Published on October 10th, 2022 | by Harmonist staff10
The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 11: Jīva Gosvāmī on Taṭasthā-Śakti
By Vrindaranya Dasi
In Bhakti Sandarbha 178, Jīva Gosvāmī writes, “the jīva is an aṁśa of the taṭastha-śakti and is not the Lord’s svarūpa-śakti.” This verse identifies the jīva with the taṭastha-śakti and not the svarūpa-śakti; however, as we saw in my last article, Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that the jīva is only directly a doer when he performs action with the svarūpa-śakti. And what about this statement from the Paramātma Sandarbha which says that the jīva acts with cit-śakti (svarūpa-śakti), not taṭastha-śakti: “Thus instigation to act from the pure Lord and being a doer related to the pure Lord does not contaminate the pure jīva, since that action is predominated by the cit-śakti.”1 Furthermore, he says, “Antaraṅga-śakti (internal śakti) is also called the cit-śakti and is used in relation to the pure jīva and the Lord’s knowledge and power.”2 “Because of the non-difference of cause and effect, the jīva is the manifested cit consciousness of the Lord (ātmā).”3 So what exactly is the relationship of the jīva with the svarūpa-śakti?
The Difference between the Jīva and the Ātmā
To begin with, we must understand that the state of being a jīva is not the natural condition of the ātmā. As Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja puts it, “The original nature of every living entity is to consider himself the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. But under the influence of māyā he thinks himself to be the body, and thus his original consciousness (ātmā-jñāna) is covered.”4 Therefore, when we hear a statement about the jīva, we have to remember that the jīva is the ātmā who is misidentified with the material energy. Because the ātmā is spiritual and eternal, it is not created at any time. However, the jīvas are manifested from Mahā Viṣṇu at the beginning of each kalpa. Maha Viṣṇu, who is lying in the Kāraṇa Ocean between the spiritual and material worlds,5 awakens the material world by glancing at it and impregnating it with the jīvas.6 The cit-śakti is unmanifest in the jīvas at that time because they are in suṣupti. When the jīvas are awakened, the cit-śakti is unmanifest to the degree that each jīva is turned away from the Lord. Thus, we have to understand the context of the verse cited at the beginning of this article: to describe those jīvas who are turned away from the Lord because their knowledge of God is unmanifest.
The Different Forms of the Lord
Although there is a complex array of expansions, incarnations, and energies, there is still only one nondual, absolute truth (advaya-jñāna-tattva). Bhagavān has one supreme potency but that one potency manifests diversely, parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8).7 The reason why the advaya-jñāna-tattva manifests in different forms and with various śaktis is explained in Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22.7-8:
Kṛṣṇa is the nondual Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although He is one, He maintains different personal expansions and energies for His pastimes. Kṛṣṇa expands Himself in many forms. Some of them are personal expansions, and some are separate expansions. Thus He performs pastimes in both the spiritual and the material worlds.8
Therefore, the underlying purpose of both the spiritual and material worlds is to facilitate God’s pastimes. As Vedānta-sūtra 2.1.33 affirms, lokavat tu līlā-kaivalyam: “The Lord’s creation of the world is an act without motive, just a pastime.”9 Furthermore, the taṭastha-śakti is not an energy of the jīva, but rather an energy of the Paramātmā.10 As we saw in my previous article, the jīva uses either the māyā-śakti or the svarūpa-śakti to act (depending on whether the jīva is turned away from or toward the Lord). Nārada-pañcarātra says, “The jīva is called taṭastha because it is a conscious form which, leaving its knowledge of itself, becomes tinged by the attraction to the material guṇas.” The world is manifest by the combination of the māyā-śakti and the conscious souls, who animate the unconscious material nature. Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the jīva is “part of the taṭastha-śakti…because he is a medium of the Lord in the production of the material world.”11 He also says, “The jīva is considered a śakti because in that form he assists the Lord’s pastimes.”12
The Śakti that the Soul Uses to Act
One might ask why the taṭastha-śakti has to use another śakti to act. Since the jīva is said to be composed of taṭastha-śakti, it seems as though the jīva should be able to use that śakti to act. The reason is that the taṭastha-śakti—which means marginal—stands between the two other śaktis (māyā and svarūpa) and can use one or the other śakti (directly in the case of the svarūpa-śakti or indirectly in the case of the māyā-śakti).13 The jīva is compared to a ray of sunlight (kiraṇa).14 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.
Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22.9 says that although the jīvas are separated aṁśas of the Lord, they are counted among his different śaktis. This means that although a jīva is a separated expansion of God, he acts as a śakti in relation to God. A śakti is a capability for performing a function. In the case of the taṭastha-śakti, the function that the jīvas perform is manifesting the material world.15 Sanātana Gosvāmī clarifies the difference between an aṁśa, which is made of sac-cid-ānanda and a śakti: “The universe is called śakti, since it is devoid of sac-cid-ānanda. It cannot be called an aṁśa.”16 Thus, although jīvas are aṁśas, they act as śakti in relation to Bhagavān.
The Personified Śrutis Discuss Śakti
When the soul no longer identifies with māyā, then he ceases to function as the energy to manifest the material world and instead acts as the energy for God’s pleasure (svarūpa-śakti). This point is revealed in the Bhagavat Sandarbha 113: the Śrutis ask the Lord to uproot māyā and bestow devotion on the jīvas. The Lord raises an objection that by destroying māyā, the jīva will have no śakti. But the Śrutis reply that this is not the case because the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam says that the Lord awakens not only the māyā-śakti in the jīvas, but also the svarūpa-śakti: “O you who awaken all the material and spiritual energies of the jīvas.”17 The Śrutis go on to say:
“By destroying māyā, the śakti of the jīva, an upādhi of māyā, will also be destroyed.”18 But Jīva Gosvāmī comments that the Lord says, “The answer is the same. By the svarūpa-śakti, the complete śakti which gives happiness to the jīvas will appear” and concludes, “In this way the śrutis indicate the taṭastha nature of the jīva.”19
In this important section, the Śrutis are saying that the taṭastha nature of the jīva is that it knows, acts, and wills with either the māyā-śakti or the svarūpa-śakti—not that the jīva knows, acts, and wills with the taṭastha-śakti. As we saw in the previous article, when the jīva knows, acts, and wills with the māyā-śakti, it is indirectly a doer. When the jīva does so with the svarūpa-śakti, it is directly a doer. In other words, when the Paramātmā manifests the material world, the jīvas are covered by māyā, but they always have the possibility of turning away from māyā and towards the Lord by the mercy of a devotee. When they turn toward the Lord, then the svarūpa-śakti manifests in the jīva. Notice that the Śrutis did not say, “Don’t worry that when māyā is uprooted the jīvas will not have śakti because they will have taṭastha-śakti.” Instead, they declare that the svarūpa-śakti will be awakened. The taṭastha nature of the jīva is that it knows, acts, and wills with either the māyā-śakti or the svarūpa-śakti. However, as we will explore next, whether jīvas are considered eternally taṭastha-śakti depends on how taṭastha-śakti is defined. In the broadest definition of taṭastha-śakti, even eternal associates like Garuḍa are considered taṭastha-śakti.
The Meaning of Taṭastha
Taṭastha means situated on a bank between land and water, indicating the jīvas’ ability to turn to either the spiritual or material world. Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.7.62-63, quoted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.114 says, “O King, the kṣetra-jña-śakti is the living entity. Although he has the facility to live in either the material or the spiritual world, he suffers the threefold miseries of material existence because he is influenced by the avidyā [nescience] potency.”20 Although taṭastha-śakti indicates the facility to “live” in either the material or spiritual world, we see in Paramātma Sandarbha 47 that some taṭastha-jīvas are eternally liberated and never come to the material world. Jīva Gosvāmī describes that there are two classes of taṭastha-jīvas: the eternally liberated, who have always had knowledge of the Lord, and those who lack such knowledge and are thus averse to the Lord.21 He mentions that the eternally liberated devotees are endowed with the antaraṅga-śakti and are eternal associates like Garuḍa. In the Bhagavat Sandarbha, we find that Garuḍa is mentioned several times in the context of pointing out that Vaikuṇṭha and the associates therein are all svarūpa-śakti.
