The sun and its rays—one and different.
Achintya-bhedabheda-tattva refers to the inconceivable oneness and difference of the Supreme Person and His energies. This is one of the key points of theistic philosophy taught by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. As parts of God's energy, we're also equal in quality with God, but there's a vast difference in quantity. We're each infinitesimal sparks of spiritual energy, and the Supreme Person, Krishna, is the infinite, supreme source of all energies.

Some parts of the Vedas say that all beings are one with God, and others say that God is different from all beings. Vedanta philosophers have long argued back and forth about this, but Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught that both statements are simultaneously true.

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Just as the sun is the source of heat and light, God is the ultimate source of all energy. The sun is inseparable from its rays, and God is inseparable from His energies. God and His energies are therefore nondifferent. At the same time, God and His energies are distinct. The sun and its rays are one, but they're also different: we can feel the sun's light and heat while the sun itself is millions of miles away.

Similarly, God is omnipresent by His energy but also maintains His distinct personal identity – His own name, form, qualities, home, activities, and associates. Since everything is a display of God's energy, God is simultaneously different (bheda) and nondifferent (abheda) from everything. This truth (tattva) is inconceivable (achintya) to the mundane mind. All that exists within the spiritual world and the material world is also God's energy, and therefore one with and different from God simultaneously.

We Worship Everything

A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, if material nature is the absence of Krishna, then what is material?

Srila Prabhupada: Nothing is material. If you continue Krishna consciousness, there’s nothing material. When we offer this flower in Krishna consciousness, is it material?

Devotee: No.

Srila Prabhupada: So how has it become spiritual? It was material in the tree and now it has become spiritual? No. It is spiritual. As long as I was thinking that it is meant for my enjoyment, it was material. As soon as I take it for Krishna’s enjoyment, it is spiritual.

Devotee: So actually this entire world is spiritual.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That we want—to engage everything in Krishna’s service. Then this world will be the spiritual world.

Devotee: So we can also appreciate Krishna’s creation in that light? For example, this flower is very beautiful because it is Krishna’s.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We realize that. The Mayavada philosophy says jagan mithya: “This world is false.” We don’t say that. Krishna has created so many nice things for His enjoyment, why shall I say mithya [false]? Suppose you build a nice house and you call me, “Just see,” and if I say, “It is all mithya.”

Devotee: I’ll be offended, because I can’t enjoy it if it is false.

Srila Prabhupada [Laughing.]: How depressed you’ll be!

The Bhagavad-gita explains that the demons say like this—asatyam apratishtham te jagad ahur anishvaram. The rascals, the demons say that this world is asatya, untruth, and that there is no cause, no ishvara. This is the declaration of the demons.

But if Krishna is a fact, His creation is a fact. His energy is a fact. Why shall I say it is false? We don’t say it is false. The Mayavadis say it is false.

Devotee: If someone looks at the Deity of Krishna and thinks it’s only stone or wood, for him it’s still material?

Srila Prabhupada: That is his ignorance. How can it be material? The stone is also Krishna’s energy. For example, electricity is everywhere, and the electrician knows how to utilize it. Similarly, Krishna is everywhere, even in the stone, and the devotees know how to utilize stone to appreciate Krishna. The rascals do not know. The devotee knows because he has no other view than of Krishna. Why should the stone be without Krishna? “Here is Krishna.” That is real oneness. The Mayavadi philosophers propose oneness, but they divide—this is stone, this is not Krishna. Why bring another thing?

Devotee: For a Krishna conscious person is Krishna as much in the stone as in the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Devotee: Just as much?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Why not?

Devotee: But we order Deities all the way from India?

Srila Prabhupada: Krishna explains, “Everything is in Me, but I’m not everything.” This is called acintya- bhedabheda—simultaneous oneness and difference. Everything is Krishna, but you cannot worship this bench as Krishna. That is rascaldom.

The sunshine is also sun. Is it not? But when the sunshine is in the room, you cannot say, “The sun is my room.” This is called acintya-bhedabheda.

Devotee: But you said one can see Krishna within the stone.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Why not?

Devotee: And one can worship Him within the stone or within everything.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We worship everything. We see Krishna everywhere. We don’t see the tree; we see Krishna’s energy. Therefore the tree is also worshipable because Krishna and Krishna’s energy are both worshipable. Therefore we say, “Hare Krishna.” Hare means Krishna’s energy. We worship everything.

In our childhood we were taught by our parents that if a grain of rice falls on the floor, we must pick it up and touch it to our head to show respect. We were taught like this—how to see everything in relationship with Krishna. That is Krishna consciousness.

Therefore, we do not like to see anything wasted, anything misused. Why are we preaching? Because we see that so many rascals are misusing their life. We think, “Let us give them some enlightenment.” This is our mission.

We could think, “Let them go to hell.” Mayavadi sannyasis engage in meditation or go to the Himalayas, but we have come to Los Angeles. Why? This is our mission. “Oh, these people are being misused under maya. Let them gain some enlightenment.”

We are teaching how to utilize everything for Krishna, how to understand Krishna in everything. That is our mission. See Krishna in everything. Krishna says, “Anyone who sees Me everywhere, and everything in Me, is perfect.”

