The Simultaneous Inherency and Bestowal of Bhakti—Part 16: The Manifestation of Śakti

By Vrindaranya dasi

Additional articles in this series

Introduction to Excerpt

The following excerpt from Swāmī B. V. Tripurāri’s upcoming book, Circle of Friends, clearly describes how the sādhaka-deha is partly influenced by the svarūpa-śakti and partly by the māyā-śakti.1 The svarūpa-śakti is inherent but unmanifest in the jīva who is fully covered by māyā, but as the jīva makes progress on the devotional path by the mercy of a devotee, his svarūpa slowly starts to manifest. In contrast, the māyā-śakti is extrinsic to the jīva. As the sādhaka becomes purified while coming more and more under the influence of the svarūpa-śakti, his identification with the māyā-śakti diminishes and gradually his body is completely spiritualized with no mundane portion remaining. Finally, the sādhaka-deha will become one with the siddha-deha. In this way, the jīva gradually manifests all the twenty-one qualities described in Paramātma Sandarbha

Therefore, this excerpt shows that the ātmā, which is fully spiritual but in which his inherent śaktis are unmanifest, slowly begins to have those śaktis manifest while he is still identified with the material body. What is the unmanifest śakti of the ātmā? It is svarūpa-śakti. The soul is not able to manifest his inherent śaktis on its own due to the acintya-śakti of māyā: “The extrinsic potency of Bhagavān acts contrary to logic [i.e., her behavior cannot be understood simply through logic]; otherwise, how is it possible that the living entity, who is the ruler of [i.e., superior to] prakṛti, being conscious and liberated, becomes bound and miserable? (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.7.9)”2 Therefore, although the twenty-one qualities of the jīva are inherent, they can only fully manifest by the mercy of a devotee: Self-realization for the jīva, who is saddled with beginningless ignorance, is not possible by his own efforts. It is possible only if knowledge is imparted to him by another who knows the reality (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.22.10).3 These points and others will be discussed in the following excerpt.

Excerpt from Circle of Friends

The sādhaka-deha is not a material body, nor is it a siddha-rūpa, at least not immediately. It is a spiritual work in progress. The more the sādhaka’s senses are in touch with sense objects only for the purpose of pleasing the transcendental senses of Kṛṣṇa, the more it is spiritualized. Adorned with tilaka and kaṇṭhī-mālā, in this world but not of it, the sādhaka-deha is no longer moving under the influence of the māyā-śakti, but rather that of the svarūpa-śakti, which bhakti is constituted of. Śrī Kṛṣṇa describes such devotees in his divine song to Pāṇḍava Arjuna:

O cousin brother—son of Pārtha—those who engage in one-minded bhajana to me are mahātmās moving under the influence of my svarūpa-śaktidaivīṁ prakṛtim. . . . They are always engaged in kīrtana of my names, forms, qualities, and līlāssatataṁ kīrtayanto mām.4

The Sārārtha-darśinī comments of Viśvanātha Cakravartī in this regard are insightful:

One’s sādhaka-deha is considered to be nirguṇa because, on the order of one’s spiritual master, all of one’s senses are engaged in the transcendental service of Kṛṣṇa, one’s ears in hearing about Kṛṣṇa, one’s tongue in chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names and glories, one’s mind in remembering Kṛṣṇa, one’s entire body in prostrating oneself in supplication to the deity, and one’s hands in various types of service. Thus, because the objects of the devotee’s senses are Bhagavān’s qualities, the devotee also becomes nirguṇa. However, at the same time, because the sādhaka also makes material things the objects of his or her senses now and again, the sādhaka’s body is also guṇa-maya, or constituted of material qualities. Therefore, the sādhaka-deha is partly nirguṇa and partly guṇa-maya. According to the indications of the Bhāgavata verse (11.2.42) that compares advancement in devotional service to the satisfaction felt by a hungry person while eating, the gaining of strength, and the relief from the discomforts of hunger, one can understand that these three things are attained gradually, for as much as one has eaten, to that extent one will feel these beneficial effects. Similarly, as one progresses spiritually through sādhana, the spiritualized portion of one’s body increases, and the material portion is gradually reduced. When one reaches the stage of prema, one’s body is completely spiritualized, and no mundane portion remains.5

Thus the mature sādhaka-rūpa is a spiritually infused body such that despite the inevitable demise of the sādhu’s sādhaka-deha, his or her form is entombed, venerated, and meditated upon, resulting at times in meditative visitations and dreams wherein mantras and counsel are sometimes imparted.6

