The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 2: A Road Map

By Vrindaranya dasi

On the holy appearance day of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, I present the second article in my series—an overview of the topics covered in each article. This is designed to give you a sense of what to look forward to over the coming weeks, as well as a road map of how the presentation will unfold. After this article, I will be publishing one article each week on

Part 1: The History of a Debate. A brief summary of the history of the debate on inherency within the Gauḍīya sampradāya and a general overview of what will be discussed in this series of articles (released already). 

Part 2: A Road Map. An overview of the topics covered in each article.

Part 3: The Swan. An explanation of simultaneous inherency and bestowal by way of an analogy, as well as a description of a parable that Caitanya Mahāprabhu related to Sanātana Gosvāmī. To give a foundation to the more technical arguments to come, this article gives a general overview of the concept of simultaneous inherency and bestowal without presenting extensive scriptural quotations. 

Part 4: Vaiṣṇava Vedānta. A school of Vedānta is formally established by writing a commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra. This chapter shows that all the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas who have done so—including Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa for the Gauḍīya sampradāya—establish both inherency and bestowal. Although a whole book could be dedicated to this topic, this article provides a compelling summary of the evidence. In the subsequent articles of this series, I will show how Jīva Gosvāmī also establishes simultaneous inherency and bestowal.1

Part 5: The Twenty-One Intrinsic Characteristics of the Jīva. The section of the Paramātma Sandarbha that delineates the twenty-one attributes of the jīva is the primary section of the Sandarbhas for establishing whether bhakti is inherent in the jīva. By summarizing these twenty-one attributes, I begin the discussion of how the Sandarbhas establish the inherency of bhakti. I also explain how all these attributes are only fully manifest when the soul is freed from identification with the material body, which is the so-called fourth state of consciousness. The fact that the fourth state of consciousness is a state of God-consciousness is an initial indication that the natural state of the jīva is a state of God-consciousness: bhakti.

Part 6: The Search for Bliss. In this article, I point out a fatal flaw of those who contend that bhakti is not inherent: the idea that the soul searches not for bliss but rather for the absence of suffering. Those who argue that Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that bhakti is not inherent will have to resolve this glaring problem, since such an idea contradicts not only countless scriptural statements but also statements of Śrī Jīva himself.

Part 7: The Soul is a Servant of Bhagavān Hari. The famous statement dāsa-bhūto harer eva (the soul is a servant of Bhagavān Hari only and never of anyone else) is found in the section of the Paramātma Sandarbha that describes the twenty-one attributes of the jīva. Those who say that bhakti is not inherent try to establish that this statement simply means that the soul is dependent on God in a general sense. I show how this understanding is untenable. 

Part 8: A Servant of God (Śeṣatva). A parallel statement to dāsa-bhūto harer eva (the soul is a servant of Bhagavān Hari only and never of anyone else) is śeṣatva. Jamatṛ Muni considers śeṣatva to be the primary quality of the soul. But what exactly does śeṣatva mean? We will explore the term in context and see that it means a servant of God.

Part 9: Unmanifest Qualities of the Soul. In this article, I will explore in more detail how some of the qualities of the soul are unmanifest. When one properly understands this point, it is obvious that bhakti is inherent.

Part 10: Intrinsically of the Nature of Knowledge and Bliss. One of the qualities of the soul is cid-ānandātmakaḥ. Those who say that bhakti is not inherent translate this quality as conscious and free of material suffering. I will show how a more accurate translation is intrinsically of the nature of knowledge and bliss, as well as why this knowledge and bliss are synonymous with bhakti.

Part 11: Jīva Gosvāmī on Taṭasthā-Śakti. This article and the following one give an in-depth look at how Jīva Gosvāmī explains śakti. As we will see, Jīva Gosvāmī presents a more nuanced understanding of taṭasthā-śakti than most devotees realize. Without a proper understanding of śakti, one is bound to misunderstand the soul’s relationship with svarūpa-śakti. The first step in understanding taṭasthā-śakti is to understand that it is not the energy by which a soul acts but rather an energy of the Paramātmā by which he manifests the world. 

Part 12: Understanding Śakti. Continuing an in-depth exploration of śakti, this article explains how Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that the soul uses either māyā-śakti or svarūpa-śakti to act, depending on whether the action is turned away from God (material action) or toward him (spiritual action). However, he clarifies that the soul is only directly a doer, knower, and feeler when it acts, knows, and feels with svarūpa-śakti

Part 13: The Bliss of the Jīva. This article picks up on the topic presented in article 10—the proper translation of cid-ānandātmakaḥ (intrinsically of the nature of knowledge and bliss). Some devotees try to establish that the ānanda of the jīva is merely the lack of suffering (not bliss) based on Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta. I show why their understanding is incomplete.

Part 14: The Soul Is Not Subject to Transformation. This article refutes another objection of those who say that bhakti is not inherent—that the manifestation of the soul’s qualities (jñāna-śakti in particular) would violate the principle that the soul is not subject to vikāra (transformation or change).

Part 15: Identity/Oneness (Tādātmya). The soul’s relationship with the śaktis by which it acts, knows, and feels is tādātmya (identity/oneness); however, many devotees misunderstand this term. As such, they misunderstand the soul’s relationship with the siddha-deha. This article establishes the proper understanding. 

Part 16: The Manifestation of Śakti. This article, an excerpt from the upcoming book of Swāmī B. V. Tripurāri, Circle of Friends, illustrates practically the theoretical points that have been discussed in this series of articles. It shows the interaction of the three śaktis in the life of a sādhaka and illustrates how his or her svarūpa—with all its twenty-one qualities—slowly starts to manifest as the jīva makes progress on the devotional path by the mercy of a devotee.

Part 17: Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Govinda-Bhāṣya. Because Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sandarbhas can be difficult to understand, it is immensely helpful to see how other ācāryas in our line understand the siddhānta that Śrī Jīva establishes. Who better to look to than Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, who has been called a second Jīva.2 I do so by examining his commentary on the final ādyāya of the Vedānta-sūtra, where he establishes that the spiritual body (svena rūpeṇa) that the soul attains upon entering the spiritual world is not a result of sādhana but rather a manifestation of the soul’s svarūpa

Part 18: Concluding Words. Bowing at the feet of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and praying to serve his vision on this 184th year after his appearance, I humbly present my series of articles that aim to establish that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was perfectly in line with the teachings of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī.

  1. Since it is obvious that Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that bhakti is bestowed, my main effort has been to show how the Sandarbhas and other core Gauḍīya literature establish that bhakti is also inherent. By so doing, I establish that bhakti is simultaneously bestowed and inherent. []
  2. “Just as Rūpa and Sanātana taught Jīva, so Viśvanātha and others trained Baladeva. He strikingly resembles Jīva in the range of his interests and knowledge. In the Gaudīya sect, he is known as Jīva II. As Jīva was pre-eminently a philosopher and grammarian, so also was Baladeva.” Narang, Dr. Sudesh, The Vaisnava Philosophy According to Baladeva Vidyabhusana (Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1984), 4. []

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