The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 1: The History of the Debate

By Vrindaranya Dasi

Additional articles in this series

Is bhakti bestowed upon a jīva by God or a devotee at some point in material time or is it already part of the jīva’s constitutional nature, albeit covered by māyā? Or can it be both, in which case bhakti is inherent but needs to be bestowed because the jīva is covered by māyā and thus lost to his true nature?1 Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura expressed the third option (that it is both), and following his lead, so have those in his parivāra. During the time of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the well-known Rādhā Ramana Carana dāsa Bābāji, among others, agreed with Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s interpretation of Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sandarbhas concerning this topic. For example, he wrote, “Similarly, one has only to remove the impurity of the heart by means of sadhana-bhakti to see and feel that prema is already there.”2 That said, not all Gauḍīya parivāras embraced this understanding. Nonetheless, there is no evidence I’m aware of that anyone objected to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s interpretation during his own time. And as we shall see, the Ṭhākura clearly derives his interpretation of Jīva Gosvāmī from previous ācāryas such as Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and his Madhva heritage, which the Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍīya lineage is derived from in some respects. Furthermore, as I will show in my fourth article, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s interpretation runs through the other four Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas as well.

Thus, we should be clear that non-inherency versus simultaneous inherency and bestowal is not a debate in which Jīva Gosvāmī and the rest of the Gauḍīya sampradāya are on one side of the divide and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and his parivāra stand alone on the other side. Although the example that I gave in the previous paragraph refers to the time of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the same holds true after his disappearance. For example, David L. Haberman states in his groundbreaking work within academia, Acting as a Way of Salvation, that when researching his book in Vraja he came across two distinct perspectives embraced by Gauḍīya sadhus in regard to the siddha-deha: inherent and non-inherent.3 It is notable that he was referring to parivāras other than that of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.4 Dr. Mahanamabrata Brahmachari, who travelled to the United States from India in 1933, did a PhD thesis called Vaiṣṇava Vedānta: the Philosophy of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī for the University of Chicago and became a mentor of Thomas Merton. In this deeply philosophical dissertation, the author presents an implicitly inherent and bestowed perspective.5 In a more recent academic publication, Barbara A. Holdrege, in her well-researched and insightful Bhakti and Embodiment, also implicitly takes an inherent and bestowed perspective regarding the meditative siddha-deha of the aspiring devotee.6

However, when Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sandarbhas were first published in English, some devotees in parivāras outside the Bhaktivinoda parivāra questioned, based on the Sandarbhas, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s writings that state that bhakti is the jīva’s svabhāva (natural state or constitution) and particularly that the jīva’s siddha-deha is inherent within a jīva. Those within the Bhaktivinoda parivāra have mostly discounted these questions, but some have argued in support of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s position, and thus a debate has raged on for years, mostly on Internet forums. While most of those in the Bhaktivinoda parivāra have continued to support simultaneous inherency and bestowal, some have modified their positions—particularly those who have closely examined the arguments of the opposing side. For example, some have a qualified understanding of simultaneous inherency and bestowal, some have argued that bhakti is bestowed and not inherent and thus there must be a reason why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura preached this understanding, and a few have even left his parivāra altogether. 

My inspiration for this series of articles was another series of articles by Swāmī Padmanābha published on the Harmonist website as well as several podcasts, in which he expresses an openness to Socratic dialogue on the topic of whether bhakti is “inherent or inherited,” as well as a podcast and in-depth presentation made by Sundara Gopāla dās that answer that call for dialogue. Swāmī Padmanābha’s position was that bhakti is not inherent, and he thus opines that only Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s statements that establish that bhakti is bestowed are in full alignment with Jīva Gosvāmī and those statements that indicate inherency “beg for proper reconciliation.”7 He argues that the primary meaning of such statements is inappropriate because he asserts that Jīva Gosvāmī is unequivocal that bhakti is not inherent.8 As I was writing this series of articles, Swāmī Padmanābha came out with a book, Inherent or Inherited, based on his series of articles from the Harmonist.9

In his presentation based on research for his PhD dissertation at the University of Oxford, Sundara Gopāla dās upheld that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that bhakti is both inherent and bestowed.10 Vigorously disagreeing with Swāmī Padmanābha’s contention that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s position was merely a preaching strategy, Sundara Gopāla provided extensive evidence to establish that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s statements that bhakti is the dharma of the soul (jaiva-dharma) was not a provisional concept but rather a foundational aspect of his teachings. He also gave historical evidence that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had studied Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sandarbhas extensively, thereby dispelling any doubt that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura might not have been aware of Jīva Gosvāmī’s position. Perhaps the most ground-breaking revelation of Sundara Gopāla’s presentation was that Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, whose verses form the basis of Jīva Gosvāmī’s explanation of the characteristics of the jīva, also maintained that bhakti is inherent as well as bestowed. Furthermore, Sundara Gopāla substantiated that while Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was in Jagannātha Purī, he studied Jāmātṛ Muni’s books under the guidance of scholars in his line. Sundara Gopāla also discussed the different types of inherency in both the Western and Vedic traditions, and he presented the revolutionary idea that the inherency that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura spoke of is a teleological inherence—the purpose for which something exists.11

On account of a preponderance of evidence, Sundara Gopāla was successful in establishing that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura held a deeply reasoned conviction that bhakti is both inherent and bestowed. Indeed, after this presentation, Swāmī Padmanābha adjusted his stance on whether Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s position was a preaching strategy.12 Nonetheless, although Swāmī Padmanābha came up with a few alternative suggestions as to why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura would present something that Swāmī Padmanābha felt differed from Jīva Gosvāmī, such reasons fell short in answering why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura preached both inherency and bestowal.13 About the revelation that Jāmātṛ Muni maintained that bhakti is inherent as well as bestowed, Swāmī Padmanābha argued that Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni’s understanding of his own verses was irrelevant because it is untenable to conclude that Śrī Jīva is in full agreement with the Muni’s opinion even in the specific cases when he quotes him.14

Furthermore, Swāmī Padmanābha held firm in emphatically dismissing the notion that bhakti could be inherent: “What we find here is a totally unclear and convoluted notion—the idea of remembering or regaining one’s svarūpa.”15 He even suggests that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura himself “cancels” such a possibility with his statements that bhakti is bestowed.16 Swāmī concludes by affirming: “But one thing remains beyond question: The undisputed and consensual siddhānta of the Gauḍīya sampradāya is that bhakti is not inherent in the jīva—neither physically, nor etiologically, nor teleologically.”17

Although Swāmī Padmanābha provided impressive support that bhakti is bestowed, the problem with his approach was that the support for the bestowal of bhakti was not under contention—at least not by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Comprehensively answering the question of whether bhakti is both bestowed and inherent is not a simple matter of producing quotations that support the point that bhakti is bestowed. There are quotations that support both inherency and bestowal for the simple reason that Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and, following in his lead, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura establish that bhakti is simultaneously inherent and bestowed. Therefore, producing hundreds of quotations to establish that bhakti is bestowed does not settle the argument because both sides agree on that point. 

