The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 13: The Bliss of the Jīva

By Vrindaranya dasi

Additional articles in this series

In part 10 of this series, I explained why cid-ānandātmaka means intrinsically of the nature of knowledge and bliss. Some devotees, however, point to Prīti Sandarbha 63 and Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta (2.2.175–196) to establish that cid-ānandātmaka only means “conscious and free from material suffering.”1 If one wants to establish that bhakti is only bestowed, it is essential to establish that the soul has no inherent bliss because as I showed in part 6 of this series, any eternal bliss in the soul indicates bhakti. A reason why the argument that cid-ānandātmaka only means “conscious and free from material suffering” has gained any traction is that sometimes the ānanda of the jīva is contrasted with the bliss of bhakti to show that the bliss of bhakti is much greater than that which the jīva experiences without bhakti. This argument becomes rather technical, so please bear with me.

The bliss experienced by the Lord is of two types: bliss from his svarūpa (svarūpa-ānanda) and bliss from his svarūpa-śakti (svarūpaśakty-ānanda). This concept is somewhat difficult to understand because the Lord’s svarūpa and his svarūpa-śakti are at the same time one. The bliss of Bhagavān’s svarūpa arises from the fact that he is sac-cid-ānanda pūrṇa (the complete form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss). The bliss of bhakti comes from his svarūpaśakty-ānanda

The liberated soul is a particle of sac-cid-ānanda, and thus his svarūpa-ānanda can similarly be analysed separately from the svarūpaśakty-ānanda he experiences. In such an analysis, his bliss is minute since the individual soul is only a particle of sac-cid-ānanda, whereas Bhagavān is sac-cid-ānanda pūrṇa. When the soul is analyzed in terms of svarūpaśakty-ānanda, the amount of the soul’s bliss increases exponentially. 

Although the svarūpa-śakti is Bhagavān’s śakti, it is also the śakti that is used by Bhagavān’s devotees, including those who are not nitya-siddhas. As I showed in part 12 of this series, Jīva Gosvāmī says that when the soul acts with svarūpa-śakti, the soul himself is the doer; whereas, when the soul acts with māyā-śakti, prakṛti is directly the doer and the soul is indirectly the doer (because the soul and material nature never directly contact each other). The relationship between the devotee (the āśraya of bhakti) and his body, which is made of svarūpa-śakti, is one (tādātmya).2 These concepts are somewhat terse but are essential to understanding why Jīva Gosvāmī is saying that the bliss of the ātmā is small. The important point to understand is that the soul’s bliss is not small when his svarūpa-lakṣaṇa is fully manifest. As I showed in part 9, this only happens when the soul receives bhakti. Thus, again, we see that bhakti is both inherent and bestowed.

I will now discuss a section of Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta (2.2.175–196) that is sometimes used to try to establish that cid-ānandātmakas tathā only means “conscious and free from material suffering.” 

In this section of Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, the bhakti-śāstras discuss how to be happy and destroy suffering. They present how this question is answered by three groups: the followers of Nyāya, philosophers who accept only one portion of the Vedas, and the followers of Vivarta-vāda (the Māyāvāda theory of the illusion of the Supreme). 

Sanātana Gosvāmī accepts the premise that the goal of human life is to be happy and destroy suffering. He then goes on to show how the three types of mokṣa (proposed by the three groups) does not accomplish their desired result. As we know from Prīti Sandarbha 1, “The goal of the human being is to attain happiness and destroy suffering. Complete happiness and destruction of suffering is attained only by prīti for the Lord.”3

Thus, although the bhakti-śāstras accept these three ideas about liberation for the sake of argument, the bhakti-śāstras main point, which they assert in the opening verse of this section, is that “there is no happiness in any of these ideas of liberation.”4 The assumption of the third group (Vivarta-vādins) is that “Liberation is realization of Brahman, which is one’s own ātmā, by giving up distinctions in saṁsāra.”5 Verse 2.2.176 addresses realizing one’s self separate from realizing Brahman. As we know from Prīti Sandarbha 60, knowledge of the soul apart from the body is merely in sattva-guṇa. Therefore, it is of no surprise that Sanātana Gosvāmī says that the bliss of realizing one’s svarūpa in this context is alpakam (meager). He says, “Accepting the principle of ‘let the ignorant be satisfied,’ the word happiness is used in relation to liberation. It should be understood as previously discussed that this is done in order to understand the greatness of happiness in bhakti.”6

Verse 2.2.177 describes realizing oneself as a particle of Brahman. One has to keep in mind that the bliss of identifying with Brahman is meager compared to bhakti because śakti is unmanifest in Brahman. Furthermore, identifying with Brahman requires bhakti because the unqualified Absolute is still an aspect of God. As we discussed previously, most of the twenty-one qualities of the soul require śakti, which would naturally be unmanifest for one identified with Brahman. 

