Bhakti In The Jīva: Inherent Or Inherited? Part 3: Is Rasa Totally Predetermined?

By Swāmī Bhakti Praṇaya Padmanābha.

Additional articles in this series: Bhakti Comes from Bhakti; Bhakti, the Essence of the Svarūpa-Śakti; Is Rasa Totally Predetermined?; The Source Of Our Siddha-deha; Is There Scriptural Support in Favor of Inherence?; Nurture and Nature; The Origin of the Theory of Inherence; Teaching Strategies And Historical Presentism; How To Reach Siddhānta (Even Through Apasiddhānta); The Role of Adhikāra and Pramāṇa In Both Outreach and Inreach; Conclusion. This series of articles has led to the publication of a book entitled Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jiva According to Gaudiya Vedanta.

As we have shown in the first two parts of this series, there is ample room for scriptural reasoning that supports the idea that bhakti is not inherent in the jīva. Although we will continue plumbing the depths of this rich topic, let us for a minute focus our discussion in a slightly different direction that is nonetheless connected to our main subject: If bhakti is not inherent but inherited, is this also the case for prema, rasa,1 and our siddha-svarūpa?

As for our eternal spiritual identity, of course, we would not dare say that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is unaware of how he would like to accept service from each one of us. And it is only through this consideration that we could say (again, in a general and not entirely specific way) that our siddha-svarūpa (perfect spiritual body) is inherent and already determined. Nonetheless, something important to clarify here is that although Bhagavān may know in his omniscience what ultimate identity each jīva will attain, this does not mean that he decides which identity each soul will achieve, since in that case, the jīva would be totally devoid of will. In this connection, we can cite the example of the barometer, which is an instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure. With the information obtained through this instrument, one may be able to predict the climatic condition, but this does not imply that one decides what the condition will be. In other words, knowing about the outcome of something before it occurs does not mean that one is the cause of that outcome.

Strictly speaking, what is truly inherent in the jīva is only its potential to eventually experience its eternal identity. This identity, which will be constituted of svarūpa-śakti, could be said to be in a latent state not within the jīva-śakti but within the svarūpa-śakti. Thus, the type of association we receive from the svarūpa-śakti throughout this life and others will determine what our devotional inclination is in eternity, since that plane is composed of the internal energy of Bhagavān, which comes into our life through his bhaktas. And it is through this process that Śrī Kṛṣṇa will let us know the specific way in which he wishes to receive sevā from us. The scriptures provide ample evidence demonstrating that the inclination toward a certain service mood arises from the association we receive, including the following:

1. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta describes how Vallabha Bhaṭṭa was accustomed to worshiping Kṛṣṇa as a child and thus was originally initiated in the Bāla-gopāla mantra. But then, due to the association of Gadādhara Paṇḍita, his mind was converted, and thus he devoted himself to worshiping Kiśora-gopāla (Kṛṣṇa as a teenager).2

2. Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī explains that the root cause of prema is “the particular form of God that one worships,” this form is solely determined by sādhu-saṅga.3

3. The Bhāgavata declares, “When the material life of a wandering soul has ceased, O Acyuta, he may attain the association of your devotees. And when he associates with them, there awakens in him devotion unto you, who are the goal of the devotees and the Lord of all causes and their effects.”4 In his commentary, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī declares that this verse answers the question “When will bhakti appear?” And also he further emphasizes that the word tadaiva here means “then and only then,” implying that when the baddhajīva is associated with sādhus, then and only then will Kṛṣṇa bhakti come to it.

4. In Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, it is explained that even though mādhurya-rasa is considered the most exalted ideal, not all devotees desire it, because the bhāva that each devotee pursues is derived from his or her respective bhakti-saṁskāras.5 In his commentary to this section, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda mentions that “due to impressions arising from the grace of a great devotee, either in this life or in previous births, an individual develops a taste for one rasa or another.”

5. If the potential sthāyi-bhāva of a devotee were to be present in some way within the ātmā even before it is blessed with sādhu-saṅga, this would imply that Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti is present within the jīvātmā’s constitution, since bhakti-rasa is made up of Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti. But Śrī Jīva Goswāmī makes it clear that this is not the case by quoting Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.12.69: “The potency of bliss (hlādinī), the potency of being (sandhinī), and the potency of omniscience (samvit) exist only (eka) in you (tvayi), the ground and support of everything. And the extrinsic potency, which gives rise to material happiness, distress, and a mixture of both, is nonexistent in you, who are completely free from the material guṇas.”6

