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by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

God Michealangelo

What the punctuation in the title indicates:

Quotation marks: Draping the word God in quotation marks indicates that we are first concerned with the signifier, not the signified. (Compare these two sentences: I am interested in God. I am interested in “God.”)

Question mark: The mark of interrogation backstopping “God” points us next to questions concerning the concept or idea of God. What does it mean? Aren’t there many different meanings? Isn’t the meaning often vague or ambiguous?

The mark directs us further to questions concerning the existence of God. Is there any real entity denoted by the word God? Is there any way to conclusively answer this question?

 A Lesson in Vedanta

The conception of God and the conception of Absolute Truth are not on the same level. The Srimad Bhagavatam hits on the target of the Absolute Truth. The conception of God indicates the controller, whereas the conception of the Absolute Truth indicates the summum bonum or the ultimate source of all energies. There is no difference of opinion about the personal feature of God as the controller because a controller cannot be impersonal. . . . Because there are different controllers for different managerial positions, there may be many small gods . . . with various specific powers, but the Absolute Truth is one without a second. This Srimad Bhagavatam designates the Absolute Truth or the summum bonum as the param satyam.

The author of Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva, first offers his respectful obeisances unto the param satyam (Absolute Truth), and because the param satyam is the ultimate source of all energies, the param satyam is the Supreme Person. The gods or the controllers are undoubtedly persons, but the param satyam from whom the gods derive powers of control is the Supreme Person. The Sanskrit word ishvara (controller) conveys the import of God, but the Supreme Person is called the parameshvara, or the supreme ishvara . The Supreme Person, or parameshvara, is the supreme conscious personality, and because He does not derive any power from any other source, He is supremely independent.

—Shrila Prabhupada, Introduction to Srimad Bhagavatam

Where does everything come from?
Everything comes either from something or from nothing.

When the answer is nothing, it sometimes turns out to be a very special, hyper-potent kind of nothing. Not just nothing but Nothing. In other words, a unique kind of something (after all).

When the answer is nothing, it sometimes turns out to be a special inscrutable something, beyond all possible modes of understanding or investigation. Nothing is really a “No Trespassing” sign. (Or: “You don’t belong in the physics department; you should go to the religion department.”)

When the answer is nothing, it sometimes turns out that the “everything” that (seemingly) comes from it is really nothing also. Nothing makes no things: No problem!

Radha Krishna and Gopis

image: Radha, Krishna and the 8 principal gopis (angels) from the Vaishnava tradition of ancient India. God (Krishna) is viewed as the All-attractive Person with a supreme feminine counterpart (Radha) 


Vedanta settles for something. A special unique something: param satyam or brahman “the ultimate source of all energies.”janmadyasya yatah (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.2)

In the Upanishads, this ultimate source is described as so complete or full (purnam) that however much is taken away from it, it remains complete.

By contrast, I am not purna. I am a dependent, contingent being. I require regular supplies—each day so much food, water, air, light, heat, and so on. If I trace back the supply chain I will reach (according to the Vedas) the empowered universal supply agents, the devas—lords of the sun, moon, wind, rain, soil, and so on. As they distribute, their own stores becomes depleted, and they themselves need resupply. Following back the chain of dependence, we reach finally a singular and unique being who produces endless supplies and who never needs resupply, remaining full. This the self-sustaining sustainer of all others is the param satyam.

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