“The Supreme Personality of Godhead expands Himself into many. In order to enjoy bliss more and more, the Supreme Lord expands Himself in different categories. As mentioned in the Varaha Purana, He expands Himself in vishnu-tattva (the svamsha expansion) and in His marginal potency (the vibhinnamsha, or the living entity). These expanded living entities are innumerable, just as the minute molecules of sunshine are innumerable expansions of the sun.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.28.53 Purport)
“Aren’t we made in the image of God? Aren’t we just like Him, in a sense? I base this reasoning off logical deduction. We have a sense of autonomy. We are able to act on our own, to some degree. You see this with newborn children.
“The parents-to-be have certain expectations. They may hope to engage in a specific way with the new addition to the family. The reality is entirely different. It could be that the child never sits still. They are on the move so early that the parents have to stop using a standard bed and instead sleep on the floor.
“No one programmed the child to be that way. There is no external force responsible. It is in the very nature of living, if you ask me. And yes, I am aware of the verse from Bhagavad-gita that explains the factor of nature as responsible for the results to action.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
“I am talking from the side of the initial spark. The impetus, if you will, is from the individual. This gives an idea of God. In that sense, are we not the same as Him? I could see someone claiming as such. I don’t agree with it completely, but I understand where they are coming from.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the original Supreme Personality of Godhead expands Himself for the purpose of enjoyment and that the exact number of expansions is too large to count.
The living entities are in the category of the marginal energy. This means that, by definition, we are the same as God. We are expansions of Him, after all. The same qualities from the origin extend to the expansions. Knowledge, eternality, and bliss.
Since we are of a certain category of expansion, there are differences. This is called simultaneous oneness and difference. Since the combination is inconceivable to the mind, the Sanskrit for the philosophy is known as achintya bhedabheda-tattva.
This is the philosophy explained and distributed by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The two worlds of philosophy in Vedic circles essentially meet as one. The impersonalists are correct in that there is a singular energy pervading the universe, and that this energy is essentially without a form.
The personalists are also correct in that there is a distinct relationship between the individual and a higher power. The expansions of God are worshiping God. The individual who best teaches how to perform that worship is as good as God. He is the guru, or the spiritual master.
“Why would the Supreme expand in such a way? Why does He require extra enjoyment? Isn’t He atmarama, which means satisfied in the self? Why can’t someone just tell us how many expansions there are?”
One of the limitations of the expansions is that the qualities inherited are not in the fullest degree. This means that although I am knowledgeable, there is a limit to that knowledge. For instance, I cannot remember past lifetimes. I may forget what I was doing at this exact time of day ago or one week ago.
Though I am blissful, I struggle through ups and downs. One day I am living peacefully at home with wife and children. The next day I am scrambling to get out of the house alive, while there is a terrible conflict brewing.
Though I am eternal, I suffer through the dualities of birth and death. This is the most striking difference between the expansions and the original. The Supreme is never under the jurisdiction of the material world. He never takes birth and He never dies. He never falls down and He is never defeated.
In my original, constitutional position, I am the same way, but through the expansion I have the vulnerability to end up in the world of duality. Therefore, it seems that my eternality takes a hit, since I am forced to die. I cannot maintain any situation perpetually.
The difference is what it is. We cannot change who we are. Better to acknowledge the reality and look for a return to the constitutional way, which is in the close association of the Almighty, who can be reached as quickly as the consciousness will allow.
Since from Him coming,
Like a sample becoming.
Where autonomy to show,
With influence to grow.
And knowledge in behavior directed,
So not the same as God expected?
Truth that difference vital and stark,
Troubled when from dharma to depart.