Furthermore, I was rankled by Swāmī Padmanābha’s contention that he was bringing Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Jīva Gosvāmī closer together by presenting “different ways of appreciating” Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s understanding that were in line with Jīva Gosvāmī’s ultimate intention.18 As far as I was concerned, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Jīva Gosvāmī were already in perfect alignment, and it was Swāmī Padmanābha’s understanding that needed adjustment. Moreover, I had always found certain implications of the bestowal-only argument to be distasteful. For example, the bestowal-only argument holds that the soul has no inherent knowledge or ānanda—only consciousness and a lack of material suffering.19 Thus, essentially this understanding posits that the soul is impersonal without the bestowal of bhakti.20 It holds that the soul is simply a quantum of consciousness that powers a material or spiritual body, much like a battery that powers a car. As such, the soul does not constitutionally have any personality at all. Its personhood in the state of perfection, such an interpretation postulates, resides in the siddha-deha and its śaktis, which this theory understands to be constitutionally different than the soul. This argument further holds that the soul never actually contacts the siddha-deha directly because in this understanding such contact would cause the soul to transform. Thus, essentially the theory considers that after an eternity of wandering in the material world, the sojourn of the jīva culminates in merely identifying with something other than what it is. 

It was for these reasons that I began considering how I might respond to the contention of Swāmī Padmanābha that “the undisputed and consensual siddhānta of the Gauḍīya sampradāya is that bhakti is not inherent in the jīva.”21 I thought that something that had not been done was to show how Jīva Gosvāmī establishes the inherency of bhakti in the Sandarbhas. As the bestowal of bhakti has already been shown by Swāmī Padmanābha and others, this addition would show that Jīva Gosvāmī established both inherency and bestowal of bhakti in the Sandarbhas. Such an undertaking would thus add considerable weight to the argument that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was perfectly in line with Jīva Gosvāmī. 

In the scriptures, there are many apparently contradictory concepts. For example, that God has form and is formless and that we are one with God as well as different from God. Statements about the inherency and bestowal of bhakti are similar: although the statements seem contradictory, you can find many instances of both. The genius of the ācāryas of Vaiṣṇava Vedānta, as opposed to the understanding of Śaṅkarācārya, is that they embrace scripture in its entirety rather than asserting that some scriptural statements cancel out other statements, as Swāmī Padmanābha did when he suggested that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura cancels the possibility of inherency with his statements that bhakti is bestowed.22

It took me a year to complete my undertaking. I am posting this article on the auspicious appearance day of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, a perfect day to begin my humble attempt to serve the devotees by elucidating his Sandarbhas. Tomorrow is the appearance day of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, whose profound insight was the inspiration and guiding force of my writing. On this day, I will present a summary of the points I will make in the articles that will follow. I pray that my articles may please these two great Vaiṣṇavas, as well as the devotees who read this series. Please keep in mind that the Sandarbhas can be abstract, terse, and difficult to comprehend. As such, a substantial argument based on the Sandarbhas will also be similarly challenging. In this regard, as well as for any shortcomings in my presentation, I beg the indulgence of my readers.

Additional articles in this series: Part 1: The History of a Debate, Part 2: A Road Map, Part 3: The Swan, Part 4: Vaiṣṇava Vedānta, Part 5: The Twenty-One Intrinsic Characteristics of the Jīva, Part 6: The Search for Bliss, Part 7: The Soul is a Servant of Bhagavān Hari, Part 8: A Servant of God (Śeṣatva), Part 9: Unmanifest Qualities of the Soul, Part 10: Intrinsically of the Nature of Knowledge and Bliss, Part 11: Jīva Gosvāmī on Taṭasthā-Śakti, Part 12: Understanding Śakti, Part 13: The Bliss of the Jīva, Part 14: The Soul Is Not Subject to Transformation, Part 15: Identity/Oneness (Tādātmya), Part 16: The Manifestation of Śakti, Part 17: Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Govinda-Bhāṣya, Part 18: Concluding Words.

  1. I use the masculine pronoun for the jīva because that is the gender that is used in Sanskrit. If I were to use the female pronoun, for which a strong case can be made, there would be a difference in gender between that of my writing and most of the quotations I present from other authors, and I thought readers would find this difference confusing. []
  2. Kapoor, Dr. O.B.L., The Life of Love: Biography of Sri Srimat Radharamana Charan Das Deva (Caracas: Srila Badrinarayana Bhagavata Bhushana Prabhu, 1993), 203. []
  3. Haberman uses the terms “inherent theory” and “assigned theory.” Haberman, David L., Acting as a Way of Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 119–22. []
  4. Examples of the “inherent theory” are from interactions with Gaurāṇga Dāsa Bābājī and Rāmadāsa Bābājī. []
  5. For example, in contrast to those who say that the soul is merely a quantum of consciousness without personality, Mahanamabrata Brahmacari says that the true self is not impersonal: “The impersonal self forms a ‘halo’ as it were around his true self.” “[The soul] has to reach his true personality which sits high on the throne beyond impersonality.” He also says, “Each monad is a miniature God. But both God and a monad are integral beings. God’s Being is absolute and completely free, that of a monad is derivative and in that sense dependent. But so far as a monad is a unity it is an individual and possesses a striking similarity to the Individuality of the God-head.” Brahmachari, Mahanamabrata, Vaiṣṇava Vedānta (Calcutta: Das Gupta, 1974), 138. Monad is a term that modern philosophers, principally Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, adapted from Greek philosophy. The Pythagoreans believed that the Monad is the Supreme Being, from whom all things come. Leibniz held that monads were “souls or soul-like entities.” (Look, Brandon C., “Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University. []
  6. Holdrege, Barbara A., Bhakti and Embodiment: Fashioning Divine Bodies and Devotional Bodies in Kṛṣṇa Bhakti (New York: Routledge, 2015). []
  7. “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.” harmonist.us/?p=12671 Note: It seems likely that Mahārāja meant “varied” rather than “nuanced” since he doesn’t give any indication that the statements in question are more nuanced than those of Śrī Jīva. []
  8. ibid. []
  9. Padmanabha, Swami Bhakti Pranaya, Inherent or Inherited? (Gainesville, FL: Inword Publishers, 2022). []
  10. youtube.com/watch?v=E2UQKReAnPM []
  11. Sundara Gopāla dās is thankful to Prema-prayojana Prabhu for this observation. Swāmī Padmanābha argues that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura does not mention “teleological inherence” anywhere, and that this is something that has been thought up creatively. However, “teleological explanation” is the same thing as a “functional explanation” (see The Oxford Companion to Philosophy [2005], pp. 324 and 911). In Jaiva-dharma, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura clearly articulates the eternal function of the soul. []
  12. “Although I do not personally feel so strongly about some of Bhaktivinoda’s statements regarding inherent bhakti being an outreach technique anymore, there is nonetheless place for such presentations, and we should be willing to resolve those apparent contradictions by allowing ourselves to acknowledge them, instead of forcibly absolutizing anything that our ācāryas have said.” harmonist.us/?p=12672 []
  13. “We will engage in spiritual conjecturing by presenting in this chapter three main hypotheses related to the reasons for the Ṭhākura and his successors having said what they said at times: (1) they presented a circumstantial adjustment due to some very specific situations they were in, (2) their seeming advocacy of inherence was a natural way of expression in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Calcutta, where the language of inherence was ubiquitous, and (3) some of their apparently contradictory statements were part of their own theological evolution.” Padmanabha, Swami Bhakti Pranaya. Inherent or Inherited?: Bhakti in the Jiva According to Gaudiya Vedanta (pp. 229-230). Inword Publishers. Kindle Edition. []
  14. Swāmī Padmanābha: “In other words, the proposal is that while Śrī Jīva may not accept Jāmātṛ Muni in toto, at least in those specific cases when he quotes him, we should conclude that Śrī Jīva is in full agreement with the Muni’s opinion. Next, I will analyze why this logic is remarkably untenable.” harmonist.us/?p=12668 []
  15. harmonist.us/?p=12671 []
  16. harmonist.us/?p=12670 []
  17. harmonist.us/?p=12672 []
  18. “Rather, I try to “bring them [Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Jiva Goswami] closer,” by presenting different ways of appreciating the Ṭhākura’s presentation in alignment with Jīva Goswāmī’s ultimate intention.” harmonist.us/?p=12665 []
  19. Those who advocate bestowal-only interpret a statement of Jīva Gosvāmī to say that the cit of the soul is consciousness and the ānanda is only the lack of material suffering. I will refute this understanding in part 10 of this series. []
  20. Although those who advocate bestowal-only say that the soul has the potential to be a knower, doer, and enjoyer, they say that this potential actually resides in the svarūpa-śakti, not the soul. Therefore, in their understanding, the soul is never directly a doer, only indirectly by identifying with either the māyā- or svarūpa-śakti. These topics are discussed in more detail in parts 12, 14, and 15 of this series. []
  21. harmonist.us/?p=12672 []
  22. harmonist.us/?p=12670 []


