Are Bhakti and Rasa Inherent in the Jiva?

By Bābājī Satyanārāyaṇa Dāsa, originally published by The Jiva Institute.

Question: In the first prayer of the Vedas to Śrī Kṛṣṇa,1 it is said—aga-jagad-okasām akhila-śakty-avabodhaka te, “You who awaken all the energies of the moving and nonmoving embodied beings …”  In this connection, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments, “You, by your mercy, awaken all the śaktis for executing jñāna and bhakti.” Similarly, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī comments, “Since matter is inert, and the operating of its śaktis is similar, to awaken them, you use your svarūpa-śakti, with spiritual form. Awaking the spiritual cit-śaktis is also caused by the svarūpa-śakti since it is the shelter of all śaktis.” All this seems to indicate that bhakti is an inherent potency in the jīva that is awakened by Bhagavān´s grace. Any comments?

Answer regarding Viśvanātha Cakravartī’s commentary: You have cited the second half of the sentence from Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s commentary. The first half of the sentence says, “After creating intellect, senses, etc. of all jīvas, just as you awaken all śaktis for performing material actions (karma-karaṇa-śaktīḥ) and also the śakti to experience the outcome of their karma (karma-phala-śaktīḥ) ….” The remaining sentence states—“… in the same way, for attaining You in the form of Brahman, Paramātmā, or Bhagavān, by Your grace, You alone awaken the śaktis to execute jñāna-yoga and bhakti …”

By this, if you conclude that bhakti is in the jīva and is awakened by Bhagavān’s grace, then by the force of the same logic, you have to accept that the material energy to perform material karma and to experience the outcome of material karma would also be within the jīva. This energy is certainly material. But I am sure that this is not acceptable to you because it goes against śastra, which states that the jīva is beyond the guṇas. I do not need to cite references for that since they are well known.

To avoid this issue, the opponent may say that in the first case, the meaning of the verb udbodhayasi (which is a gloss on the word avabodhaka in the verse) is “gives” and in the second case, it is “awakens.” Then the jīva is free of the guṇas.

My reply is that such a solution has the defect of vākya-bheda or splitting the meaning. This is considered a defect as per Mīmāṁsā. It is also called ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya. To put it in simple words, it means that I accept only the back part of the hen, because it delivers eggs, and not the front part because that needs to be fed. In other words, I accept what is convenient and reject what is troublesome.

Even if we accept such a solution, it goes against the verse itself. In the verse, the Śrutis address Bhagavān as “one who upholds all energies within Himself” (samavaruddha-samamsta-bhagaḥ). If the potencies of material action or jñāna or bhakti are accepted within jīva, then it militates against the Śruti address. But if the meaning of udbodhayasi is taken to be “gives,” then there is no contradiction. It also matches with the opponent’s view of parokṣavāda, stated later in one of the pūrvapakṣas

Answer regarding Jīva Gosvāmī’s comment: Here also I would like to go back one sentence and show what Jīva Gosvāmī really means. He is commenting on the third quarter of the verse—aga-jagad-okasām-akhila-śakti-avabodhaka. “Aga means “always stable,” or the Vaikuṇṭḥas; jagad means “the unstable or temporary,” or the Brahmāṇḍas. These are the residences (okasām) of the jīvas. The jīva has two types of potencies—material [constituting the material body] and spiritual. You are the avabodhaka (lit., “one who awakens”) of all the śaktisAvabodhaka means the giver of potency even to the two śaktisśakti-dāyaka.” Here Jiva Gosvāmī very explicitly glosses the word avabodhaka as “giver.” So I do not understand how this indicates that bhakti is inherent in the jīva.

Question: In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.37, Śrī Kṛṣṇa mentions to Uddhava that He personally established the oṁkāra within every living entity, which would be another way to say that the Vedas are inherent in the jīva, since they emanate from oṁkāra. And on top of that, since oṁkāra is the Absolute Truth with all potencies (brahmaṇānanta-śaktinā), then we could say that the Absolute is in the heart of all jīvas in the form of oṁkāra, which includes all of the Absolute´s potencies, including His svarūpa-śakti. But now they lie in the jīva in a dormant condition and are awakened when receiving the mantra from the guru.

Answer: Such types of arguments do not carry much weight because they take something out of context. In this chapter, Kṛṣṇa is explaining the principles of vice and virtue related to karma, as well as the secret meaning of the Vedas.