The Vision to See Life in Stone

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and several of his disciples took place in June 1974 in Paris.

Devotees: A man came to the temple a couple of days ago and argued that we really can’t say for sure that there’s life after death, so why worry about it? Better to build a more prosperous society. At least this we can understand, and it would be a meaningful accomplishment.

Srila Prabhupada: He may not understand that the soul takes another body after death, but he can understand that he’ll be kicked out of his present body. Didn’t he understand this?

Devotee: He thought it was more important to engage in economic development.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore he’s a fool. Suppose I am visiting here in Paris, and you say, “As soon as your visa expires you’ll be kicked out.” Shall I be interested in creating anything elaborate? I shall be kicked out after two months, so why should I construct a big building? Only a foolish rascal would do that. The rascal knows that he will be kicked out, but still he works day and night to collect bricks and stones, and he becomes a “big man.” A foolish rascal is considered a big man. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam [ 2.3.19] says, sva-vid-vara-hostra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh:

“Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise foolish rascals, the non-devotees.”

Devotee: Sometimes people argue that God has given us our senses, so we should enjoy them.

Srila Prabhupada: The dog is also enjoying his senses. I say to such people, "What are you enjoying that the dog doesn’t enjoy? You eat; the dog also eats. You sleep; the dog also sleeps. You enjoy sex; the dog also enjoys sex. You are afraid of your enemy; the dog is also afraid of its enemy. So what is the difference between the dog’s mentality and your mentality?"

God has given you the intelligence to understand that you are nothing and He is everything. Just realize it—that is intelligence. When you understand, “God is great; I am His servant,” that is real intelligence. Otherwise, you’ll be exactly like the dogs.

Devotee: People today have reasoned that God is dead.

Srila Prabhupada: To them I reply, God is not dead; your intelligence is dead. You have a dead body, and you’re proud of it. The body is just like a motorcar. A motorcar is dead, and if there is no driver it does not work. Similarly, the body is dead, and as soon as you, the soul, leave the body, it stops working. That means you are occupying a dead body. It is working only as long as you are there, but actually the body is dead. And you are decorating a dead body. All your acquisitions are simply decorations on a dead body. Apranasya hi deha-sya mandanam loka-ranjanam. Some rascal may applaud, “Oh, you are so intelligent; you are decorating your body so nicely.” But an intelligent man will say, “What a fool he is, that he’s decorating a dead body.”

Devotee: Someone might ask why we decorate the Deity in the temple.

Srila Prabhupada: Because it is not dead. It is living. One who puts forward this argument does not know that we are decorating the real, living body.

Devotee: You say the Deity is the real body, but it appears to be stone. There are no symptoms of life in the Deity.

Srila Prabhupada: There is life—the supreme life—but you have no eyes to see it. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena; a devotee—he can see that the Deity is alive. Are we fools, rascals, that we are worshiping a dead body? You think that after reading so many scriptures we are worshiping stone? You have no eyes to see the truth. You have to purify your vision to see that Krishna is personally present in the Deity.

Devotee: Most people can’t even understand the existence of the soul. So how can they understand the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore they have to become our students, our disciples, to understand this science. Then they will see that the stone Deity is also Krishna.

Devotee: Is my body also Krishna, since it is made of earth, like the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: No, but it is Krishna’s energy. Therefore the body should be engaged in Krishna’s service. That is Krishna consciousness. As soon as you understand the body is Krishna’s energy, you will not employ it for any purpose other than His vice. But people do not have this realization. They think the body is theirs, or that they are the body. This is illusion.

Devotee: When impersonalistic philosophers read in Bhagavad-gita [ 18.61] that Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart,” they argue that since Krishna is in heart of every living entity, every living entity is Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada: Why? If I am in a room have I become the room? Is that argument very sound? Krishna is within my body, and I am also within my body, but does that mean I am the body or that Krishna is the body? Krishna is everything, and yet, Krishna is apart from everything. In Bhagavad-gita [ 9.4] Krishna says, maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina: “I am spread all over the universe in My impersonal feature.” Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani: “Everything is in Me.” Na caham tesv avasthitah: “But I separate from everything.” This is the philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference ( achintya-bhedabheda-tattva).

Devotee: Other religions do not give information—

Srila Prabhupada: We are not talking religion; we are talking of science. Don’t bring in “religion.” There are so many religions where people are doing things blindly. Such “religion” is not our concern. We are talking of science.

Devotee: The science of how God’s energies are working ?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For example, to say that heat is fire, is that wrong?

Devotee: No, because it comes from fire.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Heat is the energy of fire. Therefore one can say that heat is fire, but at the same time it is not fire. It is simultaneously one with fire and different from fire.

Devotee: Someone might say, “If stone is also Krishna, then why aren’t you worship all stones?”

Srila Prabhupada: When we make the form of Krishna in stone, then we worship stone. Not that we worship any stone. Because Krishna is everything by the expansion of His energies, that does not mean we have to worship the dog. No. Our business is to worship the form of Krishna.