Tag Archives: God

Glories of the Self and God

The sages asked, “If God takes birth and ‘has incarnations,’ is he not just like us?”

Suta answered, “God’s form is itself pure spiritual formlessness, beyond the limitations of an individual shape created by material elements We souls are also beyond limitation of form but we confuse the observer with the observed and thereby identify our self with limiting things like our mind and body.”

[1.3.32]

Beyond this is something imperceptible, having no formal shape created by qualities. It is a substance unseen, unheard. It is the life-force which is born repeatedly.

Beyond the mind and body is the actual “self.” Both God and you are this substance, beyond all objectivity and subjectivity. Beyond objects and subjects is the true self. But, this self takes so many limiting forms again and again due to projection of the observer (the soul) into the observation (the world).

[33]

We can have spiritual vision when perfect knowledge itself rejects all these persistent and temporary forms imposed by ignorance.

If spiritual substance is beyond objectivity and subjectivity how can it be experienced? It can be experienced only by “knowledge itself” – sva-saṁvit. Godhead possesses three categories of spiritual potency: existence, awareness, and enjoyment. The second, awareness, is termed saṁvit. We must beg from the divine an infusion of saṁvit as a catalyst to awaken the saṁvit inherent within us, now rusted shut from disuse. Awakened self-knowledge casts off the haze of all illusory objects and subjects and grants spiritual perception (brahma-darśan), and thus access to the realm of transcendent objectivity and subjectivity.

[34]

If the goddess’ illusion withdraws, comprehension becomes perfect. Thus enriched, one understands one’s inherent exalted glories.

We possess the inherent capacity to understand and experience Godhead and spiritual truth. All that is required is for the intoxication of the “goddess’ illusion” (devī-māyā) to wear off. When we beg the saṁvit catalyst, it blows away the fog of delusions that currently obscure our capacity for transcendental perception and comprehension. Without such illusions, the inherently exalted glories of the self become self-evident.

What is the essence of that glory? We are made of God, by God, for God. The full richness of this exaltation is tasted when we let go of the illusion of all other self-conceptions.

[35]

The births of the birthless and the deeds of the deedless have been thus described by the learned. The lord of the heart is the confidential secret of true knowledge.

In one sense the lord of the heart (hṛt-pateḥ) is the self, for the self dwells in the core of what we are and empowers our body and mind to be “alive.” In another sense the lord of the heart is God, for God dwells in the core of the self and empowers it to exist and comprehend.

The lord of the heart is birthless, without beginning. Yet we see that we have been born, and we hear that even Godhead incarnates. The lord of the heart has no action and reaction, beyond causality. Yet we are completely entangled in the reactions of our actions, and we hear that Godhead also performs deeds. Both the self and Godhead are thus a true mystery, the final subject of true knowledge (veda-guhya). Suta has tried to pass on to us the benefit of what those who have studied thus subject to its utmost have explained about it.

[36]

So too is He of Untainted Activity. He creates and destroys everything without entanglement in anything. He is within all beings, but is independently self-situated. He is the master of six powers, the mere fragrance of which are the six qualities.

The sages asked if Godhead is limited like we are, since he takes birth and has a name, form and activities like we do. Suta answered by explaining that even the soul is not limited by its birth, name, form and activities. Neither the soul nor Godhead is limited by its name and form, etc.

Suta explained the difference between Godhead and the soul. The soul accepts material illusions and confuses the observation (non-self) with the observer (self), thus forgetting its unlimited nature. Godhead never does so. His activities are always untainted by ignorance (amogha-līla). He never acts out of ignorant selfishness and therefore he never gets entangled in his karma, even in his “dirty work” of creation and destruction. He is within all things and beings, but never loses his individual identity. He is the master of all opulent powers, which he enjoys with cognizant intent and without impurity.

[37-38]

Who, with meager knowledge, can understand the names, forms, and activities of the expert creator? The theories and arguments of fools cannot grasp the dramas he plays! Only one who unreservedly, unrelentingly, and lovingly adores the lotus-flower scent of his feet He can understand the creator – who held a chariot wheel in his hand, whose prowess is endless, and whose praise is transcendent.  

