God is Greatness

By editor - 8.5 2024

God is great, is an oft-heard statement. It relies on a separation between the idea of greatness and the thing we call great. The idea is always “above” the thing, in the sense that it is used to judge whether something is great. In the case of God, the statement “God is great” requires that greatness be above God, used to judge God, and deem Him to be an example of greatness. The criterion to decide whether something is God rests on an idea separate from God, above God, and logically prior to God.

The situation is comparable to saying “He is President”. In this case, there is an idea of a president separate from the president. The idea defines the criterion for something to be called president, used to judge whether someone is president, and therefore, logically prior to someone being president. If the idea of the presidency was undefined, there could be no president. The idea is itself impersonal. Thereby, when we claim that someone is president, we are using something impersonal to judge the person.

The same problem arises if we say that Kṛṣṇa is all-attractive. Now, there is an idea of all-attractiveness which must be logically prior to Kṛṣṇa, used to judge Kṛṣṇa, before He can be called all-attractive. Since the idea is impersonal, therefore, the impersonal is used to define, judge, or know the person.

Ideas are called tattva or essences in Vedic texts; they represent some ideal. The things that embody these ideals are called bhava or existents, which are used to judge, assess, or classify something based on that ideal. However, the tattva is also a bhava. For instance, there is an ideal fire in Svarga (the heavenly planets) and there are instances of fire in Bhu (the earthly planets). The ideal fire in Svarga is called Agni—the demigod fire—and the instances of fire in Bhu are also called Agni, even though the earthly instances of fire are not ideal.

The non-ideal is a part of the ideal. For example, Agni is divided into many parts, based on the five elements, the five knowledge senses, the five action senses, the five life airs, the four parts of the internal instrument, etc. Each of these divisions is then further classified into strong, weak, and deranged. All these parts of Agni are perfect, complete, and strong in the demigod Agni. They are imperfect, partial, and weak in the earthly instances of Agni and in the other demigods. Since everything has some Agni, therefore, Agni is part of everything and everything is a part of Agni. In simple words, the tattva or essence is also a bhava or existence—e.g., the demigod Agni. The other bhava or existents—e.g., the instances of fire—are bhava or existents with tattva or essence partially.

The separation between ideas and things (which later became the separation of essence and existence) began in Platonism. There was an ideal in the Platonic World and instances of that ideal in the Real World. However, the ideal was just an idea. The tattva or essence was in the Platonic World but the bhava or existent was in the Real World. This is known as the form-substance dualism. The essence is the form and the existent is the substance. Mostly, no existent perfectly embodies the essence because nothing is ideal, even though we call those things by the ideal name. Hence, the Real World was called an imperfect reflection of the Platonic World.

However, the relation between the perfect and imperfect was never formalized because it requires the complexities of dividing the ideal into parts, deciding the ideal state of each of the parts, and combining them into a whole to determine the complete ideal. Without this complexity, we can never determine the extent to which something is ideal. Since the complete was never divided into parts, the ideal was depersonalized into an idea.

For instance, there was no subdivision of fire into parts based on the five elements, the five knowledge senses, the five action senses, the five life airs, the four parts of the internal instrument, etc. The demigod Agni was reduced to the idea of fire. The demigod had body parts. The idea of fire has no parts. We can no longer talk about more ideal vs. less ideal fire. The connotation that the demigod Agni is present in all instances of fire was completely lost. The translation of the word Agni into the word fire destroyed the connotation that there is a demigod within a fire, and hence, even fire is “divine” in some sense, although not identical to the demigod. Modern science eliminated ideal vs. non-ideal, part vs. whole, by calling fire photons.

In this depersonalized reality, some words denote the ideal. However, they are at best in the Platonic World. Each word either has one meaning or it is meaningless. Since the ideal meaning is not a person—i.e., a demigod—there cannot be many meanings of a word denoting the many body parts of the demigod. We cannot talk about digestive fire, intellectual fire, creative fire, sexual fire, and perceptual fire. Fire is just photons. The result of depersonalization is an exponential reduction in vocabulary. If our vocabulary shrinks, then the mind shrinks. The world we create from this shrunken vocabulary and mind is shrunken. Infinite things fall outside this shrunken vocabulary and mind.

There is a simple solution to this problem—give up the form-substance dualism. Every word is a person. Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether are persons. Each person has many body parts. Each of these body parts is a valid meaning of the word denoting the person. The reduction of each word to one meaning is infinitely false. All attempts to reduce words to just one meaning are infinitely incomplete.

With this conclusion, we can talk about “God is great”. Underlying this sentence is a metaphysics in which “great” has one meaning. That meaning either exists or doesn’t exist in something. We must either be great or not. We cannot be partially great. Thereby, we cannot grade people from great to greater to greatest. The fact that words like greater and greatest exist in ordinary language doesn’t mean that they can be accommodated in a logical language. If an ordinary person is called great, then by the equivalence of two things that are equal to a third thing, he becomes equal to God. To avoid this problem, if God is great, then nothing else can be great.

We avoid these problems by talking about greatness. God is greatness. Kṛṣṇa is all-attractiveness. Every part of His body is a different kind of greatness. Since our body lacks most of that greatness, our body is attracted to His body. Attraction is nothing more than the incomplete trying to unite with the complete to overcome its sense of incompleteness. Through such a union, the part remains the part but doesn’t feel incomplete anymore. This is why each individual gets involved with something bigger than himself. It overcomes the feeling of smallness.

Different subsets of the complete form of greatness exist in this world. There is greatness in rivers, mountains, seas, trees, flowers, fruits, animals, and humans. There are great rulers of the world called demigods and sages. Different kinds of greatness exist in men and women. Different kinds of greatness are found in different universes. Different combinations of different types of greatness are found in different things. Therefore, they are all parts of God—the complete form of greatness.

“God is great” rests on a separation between ideas and things, forms and substances. “God is greatness” dissolves that separation. There are no substances; there are only forms. There is a complete form of greatness and there are partial forms of greatness. The complete form is the origin of the partial forms. Some partial forms of greatness are limited ideals. They are personified in this world as demigods. They are gods because they personify ideals. They are demi because they are parts relative to the whole.

The ordinary language use of words such as great requires infinite meanings of great to allow a great ocean, a great tree, a great land, a great animal, and a great human. These infinite meanings of great can be reconciled only if greatness is a body with infinite parts. In different contexts, a different part of the body of greatness may be invoked. By calling two things great, they are not necessarily equalized because they pertain to different parts of the body. This in turn rests on the use of non-binary logic—the hand is the body but the body is not the hand, the part is the whole but the whole is not the part, yellow is color but color is not yellow, God is everything but everything is not God. The shift from “God is great” to “God is greatness” is not simple. It requires us to reject everything beginning with the elementary claims of binary logic.