Jīva Gosvāmī says something in relation to Brahman that is also relevant to the individual soul: “Thus one vision is incomplete, manifesting the object without particulars. That is Brahman. That vision is complete when there is a form with various qualities arising from the svarūpa.”7 Although Brahman is sac-cid-ānanda, compared to the ocean of condensed bliss of Bhagavān with his svarūpa-śakti, the bliss of Brahman is no more than the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.3.197). Therefore, when Sanātana Gosvāmī says, “The happiness that arises from directly perceiving the svarūpa of the jīva—the entity composed of eternity, knowledge, and bliss—is actually meager,”8 we must keep in mind the context. He is addressing those who believe that the individual soul and God are the same. By showing that by perceiving the svarūpa of the individual soul separate from God gives meager happiness, he establishes that the individual soul is not the same as God. Is this the full svarūpa of the jīva? No. How do we know? Because he is describing the realization of sac-cid-ānanda without śakti, and the full manifestation of the twenty-one characteristics of the jīva requires śakti

Although Brahman and Bhagavān are advaya-tattva (nondual truth), the bliss of Brahman is meager compared to the bliss of Bhagavān. The reason for this is that Bhagavān has condensed sac-cid-ānanda. How does sac-cid-ānanda become condensed? When the śakti that is inherent in it manifests. Śrī Jīva reveals that the individual soul can also have condensed sac-cid-ānanda: “Sannyāsīs attain insignificant happiness on attaining liberation by knowledge of their svarūpa alone, but the devotees do not attain directly such insignificant happiness. The reason for rejection of both is that they have forms or svarūpas of condensed sac-cid-ānanda. Since they have condensed knowledge, they cannot have ignorance by which they would think meager happiness is the greatest. Since they have condensed bliss, none of them attain meager happiness.”9 Therefore, when the jīva realizes his svarūpa in the context of bhakti, then his ānanda is not meager because all of his twenty-one qualities are fully manifest. 

This section of Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta says that the soul is composed of a particle of sac-cid-ānanda (2.2.187). As we know from Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.4.61–62, Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa is sac-cid-ānanda pūrṇa. So obviously an atomic particle of sac-cid-ānanda is not equivalent to sac-cid-ānanda pūrṇa. Even so, Sanātana Gosvāmī establishes those who identify with Brahman do not experience happiness either. Why? Because experiencing happiness implies duality: the experiencer and the experience. Since those with an impersonal conception of liberation reject all duality, they are not able to experience the bliss of Brahman. Therefore, the śakti that would allow them to taste bliss is not manifest. Brahman is sac-cid-ānanda, but its inherent śaktis are unmanifest.10 From sac-cid-ānanda, the cit-śakti manifests as hlādinī-śakti, saṁvit-śakti, and sandhinī-śakti.11 Although ānanda is bliss, hlādinī-śakti is condensed bliss. 

The important point to glean out of this is that depending on your angle of vision, one gets a different picture of someone’s svarūpa, even though that svarūpa doesn’t change. For example, the svarūpa of Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān is the same, but still the bliss of Bhagavān is greater than the bliss of Brahman. Brahman is without attributes and Bhagavān has attributes (dharma). To know something, we must consider that thing’s svarūpa and dharma. The two together are inseparable, although as we see in the case of Brahman and Bhagavān, the attributes can be unmanifest. Even though they are unmanifest, they are still an inseparable part of the absolute truth, which is known in three aspects: Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. 

Similarly, if you consider the amount of ānanda in the soul’s svarūpa—as a particle of sac-cid-ānanda—and don’t take into consideration bhakti—which is the soul’s eternal dharma or nature—the bliss is very meager because there is no condensed ānanda. One’s svarūpa doesn’t change if the inherent śakti is unmanifest, but the degree of ānanda that one experiences certainly does. With the mercy of Bhagavān or his devotee, the śakti that is inherent manifests, and the soul is able to taste condensed bliss. Thus, bhakti is both inherent and bestowed. 