Suta has explained that Godhead is always unlimited, but the soul becomes bewildered by illusions. How can a bewildered thing comprehend something beyond bewilderment? By its own means, it cannot. The soul must beg saṁvit from Godhead. The light of saṁvit dispels the darkness of illusion and the soul’s inherent capacity for transcendental perception and activity awakens. Therefore if you desire to truly comprehend spirituality and Godhead, you must approach the study as a beggar, not as a conquistador. You must take a childlike attitude towards Godhead, feeling in need to shelter and protection and education. This is quite embarrassing for proud fools such as we, or at least such as I. Therefore Suta asks us to cast aside our shame and inhibitions. Unreservedly, unrelentingly adore the fragrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa which spreads like a lotus perfume on the pleasant breezes of kirtan spoken and sung by those whose hearts are enrapt with his charm.

Do you have such opportunities? You do now. Suta will speak Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to give us exactly this chance to hear.


Does God Really Have Form Like Us?

Some of the sages ask, “An ordinary soul has many reincarnations. Now it seems from what you have just told us that Godhead also has many incarnations and reincarnations. Does God really incarnate and take forms like us?”

[1.3.30]

Suta answers, “God’s forms are really formless spiritual consciousness. The individual’s incarnations are material elements manufactured by the qualities of illusion.”

Some philosophers argue that to think of God with some sort of eyes and ears and arms and legs is primitive anthropomorphism. They think that God must be beyond all form. Suta agrees that God is beyond form, but does not agree that God therefore must be formless, without specific beauty and individuality. He says that “the forms of God are beyond form.” He does not say that God is formless, but that the form of God is beyond form. There is a world of difference!

Suta teaches that God has form, but this form is beyond form because it is made of limitless pure consciousness. This contrasts against the form we see in the mirror: a thing manufactured from material elements by the qualities of illusion.

In summary, God has limitless form.

 [31]

Seeing clouds or dust in the sky, we think it is dirty. The foolish observer transposes an observation upon the observed.

When we look at a thing, we do not see it! We see only our perception of it. An observation is different from the thing observed. This difference is the mind that comprehends the observation. We do not directly observe reality. We observe only what our minds can make sense of. This is really quite important to admit. Especially today, in a world that defines reality based on what some people can observe empirically.

English: The sunrising behind some clouds.

Image via Wikipedia

Suta makes the idea more concrete by using an analogy: “When you see clouds or dust in the sky, you think the sky is cloudy or dusty.” The sky is always clear blue. Clouds and dust exist only at a low level of atmosphere. If our observation point is below that level, the sky seems cloudy or dirty. We wrongly impart our vantage point upon the reality of what we see.

An ordinary person looks at a painting or statue of Godhead and sees something like what they see in the mirror: hair, eyes, hands, feet, etc. “That can’t be right,” they ponder, “because that means Godhead is just like me: limited within a certain form, susceptible to bad-hair days, eye infections, arthritis, etc.” This logic has the flaw of imposing one’s own conditions upon things one observes. Our experience of form is limiting and prone to be problematic. Therefore when we observe form, we think it must be restrictive. However, our experience of form is troublesome only because our form is an artificial imposition manufactured by illusions. Just because spiritual forms superficially look like material forms does not make them material. God’s forms are pure spiritual formlessness. They are not forms of illusory material energy. We must not transpose our small comprehension of form upon the infinite spiritual form of the All-Attractive.


Prominent Early Incarnations of Godhead

The Purusha incarnation, just previously described, is the primary incarnation for the material world, existing through the entire thing – before and after it as well – and maintaining its reality. The first aspect of the Purusha creates the primordial potentialities for all the universes. The second aspect enters each potential universe and generates Brahmā, the agent of actual creation. The third aspect enters within each quantum particle of the universe, including each soul therein, and makes their mutual existence and exchange possible.

