Godhead and His Potentialities, y A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada

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Godhead and His Potentialities, y HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, ‘Back to Godhead’, Vol I, Part I, 1944.

In the Padmapuranam the Absolute Truth is compared with the Fire. As the Fire illuminates by diffusion of its rays, although it is situated in one place, so also the Absolute Truth, although situated far beyond the reach of our imperfect vision, is omnipresent in all directions by distribution of His varied energies. These energies or potentialities of the Absolute Truth, are innumerable and immeasurable in quantity and quality but primarily all of them can be grouped into three principal divisions under the following headings, viz.,

(1) Internal Potency or “Chit Potency”
(2) Marginal Potency or “Tatastha Potency”
(3) External Potency or “Maya Potency”

The Absolute Truth is omnipresent everywhere and anywhere represented by all these potencies by a transcendental process which is inconceivable by any mental speculation. As the fire expands its heat as its natural potentiality, so also the Absolute Truth, call Him the Impersonal “Brahman”, Localised Aspect of Godhead “Paramatman” or the Personality of Godhead “Bhagwan”—in all such manifestations, He manifests His different potentialities in respect of creation, destruction and maintenance of the universe or the entities within the universe. These are quite natural to Him as the heat is to the fire.

The Material Nature as we try to explain by our imperfect mental speculation, is only the External Nature or External Potency of the Absolute Truth whereas the living entities represented by different species of Spirit embodied, which are eighty four lacs of varieties—are but innumerable manifestations of His Marginal Potency as separate individual portions. The actions of the Internal Potency technically called the Chit potency, is almost similar to the activities of the External Potency technically known as “Maya” or illusion. The difference between “Chit” potency and the “Maya Potency” is of quality and quantity. The manifestations of the “Maya” potency by creation of the innumerable universes like one as we can see presently, is said to be one-fourth quantity (portion) of the whole creation. The creation of the “Chit” potency is three-fourth of the whole creation and is the Kingdom of God or technically called “Baikuntha”. Herein lies the difference in quantity of “Maya” and “Chit” Potencies.

The other difference is one of the quality namely the creation of the “Chit” potency is non-destructible and eternal while the creation of the Maya Potency is destructible and temporary technically called the material Nature.(1) The former is real while the latter is unreal or shadow. The one is light(2) while the latter is darkness. In the darkness one cannot find out what he wants. And in the material nature also one cannot find what he searches out throughout the whole span of his life. From the darkness one however can make out a guess for the light and from the shadow one can make out an idea of the origin. The real is technically known as Transcendence or Noumenon as opposed to the shadow technically called the mundane or phenomenon. But all the same we must not misunderstand them as one and the same as sometimes it is wrongly interpreted by imperfect speculation. Thus lies the qualitative difference between the “Chit” and the “Maya” potencies.

The creations of the marginal potency technically called the “Tatastha” Potency—are the numberless individual living souls trying to lord it over the Material Potency (Maya). The difference between the “Chit” Potency and the “Tatastha” potency is one of quantity only but almost not of quality as opposed to the difference with the “Maya” potency both in quality and in quantity. In other words quantitatively there is much difference between the “Chit” and the “Tatastha” potencies but qualitatively there is almost no difference.(3) Therefore “Tatastha” potency is in all respects superior to the “Maya” potency in relation with the “Chit” Potency. We can see therefore a perpetual endeavour on the part of the living souls to lord it over the material nature or “Maya”.(4)

The living entities therefore being one with the Transcendence in quality, are also indestructible and eternal. This fact is elaborately corroborated in the Geeta as follows (Bg. 11) “The soul or the spirit of the living entity is never born nor does it ever die. It was never created in the past nor it is created at present neither it shall be created in the future.(5) That is the soul is transcendental to physical time, represented by Past, Present and the Future. The spirit is therefore unborn, indestructible, eternal, the oldest but always fresh, it is never put to annihilation even after the destruction of the body and the mind.”

“Thus one who knows the soul to be non-destructible and eternal—can he ever kill any other soul or does he order to kill others.”

“Transmigration of the soul from one body to the other after the destruction of the body, is just like one’s changing an old garment for a new one. The non-destructible soul simply changes its material body but is never killed or put to death as we generally misunderstand.”

“No weapon can penetrate the soul, no fire can burn it, no water can moisten it and no air can dry it up.”

“The soul is impenetrable, incombustible, incapable of being moistened or dried up. It is permanent, constant, immovable and eternal.”

“The soul is declared to be incomprehensible, invisible, immeasurable and knowing the soul to be so, one has nothing to lament for, Oh Mighty armed.”

The living entity is therefore permanently related with the “Chit” potency as opposed to its temporary relation with the material nature or the “Maya” potency. His relation with the material nature is casual and the cause for such accidental relation is the forgetfulness of his real nature. The living entities are just like sparks of the fire (the fire being compared with The Absolute Truth) or the molecules of the rays of the Sun (the Sun being compared with The Absolute Truth). Qualitatively there is no difference between the fire and its sparks or the Sun and its molecules of rays but quantitatively there is a gulf of difference between them.

The living entity therefore when he forgets his real nature as one with the “Chit” potency and identifies himself as one of the creations of the material nature or the “Maya” potency by his tendency of forgetfulness—is as a matter of consequence, put into the various material afflictions represented by the threefold miseries of material existence. These threefold miseries are:—

(a) Misery pertaining to the material body and the mind such as perceptions of cold and heat and conceptions of distress and happiness.

