The Jiva and Three Features of Godhead

20060202124957_3doorsBy Swami Tripurari, oringally published on November 23, 2009.

The Absolute is joyful by nature, anadamoya’bhyasat. In order to be so, it must also exist and be conscious of its existence. While there can be an existence that is not conscious of itself, as well as a conscious existence that is not joyful, there cannot be a joyful reality that does not exist or is not conscious of its existence. When existence becomes conscious of the extent to which it exists, it has reason for celebration.

From the joyful Bhagavan who is absorbed in divine play an aura of pure undifferentiated consciousness emanates. This aura is Bhagavan appearing as Brahman. Paramatma is Bhagavan manifesting in relation to material existence, which consists of the individual souls and matter. Paramatma expands and oversees this existence. In this sense, Bhagavan represents the joy of the Absolute, Brahman consciousness, and Paramatma existence. While the joyful Bhagavan exists and is conscious of his existence, his joy is so pronounced that in his most complete manifestation as Krishna he appears unconscious of anything else, including his own supreme existence.

As Brahman, Bhagavan is primarily just conscious. The joy of Brahman is that of peace, and there is little if anything that resembles existence with all its variety and movement in this feature of Bhagavan. Paramatma is fully involved with material existence. Although he is conscious and joyful, these two are less apparent in this manifestation of Bhagavan. The play that expresses joy in the Paramatma is called srsti (creation). As Paramatma plays and thus manifests the material existence, he also enters it and becomes consciously absorbed in every aspect of this existence. The stillness of Brahman lies in between the movement that Bhagavan is concerned with in the world of consciousness, and the movement of the material world that Paramatma is concerned with.

Thus while all three, joy, consciousness, and existence are present in all three features of Godhead, each feature is distinguished from the other by the degree to which one of the three is present.

According to the above understanding, Bhagavan represents joy (ananda), Brahman represents consciousness (cit), and Paramatma represents existence (sat). Paramatma, Brahman, and Bhagavan do not represent sat, cit, or ananda exclusively. Rather, Bhagavan contains all three in fullness, Paramatma and Brahman contain the other two in different degrees.

However, the Paramatma can also be conceived of as existence characterized by consciousness of itself, and Brahman as existence in general. When viewed in this way, Paramatma represents cit rather than sat, and Brahman represents sat rather than cit. Brahman is almost always described in scripture as pure consciousness, so it would seem natural to associate it with cit. However, since consciousness normally requires an object of which one is conscious, it would seem more logical to describe Brahman as simple existence, whereas Paramatma implies variety and therefore fuller consciousness.

Thus from this angle of vision, Paramatma is a more developed manifestation of Godhead primarily representing cit, whereas Brahman is the lowest of the three manifestations primarily representing sat. Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan can be further understood in terms of their being manifestations of Godhead that correspond with three approaches to him. The Godhead appears as Brahman to the jnani, as Paramatma to the yogi, and as Bhagavan to his devotee.

Regarding the individual soul, Bhagavan has three primary potencies or energies. The jivatma or individual soul is a manifestation of the intermediate potency of Bhagavan (jiva/tatastha sakti). His primary potency (svarupa-sakti) represents his own nature, and his secondary potency represents the material nature consisting of the gunas. His intermediate potency consists of individual souls that bear the stamp of his own nature, and thus each soul is a unit of will. However, the will of the jiva is a qualified will. If it wills to associate with matter, its activity is determined by matter under the influence of material nature’s three gunas. This is the realm of karma.

If the jiva wills to associate itself with God, its activities are ultimately an expression of the internal will of Godhead who chooses to express his own joy through that individual soul. This is called lila, the divine play of the Absolute, in which the individual soul participates by aligning his will with the will of God. The jiva soul’s real life in lila with God is one in which all desire related to God’s secondary potency is replaced with God’s desire—God’s joy manifesting itself though the jiva soul. For the jiva, this experience is one in which it feels as though it has chosen such a life—as if it were its own—just as this is the case in material existence in which we feel we are doing our own thing, but in reality we are merely puppets of the gunas. In liberated life the jiva realizes its highest potential, its very purpose, in the expression of the joy of the Absolute under the influence of God’s primary sakti.


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69 Responses to The Jiva and Three Features of Godhead

  1. Thank you so much for this expanation.

    One section that I am not clear on is:

    “According to the above understanding, Bhagavan represents joy (ananda), Brahman represents consciousness (cit), and Paramatma represents existence (sat). Paramatma, Brahman, and Bhagavan do not represent sat, cit, or ananda exclusively. Rather, Bhagavan contains all three in fullness, Paramatma and Bhagavan contain the other two in different degrees.”

    The last sentence creates some confusion for me. It says that Bhagavan contains all 3 potentcies in fullness, but Paramatma and Bhagavan contain the other two in different degrees…
    Is this a typo? Should it be Paramatma & Brahman contain the other two in different degrees?

    Any clarification would be much appreciated.

  2. Electricity is a good example for one thing existing in different forms: there is static electricity (‘Brahman’) in which individual electrons play their minute but integral role, electric current (both AC and DC) that can be compared to ‘Paramatma’, and the power plant (‘Bhagavan’).

    Maharaja writes: “If the jiva wills to associate itself with God, its activities are ultimately an expression of the internal will of Godhead who chooses to express his own joy through that individual soul.”