From this third aspect comes a myriad of “avatār” (incarnations). Suta will now enumerate some of the prominent  ones.

English: Four Kumaras: Source is from Editor i...

The Kumara

[1.3.6]

The first avatār occurs within the “Childhood” age of creation. “The Children” performed the very difficult task of Brahmā: uninterrupted celibacy.

The quadruplet sons of Brahmā (the god who creates) are the first avatār of the Purusha. They appeared in a very early cycle of creation, called the “Childhood Age” (kaumāra sargam). Brahmā asked them to create thousands of offspring to generate the initial population base of the world. They declined and took up a more difficult, implicit order: to cultivate spiritual knowledge. Such endeavor is made much more efficacious if one desists from simultaneously cultivating anti-knowledge: which is the ignorance that the soul deserves to be a central figure of gratification via the world’s resources. So celibacy is one of the important components of classical spiritual discipline. The Children (Kaumara. Or, “The Four Kumaras”) had a very novel idea. They did not allow their bodies to age into puberty, a really great solution to the often troubling practice of celibacy!

[7]

The second avatār of He For Whom Sacrifices Are Meant appeared when the Earth fell into the lowest dregs of the universe. Appearing as a boar, this avatār rescued the world by lifting it back to its proper orbit

He is more popularly named Varāha.

[8]

The third avatār came during the “Sage Age” as the Sage of the Gods. He compiled purifying manuals regarding how to live in the world without becoming entangled in selfishness.

He is most popularly known as Nārada.

[9]

English: ~ NaraNarayana ~ DasAvatara Mandir ~ ...

Nara Naryana

The fourth came during the “Age of Dharma’s Wife” as Sage Nara-Nārāyaṇa. His task was to show how to perform very serious disciplines of self-control.

[10]

The fifth is named Kapila, the master of the accomplished ones. He restored empiric material sciences, which had been lost over time, by teaching Āsuri.

[11]

The sixth is Atri’s, because his wife Anasūyā prayed for such a son. He instructed spiritual knowledge to Alarka, Prahlāda and others.

The name of Atri and Anasūyā’s son is Dattātreya. Many of these initial incarnations came for the purpose of giving spiritual knowledge to humanity. Knowledge which is beyond the human mind cannot exist unless a being which is beyond the human mind comes and delivers it in a manner which the human mind could hope to comprehend.

Among Dattātreya’s students is the name Prahlāda. It seems this could not be the famous Prahlāda associated with a later incarnation.

[12]

Then the seventh avatār, Yajña, appeared from his mother Ākūti and father Ruci. He took care of the world during the difficult transition out of the “Svāyambhu Age.”

[13]

The eighth, Urukrama, was born from his mother Merudevī and father Nābhi. He showed the path walked by those enlightened souls who are honored by all spiritualists.

A more common name for him is Ṛṣabha. “Enlightened souls honored by all spiritualists” has a specific import. There are four generally sequential spiritual orders in classical Indian culture: the student (brahmacārya), the active householder (gṛhastha), those retired to the forest (vānaprastha), and the renounced (sannyāsa). The fourth, the renounced, is honored by all the others as the objective. Within each order are sub-orders. The fourth order has four classical sub-orders: renounced in the hermitage (kuṭicaka), without a hermitage (bahudaka), without a location (parivrājaka), and the topmost swan (paramahaṁsa). The topmost swan is honored by all others, even those in the fourth order, as the ultimate objective.

The nature of such persons is that they have completed all development and require no further discipline. The eighth avatār set the standard of the nature, quality, and behavior of such very rare souls.

The person of a similar name important to the Jain religion must be named after this avatar, considering the chronology.

[14]

Answering the prayers of sages, Purusha accepted the ninth avatār as a king of the earth. By milking the earth he made her body very verdant and attractive.

He is more commonly known as Pṛthu.


