Jīva, Buddhi, and Vṛtti

Q&A with Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa, originally published by The Jiva Institute.

Question: How can the jīva be a witness of the mind if the mind is the very instrument through which the jīva’s knowledge capacity is actualized since without being conjoined with the body-mind complex jīva’s potential to apprehend remains dormant or idle?

Answer: All the material experience of the jīva is outside of him, not within. But it is true that in the conditioned state, the jīva cannot experience external objects without the help of the mind and senses. However, no experience is possible without the jīva’s presence in the mind-body complex. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā 13.20, puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānām bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate, “The conscious living being is said to be the cause in the matter of the experiential capacity for happiness and misery.” So the jīva witnesses the mind by identifying with buddhi

Question: The process of witnessing implies a vṛtti, but ātmā is free of any modification (avikāra). Taking that into consideration, it seems that the process of witnessing is happening in the body. This perhaps does not go along with the principle that the witness is always different from the witnessed, meaning that the body cannot be the witness of itself. But the jīva by itself (without the body) has no capacity to activate its potential to know. Therefore, how does the process of the jīva being the witness of the mind actually work?

Answer: The pure ātmā witnesses by itself. It becomes a witness by identifying with buddhi and buddhi makes a vṛtti. When it identifies with buddhi, which makes the vṛtti, then it becomes the witness of the buddhi-vṛtti

Question: To support the jīva’s eternal constitutional position of being an integrated part of Paramātmā, Jīva Gosvāmī cites in Anuccheda 37, Gītā 15.7, “The living being in this conditioned world is an eternal integrated part of Me alone.” I wonder why Kṛṣṇa uses the words “in this conditioned world”? If the jīva is an eternal part, he remains part of Him in the liberated state also. 

Answer: The answer to your question will be clear if you read the complete translation of the verse: 

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke   jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi   prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The eternal living being is verily a part of Myself. In this material world, it draws [to itself] the senses along with the mind as the sixth sense [which exist] in matter.”

The word jīva-loke is construed with the second part of the verse which says “ in this material world, it is entangled…”. But even if you do not apply this word to the second part and apply only to the first part of the verse, then also it does not imply that jīva is not a part in his liberated state. If that were the case, then the word sanātana would become meaningless because sanātana is a modifier of aṁśa, or “part.” If the jīva is an eternal part in this loka, then he has to be part after liberation also. Because applying jīva-loke to the first sentence does not give any extra meaning and becomes redundant. Therefore it should be applied to the second part because there are no redundant words in śāstra.

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