As the citta is cleansed of material saṁskāras, the further ingress of svarūpa-śakti affords the advanced sādhaka the opportunity to desire spiritually in greater detail under the influence of that śakti, which exists only to please Kṛṣṇa. With a crystal-like cleansed citta, the sādhaka’s rāga colors his or her citta. And the purified seat of the sādhaka’s desire and emotion—manas—gives rise to the details of one’s siddha-rūpa, which, while one in kind—sakhya or mādhurya, and so forth—is unique in detail from every other mukta’s, even as it follows a particular personified ideal such as that of Subala-sakhā. The sādhaka’s will manifests as spiritualized buddhi, or resolve, and causes that siddha-rūpa to manifest. In other words, as one progresses from the higher stages of sādhana-bhaktiruci and āsakti—to bhāva-bhakti, the details of one’s siddha-rūpa are determined, and then they sprout. The sādhana stage of ruci is characterized by spiritual longing for bhakti and absence of material desire. This longing is specific, and thus focused on a particular spiritual emotion that corresponds with a specific object of love that the sādhaka develops attachment for in the stage of āsakti. If the longing is for sakhyarati, the object of that love is Gopāla Kṛṣṇa replete with qualities that are excitants for sakhya-rati. Then, as the sprout of one’s sthāyi-bhāva appears in bhāva-bhakti, it is further cultivated and gradually it flowers and fructifies into prema—the form of the mukta’s love. 

It is also important and of great interest to note that the mukta who attains a form for eternal service attains an entire spiritual personality. In other words, the mukta’s form includes both a spiritual body of working and perceiving senses as well as an ego, mind, intelligence, and awareness. Śrī Jīva Goswāmī refers to the spiritual body as “paraphernalia suitable for Kṛṣṇa’s recreational pursuit (krīḍana-deha).”7 The mukta desires and enjoys only in relation to pleasing Kṛṣṇa. And it is for this reason that the Sūtras conclude that mukti with form is more fulfilling than formless muktibhāve jāgradvat.8 Notably, the liberated attributes of satya-kāma and satya-saṅkalpa have little meaning for one who attains formless mukti. In formless mukti, one ends the ongoing attempt to become that drives us in material life, allowing the ātmā to be all that it is, which far exceeds any of its efforts in material life to become. However, on the bhakti-mārga, while the attempt to become in a material sense also comes to an end, the siddha-bhakta does not rest with merely being but pursues all that the ātmā can become as a result of the ingress of bhaktisvarūpa-śakti—into one’s life. Such transcendental becoming does not constitute a transformation of the ātmā, but rather a becoming of all that it inherently has the potential to become in connection with Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śaktibhakti. Simply stated, we are more when we love. 

To borrow a term from Charles Hartshorne, Kṛṣṇa is dipolar in nature. He personifies the admirable aspects of both contrasting metaphysical poles. That is, he embodies that which is admirable in immanence as well as that in transcendence—permanence as well as change, and so on. He is full and also ever-increasing.9 This makes for a dynamic Absolute. It is said that at one point Lakṣmī had never experienced Narasiṁha. Yet Narasiṁha is eternal. In the same sense, our siddha-rūpa lies within the depths of God’s being and manifests when corresponding devotion/prema appears. The siddha-svarūpa is an extension of God’s own form, and thus the devotee identified with that siddha-rūpa experiences, through what is really an extension of God’s senses, a dynamic union with God in love. In the siddha-rūpa, the mukta sees, hears, tastes, and so forth only for God’s pleasure, just as God’s senses function for his own pleasure.10

Just as Śrī Rūpa prescribes sevā in one’s sādhaka-rūpa, he also prescribes sevā in one’s siddharūpa. As mentioned earlier, this meditative internal sevā replicates the prema-sevā of the rāgātmikā-jana of Kṛṣṇa līlā that one follows. In his Rāga-vartma-candrikā Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura cites two means by which knowledge required for meditative līlā-sevā is acquired. In this regard, he paraphrases Uddhava’s words to Kṛṣṇa: 

Śrī Bhagavān inspires the sādhaka by manifesting himself in two ways: Externally he gives instructions in the form of the ācārya. Alternately, he provides this same instruction internally as the caitya-guru—God himself within—inspiring a sādhaka from within the heart concerning the means to achieve the desired goal.11

In his commentary on the above verse, Viśvanātha Cakravartī cites and paraphrases the essence of Bhagavad-gītā 10.10, which further substantiates his latter claim that the caitya-guru in some instances provides all one needs to know through gradual internal realization: “Inspiring them with intelligence to attain you, and making them worship you, you reveal to them the goal of becoming an associate with prema.” In his Rāga-vartma-candrikā, Ṭhākura Viśvanātha also cites Bhāgavatam 11.14.26: 

To the degree that the ātmā becomes purified by hearing and chanting my glories, a person is able to perceive my real form and qualities, just as the eye when smeared with special ointment is able to see finer objects. 

