In the fourth and final part of this series, Acharya das delves into the topic of God. In particular, he addresses the question, “Is there a God or Absolute Truth?” From the ancient Vedas and the yoga perspective, he explains the three experiences of God realization, namely Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan, and describes the experience and consciousness that result from these different types of spiritual realization.

Verses quoted:

Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān.  – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 1.2.11

“Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord and knows His glories—at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties.”  Mundaka Upanisad, 3.1.2 & Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.7

The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.  – Bhagavad-gītā  18.61

The Lord’s beauty resembles a dark cloud during the rainy season. As the rainfall glistens, His bodily features also glisten. Indeed, He is the sum total of all beauty. The Lord has four arms and an exquisitely beautiful face with eyes like lotus petals, a beautiful highly raised nose, a mind-attracting smile, a beautiful forehead and equally beautiful and fully decorated ears.  – Bhāgavata Purāṇa  4.24.45-46

Yogis meditate upon the localized Paramatma situated in the heart, jnanis worship the impersonal Brahman as the Supreme Absolute Truth, and devotees worship Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose transcendental body is described in the sastras.  – Bhāgavata Purāṇa  5.7.7

Namaste and welcome. So we have the final part in this series of course there’s always a possibility we may do a Q and A but there’s probably going to be some many questions it might be difficult fit into just one or two sessions. So we may just do it with a 4.

The topic today is the question of God. Is there a God or is there an Absolute Truth? Well, the Vedas speak about an Absolute Truth or God but what they say speak about is that there are three aspects to this highest truth. That’s quite an unusual idea somebody might say “Well isn’t that kind of like Catholicism?” In certain parts of Christianity where they speak about a trinity and the way it is spoken about in the Vedas is different and I would just make the point that for those that are somewhat familiar with ideas or concepts connected with Hinduism and this includes people in the Yoga communities. I am not speaking here about what is called “The Trinity” of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, that is a different concept, that is a different spiritual reality. What we are speaking here is the ultimate truth, the highest truth, the absolute truth and how it manifests in three features.

These three different features of the Absolute Truth result in three different types of experience with that truth or realization of that truth. So in Sanskrit and this is the oldest way in which the Absolute Truth is presented in the Vedas and I’ll speak about what that means in a moment, or in a short while. So these three aspects of the highest truth have names, one is called “Brahman” next is called is “Paramatma” and the third is called “Bhagavan.” In the Bhagavat Puran as well in other Vedic texts it speaks directly about this “Brahmiti…” literally translated it means learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. So this is actually a very deep, philosophical point that the Absolute Truth is one, it is none duo, it is one yet it has these three features. And if one is to deny or not consider these three aspects or features then one is in fact not accepting this very ancient Vedic truth.

So just like when we spoken in the last talk about self-realization results in three different transcendental experiences: the realization of my spiritual essence, the realizations of my position and natural function and how I had said that the third type of realization of my natural function automatically contains the other two aspects of self-realization in a very similar manner. The realization of the highest truth is always considered perfect realization, complete realization, transcendental realization however, there is a need to appreciate that there are different degrees of perfection. The realization of Brahman is considered perfect. The realization of Paramatma is considered, and they put it this way, more perfect and the realization of Bhagavan is categorized as most perfect, all of them are perfect but they are different degrees of experience related to these different realizations.

So the first realization is, what is categorized as the impersonal feature of God. Myself growing up in a Christian and Roman Catholic family and my experience with Christianity, different forms of Christianity, led me to come to the conclusion in my early years, very early teenage years, that there must be something wrong because I felt an experience that the way in which God or the highest truth was portrayed it had to be somewhat of an invention or a distortion. This idea that God is an old guy who is sitting around judging his children and if they do something to—I was going to say piss him off and I shouldn’t probably say that but I said it anyway— that he is now going to eternally condemn you. Not just punish you once and it’s all over like even severely but for all eternity you will be tormented and made to suffer with unrelenting suffering. That did not sit well with me as a child even because I’m thinking “I wouldn’t do that to someone and I can’t believe that God would have a higher sense of justice and fairness and love than I would and I wouldn’t do that to someone.” So for whatever reason, and we’re not going got get into the reasons, there are many conceptions that people have of God that are actually not really accurate, not well understood or misunderstood. So when I became introduced to this impersonal feature of God through studying Yoga, the mystic Yoga system at a young age it was like “Ahh what a relief” this idea that this vast spiritual energy of just love and goodness and everything it seemed to be bigger than my concept of a person and therefore it must be more Godly or must be more spiritual.