About the Author

39 Responses to The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 1: The History of the Debate

  1. Vaijayanti mala dasi

    You have perfectly expressed in such a rational way so many points that I was unable to articulate due to my frustration. A thrilling read.

  2. Dear Vrindaranya ji,

    Thank you so much for advancing dialogue on this most important theological discussion in today’s Gaudiya society. I am looking forward to learning many new things and advancing my appreciation of this topic.

    I do feel Padmanabha Maharaj has been misunderstood and mischaracterized in this article (and by many members of the Bhaktivinoda parivar). The accusation that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is not in line with Srila Jiva Goswami comes from outside the parivar and in large part it has to do with how theological issues were handled in the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON. Specifically, the jiva falldown issue in early 90s started a “well-read Babaji” movement in Vrindavan that created a us vs them mentality on Sidhanta. I have always felt that Padmanabha Maharaj was trying to bridge the two.

    I don’t think anyone can deny that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was supremely creative in his presentation of the Bhakti philosophy – he presented the theology in the language that the modern world could understand. He presented so many concepts of bhakti including the very definition of bhakti, eligibility, dealing with people of different faiths, dealing with modern science, dealing with morality, nama tattva, aparadha, etc. People have written a thesis on these subjects.

    So then why is it then it is so troubling to us that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had a different presentation on jiva tattva? I am curious if you think that his presentation of the origin and fall of the jiva from the tatastha region is exactly aligned with how it has been presented by the purva Gaudiya acharyas or even the other four Vaisnava schools?

    One more observation is that this article as well as many of the other purvapaksha arguments seem to originate in disappointment with the words of sastra and the acharyas. “How can this be all that there is”. While emotions certainly have a place in the sojourn of the jiva, in my observation (the case study of the jiva issue in ISKCON once again comes to mind) they can introduce a strong bias. The study and reconciliation of theology might be best done as a neutral seeker of truth, because if we approach sastra already knowing the “answer” then we will be sure to find what we already “know”.

    In this regard, it is my opinion that Padmanabha Maharaj undertook a neutral study of bhakti sastras to understand this topic and the conclusions that came out are the natural conclusions. Of course, one could argue that his conclusions are limited by his bhakti adhikar, which would be a fair point, but I think it is highly unfair to compare him to Sripad Shankaracharya and selectively choosing statements that serve his “purpose”. Sripad Shankaracharya, Srila Madhavacharya, Srila Ramanajucharya and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana all commented on Vedanta, but they chose to interpret different words using primary, secondary and tertiary meanings depending on their angles of vision to establish their thology.

    Thank you once again for taking time to write these articles and nourishing the faith of the devotees.

    • Dear AJ,

      Sorry that it took so long to approve this comment. Somehow it got lodged in the spam folder and was just discovered today.

      You said, “I do feel Padmanabha Maharaj has been misunderstood and mischaracterized in this article…the accusation that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is not in line with Srila Jiva Goswami comes from outside the parivar.

      I think that you may have misunderstood me. As I mentioned in the article, “some devotees in parivāras outside the Bhaktivinoda parivāra questioned, based on the Sandarbhas, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s writings that state that bhakti is the jīva’s svabhāva (natural state or constitution)….While most of those in the Bhaktivinoda parivāra have continued to support simultaneous inherency and bestowal, some have modified their positions—particularly those who have closely examined the arguments of the opposing side. For example, some have a qualified understanding of simultaneous inherency and bestowal, some have argued that bhakti is bestowed and not inherent and thus there must be a reason why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura preached this understanding, and a few have even left his parivāra altogether.”

      Swami Padmanabha is in the second group (some have argued that bhakti is bestowed and not inherent and thus there must be a reason why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura preached this understanding). I was not saying that he was in the group that made the accusation.

      You said, “So then why is it then it is so troubling to us that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had a different presentation on jiva tattva?” I’m not sure I understand the question you are asking here. Could you please clarify? Different from whom?

      You said, “One more observation is that this article as well as many of the other purvapaksha arguments seem to originate in disappointment with the words of sastra and the acharyas. “How can this be all that there is”. While emotions certainly have a place in the sojourn of the jiva, in my observation (the case study of the jiva issue in ISKCON once again comes to mind) they can introduce a strong bias. The study and reconciliation of theology might be best done as a neutral seeker of truth, because if we approach sastra already knowing the “answer” then we will be sure to find what we already ‘know‘.”

      I must say that I’ve heard this argument used a lot and here’s what I don’t like about it: it seems to imply that the person who feels strongly about a point is untrustworthy, therefore their points should be entirely dismissed simply on that basis. But if a person is biased by emotion, won’t that be reflected in their argument? Won’t you be able to point out the distortion? Is everyone who has a strong feeling about something forever banned from discussing the topic because they are unable to think dispassionately? Obviously not. Therefore, I think it is fair to suggest that my articles be read with an open mind. If I am biased by emotion, please point out any descrepancy in sastra-yukti (reasoning according to sastra) that you find.

