In Bhagavad-gītā (BG 7.10) the Lord says:
- bījaṁ māṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
- viddhi pārtha sanātanam
"O son of Pṛthā, know that I am the original seed of all existences." In the Vedic literature it is said, īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam (ISO 1), yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante and sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. All this Vedic information indicates that there is only one God and that there is nothing else but Him. The Māyāvādī philosophers explain this in their own way, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead asserts the truth that He is everything and yet is separate from everything. This is the philosophy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, which is called acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. Everything is one, the Supreme Lord, yet everything is separate from the Lord. This is the understanding of oneness and difference.
The example given in this regard—vasukālavad aṣṭi-tarvoḥ—is very easy to understand. Everything exists in time, yet there are different phases of the time factor—present, past and future. Present, past and future are one. Every day we can experience the time factor as morning, noon and evening, and although morning is different from noon, which is different from evening, all of them taken together are one. The time factor is the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the Lord is separate from the time factor. Everything is created, maintained and annihilated by time, but the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, has no beginning and no end. He is nityaḥ śāśvataḥ—eternal, permanent. Everything passes through time's phases of present, past and future, yet the Lord is always the same. Thus there is undoubtedly a difference between the Lord and the cosmic manifestation, but actually they are not different. Accepting them to be different is called avidyā, ignorance.
True oneness, however, is not equivalent to the conception of the Māyāvādīs. The true understanding is that the differences are manifested by the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The seed is manifested as a tree, which displays varieties in its trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has therefore sung, keśava tuyā jagata vicitra: "My dear Lord, Your creation is full of varieties." The varieties are one and at the same time different. This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. The conclusion given in Brahma-saṁhitā (BS 5.1) is this:
- īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
- anādir ādir govindaḥ
"Kṛṣṇa, known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes." Because the Lord is the supreme cause, everything is one with Him, but when we consider varieties, we find that one thing is different from another.
We may conclude, therefore, that there is no difference between one thing and another, yet in varieties there are differences. In this regard, Madhvācārya gives an example concerning a tree and a tree in fire. Both trees are the same, but they look different because of the time factor. The time factor is under the control of the Supreme Lord, and therefore the Supreme Lord is different from time. An advanced devotee consequently does not distinguish between happiness and distress. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 10.14.8):
- tat te 'nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo
- bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
When a devotee is in a condition of so-called distress, he considers it a gift or blessing from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When a devotee is always thus situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness in any condition of life, he is described as mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk, a perfect candidate for returning home, back to Godhead. The word dāya-bhāk means "inheritance." A son inherits the property of his father. Similarly, when the devotee is fully Kṛṣṇa conscious, undisturbed by dualities, he is sure that he will return home, back to Godhead, just as one inherits his father's property.