṭ universal form of the Lord, as appearing in the material world, is imaginary. It is to enable the less intelligent to adjust to the idea of the Lord’s having form. But factually the Lord has no material form. The act of perceiving the Lord’s form in matter is simply presented to materialistic persons to help them bridge the gap between matter and spirit. The concept of the universal form is meant to help them take the ultimate step of accepting Kṛṣṇa’s eternal, spiritual form. The universal form of the Lord is particularly not mentioned along with the various incarnations of the Lord because all the incarnations of the Lord are transcendental.

The virāṭ rūpa is conceived for the neophytes. In that form the material manifestations of different planets have been conceived as His legs, hands etc. The neophytes cannot conceive of anything beyond matter. The material realm composed of collective and individual universes is a material form of the Lord who has a spiritual form of consciousness, and is devoid of a material form. This material form is composed of the guṇas and the elements from mahat-tattva to earth situated on the Paramātmā as its basis. As Supersoul, the Lord is within each and material form, but the outward material form is an imagination, both for the Lord and the living being. The present forms of the living beings are also not factual. The material conception of the body of the Lord as virāṭ is imaginary. Both the Lord and the living beings are living spirits and have original spiritual bodies.

Just as unintelligent people attribute clouds to be the sky and particles of dust to be the air, so they see the universe, the visible form of the Lord, as the Lord. Clouds and dust are carried by the air, but less intelligent people say that the sky is cloudy and the air is dirty. Similarly, they also implant material bodily conceptions on the spirit self. Despite appearances and common speech, clouds and sky remain forever separate. With material eyes we cannot see the Lord, who is all spirit. What is seen and controlled by the Lord (the universe) is attributed to be the seer or the controller, the Lord, who is actually invisible. The foolish thinks the universe is the Lord.

We look to the outward covering of the body or subtle mind of the living being, but we cannot see the spiritual spark within one’s body. So we have to accept the living being’s presence by the presence of his gross body. Similarly, those who want to see the Lord with their present material eyes are advised to meditate on the gigantic external feature called the virāṭ-rūpa. For instance, when the President goes out in his car, we say ‘There is the President’. We identify the car with the President. Similarly, those who want to see God are shown first the material cosmos as the form of the Lord, although the Lord is within and without. Though sky and air are invisible we see the sky because it is blue or the air because it is dusty. Similarly, the Lord, visible as the universe, is worshiped by the yogīs situated at the beginning stage of practice.

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.

SB 1.3 - Seeing the Lord being freed of ignorance

When a person understands that both the gross and subtle bodies have nothing to do with the pure self, at that time he sees himself as well as the Lord. When the gross and subtle material forms, which are impositions on the soul in ignorance, are removed by the realization of the devotees, one can realize Brahman. This means that the non material form of the Lord is not removed. The difference between self realization and material illusion is to know that the temporary or illusory impositions of material energy in the shape of gross and subtle bodies are superficial coverings of the self. The coverings take place due to ignorance. Such coverings never take place in the Lord. When the coverings are removed from the jīva, the jīva can see Brahman and knowing this convincingly is called liberation or seeing the Absolute.

The impetus for activities is generated from the self, but such activities become illusory due to ignorance of the real position of the self. By ignorance one identifies with the body, but when one meets the self by proper culture, the activities of the self begin. One achieves self realization not by artificial means but under the lotus feet of the Lord. When the living being desires to enjoy material energy, the Lord in the heart covers the living being with forgetfulness, and thus the living being misinterprets the gross and subtle body to be his own self. And by culture of knowledge, when the living being prays to the Lord for deliverance from forgetfulness, the Lord, by His causeless mercy, removes the illusory curtain, and thus the living being realizes his own self. He then engages in the service of the Lord, and all this is executed by the Lord either thru His external potency or directly by the internal potency.