In this regard, one of the arguments in favor of predetermined rasa is that we find various examples of devotees who actually did stay fixed in their respective bhāvas despite their association with other devotees situated in different kinds of bhāvas, even when the latter at times tried to convince the former to modify their bhāva. However, by analyzing the main examples of this, it becomes clear that such devotees, who remained fixed in their own nature of servitude, had in fact already attained a particular bhāva and were thus unmovable from that insight. Mahāprabhu himself (who on many of these occasions apparently tried to modify such bhāva) is our main example of someone who was actually pleased with such an achievement: He was pleased with the brother of Rūpa and Sanātana (Anupama), who, despite his brothers’ inner affinity for Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, could not abandon his devotion to Śrī Rāmacandra, having already acquired a sthāyi-bhāva for Rāma bhakti. And Gaura was likewise pleased with both Murāri Gupta (who in fact is Hanumān himself, a nitya-pārṣada of Śrī Rāma) and a Rāma bhakta whom Gaura encountered on his pilgrimage through South India who also failed to discard his Rāma bhakti even at Mahāprabhu’s request. Thus, the conclusion is that Mahāprabhu converted only those whose bhakti-saṁskāras did not reach to the point of bhāva. And his true intention in the aforementioned exchanges was something else, which has been clearly revealed by Śrī Gaurasundara himself speaking to Murāri Gupta through the pen of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja:

The servitor must have love and affection for the lotus feet of the Lord exactly like this. Even if the Lord wants separation, a devotee cannot abandon the shelter of his lotus feet. Just to test your firm faith in your Lord, I requested you, again and again, to change your worship from Lord Rāmacandra to Kṛṣṇa. Glorious is that devotee who does not abandon his Lord, and glorious is that Lord who does not abandon his devotee!

Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.15.154–155; 3.4.46

In connection to this topic, the analogy of the seed and the water is often given by some advocates of the inherence theory as a conclusive way of establishing the inherence of bhakti in the jīva. The idea is that seeds do already include a particular inherent content, and water comes just to make it manifest. Thus, this analogy proposes that although the “water of bhakti” is the same, since the “jīva seeds” are different, different “rasa plants” will eventually grow. Although this analogy may sound very compelling at first glance, we should first say that an analogy is just that—an analogy. Although it may serve to illustrate a point so we can get a grip on it, an analogy does not prove anything, nor can it establish any siddhānta by itself. And by the way, here one may use hundreds of different analogies (or even this same one!) to prove the exact opposite view. For example, one may say that the jīva-śakti is like the soil, which has the potential to give specific fruits but requires a seed (bhakti) for that, as well as sun, water, and so on (śravaṇa, kīrtana, and so on). Actually, an analogy seeks to explain something that has to be proven otherwise, so although we could present unlimited analogies, the point here is that our idea must actually be supported by scripture. So the proper approach to this specific issue would be to ask the following question: Where in scripture does it say that there are vātsalya-rasa-jīvas, mādhurya-rasa-jīvas, or even brahma-sāyujya-jīvas without any prospect for experiencing rasa whatsoever?7

If every jīvātmā is already possessed of a unique seed of gopī-bhāva, gopa-bhāva, or even sāyujya-mukti, this would create some serious theological and philosophical implications. If, in this connection, someone were to ask what the substantive distinction is between a “dormant thing” and a potentiality (when both are held to manifest only relative to external conditions), below we share a few of them:

1. Both Madhva and Vallabha present the idea of different types of souls that, according to their level of receptivity to God’s grace, will have the chance to be liberated, while others will be condemned to eternal damnation by their very constitution. For Gauḍīyas, this idea does not fit between their ears, since from day one they have heard repeatedly that all jīvas are equal. So if we had inherent mādhurya-rasa-jīvas, there would be the problem of inequality—since some sthāyi-bhāvas afford more intimacy, God would be partial by making jīvas that are unequal in terms of their prospect.8

2. The source of the baddha-jīvas is Mahā-Viṣṇu, and he is particularly characterized by impartiality.9 He is the all-pervading witnessing God (the Paramātmā), while Kṛṣṇa is actually something else.10 So if we come from Mahā-Viṣṇu and he is impartial, how could he possibly manifest a mañjarī soul? The Paramātmā is not at all involved in mañjarī-ness—that’s Kṛṣṇa! The mañjarīs are aspects of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s prema-mādhurya, through which he becomes endowed with a particular type of Vraja love—one of four unique qualities that even Nārāyaṇa does not have.11

3. Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas are mostly interested in this prema-mādhurya of Vraja, which comes to them through the agency of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu. In the āśīrvāda-śloka of his Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta,12 Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja uses the word samarpayitum to indicate how Gaura bestowed at great length a most valuable gift never offered before. If we consider that Mahāprabhu gave such a gift to the world, how could we call it a gift if it is already inherent in us? And if, for example, certain jīvas possessed a seed for dāsya-bhakti in Vaikuṇṭha, what would be the meaning of Gaura’s gift in those cases? Would only those few rare souls constituted of mādhurya-rasa seeds be able to receive Gaura’s highest blessing? Was Mahāprabhu an elitist? No. He distributed his gift freely, and by his mercy, every jīva is eligible to receive it, not only a few chosen and predetermined ones. The actual truth is that we do not have such a seed inherent in us. And what is inherent in the jīva is an affinity toward its source, the Paramātmā. But Mahāprabhu has come with a blessing to go even beyond our source, to the source of our source—svayam bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Goloka Vṛndāvana.