This verse supports the idea that all that one needs to know—the details of one’s siddha-rūpa and how to engage in meditative līlā-sevā with it—will arise naturally through gradual realization derived from one’s appropriately rāga-mārga-oriented sādhana. Perceiving Kṛṣṇa’s form in meditation on the path of rāga-bhakti also includes perceiving one’s siddha-rūpa because Kṛṣṇa is perceived relative to how he is approached. If we approach him influenced by sakhya-rati, we will experience him as he appears to his cowherd friends of Vraja. In other words, the beauty of Gopāla Kṛṣṇa is not separate from or independent of the eye of its beholder.12 Śrīmad Bhāgavatam explains that Kṛṣṇa enters his devotee’s heart in a particular form and in doing so simultaneously bestows upon his devotee a spiritual form that corresponds with this particular form as well as with the nature of the devotee’s worship—tat-tad-vapuḥ praṇayase sad-anugrahāya.13 The implication of Bhāgavatam 11.14.26 cited by Viśvanātha Cakravartī is that this is a gradual development and one approach to acquiring all that is required for meditative līlā-sevā

Thus, with spiritual progress and the purification of one’s citta, just how to serve internally in a siddha-rūpa manifests in proportion to the manifestation of the siddha-rūpa itself. Notably, the examples cited from the sacred lore of those who rendered this service and attained their ideal through kāmānuga-sādhana—the sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya and the personified śrutis—learned how to render siddha-rūpasevā in this way. The same holds true in the case of Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta’s Gopa-kumāra/Sarūpa in his sambandhānuga-sādhana. None of these devotees received any esoteric instruction on siddha-rūpa-sevā aside from what they received through internal realization. Indeed, Gopa-kumāra’s guru instructed him on how to chant the Kṛṣṇa mantra and then told him that by the power of that mantra alone “all other secrets will be automatically revealed to you.”14 Subsequently, Gopa-kumāra attained a form suitable for liberated life.15


In the next article, we will consider Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s extensive commentary on Vedānta-sūtra 4.4. There, he quotes Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.12.3: “The liberated soul rises from the body, reaches the Supreme Lord, and becomes endowed with his own form.”16 As I mentioned, Jīva Gosvāmī also quotes this verse in his commentary to Paramātma Sandarbha 37, where he discusses śeṣatva.

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. Tripurāri, Swāmī B. V., Circle of Friends (Philo, CA: Darshan Press, forthcoming), part 1, chapter 3. []
  2. Dasa, Satyanarayana. Śrī Tattva Sandarbha: Vaiṣṇava Epistemology and Ontology (Ṣaṭ Sandarbha Book 1) (p. 285). Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies. Kindle Edition. []
  3. Dasa, Satyanarayana, Śrī Paramātma Sandarbha: The Living Being, Its Bondage, and the Immanent Absolute (p. 354). Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies. Kindle Edition. []
  4. Bhagavad-gītā 9.13-14 []
  5. Sārārtha-darśinī commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.29.11. []
  6. Regarding the imparting of mantras through dreams, see Govinda-bhāṣya 3.2.4. []
  7. This term is found in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.33.35. Jīva Goswāmī comments further on it in Gopāla-campū 2.15.78. []
  8. Vedānta-sūtra 4.4.14 []
  9. Citing Śrī Rūpa’s Dāna-keli-kaumudī 2, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja also describes the prema of Rādhā as all-pervading and thus leaving no room for expansion and simultaneously constantly expanding or ever-increasing (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.4.127–128). Thus Kṛṣṇa is omnipresent yet moving, driven to dance by his devotees’ love. []
  10. In his Govinda-bhāṣya (4.4.12), Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa cites Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 4.5.15 and an unspecified verse from Bṛhat-tantra. []
  11. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.29.6. See Rāga-vartma-candrikā 1.9. []
  12. See Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.43.17 for an example of how different persons see Kṛṣṇa differently. []
  13. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.9.11. However, this verse does not imply that Bhagavān is bound to appear in whatever concocted form one may imagine. Rather, a sādhaka will meditate on God as he is described in the scriptures. This is the significance of the phrase śrutekṣita-pathaḥ (seen through the ear) in this verse.” See also Vedānta-sūtra 3.3.52, Jayākhya Saṁhitā 12.27, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.24.31, Bhagavad-gītā 4.11, and Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.4.12. []
  14. Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta 2.3.6 []
  15. Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta 2.3.9. In his commentary on this verse, Sanātana Goswāmī states that Gopa-kumāra experienced the transubstantiation of his material body, which turned into a spiritual body. []
  16. Paramātmā Sandarbha 37. Swami, HH Bhanu; Gosvāmī, Jīva. Paramātmā Sandarbha. []

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