Incarnations of Godhead – Creators

Suta says [1.2.34]:

I’ve spoken of how Vishnu pervades everything in the universe out of compassion to help all living beings fulfill their desires. Now I will speak of another way that the spiritual Godhead manifests his pure existence within this material realm: he performs pastimes in the role of incarnations among the gods, animals, and humans.

[1.3.1]

The All-Attractive first takes the form of Purusha, at the very beginning of the universe, with the intention to manifest all that is required for creation. This begins with manifesting the great conglomeration of energies from which sixteen primary ingredients emerge.

“Purusha” means the man. This first incarnation of Godhead, Purusha, is basically “the man of the house” where “the house” is the entirety of all material creation. The role of the male is to supply the seeds and necessary ingredients. The female role is to develop the seeds and ingredients. So the original man, Purusha, gives the seed of all ingredients required in the universe.

The sixteen primary ingredients of creation manifest from “the great conglomeration of energies” (mahat) which the Purusha produces. In due course Suta will explain all these details fully. At present, suffice to say that the sixteen ingredients are the five elements, five gathering senses, five expressing senses, and the mind.

Eighteenth century Vaishnava painting deciptin... [2]

He lies down upon the water and enters a mystic sleep. In the lake of his naval grows a lotus, from which is manifested Brahmā, the master engineer of the universe.

He does this in a second form. The Purusha has three forms. The first was described in the previous text. It is Vishnu Lying on the Ocean of Causality (kāraṇodakaśayī viṣṇu). From this first Purusha comes all the globs (mahat) in which are stored all the ingredients required to create a universe.

The current text now describes the second form of the Purusha, Vishnu Lying on the Womb-Ocean (garbhodakaśayī viṣṇu). This Purusha enters each proto-universal glob to empower its creation.

[3]

We imagine that all the many worlds are grounded within the Purusha’s expansive body. But really, the body of the All-Attractive Godhead is super-excellently pure existence.

In other words, the idea that material things exist within God is a conception only. The truth is that nothing material exists in super-excellently pure nature of God. Thus material existence itself is a conception only.

Now the sages ask, “What does this conceptual form of Godhead that contains all the various worlds look like?

[4]

Only perfect eyes can see this form; Thousands of amazing legs, thighs, hands and faces; Thousands of heads, ears, eyes, and noses; Thousands of effulgent garlands, clothes, and earrings.

Having answered their question, Suta returns to his original train of thought:

[5]

He gives the inexhaustible seed of the multitudes of incarnations. The portions of his portion create gods, animals, humans and so forth.

The second form of the Purusha creates the third form of the Purusha, Vishnu Lying on the Milk-Ocean (kṣīrodakaśayī viṣṇu). This third Purusha enters into the globule of each subatomic quantum within his universe. He is the origin of all the incarnations. His fragments and the fragments of his fragments become the gods, animals, humans, and so forth.

In the next section, Suta will describe many of the innumerable incarnations of Godhead that spring forth from this third Purusha.


Spiritual Godhead in the Material World

Previously, the sages asked Suta why he suggests so strongly that Krishna and other expansions of Vishnu are of the highest benefit to humanity. Suta replied that the Vishnu is the category of divinity in charge of the mode of clarity – the most beneficial of the three energies of existence. Now the sages will ask follow-up questions.

They begin by wanting to know, “If Vishnu is the deity of the energy of clarity, how can you say that he is above and beyond all material energies?” In our previous comments we noted that Suta already answered this question by using the words, “absolutely pure clarity” (viśuddha-sattva) to describe the energy of Vishnu. But now the sages ask Suta to elaborate on it more clearly.

[30]

“Indeed,” Suta answers, “before manifesting this world, the energies and qualities of cause and effect sprang forth from the supra-qualified power of the inner energies of the All-Attractive.

[31]

“He functions through those energies and qualities, so it looks like the All-Aware, All-Enlightened One is within and defined by them.”

The sages were highly experienced and thorough researchers of sophisticated psychological and spiritual subjects. Therefore Suta could speak to them with such intense philosophical density. Most of us, however, need to take our time carefully with these passages to grasp what he is trying to communicate.

