Published on November 29th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff13
Jāmātṛ Muni’s Influence in Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī – Part 6: The Case for Teleological Inherence
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; Are Śrī Bhaktivinoda and Jīva Goswāmī Consistent in Stating that Bhakti Is Inherent?; Synopsis and Conclusion
Resorting to rhetoric and describing three types of inherence, the pūrvapakṣī1 concludes that what Śrī Jīva and Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda are speaking about is actually not either physical or etiological inherence, but teleological inherence. The latter speaks of telos, or an ultimate aim or inherent purpose that is already established but waiting to be attained, just as a mango seed has as its purpose to become a mango tree. The pūrvapakṣī further says that if there is no teleological inherence, the perfection of the jīva would not be natural—it would be artificial, superficial, and superimposed. He explains that this is the case because jīvas feel complete fulfillment in prema, so this is what the jīvas are constructed for, and in this context, their final attainment is already predetermined. I will share below my reasoning as to why this hypothesis is considerably problematic as well as unfounded by śāstra.
To begin with, the fact that a jīva may experience the highest limit of happiness in prema does not mean that prema is inherent, even teleologically. Surely prema is the highest possible reach for any jīva according to Gauḍīyas, but this does not mean that, subjectively speaking, other inferior attainments may not be experienced as the highest fulfilment for some taṭastha-jīvas. The pūrvapakṣī quotes Jāmātṛ Muni saying that the symptom of this attainment is that the soul feels “there is nothing more to be attained.” Yet someone who has attained an eternal position in brahma-sāyujya does not have prema, but his subjective experience there is that of the highest fulfillment. That is why he remains there forever. Similarly, someone else may attain śānta-rasa in Vaikuṇṭha for eternity, a transcendental goal which does not require prema either, but which will be subjectively experienced as the maximum limit of happiness for that particular person.2
Thus, how can we say that a jīva has teleologically inherent prema when we see examples of jīvas attaining their highest subjective fulfillment without it? Does it mean then that those jīvas have inherent śānta-rasa or brahma-sāyujya? This possibility would present a serious problem by showing God as biased by giving some a higher opportunity than others. And if we argue that those jīvas do also have teleologically inherent prema, then how do we explain that despite that, they are able to remain in an eternal transcendental situation which does not require prema? Since these two attainments are totally devoid of the influence of māyā-śakti, what happens to the supposed teleological inherent prema in those cases? Where does such prema remain at that point, and why does it not come to the surface given that there is no more influence of the guṇas there? For these reasons, when Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda or Śrī Jīva speak about prema in terms of the highest attainment of bliss for the ātmā, they are speaking in objective terms in the context of the ultimate goal of Gauḍīya Vedanta, describing the highest potential for bliss in the taṭastha-jīva in connection with prema. But this notion does not convey the idea that prema is teleologically inherent, but actually conveys its exact opposite.
A big part of the pūrvapakṣī’s argument in this regard revolves around Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s well-known definition of prema as “the dharma of the jīva.” However, this intimation actually points at that function that characterizes the very nature of the ātmā—taṭastha, a particular potential being expressed according to specific environments. In that sense, the dharma, or function, of the jīva as taṭastha-śakti is ultimately met in prema, where it can reach its highest possible experience of bliss. Thus, dharma refers to the potential or function of the jīva, and that environment in which the jīva will indeed function to its fullest degree is under the shelter of the svarūpa-śakti, while eventually attaining prema. It is in this sense that prema is the dharma of the jīva, also known as its svarūpa. While svarūpa refers here to the jīva’s nature, it does not necessarily imply any form of teleological inherence. The jīva’s svarūpa is taṭastha, or marginal—“not here and not there,” but possessing a potential that depends on the association with a particular environment. Whereas the soil’s svarūpa—nature or potential—is to produce vegetables, this does not mean that inherent tomatoes are present within it, not even teleologically.
