“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
Missing in the worship of an abstract God or an impersonal energy is activity to feed the soul. The soul is the essence of identity; it is the integral animating force. Without the soul, there is no existence. This is true in both large and small creatures, as well as in the universe as a whole. Eternal activity, which subsequently provides endless happiness, is available only to those who worship a personal God. And of all the personal forms of the Lord, one is considered the best due to the nature of the playing field of its original home.
“In the Koran there are descriptions of fruitive activity, speculative knowledge, mystic power and union with the Supreme, but ultimately everything is refuted as the Lord’s personal feature and His devotional service is established.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.196)
A Vaishnava is a worshiper of a personal God. Not that there are different original supreme controllers; there is still only one God. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, during His preaching across India some five hundred years ago, showed that even the Koran espouses a belief in devotional service, which is worship of a personal God. The other famous religious texts of the world also have the same ultimate conclusion, though in the way they are presented today the prevailing belief may say otherwise. According to time and circumstance, not all details of the features of the Personality of Godhead are revealed. Nevertheless, irrespective of what information is withheld or revealed, the truths pertaining to the original person do not change.
A Vaishnava knows that there is an original Personality of Godhead and that from Him come many non-different personalities who are identical in potency. From the original also come many fragments, some more potent than others, but all of which are inferior to some degree to the original source. A Vaishnava worships either the original or one of the non-different expansions. These personalities all have identifiable features, and so one can bask in the glories of those features. Those features also lead to activities, and those activities are not of the variety of a “one-man show.” The many different plays the original person puts on have actors and actresses, which include human beings and animals alike. They play a key role in the original person’s enjoyment, and since the original person is eternal, His plays are endless.
On the other side, when worshiping an impersonal force, one is locked out of these blissful pastimes. The impersonal force can be known as Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. It can also be referred to by the more general term of “God.” We should worship God because He is everything. The material nature is not everything because it is temporary. Since the material nature has an illusory effect, it is known as maya, or “that which is not.” God is not maya; He is the source of it. He is that which is. He is the definition of an existence. He is the original “I.”
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
Worship of the material nature does not classify as genuine religiosity. The animal doesn’t know anything about God, so it is solely concerned with eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The human being following the animal is thus unintelligent. Fortunately, in the auspicious human form one has the ability to turn unintelligence into intelligence. The stupid can become wise in an instant. Once one realizes the supremacy of God and the reason for existence they immediately become wise.
When the turn is made away from maya it is still very difficult to stay true to religiosity. This is because of the itching for activity. For instance, if you tell me to worship God and I agree, what do I do next? How do I worship? What am I supposed to do with my time? Should I attend a gathering once a week and then spend the rest of the week engaged in fruitive activity? So, basically act like an animal for six days and be devoted for one? Will not the six overcome the one? But if I’m supposed to worship every day, what will that entail? How am I supposed to maintain my family if I have to worship daily?
Worshiping every day is actually quite easy, provided one takes to the path of personal worship. In impersonal worship, if it is to be legitimate, one needs to renounce material life altogether and stay dedicated in meditation and study of the difference between matter and spirit. A basic profession of faith is not enough. If it were, we could all say that we believe in God and then go our merry ways. Actually, this already occurs. There is an acknowledged belief in God and then what follows is the killing of innocent animals and children in the womb. That is not true religiosity.
In bona fide impersonal worship, one must be very renounced. They should live a simple life and focus all of their time on thinking of Brahman. A problem here is that so many are excluded based on lack of qualifications. In the Vedas it is said that women, laborers, and merchants have less intelligence. This may be off-putting to hear, but it is the factual generalization based on the assessment of whether one can understand Brahman, or the impersonal energy. The less intelligent have a lesser chance of understanding the difference between matter and spirit, and thus they are shut out from Brahman realization.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth – women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] – can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
If religion is really supposed to connect us with God, then it should be available to everyone, no? The path of personal worship is not restricted to anyone. Whether one is materially intelligent or unintelligent, a man or a woman, a laborer or a priest, they can think of God at any time. Indeed, on the highest platform of worship, not even God can stop the worship. This is seen with the gopis of Vrindavana. They worship Krishna sometimes against His wishes. Their love for Him is so strong that He cannot stop it.
Unsatisfied with their method of worship, the impersonalist will sometimes delve into the scriptures of personal worship. Works like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana are reserved for the personalists, the Vaishnavas. The cheating impersonalist will try to offer their own interpretations of these works, saying that they too espouse the belief that worship of Brahman is the highest. Yet nowhere in these works is such a conclusion mentioned.
With personal worship there is endless play. In his Ramacharitamanasa, Goswami Tulsidas allows the mind to swim in the lake of the deeds of Shri Rama, the Personality of Godhead in His avatara as a warrior prince. This lake is especially dear to Lord Shiva. The entire work is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and yet the impersonalists will try to present this book as a work on impersonalism, as will those who are envious of the famed poet. All of the Vaishnava literatures represent acts of bhakti, and they show that the mind can find endless enjoyment through worshiping a personal God. The Vaishnavas have no desire to touch the works on impersonalism because they have already found a higher taste.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that all the planets of the material world have birth and death but not His. His home is thus not material. The spiritual world is known as Vaikuntha, and it consists of many planets. The highest is known as Krishnaloka, and it is where Shri Krishna plays with His best friends. No one has to leave there. If you go to the material heaven, you will eventually have to come back down to earth, sort of like visiting a resort destination and then returning home when your vacation is over. Krishnaloka offers an endless stay, where each day is filled with fun.
One can travel there with the mind right now by hearing of Krishna’s activities as they are presented in the sacred Vedic texts. One can associate with Lord Rama and Lord Vishnu in the same way, but the impersonal path allows no such interaction. Therefore the path of personal worship is always superior; it lacks nothing.
With God impersonalists cannot play,
Only syllable of om they can say.
Their path requires meditation strict,
Less intelligent and women they restrict.
Personal worship not so exclusive,
Than Supreme Lord none more inclusive.
In Vrindavana land with gopis He plays,
No return for soul who with Krishna stays.