Meditation on the Lord’s Transcendental Form
ye ’nyonyato bhāgavatāḥ prasajya
sabhājayante mama pauruṣāṇi
A pure devotee who is attached to the activities of devotional service and who always engages in the service of My lotus feet never desires to become one with Me. Such a devotee, who is unflinchingly engaged, always glorifies My pastimes and activities.
There are five kinds of liberation stated in the scriptures. One is to become one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or to forsake one’s individuality and merge into the Supreme Spirit. This is called ekātmatām. A devotee never accepts this kind of liberation. The other four liberations are: to be promoted to the same planet as God (Vaikuṇṭha), to associate personally with the Supreme Lord, to achieve the same opulence as the Lord and to attain His same bodily features. A pure devotee, as Kapila Muni will explain, does not aspire for any of the liberations. He especially despises the attempt to become one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrī Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, said, kaivalyaṁ narakāyate: “The happiness of becoming one with the Supreme Lord, which is the aspiration of the Māyāvādīs, is considered hellish.” That oneness is not for pure devotees.
There are many so-called devotees who think that in the conditioned state we may worship the Personality of Godhead but that ultimately there is no personality; they say that since the Absolute Truth is impersonal, one can imagine a personal form of the impersonal Absolute Truth for the time being, but as soon as one becomes liberated, the worship stops. That is the theory put forward by Māyāvāda philosophy. Actually the impersonalists do not merge into the existence of the Supreme Person but into His personal bodily luster, which is called brahma-jyotir. Although that brahma-jyotir is not different from His personal body, that sort of oneness (merging into the bodily luster of the Personality of Godhead) is not accepted by a pure devotee because the devotees engage in greater pleasure than merging into His existence. The greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord. Devotees are always thinking about how to serve Him; they are always designing ways and means to serve the Supreme Lord, even in the midst of the greatest material obstacles.
Māyāvādīs accept the description of the pastimes of the Lord as myths, but actually they are not; they are historical facts. Pure devotees accept the narrations of the pastimes of the Lord as Absolute Truth. The words mama pauruṣāṇi (My glorious activities) are significant. Devotees are very much attached to glorifying the activities of the Lord, whereas Māyāvādīs cannot even think of these activities. According to them, the Absolute Truth is impersonal, but without personal existence, how can there be activity? Because impersonalists take the activities mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures as fictitious stories, they interpret them most mischievously. They have no idea of the Personality of Godhead. They unnecessarily poke their noses into the scripture and interpret it in a deceptive way in order to mislead the innocent public. The activities of Māyāvāda philosophy are very dangerous to the public, and therefore Lord Caitanya warned His disciples never to hear from any Māyāvādī about any scripture. Māyāvādīs will spoil the entire process, and the person hearing them will never be able to come to the path of devotional service to attain the highest perfection. He only may be able to do so after a very long time.
It is clearly stated by Kapila Muni that bhakti activities are transcendental to mukti. This is called pañcama-puruṣārtha. Generally, people engage in the activities of religion, economic development and sense gratification, and ultimately they work with an idea that they are going to become one with the Supreme Lord (mukti). But bhakti is transcendental to all these activities. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, therefore, begins by stating that all kinds of pretentious religiosity is completely eradicated from the Bhāgavatam. Ritualistic activities for economic development and sense gratification and, after frustration in sense gratification, the desire to become one with the Supreme Lord, are all completely rejected in the Bhāgavatam. The Bhāgavatam is especially meant for the pure devotees, who always engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in the activities of the Lord, and always glorify these transcendental activities. Pure devotees worship the transcendental activities of the Lord in Vṛndāvana, Dvārakā and Mathurā as they are narrated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other Purāṇas. The Māyāvādī philosophers completely reject them as myths, but actually they are great and worshipable subjects and thus are relishable only for devotees. That is the difference between a Māyāvādī and a pure devotee as they view scripture.
