The Incarnations of Krishna :
"If God exists, then show me God!" Generation after generation, people keep presenting this demand, being proud to have found the ultimate argument against the believers in God.
While most religionists reply that God is invisible and inconceivable, the Vedic revelations counterchallenge: "Yes, God can be seen, but do you have the eyes to see God? Are you ready to see God? Otherwise, you won't recognize God even seeing Him face to face."
One becomes qualified to see God by practicing yoga, the process by which the living entity connects with the Supreme. Everything in this world takes effort, but when it comes to seeing God, people think it has to be automatic. Do they expect to see God the way one sees an animal in the zoo? Please consider this point carefully. One who realizes the foolishness of expecting to see God without being qualified can begin the Vedic process of understanding the Supreme.
God (Vishnu) is the source of everything. Just look around and see the inconceivable power within the Lord's creation. Today's leaders lack this vision and propagate materialism, which goes directly against the harmony of creation and corresponds to neither reality nor the truth. Thus most people have become blind toward nature. They treat nature impersonally and do not feel responsible for its maintenance.
One Sanskrit expression
describing the universe is visva-rupa, or
"the universal body of God." To see nature as the universal body of the Lord is the first step in God realization.
God is simultaneously omnipotent, omnipresent, and all-pervading. His creation is inconceivable, what to speak of the creator Himself. That is why Krishna uses a famous paradox to explain His connection to the material creation: "By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My self is the very source of creation." (Bhagavad-gita 9.4-5)
Although it is true that God is inconceivable, He also has to be conceivable. If He lacked the aspect of being perceivable, He would not be perfect and complete. Therefore a true or complete understanding of God must include both aspects.
As omnipresent energy, God is inconceivable, but within the creation we find both energy and individuality. Therefore God, as the source of everything, contains both energy and individuality. This point cannot be stressed enough because it is the most important of the Vedic revelations about God. God is not just an impersonal, abstract principle conceived by human minds, but is the Supreme reality containing everything. He is both energy and the energetic source, a person. God is not only a person. God is not only energy. Both of these one-sided understandings lead to dangerous misconceptions, either dogmatism and fanaticism or agnosticism and impersonalism.
God includes everything. He is absolute, and all dimensions are united within Him. As the absolute, multidimensional entity, God is inconceivable and imperceptible. Still He can be perceived through the effects of His omnipresence. And because God contains all dimensions, He also must contain dimensions perceivable to us. Still, being absolute, God will maintain His inconceivable nature even while appearing within the material world.
It seems hard to understand how God appears within the material world, for this implies a physical form moving in time and space within history. Still, these forms of the Lord exist, and they appear periodically as incarnations. God's incarnations are countless, like the waves in an ocean, and the most important ones are described by the Vedic scriptures, which even foretell of future incarnations. The most recent incarnations are Krishna, who appeared on the earth 5000 years ago, and Chaitanya, who appeared 500 years ago. Other incarnations have appeared in long bygone ages, such as Rama, who is described in the Ramayana. Some incarnations do not appear on earth. They appear on other planets, but since Their influence is universal, the manifest scriptures here on earth have recorded Their activities.
The Lord also appears as His Vedic scriptures, which are either spoken by Him or about Him by realized sages. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that the Lord incarnated as the Srimad-Bhagavatam just after manifesting His pastimes on the earth 5000 years ago and departing to the spiritual world. Thus through the Srimad-Bhagavatam one can realize the presence of God.
Being absolute, the Lord also manifests in a form that we can see. He incarnates as the arca-vigraha avatara, the Lord's Deity form in the temple. Because we can only see gross material forms such as stone, wood, metal, or paint, the Lord agrees to accept such forms for our benefit. Through the proper Vedic ceremony and the chanting of His holy names, an authorized representative of God can call Him into the form of the Deity. This form may then be worshiped and served with love and devotion. Through such love and devotion the worshiper can fully realize God, and when sufficiently advanced, even hear and speak to Him. Many devotees of Krishna in the temples realize this even today.
Items dedicated to God, having become "spiritualized," are also forms of the Lord. The Lord appears as temples, holy books, or sanctified food. The Lord also appears in pictures, which are called "windows to the spiritual world." But most importantly, the Lord appears as His sound incarnation through the chanting of His holy names. The Vedic scriptures reveal that in this present age of Kali, all perfection can be attained by such chanting. By hearing about God, people can elevate their understanding, and by chanting God's name, people can purify their consciousness and then perceive God in all His aspects.
The mantra most recommended by the Vedic tradition for the present age is the Krishna-mantra, because it directly invokes the names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
hare krishna hare krishna
krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare
In the present age, God appears through His names. All authentic messengers of God verify this. Jesus prayed, "Hallowed be Thy name!" God, being absolute, is nondifferent from His names; thus He is present where His names are chanted. Today, when people are disgusted with religion, fanatical about it, or just uninterested, the Vedic revelation of God fills a great need in human society. Here we meet God beyond man-made borders and philosophies, beyond indifference and impersonalism, and beyond nationalism, dogmatism, and absolutism. When one understands the Supreme as He is, one goes beyond differences of opinion and unites under the banner of loving service to the Lord.