How there is bheda and abheda in Bhagavān

The word bheda means difference. There are three types of bhedas:

sajātiya bheda: Difference between members of the same class. For example, human beings belong to the same class, but each human being is different.

vijātiya bheda: Difference between members of different classes. Human beings are different from elephants or snakes, being members of different classes

svagata bheda: Differences within a single member. Our left hand is different from the right hand.

There is no bheda (abheda) in Bhagavān

The three types of bhedas do not exist in Bhagavān.

sajātiya bheda does not exist in Bhagavān because there is no one in His class. The avatāras of Bhagavān are not considered different from Him, because they are Bhagavān Himself manifesting in different moods.

svagata bheda does not exist in Bhagavān, because His bodily limbs are not different from each other. This might be difficult to accept, but has to be accepted because śāstra explicitly mentions this. A famous śloka from the Brahma samhitā states that any of Bhagavān’s limbs can perform the functions of any other. For example, Bhagavān can see through His hand and eat through His eyes if He so chooses.

vijātiya bheda does not exist in Bhagavān, meaning objects of the material world are not different from Him. Here the word bheda or difference is interpreted to mean the independent existence of objects. An elephant and a tiger do not need each other for their existence. If the left hand is cut off in an accident, the right hand continues to exist.

The material world does not exist independently of Bhagavān. The world is a transformation (pariṇāma) of Bhagavān’s śakti, and therefore cannot function independently of Him by definition. Similarly, all other types of Bhagavān’s śaktis are dependent on Him.

There is also bheda in Bhagavān

Even though the material world is not different from Bhagavān in the sense described above (which means no bheda), it is also different, i.e. there is bheda. An analogy may be useful here. The existence, meaning survival, of a toddler is dependent on its parents. In this sense, there is no difference between the toddler and its parents.

But at the same time, the toddler is not the same as the parent, i.e. there is bheda. Here the word ‘bheda’ is taken to mean difference in the svarūpa or intrinsic characteristics. The toddler must have a separate existence, otherwise the words ‘toddler’ and ‘parent’ would be superfluous. They differ in many essential characteristics such as size, intelligence and genetic makeup. In the same way, the material world is not Bhagavān, because Bhagavān is made of an entirely different substance from the material world.

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