    Sometimes jiva choses to associate itself with Brahman, and that can be seen as an expression of the internal will of Godhead as well. Brahman is often described in sruti as being full of ananda, or bliss.

    • Brahman is often described in sruti as being full of ananda, or bliss.

      In Gaudiya siddhanta the bliss of Brahman is likened more to no suffering than it is anything positive, at least in comparison to the bliss of prema in service to Bhagavan. See Sat-sandarbha and Brihat-bhagavatamrita for more extensive arguments in this regard. This idea is also mentioned in Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu.

      • Some Advaitins would say the same, albeit indirectly:
        There are two schools of thought within Advaitins regarding deep sleep. The other says it’s similar to Brahman and the other says it’s ignorance. To me, the school that says it to be comparable to Brahman is really saying that it’s without bliss because in deep sleep there isn’t any kind of awareness of oneself. That in itself does away with bliss.

      • Maharaja writes: “In Gaudiya siddhanta the bliss of Brahman is likened more to no suffering than it is anything positive, at least in comparison to the bliss of prema in service to Bhagavan.”

        In the light of the sruti texts such as Taittirya, Brihadaranyaka, Satapatha Brahmana, the bliss of Brahman liberation is millions of times higher than hapiness ever experienced by a human being. That bliss is never described in those texts as being merely negation of suffering. Bhagavad Gita also describes it very differently.
        BG 14.27
        brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham
        amṛtasyāvyayasya ca
        śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
        sukhasyaikāntikasya ca
        “And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.”

        I find the concept of “no positive bliss in Brahman” very unconvincing and not grounded in shastra.

        • Visvanatha Cakravarti understands Gita verse you have cited (14.27) thus,

          “I am the basis (pratisthaham) of impersonal Brahman, the basis of indestructible liberation (amrtasya), the basis of the eternal mehtod of bhakti (sasvatasya ca dharmasya), and the basis of the prema (sukhasya) of the unalloyed devotee.”

          Baladeva vidyabhusana: “I am the ultimate affectionate shelter of the jiva who has attained his svarupa, who is beyond death and posesses unchanging devotion to me, for I am the shelter of eternal qualities and extraordinary rasa for that jiva.”

          Sridhara Swami comments, ” I am the basis of Brahman” means I am condensed Brahman.”

          These understandings are grounded in sastra. To better understand that Guadiya position on this I have already suggested reading Sanatana Goswami’s Brihat-bhagavatamrta, where he goes into this issue in depth. The relevant section is Bb 2.2. However, I sympathize with you to an extent. “No positive blisss” is very strong, even in comparison to “an insignificant amount of bliss in comparison to prema.” Which is the actual Gaudiya position may be debatable. The stronger position of these two goes hand in hand with the idea that there is no experiencer, objet of experience, nor and experience to be had in merging with Brahman. So no positive bliss in such realization would then be the idea. Also the end of suffering may amount to more than you realize.

          However, overall the sastra minimizes the bliss of Brahman by way of comparison to that of prema. Do you find that objectionable?

          • Maharaja writes: “…overall the sastra minimizes the bliss of Brahman by way of comparison to that of prema. Do you find that objectionable?”

            No, I do not find that objectionable, and in fact I quite agree with that. However, to say that there is no positive bliss in Brahman is an entirely different statement, which I find to be of a mere propaganda value.

            The platform of brahma-bhuta is far, far more than a mere lack of suffering – it is a very high state of consciousness where one feels unity with the Supreme, feels being a part of something truly wonderous and magnificent, feels in tune with the vibrant spiritual existence – those are all positive and joyful experiences for which there is no real similarity on the material platform.

          • The platform of brahma-bhuta is far, far more than a mere lack of suffering – it is a very high state of consciousness where one feels unity with the Supreme, feels being a part of something truly wonderous and magnificent, feels in tune with the vibrant spiritual existence – those are all positive and joyful experiences for which there is no real similarity on the material platform.

            Buddhist seek to end suffering, nothing more. There is a comparison made between the idea of Brahman realization (mukti) and the realization of the Buddha by many, even the Visnu Purana and more so today among Neo Advaitins. Again, arguably those who say that the experience, the experiencer, and the object of experience all disappear in Brahman realization experience no bliss.

            The Upanisads do not distinguish between Brahman and Bhagavan. They are more vauge in this respect. That said, I tend to think there is some bliss in Brahman when realized through bhakti in a manner that does not blur the distinction between Brahman and jiva such that experience itself evaporates. And I made this point in the article acknowledging the bliss of Brahman. So my comment about the bliss of Brahman being merely freedom from suffering is, again, debatable. But I again suggest reading Bb 2.2 where Sanatana Goswami treats this topic in detail. There you will find statement like “When a person is freed from suffering the absence of suffering is a negative form of happiness. Just as when a person sleeps and then awakens saying ‘I slept happily,’ similarly in mukti cessation of sorrow is equated with bliss. . . .” “The Brahman of the jnanis is devoid of bliss,” . . . “The Brahman of the jnanis may be a negative aspect of bliss.”

          • It to me also looks like of propaganda value. If you are on brahma-bhuta it is so much easier to practice devotional service also with firm determination. In fact real devotional service begins after brahma-bhuta.

