“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
The basic understanding of spiritual life is that there is a difference between matter and spirit. “You are not your body.” You need this told to you because the default thinking is otherwise. From the time of birth there is association with the body, and it continues until there is an inquiry made or exposure to knowledge of the real nature of the living beings. It is for this reason that the initiation into spiritual life is considered the second birth. Those who formally accept this knowledge are known as dvija, or twice-born.
There is spirit and there is matter. It’s easy to correctly guess which one is which. Our identity is as spirit, and that which we falsely identify with is matter. In Sanskrit two corresponding terms of relevance to this discussion are purusha and prakriti. Purusha is spirit, and it can also be translated to mean “person.” Prakriti is matter, and it is also known as “that which is enjoyed.” Purusha is the real enjoyer and prakriti is that which purusha can manipulate.
In the classroom the teacher is the superior and the students are the subordinates. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual who is the teacher will always be in the superior position. At home they may have their own parents to answer to. Then they have the school board who is above them. Superior to the school board is the local government, and above that is the government running the entire nation.
In the same manner, the individual purusha becomes prakriti when the discussion turns to the original purusha. This is one way to understand God; He is the purusha for the entire creation. He is the original person. He is one, undivided, though His influence is spread everywhere. He is the ultimate enjoyer, while everything which emanates from Him is enjoyed by Him to some degree or another.
The original purusha is also known as the Supreme Brahman. These terms provide a little more clarity into the vague concept of God, but not much. The supreme being is the original enjoyer; that gives us a new way to define Him, but still we don’t know much from this definition. I can turn any person into the original purusha. Whomever I currently worship, I anoint them as the Supreme God.
“Who are you to deny the fact? This god is the Supreme Brahman. He is the same as your god. That is why I worship them. All these gods are the same. They are different manifestations of the same original purusha. You can’t tell me otherwise.”
The living entities struggling hard in this world are described as prakriti in the Bhagavad-gita, which is a work spoken by Shri Krishna. He is the Supreme Brahman, the one purusha. Just by reading the Bhagavad-gita, we get a better understanding of Him. Who is God? He is the person who speaks the highest wisdom that is actually timeless, though delivered from time to time, such as with Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago.
“There is a great misconception about the gods or demigods of this material world, and men of less intelligence, although passing as great scholars, take these demigods to be various forms of the Supreme Lord. Actually, the demigods are not different forms of God, but they are God's different parts and parcels. God is one, and the parts and parcels are many.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12 Purport)
This Bhagavad-gita and works like it give the understanding of the difference between purusha and prakriti. The worshipers of other divine figures cannot point to similar statements made. Through sentiment or even basic ignorance they claim this person or that to be the one God, but there is nothing substantiating their claim. Any person can say they are God. Any person can claim to be the original purusha, the Supreme Brahman.
The personal side to God is superior because it greatly removes the chance to cheat. We know that Krishna is the original purusha because He describes the difference to us in the first place. He repeatedly refers to Himself in the Bhagavad-gita when discussing God. Other divine figures do not do this. Vedic literature is the most voluminous scriptural tradition in the world. In fact, no other tradition can compare to even a single Vedic work, the Mahabharata, in comprehensiveness and knowledge.
These works consist of many pages, and in them we do not find any ordinary person claiming to be God. The difference between matter and spirit is explained in many areas, for that is the fundamental teaching of the spiritual science. The personal side to God is also described in many areas, and it is done to remove doubt. The Supreme Brahman is never limited to one manifestation, but He is always a singular identity. The purpose to knowing Him is uniform also.
That purpose is to connect with Him. The ideal occupation of the prakriti coming from the original purusha is to be enjoyed. The enjoyer mentality leads to difficulty; it brings separation from the original enjoyer. That Supreme Brahman in His personal form reveals the path back towards the eternal occupation. Getting to know Him makes accepting that path easier; it clears the doubts as to who is God and what our relationship to Him should be.
The purusha enjoys through accepting the service of prakriti. The devoted souls serve without motivation and without interruption. They have no desire to cheat God by claiming to be supreme themselves. They don’t make false supreme gods and then worship them as a means of exploitation. They rather innocently look upon the Supreme Brahman with love and devotion, taking any chance to serve, always remembering through hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
An original purusha existing one,
From Him all prakriti has come.
To be enjoyed by Him meant,
In challenge to material world sent.
In Bhagavad-gita this all explained,
Wisdom by Arjuna and fortunate gained.
With a purpose, not just chest to beat,
So that with ideal occupation to meet.