If we accept this argument, then we can also say that the mantra that one receives from the guru “to awaken one’s dormant bhakti” is also within one’s heart. After all, all the mantras are contained within oṁkāra; then there is no need to accept a guru. Such a conclusion is very absurd and contradicts Kṛṣṇa’s own words when He says that one should accept a guru.2

If the opponent argues that the mantra is in the heart but is dormant; and therefore, we need the mantra from the guru to awaken the dormant mantra in the heart—then, by the same argument, we will need bhakti from the guru to awaken the dormant bhakti in the heart. 

Then the question arises, what is the use of that dormant bhakti in the heart if we need to receive bhakti from the guru? Rather, it has gaurava-doṣa, the defect of prolixity. Moreover, there is no śastric statement supporting such a view. On the other hand, there are plenty of references stating that bhakti has to be received from a devotee or Kṛṣṇa. For that, please see my book Jīva-tattva.

Now coming to the exact meaning of the Bhāgavatam verse 11.21.37. The verse does not say that the oṁkāra is placed inside the ātmā. It is in the material body. Read the preceding verse, which explains how the Veda manifests in the prāṇamanas, and indriya. Then verse 11.21.37 explains how it manifests because of Bhagavān. There is no mention that oṁkāra is inside the jīva or ātmā. This is more clearly stated earlier in verse 11.12.17. There, the word guha, or cave, is used to indicate the heart as the seat of nāda. Jiva Gosvamī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura have written elaborate commentaries explaining the four levels of sound called parāpaśyantīmadhyamā, and vaikharī. The first three are unmanifest and the fourth is what comes out of mouth. All these are outside the jīva in the material body. The first three are in the cakras MulādhāraMaṇipūra, and Viśuddhi respectively. Thus, there is no dormant oṁkāra with dormant śaktis inside the jīva.

Question: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.39 also says that oṁkāra automatically manifests in a purified heart, but when the senses are active externally, they cannot hear it. And this verse mentions that oṁkāra has avyakta-prabhava, or unmanifest power. In other words, all of the power of the Absolute is placed within the jīva in the form of oṁkāra, but at the present moment, such power is avyakta or unmanifest in the conditioned state.

Answer: There is no mention in the verse that oṁkāra is inside the jīva. Even you write, “oṁkāra automatically manifests in a purified heart.” It is stated that oṁkāra is avyakta-prabhava or has unmanifest power. It is svarāṭ or self-manifest. Svarāṭ means that it manifests by itself, not because of some sādhanā. This is the nature of spiritual things—the Holy Name, the Dhāma, Bhagavān, etc. But that does not mean that they are inside the jīva.

Question: A similar idea comes from the word tene in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.1.1, which is said to come from tanoti, which is translated as “expand.” In other words, this section seems to indicate that Vedic knowledge was not imparted to Brahma, but was expanded from his inner heart, thus implying that knowledge of the Vedas lies inherent in the heart of everyone and, in this regard, so does bhakti itself, since śāstra is nondifferent from Bhagavān and His potencies.

Answer: Please read the commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī on this verse. He clearly writes that Bhagavān is the giver of knowledge as well as the giver of mokṣatena itītiTadevaṁ jñānapradatvena mokṣapradatvamapi darśitam. Śrīdhara Svāmī glosses tene as prakāśītavān or illuminated. Viśvanātha Cakravartī glosses tene as prakāśayamāsa or illuminated. This means that Bhagavān illuminated Brahmā in the knowledge of the Vedas. No commentator writes that Bhagavān expanded the Vedic knowledge already existing within Brahmā’s heart. In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.9.30, Bhagavān Himself tells Brahmā, “Take this knowledge spoken by Me”—gṛhāṇa gaditam mayā. He did not say, “Now let me expand the knowledge lying in your heart.” Moreover, remember that the heart is not part of the ātmā. So your proposal, “thus implying that knowledge of the Vedas lies inherent in the heart of everyone,” does not prove that it is inherent in the ātmā.

Question: Bhagavad Gītā 2.16 mentions “from that which changes, there is no existence, and from that which is eternal, there is no change.” So according to this verse, it seems that if the ātmā is something now (without bhakti) and becomes something else (with bhakti), then that condition is defined here by the Gītā as nonexistent. And on the opposite side, for the svarūpa to be an eternal reality, then there cannot be any change, which would suggest that since the svarūpa of the jīva doesn’t change, then bhakti is eternally there.

Answer: You must have a different reading of this verse. There is no word for “change” in the standard reading. The words used are asat (not real), bhāva (existence), abhāva (nonexistence), and sat (real). I see no word for “change.”