          • I think a lot of schools of Saivism are impersonal, but describes Brahman as having all three sat, cit and ananda. They don’t consider world as unreal and they just consider impersonal siva consciousness as the origin of everything.
            Perhaps there are schools in India that are impersonal, but not like Sankara. Sankara’s school looks more similar to Buddhism.

          • I read through the section of Brihat-bhagavatamrita I mentioned and Sanatana Goswami’s conclusion seems to be that Brahman by constitution has a comparatively meager amount of ananda because in Brahman there are no transforms like those we find in Bhagavan. However, those who merge with Brahman cannot experience its ananda because there is no relationship in such merging, no sense of individuality and no experience thereby. Thus their attainment for all practical purposes amounts to nothing more than the end of suffering. He also mentions that in almost all cases the jivas retain their individuality in liberation, but in some cases by the will of Bhagavan (in accordance with the desire of the jiva) some few souls merge with Brahman (brahma sayujya).

            So theoretically there is ananda in Brahman but in practical reality there is none to experience. It is apparent to me from reading this section that Sri Sanatana’s position on this is well supported by sastra. Indeed the entire section is the end of a debate between different sastras concerning the nature of liberation and the position of bhakti in relation to jnana.

          • Perhaps I’m reading this wrong but the idea that–“In liberation, in some cases by the will of Bhagavan (in accordance with the desire of the jiva) some few souls merge with Brahman (brahma sayujya)”–is a difficult concept for me.

            Because we have been taught that the jiva in sayujya never really loses its individuality—that even in sayujya it remains an individual spark of consciousness floating in a sea made up of unlimited sparks of consciousness.

            I believe that I even read somewhere??? That it’s possible for the jiva to be rescued from sayujya.

            So if the jiva loses its individuality in sayujya what happens to it? Does it become nothing (as in Buddhism)? Does the jiva become in a sense (I dare say) god? What?

            And how could the jiva be “rescued” from sayujya if it has no individual identity?

          • Perhaps Sanatana Prabhu is saying that the merged souls lose their sense of individuality. Cc does speak of jivas being drawn to bhakti from Brahman. I would have to find the quote to see if it refers oly to jivan muktas or if it also refers to those who have attained final multi–videha mukti.

          • Unfortunately I do not have access to Brihat-bhagavatamrita so it is hard for me to debate what is written there.

            Statement such as “comparatively meager amount of ananda found in Brahman” can very easily be seen as relativistic and even emotional when coming from a devoted bhakta.

            It is really not that hard to imagine a happiness of a liberated soul suspended is a sea of light and consciousness – peaceful reverence. If that is merely called ‘absence of suffering’ than it misses the point, because shanta rasa is a positive experience.

          • The object of love in santa rasa is Paramatma, not Brahman. Santa rasa is much more than liberation. It is prema bhakti, not merely mukti. There is no eternal reverence without bhakti. The discussion is not whether there is bliss in santa rasa, it is whether there is bliss in non devotional brhama sayujya. If there is no sense of self, no individuality and no other there is no experience. This is where the discussion has come to. I acknowledge that there is bliss in the constitution of Brahman, but the question is whether or not those who merge with Brahman with no view to engage in nirguna bhakti experience that bliss. Sri Jiva and Sanatana think not.

            Again, Buddhist open seek only the end of suffering, nirvana. Is there really any difference between their ultimate reality and those who merge in Brahman? I realize the two philosophies of Advaita and Buddhism are different, but Advaita has for good reason been called veiled Buddhism in sastra.

          • If all liberated living entities are situated in one of the 5 rasas, why not those in brahma sayujya? Why would there be no bliss in a position which Lord Krsna mercifully gives to some of His playmates?

            I am not well versed in Buddhism but I have seen many statements of various Vaishnavas that seriously misrepresent both modern Advaita and traditional Vedic monism. That is why I am often sceptical when reading their take on Brahman-ananda. These descriptions seem to lack objectivity.

            When a choir sings in perfect unison, there is no distinction between individual voices – that however does not mean that individuality of the singers ceases to exist. If the soul can not be dissolved, it can never lose it’s individuality.

            It is because modern devotees minimize the Brahman aspect of the Absolute, concoctions such as ‘we all fell from Vaikuntha’ take root among them. From undifferentiated sheet of ‘reasonably happy’ consciousness some living entities come to experience variety and individuality. That is not very hard to understand or accept.

          • From undifferentiated sheet of ‘reasonably happy’ consciousness some living entities come to experience variety and individuality. That is not very hard to understand or accept.

            But they come from susupti within Mahavisnu, not Brahman. There they are undifferentiated and move toward differentiation because of anadi karma.

            If all liberated living entities are situated in one of the 5 rasas, why not those in brahma sayujya? Why would there be no bliss in a position which Lord Krsna mercifully gives to some of His playmates?

            Where does it say that all liberated souls are in one of the five rasas? One can attain mukti with the help for sattviki bhakti and not experience rasa.

            I am not well versed in Buddhism but I have seen many statements of various Vaishnavas that seriously misrepresent both modern Advaita and traditional Vedic monism. That is why I am often sceptical when reading their take on Brahman-ananda. These descriptions seem to lack objectivity.

            How familiar are you with Advaita philosophy? Have you studied Sat-sandarbha?

