Jāmātṛ Muni’s Influence in Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī – Part 3: The Notion of Prīti in the Śrī Sampradāya

By Swāmī Bhakti Praṇaya Padmanābha

Additional articles in this series: The Difference Between Disturbing and Nourishing One’s Faith; Can Nitya-siddhas Speak Relative Statements and Not be Downplayed for That?; The Notion of Prīti in the Śrī Sampradāya; Are We to Read our Ācāryas According to the Sources They Quote?; Ascertaining the Meaning of Śeṣatva; The Case for Teleological Inherence

In a nutshell, the central argument of the pūrvapakṣī1 suggests that Jāmātṛ Muni—a well-known ācārya from the Śrī sampradāya—is the ultimate authority on jīva-tattva for Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī. Further, since Śrī Jāmātṛ seems to propose that bhakti is inherent and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is seen to closely follow Jāmātṛ Muni, therefore Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura must be totally following Śrī Jīva, who must be also following the doctrine of inherence. There are several flawed points of this proposition.

As mentioned in my previous article, if we engage in siddhāntic debate with some Gauḍīya from outside the Bhaktivinoda parivāra, we should be ready to establish our points by resorting to our consensual mutual canon, which is the Goswāmī grantha. We should be able to demonstrate that bhakti is not inherent—or that it is—without the urge to quote Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda or any of our own present ācāryas. This is not an offensive dismissal of any of them, but the proper etiquette to deal with other lineages—as well as ours—while respecting their particular sources of inspiration and scriptural authority. However, the pūrvapakṣī does not take this consensual Gauḍīya canon—Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and Goswāmī grantha—as his main pramāṇa. Instead, he chooses Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s writings and, surprisingly, with even stronger emphasis, the statements of Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni—a heterodox system which attempts to justify the Bhāgavata’s and Goswāmī grantha’s stance on the topic, and not vice versa. Indeed, when trying to make his case, as his main evidence the pūrvapakṣī has rarely quoted from the Bhāgavata and basically quoted only one word from Śrī Jīva.

The pūrvapakṣī concentrates his claim on the fact that Jāmātṛ Muni considers prīti—a term that for Gauḍīyas is synonymous with prema—inherent. And since Śrī Jīva has quoted Jāmātṛ Muni in his Sandarbhas, he then should be in total agreement with the Muni on this point. We should take note that whether bhakti is inherent or not is a topic that caused a great schism in the Śrī sampradāya, dividing its followers into two parties. Therefore, instead of analyzing in detail whether the Śrī sampradāya accepts that bhakti is inherent or not—when it is evident that they do not fully agree on this even among themselves—I will rely on the way siddhānta is established in the Gauḍīya sampradāya, by referring to our founding ācāryas and their statements.

But just for argument’s sake, I will address a few points in connection to the pūrvapakṣī’s stance, explaining how (a) the notion of prīti in the Śrī sampradāya is not the same as in the Gauḍīya sampradāya, and (b) if for some members of the Śrī sampradāya prīti is inherent, that does not mean that it should be for Gauḍīyas as well. Thus, instead of trying to justify inherence through the lens of another sampradāya, I will concentrate on the possible reasons why Śrī Jīva quotes Jāmātṛ Muni and why Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda may have followed the Muni’s notions at times, all of this on the already established basis that bhakti and prīti are not inherent in the jīva as shown in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta.

