“The Personality of Godhead is described as vastu, or the Substance, and the living entities are described as vastavas, or the innumerable samples of the Substance in relative existence. The relationship of these substantive portions with the Supreme Substance can never be annihilated, for it is an eternal quality inherent in the living being.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.91 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
I am not God. Seriously, I’m telling you. I mean it. Don’t call me God. If you do, I’ll get angry. Don’t even think about it. Why do I have to stipulate this? Did I suddenly lose my mind, where I went around telling people that I created everything? Did I have a sudden bout of insanity where I pretended to be a messiah, coming to save the people?
Actually, Vedanta philosophy is so rich and profound that there is some basis for equating the living entities with God. There is simultaneous oneness and difference, something Chaitanya Mahaprabhu calls achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. We are like samples of God, identical to Him in qualitative makeup. We are Brahman, and He is also Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. There are key differences as well, and a person who is not aware of them mistakenly thinks they can become God, which makes them no different in intelligence than the lower species, like the animals.
1. I have to take birth
One Sanskrit word that describes God is aja. This means “unborn.” He is the only living entity who has never taken birth. The concept is impossible for the human mind to fathom. This is because of infinity. What does it mean to have no beginning? For every beginning, we know there is some point in time prior to that. Even under the foolish theory that says everything came into being through a single-cell organism, there had to be something prior to that. Where did that organism come from? Did it magically appear?
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
I have to take birth. That is how I got to where I am today. I don’t remember that birth. I assume that it happened because I see other births. I know that after birth there is development of the body. Eventually, there is also death. The Bhagavad-gita says that where there is death, there must be birth, and so on.
2. I can’t always get what I want
This is likely the most obvious indication of my lack of spotless divinity. I have to work for things. For example, I try my best to avoid catching a cold. I take Ayurvedic supplements each day. I try to maintain good heat within the body. I eat on time. I try to sleep a decent amount. Still, sometimes I catch a cold. There is nothing I can do to prevent this. I can’t always get what I want.
For the Supreme Lord it is different. Just by thinking He can manifest anything in front of Him. Creating the universes for Him is as easy as exhaling. Destroying the same universes, with their massive complexity and variety, is accomplished through inhaling. Everything is so easy for Him that He is known as atmarama, which means “self-satisfied.”
3. The threefold miseries of life affect me.
The heavens, other people, and the body and mind - these three are sources of misery for everyone living in the material world. No success is capable without cooperation from these sources. I can do everything right, thinking that the desired outcome is sure to manifest, when something gets in the way at the last moment. A hurricane destroys the house I was building. Someone runs a red light and crashes into my car. Suddenly, a disease pops up from within that prevents me from working.
The Supreme Lord is not subject to these miseries. In fact, the person overseeing these miseries works at His behest. Known as Durga Devi, she carries a trident that symbolizes the threefold miseries. Her favor lessens the pain inflicted, but with the Supreme Lord the trident feels like a mink glove or a soft cushion. When He descends to this earth, the miseries are still there but they have no inhibiting influence. A famous example is the lifting of Govardhana Hill done by Shri Krishna.
4. I have to die
Sadly, I can’t live forever. As a spirit soul, nothing can destroy me. Yet this specific combination of body and spirit will not remain together in perpetuity. Time, which is influenced by fruitive activities, or karma, eventually takes away. It is known as the great subduing agent.
“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)
As God is aja, He is amrita, or immortal. Though He appears and disappears from this world in His personal form, His body is changeless and supreme. Obviously, we have to accept this fact on faith. Since we eventually die, we have no way of confirming if someone lives forever. Nevertheless, the high philosophy presented by the Vedas and the longevity in relevance of works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam give us more confidence in the matter.
5. There are limitations in action
This is a derivative of the subjection to the threefold miseries. Let’s say I enjoy a specific beverage. I want to drink it every day. Fine, that is possible, but there are negative effects. The beverage may not be healthy for me. Say I want to drink more than average today. There will be a reaction. At some point the limit will be reached.
There are no limitations with the Supreme Lord. He can expand Himself infinitely if He wants. He gave an idea of how much He can expand one time through His dwarf incarnation known as Vamana. At first Vamana was diminutive. Later He expanded so far that with a single step He could cover the three worlds.
Just as God can do whatever He wants without negative consequences, so the same applies to devotion to Him, known as bhakti-yoga. A person can constantly engage in devotional service and not have it negatively influence them. This is because Krishna oversees the practice of devotion to Him. He maintains what the devotee has and brings to them what they lack. A simple test can be made through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chant this a little bit, then chant some more, and then chant all the time, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu recommends.
That I am not God I tell to you,
Believe me for this is true.
Not always what I want getting,
Death when sun of life setting.
Again birth I will have to take,
Until from slumber of ignorance to awake.
Absent in Supreme Lord should know,
Protected when to His shelter to go.