          • My knowledge of Advaita comes primarily from Vaishnava writings but over the years I have also read a few classical sources, including works of Shankaracarya. That philosophy interests me only as a part of general scholarly understanding of the Vedic tradition.

          • From the article above,”
            The reason yogis do not usually become jnanis is because they have often been confused by the language of Yoga into thinking of enlightenment as a permanent experience of samadhi. So when the experience is ‘on’ they are not looking to understand anything, they are simply trying to make the state permanent, sahaja. The joke is that enlightenment is not an experience, nor is there any permanent experience. Furthermore, they do not realize that to make an experience permanent one would have to be a doer, an agent acting on the experience, maintaining it or controlling it or staying in it…which is a dualistic state, not enlightenment.

          • Statement such as “comparatively meager amount of ananda found in Brahman” can very easily be seen as relativistic and even emotional when coming from a devoted bhakta.

            But you have already said this yourself. You have agreed that the measure of ananda in Brahman is much less that that found in bhakti. And there is more than emotion to this. There is philosophy and there are examples. Philosophically speaking Brahman is static in comparison to Bhagavan. There is no movement in Brahman, but in oneness with Bhagavan there is interaction and transformation and thus a dynamic union that arguably is more blissful. The bliss of bhakt is therefore always growing even though it is full. The well known examples of Sukadeva and the Kumaras illustrate the truth as to the comparatively meager amount of ananda in Brahman. Note also that devotees also acknowledge degrees of bliss within bhakti. So there position in this connection is more than sectarian emotion.

          • This website actually speaks about the attribute-less Brahman that Swami is talking about. http://www.shiningworld.com/Books%20Pages/HTML%20Books/Ramana%27s%20Teachings.htm

            You will see that Advaitins, who are Sankarites, do not want bliss; identity means that experience dissolves. Certainly there are other impersonal schools especially yogic schools that are after experience, but in the website above experience is considered just transitory. In that sense these Advaitins are very selfless as they do not want bliss also!

          • Here is an online version of Brhat Bhagavtamritam you can read.

            http://bvml.org/SSG/0.html

          • Unfortunately it lacks Sanatana Goswami’s commentary where he raises the points relevant to the discussion about the bliss of Brahman.

          • I think a lot of schools of Saivism are impersonal, but describes Brahman as having all three sat, cit and ananda. They don’t consider world as unreal and they just consider impersonal siva consciousness as the origin of everything.
            Perhaps there are schools in India that are impersonal, but not like Sankara. Sankara’s school looks more similar to Buddhism.

            All Saivite schools are ultimately impersonalistic. The reason why Vaisnavas feel the need to defeat traditional Advaita Vedanta rather, however, is because both they and orthodox Sankarites do not view Saivism as a serious philosophical contender worthy of their time and effort. Many honest Saivites (some of whom I have had personal exchanges with) recognise the fact that their tradition is basically non-Vedic, for no existing Saiva school predicates its theological tenets and precepts on the Vedanta-sutra, unlike Vaisnavas and Advaitins. Sure Srikantha did make one such attempt at interpreting the Brahma-sutras from a Siva-centred standpoint nearly a thousand years ago, but that is today a dead lineage, with, I would dare venture to say, no takers, whether in India or elsewhere.

            Virtually the whole of strict Saivite philosophy derives from the Saiva Agamas (which Prabhupada Srila Sarasvati Thakura characterises as speculative in his commentary to a particular sloka of the Brahma-samhita. Hence, it is really a religion that is alien to what is generally referred to as Hinduism, which, as we do know, is largely based on the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas. None of these categories of scriptures enjoys total endorsement in Saivism.

          • That maybe true in previous climate, but today you have to talk to Buddhists too who are serious!! Secondly yogic traditions and some impersonal traditions(Jnanesvara etc) are different from Sankara’s interpretation and we can acknowledge that.

          • Another point to note is that if Siva actually revealed the Saivite texts, then I do not see it easy to just dismiss them because they are not “Vedic”. Anyway Siva has some idea about the Vedas!
            I believe there is partial revelation even in other traditions. Even Vedic scriptures are revealed at some point of time in this earthly system to some rishis and Brahma, Narada or Siva would have spoken to the rishis. So if Siva spoke a Tantra that is not Vedic according to your definition, it does not mean it is completely wrong.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            This is not my concocted definition of what is Vedic and what isn’t – many Saivites themselves acknowledge that fact and some even belittle the four Vedas and other traditionally-accepted scriptures such as the Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana because vitually no support is to be found therein for Saiva conclusions. At least the Shaktas found their beliefs and practices on a number of texts that claim Puranic status, but Saivites do not.

            As for Siva revealing the books held sacred by Saivites, that is far from established, and even it were the case, Vaisnavas do know from sastra that one of the functions of the blue-throated Lord is to expound false notions of religion, at the behest of Lord Visnu, so as to keep unqualified persons as far as possible from suddha-bhakti. Or do you think that our acaryas dishonestly manufactured those specific references and passed them off as genuine due to some nebulous agenda? I for one don’t. So it may be tough for you to dismiss Saivism, but this is an attitude that just comes natural to me. And I know what I’m talking about because as someone born and brought up in a relatively traditional Hindu ambience, the strangeness of Saivite thought to Vedic/Puranic Hinduism struck me quite forcefully when I first perused their literature.