At the beginning of his presentation, the pūrvapakṣī has promoted his findings as “groundbreaking,” mentioning that he has uncovered some very rare texts (referring to those of Jāmātṛ Muni) that may “change the course of history in Gauḍīya Vedānta.” However, under close scrutiny this does not seem to be the case at all: Jāmātṛ Muni’s writings were not only already well known in his own sampradāya, but readily acknowledged in the larger Vaiṣṇava community. Thus, those texts have been available to the Gauḍīya sampradāya for centuries, but its members have totally ignored them. Why? Because Śrī Jīva Goswāmī has already informed us of all that we need to know about Jāmātṛ Muni and his teachings. In other words, it is important to note that just because Śrī Jīva quoted Śrī Jāmātṛ does not automatically mean that Śrīla Goswāmīpāda agrees with the Muni in toto. After all, Śrī Jīva Goswāmī also quotes Śaṅkarācārya, Madhva, Śrīdhara Swāmī, and others he does not always fully agree with. Thus, the very point of “textual reuse”—a term employed by the pūrvapakṣī—is that it is selective and, in this particular case, context-specific, as we will see later in this series. According to the pūrvapakṣī, Jāmātṛ Muni states that prīti is inherent in the jīva and, therefore, since Śrī Jīva quotes him in his Paramātma Sandarbha, prīti must be inherent for Gauḍīyas as well. But Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī never mentions that prīti is inherent in the jīva—he says exactly the opposite. But before turning to what Śrī Jīva says about prīti in his Sandarbhas, let’s for a moment analyze Jāmātṛ Muni’s possible conception of it. Since he belongs to a different Vaiṣṇava sampradāya with a different sambandha, abhidheya, and therefore prayojana, the Muni’s conception of prīti cannot be the same as the Gauḍīyas’. Indeed, it would be a considerable stretch to think Śrī Jāmātṛ meant what is spelled out in Prīti Sandarbha, which had not been written at the Muni’s time. As a matter of fact, when referring to their goal, Śrī Vaiṣṇavas mostly speak in terms of mokṣa or devotional mukti. So even if we want to speak in terms of prīti concerning their ultimate goal, their notion will be totally different from the Gauḍīya idea of it, which deems all forms of liberation as inferior in comparison to the very unique type of Gauḍīya prīti, clearly delineated by Śrī Jīva in a whole treatise dedicated to this topic—Prīti Sandarbha.

Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī conclusively delineates in his Prīti Sandarbha, the last of his Sandarbhas, the proper conception of prīti for Gauḍīyas, and therefore his opinion should be indisputable above any other notions of prīti presented elsewhere. There, he basically defines prīti as parama-puruṣārtha, or the highest attainment and ultimate potential for a jīva, while also differentiating it from mundane affection by declaring that mundane love is made up of māyā-śakti while prīti is constituted of svarūpa-śakti, which is not present in the constitution of the taṭastha-jīva. Interestingly, Śrī Jīva also lists six main attributes of prīti, all of which confirm its noninherence in the jīva: (1) It is the realization of the jīva’s specific quality of love, known by the names prīti, bhakti, and so on, that is considered topmost. (2) By this love alone is suffering dispersed once and for all. (3) Without this prīti it is not possible to realize his [Bhagavān’s] svarūpa and other attributes. (4) Whoever has that love certainly has direct realization of these [Bhagavān’s svarūpa and other attributes]. (5) One will have such realization in proportion to the extent of his or her love. And (6) as one is in the process of experiencing Bhagavān’s svarūpa, etc., or after one has attained it, prīti also manifests in greater quantity.2 Thus, despite whatever notions of prīti other sampradāyas may entertain, here we can unequivocally see how the canonical Gauḍīya notion of prīti has nothing to do with it being inherent in the jīva. This has been done by Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī’s speaking about the possibility of not having prīti, by describing different levels of acquiring it, and so on.