At this point, the pūrvapakṣī has argued that bhakti’s noninherence implies accepting new false designations in the state of perfection, i.e., something not connected to the soul and therefore in contradiction to every other school of Vedānta. As usual, he supports his point by resorting to the Śrī sampradāya, which says that the state of perfection of the jīva is not something superimposed in the jīva, but found in some form in the jīva. We Gauḍīyas call this “potential,” or the most natural expression of the jīva’s nature and constitution. However, to think that this potential constitutes an artificial addition, and therefore that the jīva must somehow already have love of God and not merely have the potential to love him, is untenable and not sensible. If properly understood, the concept of taṭastha and the jīva’s potential for bhakti show that there is nothing superficial in such a proposal. Indeed, if the jīva would have some form of inherent bhakti, the realization of the ātmā would also include realization of bhakti, due to its supposed inherence in the ātmā. But over and over again we not only hear about a clear difference between the two from śāstra, but also about the inferiority of the ātmā’s realization in comparison to bhakti.3
The Gauḍīya sampradāya is not an odd school of Vedānta teaching that after removing all false designations we are supposed to accept a new false designation in the form of a personality consisting of svarūpa-śakti. Although the pūrvapakṣī repeatedly said that his intention is not to create further conflict, why then call a blessing from the svarūpa-śakti a “false designation”?
He also clarified several times that his area of expertise is not theology, nonetheless, he added his own notions about the necessity for there to be “something” inherent, so when jīvas attain perfection, they feel completely satisfied because of attaining the fulfillment of their inner potential. But why could this kind of satisfaction not be there even if the specific sthāyi-bhāva is gifted from the svarūpa-śakti? That all jīvas are ultimately meant to have prīti for Bhagavān means that such prīti is the highest potential they can actualize, if they choose to do so when the opportunity arises. Prīti is outside of the jīvas, but their natural function, or dharma, is to have it as their highest possible attainment, and so they need svarūpa-śakti’s blessing to descend in order for that desire to be fulfilled. Among other places, this has been clearly confirmed by Śrī Jīva in his Bhagavat Sandarbha 99 and again in his Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha 186, where he quoted Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.12.69, where Dhruva Mahārāja says that sandhinī, samvit, and hlādinī exist only in Bhagavān. To clear all possible remaining doubts, Śrī Jīva then quotes Śrīdhara Swāmī’s commentary to it, saying, “This potency, however, is not present in the living beings.” Since there has not been any special clarification here, “not present in the living beings” does not refer to an absence of only physical and etiological inherence, but teleological as well.
In addition to the dilemmas presented by this atypical stance, the case for teleological inherence implies the problematic notion that although not having inherent physical bhāva, each jīva is already predestined towards a particular bhāva. This again contradicts Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī’s famous statement in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.5.38, which declares that the bhāva that each devotee pursues is derived from his respective bhakti-saṁskāras obtained in sādhu-saṅga.4 Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda further clarifies this point in his own commentary by saying, “Because of impressions from past lives of a particular rasa, such as dāsya, and in this life also, the person has that taste alone and not others, by the mercy of a great devotee with a similar taste.”5 Here we can see why our ācāryas never chose to even suggest the possibility of something like teleological inherence.
In connection to the jīva’s predestined nature, another big problem with this argument is that it will make the whole of Mahāprabhu’s indiscriminate dispensation something exclusive and even elitist, something limited and flawed by material partiality. Why? Because if the specific type of prema every jīva is supposedly destined to attain has already been predetermined, then Gaura’s gift to the world is reserved only for those who inherently match with the love he came to give. Surprisingly, this is the pūrvapakṣī’s stated opinion. However, śāstra clearly refers to Mahāprabhu’s gift in terms of “available to each and every person,” being distributed “without considering who was fit or unfit,” “in all directions,” and “to everyone in every place.”6 If this is so with Gaura, what to speak then of Śrī Nityānanda’s even more undiscriminating campaign!
Therefore, to think otherwise is to imply that Bhagavān Caitanya has not descended to actually give anything, but to simply activate a predestined acquisition in some restricted number of souls who have been selected for it and indeed have no choice in the matter.7 Thus, the obvious conclusion here is that Nitāi-Gaura’s wholesale dispensation is to be limited to a few fortunate ones who exclusively possess the teleological seed that these two brothers actually wanted to share everywhere.
In the same vein, this teleological conjecture compromises Bhagavān’s own position, making him partial. How? If we had, for example, inherent mādhurya-rasa-taṭastha-jīvas, the problem of inequality would arise. Since some sthāyi-bhāvas afford more intimacy and are thus objectively higher than others, God would be partial by making jīvas that are unequal in terms of their prospect. And if prema is the highest attainment but Bhagavān designs only some specific jīvas to attain it but not all—since we see some jīvas attaining brahma-sāyujya or śānta-rasa for eternity without having prema—then that would represent a dreadful fault in Bhagavān himself.
