“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
Throughout the purports written by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are found references to Mayavada, Mayavadis, and impersonalists. Not some kind of irrational paranoia or unnatural obsession, the repeated mentions are there because the philosophy actually has widespread appeal. Mayavada is popular, and for a reason. In summary, the philosophy is that not only are you and I the same, but we are identical to God; everyone is God. Since those who know the truth understand the major flaw, they are not shy in denouncing the philosophy.
Breaking down the terms within the word, Mayavada means “the conclusion that everything is maya.” Maya is illusion, so the idea is that nothing in this world is real. There is Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. Everything else must be maya. Mayavada sometimes goes by the term advaita, which means “non-dual.”
The philosophy of dvaita, or dualism, says that there is one exception, which is significant. Without the presence of God, everything would be fake. The entire experience would indeed be a dream, if not for the lone reality. Brahman comes from this reality, and so there is something important shared between us and God.
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
God is still different, in substantial ways. When He descends as the incarnation, He is never subject to maya. The avatara is not merely on an elevated platform of Brahman that others can aspire to reach through dedicated practice in spiritual life. God is not some spiritual energy that is fragmented at present and will one day return to a complete whole. He is separate from His creation, which represents one of His energies. Being part of that energy coming from Him, we are similar in makeup, but also strikingly different from Him.
1. I am local; He is all-pervading
This is one of the easier limitations to understand. Incidentally, that is one of the major bummers in life that must be acknowledged: limited. I am compelled to sleep at night. I have to eat. I may desire otherwise, but I have no choice.
As individual spirit soul, my influence is limited to the local space. I can expand my reach through the help of the material nature, but I remain where I am. The individual soul is known as jivatma. I don’t know what you are thinking, and you can’t read my thoughts, either.
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
God is different. He is Paramatma. One aspect to this feature is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. He sees everything. He hears everything. As He explains in the Bhagavad-gita, He is the one directing the wanderings of the seemingly unlimited living beings in the world. He is situated within the heart of both the sinner and the saint. There is no way for any of us to assume the same position.
2. I go through birth and death; He does not
The samsara-chakra. This is the wheel of suffering. Why the ominous description? Birth, old age, disease, and ultimately death. These four events continue in a cycle; hence the oft referenced “cycle of birth and death.”
That is the meaning to a material existence. As God is completely spiritual, He is never subject to these miseries. He is anadi, or the person without origin. He is aja, or unborn. He is ananta, or unlimited. In the Bhagavad-gita He references how fools deride Him when He appears in the world in the human form. The atheists think that Krishna and other avataras are just like them, that they suffer in the same way. The true nature of Bhagavan, or God, is changeless.
3. I have karma; He does not
If I do something bad, I have to suffer for it. It’s just the way of the world. The cycle of birth and death is like an engine fueled by fruitive activity, which is known as karma. Even if I get absolved of sin, there is still the possibility of reactions coming later on. Think of the unplugged electric fan that had been running for a while. It continues to spin for a brief time, even after turned off and thus removed from a power source.
The only way to stop the cycle of birth and death is to completely remove karma. Change the nature of work from sense gratification to God’s satisfaction. As He creates this world and others, including the energies that fuel the different processes, Krishna is above karma. He is never subject to piety or sin or any type of reaction related to a temporary body.
4. I forget things; He does not
Krishna attempted to explain some of these differences one time to the disciple named Arjuna. The discussion took place on a battlefield and is today known as the Bhagavad-gita. To give further credibility to the philosophical points discussed, Krishna referenced how the same truths were revealed a long time ago, at the beginning of the creation. The philosophy was given to the sun-god, Vivasvan, who passed it on in a chain known as the disciplic succession.
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
Arjuna was baffled, as the sun-god was apparently way older than Krishna. How could that discussion have taken place? Krishna explained that both He and Arjuna had passed through many births; though again for Krishna the concept of a birth is completely different. The acharyas refer to those events as appearances. Arjuna could not remember those past lifetimes, but Krishna could. God has perfect memory, while we forget things that happened as recently as one day ago.
5. I serve; He is the great object of service
The Sanskrit word dharma refers to the essence of something. It is often translated as “religion” since spiritual life is the essence of the living being, who is spiritual in nature. Dharma for the individual soul is service. Evidence is there in the fact that no one can go without some kind of service. The most selfish person in the world is still serving, though it is only themselves.
The original and eternal service is towards the Supreme Lord. His position is to be served. He is the greatest and best object of service, since He provides help and also responds with benefits that last forever. No other object of service meets these qualifications, and thus the only legitimate spiritual life is to be constantly engaged in pleasing Shri Krishna and His representatives.
Mayavada providing cloudy vision,
Similar, but between me and God division.
Myself something quickly forgetting,
He never into illusion setting.
On birth and death cycle I’m spinning,
And subject to pious deeds and sinning.
Krishna above it all, transcendental to stay,
Bhakti service dharma’s original way.
Categories: the five