“The devotees directly fix their minds on the Person of the Absolute Truth. But one who is unable to accommodate such personal features of the Absolute is disciplined in impersonality to train the mind to make further progress.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.17 Purport)
So you’re having trouble accepting the fact that the Supreme Absolute Truth can be a personality with an exquisitely beautiful form. If it’s just too much to believe that the person the rest of the world refers to as God can have two hands that hold a flute, a peacock feather in His hair, and the most enchanting smile anyone has ever seen, the defiance is still no justification for rejecting spiritual life altogether. Rather, there are gradual steps available to accommodate any person along the train of purification of consciousness. The sacred syllable om is the trusted source for spiritual contact for one who has yet to taste the sweet nectar of Krishna’s association.
The taste can only come through contact within the proper mood. On my way to work I can see a pizza pie in a shop every day for years on end, but unless I actually buy a slice and eat the dish I won’t know how good it tastes. In a similar manner, giving a passing glance to Krishna, hearing His name without attention, or just reading about some of His activities without the requisite attitude will not elicit the proper emotional response within the recipient. So many personalities are purported to be God, so healthy skepticism in this regard is generally a good thing. After all, why would I want to believe what someone else tells me just on blind faith? I have a value to add to society with my ability to work, so why should I waste any effort doing something whose validity I’m not entirely confident of?
If there is hesitancy with believing in Krishna’s divinity, there is still His impersonal feature which can be contemplated upon. In the state of ignorance there is also worship, but the object of attention is the external energy, which is known as maya. “That which is not” is the way to define the Supreme Lord’s illusory energy. You look in the mirror and check out your hair and assess whether or not you look good, but you’re not seeing who you really are. That picture in the mirror changes at every second, and over the course of many years those changes are easier to notice. Yet you are the same person today that you were when you emerged from the womb. In between that time there was no exit from your current form followed by a reentry.
The identifying aspect within you is known as the soul. That energy which you think represents you but really doesn’t is known as maya. In the basic scientific analysis, there is the understanding that all individual forces of life are spirit and not this illusory energy. But to understand these facts is difficult even when learning them from authorized sources. Therefore there are techniques that can be used to keep that realization within your mind, allowing you to act off of it.
After all, knowing such valuable pieces of information should influence the way you behave. If I do eat that slice of pizza that I’ve been seeing for so long, it may not be important to me what the ingredients are. What does it matter to me what goes into the dish if I’m only interested in tasting it? But knowledge of spirit and matter is helpful because it can positively influence behavior in all areas. Every kind of misery is due to ignorance of these laws of the spiritual science, and so when that ignorance is slashed away by the sword of knowledge, you can automatically find a pleasurable condition in situations that were previously only conducive to pain and heartache.
“In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.38)
A primary source of distress is death, which has an accompanying negative force known as fear. Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than to fall, the mature human being has no other worry than eventual death. Under the system of transcendental knowledge, the fear relating to the exit from the body is unfounded, as the vibrant spiritual force cannot be killed. This is the most difficult fact to realize and remember on an ongoing basis because once the soul does exit the body, we are no longer privy to its location. While it is within the moving form, we can tell that the spirit is present based on the autonomous functions of the living being.
“After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.13)
One way to understand these higher truths and use them to your benefit is to chant the sacred syllable om. Om is the sound vibration representation of the Absolute Truth. Know that spirit is not affected by duality. Spirit is neither up nor down; neither hot nor cold. Spirit is pure truth; it is unchanging. Since every living being is spirit, there is an aggregate total which is called Brahman in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Om directly addresses Brahman, and through chanting that sound one can hopefully remain aware of their true nature as spirit.
Accompanying the chanting of om are several important restrictions. The aim is to understand that you are spirit and not matter, so obviously you have to get rid of the prior behavior that was based off your misunderstanding. If you used to drink heavily to become intoxicated to escape the influence of the senses, you will no longer do that if you know that drinking is bad for you. That is just one type of behavior based on illusion, the association with the body, so we can imagine just how many other activities there are that further strengthen the bond to the temporary form and its relationships.
So within the routine of connecting with Brahman, there are restrictions on the most sinful behaviors. This guiding principle is known as vairagya, or renunciation. If there is a serious desire to chant om and understand the Absolute Truth, then the more renunciation the better. The more distractions you can take away , the better chance you will have for staying Brahman realized.
This path of spiritual life is considered very difficult due to the present circumstances in society. Dharma is the occupational duty of the living entity that helps keep them Brahman realized, but in the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy there is so much cheating that dharma is difficult to decipher. Rather than accept the true principles of religion from the beginning of life, there is constant competition between factions who each essentially make up their own meaning to life and how to fulfill it.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.54)
The path of personal worship is superior in both ease of implementation and end reward. Brahman has a source, as it is just the spiritual light beaming off of the incredibly effulgent Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the cherished end for the truly wise, who are able to accept that a person is behind these intricate concepts such as Brahman and maya. Though it may be difficult to accept His existence due to the defiant attitude solidified through many births in a temporary land, the association in the proper mood is what reveals the truth to His existence. The practice of the principles of spiritual life aimed at understanding Brahman can get one properly situated to understand and relish the Supreme Lord’s personal features.
And who isn’t attracted by attractiveness? Krishna is the most beautiful, and this beauty is present in all aspects that directly represent Him. His name is one of these non-different aspects, so just by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, you can get the same benefit of chanting om and much more. The personality traits, features and pastimes accompany the name of Krishna, and with those additional aspects you get many more items of contemplation. You can also offer service to a personality, whereas with an impersonal force all you can do is meditate.
The service to Krishna comes in the form of chanting His names, visiting places of relevance to Him, reading books about Him, and associating with others who are devoted to Him. The entire collection of available activities is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It is the easiest discipline to implement but the most difficult to accept with conviction. The humble attitude in surrender is required to feel the bliss of Krishna’s association, and the more that attitude strengthens, the more pleasure there is for the devotee. The impersonal force of Brahman is simultaneously understood by Krishna’s servant, who learns to not only see Brahman everywhere but to also appreciate its influence and how the illusory energy of maya can play such wonderful tricks. Om itself is a wonderful benediction, as it allows any person to make progress along the proper spiritual path, irrespective of their initial inclination.
On worshiping personal form you’re not keen,
As never to you has a blue god with flute been seen.
Though not ideal, this obstinacy can still be okay,
For to understand God there are many different ways.
With firm faith the sacred syllable om you can say,
Thus understand impersonal Brahman you may.
But know that this path has many a restriction,
To know Brahman and worship matter a contradiction.
On the other hand, if you follow bhakti’s course,
You can know Krishna, Brahman’s original source.
Process of chanting om from Him has come,
Thus in benevolence He is number one.
In the proper mood chant Krishna’s names instead,
The soul with much needed spiritual nectar to be fed.