            As for Buddhists, they are a serious denomination deserving of consideration. That I can quite easily agree to.

          • As for Buddhists, they are a serious denomination deserving of consideration. That I can quite easily agree to.

            Despite the non-vedic nature of Saivism, I do not understand how on this basis alone one could credibly dismiss their conclusions. This may have been an effective tactic centuries ago, but how could it be in today’s world? Buddhists are non Vedic and our purva acaryas dismissed them on this basis alone for the most part. But how could one get anywhere doing that today without debating their actual conclusions when in today’s world few care about whether or not one is Vedic. Muktananda was a Saivaite from the North and the publishers of Hinduism Today are Saivaites from the South.

            But if we are discussing their conception of mukti or Brahman based on what the Vedic scriptures say, then of course their ideas can be dismissed.

          • BVT actually in his essay on the Bhagavata says that what Vyasa saw from the peak of his prowess from East, Plato saw from the West. Obviously, Vyasa must have seen much more than Plato. BVT, seeing the times he was in, was willing to consider truth can atleast be partially revealed to people outside the boundaries of “India”. GV considers Brahma Samhita to be Vedic, other sects don’t! Even Nimbarka talked about how he found the ideal of devotion to Radha and Krsna from Narada, but it was off the books and Vedas that were studied by him. In Vedic literature, there is hardly any mention of Radha, but you don’t have any problem in calling GV Vedic!Moreover, in the introduction to Krsna Samhita, BVT traces out the development of jiva’s faith from worship of Sun to Saivism and then to Vaisnavism. In fact, he considers Buddhists and Jains to be similar to Saivite dharma. http://www.salagram.net/BVT-no-sects.html ( Non-sectarian Vaisnava Dharma). Similarly, SSM acknowledged some depth in Hegel’s thought even though he was not even close to Vedic culture. In the current climate, it is better to see the merits of the system philosophically and compare it to GV rather than just dismiss them on these grounds.

            Vedas are a continuing revelation and references in Vedic literature themselves say that the knowledge in the earthly system is a fraction of the Absolute and heavenly planets have more extensive versions of Vedic literature including S.B. Such is the Absolute and he can be understood in multiple ways.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            I agree in toto, or nearly so. It’s just that, as I said, there is no debate or discussion if one doesn’t take up cudgels for a specific viewpoint. It gets boring if everyone concurs with everyone else all the time.

            Just in passing, however, I’d opine that references to Radha and Krishna in sruti are perhaps just a tad more present than many do think. The Mexican devotee Hare Krishna Das has in fact compiled an interesting essay on this theme, and for my part, I find myself swayed by his thesis to a large degree.

            But that does not detract from your above posting, which as I wrote, is brilliantly put.

            Cheers

          • I also need to check my tone many times. As Rupa Goswami said vaco vegam! Anyway I enjoy many of your posts Vikram! Perhaps you can post Hare Krsna das’s essay, if it is available.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            You may download it from the Philosophy section at the link below:

            http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/library/

            It does provide food for thought, I would posit, although one does not need to accept in full the points presented.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            With regards to Tantras, I made no mention of them as these are authentic texts that are accepted by Vaisnavas and others, although many tantric concepts do not necessarily lead one to vaisnava-siddhanta. Still, a non-negligible portion of the material of the Tantras can be logically incorporated into Vaisnavism, as even the much-revered Sri Brahma-samhita of the Gaudiya Sampradaya embodies much tantrism in form and substance.

            The fundament of Saivism is not that much the Tantras, but preponderantly the Saiva Agamas, and it is those in particular that, I maintain, are decidedly non-Vedic, even anti-Vedic in some instances, and this ought to be obvious to anybody who knows a thing or two about Saivas. Vaisnavas can often be sectarian to the extreme, but what sets them on a higher pedestal than Saivas, certainly to me, is the fact that they have a rightful claim to be termed a Vedantic outlook on life and the world, whereas Saivites do not.

          • You want to use the verse both for Saivism and Mayavadi philosophy . I know you are from south India and that conditioning is hard to break.
            But if you study Rupa Gosvami, he borrows extensively from Abhinavgupta’s aesthetics. One of SP’s estranged disciples Nitai zine had written about Northern Saivism as a philosophy between Advaitins of Sankara and Vaisnavism. Capra’s “Dance of Siva” etc are based on Saivism.
            It is better to analyze a system philosophy rather than talk to lay practitioners who are themselves not that familiar with the origin of their tradition. Also it makes sense to see different schools of Saivism and not bracket lumping all of them into one section for the black and white convenience of your brain.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            I’m a North Indian-descended guy from the Prayag general area, Gaura-Vijaya, with not a single drop of South Indian blood running in my veins. So, get your facts right before you open your mouth, is that clear?

            An unemployed self-styled scholar like Nitai Das is the last individual on earth I would ever take seriously, so for you to quote him amounts to nothing more than wasting your own time. It ain’t gonna work as far as I am concerned. I am well aware of the existence of different Saiva schools, but the one thing they all have in common is the monistic view of reality they all essentially share. Besides, these few exchanges are hardly meant to be an exhaustive exposition of Vaisnava objections to Saivism. In a forum like this, one can solely delineate ideas in broad, simple terms.

