When I first read in Srila Prabhupada’s books that God is personal then I thought what is the need to mention it? Is it not obvious that God has a form? But slowly I came to know about certain school of thoughts which says that the Supreme Lord is impersonal i.e he does not have a form. And they strongly believe in it. According to them God is supreme so how can you confine him to a particular form. True, we cannot restrict God to a specif form, but still God has a form just like you and me have a form. We can also realize God as impersonal Brahman.
Vedic scriptures logically explain the dichotomy.
God is personal and has a form
The sacred texts of the holy Vedas say that God can take any form he likes. For example, he appears as Lord Narasimha – half man-half lion. He takes the form of a boar (Varaha incarnation) and also the form of a fish (Matsya incarnation). In Vaikuntha he has four handed form. As Krishna and as Lord Rama he is in his two-handed form. For different pastimes God has different forms. But the form which the devotees like the most is his two-handed form. When Krishna appeared in his four handed form to Devaki and Vasudeva in Mathura then they prayed to the Lord to appear in two handed form. When Krishna showed Arjuna his virat rupa (universal form) then Arjuna begged Krishna to come back to his two-handed form.
Look around yourself. Do you find any living being without a form? You have a form. I have a form. Animals have form. Fish has a form. Trees have a form. Even a little insect has a form. So, how can the Supreme Lord who created us be formless.
God is personal, he has a form. And he like to have personal relationship with his devotees. If we fail to understand this, we won’t endeavour to develop relationship with him. How can we relate with someone who is formless or impersonal?
This is why Srila Prabhupada in his books and lectures have explained with scriptural references that God is personal. He emphasizes that the real purpose of human life is to re-establish relationship with God and return back to the spiritual world.
God can also be realized as impersonal Brahman
Vedic texts also say that God can be perceived as impersonal Brahman. What is this impersonal Brahman? From the body of the Lord emanates transcendental rays which covers the spiritual world and is called brahma-jyotir. This is the impersonal aspect of the Lord.
Many spiritual practitioners consider brahma – jyotir or God’s personal rays to be the ultimate reality. They are called as impersonalists. They desire to merge in these transcendental rays upon leaving the body. But these rays are coming from the Lord only. When these impersonalist gain more knowledge and get purified then they can penetrate the transcendental rays and enter into the spiritual planet where they are able to directly see and serve the Lord.
Realization of the Supreme Lord as impersonal Brahman is incomplete or partial realization of the Lord. But when we understand that God is personal and has a form then we can completely understand and realize him. Vedic texts give evidence to prove that God is personal. Let us go through those references.
5 evidence from Isopanisad and Brahma Samhita which proves God is personal
- Brahma Samhita 5.1, explains that Supreme Lord is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha.
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
“Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.”
- We can realize the Supreme Lord Krishna in three features.
- Realization of the Supreme Lord as impersonal Brahman is his sat feature i.e. his aspect of eternity. Impersonal Brahman realization means realization of his bodily effulgence.
- Realization of the Lord as Supersoul or Paramātmā in everyone’s heart is realization of his sat(eternity) and cit(knowledge) aspect.
- Bhagavan realization is realization of his complete personality of sat, cit and ananda i.e. the aspect of eternity, knowledge and bliss.
Lord is referred as vigraha in Brahma Samhita. Vigraha means beautiful transcendental form.
2. Isopanisad Mantra 4 says “Although fixed in His abode, the Personality of Godhead is swifter than the mind and can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He controls those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence.”
Here it is said that the Lord is swifter than mind and overcomes all others running. Anyone who runs has form. A formless person cannot run. So, the Lord who is the fastest runner has to be a person.
3. Brahma – Samhita (5.40) explains that the brahma – jyotir which the impersonalist claim to be the ultimate reality is the personal rays of the Supreme Lord.
yasya prabhā prabhavato jagad-aṇḍa-koṭi-
koṭiṣv aśeṣa-vasudhādi vibhūti-bhinnam
tad brahma niṣkalam anantam aśeṣa-bhūtaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of the non differentiated Brahman mentioned in the Upaniṣads, being differentiated from the infinity of glories of the mundane universe appears as the indivisible, infinite, limitless, truth.”
4. Isopanisad Mantra 15 says that devotees pray to Lord to remove the effulgent rays (hiraṇmaya-pātra, Isopanisad 15) so that they can see his beautiful face. You and I have face because we have forms. Similarly unless God is personal and have form how can he have a face? This verse establishes that Supreme Lord is personal.
tat tvaṁ pūṣann apāvṛṇu
“O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.”
5. Again in Isopanisad 16, prayer is offered to Lord to remove the transcendental rays (vyūha raśmīn samūha tejo), to see Lord’s most auspicious form full of bliss (yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇa-tamaṁ tat te paśyāmi).
pūṣann ekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya
vyūha raśmīn samūha tejo
yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇa-tamaṁ tat te paśyāmi
yo ’sāv asau puruṣaḥ so ’ham asmi
“O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.”
This verse explains that the form of the Lord is full of bliss. Devotees experience unlimited happiness when they see the beautiful form of the Lord. In Goloka Vrindavan, devotees are eager to always see the Lord. The gopis, the topmost devotee of the Lord, cursed the creator for creating eyelids because the eyelids would momentarily block the vision of Krishna. Srimad Bhagavatam 10.82.39
God is personal so he enjoys many pastimes with devotees
Just like there is sun planet, the sun’s rays and the sun God. Similarly, there is spiritual planet, Goloka Vrindavan, brahma-jyotir, Lord’s effulgent rays, and Krishna, the Supreme Lord. If we have to see the sun God, we have to penetrate the rays of the sun and enter into the sun planet. Similarly, if we have to see the form of the Lord we have to penetrate brahma jyotir and enter into the spiritual planet.
Krishna enjoys different pastimes with his devotees. He relishes different rasas (dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, madhurya and santa) in the spiritual world. He has his cowherd friends, parents, cows and above all gopis with whom he enjoys madhurya rasas. Unless the Lord has a form, he cannot enjoy these transcendental rasas.
Srila Prabhupada says that you and I can also participate in Lord’s pastimes. For that we have to purify ourselves by chanting the holy names of Lord and return back to the spiritual world. In the kingdom of God, we get a spiritual body and get an opportunity to associate with the Lord and his countless devotees. There everyone serves the Lord and enjoys with the Lord.
Such personal exchanges are possible only because God is personal, and he has a transcendental form full of bliss.