And um... tell me WHO's affected by material consciousness again?! I've said this before, but to me it seems worth repeating: impersonalists patronize personalists for “anthropomorphizing God,” yet their own assumption that anything that has form, moves about and enjoys relationships is automatically something temporary and material just because that's all they've ever come in contact with here in this world seems to betray an awfully conditioned consciousness.
How can our concept of the Divine be considered complete without a personal aspect? Why should man's idea of the possibilities that exist include only a non-differentiated, non-variegated eternal reality – which implies that anything more complex would necessarily degrade with time? What a simplistic view! Why shouldn't God's Being include an eternal personal aspect as well? He wouldn't be the Complete Whole without that, nor would he be so complicated as to be inconceivable to our tiny human minds, and without being inconceivable – without containing every single permutation of possibility simultaneously and harmonizing all of them incomprehensibly into a single flawlessly beautiful and perfect whole, how could he merit the title of God?! A God that fits neatly into our small, limited minds that like everything to be simple and sensible is no God worth the name in my book! My idea of God is the source of endless wonders, more and more amazing the deeper you go!!!
The Mayavadis' idea of what the spiritual realm contains, and what life on that plane is like, is pretty blank. We (Hare Krishnas/Vaisnavas or other personalists) just fill that blank in. :D How much they miss by not being aware of the richness, the variety, the beauty, and the full depth of pleasure and satisfaction that are available within the purely transcendental spiritual realm! Their ideas are so dessicated, limited, deprived, and tragically unhealthy in comparison with the unlimited bliss-ocean of the Vaikuntha planets, where personal devotion to the Lord flourishes eternally in endless varieties and flavors.
To crown it all, in an intimate devotional relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, according to Vaisnava sources, the Lord is often more than happy to let His devotee boss Him around. One famous example is how Lord Krsna acted as His devotee Arjuna's chariot-driver, which is a very menial position. The Lord feels even more blissful around devotees who play the part of His parents, who fuss over Him, give Him instructions meant for His protection and well-being, and punish Him if they deem it necessary, than He does around those who adore Him with awe and reverence and are quick to carry out His orders. In romantic love, He enjoys being henpecked by bossy lovers who are huffy and particular (but who truly have nothing except His happiness cherished as the whole goal of their hearts). By enviously competing with God (“No, I don't believe in any Supreme Lord over me! I'd hate to be some underling, the 'eternal servant' of another – ugh! I prefer to believe that anyone who has ever been treated by others as 'God' in the past is really just an enlightened being on our own level, and that we've all got the potential to rise to that stage and 'be God' ourselves!”), Mayavadis deprive themselves of the delight of the most intimate relationship possible (which is what we're all longing for in our heart of hearts, whether we're in touch with that part of ourselves or not) – one of complete trust and vulnerability, one in which the Lord is our eternally loyal best friend, who knows us inside and out and would never let us down, who would fulfill all of our wildest dreams – the only one who is capable of making us happy to our maximum capacity and even beyond. And the irony is that if they would only soften their hearts and increase their respect towards Him, stop hurting Him by pretending that the version of “bhakti” they preach truly represents love or devotion to Him at all, or anything other than a tool or crutch they wish to make use of to leverage themselves up to the height at which they can take His place and then throw away their relationship with Him as “no longer needed”... if they would only become true lovers, friends, and supporters of our precious Lord... not only would their wildest dreams be fulfilled and their happiness assured, but also, since they'd earn His trust, eventually He'd be glad to let them boss Him around, because He really enjoys that in intimate relationships with those whom He trusts. Instead of depriving themselves of everything enjoyable in the name of their stubborn independence and competitive desire to become God, which at best they can achieve only on a level of equality with everyone else, if they surrender to the love of God and agree to trust and serve Him, far from accepting an eternally degraded or humiliating position, they will find themselves possessed of every delight, honored by all, and having the Omnipotent Lord, who can create and destroy worlds in the blink of an eye, wound around their little finger. How is that for power, good fortune, and enviable position?!
Can you see how Vaisnava philosophy is healthier than Mayavada? How it's optimistic, sweet, trusting, open and loving rather than pessimistic, guarded, burned by past bad experience? Now, which one should serve as the template for the most ideal and healthy religious culture? If you've had bad experiences yourself with relationships, you may say that Mayavada is better because it doesn't set anybody up for any shocking, painful disappointments. It allows you to escape and have your precious peace and “independence,” at least for a little while until you get bored. Better eliminate all suffering even at the cost of some spectacular highs, you say. But there you go: You're expecting something bad to happen. Why do that? Why not expect good? Without being capable of trusting and expecting good, we'll never be able to be vulnerable enough to have deep and satisfying relationships. “Impersonal” doesn't say “healthy and happy” to me, because if you didn't notice, we're persons. As such, how can we ever be satisfied by something non-personal? No matter what the price to be paid, we will always, irresistibly, go back again and again to the personal relationship, hoping and trying over and over to find that one in which we can be fully vulnerable, open and trusting, because as persons, nothing else can possibly ever fully satisfy us.
Solutions: Start with scriptures that present a detailed, balanced and lovable picture of a Personality of Godhead; then reinforce the positive conception by training children with love so that they'll grow up resonating with these messages about a kind, loving and trustworthy Lord rather than with some concept of God as an abusive jerk.
All right, I've spent a long time now arguing in favor of so-called “anthropomorphic” religious ideas – making the case that they're actually a healthier and better form of religion than impersonalism and that they'll be more beneficial and congenial to human society. But I imagine that those of you who've seen dangers ensue when the personal-God concept is abused, who've perhaps even been burned yourselves by the more judgmental and harsh forms of it, will still be feeling hesitant to agree. Thus, I will close with a Wikipedia quote revealing that India of old, the motherland of my own brand of personalism, was famed for ages as a sanctuary for those of all religious persuasions.
“Religious freedom and the right to worship freely were practices that had been appreciated and promoted by most ancient Indian dynasties. As a result, people fleeing religious persecution in other parts of the world including Christians, Jews, Bahá'í Faith and Zoroastrians fled to India as a place of refuge to enjoy religious freedom.
“Ancient Jews fleeing from persecution in their homeland 2,500 years ago settled in India and never faced anti-Semitism. … Many scholars and intellectuals believe that India's predominant religion, Hinduism, has long been most tolerant religion.
“The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile said that religious tolerance of 'Aryabhoomi,' a reference to India found in Mahabharata, has been in existence in this country from thousands of years. 'Not only Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism which are the native religions but also Christianity and Islam have flourished here. Religious tolerance is inherent in Indian tradition,' the Dalai Lama said.”
To be continued...