“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)
aham ātmā guḍākeśa
aham ādiś ca madhyaṁ ca
bhūtānām anta eva ca
What does it mean to be the life of all beings? When we hear it said, “I am the life of everything that lives,” what does that mean specifically? Obviously, it can’t refer to you or me, because we animate only that which is local, i.e. the body. I don’t give you life and you don’t give me life. This is how we are separate. We are identical in the sense that the qualitative makeup of what gives me life is the same in you. Individual spirit is the same in quality.
The Supreme Lord is the life of all beings. In this way we can understand His all-pervasiveness, how His presence is not absent from any aspect of the universe. There is the famous philosophical question that if a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound? The obvious answer is that of course it makes a sound. The philosopher would argue that since no one is there to hear it, how can there be a sound? Is not sound something determined by perception?
The all-pervasiveness of the Supersoul puts the issue to rest. In this feature the Divine is everywhere, even in the empty forest. Therefore He perceives the sound of the tree falling. There is no such thing as an empty space, since God is always around.
Another way to understand the Supersoul is to know that He is the beginning, middle and end of all beings. This information comes to us courtesy of the Bhagavad-gita. Typically, this is easy to understand on the large scale. With any temporary object, there are three time periods. There is the initial creation. Then there is maintenance, followed by destruction. The Supersoul is all three of the factors.
Then there is the same at the micro level. Each conditioned being has these three phases. The Supersoul is again responsible from beginning to end. This information is useful to know since it provides a way to understand God.
Let’s say that I am ready to start an important venture. I prepare beforehand, gathering the required materials. I allot enough time to work on the project and see it to its completion. I then give more time to checking everything at the end and providing for the finished product’s maintenance into the future.
Undoubtedly, I should take credit for the work. But at the same time, I should recognize that without the Supersoul’s sanction, there would have been no chance for completion. The hand of the Divine is required in each step, from beginning to end. This explains why some people fail and others succeed when undertaking the exact same task. Sometimes the Supersoul will sanction, and sometimes He will not.
He is also the beginning, middle and end of devotional practices. In this venture, He always lends His support. He steps out of the role of invisible witness and appears in person in a variety of ways. He comes as the guru, or spiritual master, providing instructions on how to break out of the temporary world. Sometimes He comes in a personal form, like when He spoke the Bhagavad-gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to Arjuna.
In whatever way He arrives, He is there to give support. The wise see Him all the time, for they know the Supersoul is everywhere. They understand Shri Krishna to be the original form of the Supersoul, and so they continue to worship in devotion, feeling blissful from beginning to end.
In new venture time to spend,
Tenacious, seeing it to the end.
Though rightly proud of work to be,
Other forces at play, not all because of me.
The Supersoul, there in phases three,
Invisible in heart, not with eyes to see.
Merciful, as Shri Krishna or guru coming,
From instruction wise the soul becoming.