“The impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth is also a form of the Lord called avyakta-murti. Murti means ‘form,’ but because His impersonal feature is inexplicable to our limited senses, He is the avyakta-murti form, and in that inexplicable form of the Lord the whole creation is resting; or, in other words, the whole creation is the Lord Himself, and the creation is also nondifferent from Him, but simultaneously He, as the original Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna, is aloof from the created manifestation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.6.39 Purport)
Friend1: What is the preferred translation for the Sanskrit word “Bhagavan”?
Friend2: You really don’t know or is this setting me up for something?
Friend1: The latter.
Friend2: Okay. There is bhaga and van. The first means fortunes or opulences. The second refers to the person who possesses.
Friend1: And I’m assuming such a definition can only accurately apply to God. But I know there is another translation that is commonly used.
Friend2: Bhagavan is also used for devotees, sometimes. They inherit the trait from the person they serve. And yes, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates Bhagavan as “Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Friend1: The fact that it is more verbose is intentional, right?
Friend2: Absolutely. I didn’t know that at first. If you read books written by the impersonalists, you’ll see they often describe the Almighty as the “Supreme Formless Absolute.” The corresponding Sanskrit words are nirguna, avyakta, advaita and the like.
Friend1: They wouldn’t agree with the personality comparison?
Friend2: Who cares if they agree? It’s the truth. They can’t stand the fact that God is a person. It means that there is a superior being, a person that no one can become. Avyakta is just a feature. Originally, God is a person.
Friend1: Yes. I finally got it out of you. That’s what I wanted to ask. I often find that word included.
Friend2: Which one?
Friend1: Original. Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead. I’ve almost taken it for granted. What does that mean, really?
Friend2: You’re asking me what original means?
Friend1: Take it from this angle. Sometimes I hear that God is originally a person. How does that make sense? He’s no longer a person today? Back at some point in time He was, but now He is impersonal? Doesn’t that validate the impersonalist’s point of view?
Friend2: The original in this case is for our understanding from the point of view of time. There is infinity in both directions, but we can’t fully comprehend that. We understand God to be the one person without a birth. That means He is originally present, before the creation. There are other features you can analyze. God is Paramatma, which expands to reside within every heart in this material world. He is also Brahman, which is the impersonal energy. We don’t say that either one of those features are the original. That is because they come from something. That something is a person; hence originally God is a person.
Friend1: Ah, I see.
Friend2: That one person expands into other personalities, as well. They are identical, but there is always an original; at least from our understanding. Acharyas say the original is Krishna. Some say it is Vishnu. Other say it is Rama. There is really no point to debating, since the personality aspect is acknowledged. It’s like one candle lighting other candles.
Friend2: One more thing I will add. The material world is compared to a reflection or shadow. Any reflection is dependent on the real object. The impersonalists say that everything is maya, or illusion, but in order for the fake aspect to be there the real thing must exist, also. That is another way to understand what original means in terms of God. He is the person from whom everything is reflected. He is the reality in the otherwise dreamlike experience that is repeated birth and death.
God originally a person so,
But how that concept to know?
If meaning impersonal now,
The transformation occurring how?
Comparison for only understanding ours ,
Bhagavan same through time’s years and hours.
The original one from whom everything reflected,
Greatest work done but never affected.