“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.5)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word atma can mean body, mind, or soul. In philosophical discourses, the most common usage is “soul,” to distinguish between matter and spirit. The individual is atma, while what covers them temporarily is maya. Maya is the illusory energy of God, but it is also more of a viewpoint. To take identification from the body is improper; it is maya.
The Sanskrit word rama means “pleasure.” One word to describe the Almighty, the great soul, the origin of everything, is atmarama. This means “satisfied in the self.” Simply put, God is not an angry and vengeful man precisely because He doesn’t need to be. He is not dependent on outside factors for His pleasure. There are several truths described in Vedic literature that wonderfully illustrate this principle of atmarama.
1. He creates through exhaling, destroys through inhaling
The Almighty is one, but He has many forms. This can make spiritual life confusing, but there is no harm in referring to any single form as the person responsible for major aspects of the universe. As an example, the Vedas describe that God is all-attractive and so one of His names is Krishna. He is all-pervading and so Vishnu is another name.
Both Vishnu and Krishna refer to a specific form, but in discussions about the origin of the universe the two names can be used interchangeably, as they essentially refer to the same person. The creation happens effortlessly. Lord Vishnu lies down to take rest. He simply breathes. Every time He exhales, the universes manifest. Within those universes is infinite variety. There is time and space, which the human mind will never be able to fully comprehend.
He then inhales, causing everything that was manifest to return back into Him. It’s as simple as that. The time in between the two can be great according to our perspective, but for Vishnu there is no tension. In the Bhagavad-gita He says that everything comes from but a spark of His splendor.
2. He has the most wonderful bed to sleep on
Sleep is so difficult that there is an entire industry dedicated to improving it. There are many problems. A person has trouble breathing at night. So they purchase a machine that hooks up a mask to their face. Another person prefers a certain firmness for their mattress. The problem is that the spouse has a different preference. The solution is to buy an expensive mattress that electronically sets the firmness for each side. The pillows, the sheets, and the climate within the room are also factors of variance.
Vishnu does not have these problems. He has the most perfect bed on which to sleep. It is a giant serpent, with many hoods. Known as Ananta Shesha Naga, this person not only provides physical comfort, but he sings the glories of God as well. The glorification has continued since anyone can remember, and there is no end in sight.
3. He has Lakshmi Devi massaging Him
Vishnu has the most beautiful consort. As He is eternal, so is the relationship to the consort. She is known as the goddess of fortune, bringing prosperity to those who worship and please her. She is able to do this because of the relationship to Vishnu.
More important than granting benedictions to others is her role as devoted wife. She is always massaging the lotus feet of her husband. Vishnu is pleased as a result. He has no stress at all. This is the accurate picture of God, because tension is a sign of fallibility. Vishnu is Achyuta, or infallible.
4. He has Shiva and Parvati managing the creation
Though the tendency is to pray to God in times of trouble, usually the request relates to something that karma already takes care of. Karma is fruitive activity, action and reaction. Karma is something from the material world, whose vast complexity is managed by two very important people: Shiva and Parvati. They are husband and wife, and they are very devoted to Vishnu.
Lord Shiva is known as the destroyer, as he goes to work when the time for dissolution arrives. He also grants material benedictions to his worshipers. He is the spiritual master to the world because he has something of value to offer to everyone. He is rightfully known as Shiva since his association is very auspicious.
Parvati punishes. One of her other names is Durga, which can refer to a fort. The material world is like a prison with high walls, difficult to climb over. Durga Devi punishes using her trident, whose three prongs represent the three sources of misery in life. With Shiva and Parvati managing the material creation, Vishnu is free to continue to relax and enjoy.
5. His associates are with Him all the time
One of the reasons Krishna is satisfied in the self is that His very definition includes His associates. He always has friends and well-wishers around. There is no difference between body and spirit for Him. Part of what defines Him is the devotion that others practice purely. They complete the picture of the spiritual world.
Despite being atmarama and having no need for outside help to be happy, the Supreme Lord always accepts more devotees. If need be, He expands Himself to give the devotee more enjoyment, like He did in the famous rasa dance with the gopis of Vrindavana. These reasons and more make God the person the ideal match for the love lying within the heart.
Supreme Lord as atmarama is known,
Proof from vision in Vaikuntha alone.
On serpent bed Ananta the perfect seat,
And Lakshmi Devi massaging His feet.
Shiva and Parvati material world to control,
Husband the teacher and wife trident to hold.
Associates there with Krishna in the center,
Ocean of mercy, room always for more to enter.