If we would like to add further spice to this siddhāntic masālā, we can invoke still another important definition of prīti from our Gauḍīya sampradāya, one that is probably even more popular than that of Śrī Jīva—Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī’s official definition of prema/prīti in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. While in verse 1.4.1 he describes prema as a condensation of bhāva (bhāvaḥ sa eva sāndrātmā), in verse 1.1.17 Śrī Rūpa mentions that bhāva is sudurlabhā, or “very difficult to attain.” If this is so with bhāva, how much more difficult then would it be to attain prīti? And how could something so difficult to attain for the jīva be inherent in the jīva? As we can see, the various definitions of Gauḍīya prīti are very precise and specific, so they cannot be reduced and oversimplified to the notion of prīti that may be held in one particular section of the Śrī sampradāya, much less to exclusively rely on their interpretation of prīti to make a full case for bhakti’s inherence in the Gauḍīya sampradāya. Thus, we are to conclude that Śrī Jīva’s use of Jāmātṛ Muni’s conceptions about the jīva is mostly utilitarian. Still, the pūrvapakṣī insists that Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī has accepted Jāmātṛ Muni as his ultimate authority in regard to jīva-tattva. This he concludes mostly by how Śrī Jīva refers to him in Paramātma Sandarbha 19, when he said that “the intrinsic characteristics (svarūpa-lakṣaṇa) [of the jīva] were imparted by Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, a very senior teacher of the Śrī sampradāya in the line of Śrī Rāmānujācārya, who has followed the Padma Purāṇa.” While Śrī Jīva’s words clearly praise the Muni and posit him as an authority on jīva-tattva, that is not tantamount to his accepting Śrī Jāmātṛ as his own and ultimate authority in jīva-tattva, as the pūrvapakṣī tries to convey. Śrī Jīva’s highest authorities on jīva-tattva and any other tattva are the supreme Śrīmad Bhagavatam, as he himself established in his Tattva Sandarbha, as well as his own guru, Rūpa Goswāmī, his other elder Goswāmīs, and their foundational scriptures, all of which categorically establish prīti’s noninherence.3

In this same anuccheda of his Paramātma Sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī quotes Jāmātṛ Muni’s list of twenty-one qualities of the jīva, based on a list coming originally from the Padma Purāṇa. Interestingly enough, nowhere in Śrī Jīva’s explanation of these qualities throughout anucchedas 20 through 37 does he even remotely suggest that bhakti or prīti is inherent in the jīva, as the pūrvapakṣī seems to read. Indeed, if Śrī Jīva were actually favoring inherence, why then would his opinion not have been clearly broadcasted throughout his writings and especially his Sandarbhas, or at least in this specific section? Thus, we can again conclude that Jīva Goswāmī took what he needed from Jāmātṛ Muni and used it as he felt served his purpose. So even if the idea that bhakti is inherent is central to the Muni’s teaching, it was not something central to the teaching of Jīva Goswāmī. And if we choose to look for a moment at Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s apparent chastity to Śrī Jāmātṛ, as the pūrvapakṣī claims, the following question immediately comes: Why then does Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura never mention Jāmātṛ Muni in his writings, not even once? 

In this connection, there is one possible reason for the pūrvapakṣī’s taking the Śrī sampradāya as his main pramāṇa for establishing Gauḍīya siddhanta. Over the years, it has been seen that whenever most devotees from the Bhaktivinoda parivāra try to understand a siddhāntic point that in their own lineage has not been clearly understood by everyone, they almost never turn to other Gauḍīya parivāras, since they are generally considered sahajiyās, deviants, or aparādhīs. So where do they turn? To other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas like the followers of Madhva and Rāmānujācārya, and I do not think this is entirely an exception to that rule. Interestingly, other Gauḍīya parivāras who think that bhakti is not inherent because of their exposure to the Sandarbhas for centuries suddenly find some members of the Bhaktivinoda parivāra teaching otherwise, but most of them do not make an issue of it. Then a generation or two later, some of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s contemporary followers label these other parivāras as pseudo-Vaiṣṇavas for teaching bhakti is not inherent! This topic is a good example of what we should not do, in the sense of how many of us end up taking antithetical stances with regard to other Vaiṣṇava communities. Indeed, besides whatever deviations we may occasionally find in some of those groups, as it happens in any Gauḍīya group, the proper etiquette is to avoid Vaiṣṇava aparādha, the path of spiritual devastation. And these considerations should be much more important to today’s sādhakas than whether we are inherently destined to be a gopa or gopī.

For more on Swāmī B. P. Padmanābha’s forthcoming book Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta, see http://www.bhaktiinthejiva.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/bhaktiinthejiva.

  1. The term pūrvapakṣa refers to an opposing view, while a pūrvapakṣī is the one who presents the pūrvapakṣa. []
  2. This is a brief summary of what has been shared from Prīti Sandarbha in chapter 7 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. []
  3. For more scriptural evidence on prīti or prema being not inherent, see the section “Supporting Evidence for Prema being Not Inherent (as Discussed in Chapters 6 to 8)” in the Appendix of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. []

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