“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)
मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ
“I saw an interesting question posed recently. It was from the side of the nonbelievers. They are against this whole idea of God and worshiping Him. They call themselves atheists, but I understand there is nuance and detail behind that term.
“I mean to say that not all atheists are the same. From what I have seen, most of them merely reject the predominant religion of their specific region. They are aghast at this idea of forced surrender in the hopes of avoiding eternal damnation. They cannot fathom a God that would be so vengeful and hateful. They don’t understand why people should be afraid of Him.
“Along those lines, one of the challenges is for this personal relationship. The question they pose relates to supposedly contradictory beliefs. On the one hand, you have this idea of greatness. The many planets. Their component populations. The rivers, the trees, the sky, the clouds, the rain, the sunlight, and so forth.
“You have this amazing scale of creation all attributed to a single source. That is what the believers want you to accept. At the same time, they push forward the idea of a personal relationship with this source. God spoke to me. God told me to do this. God told me to do that. I was guided by the hand of God, and so forth.
“I am sure you have met such people. That is where the skepticism begins. How does the Vaishnava address such issues? How can God accomplish so much and simultaneously be there for every single person?”
Fortunately, there is no need to speculate in this area. Shrimad Bhagavatam and other works of authority within the Vedic tradition provide as much detail as the mature human being can consume.
To begin, there is acknowledgment of the greatness. Though there is someone like Lord Brahma, the creator, there is someone in the background, as well. There is a source to the playing field upon which Brahma operates. That source works in an almost effortless way.
There is a corresponding image. Vishnu lies down in rest. He is not troubled in the least. From His mere breathing the many universes come to be. They are like bubbles. Small in this picture, but grand once you zoom in.
The exhaling explains creation. The subsequent inhaling accounts for destruction. The time in between is manifestation. For Vishnu the work is not significant. He is not tired out or stretched too thin. The image is but one way to understand greatness at a level beyond our comprehension.
Within these bubbles Vishnu expands Himself several different times. These are different incarnations, who take on further responsibilities. At the most granular level, there is the expansion of Vishnu known as Supersoul. Atma is the basic functional unit of existence, and Paramatma accompanies atma.
Paramatma is how the personal relationship takes place. God is simultaneously greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. He can account for everything. None of the inventory is lost to Him.
He hears every prayer. He witnesses every deed, both pious and sinful. Friends may come and go, but He is forever there. As explained to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord can remember the many previous existences, whereas we cannot.
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
“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)
The founder of a large corporation distributes their influence through the products they produce and the infrastructure they create. They know what occurs at the office-level through deputies, who report back. The managers are like extensions of the founder’s potency.
At the same time, the founder cannot witness everything directly. They can only be at one place at one time. They cannot talk to everyone at a single time. Their message may reach many, through mass communication, but that is limited to a single direction.
Vishnu is so great that He can simultaneously be lying down in the ocean of milk, being kicked in the chest by Bhrigu Muni, and appearing from the womb of mother Kausalya in Ayodhya. He can be ridding the world of the evil force that is Kamsa and also receiving prayers in the many temples dedicated to Him around the world.
He simultaneously dances with each gopi in the rasa-lila, under the brightest moon of the year. Once a person finds Him, they never have to let go. There is no reason to be envious, as the attention never wavers. Our greatest well-wishing friend is steady in His loyalty.
The universe and more,
The greatest in size,
How then individual tries?
The personal relationship where,
Major contradiction there.
Image of Vishnu lying down,
But also as Supersoul found.