Actually Vedic scripture is kṛṣṇa-kathā, topics about Kṛṣṇa, and kṛṣṇa-kathā is not a subject matter for a debate club. It is meant for the devotees. Nondevotees simply waste their time reading Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and we have often mentioned that so-called scholars, politicians and philosophers simply give misleading commentaries when they try to interpret Bhagavad-gītā. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say that they are like people trying to lick at a bottle of honey that is sealed closed. If one does not know how to taste honey, one begins licking at the bottle, but for one to actually taste the honey, the bottle must be opened, and the key to its opening is the devotee. Therefore it is said:
bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati
“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.25.25)
God is eternal, and His instructions and followers are also eternal. In Bhagavad-gītā (4.1) Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that millions of years ago He spoke Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god. Bhagavad-gītā was spoken to Arjuna five thousand years ago, and if we read it today we will still find that it is fresh. Bhagavad-gītā and Kṛṣṇa are never old. Although Kṛṣṇa is the most ancient one, the oldest of all, He always remains like a young boy in His teens. He never appears older than twenty. Kṛṣṇa’s words are absolute, as well as His form, qualities and activities. They are always fresh and new. If they were not, how could the devotees glorify them day after day with greater enthusiasm? The more one glorifies Kṛṣṇa, the more enthusiastic one becomes in glorifying, glorifying, glorifying. This is the meaning of spiritual. In the material world, if we repeat something once, twice, thrice or four times, it finally becomes hackneyed and disgusting. However, this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra can be chanted twenty-four hours daily, and one will still feel fresh and enthusiastic. It is not a material sound like the sounds we hear on the radio. It is a spiritual sound that comes from the spiritual world. Even in the material world we can release a sound from one place, and it can be heard thousands of miles away. A spiritual sound can be released from many trillions of miles away, and it can be heard, provided that one has the machine to capture it. That machine is bhagavat-prema. Those who have developed love of Godhead can hear it.
Arjuna was neither a Vedāntist nor a sannyāsī, nor was he particularly advanced in spiritual understanding. However, he heard Bhagavad-gītā because he was a bhakta. Atheistic scholars and politicians cannot understand the transcendental vibration. They can only lick at the honey bottle. Fools and rascals eat and drink everything without restriction, thinking that they are doing so in the name of religion. There are many so-called svāmīs and yogīs who tell their disciples that they can do anything and still advance spiritually, but this is not possible. One has to become a pure brāhmaṇa, control the mind and senses and discuss the Supreme Personality of Godhead among sādhus. This may sound very difficult, but one can become a sat, a saintly person, within a second. If one is eager, one can immediately surrender to Kṛṣṇa.
When one approaches Kṛṣṇa, one should say, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, I have forgotten You. Now I am fully surrendered unto You. You may kill me as You like or, if You like, You can give me protection.” When Prahlāda was asked by the Supreme Lord what benediction he desired, Prahlāda Mahārāja replied, “My dear Lord, why should I ask for some benediction simply because I have suffered for You? You are supremely powerful, and whatever I get, I get from You. I was born into a family of demons and was inclined toward material enjoyment. I have seen my powerful father, who was feared even by the demigods, annihilated within a second. Why should I ask for anything? Please engage me in the service of Your servant. This is all I want. I do not want anything else.” In this way a devotee never asks for anything material from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The devotees are simply satisfied in glorifying the Lord. This is the way of bhakti-yoga.
Kṛṣṇa descends to please His devotees and destroy the demons. From the very beginning of Kṛṣṇa’s birth, demons were present. Kaṁsa advised his constables, “As soon as Kṛṣṇa is born, tell me. I shall immediately kill Him.” He was always thinking of Kṛṣṇa in this way, negatively. Similarly, we will find so many so-called religionists whose only purpose is to kill Kṛṣṇa. Somehow or other they try to take Kṛṣṇa out of Bhagavad-gītā. They will comment on Bhagavad-gītā, but in their commentaries there will never be mention of Kṛṣṇa. They will never say that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He should be worshiped. This means that they are asuras, demons, although they may present themselves as big scholars. Somehow or other they try to evade kṛṣṇa-bhakti, and their entire propaganda is aimed toward this.
rūpāṇi divyāni vara-pradāni
sākaṁ vācaṁ spṛhaṇīyāṁ vadanti
O My mother, My devotees always see the smiling face of My form, with eyes like the rising morning sun. They like to see My various transcendental forms, which are all benevolent, and they also talk favorably with Me.
Māyāvādīs and atheists accept the forms of the Deities in the temple of the Lord as idols, but devotees do not worship idols. They directly worship the Personality of Godhead in His arcā incarnation. Arcā refers to the form we can worship in our present condition. Actually in our present state it is not possible to see God in His spiritual form because our material eyes and senses cannot conceive of a spiritual form. We cannot even see the spiritual form of the individual soul. When a man dies we cannot see how the spiritual form leaves the body. That is the defect of our material senses. In order to be seen by our material senses, the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts a favorable form which is called arcā-vigraha. This arcā-vigraha, sometimes called the arcā incarnation, is not different from Him. Just as the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts various incarnations, He takes on forms made out of matter – clay, wood, metal, jewels, etc.