This impersonal feature of God does exist and it is experienced by Brahman realized Yogis or those that have this experience of being able to leave the body through the Kundalini experience and to merge into this ocean of light. It is such an overwhelmingly, utterly liberating and beautiful experience that people sometimes end up, not sometimes actually quite often drawing erroneous conclusions. Now what happens is when the living being merges into this ocean of effulgence the experience is not one of individuality. You lose your awareness of being and individual and in fact if one in the early stages of such an experience begins to suddenly become aware of individual experience, it immediately pulls them out of that spiritual experience. So this is an experience of oneness with a greater spiritual energy. It is the understanding, as they state in the Vedas: “Aham Brahmasmi” “I am Brahman” this is my spiritual essence, I am Brahman, I am spiritual. And my merging into this ocean of spiritual energy would lead me to conclude that God is ultimately impersonal and I am also impersonal and it’s like taking a drop of water and merging back into an ocean of water where you lose this individual characteristic or this individual existence but in spite of this being an incredibly wonderful experience and realization and a fully transcendental one it is not a full revelation of the truth of my own existence, who I am nor of an experience of God or some Absolute Truth.

So in the Yogic process there was a very intense focus on the second aspect of God realization known as “Paramatma.” This word “Atma” is means the self, it describes who I am as a spiritual being, “Atma” and the word “Param” means supreme so “Paramatma” means the Supreme Atma. In the Vedas it’s speaks to the reality “Nityo…” this first two lines of a mantra are used and found in two of the different Upanishads and it says that amongst Nityo means eternal, amongst all eternals, Nityanam this is a plural, amongst all the vast ocean of eternal there is one eternal who is different and Supreme. “Chaitananam…” “Chaitananam” means amongst all conscious beings there is one that is supreme.

This is spoken of also by Patangali that in the Yoga Sutra, Patangali speaks of this Ishvara which means the Supreme Controller as being a Purusha Nishesha. This term “Purusha” is used to identify the spiritual being. We are all Purushas but amongst all Purushas there is one Param Purusha, on Supreme Purusha and Patangali identifies him by the name Ishvara which means Supreme controller and describes him as being as a Visesa Purusha, he is a special Purusha and goes on to speak of his qualities. This is known as Paramatma, this is called the localized feature of God as person. It is a form of the Lord that resides within the heart of all living beings. So in both the Mundaka and Svetasvatara Upanishad there is this verse  “Although there are two birds residing in the same tree”, this tree is reference to the body, “There are two birds residing in the same tree on of this bird is busily eating the fruit of tree and the other one is observing.” And so it describes the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness in as the enjoyer of the fruits of this tree but if it in some way or another he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord and knows his glories at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties. So it gives us actually a really beautiful description of within this body which is liken to a tree. There two birds residing, one is busily engaged in the activities connected with this tree trying to experience different fruits and the other on the eternal friend of the first bird is simply waiting for the bird to turn and recognize its eternal friend. In the Bhagavad-Gita we have a beautiful verse that describes that the “Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart Oh Arjuna and is directing the wonderings of all living entities who are seated as on a machine made of the material energy.”  So, again we have this description where the body is like a machine made of material energy. There is a driver within that is the living being and within the heart of hearts sits another personality the, Supreme Lord, as Paramatma.

The objective of all the sincere Yoga practitioners in ancient times was to come to realize this feature, this was the focus. I think many people are familiar with the great Yogi of modern times he is so well known his name is Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya was from South India and he is considered the father of Yoga as it is known in the Western World. Although many people don’t know very much about him he was a great proponent of the Ashtanga Yoga process and system. But many people are unaware of what was his personal practices and how he viewed things. A lot of people have only taken—for instance the way he thought asana, the physical aspect of Yoga, these physical postures and unaware of how he lived as a Yogi and what was his spiritual undertakings or practices. He wrote towards the end of his life a very beautiful poem Anjali Saram which means literally, Anjali is like an offering of Yoga and in that he wrote one verse that speaks to this realization of the second aspect of the highest truth known as Paramatma. He said “Seeing the beauty of the Lord in his heart, whose consort is the Goddess Laksmi, the Lord who supports the universe. The Yogi dancing with joy is lost in this vision.” That this realization of what is called of what is called Lord Paramatma was so, it is beyond my ability to describe the spiritual joy, the ecstatic happiness that the Yogis would experience in coming into contact, been giving spiritual vision of this form of the Lord within the heart.