      You said, “I think it is highly unfair to compare him to Sripad Shankaracharya and selectively choosing statements that serve his ‘purpose’.” I wrote, “The genius of the ācāryas of Vaiṣṇava Vedānta, as opposed to the understanding of Śaṅkarācārya, is that they embrace scripture in its entirety rather than asserting that some scriptural statements cancel out other statements, as Swāmī Padmanābha did when he suggested that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura cancels the possibility of inherency with his statements that bhakti is bestowed.”

      The comparision is that Śaṅkarācārya, unlike the ācāryas of Vaiṣṇava Vedānta, do not accept all the scriptural statements. I also show how Swāmī Padmanābha does the same thing when he suggested that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura cancels the possibility of inherency with his statements that bhakti is bestowed. Which scriptural statements are not accepted results in different understandings.

      For example, with Śaṅkarācārya the result is comprehensive impersonalism. Those who interpret Jiva Gosvami to only support bestowal end up with a partial impersonal understanding of the soul: the soul is conscious and as such, it has the ability to identify with the svarupa-sakti, but it is like the battery of a car. Such an understanding considers that the soul, being tatastha-sakti, never directly contacts the svarupa-sakti. Thus, the svarupa-sakti has personality, maya-sakti has illusory personality, but the tatastha-sakti soul is mere consciousness and lack of material suffering.

      I hope that this answers your questions. Please let me know if any further clarification is needed.

      • Thank you for your response. Much has been clarified since I first published my comment. I’m looking forward to reading the entire series and will come back seeking clarifications then. Pranams

  3. Wonderful, thanks for harmonising the different arguments. Our sampradaya needs unity not divisions. I found the arguments of some advocates of the two parties are too much polarising. And then one looses the higher values and realisations of bhakti.

  4. The fact that a good number of modern and ancient Gaudiya Vaisnavas from other lines held/hold the conviction that bhakti is inherent, in that each jiva has a constitutional bhakti svarupa rather than attaining one that is wholly a result of sadhu sanga, is quite interesting. And also the fact that Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s position on this issue was not controversial in his time is noteworthy. These facts are largely recent discoveries for me, and have impacted my perspective.

    Now some of the Vaisnavas cited in the article who hold this conviction are of course not in our line. And we disagree with them on other issues. However, I suspect that if any of us came to Mahaprabhu’s teaching through any of them, we would think that our present line was “off” in some measure, as members of other lines often do. Just a thought.

    Regarding Sundara Gopala’s presentation from one year ago, I only heard his presentation on Nama Rasa’s podcast and I did not find it compelling and related the same to Padmanabha Swami and others. Later SG made a more comprehensive presentation that I did not hear but heard about, and that turned my head a bit, since I had been going in the opposite direction. I found it difficult to argue against teleological inherence and shared my thoughts with others even before Padmanabha Maharaja published.

    The above points and what I have often referred to as a deflated sense of the atma—consciousness alone devoid of jnana and ananda—held by Satyanarayana das Babaji that is central to his noninherent interpretation of the Sandarbhas—caused me to rethink the issue. I came to the conclusion that Bhaktivinoda’s position on this issue was indeed central to his understanding of Gaudiya Vedanta, rather than peripheral, and that the atma was more robust in nature than than one particular interpretation of the Sandarbhas concluded.

    This is merely the more recent history of my thinking on this subject, one I have been pondering for more than 30 years.

    • Krishna Kumari dasi

      ‘The above points and what I have often referred to as a deflated sense of the atma—consciousness alone devoid of jnana and ananda—held by Satyanarayana das Babaji that is central to his noninherent interpretation of the Sandarbhas—caused me to rethink the issue.’

      This point really got my attention too! I’m looking forward to future articles and considering the evidence presented.

    • Pranams Maharaj. Could we view teleological inherence as the vision of a Mahabhagvat Uttama adhikari seeing every Jiva in its full potential, having an eternal prospect with Bhagvan that may or not play out (depending on the causeless mercy of a devotee)? And the presentation of Srila Jiva Goswami (as recently presented by Satyanarayana das Babaji) of the baddha Jiva being devoid of jnana and ananda as a “neutral” perspective on the nature of jiva? Whereas Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhupada in his writings was trying to establish a bulletproof presentation of tattva without necessarily trying to “preach”; Srila Bhaktovinoda Thakur in his compassionate outlook was creating the foundation of a worldwide Gaudiya sangha and in his very broad vision was seeing every jiva in their highest prospect as having bhakti (teliological inherence). In fact, anyone who read anything by the Thakur received bhakti adhikar (as did anyone who heard from or read anything by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta or any of his illustrious disciples) and could now potentially realize their eternal prospect.

      Thank you

  5. Braja sundari dasi

    Really fascinating beginning! It is going to be a spritual feast to read whole series. I am surprized though to see that the debate was between the “inherent” and the “inherent and bestowed” versus “inherent” and “bestowed” positions. To me it seems that “inherent and bestowed” was never formulated by anyone before, at least not the way you are doing it in this article and it was also not how Guru Maharaj was speaking about it when Padmanabha Maharaj started working on his book

  6. In the presentation that I referred to in the article, Sundar Gopal makes the point that for followers of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, inherent or bestowed is a false dichotomy. It was one of the major points of his presentation. I seem to have forgotten to mention it in my summary of his presentation—I will make a revision. Thanks for bringing it up.

  7. “In a loving relationship, “inherent” and “bestowed”, are necessary components of both parties.

  8. Padmanabha Maharaja told me that he felt his position was misrepresented in the article, but he did not tell me how. So.I looked over the section in which his statements are cited and I could not see how he was misrepresented. However, just after that section we find the following:

    “Moreover, I had always found certain implications of the bestowal-only argument to be distasteful. For example, the bestowal-only argument holds that the soul has no inherent knowledge or ānanda—only consciousness and a lack of material suffering.20 Thus, essentially this understanding posits that the soul is impersonal without the bestowal of bhakti.21 It holds that the soul is simply a quantum of consciousness that powers a material or spiritual body, much like a battery that powers a car. As such, the soul does not constitutionally have any personality at all. Its personhood in the state of perfection, such an interpretation postulates, resides in the siddha-deha and its śaktis, which this theory understands to be constitutionally different than the soul. This argument further holds that the soul never actually contacts the siddha-deha directly because in this understanding such contact would cause the soul to transform. Thus, essentially the theory considers that after an eternity of wandering in the material world, the sojourn of the jīva culminates in merely identifying with something other than what it is. ”

    And I thought that perhaps this section was what he was referring to. After all, he did not invoke the car/battery analogy in his book and did not make other of the statements found in this section of the article. But this section of the article is not directly referring to things that he said. And he may not have entirely thought along these lines. But these ideas are nonetheless implicit if not explicit in the bestowal perspective as presented by their principal advocate, the respected Satyanarayana das Babaji. Indeed such analogies and points can be found in his writing on the topic. And this series of articles brings out in detail how exactly these ideas are unavoidable consequences of that perspective.

    In modern philosophy such ideas could be classified as “deprived myths.” Myth here refers to the description of consensus reality that we come up with. We all agree that there is a world we are part of and it is the same for everyone. However, we nonetheless experience it and describe it differently—how it feels to us and what it means. Such descriptions are myths. But some of them are deprived in that they do not resonate with our deepest intuitions about the meaning of life. Indeed, some of them tell us there is no meaning at all.

