by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
What the punctuation in the
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.”)
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
—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!
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.