yo ’vijnatahrtas tasya
yan na vijnayate pumbhir
namabhir va kriya-gunaih
yah—he who; avijnata—unknown; ahrtah—described; tasya—of him; purusasya—of the living entity; sakha—the eternal friend; isvarah—the master; yat—because; na—never; vijnayate—is understood; pumbhih—by the living entities; namabhih—by names; va—or; kriya-gunaih—by activities or qualities.
The person I have described as unknown is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master and eternal friend of the living entity. Since the living entities cannot realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead by material names, activities or qualities, He remains everlastingly unknown to the conditioned soul.
Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unknown to the conditioned soul, He is sometimes described in Vedic literatures as nirakara, avijnata or avan-manasa-gocara. Actually it is a fact that the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be perceived by material senses as far as His form, name, quality, pastimes or paraphernalia are concerned. However, when one is spiritually advanced, one can understand the name, form, qualities, pastimes and paraphernalia of the Supreme Lord. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (18.55). Bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah: one can understand in truth the Supreme Personality of Godhead only when one is engaged in devotional service. Ordinary persons engaged in pious and impious activities cannot understand the form, name and activities of the Lord. The devotee, however, can know the Personality of Godhead in many respects. He can understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that His address is Goloka Vrndavana and that His activities are all spiritual. Because the Lord’s form and activities cannot be understood by materialistic people, He is described by the sastras as nirakara, that is, one whose form cannot be ascertained by a materialistic person. This does not mean that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has no form; it means that it is not understood by the karmis, or fruitive actors. His form is described in Brahma-samhita as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1]. As confirmed by the Padma Purana:
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krsna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234)
“No one can understand Krsna as He is by utilizing the blunt material senses. However, the Lord reveals Himself to His devotees, being pleased with them because of their transcendental loving service rendered unto Him.”
Since the name, form, qualities and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, cannot be understood by the material senses, He is also called adhoksaja, meaning “beyond sense perception.” When the senses are purified by devotional activity, the devotee understands everything about the Lord by the Lord’s grace. In this verse the words pumbhir namabhir va kriya-gunaih are especially significant because God, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has many names, activities and qualities, although none of them are material. Despite the fact that all these names, activities and pastimes are mentioned in the sastras and understood by the devotees, the karmis (fruitive laborers) cannot understand them. Nor can the jnanis (mental speculators) understand them. Although there are thousands of names of Lord Visnu, the karmis and jnanis intermingle the names of the Supreme Godhead with the names of demigods and human beings. Because they cannot understand the actual name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they take for granted that any name can be accepted. They believe that since the Absolute Truth is impersonal, they can call Him by any name. Otherwise, they maintain, He has no name. This is not a fact. Here it is clearly stated: namabhir va kriya-gunaih. The Lord has specific names such as Rama, Krsna, Govinda, Narayana, Visnu and Adhoksaja. There are indeed many names, but the conditioned soul cannot understand them.
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