SB 1.3 - The same potency acting in two ways

If the illusory energy subsides and the living being becomes fully enriched with knowledge by the grace of the Lord, then he becomes enlightened with self realization and becomes situated in his own glory. The wise understand that such a person is worthy of worship. The Lord reveals Himself unto that person whom He alone chooses. If māyā withdraws her influence, then the Lord favors the devotee. Or when māyā withdraws her influence, the jīva thinks of the Lord. The transcendental energy of the Lord acts according to His omnipotency. The same energy acts as His external, internal and marginal energies, and He can perform anything and everything thru these energies. He can turn the external energy into internal by His will. Thus by His grace the external energy, which is employed in illusioning the living beings, subsides by the will of the Lord in terms of repentance and penance for the conditioned soul. And the very same energy then acts to help the purified soul make progress on the path of self realization.

The external energy which bewilders the living being is turned into internal potency by the will of the Lord to lead the living being to eternal life. The Lord’s external energy which facilitates our illusion can also carry us closer to Kṛṣṇa. Parīkṣit instructs us how to respond to the external energy, so that it will bring us closer to Kṛṣṇa. When the sage’s son cursed Parīkṣit to die in seven days, the king accepted it, for he ever remained receptive to Kṛṣṇa’s desire. When one responds properly, the external energy acts as internal energy. When Duryodhana insulted Vidura, Vidura perceived Kṛṣṇa’s mercy thru the insults.

SB 1.3 - Discovering the Lord of the heart

By gaining spiritual knowledge one becomes free from the ignorance of identifying with the gross and subtle bodies. This allows one to see the Lord. When the illusory energy subsides, one’s spiritual form becomes manifest. Then we can understand that the Lord’s forms and pastimes are filled with bliss. Thus rejecting the two versions of the universal form, learned men describe the births and activities of the unborn and inactive, which is undiscoverable even in the Vedas or which is the highest subject of the Vedas. He is the Lord of the heart. This is the Paramātmā feature of the Lord. Although not born, the Lord appears as many. By His nature all His actions are endowed with knowledge and strength.

Both the Lord and the living entities are essentially spiritual. Both of them are eternal, and neither of them has birth and death. The difference is the living beings are bound by material laws and so suffer birth and death. But the so-called appearance and disappearance of the Lord are not actions of material nature, but are demonstrations of His internal potency. They are described by great sages for the purpose of self realization. In the śrutis it is said that the birthless appears to take birth. The Supreme has nothing to do, but everything is done by Him naturally, as if done automatically. Though the appearance and activities of the Lord are confidential even to the Vedas, He still displays them to bestow mercy upon the conditioned souls. We should always take advantage of the narrations of the activities of the Lord, which are meditations on Brahman in the most convenient and palatable form.

SB 1.3 - The Lord is unattached

The Lord is the master of the six senses and contacts the six sense objects (sound, touch, form, taste, smell and thought) but is not attached to them. He is fully omnipotent with six opulences and experiences happiness arising from them. He creates, maintains and destroys the universes without being in the least affected. He is within every living being and is always independent. The Lord is called the amogha-līlaḥ (whose glories are spotless), which indicates there is nothing lamentable in His creation. He is full with six opulences namely wealth, power, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Thus He is the master of the senses. He creates the universes to reclaim the living beings who are within them suffering threefold miseries, maintains them, and in due course annihilates the universes without being affected by such actions. Just as one smells odor without being connected with the odorous article, the Lord is connected with material creation superficially.

SB 1.3 - Absolute truth is beyond one's mind and speech

Someone may say that the Lord’s pastimes are manifestations of material illusion and they only appear to be spiritual under the influence of devotion to the Lord. But that is not true. The Lord’s pastimes are spiritual. The foolish with skill in jñāna or yoga cannot know the transcendental nature of the forms, names and activities of the Lord, who is playing like an actor in a drama. Nor can they express such things, neither in their speculations nor in their words. The Absolute Truth is beyond the expression of one’s mind and speech.

