God’s Personal and Impersonal Features – Part 1

The following is an excerpt from a discussion following a seminar in Terre de Ciel:

Part I

Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji: We accept some kind of God who is the Creator and Manager, but is He a personal being or an impersonal manifestation? What do you say?

Reply: He is certainly impersonal because he is everywhere.

Babaji: Let’s have a little debate on that subject of God. Does anyone here believe that God is impersonal?

Reply: What does personal mean? Is he like us?

Babaji: It means He has personality and individuality, a feeling of “I am,” but not necessarily a form like ours, or a beard like mine [laughter]. Impersonal means like air, without individuality.

Now the next question is, why do you think that God is impersonal?

Reply: Because God can be everywhere and manifest everywhere.

Babaji: Please try to understand. Something impersonal doesn’t have identity, it cannot think, because thinking means a person. If someone is able to manifest himself/herself/itself, that must be a person. If you can think “I,” it means you distinguish it from “you.” But if I am everywhere, it means I am not different from everything else and there is no individual “I.” Something impersonal cannot move, because it is everywhere. So where could it move? Only a person can move from here to here. Something impersonal can also not think or do anything. Energy can’t think, so if God is energy, he can’t think.

Can you please give me one example of energy that has personality and can think?

Reply: He doesn’t think, he just acts spontaneously.

Babaji: How can you act without thinking?

Reply: If you are God, you don’t have to think, it happens spontaneously.

Babaji: How can you  act without form? Energy is formless.

Reply: Is matter energy?

Babaji: Matter is energy only when it is converted to energy. By itself it is not a form of energy. For example, you can’t drink water through the eyes, although the eyes are solidified water. Similarly, matter is solidified energy and therefore has different characteristics than energy. What energy can do, matter can’t do. Similarly, what matter can do, energy cannot. What the eyes can do, water can’t do. Whatever water can do, the eyes can’t do.

Reply:  What about steam?

Babaji: Steam has form. It isn’t just energy, steam has energy in it. Steam is just water which contains energy in the form of heat. Water plus the heat energy is equal to steam. You take out the heat from it and you have again water.

Now who thinks that God has personality? Please, say something.

Reply: God has personality because He is thinking and has a form; everything of the material world is Him and He is everywhere as personal and impersonal aspect.

Babaji: This is quite a good perception. When people say that God is impersonal and energy, it is a little problematic because it sounds as if God cannot be a person. They think if God is a person, He must be limited. Because according to our experience, if someone has personality, it limits him to a particular space and time. We say God is everywhere, but a person can be present only in one place. If you are in this room, you cannot be in the next room. Therefore God can’t be a person. People have this problem in their minds.

On the other hand, if we believe that God is a Creator and Manager, then He must have personality. The truth is that in case of God, both are needed. God must have personality, because in order to act, He also has to think. He may also need to speak. Although He is doing everything, He also appoints people with certain tasks or instructs them. And He needs a face to talk, because energy can’t talk.

We say God is everywhere, but how can someone who has personality be everywhere? Only some impersonal energy can be everywhere, but not any manifestation of personality. How to solve this problem? We cannot solve it if we are thinking in terms of our own experience. In God’s case, He maintains His all-pervading nature and simultaneously manifests His personal form. For us it sounds like a paradox, because we are used to thinking in Aristotelian logic, but there is also another logic which is called “paradoxical.” In paradoxical logic, things can be the same and different at the same time.

Here is a practical example of that: In quantum physics, there is a paradox of light which is called “wave particle theory.” This is a problem which science has been struggling with for the last 90 years and has no solution for it. They try to figure out if light is a wave or a particle (photon). Interestingly, during the experiment something strange happens. In the famous double-slit experiment, light behaves like a wave, when perceived as a wave, and it behaves as a particle, when they want to see it as a particle. It is obviously very confusing because both of these manifestations of light have opposite qualities.

Similarly, the impersonal and personal manifestations of God also have opposite qualities. The personal aspect is like a particle situated in one place, and the impersonal aspect is like a wave which spreads around. So if light can behave in this way, why not God, who is much more than the light? God is both, He is a person and yet He is all-pervading.

When Krishna was here 5,000 years ago, He has shown this. There are many stories about Krishna which all have philosophical implications. It is philosophy presented in the form of stories. One such story (the Damodara-lila) about Krishna as a small boy in Vrindavan depicts the idea of the impersonal and personal form of God.

(to be continued)

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