Actually there are two sides to this argument. Some say that the Absolute has no form (nirākāra), and others say that the Absolute has a form (sākāra). Therefore the word form is the common factor, although some accept it (asti or astika) whereas others try to negate it (nāsti or nāstika). Since the devotee considers the word "form" (ākāra) the common factor for both, he offers his respectful obeisances to the form, although others may go on arguing about whether the Absolute has a form or not.
In this verse the word yoga-sāṅkhyayoḥ is very important. Yoga means bhakti-yoga because yogīs also accept the existence of the all-pervading Supreme Soul and try to see that Supreme Soul within their hearts. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 12.13.1), dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yaṁ yoginaḥ. The devotee tries to come directly in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whereas the yogī tries to find the Supersoul within the heart by meditation. Thus, both directly and indirectly, yoga means bhakti-yoga. Sāṅkhya, however, means physical study of the cosmic situation through speculative knowledge. This is generally known as jñāna-śāstra. The Sāṅkhyites are attached to the impersonal Brahman, but the Absolute Truth is known in three ways. Brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate: (SB 1.2.11) the Absolute Truth is one, but some accept Him as impersonal Brahman, some as the Supersoul existing everywhere, and some as Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The central point is the Absolute Truth.
Although the impersonalists and personalists fight with one another, they focus upon the same Parabrahman, the same Absolute Truth. In the yoga-śāstras, Kṛṣṇa is described as follows: kṛṣṇaṁ piśaṅgāmbaram ambujekṣaṇaṁ catur-bhujaṁ śaṅkha-gadādy-udāyudham. Thus the pleasing appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's bodily features, His limbs and His dress are described. The sāṅkhya-śāstra, however, denies the existence of the Lord's transcendental form. The sāṅkhya-śāstra says that the Supreme Absolute Truth has no hands, no legs and no name: hy anāma-rūpa-guṇa-pāṇi-pādam acakṣur aśrotram ekam advitīyam api nāma-rūpādikaṁ nāsti. The Vedic mantras say, apāṇi-pādo javano grahītā: the Supreme Lord has no legs and hands, but He can accept whatever is offered to Him. Actually such statements accept that the Supreme has hands and legs, but deny that He has material hands and legs. This is why the Absolute is called aprākṛta. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has a sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (BS 5.1), a form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, not a material form. The Sāṅkhyites, or jñānīs, deny the material form, and the devotees also know very well that the Absolute Truth, Bhagavān, has no material form.
- īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
- anādir ādir govindaḥ
- (BS 5.1)
"Kṛṣṇa, who is 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." The conception of the Absolute without hands and legs and the conception of the Absolute with hands and legs are apparently contradictory, but they both coincide with the same truth about the Supreme Absolute Person. Therefore the word vastu-niṣṭhayoḥ, which is used herein, indicates that both the yogīs and Sāṅkhyites have faith in the reality, but are arguing about it from the different viewpoints of material and spiritual identities. Parabrahman, or bṛhat, is the common point. The Sāṅkhyites and yogīs are both situated in that same Brahman, but they differ because of different angles of vision.
The directions given by the bhakti-śāstra point one in the perfect direction because the Supreme Personality of Godhead says in Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: (BG 18.55) "Only by devotional service am I to be known." The bhaktas know that the Supreme Person has no material form, whereas the jñānīs simply deny the material form. One should therefore take shelter of the bhakti-mārga, the path of devotion; then everything will be clear. Jñānīs concentrate on the virāṭ-rūpa, the gigantic universal form of the Lord. This is a good system in the beginning for those who are extremely materialistic, but there is no need to think continuously of the virāṭ-rūpa. When Arjuna was shown the virāṭ-rūpa of Kṛṣṇa, he saw it, but he did not want to see it perpetually. He therefore requested the Lord to return to His original form as two-armed Kṛṣṇa. In conclusion, learned scholars find no contradictions in the devotees' concentration upon the spiritual form of the Lord (īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ (BS 5.1)). In this regard, Śrīla Madhvācārya says that less intelligent nondevotees think that their conclusion is the ultimate, but because devotees are completely learned, they can understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate goal.