    Similarly, the idea that the atma is just consciousness with only a potential to know and taste bliss, if by chance it gets sadhu sanga and only then is imprinted with personhood, often does not resonate with our deepest human intuitions. Nor by the way does it resonate with the Upanisads. And this brings it into question in a number of ways. Is it healthy for our human psychology? Does it provide sufficient impetus for sadhana, etc.?

    Whereas the inherent and bestowed perspective could be compared to psychologist James Hillman’s acorn theory. Within each acorn there is a blueprint of the oak it is destined to become, and will become if it is planted. This by contrast this is a healthy myth or description of reality and life’s meaning that resonates with our deepest intuitions. Here we are the acorns with an internal blueprint of that which we are meant to become. Life has meaning. We have meaning. We are a particle of sat cit ananda meant to love Krsna, who is similarly constituted.

    Now can that myth be supported by scripture? This series of articles says YES! And seeks to demonstrate that. And it certainly resonates with the Upanisads.

    • I think it is worth underscoring the fact that whether one realizes it or not, if one does not agree with the said implications of the bestowal only argument in the section from the article I cited, then one has problem with the argument.

  9. Dear Guru Maharaja,

    I appreciate what you said about the idea that we like a battery does not resonate with our deepest intuitions about the meaning of life. However, I’m not sure that this idea could be considered a “deprived myth,” at least not as you have defined it: “Myth here refers to the description of consensus reality that we come up with. We all agree that there is a world we are part of and it is the same for everyone.”

    Are you saying that we all agree that we are like batteries, even though such an idea isn’t true? If that is what you meant, then I don’t see how that is the case. It is counter-intuitive to consider ourselves to be mere batteries, and there is not a consensus in regard to such an idea.

    You extended the idea to psychologist James Hillman’s acorn theory: “Within each acorn there is a blueprint of the oak it is destined to become, and will become if it is planted.” I’m not seeing why such an idea would be considered a myth—a widely held but false belief or idea. Such an idea seems to be very much real. Therefore, it doesn’t seem accurate to say it is a “healthy myth.”

    In relation to our experience of having personality, the idea that I am a person in the full sense of the term doesn’t seem to be a myth but rather an accurate intuition of reality and life’s meaning that resonates with our deepest intuitions. Perhaps it would be better to use Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s term monad, as Mahanamabrata Brahmacari did: “a monad is a unity. It is an individual and possesses a striking similarity to the Individuality of the God-head.”

    But perhaps I didn’t understand you correctly.

    Your servant,
    Vrindaranya

    • That is not what I meant. Here, the consensus reality is what we all agree on: that there is a world there that we all experience/perceive, trees, stars, and so on. And a myth in this context is how we explain what that all means to us. For example, materialism as a philosophy is a story or a particular myth, a description on the part of some as to what it all means. So any description of and meaning drawn from our experience of what we all perceive is in this context a particular myth. And a deprived myth is one that does not resonate with our deepest human intuitions.S o materialism in this sense is a deprived myth.

      The acorn theory on the other hand is a myth or explanation of life which posits that just as each individual acorn contains a blueprint within it of the oak tree it is meant to become, similarly each individual soul is meant to be a particular servant of God. This is and explanation of life that resonates with our deepest human intuitions: that we exist for the purpose of transcending our present material ego, etc.—there is more to life that what meets the eye. Of course, I am tweaking the theory in terms of our Gaudiya story or explanation of life.

  10. Hare Krishna
    Plz accept my humble Obbesiences 🙇

    I have few questions..

    The Article suggests explicitly that 2 Acharyas Sri Charan Das Babaji as well as Sri Prem Gopal Goswami have sort of taken similar outlooks like Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in terms of Bhakti Inherency & bestowal, I personally & with due respect don’t think that Sri Radha Raman Charan Das Babajis opinion in terms of Gaudiya Vaishnava Siddhanta in its depths can be taken with much weight as its known that several of his opinions and innovations radically differed and also apparently deviated from the traditional Gaudiya Teachings. So how much weight we can give to his words I am not very sure about it.

    Even though the article mentions that Dr.David Haberman found both the concepts within Parivaars, the examples for inherent theory are from Gauranga Das Babaji and Rama Das Babaji both of whom are again in the lineage of Radha Raman Charan Das Babaji.

    Also, other than Sri Prem Gopal Goswami Ji are there any other Parivaars that allign with the theory of Inherency within the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya in the contemporary time for example scholarly Vaishnavas of Shyamanand Parivaar, Advaita Parivaar, Several lineages of Nityananda Parivaar (some of which are also in Radha Kund), Narottam Parivaar, Gadadhar Parivaar, the Goswami Parivaars etc?my question is, is there any common consensus among all these several Parivaars on this topic or they have also been debating or differing on this topic?For example Jiva Being Anadi Baddha is a concept with common consensus among all Parivaars, is it the same case with Bhakti being Inherent or Inherited (if we exclude Prem Gopal Goswami Ji & Charan Das Babaji for a moment)

    Your Servant 🙇

    • That is a hard question to answer because there are so many parivaras and research would need to be done on foot.But one thing to note is that the lineage coming from Nitai through Jahnava devi and the Bhagnapara Goswamis in which Bhaktivinode was initiated had no issues with his inherent perspective. They wrote,

      “The Goswamis residing in the holy site of Baghna Para mercifully bestow the title of Bhaktivinoda on the devotee and disciple Kedarnath Datta. 1. May you, our pious disciple Kedarnath Datta, who desire nothing but the lotus feet of Govinda, be ever glorious. 2. You faithfully follows the doctrines taught by our Master, Chaitanya Chandra, and you actively preach the scriptures that establish the path of devotional service. 3. Seeing your unequalled devotion for Radha and Krishna, O you who are dear to the Vaishnavas, what person in this world would not be enchanted? 4. The kind of devotion that the Lord’s dearest associates ever desire to attain is held in your heart, so you are most fortunate, O beloved servant. 5. The supreme and only benefit for the living beings is devotion to Krishna. Therefore, please accept this title of Bhaktivinoda.

      And his guru wrote further,

      “The Goswamis of Baghnapara joyfully gave this honor to him in the month of Magh in the 400th year after the birth of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The many books that Kedar has written on the subject of bhakti are proof of his vast learning in the subject. After much research into the matter, he discovered the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip Mayapur. Genuine devotees always sing his glories and only the false renouncers and cheaters criticize him.”

      And they published this in the newspaper. Neither his own line or any other line during his time and afterward that we know of objected to his position on this issue until very recently. And in his own time he called out other lines for apasiddhanta. In the final analysis, his position on this worked quite well with regard to his own spiritual pursuit.

      Regarding Mahanama Brata Brahmacari, I consider him one of the best Gaudiya theologians of the 20th century. He was fluent in the Sandarbhas as well as contemporary thought. And regarding Carana dasa babaji, as far as I know, other lines merely do not agree with his vision on restricting the chanting of the maha-mantra to japa, although the Bhaktivinoda parivara has raised other issues.