A widely quoted definition of the jīva in Nārada-pañcarātra is as follows: “The jīva is called taṭastha because it is a conscious form which, leaving its knowledge of itself, becomes tinged by the attraction to material guṇas.”22 According to this definition, it seems inaccurate to call an eternal associate like Garuḍa a taṭastha-jīva. After all, Garuḍa is special even among eternal associates. In his commentary to Bhagavat Sandarbha 8, Jīva Gosvāmī says that Garuḍa is the Lord of the Vedas. Even a flag marked with Garuḍa’s picture is mentioned to be nondifferent from the Lord.23 Nonetheless, Jīva Gosvāmī explains that “the jīvas of the first category [those eternally devoted to Bhagavān] are also classified as part of the intermediary potency (taṭastha), because the widely acknowledged condition that ‘jīva-hood’ (jīvatva) necessarily excludes them from being included in the same category as Īśvara Himself.”24 That said, such devotees are more commonly referred to as svarūpa-śakti, as Jīva Gosvāmī himself does in the Bhagavat Sandarbha.
In relation to sādhana-siddha devotees, Jīva Gosvāmī clarifies that although they are still taṭastha-jīvas, they can no longer become bewildered by māyā: “When the jīva is absorbed in bhakti, the cit-śakti overpowers prakṛti by its strength. In the case of attaining a spiritual body, the bliss protects the jīva.”25 Since sādhana-siddhas, like the nitya-siddhas, are endowed with the svarūpa-śakti and thus act solely for the pleasure of the Lord, they no longer fit the Nārada-pañcarātra description of taṭastha-jīvas, although according to Jīva Gosvāmī’s broader definition—not in the category of Īśvara Himself—they can still be considered taṭastha-jīvas.
This concept is explained further in Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22. While saying virtually the same thing as Jīva Gosvāmī in Paramātma Sandarbha 47, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī uses the term vibhinnāṁśa (separated expansions) instead of taṭastha-jīva. He contrasts the vibhinnāṁśa with expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s own form (svāṁśa), which are forms that are nondifferent from him. In other words, the vibhinnāṁśas or taṭastha-jīvas are not Viṣṇu tattva. In summary, the difference between the eternally liberated jīvas and the conditioned jīvas is that one has eternal knowledge of God that is manifest and the other does not. When the knowledge of God manifests, then there is no essential difference between the nitya-siddhas and the sādhana-siddhas.
Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura also discusses this topic in his commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.16.56–57. Therein, he puts the sādhana-siddha devotees within the same category as the nitya-siddhas:
Because the forms of the associates of Bhagavān arise from the actions of the cit-śakti (the Lord’s svarūpa), those associates who are nitya-siddha are also permanent objects which are the Lord’s svarūpa. And some jīvas with desires for dāsya and other relationships, who have perfected themselves by pure bhakti or by mercy of nitya-mukta bhaktas, are included among the eternal associates as dāsas. They are also considered to be non-different from the svarūpa of the Lord, since they are empowered by the svarūpa-śakti.”26
In a similar vein, Jīva Gosvāmī mentions in Bhakti Sandarbha 310 that rāgātmikā-bhakti (the bhakti of the eternal associates) is the goal (sādhya) of rāgānugā-bhakti (bhakti that follows in the footsteps of the eternal associates), thereby implying that a rāgānugā-bhakta becomes a rāgātmikā.
The Relationship between the Svarūpa-Śakti and the Ātmā27
Someone might make the argument that although the ātmā requires svarūpa-śakti to perform spiritual action, that śakti is not part of the ātmā, just as the māyā-śakti is not part of the jīva. As I discussed in my previous article, Jīva Gosvāmī clearly states that the jīva is only directly a doer when he performs action with the svarūpa-śakti.28 In the case of the māyā-śakti, the jīva acts in the same way that a magnet drags iron filings, always at a distance from material nature. Why the difference? It is because material nature is inert, whereas the soul is spiritual. Since the svarūpa-śakti is also spiritual, the individual soul and the svarūpa-śakti are compatible. Bhagavat Sandarbha 15 says, “In order to describe the antaraṅga-śakti, the bahiraṅga-śakti is described. The two are called parā and aparā.”29 Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.8.153, quoting Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.7.61, says that the jīva-śakti is also parā. Bhagavad-gīta 7.5 also confirms that the jīva is the superior energy (parām). Śrī Brahma Saṁhitā also says that the nature of the jīva is the superior energy (prakṛtiś ca paraiva sā).
