Principle of Unity in Diversity

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.87.31 - Principle of Unity in Diversity (download mp3)
by Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 10.87.31
na ghatata udbhavah prakrti-purusayor ajayor
 ubhaya-yuja bhavanty asu-bhrto jala-budbuda-vat
tvayi ta ime tato vividha-nama-gunaih parame
 sarita ivarnave madhuni lilyur asesa-rasah

Neither material nature nor the soul who tries to enjoy her are ever born, yet living bodies come into being when these two combine, just as bubbles form where water meets the air. And just as rivers merge into the ocean or the nectar from many different flowers blends into honey, so all these conditioned beings eventually merge back into You, the Supreme, along with their various names and qualities.

Without proper spiritual guidance, one may misunderstand the Vedas’ description of the living entities emanating from the Lord to mean that they have come into being in this process and will eventually pass again into nonexistence. But if the living entities were to thus have only temporary existence, then when one of them would die his remaining karma would simply vanish without being used up, and when a soul would be born he would appear with unaccountable karma he had done nothing to earn. Furthermore, a living being’s liberation would amount to the total eradication of his identity and being.

The truth is, however, that the soul’s essence is one with Brahman’s, just as the small portion of space contained within the walls of a clay pot is one in essence with the all-expanding sky. And like the making and breaking of a pot, the “birth” of an individual soul consists of his first becoming covered by a material body, and his “death,” or liberation, consists of the destruction of his gross and subtle bodies once and for all. Certainly such “birth” and “death” take place only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord.

The combination of material nature and her controller that produces the numerous conditioned beings in material creation is likened here to the combination of water and air that produces countless bubbles of foam on the surface of the sea. Just as the efficient cause, air, impels the ingredient cause, water, to form itself into bubbles, so by His glance the Supreme Purusa inspires prakrti to transform herself into the array of material elements and the innumerable material forms manifest from those elements. Prakrti thus serves as the upadana-karana, or ingredient cause, of creation. In the ultimate issue, however, since she is also an expansion of the Supreme Lord, it is the Lord alone who is the ingredient cause as well as the efficient cause. This is as stated in the Taittiriya Upanisad (2.2.1), tasmad va etasmad atmana akasah sambhutah: “From this Supreme Soul the ether evolved,” and so ’kamayata bahu syam prajayeya: “He desired, ‘Let Me become many by expanding into progeny.’”

The individual jiva souls are not created when “born” from the Supreme Lord and prakrti, nor are they destroyed when they “merge” back into the Lord, rejoining Him in the pleasure pastimes of His eternal kingdom. And in the same way as the infinitesimal jivas can appear to undergo birth and death without any factual change, the Supreme Lord can send forth and withdraw His emanations without Himself undergoing any transformation. Thus the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (4.5.14) affirms, avinasi vare ’yam atma: “This atma is indeed indestructible” — a statement that can be applied to both the Supreme Soul and the subordinate jiva soul.

As explained by Srila Sridhara Svami, the dissolution of the living being’s material condition occurs in two ways, partial and complete. Partial dissolution occurs when the soul experiences dreamless sleep, when he leaves his body and when all souls reenter the body of Maha-Visnu at the time of universal annihilation. These different types of dissolution are like the mixing of nectar brought by bees from different kinds of flowers. The different flavors of nectar represent the dormant individual karmic reactions of each living entity, which still exist but cannot easily be distinguished from one another. In contrast, the ultimate dissolution of the soul’s material condition is his liberation from samsara, which is like the flowing of rivers into the ocean. As the waters from different rivers merge together after entering the ocean and become indistinguishable from one another, so the false material designations of the jivas are given up at the time of liberation and all the liberated jivas once again become equally situated as servants of the Supreme Lord.

The Upanisads describe these dissolutions as follows: yatha saumya madhu madhu-krto nististhanti nanatyayanam vrksanam rasan samavaharam ekatam sangayanti; te yatha tatra na vivekam labhante amusyaham vrksasya raso ’smy amusyaham raso ’smity evam eva khalu saumyemah sarvah prajah sati sampadya na viduh sati sampadyamahe: “My dear boy this [partial dissolution] resembles what happens when honeybees collect honey by extracting the nectar from the flowers of various kinds of trees and merge it all into a single mixture. Just as the mixed nectars cannot distinguish, ‘I am the juice of such-and-such a flower,’ or ‘I am the juice of another flower,’ so, dear boy, when all these living entities merge together they cannot consciously think, ‘Now we have merged together.’” (Chandogya Upanisad 6.9.1-2)

yatha nadyah syandamanah samudre
 ’stam gacchanti nama-rupe vihaya
tatha vidvan nama-rupad vimuktah
 parat-param purusam upaiti divyam

“As rivers flow to their dissolution in the sea, giving up their names and forms at their destination, so the wise man who becomes free from material names and forms attains to the Supreme Absolute, the wonderful Personality of Godhead.” (Mundaka Upanisad 3.2.8)

Srila Sridhara Svami prays:

yasminn udyad-vilayam api yad bhati visvam layadau
 jivopetam guru-karunaya kevalatmavabodhe
atyantantam vrajati sahasa sindhu-vat sindhu-madhye
 madhye cittam tri-bhuvana-gurum bhavaye tam nr-simham

“The Supreme Lord is self-effulgently omniscient. By His great mercy, this universe, which is subject to repeated creation and destruction, remains present within Him after merging back into Him along with the living entities at the time of cosmic dissolution. This total withdrawal of the universal manifestation occurs suddenly, like the flowing of a river into the ocean. Within the core of my heart I meditate upon that master of the three worlds, Lord Nrsimha.”