      Note that we were told that Prema Gopala Goswami’s book misstated his position.

  11. Braja sundari dasi

    “Similarly, the idea that the atma is just consciousness with only a potential to know and taste bliss, if by chance it gets sadhu sanga and only then is imprinted with personhood, often does not resonate with our deepest human intuitions. Nor by the way does it resonate with the Upanisads. And this brings it into question in a number of ways. Is it healthy for our human psychology? Does it provide sufficient impetus for sadhana, etc.?”

    Guru Maharaj I`m not sure I understand this statement. If we are already “someone” not by potential only, does it mean that indeed there are different types of souls? What is the need for any reaching out then if we cannot change anyones destiny? ? Why would one even need guru to become enlighten? Would it mean that those who want to merge Brahman were destined that way and “created” without personality?

    And I also do not understand why would atma have to think of itself as a person posesing specific personality. This doubt is related to my very personal “myth”, experience that happed long ago. When I was a teenager I fainted which meant I was deprived of sense input but I nevetheless knew I existed and was aware of it. But I didnt have sense of “I” nor did I perceive any kind of subtle body (I was a point of consiuosness) and the sense of existing was my only experience, so absorbing that not a single thought came to my mind. I lost any connection to my past, presence, future, anything being “me” at that moment, being completely absorbed in the senstation of existing. Is it not that “I am” has to be there first before any kind of personality appears?

    • Using the example of the acorn, each acorn is the same in that they are each oak tree seeds. But they cannot be entirely the same because then there would only be one acorn. Thus each has its own unique blueprint. But still in order to realize their individual destiny, each one needs to be planted. So the planting is the bestowal and the blueprint is the inherent. Both are required. But this is merely an analogy. Is it supported by scripture? In the series of articles support will offered.

      Regarding brahma sayujya, Bhaktivinoda commenting on SB 2.10.6, a verse defining mukti, writes

      muktir hitvanyatha rupam svarupena vyavasthitih

      “Liberation is the attainment of jiva’s permanent form and original eternal identity after he gives up the changeable gross and subtle material bodies.”
      The jiva is a spiritual entity—he is Krsna’s unalloyed servitor. To come under the influence of nescience is contrary to his original nature. To discard this contrary identity and accept his original spiritual identity is known as liberation. When the knowledge of the original identity is indistinct, it leads to the conception that liberation means to merge with Brahman (sayujya-mukti). However, when the original identity is clearly understood, the jiva attains eternal and pure servitorship to Sri Krsna. The cessation of all suffering is not a full definition of mukti, liberation. The cessation of all suffering and thereafter the attainment of transcendental bliss are symptomatic of mukti.

      The symptoms of liberation have been described in Chandogya Upanisad (8.12.3):

      evam evaisa samprasado’smac charirat
      samutthaya param jyoti-rupa-sampadya
      svena rupenabhinispadyate sa uttamah puruñah
      sa tatra paryeti jaksan kridan ramamanah

      “The jiva, upon attaining liberation, elevates himself out of his gross and subtle material bodies and shining with transcendental brilliance obtains his own supramundane, spiritual form. Such a liberated soul is the best among men. He relishes his presence in the spiritual realm, enjoying transcendental activities and absorbing himself in divine bliss.”

      So BVT sees sayujya mukti as, “When the knowledge of the original identity is indistinct.” And in his Brihad-bhagavatamrta, Sanatana Goswami confirms that jivas in brahma sayujya can go up, if you will, from there and attain the full face of liberation as a servant of Bhagavan.

      Govinda Bhasya commenting in Vednata sutra 4.4.1 cites this verse and explains that the svarupa or spiritual form that one attains is inherent. This has been dealt with in great detail ahead when discussing Vedanta-sutra 4.4.1, a sutra that is easy to misunderstand. Indeed I have misunderstood it in the past to be speaking of non inherence, when under scrutiny it is saying just the opposite!

      • Braja sundari dasi

        Just to be sure that I fully understand- by svarupa do you mean God`s servant position (in whatever shape it takes) or a very specific spiritual body in lila?

        • Yes, that is what BVT is saying. And the Upanisad and sutra cannot be accurately interpreted otherwise.

        • Oh, sorry. I misread your question. That could possibly be debated further, but BVT’s position seems to be the latter. And while some may say that this opens Bhagavan to the charge of partiality, this does not hold. Because every servant of Bhagavan is fully satisfied being what God wants her to be and feels this seva is the best. Sanatana Goswami is very clear that notions of higher and lower do not exist in Vaikuntha.

          • Braja sundari dasi

            O, this is really surprising! Thank you Guru Maharaj for clarifying

          • Braja sundari dasi

            But this brings another doubt. How come than not everybody ends attaining their predestined perfection? How does Almighty and All knowing God fail to get his gopas or gopis who instead might end up in Brahmajoti because no one opened their eyes to their ultimate goal?

          • We have already heard that Sanatana Goswami does not consider brahma sayujya a permanent destination within transcendence, because from one can reach a deeper penetration from there—Vaikuntha. Sometimes it is said that offenders go there. Is there no end to the reaction to their offense? But these are simplistic ways of thinking about the topic.

          • Braja: By svarupa do you mean God’s servant position (in whatever shape it takes) or a very specific spiritual body in lila?

            Tripurari Maharaja: That could possibly be debated further, but BVT’s position seems to be the latter.

            This is also the detail I have a question about. Is the type of inherent bhakti general or specific? I suppose Vrindaranya will go into this topic further in later installments.

            I can understand, for example, there may be certain characteristics of the atma that lend themselves to being a “general” type of inherent bhakti, given that the source of the atma is the Paramatma.

            Also, I would be interested in understanding how the conception of “specific inherent bhakti” might influence related conceptions such as siddha-pranali, and how a sadhaka might embrace “specific inherent bhakti” in the course of their practice. My guess here is that a form of bestowal is necessary to embrace inheritance!

          • Dear Gauravani,

            I think that it would be best to examine this issue once certain foundational principles have been discussed, otherwise I would have to refer to things that haven’t been established yet. However, in brief, all sides agree that the siddha-deha is eternal but unmanifest. There are different ways of understanding this however. For example, the siddha-pranali position is that although the siddha-deha exists, it is unassigned until the guru approaches Krsna in meditation and assigns a particular siddha-deha. However, another conception is that it is assigned and is either revealed by the Guru or by the Holy Name (which is, of course, given by the Guru). There are other understandings as well.

