The origin of everything

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11)

Absolute Truth is realized in three features, which exist simultaneously. Brahman is the effulgent, ever-existing, all-pervading feature of the Absolute Truth, that which spiritual seekers describe as the divine light. Paramatma is the localized aspect of the Absolute Truth, the Supersoul, or divine presence in everyone’s heart. And bhagavan is the Absolute Truth as the Supreme Person.

It is called Absolute because it is the source of everything and doesn’t depend on anything else.

“Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates.” (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.2)

All existence, all energies origin in the Absolute Truth. All the qualities of the energies must also be present in their source. The origin cannot possibly have less qualities than its emanations. Thus the Absolute in its ultimate aspect must be fully cognizant and sentient.

Personal and impersonal qualities

Absolute has impersonal and personal aspects. Its impersonal aspects are Its qualities as the all-pervading brahman, and His personal aspects are His qualities as the Supreme Person.

He is unlimited and absolute. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and completely independent. Everything, all His energies, are simultaneously and inconceivably different and non-different from Him. They are non-different because they are His eternal integral parts. At the same time they are different from Him because He exists as an individual independently from them.

God is everything, but everything is not God.

It is like the sun and the sunshine. The sunshine indicates the presence of the sun, but still the sun rays are not the sun itself.

Everything exists in Him simultaneously, also all contradictions. Some philosophers reject the idea of God because they argue that God having all these qualities and our experience in this world is contradictory ( can God be omniscient, omnipotent and at the same time all-loving?).

All contradictions are easily dissolved for someone who lives in the internal energy of the Absolute, for someone who can experience truth directly. As long as our intelligence is covered by maya, Absolute Truth remains unknown and far away.

Now the personal part: Being the Supreme Person, God has personal qualities, activities, and also forms and names. These are not material. Because He is absolute, His qualities, activities, forms and names are not different from Him. They are all purely spiritual. 

God desires to have personal relationships and loving exchanges with all His eternal parts. This understanding is crucial for the practice of bhakti. Unconditional love requires the presence of two real living beings, otherwise it is just imagination. 

The Absolute, the source of all existence wants our love. Therefore, when we desire harmony with creation, or in other words, when we wish to expand our loving propensity to all living beings, to all existence, we cannot ignore the source of all existence. We have to see Absolute Truth as a Person.

To the contrary, we have to start out with our origin. As soon as our relationship with the origin of existence is established, all other relationships are automatically also established through that original relationship. Again, this understanding is essential for bhakti.

To know the Original Person means to love Him. Because He is the most lovable person. The closer you come to God the more you love Him. Thus all we need to do is to get to know Him.

Incarnations of the Absolute

His qualities, activities, forms and names are all absolute and unlimited. God possesses innumerable personal expansions, called incarnations or avataras.

They are known as Krishna, Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, and many, many others.

The different avataras appear to suit the different needs and desires of different worshippers. According to the taste and psychological situation of the soul in relation to God, He appears with different forms and personal qualities.

That is not to say people can just imagine a form of God and thus make Him appear like that. That would be a concocted form and result in idol worship.

Rather God has these unlimited different forms eternally, and each soul eternally has an intimate relationship with one of these forms.

These forms are purely spiritual forms, they aren’t made of material energy, even when they appear in the material world.

When the soul appears in the material world, it takes on different forms made of material energy, which cover its original spiritual form. This is called incarnation or reincarnation (appearance in “carne” or flesh). But God appears in His original spiritual forms. In that sense, the word “incarnation” for an appearance of God in this world is misleading, because He never appears in a body made from flesh and bones. Therefore, the word “avatara” (one who descends) is better.

“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 source of all sources.” (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

There are different categories of avataras, according to their functions. There are lila-avataras (incarnations for pastimes), yuga-avataras (incarnations for certain millenniums), purusa-avataras (incarnations for creation and maintenance of the material world), guna-avataras (incarnations in charge of the different modes of material nature), and several others.

This is only a short synapsis of a complex topic, which we should see at another moment.

All these avataras possess the same power and their names, forms and activities are all eternal and purely transcendental. However, in the material world we also find the devas, which is a different concept.

The devas individual souls who have been endowed with special powers which they use for the maintenance of the universe. Devas are known as Brahma, Siva, Durga, Surya, Ganesh, Indra, etc. Their forms are made of material energy, and although they may live for many millions of years, they perish when the material universe is annihilated.

Energies of the Absolute

Absolute manifests three principle energies: Antaranga sakti, the internal energy, bahiranga sakti, the external energy, and tathasta sakti, the marginal energy.

God’s internal energy is His personal, confidential energy. In Her presence the Absolute becomes perfectly visible and understandable. Her nature is pure love.

God’s external energy is the material world or maya, the energy that bewilders the living beings and makes them forget their own identity and their relationship with the Absolute. Her nature is duality and ignorance.

God’s marginal energy is the living entities. They are situated in between the internal and external energies and may exist in either of these. But because their inherent nature is spiritual, the living entities can only be happy inside the internal or spiritual energy.