God is both Personal and Impersonal


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Govindam adi purusham tamaham bhajami

There are some sects (Smartism, Mayavadism (Advaitavadis) etc.) of people in the Sanatana Dharma who believe that the God is originally formless and quality-less only. But, the Logic and Vedic evidence say that the God is originally both, i.e. Formless and Personal.

Logical view:

God by definition is Cause of all causes or origin of everything (which is also confirmed in Vedanta-Sutra (1.1.2), Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1Brahma-Samhita 5.1 etc.).

This concise definition of God is essentially in agreement with the understanding of God given by all the theistic traditions of the world. So, if God is the source of everything that we see in this world, then God himself should possess the essential attributes of everything, else he would be lesser than his creation. In this world, there exist both personal beings and impersonal forces, so both these aspects should be present in God. If God were not a person, then he, who by definition is the Complete Being, would be incomplete. Another simpler way of putting this is: if we as the children of God are persons, how can our father, God, not be a person? So, those who say that God is not a person are actually limiting him, by divesting him of what his creation has.

Vedic Evidence:

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.8 

parasya shaktir vividhaiva shruyate “The Supreme has many potencies.”

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.1 says:

ya eka varno bahudha shakti-yogad varnan anekan nihitartho dadhati

“He who has no rival creates the varieties of this world, using His own potencies according to His own wish.”

In the above verses, it is clearly said, that the Supreme has many potencies and by his own wish he creates the varieties of this world. Now, the question comes: How can a formless quality-less entity think and act?

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.11 says:

eko devah sarva-bhuteshu gudhah sarva-vyapi sarva-bhutantaratma

karmadhyakshah sarva-bhutadhivasah sakshi ceta kevalo nirgunash ca

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself as the all-pervading Supersoul, the witness present in the hearts of all living entities. He witnesses all activities of the living entity. He is the supreme living force. He is transcendental to all material qualities.”

Here it is said clearly that the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Or Supreme Truth) manifest itself as All-parvading Supersoul (Who is present in the atoms and in the hearts of all the living entities as a witness of that living entity’s (Atman) activities).

Mundaka Upanishada makes it more clear in the verse 3.1.1:

dva suparna sayuja sakhayah samanam vriksham parishasvajate tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo ‘bhicakasiti

“The Lord and the living entity are compared to two birds sitting in a tree. While the illusioned living entity eats the fruits of the material world, the Lord as Supersoul and best friend witnesses these activities.”

The difference between living entities (Individual souls) and Supersoul or Supreme Person/Lord:

Katha Upanishad 2.2.13

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

“The Supreme Lord is eternal and the living beings are eternal. The Supreme Lord is cognizant and the living beings are cognizant. The difference is that the Supreme Lord is supplying all the necessities of life for the many other living entities.”

The White Yajurveda verse 32.3 also compares Supreme Person with all the living entities of the world:

na tasya pratima asti 

Vraja Vihari Dasa says:

“The meaning of the word pratima when used in reference to God and in the context of Vedas refers to “likeness.” The word pratima according to Vedic Sanskrit dictionary refers to similarity. The Vedas clearly emphasize that God has no equal or no similarity. This, however, doesnt mean he has no form. Another word in the verse is asti. Asti means “to be,” “to exist,” “to live,” or “to constitute.” The verse therefore begs to be translated as there is no one living or existing in any way similar to Him. Yes, the verdict of the Vedic literatures is God is one without a second. But that doesnt mean He has no form.”

The Vedic literatures compares God with the living entities of the World.In Bhagavad gita, God himself compares his worship and his abode with the worship and abodes of Demigods:

Bhagavad-gita 7.23, Sri Bhagavan, the Supreme Brahman says:

Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.

Bhagavad-gita 8.16, Sri Bhagavan says:

From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again.

This reveals that the absolute truth has a form which resembles like Humans/Demigods, Yet His form is not material like that of Humans and Demigods which makes him different from every living entity.

He further states in the 15th chapter of Bhagavad-gita (Bg):

Bg 15.16 There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every living entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every living entity is called infallible.

Bg 15.17 Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Supreme Soul, the imperishable Lord Himself, who has entered the three worlds and is maintaining them.

Bg 15.18 Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as that Supreme Person.

Now let’s consider the question: do Personality and form not limit God?

Vedic wisdom helps us understand that what causes limitation is not form, but matter. Due to the very nature of matter, all material objects are limited, whether they have form or not. When we think of God’s form, we subconsciously project our conceptions of matter on the form of God and so think that a form would limit God. But God is not material; he is entirely spiritual. Spirit has characteristics different from matter; that which is spiritual has the potential to be unlimited, irrespective of whether it has form or not. So God’s form being spiritual does not limit him. This is how, due to his being spiritual, God is a person with a form and is still unlimited.

Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.19 says:

apani-pado javano grahita pasyaty acakshuh sa srinoty akarnah

sa vetti vedyam na ca tasyasti vetta tam ahur agryam purusham mahantam

“The Supreme Lord has no material hands and feet but accepts whatever is offered to Him and moves very quickly. The Supreme Person has no material ears and eyes but sees and hears everything. He is the knower of everything, and He is all that is to be known. It is said that He is the best and the greatest of all persons.”

Mundaka Upanishada 3.2.3 says God reveals his own form to whom he himself chooses:

nayam atma pravacanena labhyo na medhaya na bahuna srutena yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam

“The Supreme Lord is not obtained by expert explanations by  vast intelligence or even by much hearing He is obtained only by one whom He Himself chooses To such a person He manifests  His own form.”

There exists one more aspect of the Absolute truth, i.e. impersonal Brahman/aspect which is considered as the ultimate destination by the Jnana Yogis.

In the Bhagavad-gita 14.7, Supreme Lord says:

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham

I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman.

In Isha Upanishada verse 16, The seer prays God to remove his transcendental effulgence (Brahman effulgence) and reveal his original blissful form:

pūṣann ekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejo yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇa-tamaṁ tat te paśyāmi yo ‘sāv asau puruṣaḥ so ‘ham asmi

“O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.”

The Vedic texts give the analogy of the sun regarding the personal and impersonal aspect of the Absolute truth. The sun has form as a celestial globe and is formless in its widespread effulgence. Similarly, God or Supreme Brahman has form as the Supreme Person, Krishna, and is formless as the all-pervading effulgence known as impersonal Brahman. Just as the sun globe is the source of the sunlight, Krishna is the source of the impersonal Brahman (as is confirmed in the Gita (14.27) and other Vedic literatures).

Thus, the Logic and Vedic evidence reveal that the God is personal as well as formless. The Vedic evidence also says that there is one more aspect of God, i.e. Supersoul or Parmatma (expansion of personal form of God) who resides in every atom and in the hearts of all the living entities as a witness of that living entity’s activities. To read more about the three aspects of absolute truth in detail, click here.

Another question may occure, i.e. Who is God according to the Vedic texts or Why Krishna is the Supreme God? You can study the following post:

According to Vishnu Puran, Vishnu is supreme, according to Shiva Purana, Shiva is Supreme. In Devi Bhagavata Purana, it is Durga, What is the truth?

♥ Hare Krishna 

References: Vedabase.com, Verses Most quoted by Srila Prabhupada and How can the unlimited have a form

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