            Besides, what works for you doesn’t have to work for me, and vice versa. We only happen to fall in different human categories and the wisest course of action is to accept that fact and leave it at that. So, I’m sorry, but in spite of your stance and arguments, Saivism remains an ultimately false doctrine, and one that lies on the fringes of the vast landscape of Indic traditions.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            By the way, I’m a person of Indian origin, not an Indian national. Truth be told, I’ve been removed from my Indian homeland for not less than six entire generations. I just thought this would clear your misconception as to my background.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            Lastly, try telling an adherent of Kashmir Saivism that his tradition is a compromise between the Advaita of Sankara and Vaisnavism, and see what he does to you.

          • Alright, that is good enough. Sorry for the inconvenience. For that matter most adherents in every faith are fundamentalist about the extreme superiority of their belief and conceptions. But I do happen to find people who will not make such a fuss about the comparison of their tradition with Vaisnavism and Advaita of Sankara.
            Anyway, you are schooled well enough in Vaisnavism to disparage other traditions through the sastra and your faith in acaryas. I have nothing to say then.

          • I think I was wrong in even referring to your background and origin. It is always a wrong idea to use somebody’s background to shut off their ideas. I apologize for that.

          • Vikram Ramsoondur

            I also present my profuse apologies for the strong tone I utilised. Going through that post of mine again, I did not feel too proud of it, and maybe it should never have been typed and submitted.

            Anyways, you may be surprised to hear that until I was almost an adult, Lord Siva was my ista, and I still feel much attracted to Him. I, like you, recognise partial revelation in nearly every tradition on earth, even though I rest firmly convinced of the uniqueness of vaisnava-dharma. Just so you know, I have good friends of every denomination imaginable, and my views, to be honest, are way more nuanced and moderate than some of my posts may sometimes give the impression.

            It’s just that, in any argument, I feel that one has to take a position. And as someone who subscribes to Gaudiya Vedanta, that is just what I did. Now, the method I adopted can always be questioned by you or others, but I believe that the intention behind it was not all that bad.

            So, I’m sorry if my words sounded a little harsh, but you’re obviously a clever guy, and I don’t think you’ll take them too personally.

            Warm regards from me

  3. This article cleared out misunderstandings and confirmed things I felt were true. Thanks a lot.

  4. “Where there is separateness, one sees
    another, smells another, tastes another,
    speaks to another, hears another, touches
    another, thinks of another, knows another.
    But where there is unity, one without a
    second, that is the world of Brahman. This is
    the supreme goal of life, the supreme treasure,
    the supreme joy. Those who do not seek this
    Supreme goal live on but a fraction of this joy.”
    Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.31-32

    • Again I think it is important to note that the Upanisads use the term Brahman broadly. Look for example at the annda-valli of Taitteriya Upanisad where is it said that Brahman is rasa. Here it is obviously referring to Bhagavan, who in later texts is termed Param Brahman.

      Furthermore at least Sankara’ notion of Brahman has absolutely no attributes. On this basis of this point the famous contemporary Madhva philosopher and devotee, BKN Sharma, has argued that the Brahman of Sankara has no ananda. Nirvisesa Brahman must be abandoned in order to retain the axiological importance of ananda, and in this Sharma is consistent with the overall Madhva Vaisnava doctrine. The role of ananda in Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta is well known to be problematic. Many scholars have pointed out that ananda is not a feature of his Brahman while sat and cit are. In the least he is very reluctant to acknowledge bliss as an essential property of Brahman. This is so because the very idea of bliss or ananda is for the most part relational.

      • Maharaja writes: “Furthermore at least Sankara’ notion of Brahman has absolutely no attributes.”

        I am not sure that the word ‘attributes’ is correct in this context. Perhaps it should be replaced with ‘differentiations’.

        The word ‘nirvisesa’ does not mean ‘impersonal’, or ‘with no attributes’. It means: ‘without differentiation’ or ‘without variety’, ‘uniform’.

        The attributes of Brahman are sat, cit, and ananda. Brahman is not without rasa either: the rasa is shanta – calm reverence.

        • I think you need to study Advaita more before talking about Brahman with attributes. Brahman id not only nirvisesa. It is also nirguna (without attributes). Again, no rasa in the attributeless conception of Brahman. And here I think you need to study more about what constitutes rasa.

          • The word nirguna suffers from the same common translating errors as the word nirvisesa. Nirguna means ‘without’ gunas of the material world, plain and simple.

            Sat-cit-ananda are universally recognized as the attributes, inherent qualities, or characteristics of Brahman. Attribute is something that can be attributed, or assigned to an object you are trying to describe.

          • I am surprised to here you say that you have studied he writings of Sankara and have concluded that when he uses the term nirguna with regard to Brahman he means only that Brahman is free from the influence of the three material gunas. This is more of a Vaisnava interpretation and use of the word. MS gives the meaning found in the Upanisads to be “devoid of all qualities or properties.” This is how Sankara uses it.

          • Maharaja, here is a good, scholarly article on Shankaracarya and ananda, the concepts we are discussing here: http://www.jstor.org/pss/1400017
            The original Upanishadic monism seems to be a lot more open to the concept of intense bliss in Brahman but that does not mean this concept is absent in Sankara’s works (as the author above argues).

