“For the ordinary man who wants to lord it over material nature, the Lord not only sanctions and becomes a witness of activities, but He never gives the nondevotee instructions for going back to Godhead. That is the difference in dealings by the Lord with different living beings, both the devotee and the nondevotee. He is leader of all the living beings, as the king of the state rules both the prisoners and the free citizens.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.32 Purport)
It’s strange to think that the worst criminal in the world also has God living inside of them. Since they are part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the same as Him in quality but vastly inferior in the quantitative measure of attributes, they become part of the definition that is God. At the same time, the aspect that resides within them isn’t the complete feature of the Supreme Lord. The Supersoul within the heart is an impartial witness, watching both the good and the bad activities of the living entity from a neutral position. When the same person connects with God in a mood of love, the personal form of the Lord, the fully featured Personality of Godhead or one of His direct incarnations, appears on the scene to show just who the worshiping individual is targeting. Therefore in all respects the Personality of Godhead is superior.
How can we say one is superior to the other when in terms of spiritual qualities both entities are equal? Is my form that meets with someone in a coffee shop superior to my form that talks to the same person over the phone or through internet communication? Am I not the same person regardless of how I connect with others? That is certainly a valid point to be raised with respect to the Supersoul, which resides within the heart next to the individual soul, but the distinctions are made from the perspective of the illusioned living entity, who may not know any better.
What do we mean by this? Let’s say that the person I talk to on the phone only thinks of me as a voice. They’ve never seen me in person, so they think the only way I exist is through the sound that comes in the earpiece of the telephone receiver. Obviously, such a line of thinking would be considered foolish by the mature adult, yet to the person in ignorance, there is no physical proof of my existence. Therefore they feel justified in thinking of me as being only a sound.
In a similar manner, someone who is not properly educated in the science of self-realization so flawlessly introduced in the Vedas and since passed on by the bona fide spiritual masters will be led astray by so many mentally concocted theories that have no basis in truth. The personal aspect of the Supreme Lord has been denied for a long time in the majority of the spiritual traditions of the world. “Worship God”, is the recommendation, but if you don’t know who God is or what He looks like, how is that worship going to manifest? Is it any wonder then that the worshipers are left to take shelter of materialist pursuits such as philanthropy, following general principles of piety, and redressing social ills?
“What is wrong with these pursuits”, you say. Well, for starters they are already taken up by those who are not religiously inclined. Someone doesn’t need to know anything about God to help the poor. Cleaning up the environment also takes place without any knowledge of spirituality. The real principles of religion teach one how to worship the origin of life and matter; it is a discipline which then permeates all subsequent behavior. By attaining the divine consciousness, one learns how to adjust their behavior in a way that the link to the spiritual powerhouse of energy remains active despite the performance of regulative activities aimed at maintaining the vital force within the body.
Denying the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord as being a mythological tradition supported by those unaware of the truth or something that is not logically possible, the theorists emerge with their own ideas of God. “God is impersonal. He is the formless Absolute Truth.” Others will say that any person can become God through enough enlightenment. Of course, these are silly assertions because if someone has to become God, it means in a prior circumstance they were not God. If at any time you are not the Supreme Controller, your superior position is invalidated.
The features of the Personality of Godhead are described in the Vedas, whose most sacred work is the Bhagavad-gita. It’s difficult to put comparisons on the bhakti-shastras, or the scriptures forwarding devotional service as the highest aim in life, but the Bhagavad-gita gains its significance by its combined punch of brevity and import. The short work touches on all subjects of Vedanta, or the ultimate system of knowledge. In the end, however, the true mission in life of following the words and instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is presented.
In His original form God is known as Krishna, which is a Sanskrit word that means all-attractive. Krishna’s immediate expansion is known as Vishnu, who is often times considered the original form of Godhead depending on the tradition you follow. Even in many Puranas and Vedic hymns Vishnu is described as the original. The fact is that any personal expansion of the original Lord is equally as worshipable. The living entities are known as jiva-tattvas, so they are sort of clones of God that aren’t nearly as powerful. The most notable distinction is that the jivas are prone to illusion, doubt, mistakes, and imperfect sense perceptions. Only a jiva can fall victim to the fallacious notion that God can be equaled.