Suta explains that Vishnu is not “in” the energy of clarity, nor “created” or “manifest” by it. Rather, Vishnu existed alone before the energy of clarity or any energy at all ever existed. All the energies and things that exist now are results of his energy. He creates things which create other things, and thus all things spring from him. Since the energy of clarity is an extension of his inner being, he is not “within” or “confined” or “created by” it – but rather it is within and created by him, and he works through it.

The Vishnu category of divinity exists beyond and before the energies which compose our present universe. Thus he is not a product of this universe, unlike the powerful gods, humans, and creatures which spring from him. Although he is not confined or produced by his creation, he works within it through the energy of clarity, without staining his transcendent nature.

[32]

“Thus that Person, the one womb of all creation, shines forth in many forms as the soul within every soul; just like fire shines forth from every type of wood.”

Vishnu is the original womb of everything; the singularity – the singular absolute point – from which all rays forever emanate. He emanates infinite quintillions of endless rays and thus illuminates everything, generates all the souls, and becomes the soul within every soul.

To help us envision this abstract concept in a more concrete way, Suta suggests we visualize wood and flame. Flame exists within all wood, hidden. Similarly God exists within everything, though “hidden” from the eye afflicted with cataracts of willful ignorance. When fire leaps forth from wood, it is pure. It does not matter what type of wood the fire comes from – the fire becomes fire; pure, bright and hot. This imagery helps us more tangibly understand that Vishnu is within everyone and everything – but always retains his own identity and purity, just as fire and wood remain distinct entities and the wood cannot change the essential identity of fire.

Next, the sages would like to know, “Why does Vishnu enter all beings? What purpose does it serve?”

[33]

“The many living entities, by nature infatuated with various things, have only the subtle potential for senses. That is why Vishnu enters into his own creations, to allow them to enjoy the things they desire.”

What an extremely interesting statement!

The sages want to know why Vishnu enters all beings. Suta explains that all beings, on their own, do not possess actual senses (faculties of sight, taste, touch, etc), they only possess the “subtle form” of such senses. (sūkṣma-indriya) “Subtle” means potential as opposed to kinetic.

I envision it that the soul possesses plugs into which sensory instruments can be wired. The soul is pure conscious awareness, but of itself it does not have sensory equipment through which to extend its conscious awareness to things outside itself. Thus the soul in isolation is directly aware of existence and can only dream of anything else.

The soul dreams. By its very nature (bhāva), is infatuated with its source, Godhead. The soul awakens to individuality when it develops a dream about Godhead – like homogenous waves of light suddenly appearing as discrete photons. The soul dreams of knowing the qualities and forms of Godhead (guṇamaya). Some few souls dream of enjoying those qualities (bhunkte tad-guṇān). For their sake Vishnu sets aside a portion of his energies to be enjoyed. That portion is our universe. However, the souls on their own cannot enjoy God’s qualities expanded in this universe, because they do not inherently possess real senses, only the capacity and subtle potential for them. That is why Vishnu expands all throughout his creation (sva-nirmiteṣu nirviṣṭo) and becomes the soul within all souls. This “Supersoul” form of Vishnu is the “wire” which connects the soul’s capacity for sensual awareness to actual tangible senses capable of experiencing and interacting with the world.

Thus Vishnu becomes the Supersoul for the sake of connecting souls to bodies.

I would like to note that most souls do not dream of enjoying God’s energy. They dream of being involved in God’s enjoyment of his energy. They never require the Supersoul to connect them to sense-enjoyment. But they do require help because they have no senses of their own, only the potential for senses. Godhead extends his energy to permeate them, but this energy is not the Paramatma. It is the divine śuddha-sattva encapsulated hlādinī-śakti (devotional energy encapsulated in pure clarity) which enters their being and connects them to senses capable of directly interacting with Godhead.

I wish to awake to this dream soon.

English: Vishnu and Lakshmi on Shesha Nāga, c....

Image via Wikipedia


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