In fact, śāstra actually describes that all taṭastha-jīvas are ontologically equal and uniform in nature,8 so to propose that each jīva is inherently constructed for a particular type of prema blatantly contradicts our Gauḍīya siddhānta, which teaches, as Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī explains in Prīti Sandarbha 92, that the root cause of prīti, or prema, is “the particular form of God that one worships, and the cause of worshiping that particular form of God is solely determined by the association with particular types of devotees, who inspire a person for that form.” Thus, prīti is not inherent in any way, but fully inherited by the grace of the sādhus.
Not only our Six Goswāmīs, but Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda himself conclusively cancels this teleological possibility when saying, “When our hearts are clean, a ray from the sun of prema will enter. This ray, which enriches our hearts with prema, comes from the heart of a saintly Vaiṣṇava. This is the only way to attain prema. . . . It is passed from one ātmā to another, just as lightning passes from one cloud to another. Gradually, by associating with Vaiṣṇavas, the prema in the Vaiṣṇava’s heart is naturally transmitted to the heart of the jīva.”9 Here, the Ṭhākura unequivocally shows how the sādhu does not merely act as an activator of some preestablished attainment waiting for us somewhere, but he transfers his own specific bhāva into the heart of a sincere practitioner—the prema I will taste depends on the prema I associate with. It is only in this sense that we could accept the idea of teleological inherence, and even connect it with my hypothesis of translational issues10 in regard to the Ṭhākura’s presentation.
When speaking about any type of inherence, we are actually speaking about inherent potential, and not any predestined devotional attainment.
Paradoxically, in the name of protecting the legacy of Śrī Bhaktivinoda and not letting anyone downplay it, the pūrvapakṣī has ended up downplaying the statements of our Goswāmīs and the main śāstra-pramāṇa on this topic. He almost never quotes them but mostly refers to another sampradāya. He has also has minimized the whole position of the Gaura līlā and its universal dispensation, and even relativized the position of Bhagavān himself to that of a materially biased entity. Contrastingly, Gauḍīya siddhānta should be established in a sensitive and expert way, such that the glories and position of every sacred personality is not only protected, but duly extolled through a comprehensive understanding of each of their statements.
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.
- The term pūrvapakṣa refers to an opposing view, while a pūrvapakṣī is the one who presents the pūrvapakṣa. [↩]
- For a detailed explanation of these two options with their corresponding scriptural evidence, see chapters 5 and 6 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- For some examples of this, see Paramātma Sandarbha 28, Prīti Sandarbha 65, Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta 2.2.176–188, Śrī Jīva Goswāmī’s Krama Sandarbha commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.10.6, and Śrīdhara Swāmī’s commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.7.6, among other examples that have been presented in chapter 7 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- Similar statements can be found in Bhakti Sandarbha 180 and 202, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.14, 1.2.229, 1.3.54, 2.1.6–10, 2.5.7, and 2.5.13, in Jīva Goswāmī’s commentary to Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.66, 1.2.295, and 2.1.6, as well as in Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda’s commentary on Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.1.7–10 and 3.2.77. [↩]
- For more on this, see chapter 5 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- Some clear quotes in this regard are Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.1.4, 1.7.18-28, 1.9.29-30, 1.9.35-36, and 2.2.81, among others. Similarly, see my explanation in the first part of the Appendix on Rūpa Goswāmī’s concept of sarvādhikāritāṁ in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.60 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- For further development of how bhakti’s noninherence does not hamper one’s individual choice but actually promotes it, see chapter 6 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- For more on this see chapter 6 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta, where Paramātma Sandarbha 28 and Govinda-bhāṣya 2.3.43 are quoted. [↩]
- This article is named Pratiṣṭhāśa Parivarjana (“Desire for Name and Fame”) and can be accessed in the following link: bhaktivinodainstitute.org/pratisthasa-parivarjana-desire-for-name-and-fame/ Interestingly, it was written in 1896, a year that the pūrvapakṣī connects with the theological zenith of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. [↩]
- For more on this, see chapter 10 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]