Is God Formless or with Form? | Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti

Conceptions-Form And Formless

In the Gita, the Ultimate Reality, the Absolute is worshipped abiding by one of two approaches. The first is considering God as apart from ourselves and the second approach is to consider God, as our Real Self, within. The fruit of both the approaches may be regarded as same but not identical. We shall try to explore the truth of the statement “same but not identical” to some depth.

For him, who considers Lord, as someone who is apart from one self, other than oneself, the Lord is one with attributes. He is one with a minefield of the superlative adjectives that describe subjective goodness. He is the Lord with form. Although such a Lord is not oneself, He remains to be the version of our own highest possibility. When the worshipper is devoted and committed to such a Lord, the devotee attains or ascends to the abode of that Lord, which is celestial and non-material. This abode is different from any of the abodes that we know of, on the physical or even the dream planes. It transcends all imaginable “great” abodes. This abode is supra-mundane and “Real”. It is real in the true sense of the word. All that we know of, on the mundane platform is ephemeral, short-lived, momentary and fleeting. The abode of the Lord with Form, is permanent, non-fleeting, eternal and non-transient. Once, a living entity attains the Lord and His abode, he attains it for eternality. He shall never be displaced from that abode and even though it may be apparent that such a living entity takes to traveling through other dimensions of living conditions, he shall not be, for a moment separated from the Lord or His abode, once having entered it, even in the literal sense. There shall be no sense of detachment or separation from the Form and Abode of the Lord.

On the other hand, for a man who worships the Lord, as his own self, the final abode of such a living entity shall be the undifferentiated, formless, causeless Brahman. Such a person becomes one with the Absolute, similar to the merging of the individual personality into the endless domain of Brahman, a dissolution into the causeless ocean, where the experiencer and the experience merge. There shall be no experience of separateness and hence there shall be no experience of the “experience”. This state is also changeless and once having attained it, there is no losing it.

Where there is a Lord and an Abode of the Lord, which is separate from individual experience, there shall be an “experience” of a blissful state and a separate experience of feelings, emotions and volition in the supra mundane state, whereas when one becomes united with undifferentiated Brahman, there is nothing to state or represent. The form of God realization varies in every individual according to the faith and sentiment of the worshipper, during the period of his spiritual discipline. Those who worship Him as one’s own self, realize Him as one’s own identity, in Oneness, while those who worship Him as the Supreme Absolute personified God of all supreme attributes, receive Him, while maintaining their individuality, however their individuality is not mundane but they are blessed with a permanent supra mundane individuality which does not change for eternity, once they receive it from their Lord. God is thus realized differently by different strivers according to their respective conditions.

Worship in terms of identity as well as worship in terms of diversity, both constitute the worship of God, God is attributeless as well as with full of attributes simultaneously. He is with form or formless, the way one may conceive it, following the direction of the Scriptures. He is unmanifest and supremely manifest. Now one may have the question that if God is realized differently by people of two different conceptions, one with form and another without form, how can the fruit of these two realizations be one? In both these realizations the Lord says in the Gita that, both forms of realizations as attained by the form and formless practitioner results in attainment of Supreme Peace and Eternal state, a state, after having attained it, does not reverse. These states are permanent and irreversible. Thus these two states are same and yet non-identical. The result of these states is that of ultimate peace and free of worries (Chapter 18, Verse 62). It is also mentioned that these states are Amrita (अमृता Deathless, of Supreme Bliss) (Chapter 15, Verse 6). It is also stated that these two states confer one with the highest perfection (Chapter 18, verse 45). Both of them are also referred as the imperishable supreme state (Chapter 15, Verse 5). There are atleast a dozen places in the Gita where both these states are said to represent the same ultimate fruit and hence it follows that the states, although appear to be different, give the results of the same blessed state. Moreover, these states cannot be spoken about or described wholly through words and descriptions. How can hearing about the taste of mango and tasting it actually, be the same thing?  He alone, who has attained the object, knows it, but he too, can never describe it.