          • Yes, the point is debatable. However, the Gaudiya acaryas have made their position clear. And as this position is a valid and option, I do not think it accurate to relegate it to the realm of mere propaganda. There is some philosophy to it. In the section of Bb I directed readers to, Sri Sanatana is discussing the prominent notions of liberation at the time—Nyaya, Avdaita, etc.—and demonstrating how their position is for all intents an purposes no more than freedom from suffering. It is with regard to Advaita and their ideal of Brahman that he acknowledges bliss in the constitution of Brahman but then dismiss it in terms of this bliss being experienced by the liberated, given the apparent loss of individuality posited by Advaitins.

  5. I think that the two-tier Brahman system of Sankara is different from the way Brahman is spoken of in the Upanishads. Maybe paramatama sayugya or santa rasa has more of positive content.

    • Yes bliss of no consequence in the end for many advaitans following Sankara’s school strictly. They say that bliss is an illusion as well and after videha mukti, there is nothing like bliss remaining. Very different from the verse below that shows Brahman having some positive content. Even Plato and Plotinus have a somewhat impersonal conception of God, but more a conception with positive qualities. Quality less, formless Brahman is different and those who believe in this conception don’t care about bliss in the end.
      And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness

      • This verse (Prabhupada’s translation) has been cited twice now.

        And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness

        But in his tika Sankara says that Brahman here refers to saguna Brahman, or his idea of Brahman with material attributes like sattva in which happiness (sukha) arises.

  6. Perhaps Sanatana Gosvami wanted to write like that just to attract jnanis to GV philosophy.

  7. What is the need to rescue that jiva when it is comfortable in brahma sayugya? What is need to rescue a jiva from Vaikuntha to bring him to Goloka?

    • You have a fair point. Why would Lord Hari appear to different groups of transcendentalists in different eternal forms and why would He even have an unlimited non-differentiated feature consisting of an infinite number of souls at all? I think that, objectively speaking, it is possible to demonstrate, or at least argue, that Vrndavana Krsna in Goloka or Gokula is the topmost, most charming and most loving manifestation of the Supreme. However, God Himself clearly eternally maintains other spiritual realities, and the only plausible explanation to me is that not everyone is meant to end up as a participant in the Vraja pastimes.

  8. As Sridhar Maharaja explained, the mukta-jiva becomes the master of the illusory energy hence the ego “Sivoham” of the Mukta.
    The jiva becomes Siva in the stage of Mukti, so the concept that the mukta-jiva is simply a spark in the Brahmajyoti is a bit of a smokescreen thrown up by the Vaishnava acharyas to discourage people from seeking Mukti and foregoing the benefits of Bhakti.

    In fact, the mukta-jiva has the opportunity to lord it over the material energy much as Siva does and also attains to Sivaloka from where the mukta-jiva is free to toy around with Maya to his hearts content from the Neutral plane of the Viraja.

    There is still great pleasure for the souls in the liberated position who enjoy much the same facility as Lord Siva.
    Mukti is much more than becoming a spark of brahman merged into the field of spiritual light.
    The jiva sparks of the brahman are not liberated souls as they also suffer from a type of conditioning that limits the ingress of suddha-sattva and Krishna-prema.
    As Sridhar Maharaja said, when the jiva becomes liberated he becomes Siva.(Sivoham)
    The perception that the mukta-jiva simply merges into brahman is a very external and superficial observation.
    There is much more to Mukti than simply merging and losing individual existence.

    • I would take the idea of the jiva becoming siva less literally. Siva means “auspicious.” And Siva represents liberation. We do not find Gopa Kumara literally becoming Siva in his spiritual sojourn.

      • Obviously, Gopa Kumar attained liberation through Bhakti and not Jnana, so his position in liberation would be different than that of a Jnana-yogi. The reference of Sridhar Maharaja that I referred to spelled Siva with a capital A, so that would be a personal pro-noun.
        Mandala.com.au has changed and now the link I had to the quote cannot be found on the web page.
        Along with liberation come all the mystic siddhis, so we know that liberated souls do have the option to manipulate the material energy according to their desire, so to say that a liberated soul enjoys similar facility as Lord Siva is not that far fetched.
        I don’t believe that a jiva can become Siva tattva in full because Siva is another form of Krishna, but a liberated jnana-yogi has partial power of Siva and the manipulation of material energy as done by the mystics is in the vein of Siva-tattva.

        • While I appreciate your points, Gopa Kumara’s journey is one in which deliberation on mukti is a big topic. He goes to Siva loka as well. But he rejects mukti after fully understanding its implications, none of which include becoming Siva. And the powerful position and abilities of a mukta purusa in a non Vaisnava sense would seem relevant only to the stage of jivan mukti when the mukta is still embodied, becasue after than in vedeha mukti there is no sense of individuality.

          • In this purport, Srila Prabhupada states that the liberated soul attains to Mahesha-dhama – the abode and plane of Lord Siva.

            Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya 21.54

            ei tina dhāmera haya kṛṣṇa adhīśvara

            goloka-paravyoma — prakṛtira para

            SYNONYMS

            ei tina dhāmera — of these three dhāmas, or residential places, namely Goloka Vṛndāvana-dhāma, Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma (Hari-dhāma) and Devī-dhāma (the material world); haya — is; kṛṣṇa — Lord Kṛṣṇa; adhīśvara — the supreme master; goloka-paravyoma — the spiritual planet Goloka and the spiritual sky; prakṛtira para — beyond this material energy.