There are many śāstric injunctions which give instructions for carving forms of the Lord. These forms are not material. If God is all-pervading, He is also in the material elements. There is no doubt about it. But the atheists think otherwise. Although they preach that everything is God, when they go to the temple and see the form of the Lord, they deny that He is God. According to their own theory, everything is God. Then why is the Deity not God? Actually, they have no conception of God. The devotees’ vision, however, is different; their vision is smeared with love of God. As soon as they see the Lord in His different forms, the devotees become saturated with love, for they do not find any difference between the Lord and His form in the temple, as do the atheists. The smiling face of the Deity in the temple is beheld by the devotees as transcendental and spiritual, and the decorations on the body of the Lord are very much appreciated by the devotees. It is the duty of the spiritual master to teach his devotees how to decorate the Deity in the temple, how to cleanse the temple and how to worship the Deity. There are different procedures, rules and regulations followed in temples of Viṣṇu, and devotees go there and see the Deity, the vigraha, and spiritually enjoy the form, because all of the Deities are benevolent. The devotees express their minds before the Deity, and in many instances the Deity also gives answers. But one must be a very elevated devotee in order to be able to speak with the Supreme Lord. Sometimes the Lord informs the devotee through dreams. These exchanges between the Deity and the devotee are not understandable by atheists, but actually the devotee enjoys them.
Clearly, those who have the eyes to see Kṛṣṇa will see Him. When Caitanya Mahāprabhu entered the temple of Jagannātha, He immediately fainted upon seeing the Deity. He said, “Oh, here is My Lord! Here is My Lord!” In order to see, one has to become santaḥ, and one becomes santaḥ by culture. When we develop love of Kṛṣṇa, we will immediately see Kṛṣṇa and faint, saying, “Oh, here is my Lord!” However, those with no faith, those who are always trying to deny Kṛṣṇa, will simply say, “Oh, this is an idol. This is simply a piece of stone.”
We must be eager to see Kṛṣṇa and talk with Him. He is actually waiting to see whether we are interested in talking with Him. In Bhagavad-gītā (10.10) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”
If we want to talk to some important man, we must have some qualification. It is not that we can immediately talk to presidents or even to senators just because we want to talk to them. Somehow or other we must comply with certain rules and regulations. Kṛṣṇa is ready to talk to us, and for this purpose He has descended in the arcā-mūrti, the Deity, in order to be seen. We simply have to qualify ourselves to talk with Him. The nondevotees, Māyāvādīs, who are interested in denying Kṛṣṇa, say that God has no eyes, no legs, no hands, no ears and so on. This is indirectly saying that God is blind and deaf and that He cannot do this or that. In this way, they are indirectly insulting God. This is blasphemy. God does not want to hear such nonsense. Therefore it is said in this verse: sākaṁ vācaṁ spṛhaṇīyāṁ vadanti. By saying that Kṛṣṇa is blind, that He has no eyes, no hands, no nothing, we are indirectly saying that Kṛṣṇa does not exist. This is certainly not a favorable way to talk about Kṛṣṇa. If we want to talk about Kṛṣṇa, we must consult the Vedic literatures. Then we can understand how Kṛṣṇa should be worshiped.
In Brahma-saṁhitā (5.29) it is stated: “Śrī Kṛṣṇa is playing on His flute, and His eyes are as beautiful as the petals of a lotus flower. He wears a peacock feather in His hair, and His form is very beautiful.” The Māyāvādīs say, “Just imagine some form of God.” But God’s form cannot be imagined. God’s form is not imaginary but factual. This factual information we receive from the Vedas. When Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth, He exhibited His form and activities. All of these are divine, not material. Kṛṣṇa’s body is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. It has nothing to do with anything material. He descends as a favor to His devotees, who are always anxious to see Him. His first business is to give pleasure to His devotees, and His second business is to kill the demons, who are always giving the devotees trouble. It is the nature of demons to give devotees trouble, just as in the West, Lord Jesus Christ was crucified because he was preaching God consciousness. Similarly, Hiraṇyakaśipu tried to kill his five-year-old boy Prahlāda Mahārāja because his son was talking about Kṛṣṇa. There were many demons who tried to kill Kṛṣṇa Himself, great demons like Pūtanā, Aghāsura, Bakāsura and Kaṁsa. Nonetheless, Kṛṣṇa destroys them all by His omnipotence.
