What Is The Difference Between Ishvara And Maheshvara

[Lord Krishna]“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

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Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita covers five important topics.

Friend2: Can you name them?

Friend1: Karma.

Friend2: Fruitive activity.

Friend1: Jiva.

Friend2: The living entities.

Friend1: Kala.

Friend2: Time. Also known as death.

Friend1: Because time devours everything.

Friend2: It has yet to lose.

Friend1: Prakriti.

Friend2: The material nature. That which the jiva temporarily occupies.

Friend1: From lifetime to lifetime. The jiva stays the same, while prakriti constantly shifts. It’s like putting on clothes and taking them off.

Friend2: “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

Friend1: And the fifth topic?

Friend2: You know it.

Friend1: Ishvara.

Friend2: The Supreme Lord. The controller of the four concepts just mentioned.

Friend1: I am so glad you chose that specific wording for the translation.

Friend2: For Ishvara?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: It brings me to my question for the day. If Ishvara is God, then why is there another term that is similar?

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: Maheshvara. I know that Ishvara is the generic term; it’s used by people who don’t want to offend. If you don’t accept that Krishna is God, that the Supreme Lord is a distinct individual, use the term Ishvara instead. I get that. But why is there Maheshvara, also?

Friend2: Where do you see that term being used?

Friend1: Don’t play innocent with me. It’s in the Bhagavad-gita. There is the verse where Krishna talks about the overseer and permitter, the other person living within the body.

Friend2: The specific word is Paramatma.

Friend1: Yes. Supersoul. To distinguish from jivatma, or individual soul. Maheshvara is used in that verse, so I’m confused as to why Ishvara is used elsewhere.

Friend2: That is a great question. It’s a good pickup on your part, and the answer is very instructive.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: At the root level Ishvara means “controller.” As an example, jiva is the controller within the combination of spirit-body. That is to say you and I have control over the body. We are spirit soul, atma, temporarily covered by prakriti, the material nature.

Friend1: Wouldn’t the argument be that we are controlled by nature instead of the other way around?

Friend2: It seems that way. In our ignorance, due to the propensity to enjoy separate from God, we become subordinate. In truth we are the superior energy. Krishna reveals this in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

Friend1: I see.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Ishvara can refer to both the Supreme Lord and the living entities. For the other word, the prefix “maha” is added to distinguish God from everyone else. He is the greatest Ishvara. Proof is found in the same verse that you referenced. He is Paramatma, which means the greatest witness. He watches everything, like a neutral observer. At the same time He gives sanction to the results to action to manifest. Not a blade of grass moves without the permission of the Supreme Lord. Paramatma is proof of His position as Maheshvara. He is the greatest controller, and thus automatically superior to us. The eternal constitutional position of the jivas is to serve the Supreme Lord, and in that state they no longer come under the sway of prakriti, karma, or kala.

In Closing:

Bhagavad-gita with wisdom profusion,

Words similar potential for confusion.

Like Ishvara and Maheshvara seeing,

Both representing Supreme Being.

Ishvara more generic, even to us applying,

Maheshvara great, results permitting or denying.

In this body, having some control over mine,

But God overseer in every heart to find.

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