            In service,
            Vrindaranya

  12. Dear Vrindaranya,
    Thank you so much for writing these articles and taking time to engage in debate. I think it is good for us to have forums in which to debate ideas and statements of others especially in a thoughtful and scholarly way you intend to do. Those who know me, can attest that overtly, I am not a philosopher, however I am a scholar or some thing or other, so I wanted to share some thoughts.
    When I first heard about this apparent controversy it appeared to me similar to Nature Vs. Nurture Argument. Do we become who we are because of the genetic material that is inherent in us or do we reach the full expression of personhood due to environmental influences? Thus far, as far as I can tell we have not been able to point to where one ends and the other begins. Genetic expression is influenced by the environment and therefore, should one plant an acorn in a fertile ground, but fail to provide environmental support for expression of the genetic material within the acorn, no tree will grow. Similarly most of our genes turn on or off based on the interaction with the environment, be it intrauterine development or beyond. Two people can have the same gene and one of them would have the characteristic expressed while the other will not. If our physical expression is so finely tuned with the environment in ways we can’t even comprehend, it seems logical to me that our “spiritual genetic material” also requires bestowal of environmental influence to be fully expressed and that one cannot be separate from the other.
    Way too often we fall pray to dichotomies. Even in terms of the way we think it is much easier to relate to arguments which are posed on “either or” dichotomy, because fundamentalism offers easy solutions, but it is much harder to tolerate the gray area and understand that two fundamentally exclusive things can be true at the same time. Most can relate that we are capable of simultaneously hating and loving the same person, although a lot of us may need many years of therapy to understand it. I firmly believe that it is in false dichotomies and binaries that we find the origins of many of the evils that befall us in personal, interpersonal and perhaps theological sphere the later being particularly susceptible to “either or” arguments which are often fueled by hate and ignorance.

    • Excellent points, Vamsidhari!

      It is so interesting how the material world can reflect spiritual principles. In an upcoming article, I mention how just as the jīvas’ taṭastha nature is paradoxical, so too is material light: quantum physics tells us that light can function in two ways—either as a particle or as a wave. Similarly, the jīva functions either materially or spiritually, depending on whether it is turned away from or toward the Lord.

      With all the advancement in science, the closer you look at the material world, the more the classical physicalist worldview comes into question.

  13. I look forward to reading the rest of the articles in this series. It’s nice to see deeper discussions about our philosophy. Like some others here, I have done extensive research on this topic and many years ago, after the release of my book about raganuga-bhakti, I had a lengthy discussion with Swami Tripurari about this subject on the forum here.

    He broadened my understanding of the subject and now I see he has expanded his understanding to be somewhat closer to my original position. Very interesting indeed. My further research has let me to the following conclusions which I will summarize in short points.

    The svarupas of the tatastha-sakti jivas are identical in every respect, with the exception that they are each unique individual persons (unique sense of “I”). They also possess a personal form – a form of tatastha-sakti – not a form of svarupa-sakti suitable for entrance into the lilas of the spiritual world. (Jiva Gosvami, Paramatma-sandarbha)

    The svarupa of the tatastha-sakti jivas is pure consciousness and is also comprised of the eight qualities of Brahman, including satya-sankalpa (will to act) and satya-kama (capacity to desire). (Vedanta-sutras)

    Liberated jivas (mukta-jivas) can choose to have a material body or not. They can even manifest multiple material bodies. Their satya-sankalpa and satya-kama are fulfilled on demand and they can travel freely anywhere in the universe and do whatever they like. (Vedanta-sutras) We know from Srimad-bhagavatam about the many higher realms populated by mukta-jivas. Liberation has a beginning but no end (SB. 11.11.4).

    Mukti can be attained without bhakti, such as the Kumaras, who were liberated first and only afterwards obtained the seed of bhakti. Mukta-jivas can also attain a spiritual body if that was part of their desires during sadhana, and as such they can enter the spiritual world. Entrance into the spiritual world requires some level of bhakti along with mukti. (Vedanta-sutras)

    Otherwise, the mukta-jivas without bhakti remain in the material world and enter Maha Visnu after the final pralaya, but they don’t loose their liberated consciousness, and they engage again as mukta-jivas when the next universal manifestation takes place. This is explained by Madhva in his commentary to Brihad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.9

    These material universes are an unlimited facility for jivas to fulfill any and all desires (within the constraints of karma), as an expression of their satya-kama and satya-sankalpa – under the spell of avidya. There are no restrictions regarding what can be desired – only restrictions on our capacity to act and the subsequent results, per karma.

    The jivas’ unlimited capacity for desire is something they share in common with Krsna. Question: Why would the ultimate desire of having a loving relationship with Krsna be the one and only desire that is pre-programmed or inherent?

    It makes no sense that this one most important eternal desire is something the jiva has no say in. The one desire that will be the cause of their liberation from material existence is already pre-established – they just have to figure it out.

    The idea that it’s already determined by God, who otherwise lets the jivas run wild and loose in the material worlds desiring anything and everything they can imagine for trillions of births, including the most horrific things – makes no logical sense.

    Love is given freely – by choice, based on one’s desires, which are never forced or pre-programmed. Therefore, a relationship, and the subsequent prema associated with it, must absolutely be the sole choice of each individual jiva – but if there is something already there waiting to be awakened, that is not a choice. That is not the basis for prema.

    From what I’ve read of his writings, Satyanarayana dasa babaji asserts that the guru ‘gives’ (bestows) your rasa (relationship), and it is the one the guru has or is following, and that’s the only way you can get it. You have to get it from your guru and you have to follow what he is following. I disagree with that idea and it is not supported by the purva acaryas in any way.

    As far as bestowal is concerned, this is what my research has shown me. The seed of bhakti (bhakti-lata) is given or bestowed by a Vaisnava who has bhakti. So says Lord Caitanya. That much we all agree upon. That bhakti has to be developed by the individual and sadhu-sanga is essential for that development.

    Sadhu-sanga bestows samskaras – impressions. In other words, it’s a primary influence on an individual in various ways, and it takes place over the course of many lifetimes until one becomes focused on one particular relationship (rati) with Krsna (BRS, 2.5.38). It’s not that the sadhus ‘give’ or ‘bestow’ that relationship – they influence and guide one. The final choice is always up to the individual. No one else makes that choice.

    The idea of the jiva having a choice and developing those desires during sadhana for a specific connection with Krsna, and Krsna reciprocating accordingly, is ubiquitous in sastra and the writings of the acaryas. I’m sure everyone here has encountered those statements repeatedly. Why would having a choice and developing one’s desires during sadhana be repeatedly emphasized if it’s already determined? That also makes no sense.

    And why didn’t Jiva Gosvami in Paramatma-sandarbha and Baladeva Vidyabhusana in Vedanta-sutras state unequivocally that one’s relationship is already in your blueprint, so just uncover it? They never say any such thing. Why are there five types of liberation to ‘choose’ from, if it’s predetermined – blueprinted? Are those also blueprints?

    Here is what is ultimately unique in each jiva – how they utilize their satya-sankalpa and satya-kama over the course of their material sojourn, and finally, how they use those faculties in conjunction with their desire to have a relationship with Krsna in Vraja lila – or wherever they choose to do so.

    It is our use of satya-sankalpa and satya-kama that distinguishes us, and the ultimate manifestation of our uniqueness is what kind of relationship we ‘choose’ to exchange love (prema) with Krsna eternally. Krsna wants our unique and spontaneous contribution – something truly from the heart based on the multi-lifetime development of our bhakti and desires in search of this ultimate goal. A preprogrammed blueprint is not a basis for true spontaneity.