Actually everyone in the material world is more or less an asura, an atheist. If one preaches, one has to learn to tolerate the asuras and speak in such a way that they can also become devotees. We should always speak of Kṛṣṇa in a pleasing way; then we will be benefited. Another name for Kṛṣṇa is Uttamaśloka, which indicates that He is worshiped by the best selected words. It is not that we should use any words we choose. There are many prayers in the Vedic scriptures and also in the Bible and Koran. Although the Christians and Muhammadans do not worship the Deity, they offer prayers to the Lord, and that is also bhakti. Arcanaṁ vandanam.
There are nine different processes for worshiping the Lord, and one may accept one or all of them. We should use very selected words and surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, but we should not say things which do not please Him. We should not claim that God is formless and that He has no eyes, no head or whatever. Actually it is stated in the Vedas that Kṛṣṇa has no hand but that He can accept our offering. This means that He has no material hand. If He actually has no hand, how can He extend His hand millions of miles to accept an offering? Goloka Vṛndāvana is many trillions and trillions of miles away, but Kṛṣṇa can accept whatever we offer. When the Vedas say that God has no hands, it is meant that He has no material hands. His hands are sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. If we can understand Kṛṣṇa’s activities, form, qualities and pastimes in this way, we become fit to return home, back to Godhead.
hṛtātmano hṛta-prāṇāṁś ca bhaktir
anicchato me gatim aṇvīṁ prayuṅkte
Upon seeing the charming forms of the Lord, smiling and attractive, and hearing His very pleasing words, the pure devotee almost loses all other consciousness. His senses are freed from all other engagements, and he becomes absorbed in devotional service. Thus in spite of his unwillingness, he attains liberation without separate endeavor.
There are three divisions of devotees – first-class, second-class and third-class. Even the third-class devotees are liberated souls. It is explained in this verse that although they do not have knowledge, simply by seeing the beautiful decoration of the Deity in the temple, they are absorbed in thought of Him and lose all other consciousness. By fixing oneself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, engaging the senses in the service of the Lord, one is imperceptibly liberated. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. Simply by discharging uncontaminated devotional service as prescribed in the scriptures, one becomes equal to Brahman. In Bhagavad-gītā it is said, brahma-bhūyāya kalpate. This means that the living entity in his original state is Brahman because he is part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman. Because of his forgetfulness of his real nature as an eternal servitor of the Lord, he is overwhelmed and captured by māyā. His forgetfulness of his real constitutional position is māyā. Otherwise he is eternally Brahman.
When one is trained to become conscious of his position, he understands that he is the servitor of the Lord. “Brahman” refers to a state of self-realization. Even the third-class devotee – who is not advanced in knowledge of the Absolute Truth but who offers obeisances with great devotion, thinks of the Lord, sees the Lord in the temple and brings forth flowers and fruits to offer to the Deity – becomes imperceptibly liberated. Śraddhayānvitāḥ: with great devotion the devotees offer worshipful respects and paraphernalia to the Deity. The Deities of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, Lakṣmī and Nārāyaṇa, and Rāma and Sītā are very attractive to devotees, so much so that when they see the Deity decorated in the temple, they become fully absorbed in thinking of the Lord. That is liberation. In other words, it is confirmed herein that even a third-class devotee is in the transcendental position, above those who are striving for liberation by speculation or other methods. Even great impersonalists like Śukadeva Gosvāmī and the four Kumāras were attracted by the beauty of the Deities in the temple, by the decorations and by the aroma of tulasī offered to the Lord, and they became devotees. Even though they were in the liberated state, instead of remaining impersonalists they were attracted by the beauty of the Lord and became devotees.
Here the word vilāsa is very important. Vilāsa refers to the activities or pastimes of the Lord. It is a prescribed duty in temple worship that not only should one visit the temple to see the Deity nicely decorated, but at the same time he should hear the recitation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā or some similar literature, which is regularly recited in the temple. In Vṛndāvana, in every temple, there is recitation of the śāstras. Even third-class devotees who have no literary knowledge or no time to read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or Bhagavad-gītā have the opportunity to hear about the pastimes of the Lord. In this way their minds may remain always absorbed in the thought of the Lord – His form, His activities and His transcendental nature. This state of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a liberated stage. Lord Caitanya, therefore, recommended five important processes in the discharge of devotional service: (1) to chant the holy name of the Lord, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, (2) to associate with devotees and serve them as far as possible, (3) to hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, (4) to see the decorated temple and the Deity and, if possible, (5) to live in a place like Vṛndāvana or Mathurā. These five items alone can help a devotee achieve the highest perfectional stage. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā and in this verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. That third-class devotees can also imperceptibly achieve liberation is accepted in all Vedic literatures.