(b) Misery pertaining to the awards of other living entities such as an attack by the enemies, bites by the animals etc.

(c) Misery pertaining to the controlling powers of gods such as occurrences of earthquakes, famines, wars, pestilence etc.

A temporary relievement from one of the above threefold miseries is known to us as happiness (?). Negation of distresses is undoubtedly called happiness but all happinesses in the material nature, are adjusted by the “Maya” potency and as such all such happinesses are conditional as much as they again await the onslaught of another distress. In the material nature, all so-called happinesses or the so-called distresses are of temporary nature. As such temporary happinesses cannot satisfy the living entity, the latter’s nature being one with the “Chit” potency i.e., non-destructible and permanent. The tendency of the living entities, is therefore a hankering after eternal happiness and non-destructible existence.

The entire activities of living beings are directed towards this end. But as they are under the conditions created by the ‘Maya’ Potency which is itself destructible and temporary, the desire for a happiness of permanent nature, remains ever unfulfilled in the Material Nature. The exodus of the residents of Calcutta to other places out of fear of being raided by the Japanese bombs, is due to the same tendency of non-destructible existence. But those who are thus going away, do not remember that even after going away from Calcutta saved from the raids of the Japanese bombs, they are unable to protect their bodies as non-destructible at any part of the material universe, when the same bodies will be raided by the bombs of material nature in the forms above threefold miseries.

The Japanese also who are threatening the Calcutta people with ruthless air-raids for increasing their own happiness by possession of lands—do not know that their happiness is also temporary and destructible as they have repeated experience in their own fatherland. The living beings, on the other hand, who are designed to be killed, are by nature eternal, impenetrable, invisible etc. So all those living entities who are threatened to be killed as well as those who are threatening to conquer are all alike in the grip of the “Maya” potency(6) and are therefore in the darkness. The Hindu conception of the Goddess “Kalika Devi” is the symbolised representation of the darker manifestation of the Absolute Truth and in that darkness—destruction, annihilation, death and miseries are the only concomitant factors as we can observe in the grim—Figure of the Goddess “Kalika Devi” in an attitude, always threatening with destruction.

Leaders of materialistic civilization take shelter in this darker Aspect of the Absolute Truth or the Goddess of darkness in order to dissipate the present and temporary distresses without knowing that darkness cannot be removed by an unscientific handling of the darkness itself but it can be removed only by the scientific handling of the Light only. Without light any amount of speculation of the human mind (which is also a creation of the material nature) can never restore the living entities to permanent happiness. In that darkness any method of bringing peace in the world which will stand eternally, be it nonviolent or violent, can bring only temporary relief or distress as we can see all creations of the External Potency. In the darkness non-violence is as much useless as violence while in the light there is no need of violence as much as of non-violence. Without entering into the details of these, we may take it for granted that fear of being destroyed and killed is an outcome of our association with material nature while in reality we are one with the transcendence. As such we have nothing to fear nor to be destroyed.

The body is destructible but the spirit is not. The living entity in the darkness of the Absolute Truth, wrongly identifies with the material nature or “Maya” and concludes himself to be destructible. This causes his fear of being destroyed while actually he is not to be so. Forgetfulness of the Almighty Father is the cause of such misidentification. Intelligent persons therefore should approach to the bonafide spiritual master and accepting him to be nondifferent with the Lord, will devote himself cent per cent in the transcendental service of the Lord. This is what we mean by going “Back To Godhead.”

Forgetfulness of the transcendental loving service of the “Chit Potency” of the Personality of Godhead Sree Krishna, is the cause of fall-down of the living entities. Reinstallation of the relation of the “Chit” Potency shall therefore be the ultimate goal of human life. If the living entity therefore somehow or other comes in touch with a bonafide saint and scriptures and thus becomes eager for revival of his lost relation of the “Chit” potency, he can then only be liberated from the clutches of the “Maya” potency and then only all creation of the material nature appears to him as insignificant, temporary and illusion.

At this state of being related with the internal potency of the Absolute Truth, THE LIVING ENTITY DOES NOT HANKER AFTER UNNECESSARY ACCUMULATION OF MATERIAL WEALTH FOR UTILISING THEM IN THE SERVICE OF THE EXTERNAL POTENCY NAMELY “MAYA” FOR DESTRUCTION AND DARKNESS; nor does he lament for any so-called material loss. He looks at that time on all other entities in a spiritual light, as one and the same, covered only in different material encagement of different names under the influence of “Maya.” The beginning of such spiritual existence thus ushered forth by the Divine Grace—makes the liberated soul turn towards the transcendental loving service of the Personality of Godhead under the influence of His “Chit” Potency in place of his (soul’s) engagement in the temporary service of the “Maya” potency as above-mentioned. This fact is corroborated in the Bhagwat Geeta by Lord Sree Krishna as follows:—

“One who is situated in the Transcendence and is fixed up in his mind, he is always untroubled and does not rejoice by attainment of what is desirable nor does he lament by attaining what is undesirable.” (Geeta 5.19.)

“Unsurmountable are the ways by which one can get rid of the ‘Maya’ potency with her threefold modes, but one who surrenders unto Me (Sree Krishna) he only can get rid of the clutches of ‘Maya.'” (Geeta 7.14.)


Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

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