I have established that the soul’s qualities can be unmanifest or manifest and that cid-ānandātmaka means intrinsically of the nature of knowledge and bliss. However, some devotees argue that because the ātmā is eternal and not subject to modification, the change of qualities from unmanifest to manifest would make the ātmā modifiable (vikārī) like matter. I will address this objection in the next article.

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. Prīti Sandarbha 63: “What is the occasion which makes the Lord become mad with his bliss?… It is not the bliss of the jīva, since that is very meager.” It is notable that Jīva Gosvāmī—unlike those who advocate bestowal-only—does not say that the jīva has no bliss and only the absence of suffering. Rather he says that the jīva—the ātmā identified with the material world—has meager bliss). Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Prīti Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 6). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. []
  2. I explain tādātmya in part 15 of this series. []
  3. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Prīti Sandarbha. []
  4. Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja; Srila Sanatana Gosvami. Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta: Second Canto Part One. Gaudiya Vedanta Publications. Kindle Edition. []
  5. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 2, Part 1: The Search of Gopakumāra (p. 204). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. []
  6. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, 205. []
  7. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha, 180. []
  8. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, 204–205. []
  9. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, 441. []
  10. Bhagavat Sandarbha 1 and 16. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha. []
  11. Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.6.158–59 []

About the Author

8 Responses to The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 13: The Bliss of the Jīva

  1. Mataji!

    Is the jivatma formless? Or it already possesses a Spiritual Body with Spiritual limbs?

  2. Dear Ojas,

    This topic is addressed in Part 17: Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Govinda-Bhāṣya.

    In service,

  3. Dear Mataji pranams,
    I would like to know your thoughts on some recent articles that I have found, which somehow seems to show that svarupa-sakti is not inherent in the jiva, for instance, these:ṣu/

    • This question was already answered in the comments to article 12. The understanding you referenced is faulty in terms of the reasoning and hermeneutics employed and it also ignores direct evidence to the contrary that has been cited in a number of the articles in this treatise. Read the articles over carefully and you will understand from the Sandarbhas in what sense the svarupa sakti is present in the atma. Below is how I answered this question when it came up earlier:

      “Sridhara Svami comments: ‘Hladini bestows delight, sandhini is existence, and samvit is the cognitive potency. Ekd (one) means predominant, undeviating and intrinsic to the Lord’s essential nature. This energy is present in You only, the support of everything (sarva-samsthiti), or in other words, the one from whom all things come into being. This potency, however, is not present in the living beings. Moreover, the energy consisting of the three material gunas, which is present in the living beings, is not in You.”

      Jiva Goswami cites this commentary to emphasize that Krsna has svarupa-sakti. Thus this section is not about the constitution of the soul, while one sentence of the tika refers to it in a broad sense.

      Jiva Goswami’s rendering of the commentary says that the material energy is in the jiva and the spiritual energy is not. But from his writing elsewhere, we know that maya-sakti is not part of the constitution of the jivatma, but rather that it is susceptible to the influence of the maya-sakti. Similarly, the svarupa-sakti is unmanifest in the materially-conditioned jiva. Thus the tika is, in Jiva Goswami’s mind, speaking about the simple fact that the baddha-jiva is influenced by maya-sakti and as such the svarupa sakti is unmanifest. And as explained earlier, the word “jiva” more readily refers to the materially condition soul, while the word “atma” more readily refers to the unconditioned soul. Furthermore, it has already been demonstrated in these articles with full support form Jiva Goswami in what sense the svarupa-sakti is in the atma.

      • Thanks Maharaj, pranams,
        I will analyze it slowly and if I have further comments or questions I will let you know.

      • Pranam Juan,

        I would like to add that the articles you asked about confuse the jiva’s tatastha-laksana (the qualities of the soul who is identified with the material body) with his svarupa-laksana (eternal, spiritual characteristics). Jiva Gosvami says that when the jiva is identified with the material body-mind complex, many of his spiritual qualities are unmanifest. Part 9: Unmanifest Qualities of the Soul and Part 12: Understanding Śakti will be helpful in clarifying the difference.

        In service,

        • Thanks for the reply,
          I will read them and let you know whether I have further questions.

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