Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 3: The Nature of God (2)

The most immediate objection to Hare Krishnas' theological personalism from those influenced by impersonalism comes from their impression that when we say “God has a body,” we have to mean a material body like yours or mine. Some impersonalists or semi-impersonalists might verbally object; others might react with benign patronization of us – wishing us well on our path, no matter how weird or silly it might seem to them. Some might even respond (externally or internally) with “WHAT? HOW BLASPHEMOUS! GET OUT OF HERE! How dare you speak of the Supreme Almighty God in such a way?! How can anyone be so ignorant??” And this reaction of theirs would be absolutely appropriate, if anyone did say such a stupid thing as that God has a material body.  

But there are big differences between our bodies and God's. Ours are perceivable by our present material senses; His isn't – unless, that is, He chooses to make Himself visible and tangible to us, which He seldom wants to do except for those devotees who are 100% pure in heart, with no faults whatever. Ours are full of ignorance where His is full of all knowledge. Ours can give us pain whereas His is full of nothing but bliss. Ours are temporary – able to be killed, and certain to die in the end – whereas His is invincible and eternal.

When these points have been clarified, the next objection is “Well, how can anyone believe that the Unlimited has some kind of body – even a spiritual one? Doesn't a body necessarily impose limits on His extension – doesn't a form automatically make Him measurable and therefore finite?”

The answer is that this type of thinking, too, is based on our material conditioning (i.e., our having lived in this material world for so long and being accustomed to the way stuff works here). Here in this world, with material forms all around us, the idea that “form means something limited” is very correct, logical and reasonable. However, things work differently on the spiritual plane, and God's (Krsna's) body is pure spirit. The Vedic scriptures describe many wonderful things that He's able to do with His spiritual body, which would be completely impossible with a material body. For one thing, He can separate endless “portions” out of Himself (living personalities who are endowed with different percentages of His nature and qualities), or even multiply Himself into many equally powerful forms / copies of Himself, and yet His original form remains full and complete. A material form, if something is removed from it or if it's divided into many, becomes diminished – as Srila Prabhupada says, in the material world, 1 - 1 = 0; but the spiritual realm is the absolute plane, where 1 - 1 = 1. So this is one way of explaining how God's / Krsna's form can be unlimited: you can take from Him endlessly yet He remains as full and complete as before.

Then there are the many accounts of how Krsna's devotees failed in attempts to accurately measure His body, and found out instead that He was truly infinite, although He appeared before their eyes in what looked like a measurable form. Mother Yasoda (the foremost devotee who eternally serves Him in the mood of a mother) saw the entire universe within His mouth, including herself holding Him on her lap, which conjures up images of infinity. (Was there another, smaller universe in the mouth of that small form of the Lord that she saw inside His mouth? And were she and her divine son, and the universe they were enacting their pastimes in, also within the mouth of some unimaginably gigantic form of the Lord??? And so on and so forth.) Another time, Mother Yasoda kept trying and trying to tie Krsna up with ropes as a way of putting Him in “time out” for being naughty, but no matter how many long ropes she tied together, when she attempted to encircle His waist with them, they always came up two inches too short. How could any number of ropes be successful in encircling the unlimited Lord – even if He had taken the form of a small boy in order to give pleasure to His beloved Mother Yasoda? And I have heard a couple different versions of pastimes in which the Lord is put on one side of a balance scale, but no matter how many heavy material goods are piled on the other side, He can't be lifted off the ground; not until something else of incalculable spiritual value is placed on the other side can He finally be lifted. So in spite of having a form that looks like ours in many ways, and looks like it could be measurable, the fact is that the Absolute Lord and Sum Total of All can never actually be measured.

To be continued...

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