|While wandering in the forests, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) came upon Sita Rama Baba, ‘the standing baba’. Over sixty years of age, Sita Rama Baba followed extreme vows, far beyond the vow of celibacy. He vowed to always stand on his feet and never sit or lay down. For almost fifty years, he had observed this penance. Along with his begging pot and prayer beads, he carried a rope and a wooden plank that he would hang from a tree branch like a swing. At night, he would lean on this and sleep standing up.|
He immediately treated Richard (now Radhanath Swami) with the love of a father for a son. During Richard’s stay with him, he never saw the Baba eat anything more than a handful of cheap peanuts given to him while begging. Although Richard could not understand his strange vows, still he had attracted Richard’s sincere love and trust. It is said that artificial austerity makes the heart hard. But his heart was soft and filled with humility, compassion, and devotion.
In Sita Rama Baba’s company, a question brewed in Richard (now Radhanath Swami)’s mind. Most of the yogis he had encountered meditated on God as an impersonal force while the Baba and others meditated on the Lord as an all-loving person. Rama Sevaka Swami served Lord Rama in such a personal way. Srila Prabhupada, too, expressed such genuine love for Lord Krishna, as an all-attractive person. As a child, Richard had naturally prayed to God in a personal way. One day, Richard enquired of Baba, “Is God ultimately impersonal or a person?” Sita Rama Baba sighed, “How could our Lord have less personality and form than we have? He has everything without limit.” He shook his head, “This misunderstanding breaks my heart.”
Radhanath Swami’s interactions with many holy men have revealed to him that for practitioners of Bhakti Yoga, God’s ultimate existence as impersonal is not only unacceptable, it’s also deeply painful. This is because a bhakti-yogi experiences constant reciprocation from God, and shares a sweet loving relationship with Him.
Radhanath Swami also offers a simple definition of God that is in agreement with all theistic traditions of the world, “God is cause of all causes and source of everything.” Then Radhanath Swami proposes if God is the source of everything that we see in this world, then God Himself should contain the essential attributes of everything, else He would be lesser than His creation. In this world, there exist both persons and impersonal forces, so both these aspects should be present in God. If God were not a person, then He would be incomplete. In other words, the Complete Being would be incomplete, which is totally illogical. Radhanath Swami also presents this logic in a simpler way: if we as the children of God are persons how can our father God not be a person?
I would sometimes wonder if a personality or form of God would restrict God. Radhanath Swami explains God’s form is restricted if we superimpose a material conception of God. For argument’s sake, even if we grant that form limits a thing, does divesting it of form make it unlimited? We may be sitting in a room, which has a form and is limited. If its form were destroyed by say the explosion of a bomb, will the formless debris be limited or unlimited? Therefore Radhanath Swami’s clear thinking reveals that what causes limitation is not form, but matter. Due to its very nature, matter is limited, whether it exists with form or without form. When we conceive of God’s form, we subconsciously project our experiences with matter on the form of God and so think that a form would limit God. Radhanath Swami speaks on the basis of scriptures that, “God is not material; He is entirely spiritual. Spirit has characteristics different from matter ; that which is spiritual has the potential to be all-pervading, irrespective of whether it has form or not.” This presentation of Radhanath Swami convinced me that God can have a form that is spiritual and therefore His form is unlimited. Radhanath Swami thus resolves the confusions, “God is a person with a form, but with an impersonal aspect to his personality as well.”