I will read one verse or there’s actually two verses from Bhagavat Purana that describes what it is like to have this vision. This is the vision of the great transcendentalists, the Yogis who have come to the platform of Paramatma realization , this is what they see. It describes a form of the Lord which stands upon a lotus in the region of the heart. “The Lord’s beauty resembles a dark cloud during the rainy season as the rainfall glistens his bodily features are also glistening indeed he is the sum total of all beauty. The Lord has 4 arms and an exquisitely beautiful face with eyes like lotus petals, a beautiful highly raised nose, a mind attracting smile, a beautiful forehead, an equally beautiful and fully decorated ears.” For someone that is not exposed to Vedic thought and spirituality this immediately becomes quite startling because often people in the Western World been exposed to what I will call a limited understanding of God, they may come to the conclusion that God couldn’t possible be a person and the reason they come to that conclusion is that because their experience with personalities of this world is that personalities are limited and they have defects and flaws and therefore they draw the erroneous conclusion that they couldn’t possibly be a spiritual personality, a spiritual form that this in all ways perfect but that is a reality that is spoken of in the Vedas and the experiences of  Paramatma realization of the Yogis speak about this. And they speak about having had this vision one wants nothing else. It is induces such an amazing experience of spiritual ecstasy that the Yogi wants nothing else of this world. Nothing here attracts them and this is not a fanciful creation, it is not a product of the mind it is a result of a true spiritual vision of revelation, this feature.

The third feature of the Absolute Truth is also personal in nature. This feature is known as “Bhagavan” but unlike the feature of God known as “Paramatam” who exists or manifests rather within the material creation and sits within the heart of all living beings the feature of Bhagavan, this feature of the Absolute Truth, resides within a spiritual world or a spiritual dimension. Just as we are living here within a material world or material dimension there is also another spiritual dimension. The material dimension is a perverted reflection of another perfect spiritual reality and this feature of the Absolute Truth known as Bhagavan is categorized as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Using these terms like “Godhead” are little bit difficult for people that are not trained in this type of philosophical thinking but this feature of the Supreme Lord is spoken about extensively within the Vedas. When a person has Paramatma realization there is this instant accompanying realization of my spiritual position. The realization of God as the impersonal effulgence known as “Brahaman” means that I individually have a realization and experience of my being spiritual.  When that occurs instantly all fear and anxiety evaporates because fear and anxiety are tied to this idea that I have a temporary existence that I will die. The spiritual experience of being, realizing that I am spirit, “Aham Brahamasmi” this  actual, not just a thought but the experience means instantly all—there is there evaporation of anxiety and fearfulness. When one encounters the second feature of the Absolute Truth of God as Lord Paramatma there is this instant awareness that this is my Lord, the Lord of my heart and I am subordinate to him and this becomes a foundational experience or form of self-realization of my natural position. The realization of Bhagavan this realization of a Supreme Personality of Godhead instantly awakens my experience with my natural function which is this explosion of profound and deep spiritual love where I become immersed in an ocean of love and I am overwhelmed with a desire to simply be pleasing to this amazing spiritual personality that I am completely and overwhelming in love with. And it results in the most profound spiritual ecstasies that are so intense and so wonderful a that having experienced this the living being wants nothing else. One becomes completely lost in this amazing, wonderful, spiritual experience that is not distant but it is very intimate and close where I have a profoundly deep and wonderful personal exchange with the highest object of love. This love object love being the all-attractive Lord of my own heart.

So these are the three ways in which a transcendentalist realizes the highest truth or God. These are the three ways which God is manifest according to an individual’s desire they will have a focus on one of these feature of the Absolute Truth. When one is able to realize the personal feature of God as Bhagavan, one will be awarded with the most complete and the most profoundly wonderful realization and experience. So just as a confirmation of that there is a famous Vedic text which states: “The Yogis meditate upon the localized Paramatma situated in the heart. The Giannis or the Gianna Yogis worship the impersonal Brahman as the Supreme Absolute Truth and the Bhaktas or the devotees worship Vasudeva the Supreme Personality of Godhead whose transcendental body is described in the Vedas.” So this is the actual goal of the Yoga process and it is in fact the meaning of the word “Yoga”. Yoga indicates or speaks to a “union” between the individual being, the atma and the Supreme. And that union in the experience of merging into a spiritual effulgence, it may be in relation to the witnessing, the seeing and embracing within my heart this feature of the Lord known as Paramatma which is personal and manifest within the hearts of all being within the material world or it may be more completely experienced when one is able to come to know, experience and feel this completely awakening of spiritual love with the feature known as Bhagavan.

In closing I would just like to make mention that in the Vedas it speaks about this Spiritual love which is known as “Prema” resides eternally within the heart of hearts of all living beings, it is part of your natural function and through the activities associated with this path of devotion known as “Bhakti”. And particularly with this process of Kirtan meditation, this collectively and together chanting these transcendental sounds, it automatically awakens this natural love resides within all of our hearts and leads us to this realization and experience of this personal feature of God.

So with that I would like to thank you all very very much for joining us and since I have spoken about this personal feature of God who is often addressed in the Vedas as “Krishna” which means the all attractive, it’s the literal meaning of Krishna, the all attractive. I mean in every way, everything connected with this feature of God is so attractive that all living beings in their uncontaminated state will be instantly drawn to this feature of this highest truth or God.

So we will chant a mantra with the name of Krishna known as the “Mahamantra” and invite you to chant with us.