Finally, the analogy of the seed is also faulty because it fails to represent the basic tenets of an adequate analogy, which must be as similar as possible to what it illustrates—the greater the correspondence, the more pertinent the analogy. However, the analogy of the seed compares souls with seeds and water with bhakti/sādhu-saṅga. And while water is indeed always the same when nourishing a seed, not all sādhu-saṅga is actually the same: we will have “mādhurya water,” “sakhya water,” and so on. Following these terms, we could say that if Rāma bhakti is raining and you get caught in the storm, that is the type of bhakti you will be affected by for sure. In other words, all jīvas are equal in their potential to be affected by a particular type of bhakti influence, which will determine their unique devotional affinity and prospect.

Additional articles in this series: Bhakti Comes from Bhakti; Bhakti, the Essence of the Svarūpa-Śakti; Is Rasa Totally Predetermined?; The Source Of Our Siddha-deha; Is There Scriptural Support in Favor of Inherence?; Nurture and Nature; The Origin of the Theory of Inherence; Teaching Strategies And Historical Presentism; How To Reach Siddhānta (Even Through Apasiddhānta); The Role of Adhikāra and Pramāṇa In Both Outreach and Inreach; Conclusion. This series of articles has led to the publication of a book entitled Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jiva According to Gaudiya Vedanta.

  1. It is important to note that rasa actually refers to the proper combination of sthāyi-bhāva, vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika-bhāva, and sañcārī-bhāva; it is not limited to having a relationship with Bhagavān. Such an established relationship is represented in one of the five ingredients of the experience of rasa, sthāyi-bhāva. And when this element combines itself with the other four, it makes for the experience of bhakti-rasa. For more on this, see the Western Section of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. []
  2. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.7.148–149 []
  3. Prīti-sandarbha 91 []
  4. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.51.53 []
  5. Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.5.38 []
  6. Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha 186. In this connection, Śrīdhara Swāmī comments something similar in his Bhāvārtha-dīpikā (1.7.6): “Īśvara, who is of the nature of perpetual being, consciousness, and bliss, is intrinsically self-endowed with his potencies known as hlādinī (the experiential capacity for bliss) and samvit (omniscient cognitive capacity). The jīva, who is the seat of all miseries, is covered by its own ignorance.” []
  7. If every jīvātmā had inherent bhakti, it would be difficult to explain how someone may attain a permanent position in eternity such as sāyujya-mukti, which implies no expression of bhakti in such a state. Moreover, if every jīva had inherent bhakti, it would have a specific type of bhakti, since bhakti is not just an energetic abstraction—it is Kṛṣṇa bhakti, Rāma bhakti, Viṣṇu bhakti, and so on. But someone in sāyujya does not express any type of bhakti in his or her liberated platform except for using it as a means to obtain his or her desired goal. In this way, it is impossible to posit the existence of nonoperative inherent bhakti in sāyujya-mukti. []
  8. This topic comes up in Vedānta-sūtra 2.1.34–35, where the differentiation between the jīvas is only on a karmic level, and not constitutionally. And in order to free God from the problem of partiality, the Sūtras declare that karma is without any beginning (anādi), so God is not to blame for it. For more on this, see Anadi for Beginners: We All Have to Start Somewhere… Or Do We? On another note, but also in this connection, we may ask how God is impartial if he does not give nitya-siddhas such as Yaśodā or others the opportunity to choose their particular sthāyi-bhāvas. But we should understand that they are svarūpa-śakti-jīvas, who are an essential part of the eternal retinue of Bhagavān. Thus, their own love and personality (made of that love) give shape to the particular form of the Godhead that manifests as a result of that specific bhakti. Therefore, asking this question would be tantamount to asking why Vraja Kṛṣṇa is who he is and not someone else (since his identity corresponds exactly with the Vraja vāsīsprema). On the other side, the taṭastha-śakti-jīva is in a different category of existence. The very definition of taṭastha speaks about how this jīva’s identity depends on the particular influence of its environment, whether māyā-śakti or svarūpa-śakti. []
  9. The word “source” here does not imply a beginning in time for the jīvas, since they are anādi (without a beginning). It basically refers to the baddha-jīvas’ foundational source in beginningless time. []
  10. In the first two lines of Bhagavad-gītā 9.29, Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly establishes the impartiality of the Paramātmā, while in the last two lines he vividly describes the spiritual partiality of Bhagavān toward his devotees. []
  11. For more about these four special qualities, see Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.1.41-43. []
  12. Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.1.4 []

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