CHENNAI: In the material world, there are a few negative qualities like frustration, immorality, ignorance — all of these come from the back of the universal form of the Lord. People who unfortunately have the rear view of the Lord tend to become impersonalists and those who are fortunate to have the front view of the universal form of the Lord are blessed to have the personal understanding.
In Srila Prabhupada’s writings there is a strong opposition to the impersonal understanding. When Rupa Goswami gives a definition of uttama bhakti in his famous Bhakti rasamrita sindhu, he mentions it should be free from the desires of understanding of the impersonal aspect of God.
Rupa Goswami says anyabhilasita sunyam — a pure devotee has no other desires and also he is freed from jnana karmady anavrtam, knowledge which leads to the conclusion of merging with Brahman and karma anavrtam means that understanding by which one desires to enjoy the results of their activities, either in this life or their next life.
All of these are considered impediments on the path of uttama bhakti. In Prabhupada’s pranama mantra we sing — nirvisesa sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine. Nirvesasa vada means that impersonal realization, sunyavada is actually another version of impersonal realization which says that the ultimate truth is void. Nirvisesa vadis say the ultimate truth is Brahman who has no characteristics.
Srila Prabhupada said in his poem absolute is sentient. Sentient means living being, you can offer your prayers to the absolute, the absolute will respond. So lively that absolute must be, but unfortunately impersonalists present the absolute as impersonal.
This is how Gaudiya Vaishnavism views impersonalism, and it is a calamity. Because the absolute is sentient, is full of life, the spiritual kingdom is full of ananda cinmaya rasa, full of spiritual relationships. Instead of appreciating all of that and saying that absolute is simply some kind of an impersonal void, and the soul has to merge into that. It is a spiritual calamity to have this kind of an impersonal understanding.
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the supreme abode of the Lord is where every step is a dance, every word is a song. Even water is nectar — this is what Brahma samhita explains, and that wonderful abode of the Supreme Lord has been trivialized and finally the impersonalists say that realization is that you must know that you are a soul and that soul merges and becomes one with that infinite soul and that is it.
Srila Prabhupada mentions that we come across these kinds of arguments both in Indian philosophy and among the western philosophers. Some people strongly argue that God is personal, some people strongly argue God is impersonal. But actually the Supreme Absolute Truth is complete and all inclusive. The perfect description of the Lord holds that He is both impersonal and personal simultaneously.
The Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta or the Bhagavatam teaches that the ultimate aspect of the Absolute Truth is purusa. That is why adi purusa is Govinda. Krishna is the adi purusa, that is a important aspect of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism there is the search for the source of everything and that ultimate source is Krishna and the effulgence that is coming from His body which is actually the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth which is non different from the personal aspect because it is advayam — it is Absolute. At the same time although there is an impersonal aspect, the effulgence, but still Krishna has His own individuality, has His own existence and He revels in the spiritual world performing wonderful pastimes with His devotees.
We say that there is an impersonal aspect but the ultimate aspect or the original aspect of the Absolute Truth is Krishna. Prabhupada explains that — On the contrary since the body is the complete whole of everything that be, one cannot assert that he is impersonal only. The Personality of Godhead is the original feature of the Lord and His impersonal emanation is but the reflection of His transcendental body.
Those who are fortunate enough to have a view of the Lord from the front can realize His personal feature whereas those who are frustrated and have the view of the Lord from the back, realize Him in His impersonal feature. And even in Gita Krishna explains that because of bhaya and krodha there is a kind of a deep seated anger and frustration; and because of such emotions people land up with conclusions of impersonal feature.
Krishna explains that many people who have become freed from vita raga bhaya krodha, freed from attachment to the material world, bhaya, fear and krodha, anger. This fear and anger Prabhupada explains is a philosophical frustration and that there are many conflicting philosophies, one contradicting the other.
The virata purusa description about the back of the Lord from which frustration, fear, death, anger — all of these negative qualities come about and Prabhupada links that with the impersonal realization.