To the layman the Lord and His activities are mysterious. The fruitive workers have no information of the Absolute Truth, and the mental speculators try to know Him by their own minds. And for all these men, the Lord is a mystery. Being deceived by the jugglery of the Lord, the non devotees remain always in ignorance. The mental speculators are a little more progressive than the fruitive workers, but because they are also within the grip of illusion, they take it for granted that anything which has a form, name and activities is but a product of material energy. Thus in ignorance they think that the Supreme is formless, nameless and inactive. The ignorant men consider the Lord simply as one of the great personalities of the world, and are thus misled by illusion. The person ignorant of drama cannot understand the names and forms indicated by the actor thru theatrical gestures of the hands and poetic words indicating the moon or the lotus. Thus he does not appreciate the drama and says there is no rasa. The person in knowledge directly experiences rasa, which pervades all his senses and heart.

SB 1.3 - The understanding of the devotees

Only those who render unreserved, uninterrupted, favorable service unto the scent of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, who carries the wheel of the chariot in His hand, can know Him in full glory and transcendence. Here Sūta describes the pinnacle of realization of the Absolute Truth: Bhagavān, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Being freed from the reactions of karma and mental speculation, the pure devotees can understand the transcendental name, form and activities of the Lord. Everyone within the creation of the Lord is rendering service to the Lord indirectly or directly. Those who render service indirectly are being forced by the illusory energy of the Lord and thus they render service unfavorably. But those who render service directly under the direction of His beloved agent are rendering service unto Him favorably. These devotees can enter into the mysterious region of transcendence by the mercy of the Lord. The mental speculators remain in darkness all the time. The Lord Himself guides the pure devotees toward the path of realization because of their constant engagement in the loving service of the Lord in spontaneous affection.

Only by making such inquiries as those done by the sages headed by Śaunaka, can one be successful, for such inquiries invoke love unto the Personality of Godhead, who is the proprietor of all the universes, and guarantee immunity from repeated birth and death. The word Bhagavān also means he who knows knowledge and ignorance. Thus bhagavantaḥ means knowledgeable sages (like Śaunaka) rather than great devotees, since they were not so advanced. Only the devotees can know the Lord to a considerable extent and so they are perfectly cognizant of all spiritual knowledge. The Personality of Godhead is the last word in the Absolute Truth. Impersonal Brahman and Supersoul are included in the knowledge of the Personality of Godhead. So one who knows the Lord can automatically know about Him, His multi potencies and His expansions.

SB 1.3 - The potency of Bhāgavatam

The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is complied by Vyāsadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-blissful and all-perfect. Lord Caitanya said that Bhāgavatam is the spotless sound representation of all Vedic knowledge and history. There are selected histories of great devotees who are in direct contact with the Lord. Bhāgavatam is non different from Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and should be worshipped as respectfully as we worship the Lord. We can have all the transcendental light of the Supreme Brahman, from the recitation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, provided it is received thru the medium of the transparent spiritual master. Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, the private secretary of Lord Caitanya, advised all devotees to study Bhāgavatam from the person Bhāgavatam. Bhāgavatam carries with it all the blessings of Kṛṣṇa that we can expect from His personal contact.

Sūta describes the disciplic succession thru which he heard the Bhāgavatam. Vyāsa delivered it to his son after extracting the cream of all Vedic literatures and histories of the universe. Vyāsa’s effort of churning the Vedas was successful, and Śukadeva, though the best of the self realized souls, took it with greed because of its wonderful taste. The foolish accept history of the world only from the time of Buddha, or since 600 B.C., and prior to this period all histories mentioned in the scriptures are taken as fiction. That is not a fact. All the stories mentioned in the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata are actual histories, not only of this planet but also of millions of other planets within the universe. Considering the different situation of different planets and also time and circumstances, there is nothing wonderful in the stories of the Purāṇas. The great ṛṣis like Vyāsa had no business putting some imaginary stories in their literatures.