“Lord Chaitanya instructed the mass of people in the sankhya philosophy of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. Lord Chaitanya taught this philosophy through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Preface)
Non-duality. Duality. The interminability of the individual. The presence of the Almighty. The beginning-less and endless qualities of the religious system meant for finding enlightenment, happiness, peace and deathlessness. The different states of being once liberation is achieved.
In Vedic culture so many great leaders have appeared. Known as acharyas, they taught by example how to practice the principles of real religion, dharma. Each having a purpose to fulfill, to shine light on a specific philosophy, defeating bogus ones, the world became better off as a result.
The golden avatara, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, brought forth the complete philosophical explanation. Known as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, the philosophy covers the full spectrum of spirituality. As it is the light to the shadow portion, automatically material existence is simultaneously explained.
1. We are the same
The Sanskrit word is abheda. This means that there is no distinction or division. A similar philosophy is advaita, which means “non-duality.” Division implies two or more entities, and in this case the comparison is for the individual and the Supreme.
The individual is you, me, and everything else that we consider to be living. Even if it is dead, “once living” qualifies for the analysis, also. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that there is no division between the individual living spirit and the supreme spirit. Atma, spirit, automatically implies living. We make the distinction between living and dead due to the illusion of the visual. In fact, at death the atma has simply moved on to a different temporary dwelling, known as the body.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The qualitative makeup of the individual atma is the same as in the supreme atma. This is important to know since it establishes a relationship. Objects of the same nature share similar traits. Every person is therefore god-like. They have divine qualities within them.
2. We are different
The Sanskrit word is bheda. There is also difference. A similar philosophy is dvaita, which means “duality.” There is automatically bheda based on the identification alone. We say one entity is individual atma, while another is supreme. As we have two entities, we have distinction.
“The Vedas, like the Mundaka Upanishad, as well as the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (Krishna) is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds—although they are the same in quality—one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing the activities of His friend.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22 Purport)
The Upanishads give the comparison of two birds sitting on a tree. One bird is enjoying the fruit, while the other is simply observing. Within every living being, the two birds are the individual atma and the supreme atma. The individual enjoys material nature, going through ups and downs in the process. The supreme is close by, but only observes.
The other notable distinction relates to identity. The atmas are different instances within the different living beings. Not so for the supreme atma. Paramatma represents the same individual. That is to say that while it looks like God is divided in this expansion, He is simply distributed throughout the entire space. He witnesses everything, as He rests within every living thing.
3. We can never understand the contradiction using only the mind
There is simultaneous oneness and difference, and the combination is achintya, or inconceivable. How can something be dead and alive at the same time? Is it both cloudy and sunny outside right now? Is it both winter and summer on the calendar today?
The individuals are the same as God, and also different. The truth cannot be deciphered by the mind, since there are the limitations of time and space. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that the combination can be experienced, however.
The way is through bhakti-yoga, which is non-different from sanatana-dharma. Bhakti-yoga is religion, which can only be one. Perhaps the implementation varies based on time and circumstance, but the underlying objective is always the same: connection with God.
That connection is known as yoga, and Gaurahari says that the best way to create and maintain that connection is through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With bhakti-yoga the relationship to God is taken advantage of fully. That is to say there is the most enjoyment derived from the similarity and difference. There is always a connection to the Almighty, but in the state of ignorance His mercy and close presence are forgotten. Bhakti-yoga is the way to reawaken the individual from their slumber, reigniting the devotion that is in a dormant state at present.
Teaching various acharyas of fame,
For more Mahaprabhu came.
Both oneness and difference to say,
Not for mind to understand a way.
Individual to God similar in quality,
Vast difference in energy quantity.
From properties relationship known,
Connected through bhakti alone.
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