Published on December 6th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff2
Jāmātṛ Muni’s Influence in Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī – Part 7: Are Śrī Bhaktivinoda and Jīva Goswāmī Consistent in Stating that Bhakti Is Inherent?
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
Before reaching the last part of this series, I would like to clarify one more point in connection to how consistent Śrī Jīva and Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda were in their presentation on this topic. When initially asked whether bhakti was inherent or not, the pūrvapakṣī1 strongly said it was. But then in another, later presentation, he declared that bhakti was inherent but also was not—a clear change of perspective. Similarly, in an early presentation, he emphatically stated that the Ṭhākura was totally consistent in his presentation, while in a later exposition he accepted that Śrī Bhaktivinoda actually said both things, but that “there will be only a contradiction if we read Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as speaking in terms of physical inherence, not teleological inherence.” Since the teleological conjecture has already been dismantled in my previous article, I will next address some of the remaining implications of this particular postulate.
The pūrvapakṣī has spoken in terms of “nature and nurture,” as another way of saying that bhakti is inherent and is not. While these terms could naturally be used for explaining the jīva’s potential (nature) and how it depends on bhakti’s grace to be upgraded (nurture), here the pūrvapakṣī uses them to make a case for simultaneous inherence and noninherence. While the Śrī sampradāya and other contemporary ācāryas may be forcibly quoted in order to be seen as supporting such theory, nowhere have our Goswāmīs spoken about this possibility.
Next, the pūrvapakṣī mentions that “the sources Jīva Goswāmī uses present the ontology of the self in exactly the same way as Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura does.” To this, he adds that concerning the topic of bhakti in the jīva, “that teaching does not diminish over time [in the Ṭhākura’s books] but it is actually amplified and finds its culmination in Jaiva-dharma.” Then he mentions that if these statements were not the siddhānta Śrī Bhaktivinoda was pointing at, those statements “would be diminished over time, but they are actually amplified.” However, this is not precisely the case, as I have shown in my forthcoming book through different quotes from the Ṭhākura which clearly promote bhakti’s noninherence in works coming afterJaiva-dharma, like his commentary on Brahma-saṁhitā and his summary of Siddhānta–ratnam, among others.2
Indeed, I have compiled a full list of every single occasion in which Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has clearly declared in his main works that bhakti is not inherent. In order not to make this presentation unnecessarily long, I will share it as a link in the footnote below.3
Of course, we have also shown how the Ṭhākura seems at times to promote the opposite, by declaring that prema is inherent not teleologically, but actually physically. For example, in chapter 15 of his Jaiva-dharma he says, “I understand the eternal svarūpa of the jīva to be spiritual and atomic in nature, and within that svarūpa is a beautiful body composed of spiritual limbs. In the conditioned state, that beautiful spiritual body remains covered by the subtle body, and the material covering of the jīva–svarūpa in the form of the jaḍa-śarīra causes its material transformation.” Similarly, in the first chapter of his Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta the Ṭhākura says, “Our spiritual form has become hidden within the material form.”4 These sections clearly defy the notion of teleological inherence by presenting the type of physical inherence the pūrvapakṣī has initially rejected. We need some form of reconciliation, as I have attempted in chapters 9 through 12 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta.
Another important point to consider here is a second type of translational issue:5 Sometimes the Ṭhākura has said something very specific in his original Bengali or Sanskrit, but the English translations of his works may not fully represent his original intention, or even the translators’ intention coming yet from other translations. For example, an English translation of Śrī Bhaktivinoda’s commentary on Brahma-saṁhitā 5.34 says, “The ultimate attainment of the living entity is to be situated in his pure, transcendental, constitutional position of devotional service to Bhagavān. This condition can only be achieved by the mercy of bhakti, which is inherently transcendental.” Interestingly, the Hindi translation from which this English version came says, “To be situated in pure aprākṛta state—the attainment of God’s service—is the ultimate attainment. This state can be attained only by the grace of cit-svarūpiṇī bhakti (jeevonka shuddh apraakrt avasthaamen sthit hona – bhagavatsevaakee praapti hee charam praapti hai. yah avastha keval chit – svaroopinee bhaktikee krpaase hee praapt ho sakatee hai).”6 Thus, an important translational consideration in these cases may be to first go to the original Bengali or Sanskrit in every instance where we find statements of inherence or noninherence in Śrī Bhaktivinoda’s oeuvre.
Returning to the topic of consistency in our ācāryas’ statements, the pūrvapakṣī proclaims that while Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura may have said two different things at times, Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī never directly said that bhakti was not inherent and, according to him, this is enough proof that Śrī Jīva supports some form of inherence. Although I have already proved the contrary in my forthcoming book7 the pūrvapakṣī then says that actually “a Vaiṣṇava is giving svarūpa-śakti, but that allows the jīva to remember or regain their svarūpa.” Again, what we find here is a totally unclear and convoluted notion—the idea of remembering or regaining one’s svarūpa—which has never been presented by the Goswāmīs, but it has been borrowed by the pūrvapakṣī one more time from the Śrī sampradāya and superimposed in our Gauḍīya siddhānta.
