A Definition of God
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Learning the Science of the Self
Modern man’s concepts of God are many and varied. Children tend to imagine an old man with a white beard. Many adults regard God as an invisible force or a mental concept or as all humanity, the universe, or even oneself. In this lecture, Srila Prabhupada describes in detail the Krsna consciousness concept—a surprisingly intimate view of God.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for kindly participating in this Krsna consciousness movement. When this society was registered in 1966 in New York, a friend suggested that it be named the Society for God Consciousness. He thought that the name Krsna was sectarian. The dictionary also says that Krsna is a Hindu god’s name. But in actuality, if any name can be attributed to God, it is "Krsna."
Actually God has no particular name. By saying He has no name, we mean that no one knows how many names He has. Since God is unlimited, His names also must be unlimited. Therefore we cannot settle on one name. For instance, Krsna is sometimes called Yasoda-nandana, the son of mother Yasoda; or Devaki-nandana, the son of Devaki; or Vasudeva-nandana, the son of Vasudeva; or Nanda-nandana, the son of Nanda. Sometimes He is called Partha-sarathi, indicating that He acted as the charioteer of Arjuna, who is sometimes called Partha, the son of Prtha.
God has many dealings with His many devotees, and according to those dealings, He is called certain names. Since He has innumerable devotees and innumerable relations with them, He also has innumerable names. We cannot hit on any one name. But the name Krsna means "all-attractive." God attracts everyone; that is the definition of God. We have seen many pictures of Krsna, and we see that He attracts the cows, calves, birds, beasts, trees, plants, and even the water in Vrndavana. He is attractive to the cowherd boys, to the gopis, to Nanda Maharaja, to the Pandavas, and to all human society. Therefore if any particular name can be given to God, that name is "Krsna."
Parasara Muni, a great sage and the father of Vyasadeva, who compiled all the Vedic literatures, gave the following definition of God:
aisvaryasya samagrasya viryasya yasasah sriyah
jnana-vairagyayos caiva sannam bhaga itingana
(Visnu Purana 6.5.47)
Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is thus defined by Parasara Muni as one who is full in six opulences—who has full strength, fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation.
Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the proprietor of all riches. There are many rich men in the world, but no one can claim that he possesses all the wealth. Nor can anyone claim that no one is richer than he. We understand from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, however, that when Krsna was present on this earth He had 16,108 wives, and each wife lived in a palace made of marble and bedecked with jewels. The rooms were filled with furniture made of ivory and gold, and there was great opulence everywhere. These descriptions are all given vividly in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the history of human society we cannot find anyone who had sixteen thousand wives or sixteen thousand palaces. Nor did Krsna go to one wife one day and another wife another day. No, He was personally present in every palace at the same time. This means that He expanded Himself in 16,108 forms. This is impossible for an ordinary man, but it is not very difficult for God. If God is unlimited, He can expand Himself in unlimited forms, otherwise there is no meaning to the word unlimited. God is omnipotent; He can maintain not only sixteen thousand wives but sixteen million and still encounter no difficulty, otherwise there is no meaning to the word omnipotent.
These are all attractive features. We experience in this material world that if a man is very rich, he is attractive. In America, for instance, Rockefeller and Ford are very attractive because of their riches. They are attractive even though they do not possess all the wealth of the world. How much more attractive, then, is God, who is the possessor of all riches.
Similarly, Krsna has unlimited strength. His strength was present from the moment of His birth. When Krsna was only three months old, the Putana demon attempted to kill Him, but instead she was killed by Krsna. That is God. God is God from the beginning. He does not become God by some meditation or mystic power. Krsna is not that type of God. Krsna was God from the very beginning of His appearance.
Krsna also has unlimited fame. Of course, we are devotees of Krsna and know of Him and glorify Him, but apart from us, many millions in the world are aware of the fame of the Bhagavad-gita. In all countries all over the world the Bhagavad-gita is read by philosophers, psychologists, and religionists. We are also finding very good sales with our Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This is because the commodity is pure gold. There are many editions of the Bhagavad-gita, but they are not pure. Ours is selling more because we are presenting the Bhagavad-gita as it is. The fame of the Bhagavad-gita is Krsna’s fame.
Beauty, another opulence, is possessed unlimitedly by Krsna. Krsna Himself is very beautiful, as are all His associates. Those who were pious in a previous life receive an opportunity in this material world to take birth in good families and good nations. The American people are very rich and beautiful, and these opulences are a result of pious activities. All over the world people are attracted to the Americans because they are advanced in scientific knowledge, riches, beauty, and so on. This planet is an insignificant planet within the universe, yet within this planet, one country—America—has so many attractive features. We can just imagine, then, how many attractive features must be possessed by God, who is the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation. How beautiful He must be—He who has created all beauty.
A person is attractive not only because of his beauty, but also because of his knowledge. A scientist or philosopher may be attractive because of his knowledge, but what knowledge is more sublime than that given by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita? There is no comparison in the world to such knowledge. At the same time, Krsna possesses full renunciation (vairagya). So many things are working under Krsna’s direction in this material world, but actually Krsna is not present here. A big factory may continue to work, although the owner may not be present. Similarly, Krsna’s potencies are working under the direction of His assistants, the demigods. Thus Krsna Himself is aloof from the material world. This is all described in the revealed scriptures.
God, therefore, has many names according to His activities, but because He possesses so many opulences, and because with these opulences He attracts everyone, He is called Krsna. The Vedic literature asserts that God has many names, but "Krsna" is the principal name.
The purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement is to propagate God’s name, God’s glories, God’s activities, God’s beauty, and God’s love. There are many things within this material world, and all of them are within Krsna. The most prominent feature of this material world is sex, and that also is present in Krsna. We are worshiping Radha and Krsna, and attraction exists between them, but material attraction and spiritual attraction are not the same. In Krsna, sex is real, but here in the material world it is unreal. Everything we deal with here is present in the spiritual world, but here it has no real value. It is only a reflection. In store windows we see many mannequins, but no one cares about them, because everyone knows they are false. A mannequin may be very beautiful, but still it is false. When people see a beautiful woman, however, they are attracted because they think she is real. In actuality, the so-called living are also dead, because this body is simply a lump of matter; as soon as the soul leaves the body, no one would care to see the so-called beautiful body of the woman. The real factor, the real attracting force, is the spiritual soul.
In the material world everything is made of dead matter; therefore it is simply an imitation. The reality of things exists in the spiritual world. Those who have read the Bhagavad-gita can understand what the spiritual world is like, for there it is described:
paras tasmat tu bhavo ’nyo ’vyakto ’vyaktat sanatanah
yah sa sarvesu bhutesu nasyatsu na vinasyati
"Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is." (Bhagavad-gita 8.20)
Scientists are attempting to calculate the length and breadth of this material world, but they cannot begin. It will take them thousands of years simply to travel to the nearest star. And what to speak of the spiritual world? Since we cannot know the material world, how can we know what is beyond it? The point is that we must know from authoritative sources.
The most authoritative source is Krsna, for He is the reservoir of all knowledge. No one is wiser or more knowledgeable than Krsna. Krsna informs us that beyond this material world is a spiritual sky, which is filled with innumerable planets. That sky is far, far greater than material space, which constitutes only one fourth of the entire creation. Similarly, the living entities within the material world are but a small portion of the living entities throughout the creation. This material world is compared to a prison, and just as prisoners represent only a small percentage of the total population, so the living entities within the material world constitute but a fragmental portion of all living entities.
Those who have revolted against God—who are criminal—are placed in this material world. Somet...