अव्यक्तं व्यक्तिमापन्नं मन्यन्ते मामबुद्धय: |
परं भावमजानन्तो ममाव्ययमनुत्तमम् || 24||
avyaktaṁ vyaktim āpannaṁ manyante mām abuddhayaḥ
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto mamāvyayam anuttamam
avyaktam—formless; vyaktim—possessing a personality; āpannam—to have assumed; manyante—think; mām—me; abuddhayaḥ—less intelligent; param—Supreme; bhāvam—nature; ajānantaḥ—not understanding; mama—my; avyayam—imperishable; anuttamam—excellent
Not knowing My supreme Nature, immutable and transcendent, foolish men think that I, the Unmanifest, am endowed with a manifest form.
The Lord is really formless and universal. He is transcendental, beyond Maya, infinite and eternal. For the purpose of protecting the righteous and punishing the wicked, and establishing Dharma, He takes birth in this world. As Maya is under His control the power of adopting or discarding His form is in His own power.
When the Lord thus incarnates Himself as a separate individual, His immortality is not at all affected. The separate form as Krishna or Rama is His own creation, and when the purpose of His Avatara is fulfilled, the form is dissolved and He remains the Eternal. The devotees are blessed by such Avataras. But unfortunately, the ignorant men of little intelligence consider the name and form of the Lord as His real nature, and so, they do not find Him different from other mortals. No doubt the devotees are endowed with faith and devotion when they see the manifestation of the Lord as Rama or Krishna. But they should Know the higher nature (Parambhavam) of the Lord, and should not get confused.
Four attributes are mentioned about the higher nature of the Lord. (1) He is unknowable (Avykta). (2) He is transcendental (param). (3) He is imperishable (Avyayam). (4) He is supreme (Anúttamam). He is unknowable by the senses and the mind. The phenomenal world is visible to the senses and comprehensible by the mind. If the Lord also is a composition of the elements, he would dissolve like any other mortal form. But he is imperishable. He is subtler than any other. The material sky (Akasa) is itself invisible and so how can the Lord whose nature is more subtle (Chidakasa) be an object of perception? He is the whole universe, but he is at the same time not bound by physical laws because He is transcendental. Since He is beyond time and place, and is uncontaminated by material elements, since He is not subject to dissolution like other things, He is described as Supreme, most excellent (Anuttama).
It should be clearly understood that this verse is not a disparagement of the worship of the different manifestations of the Lord in temples and images. The common devotee must go through this process of fixing some form of the Lord in the mind and worshipping Him in that manner. But he should not stop there. As his vision enlarges and his devotion deepens, he will naturally evolve towards the transcendental perfection of the Lord. Devotion of this type is commendable.
What is condemned here is to attribute mortality to the Lord and regard Him to be no more than a man. Sisupala could see Lord Krishna as a cowherd-boy and nothing more. It was Bhishma who could understand the transcendental nature of the Lord, while he appeared in the beautiful form of Krishna. Bhishma could worship the Lord as Krishna, and at the same time know that He is the imperishable Paramatma. Ravana could think of Sri Rama only as a mortal, subject to death like any other. But sages like Vasishta and others could understand that Sri Rama is the Lord Himself appearing as the Prince of Ayodhya. It is this understanding which is suggested in the verse for the guidance of all seekers. (Verse 6.4)
Question: What is the real nature of the Lord?
Answer: It is unmanifest, transcendental, imperishable, and supreme.
Question: Who thinks of the Lord as a mortal?
Answer: The ignorant, with deluded understanding.