Bṛhad Bhagavatāmṛta 2.2.195 asserts, “The jīvas always have their own identities, different from that of the Supreme. But they are aṁśas of the Supreme and cannot exist separate from him, and this eliminates vijātīya difference.”30 Jīva Gosvāmī makes the same point in his commentary to Bhagavat Sandarbha 8: “Since ‘other things’ in the Lord are his śaktis they are not different entities, having a nature similar in status to his (sajātīya) and since the Lord, though he is avyakta, has śaktis, they are not completely different entities (vijātīya) which produce insentience and suffering within the Lord.”31 This means that the individual soul and the supreme soul are not in different categories. Sanātana Gosvāmī’s commentary clarifies: “Oneness or advayam is here proven. Though there is difference of the jīvas from the Lord since the jīvas are small and limited (vaijātyam), but in the highest sense (tattvataḥ) because of lack of difference from the Lord due to being similar by the cit-vilāsa-śakti, vijātīya difference (between the Lord and jīvas) is destroyed. This is because the aṁśa and aṁśī are considered nondifferent, since the qualities of the aṁśī appear in the aṁśas.”32
In conclusion, the term taṭastha-jīva usually refers to the ātmā when it is turned away from God and is manifesting the material world by identifying with the māyā-śakti. However, a broader definition of taṭastha-jīva is vibhinnāṁśa (separated expansion) which is contrasted with expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s own form (svāṁśa). In such a definition, the nitya-baddha, sādhana-siddha, and nitya-siddhas like Garuḍa are all taṭastha-jīvas.33 By the narrower definition of taṭastha-jīva (one turned away from God), both the sādhana-siddhas and nitya-siddhas, being turned toward God rather than away from him, are in a different category: that of the svarūpa-śakti. In the next article, I will discuss how some of the qualities of the soul are unmanifest and how a jīva must be situated as a devotee for all of his twenty-one intrinsic qualities to be fully manifest.
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.
- Paramātma Sandarbha 35. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 3). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Paramātma Sandarbha 56. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- amātma Sandarbha 37. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.24.201 [↩]
- Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.269 [↩]
- “The Lord (adhokṣajaḥ) through his portion who glances at prakṛti (puruṣeṇa ātmā-bhūtena) places the jīva (vīryam) in prakṛti (māyām) made of the guṇas by māyā which has the function of time (kāla-vṛttyā).” Paramātma Sandarbha 59. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Quoted in Bhagavat Sandarbha 98.5. Translation mine. [↩]
- Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22 [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Prīti Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 6). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- “Paramātmā’s śakti called taṭastha has been described.” Paramātmā Sandarbha 48. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Paramātmā Sandarbha 37, commentary. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Prīti Sandarbha 5. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Prīti Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 6). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- “The living entities constitute the marginal potency, and they are situated between the internal and external potencies. Being subordinate as eternal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the jīvātmās, or atomic living entities, must remain under the control of either the internal or external potency. When they are under the control of the internal potency, they display their natural, constitutional activity—namely, constant engagement in the devotional service of the Lord.” Nectar of Instruction 2, purport. [↩]
- Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.109 [↩]
- “The jīva… is a medium of the Lord in the production of the material world (Paramātmā Sandarbha 37, commentary). Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 2, Part 1: The Search of Gopakumāra (p. 212). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 2) (p. 226). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha. [↩]
- Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.114 [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Quoted in Paramātmā Sandarbha 37. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Bhagavat Sandarbha 62. [↩]
- Paramātma Sandarbha 47. Dasa, Satyanarayana. Śrī Paramātma Sandarbha: The Living Being, Its Bondage, and the Immanent Absolute (p. 372). Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Paramātmā Sandarbha 35, commentary. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Ṭhākura, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Sixth Canto: with Sārārtha-darśinī commentary. Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- The relationship between the svarūpa-śakti and the ātmā is discussed in more detail in part 15 of this series. [↩]
- See part 12 of this series. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 2, Part 1: The Search of Gopakumāra (p. 221). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Bhagavat Sandarbha: With commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī (Ṣaṭ-sandarbha Book 2) (pp. 279–280). Tattva Cintāmaṇi Publishing. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, 221. [↩]
- Some nitya-siddhas are in a special category called kaya-vyūha (expansions of the personal form). Although some devotees in the category of kaya-vyūha—such as the expansions of Rādhārāṇī—are not svāṁśa, it seems unlikely that Jīva Gosvāmī would include them in the category of taṭastha-jīva. [↩]