When we were born, we were tiny beings, a few pounds and just about a foot and a half long. Over the years, we have grown so much bigger that when we see our own birthday photo, we hardly recognize ourselves. This change did not happen overnight. It has taken many years of continual change to create this effect. The changes from year to year happened month by month. The changes from month to month happened day by day. The changes from day to day happened hour by hour. We can conclude that change is happening every second, indeed every fraction of a second, although we do not easily perceive these minute, constant, instantaneous changes.
Something that changes every fraction of a second cannot be called “stable.” In fact, it is difficult to even delineate or define something that changes all the time. Our only recourse is to look for some stable qualities in the changing object. Our entire body does not change all at once, for example. Some things change from Moment A to Moment B, but perhaps, other things remain between Moment A and B, changing from Moment B to C. These overlapping changes make it easy for us to recognize our bodies from moment to moment, day to day, month to month, and year to year.
Is there something in us that unites all of the changing states we have gone through? Yes, that thing is what we talk about when we talk about our “being.” The concept of being is expressed in the most basic sense by using by the verb “to be” (which takes familiar forms like “is,” “are,” and “am”). Being is common to both states of an object—before and after its change. Even when an object changes beyond recognition, its being does not change. It still exists. It still “is.”
Being is the existential potency (sat śakti) of Bhagavān. It is the all-pervading essence of existence itself. Thus, we see two principles in the world around us. One is the changing principle: saṁsāra—“that which is always in flux.” The other is the unchanging, foundational principle: vāsudeva—that in which everything exists and which is the essence of all that exists.
In saṁsāra, we usually consider ourselves a physical body separate from the world around us. In truth, however, there is no difference between a body and the world around it; they are made of the same ingredients. Śrī Kṛṣṇa describes these ingredients as the “separated energy,” bhinnā–prakṛti (Gītā 7.4), which undergoes constant transformation. This transformation centers around a stable, non-transforming core principle, called jīva.
The body and world of saṁsāra cannot exist without the conscious life force, jīva. Therefore the jīva is described as vāsudeva—the master and true essence of existence. The jīva, in turn, is a part of Viṣṇu and cannot exist without Him (Gītā 15.7). Therefore, the ultimate Vāsudeva is Viṣṇu.
The changing states of saṁsāra are not entirely “real.” The logic to understand this is as follows: If something exists before and after the current moment, its existence in the current moment is truly “real.” But if something that seems to exist in the current moment did not exist in the previous moment or will not exist in the next, then it is not entirely “real.” Śrī Kṛṣṇa explained this logic to Uddhava (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.28.21), “That which did not exist in the past or will not exist in the future has no existence in the middle. It exists in name only.”
The things that manifest in saṁsāra did not exist before they were created and will not exist after they are destroyed, which means that they do not truly exist even at present. Only Bhagavān existed before all creations and exists after all dissolutions. Thus it is only Bhagavān who is truly real. He explained this to Brahmā (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.9.35): “In the beginning, I alone certainly did exist and no other, whether sat, asat or beyond both. Afterward, I am, for both this cosmos and what remains are also I.”
Thus, Vāsudeva is the only true reality. No other manifestation of reality can exist without Him. In fact, He is the essence of all manifestations of reality. This is why Śrī Kṛṣṇa proclaimed to Arjuna, “After many births, a person surrenders to Me because he gains wisdom and understand, ‘Vāsudeva is everything.’ (vāsudevaḥ sarvam) Such a great person is extremely rare.” (Gītā 7.19) Those who do not have such wisdom do not see anything beyond the changing, material world of saṁsāra. They cannot understand that Vāsudeva is the source and support of the material world. They cannot experience the fact He manifests Himself is the form of the world.
We perceive the world through our minds. As long as we think we are independent of Vāsudeva we will not see the world as Vāsudeva. Instead, we will see it as something independent from Him, which we can own and exploit. However, since this world-view is not accurate, our efforts to control and enjoy the world prove fruitless and frustrating.
Even if we can only conceive of ourselves as a physical body, we should be able to see that our physical existence is just a tiny part of the vast whole of nature. How can the part control or enjoy the whole? Quite the contrary, a part is meant to serve the whole. Our efforts to turn this foundational principle upside down are bound to fail.
However, those who have a mindset favorable to Kṛṣṇa can begin to see and experience reality correctly. This is why Kṛṣṇa says that a mood of devotion is necessary to understand him (Gītā 18.55). Such people begin to see the presence of Vāsudeva everywhere, in each object. They do not see the world as separate from Vāsudeva. They have “vāsudevaḥ sarvam” vision.
We can understand their vision by analogy. A businessman who sells concrete, for example, does not see mud and sand as such, he sees them as money. To us, it looks as if he is dealing with sand, but to him, he deals with money. Similarly, a devotee of Kṛṣṇa sees the material world with the same eyes as an ordinary person. But because of his mindset, those eyes show him Vāsudeva everywhere.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke Chapter 10 of the Gita to help us develop a mindset conducive to seeing Vāsudeva everywhere. Practicing bhakti with awareness of what Krishna explains in that chapter helps one realize that indeed everything is Vāsudeva—vāsudevaḥ sarvam.
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