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6. Reconciliation of the Four Vaishnava Viewpoints
The Chaitanya school reconciles these seemingly disparate views of God's relationship to the world by arguing that the Vedic scriptures testify to God's acintya-shakti, "inconceivable powers." God is simultaneously the cause of the world in every sense and yet distinct from and transcendental to the world. The example given is of a spider and its web. The web emanates from the spider's body, so the spider may be taken as the ingredient cause of the web. But that does not make the spider and the web one and the same. The spider is always a separate and distinct entity from its web. Yet again, while the spider never is the web, the existence of the web cannot be separated from the spider.
There is a further lesson to be learned from this example: while the spider is clearly different from its web-creation, it nonetheless is acutely conscious of every corner of it. In philosophical terms, we could say the spider is transcendental to the web by its identity, yet simultaneously immanent throughout the web by its knowledge. This is a simple yet powerful demonstration of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Lord Krishna, in Bhagavad-gita 9.4 and 5, says He pervades the whole universe by His complete awareness of the spiritual and material energies that make up the creation. Yet at the same time, in His identity as the source of everything, He stands apart from the cosmic manifestation.
The web is compared to God's maya-shakti (power of illusion), which emanates from the Real but is not real itself. "Not real" means that the features of maya (the tri-guna, or three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance) are temporary. "Not real" does not mean the material world does not exist. The essential ingredient (vastu) of the world is real, because it is the energy of God. But the form this energy takes at the time of cosmic creation is temporary. Therefore the maya-shakti is said to be unreal. Reality is that which is eternal: God and God's svarupa-shakti (spiritual energy). The temporal features of the material world are manifestations of the maya-shakti, not of God Himself. These features of maya bewilder the souls of this world, but they cannot bewilder God. God appears within this material world as the supreme person, yet He is not bound by this world, exactly as a spider moving anywhere in its web-creation is not bound by it.