Ashtar Command - Spiritual Community Network

From The Journey Home, by Radhanath Swami


For some time, I had been troubled by a fundamental philosophical dispute over whether God was ultimately impersonal or personal. On the
one hand, I had heard some yogis and philosophers profess that
ultimately God is impersonal and formless, but that he accepts a
temporary material form as an avatara when He descends into the
world for the benefit of all beings. After accomplishing His mission, He
again merges into His formless existence. All form and personality,
according to the impersonalists, is a nonpermanent product of material
illusion. In the final state of liberation, the soul sheds its temporary
identity and becomes one with God, merging into the all-pervading
spiritual existence.
On the other hand, I had heard other yogis and philosophers profess that God is the Supreme Person, that His spiritual
form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. At the time of liberation,
the soul enters into the kingdom of God where it eternally serves the
all-beautiful Personality of God in pure love.
I often pondered this apparent contradiction. How could they both be correct? God must ultimately be one or the other. Either He must be ultimately impersonal or personal. Out of respect for my beloved teachers, it had been difficult for me to
think that any of them were wrong. Some attacked the opposing point of
view while others refrained from argument by keeping the subject vague. I
found that many spiritual teachings were similar until they came to
this point.
What is the goal I should aspire to? I wondered. Should I strive to
transcend dualities to become one with an impersonal, formless God? Or
should I strive to purify my heart to serve a personal Lord with
unconditional love in His eternal abode?

One afternoon, a guest asked Srila Prabhupada this very question. “Is
God formless and impersonal or does He have form and personality?” The
chattering of birds, screeching of monkeys, and honking of distant
rickshaw horns were silenced by the anticipation in my heart. I sat up
with attention, eager to hear his answer. Srila Prabhupada slowly leaned
forward, his face perfectly relaxed and full lips curved downward at
the edges. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, his elbows rested on the
low table in front of him and his hands were clasped together under his
chin. With a grave gaze, he quoted from the Vedas and explained, “We
must first understand the inconceivable nature of God. The Supreme Lord
is simultaneously personal and impersonal. It is an eternal truth that
He is both formless and that He has an eternal, blissful form.”
I felt a warm, peaceful sensation flood my chest. With one hand Srila
Prabhupada stretched his index finger upward. “The Lord’s impersonal,
all-pervading energy is called Brahman. And Bhagavan is
the personal form of God, who is the energetic source and never under
the influence of illusion. Take for example the sun. The form of the sun
as a planet and the formless sunlight can never be separated, as they
exist simultaneously. They are different aspects of the sun. Similarly,
there are two different schools of transcendentalists who focus on
different aspects of the one truth. The impersonalists strive to attain
liberation in the Lord’s impersonal, formless light, while the
personalists strive for eternal loving service to the Lord’s
all-attractive form. There is no contradiction.
“Similarly, the soul is part and parcel of the Lord, simultaneously one
with God and different from God. Qualitatively we are one with God,
being eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. But quantitatively,
we are always but a part, just as the sunray is but a tiny part of the
sun and yet has the same qualities as the sun. We are both one with God
and different from God. God is the independent controller, but when the
soul misuses his God-given independence, he forgets his relation to the
Lord and falls into illusion and subsequent suffering.”
Leaning back against the wall, he tilted his head slightly and gazed
directly into my eyes. “The two schools, personalists and
impersonalists, both approach different aspects of the One God.” He went
on to explain how Krishna, His form, qualities, personality, and abode
were unlimited, and that all the true religions of the world worshipped
the same One God. He had simply revealed Himself in different ways at
different times.
How beautiful. With these simple and intelligent words, Srila Prabhupada
had harmonized two apparently opposing views. As I listened to him,
tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes. Yes, now it all makes so much sense,
I thought. A dilemma that had confused my progress was now completely
removed. A spontaneous, joyous smile stretched across my face. Srila
Prabhupada reciprocated with a smile, too, one endowed with both wisdom
and serenity.
One guest asked him, “Are you the guru of the world?”
Srila Prabhupada meekly bowed his head and cast his eyes toward the floor. “I am everybody’s servant,” he said. “That’s all.”
I found a special charm in this exchange. Srila Prabhupada was so
unpretentious, so free and comfortable in all that he did and said. I
recalled the humility of dear Ganashyam, who had lived in a hallway
outside a closet for fifty years. Srila Prabhupada was a learned
scholar, eloquent orator, and powerful yogi who had founded a worldwide
society with thousands of followers. Dignitaries came to honor him
daily. Still, that natural spirit of humility was present—“I’m small.
God is everything.” Paradoxically, that humility empowered him with
unlimited confidence and determination.
After the meeting, I stood up and offered Srila Prabhupada a rose. He
smelled it and graciously bowed his head. Departing from the house, I
wandered back to the Yamuna, elated. Prabhupada’s words had put the
puzzle of personalism and impersonalism together, piece-by-piece. And in
so many other ways, he had impressed me deeply. But who is this amazing man? I wondered. What is he like as a person?


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Comment by kingjeff on December 4, 2010 at 10:41pm
I have made a similar observation about All that Is/ I Am That I Am / The Magic Presence / Soarce not Source
Allah/ Thor and many other names. As the God Force is Omnipresent everywhere manifest and unmanifest so it goes that you could take a pair of Scissors and cut off the Sun's Rays you could then prove separation of the God Force. The Sun is a large visible orb and is invisible until it refracts of your hand. It is at first Visible switches to Invisibility then back to Visibility on your hand while retaining the invisible nature. Lots of Light and Love Kingjeff
Comment by fabricio garcia on November 28, 2010 at 7:38pm
WICH ONE YOU LIKE, ASK YOU HEARTH,AND THATHS YOU TRUE
Comment by SABERTOOTHCAT on November 27, 2010 at 11:06pm
we already have god within ourselves. energy.
Comment by Delilah7777 on November 27, 2010 at 5:07am
I am inclined to say Energy more than Person.... :)

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