Question: Also in Gītā 7.26, Śrī Kṛṣṇa mentions that He knows everything that has happened in the future, everything that is taking place in the present, and everything that will occur in the future. So, in connection to the latter statement, we could say that the svarūpa of the jīva is inherent in the sense that Kṛṣṇa knows it. If Kṛṣṇa already knows which svarūpa we will have, then how it is not fixed?

Answer: Yes, that could be one meaning, but not the only meaning. The other possible meaning is that He knows which svarūpa you will get. Then also, it can be fixed. Fixed does not mean that it is fixed inside the ātmā.

The meaning of the verse, however, is something else. You can refer to the commentaries of our ācāryas for that. The meaning given by you is totally out of context. Kṛṣṇa has a certain intention that He wants to convey to Arjuna. We should try to understand that and not impose our ideas onto His words. Misinterpreting śāstra is a major offense because it does not please Kṛṣṇa. Twisting His words to suit your purpose cannot be pleasing to Him.

Question: Verses 2.4.190 to 2.4.192 from Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta seem to indicate that Kṛṣṇa places different tastes in the hearts of every living entity. Sanātana Gosvāmī seems to confirm this in his commentary on these three verses. So even if bhakti/prema/siddha-deha is not inherent, the subtle form of our svarūpa is a taste for a particular type of seva, which is inherently present in the jīva. And in this line, sādhusaṅga wouldn´t be the cause of the particular taste in the jīva, but rather would be the cause for that taste to manifest.

Answer: You are contradicting yourself in your own words. First, you write, “places different tastes in the hearts of every living entity.” Then you write, “taste for a particular type of seva, which is inherently present in the jīva.” Are you equating “heart” with jīva? How is that possible? The heart or citta is material and thus changes. The jīva is spiritual and unchanging. In the commentary, there is no mention that the taste is inside the jīva.

Question: Some devotees say that the reason for us accepting a particular type of sādhusaṅga and not another in our first contact with sādhus is because there is already some inherent taste in us that drives us towards a particular form of association.

Answer: I will agree if you can give some śāstric references for this. Wherever there is mention of getting sādhusaṅga or bhakti, the most common word used is yadṛchayā.3 According to the context, this word is translated in different ways such as “somehow or other,” “by the will of God,” “by the will of providence,” etc. But nobody translates it as “according to inherent taste.” This word is also used in Gītā 2.32 in the sense of “by its own accord.”

Question: Some devotees will say that since Kṛṣṇa is fond of parokṣavāda, our Gosvāmīs have presented this siddhānta indirectly, and in time some contemporary Gauḍīya luminaries have shown their actual intention, by mentioning how even if bhakti or prema is not inherent, at least some particular taste for a specific rasa is already included in each jīva.

Answer: Anyone can say anything. That does not make it siddhānta. The siddhānta is already explained in śāstra and in the works of the Gosvāmīs. There is not a single statement anywhere that says that bhakti or taste is inherent in the ātmāParokṣavāda does not mean that it is never stated explicitly. It means that it is not stated directly to unqualified people. Moreover, even if it is never stated directly, the function of a commentator is to unpack the hidden meaning. Otherwise, no one will ever understand it and then śāstra would lose its very purpose. 

Question: Some devotees say that since the spiritual body is fully conscious, if it’s not within us, then it is another entity separate from us. So when we eventually enter the spiritual body, who of the two will “be in charge?”

Answer: They will not be two, but one. There is no duality in the spiritual world. This is the principle of acintya-bheda-abheda. The duality exists at the material level. Duality is due to the ātmā being conditioned by prakṛti.

Question: Some devotees apply the theory of “nitya-vartma-kāla” in this connection—in the spiritual world, there is a permanent “eternal present.”  They say that the moment we will enter the spiritual world is “now,” but since we are in māyā, we have no experience of what it means to live in an eternal present.

Answer: I have no idea what the argument is here. All I can say is that it is not enough that some devotees have this or that notion. Our authority is śāstratasmāt śāstram pramāṇam te (Gītā 16.24), and not somebody’s notion. Moreover, we have to have the organic meaning of śāstra. It is not enough to cite that part of śāstra which seems to suit your purpose and to reject the rest. That is called ardha-kukkuṭi-nyāya.

  1. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.87.14, translation by Bhanu Swami []
  2. Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.10.5, 11.20.17, 11.27.9 []
  3. See Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.20.8, 11.20.11, 11.2.24, and 6.14,14 []


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