“My dear friend, I have just seen an extraordinary beauty appearing in the person of Krishna. His blackish bodily hue appears just like the indranila jewel. There are reddish signs on His eyes, and small soft hairs are coming out on His body. The appearance of these symptoms has made Him extraordinarily beautiful.” (Kundalata speaking to her friend, The Nectar of Devotion, 26)
What does it mean when we say that God is a person? What is the difference between personal and impersonal? Why is the Sanskrit word “bhagavan” translated as “Supreme Personality of Godhead” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada? One way to understand the distinction is to study the body of the Supreme Lord Krishna. He is the original form of Bhagavan, a personality but different from you and me in important ways.
Krishna’s influence is spread everywhere. For proof we can start with the fact that everything emanates from Him. He is the cause of the original “big bang” of the creation. Matter is dull and lifeless. It cannot do anything until spirit acts upon it. The living manipulates the nonliving. Though the living is under the control of the formidable material nature, that nature is directed by spirit as well.
Picture dull matter, a collection of chemicals, at a starting point. Time is infinite both forwards and backwards, so the beginning referenced here is in relation to the presently manifest world. The glance of the Supreme Lord instigates that matter to start transforming. One reaction leads to another and then to another, and so on and so forth. The result is the seemingly endless variety we see around us.
Krishna’s influence is in everything since He is the beginning point. The sum collection of all particles of matter and spirit is known as Brahman. This is one way to know God. This is an abstract definition, a concept more than a recognizable object. This concept indeed exists. To deny the existence of Brahman is to deny the existence of the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets and the population of creatures.
Brahman is the impersonal aspect of God. Then there is the localized aspect, known as Paramatma. I am not you and you are not me. Therefore I don’t know what you are thinking and you don’t know what I am thinking. Through communication or mystic perfection we can learn about each other, but that is not the same as experiencing everything firsthand. As Paramatma, Krishna is inside of every person. He is there from the start to the end. He is the same individual within all creatures; thus He is not divided.
bhāvam avyayam īkṣate
taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikam
“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)
Krishna in His Bhagavan feature is the full realization. This is God the person. When we think we are speaking to God, Krishna is the one who hears us. He has expansions of His personal form, like with Vishnu, Rama and Narasimha, but they are identical to Him. God is so great that He can expand His personal body and still remain a single person.
So what makes Krishna so special? What is unique about Bhagavan? One distinction is that there is no difference between body and spirit for Krishna. That transcendental body features endless variety. Any aspect is a candidate for meditation for the living entity struggling hard in the material world with the six senses, which include the mind.
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)
We can start with Krishna’s feet. They are compared to lotus flowers. The lotus is a symbol of purity and beauty. When it floats on the surface of the pond, it does not get wet. It essentially makes its own boat to stay afloat. Krishna’s feet are like the lotus flower in that they are spotless and beautiful. Those feet are also soft and feature auspicious signs on the soles.
“Your son possesses various wonderful fate lines on His palms. There are the signs of lotus flowers and wheels on His palms, and on His soles there are the signs of a flag, a thunderbolt, a fish, a rod for controlling elephants, and a lotus flower. Please observe how auspicious these signs are!” (A gopi speaking to Nanda Maharaja, The Nectar of Devotion, 21.2)
The person desirous of connecting with Bhagavan through meditation can then gradually move their way up. Next come the thighs. Those are covered by a pitambara. This is a yellow cloth that looks beautiful on the Supreme Lord’s body. The color contrasts nicely with the dark blue complexion of Krishna. Why is God blue? This is a common question. The straightforward answer is that He just is. That bluish hue is extremely beautiful. It is compared to the dark cloud about to pour down rain and the indranila jewel. Indra means “king” and nila means “blue,” so we can translate the word to “royal blue.” The indranila mani is the sapphire.
Krishna’s body is soft to the touch. His eyes and hands are like lotus flowers too. He wears a garland of flowers around His neck and He also sports the precious kaustubha gem. His hair is soft and black and from His ears hang beautiful earrings. Krishna holds a flute in His hands and the sound it makes is stunning. In this way Bhagavan possesses endless variety in His body alone, and one can only bask in it if they know that God is a person, one to whom everyone is intimately tied.
Soft hair, complexion dark blue,
Auspicious signs on soles too.
Wearing pitambara waist around,
Holding flute making magical sound.
Though Krishna a person one,
An individual lacking variety none.
That God is a person must first know,
Then meditate on body from head to toe.