With the distinction between the Personality of Godhead and His many sparks, why would the Supersoul agree to live inside of anyone? This expansion is actually the Lord’s mercy, not meant to be a punishment. Despite the longest fall from grace, the jiva has the open invitation from the Supreme Lord to return to His realm, to retake the constitutional position. Just as a fish is meant to live in water, the jiva is meant to be in Krishna’s personal company in the spiritual sky, where things like birth and death don’t exist. Time and space are still present in the spiritual lands of Vaikuntha and Krishnaloka, but they don’t have a debilitating influence, sort of like a snake without teeth.
In his fall from grace caused by desires to lord over material nature, the jiva soul is accompanied by God in His form as the Supersoul. In some spiritual traditions this form is described as the nirguna, or attributeless, aspect of the Supreme Lord. It is described as such because to the onlooker it doesn’t have any features, sort of like the voice emerging from the telephone receiver. The Supreme Lord is always who He is, though, so regardless of whether He’s described as nirguna or saguna, His supreme standing never changes.
The Supersoul resides within even the worst criminal, but at the same time there is no connection with God in such cases. With the devotees, however, the presence of the Supersoul proves to be extremely helpful. It guides the sincere worshiper towards the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a mood of love, a methodical march towards spiritual freedom, release from the cycle of birth and death.
There are countless examples to show how the Supersoul has a different effect depending on the nature of the person, but one of the most notable was the interaction between a famous king and his son. Hiranyakashipu was on the demoniac side, given towards sinful life. He had an opulent kingdom and a tremendous fighting ability. No one in the world could defeat him, and he made sure to let everyone know about it. The Supreme Lord Vishnu had previously killed his brother, so Hiranyakashipu denied God’s existence, or at least His superior position. Hiranyakashipu viewed Vishnu as his archenemy, someone who needed to be defeated.
We can just imagine then the king’s dismay when his son ended up being one of the staunchest devotees of Vishnu in the world. Unable to tolerate the devotion in his son, Hiranyakashipu tried to kill the five-year old Prahlada in so many different ways. The many methods were employed because Prahlada seemingly couldn’t be killed. Thrown off of a cliff, dropped in the ocean under heavy weights, thrown in a pit of snakes, and even tossed in a fire, nothing could kill Prahlada. All the while, the boy’s devotion to Vishnu increased.
Both Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada had the Supersoul residing within them, but only Prahlada knew how to take advantage of the Lord’s close proximity. At the same time, the entity Prahlada was worshiping was indeed a person and not some impersonal force. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t understand this, so he sarcastically asked if the God Prahlada worshiped was in the pillar next to them. After Prahlada responded by saying that Vishnu was indeed in the pillar, and within everything else in this world for that matter, Hiranyakashipu started to punch the pillar, after which Vishnu in His ferocious form of a half-man/half-lion named Narasimha emerged and proceeded to kill the demoniac king.
Devotees of Vishnu have studied and honored that incident ever since. Goswami Tulsidas mentions it in his Kavitavali as being evidence of the fact that the personal form of the Supreme Lord is superior. If the nirguna and saguna aspects were on an equal level, then Vishnu would have emerged from Hiranyakashipu’s heart. We know from Vedic science that the Lord existed within the demon’s heart, but since He was a neutral observer, He did not play an active role in the demon’s reign of terror. The same Supersoul resided within Prahlada, and since the boy knew how to connect with the Supersoul because of the instruction previously received from the exalted Narada Muni, his actions eventually led him to seeing and worshiping Vishnu in an avatara form, or one that is personal.
Thus even though there is no difference between the personal and the impersonal aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth, it is the personal aspect that is the original. Sort of like how darkness only emerges from the absence of light, the impersonal aspect can only exist when the original feature is a person. Therefore those who take to bhakti-yoga find the highest engagement in life. The Personality of Godhead accepts all kinds of worship, provided the motives are pure. Through the pious activity in devotion the worshiper gets the knowledge necessary to see God and continue service to Him thereafter. On the other hand, the person fooled by the illusory material nature to ignore the Supreme Lord’s personal presence stays far away from God life after life, despite having the Supersoul within them. Knowing the two options, the wise regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and remember the innocent Prahlada Maharaja, who proved that worship of God’s personal form is always superior.
Talking on the phone person you can’t see,
That only exists as a voice, can it be?
Obviously voice comes from person that is real,
Personality who can hear, see, taste and feel.
Supersoul is God’s form that you cannot see,
Rests within everyone’s heart does He.
Nevertheless, form is just an expansion,
From original whose qualities Vedas mention.
From Prahlada know that personal is superior,
Worship Vishnu and abandon matter so inferior.