As far as meditation on the arcā-vigraha form of the Lord is concerned, we have to look at the Deity beginning with His lotus feet. It is not that we immediately look at His smiling face. We should first try to see the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, and when we are practiced in this way, we can look at His thighs, His waist and His chest. Then we can reach His smiling face. In this manner we should meditate on Kṛṣṇa’s form, and thus we can associate with Kṛṣṇa by meditating on His smiling face, His flute, His hands, His dress, His consort Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and the other gopīs surrounding Him. Thus we should practice observing the Supreme Lord, and to this end He has appeared before us as the arcā-vigraha.
There are three kinds of devotee: kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī and uttama-adhikārī. The uttama-adhikārī is the most advanced; the madhyama-adhikārī is in the middle stage; and the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is the neophyte. It is recommended that the neophyte meditate on the Deity daily. He should begin by meditating on the lotus feet, and then when he is practiced, he should turn his gaze toward Kṛṣṇa’s smiling face. The neophyte should also read and hear Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. If we simply try to see and don’t listen, the results will not be permanent. In some temples there are Deities but no discussion about Kṛṣṇa. People attend for some time, but after a while they lose interest. Thus there must be two activities. The Deities must be worshiped, and this is called pāñcarātrikī-vidhi. There must also be bhāgavata-vidhi, reading Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Pāñcarātrikī-vidhi and bhāgavata-vidhi go hand in hand. By participating in these two processes, the neophyte can gradually attain the intermediate stage.
The spiritual master is supposed to be in the most advanced stage, but for preaching purposes he descends to the intermediate stage. The uttama-adhikārī, the most advanced devotee, does not discriminate between devotees and nondevotees. He sees everyone but himself as a devotee. The truly advanced devotee sees that he is not a devotee but that everyone else is a devotee. The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, the neophyte, simply concentrates on the Deity, and that is required in the beginning:
pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ
“A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple, but who does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general, is called a prākṛta-bhakta, or kaniṣṭha-adhikārī.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.47) According to the prescribed duties mentioned in the scriptures, one must care for the Deity, but when one is a little further advanced, he considers his functions with others. When one attains the madhyama-adhikārī stage, his vision is described thus:
bāliśeṣu dviṣatsu ca
yaḥ karoti sa madhyamaḥ
“The madhyama-adhikārī is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord’s devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.46)
The madhyama-adhikārī is not only interested in the Deity, but he can also discern between devotees and nondevotees. He can also understand that this man is innocent and that this man is not. The innocent do not know what is to be done, and they do not know anything about God. They are not actually offenders, but there are others who are offenders. The offenders become immediately envious as soon as they hear about God or His devotees.
The madhyama-adhikārī knows that Kṛṣṇa is God: kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. He wants to develop his love for Kṛṣṇa. He also wants to see that not a moment is wasted without engagement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He is always careful not to spoil life’s valuable time. That is the first qualification of a madhyama-adhikārī. We have a very short period to live, and we never know when we are going to die. There is no certainty. Foolish people think that they will go on living forever, but that is simply foolishness. Life is transient; therefore the devotee wants to utilize every moment for the advancement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The madhyama-adhikārī also has a special taste for chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. He is also very anxious to live in places like Vṛndāvana, Dvārakā and Mathurā, places where Kṛṣṇa lived. Of course it is a fact that Kṛṣṇa, being God, has His residence everywhere. He even resides within every atom. Aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham. Nonetheless, He has special places of residence like Vṛndāvana, Dvārakā and Mathurā; therefore a devotee is anxious to live in those places.
