“Some way or other, one must try to reestablish one’s forgotten relation with the Lord if one at all desires to gain real happiness in life, and to reclaim his natural unfettered condition. For the less intelligent beginners, meditation on the impersonal feature, the virat-rupa, or universal form of the Lord, will gradually qualify one to rise to personal contact.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.2.14 Purport)
Friend1: Why is the universal form considered impersonal?
Friend2: Who told you that?
Friend1: Don’t play dumb. I know I’ve heard it described that way many times.
Friend2: What is the universal form?
Friend1: The virata-rupa. It’s what Krishna showed Arjuna on the battlefield. It’s one way to prove that Krishna is God the person.
Friend2: Did Krishna Himself turn into the virata-rupa? Did He have a change of bodies, sort of like Dr. David Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk?
Friend1: Very funny. First off, the Hulk is green and Krishna is blue.
Friend2: A quick note on that. The exact word used to describe the complexion is shyama. This actually has several meanings. We usually take it to mean blue or dark blue. But it can be brown or green as well.
Friend1: Then how do we know for sure that Krishna’s body is blue?
Friend2: There are other comparisons used, like to the dark raincloud and the tamala tree. In one of the commentaries of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada it is said that sometimes Krishna comes in a green color.
“The shyama color is not exactly blackish. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura compares it to the color of the atasi flower. It is not that Lord Krishna Himself appears in a blackish color in all the Dvapara-yugas. In other Dvapara-yugas, previous to Lord Krishna’s appearance, the Supreme Lord appeared in a greenish body by His own personal expansion. This is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Hari-vamsha and Mahabharata.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.337 Purport)
The complexion isn’t always the same in every appearance. This explains why sometimes Shri Rama is depicted to be green. The same shyama word is used in the Ramayana.
Friend1: Interesting. Anyway, the answer to your question is “no.” Though the virata-rupa is what Arjuna saw, Krishna was still there. He had not disappeared. We know this because Arjuna still talked to Him. He asked Krishna to then show His four-handed form of Narayana.
Friend2: Very good. So that is actually a way to know that the virata-rupa is impersonal. It wasn’t the form with which Arjuna interacted. Krishna was there the entire time.
Friend1: Okay, but what about Narayana? Since Krishna transformed into Narayana, does that mean Narayana is impersonal?
Friend2: We know that is not the case because Narayana has so many interactions with people. He is the object of worship when the mood is awe and reverence.
Friend1: I see. How else can I understand what impersonal really means, then?
Friend2: You can think of it like an abstract. Brahman is real, but it is more a perspective. It’s a way to view things that already exist. Brahman is the total energy. The sparks within that energy can also be called Brahman. There is a reason the interaction with the impersonal is known as Brahman realization and the interaction with Krishna bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Let’s take a real life example to show the concept. Pretend there’s a politician I like. They are going to fix the country. They are going to take down the powerful, special interests. They are going to make the country great again.
Friend1: I like this example. You’ve basically described every popular politician in history. It’s the populist message.
Friend2: I’m glad you said that, because the next step in the example is to expand out. Let’s say that I realize other politicians are similar. They are in the business of getting votes. They have to watch what they say. They constantly travel. I soon learn to appreciate all politicians.
Friend1: That makes you a very rare person. Most politicians are despised.
Friend2: Expanding out further, I appreciate the election process. I love how democracy works. I take joy in knowing the various parliamentary procedures. I can explain to anyone how a bill becomes a law and the purpose of the courts.
Friend1: Okay, I understand. Where is this going?
Friend2: Don’t you see? It’s becoming more and more abstract. I started with a politician, an individual, and expanded the scope to a collection. It’s the same with Brahman. If you are Brahman realized, you experience what is known as brahmananda. This is the bliss of appreciating everything that exists. You understand the concept of duality, how both up and down are the same. Birth and death are really no different. The individual, the spiritual spark of Brahman, always exists. Nothing can be done to extinguish the soul.
Friend1: Under this model, wouldn’t the personal realization be inferior? You’re going back to a person after you’ve reached the abstract.
Friend2: That’s a good question. The personal realization is knowing that there is a source to the complete whole. The topmost point of elevation in Brahman realization is release from the cycle of birth and death. In realization of Bhagavan, who is God the person, there is interaction and engagement using a spiritual form. The body and soul become of the same nature. Impersonal means no interaction. Personal means different moods of devotion; constant variety without any of the negative effects and miseries with which we are at present accustomed.
Friend1: The impersonal is something that can be realized and the personal something more than that.
Friend2: Exactly. You can’t have devotion to Brahman. You can’t make Brahman happy. There is no interest that can be met, since it is just a collection. Bhagavan, who is also known as Krishna, gives you the Brahman realization automatically, if you are devoted to Him. Therefore the personal path is complete spiritual life.
Of impersonal getting meaning exact,
Start with single, move to abstract.
Like with certain politician that I like,
Understand others similar, expanding in sight.
To parliamentary procedures go,
And of the entire process know.
Impersonal something the same, but from Krishna coming,
Through bhakti more than Brahman realized becoming.