In connection with the bestowal of svarūpa-śakti and having the Śrī sampradāya as his main scriptural reference, when asked about how to harmonize this bestowal with bhakti’s inherence, the pūrvapakṣī gave a very unexpected reply. He said that he would not comment on that topic, since “I have not come across a detailed discussion of svarūpa-śakti in the writings of Jāmātṛ Muni.” While Śrī Jāmātṛ may have not shared such a detailed description, our Gauḍīya ācāryas definitively did, and we are to turn to them for definitive answers in this regard, instead of waiting for the Śrī sampradāya’s opinion on the matter. And what did the Goswāmīs say in this regard? That bhakti is the essence of the svarūpa-śakti, the latter being composed of sandhinī, samvit, and hlādinī, all of which are not inherent in the jīva; therefore, bhakti is not inherent in the jīva.8
Interestingly, the pūrvapakṣī declares that he accepts that bhakti is the essence of the svarūpa-śakti, but if this is so, how can he say that bhakti is inherent and by this not imply that the svarūpa-śakti is also inherent in the jīva? Similarly, he has said that the jīva has some form of inherent prīti and that prīti is a function of the svarūpa-śakti, which is bestowed, but he could not say whether or not the jīva had svarūpa-śakti in its constitution. But if we distinguish between prīti and svarūpa-śakti, then we are following a different definition of prīti than that of Śrī Jīva. To these types of inquiries, the pūrvapakṣī replies that “I do not have a wholly worked out theological solution that connects everything.… I have not done that work.” No need to comment on this.
In conclusion, Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī has been totally consistent in his own presentation: bhakti and prīti are both manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti, and the taṭastha-jīva acquires these through sādhu-saṅga and subsequent sādhana and grace. Indeed, if no one had told us that bhakti was inherent, such a thought would have never arisen in someone who studied Śrī Jīva’s Sandarbhas—never. In contrast to this, for some of the reasons analyzed in my forthcoming book, or other reasons yet to be discovered, Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s presentation at times seemed not so consistent in this regard. He made statements about prema being inherent in the jīva but simultaneously not in the jīva, a minute portion of the svarūpa-śakti being in the jīva but also the svarūpa-śakti not being inherent, a spiritual form located inside the atomic constitution of the jīva, and so on.
It is overtly clear that the Goswāmīs shared a consistent view on bhakti’s noninherence, while the Ṭhākura and other contemporary ācāryas presented a more nuanced narrative which begs for proper reconciliation. Why? Because whenever the primary meaning (mukhya-vṛtti) of a scriptural statement is inappropriate, there must be a secondary meaning (gauṇa-vṛtti), and since the Goswāmīs’ unequivocal statements on this matter constitute mukhya-vṛtti for us, whatever the Ṭhākura has said that apparently opposes them should then be seen in the light of gauṇa-vṛtti. It should not forcibly be posited as our ultimate Gauḍīya siddhānta, since that stance would immediately do away with the Goswāmīs’ mukhya-vṛtti. We could even say that if the Ṭhākura followed Jāmātṛ Muni even more closely than Jīva Goswāmī did, he may have decided to do so for the sake of his preaching at the time. In that case, we would arguably have two scripturally based perspectives, with Śrī Bhaktivinoda choosing the one that had greater appeal, since such a viewpoint may have represented for him a more robust sense of the jīva for people at large. Most people conformed with the popular Advaita idea that everything is already there in the ātmā. This could also help him militate against the selling of siddha-dehas, which was so common at the time. But whatever may be the case, one thing is sure: Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī’s opinion on bhakti’s noninherence is crystal clear and undisputable.
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 more on this, see chapter 9 in my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- For seeing the complete list, see https://harmonist.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/bhaktivinoda-bhakti-noninherence.pdf. [↩]
- It is noteworthy to note that whenever the Ṭhākura says such things, he never offers scriptural verses from the Gauḍīya canon to support them. [↩]
- The first type of translational issue was introduced in chapter 10 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta, as one of my main hypotheses concerning why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura apparently pointed to inherence at times. [↩]
- These two translations come from the respective English and Hindi editions published by Gaudiya Vedanta Publications. A similar example could be found in Śrī Bhaktivinoda’s commentary to verses 5.3–4, among others. [↩]
- Some examples of this would be Bhakti Sandarbha 180 and 202.2, Prīti Sandarbha 65 and 92, and Bhagavat Sandarbha 98.5. [↩]
- For abundant scriptural evidence on this topic, see chapters 4 and 5 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]