Increasing one’s love for God is a gradual process, and the first ingredient is faith. Without faith, there is no question of progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That faith is created after reading Bhagavad-gītā carefully and actually understanding it as it is. Unless one reads Bhagavad-gītā, there is no question of faith in Kṛṣṇa. One must have faith in the words of Kṛṣṇa, particularly when Kṛṣṇa says, “Abandon all dharmas and surrender to Me. I will give you all protection.” If we study Bhagavad-gītā as a literary treatise and then throw it away, that is not faith. Faith is explained by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī thus:
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
“By rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called śraddhā.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.62)
In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says that He is not only a person but the Supreme Personality of Godhead as well. He also says that there is no one superior to Him. If one believes these words, then one will have faith. Impersonalists read Bhagavad-gītā, but they do not accept Kṛṣṇa as a person. In the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa says that the impersonalist takes more trouble to come to Him. He will come later, but it will take some time. This is because impersonal understanding of the Supreme Absolute Truth is partial understanding. As Kṛṣṇa states:
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Bhagavad-gītā 12.5)
We have often given the example of impersonal understanding being like the understanding of the sunshine. One may see the sunshine entering through a window into his room, but this does not mean that one knows everything about the sun. Impersonal understanding of the Absolute Truth is like that. The sunshine is impersonal (Brahman), the sun itself is localized (Paramātmā), and the sun-god residing within the sun is a person (Bhagavān). Just as one can understand the three aspects of the sun – the sunshine, the sun itself and the sun-god – one can also understand the three aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth – Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
Impersonalists maintain that the sun is simply a fiery globe and nothing else, but in Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa specifically states that He spoke Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god Vivasvān. Of course we can hardly imagine how the sun-god can be a person. The sun is a great fiery globe, and we think that it is impossible for anyone to live there, but this thinking is simply shortsighted. It does not follow that no one can live in fire just because we cannot live there. We cannot live in water, yet there are aquatics living there. We live on this planet, which is basically composed of earth, and our bodies are basically composed of earth in order to live here. Bodies are made in such a way that they can live in their environment. Similarly, the sun-god has a body capable of living in fire.
Kṛṣṇa is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, being, knowledge and bliss, with form. Impersonal understanding is understanding of the sat feature. Understanding Kṛṣṇa in full is understanding all of His features. The ānanda feature is realized in Bhagavān. Kṛṣṇa plays on His flute and is accompanied by His pleasure potency, hlādinī śakti, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Of Kṛṣṇa’s many potencies, the hlādinī śakti is His pleasure-giving potency. That is ānanda. Although Kṛṣṇa is full in Himself, He expands Himself when He wants to enjoy. That expansion is His pleasure potency, Rādhārāṇī. The gopīs are the expansions of Rādhārāṇī, and the various forms of Kṛṣṇa are manifest just to taste the mellow of transcendental bliss. Ānanda-cinmaya-rasa. Thus Brahman realization is realization of the sat portion, Paramātmā realization is realization of the cit portion, and Bhagavān realization is the realization of the ānanda portion. In the Vedānta-sūtra it is said that the Absolute Truth is ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt. Kṛṣṇa’s līlā is always full of transcendental bliss – especially in Vṛndāvana, His original residence. It is in Vṛndāvana that Kṛṣṇa plays with His cowherd boyfriends and dances with the gopīs. It is also in Vṛndāvana that Kṛṣṇa steals mother Yaśodā’s butter. All His activities there are filled with transcendental bliss.
We can begin to experience this bliss by following the prescribed methods of devotional service. When we see the Deity, we can gradually realize how Kṛṣṇa is smiling, playing on His flute and enjoying the company of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Then we also have to hear about Kṛṣṇa. These two processes will increase in such a way that we will automatically become great devotees. Anicchato me gatim aṇvīṁ prayuṅkte. This is actually a scientific method. It is not imagination. People think that this is idol worship and imagination, but this method is prescribed in all the śāstras for developing God consciousness. It is an actual science.
sa-rahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca
gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
“The Personality of Godhead said: Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.9.31)
In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that He has revealed this most confidential knowledge to him because Arjuna is His very dear friend. That confidential knowledge is, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Just surrender unto Me.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.66) Brahman realization is certainly confidential, and Paramātmā realization is still more confidential, but understanding Kṛṣṇa as He is, is the most confidential knowledge of all.
If one’s mind and senses are completely absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one is experiencing bhakti. Bhakti is not a sentiment but a practical science. One may engage in many activities, but in all cases, one’s mind must be fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Although a housewife is always busy working around the house, she always takes care that her hair is nicely combed. Regardless of her engagements, she never forgets to arrange her hair in an attractive way. Similarly, a devotee engages in many activities, but he never forgets Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental form. This is the meaning of perfection.