    Krsna alone is the bestower of bhava-bhakti, the seed of prema (BRS, 1.1.35), and that bestowal is accomplished by the agency of His svarupa-sakti (BRS, 1.3.1).

    That’s the essential summary of my research regarding inherency and bestowal. I’ll put together a comprehensive treatise after I examine and digest these latest contributions.

    • Dear Uttamasloka Prabhu,

      Thanks for your post. I think that the last time I met you it must have been around 25 years ago when you hosted a program for my Guru Maharaja in Southern California. Time flies!

      You have obviously done extensive research. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my articles. I think you will find Part 11: Jīva Gosvāmī on Taṭasthā-Śakti especially of interest, as well as Part 17: Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Govinda-Bhāṣya.

      It is indeed interesting how the understanding of many devotees who have deeply looked into this issue has developed. So many devotees have mentioned a similar trajectory as what you have described. This is understandable, as many of the concepts are incredibly subtle, and we are, after all, dealing with acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.

      I hope my humble offering at the feet of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Jiva Gosvami is of some help to you in your comprehensive treatise.

      In service,
      Vrindaranya

  14. Dear Maharaj, godbrothers and esteemed Vaishnavas,

    “The jiva is a spiritual entity—he is Krsna’s unalloyed servitor. To come under the influence of nescience is contrary to his original nature. To discard this contrary identity and accept his original spiritual identity is known as liberation. When the knowledge of the original identity is indistinct, it leads to the conception that liberation means to merge with Brahman (sayujya-mukti). However, when the original identity is clearly understood, the jiva attains eternal and pure servitorship to Sri Krsna. The cessation of all suffering is not a full definition of mukti, liberation. The cessation of all suffering and thereafter the attainment of transcendental bliss are symptomatic of mukti.”

    Srila BVT is reiterating that the jiva is originally the servant of Krsna, first spoken by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Yet Mahaprabhu did not object when Hanuman as a Rama bhakta in Gaura leela could not chant the names of Sri Krsna.

    Two points I would like to make. 1) There will be varying legitimate opinions on this subject because pure devotees have differing opinions. 2) Bestowal is much more important than innate bhakti as evidenced by ALL of our Gaudiya literature. Everything we read directly states how Krsna or His expansion bestowed Their mercy on a particular devotee and blessed Him with unalloyed bhakti. On the other hand, there is nothing in the translations that state or demonstrate or even indicate that the jiva remembered his original form either after or before becoming blessed with unalloyed bhakti. The terms we see are “awarded” or “fulfilled” or “attained”.

    We should not use the terms original and highest synonymously. Sri Chaitanya taught that to worship Radha Krsna in the mood of the gopis ( manjaris) should be our highest aspiration. Clearly, therefore, it is not innate or original.

    The mantra that we have been given by God and guru reveal a particular form of the Lord. Not all Vaishnava mantras reveal the same form. If I chant Om Narayana Namah or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevayah, I will not see the same form of the Lord revealed by chanting Hare Krsna. The mantra bestows upon the chanter devotion to a particular form of the Lord along with His qualities, type of worship, and planet. Four arms may be bestowed upon the Vaishnava chanter rather than two arms.

    A Vaishnava devotee can attain Vaikuntha and live there forever and not be a pure devotee. Does that mean that the jiva living in Vaikuntha has not completed his journey? No. So maybe we should broaden our perspective on “jivera swarup hoy, nitya Krsna das.”

    Bestowal, IMO, is the essential teaching of Krsna Consciousness and innate bhakti is a side show. The explanation on innate bhakti as given by Srila Jiva Goswami is that the jiva is an individual spirit soul at all times with the potential to attain some form of Krsna Consciousness, depending on his sadhu sanga in this life and previous lives.

    Bestowal alone ignites the jiva to perform bhakti. If there is no guru or Krsna, then how is there bhakti? If you say that bhakti is innate, it is of no value unless it is activated by a guru and Vaishnava mantra. Therefore, whether bhakti is innate or not remains unimportant.

    Thank you for listening! Thank you for the opportunity to express myself. I appreciate this forum and the scholarly work being presented. Any responses are welcomed.

    ys,

    Mahashakti das

  15. Just a brief observation. The original passage from the ‘Carita-sudhā’ differs substantially from Kapoor’s translation. In the original text, Pyārī asks: “What is the method that gives rise to prema?” And Rādhā-ramaṇa Bābājī replies: “Prema is nityasiddha; and in no way is it possible to get it through the sādhana and so on. However, if the consciousness is purified through śravaṇa, kīrtana and so on, it can manifest itself”. Then he quotes Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22.107 and 3.20.20-26, and ends. It does not contain the phrase you mention nor the parable that Kapoor immediately adds to it to reinforce the idea of inherence.

    So probably the “among others” you alludes to contain the same problem of ‘traduttore, traditore’. Could you please give me some names from “among others”?

    • The verses cited from Cc can be understood to say that prema arises (karaye udaya), (prema upajaya) or is dormant (upajayate–arises), the latter being found elsewhere in Cc. as well. And that seems to be Dr. Kapoor’s understanding of them that he received from Gauranga dasa Babaji: That it arises in the course of one’s sadhana and that it has always been existing as one’s destiny in a dormant condition. I knew him pretty well and met with him numerous times. On this point he did not waver.

      This verse also speaks of one’s own prema arising:

      ei-mata hana yei krsna-nama laya
      sri-krsna-carane tanra prema upajaya

      “tanra prema upajaya,” his prema arises. It is “his prema,” the devotee’s prema that arises as a result of his chanting Krsna nama.

      • In CC 3.19.104 Kaviraj Goswami even uses the word “jage” (awakens) as his translation of word unmilati from Rupa Goswami’s verse which he quotes next. What awakened was dormant before.

        Text 104
        ei prema sadā jāge yāhāra antare
        paṇḍiteha tāra ceṣṭā bujhite nā pāre
        Synonyms
        ei — this; prema — love of Godhead; sadā — always; jāge — awakens; yāhāra — of whom; antare — within the heart; paṇḍiteha — even a learned scholar; tāra — his; ceṣṭā — activities; bujhite — to understand; nā pāre — cannot.

        Translation
        When transcendental love of Kṛṣṇa awakens in someone’s heart, even a learned scholar cannot comprehend his activities.

        Text 105
        dhanyasyāyaṁ navaḥ premā
        yasyonmīlati cetasi
        antar-vāṇībhir apy asya
        mudrā suṣṭhu su-durgamā
        Synonyms
        dhanyasya — of a most fortunate person; ayam — this; navaḥ — new; premā — love of Godhead; yasya — of whom; unmīlati — manifests; cetasi — in the heart; antaḥ-vāṇībhiḥ — by persons well versed in the śāstras; api — even; asya — of him; mudrā — the symptoms; suṣṭhu — exceedingly; su-durgamā — difficult to understand.

        Translation
        “The activities and symptoms of that exalted personality in whose heart love of Godhead has awakened cannot be understood even by the most learned scholar.”

        Purport
        This verse is quoted from the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.4.17).

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