            TRANSLATION

            “Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor of all dhāmas, including Goloka-dhāma, Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma and Devī-dhāma. The paravyoma and Goloka-dhāma are beyond Devī-dhāma, this material world.

            PURPORT

            When a living entity is liberated from Devī-dhāma but does not know of the opulence of Hari-dhāma, he is placed in Maheśa-dhāma, which is between the other two dhāmas. The liberated soul does not get an opportunity to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead there; therefore although this Maheśa-dhāma is Lord Śiva’s dhāma and above Devī-dhāma, it is not the spiritual world. The spiritual world begins with Hari-dhāma, or Vaikuṇṭhaloka.

          • Nice citation. The section in Bb also discusses Mahesa Dhama in some detail. Everyone is serving Mahesa (Siva) there.

  9. Maharaja writes: “According to the above understanding, Bhagavan represents joy (ananda), Brahman represents consciousness (cit), and Paramatma represents existence (sat).”

    I always thought that Brahman represents existence (sat), and Paramatma represents consciousness (cit). As in Sat-cit-annada / Brahman-Paramatma-Bhagavan.

  10. I don’t have the scriptural reference for this, but I believe that the object of love in santa rasa is Laxmi-Narayan, not Paramatma. Paramatma is found within the hearts of the wandering errant jivas confined within matter, but is He or is He not present in the spiritual world ? The liberated bhaktas there have loving, direct contact with their respective Lords, so is there need for Paramatma there ? Can anyone help here with scriptural reference ?

    Since brahman is sometimes described as the rays emanating from the transcendental body of Krishna, must there be not only some relief in that plane from the sufferings of maya, but because it is inextricably connected with Krishna, some type of, shall we call it a portion of bliss, or of being awe-struck ?

    Brahman must be awesome, and breath-taking, but must be somewhat dry in tone, because there is no exchange of personal values. Krishna prema, being the height of exchange of personal values of love, thereby being nearly unlimitedly blissful, according to one’s rasa, must be wet in tone, as is described in shastra regarding profuse shedding of tears of ecstasy. I am attempting to produce a somewhat poetic comparison here, which may help us conceptualize these two transcendental positions. Sorry, I have no scriptural reference at all for this last paragraph, it is just my “gut” instinct. Call it speculative if you like.

    Pranams to all the noble sages on this board,
    Anandamaya das

    • The relief from material suffering in Brahman is absolute. The difference between this realization and Prema is Prema’s dynamic nature, filled as it is with transformations of ecstasy, as opposed to static bliss.

      Sri Rupa in Brs. writes

      The rati which arises in persons with a predominance
      of sama (atmä-jnana), which is devoid of even a trace of
      possessiveness for the Lord, but which produces attraction for
      Krsna in the form of Paramatma, is called santa-rati.

      The alambana (visaya) in santa-rasa is the Lord
      with an eternal form of knowledge and bliss, most attractive to
      the atmaramas. He is the Paramatma, the param brahman, free
      from all passions, tolerant, pure, sense-controlled, eternally
      fixed in spiritual form, who rewards even the enemies He kills,
      and who is greater than the whole universe.

      For the most part santa rasa is eternal meditation in Vaikuntha. Thus its anubhavas include staring at the tip of the nose, sitting, discussing the Upanisads, etc. Regarding the form of Krsna, the idea is that if in santa rasa the adept sees Krnsa, he sees him as the Paramatma. An example of this is found in the famous Bhagavata verse describing how different persons saw Krsna in the wrestling area of Kamsa. They also see Narayana as the Lord of the heart, indwelling. This is the general idea but there are a number of varieties of santa rasa. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has ignored this rasa for the most part.

      • Maharaj,
        I appreciate that you are attempting to answer this question by quoting Sri Rupa. But you also say that “For the most part santa rasa is eternal meditation in Vaikuntha.” There is still a lingering doubt in my mind, for why would those in santa rasa need to meditate on Paramatma when Narayan is standing right before them ?
        In the second quote, the Lord is described “with an eternal form of knowledge and bliss…” and “eternally fixed in spiritual form…” Would this not then describe Narayana ?
        Also, is not meditation on Paramatma something a yogi would do in an attempt to become perfected, then after perfection he would be able to directly see the Lord’s form ?
        And in another sense, Krishna is all three – Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan.
        Pranams,
        AMdas

        • Santa rasa devotees in Vaikuntha meditate on the object of their love as their primary engagement. As explained by Sri Rupa the anubhavas of santa rasa are staring at the tip of one’s nose, etc. If santa bhaktas sometimes see their Lord outside, they think of him as the Lord of their heart. Meditation (dhyana yoga) as described in the sixth chapter of the Gita leads to bhakti and santa rasa. Some argue that Patanjali’s Yoga-sutra also leads to santa rasa in Vaikuntha. The Paramatma of this world is an expansion of Narayana. So the two in one sense synonymous but it is the orientation of the santa bhakta that causes him to identify Narayana as the indwelling Lord. Meditation on Narayana’s expansion in this world leads to meditation on him as the Lord of one’s heart.

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