Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The living entities are also part of the Lord’s internal energy, but due to their tendency to be situated either in the spiritual world or in the material world, they are called tatastha-sakti, the marginal potency. Lord Krsna explains:

bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakrtir astadha

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.”

apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat

“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
(Bhagavad-gita 7.4-5; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.2)

Being part and parcel of the Lord, the jivas also share some of His qualities in minute proportion, among which consciousness is the main one by which they are distinguished from inert matter. Though possessing spiritual nature and eternal existence, the sruti clearly makes distinction between the living entities and the Supreme Lord:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

"Of all eternals, there is one Who is the chief eternal. Of all conscious living entities, there is one Who is the chief conscious entity. That supreme living entity, the Personality of Godhead, maintains the others, and fulfills their desires according to their merits.”
(Katha Upanisad, 2.2.13; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

This statement also corroborates the fact that every jiva is a distinct being, endowed with consciousness limited to his particular body. His fragmental dimension and eternality are thus corroborated:

balagra-sata-bhagasya satadha kalpitasya ca
bhago jivah vijneyah sa canantyaya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of these parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is equal to the dimension of the spirit soul. This soul must be understood as fragmental and meant for eternal liberation.”
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 5.9; Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.25)

The living entities are often referred to in the scriptures as the amsas or vibhinnamsas of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as He declares:

mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah
manah-sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 15.7; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.43)

This is confirmed by the following statement:

etavann asya mahimato jyayams ca purusah
pado 'sya sarva-bhutani tri-pad asyamrtam divi

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of glory and opulence. His one foot is all material elements and all living entities, and His three feet are the eternal spiritual world."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 3.12.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.24)

The above quotes from the sruti suffice to refute the false theory that the living entities and the Supreme Lord are one and the same in the liberated stage by proving that the jivas are eternally His subordinate particles. By using the word ‘sanatana’, Lord Krsna refutes the idea that the soul remains as a separate unite as far as his material designations exist, after which he becomes one and the same as the Supreme, for ‘eternally’ obviously means either in the conditioned stage or in the liberated stage. This is further corroborated:

na hi vijnatur vijnanad viparilopo vidyate

“The soul is always conscious, and consciousness can never be separated from it, because the soul and its consciousness can never be destroyed.”
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.29)

Since the jiva is eternally conscious and can never be deprived of any of these two attributes, it is natural to conclude that in the liberated stage the living entity remains as a single conscious being eternally.

The consciousness pervades through the body just as the sun through the universe, and for this reason one is conscious of bodily perceptions in any limb. This perception, however, is limited to a single body, for whatever is experienced by one cannot be experienced by anyone else simultaneously, such as in the case of a headache. This common sense example proves that each jiva is unique in his identity, and his subjective experiences are restricted to his own perception. The same is not true regarding Paramatma, the Lord in the heart of everyone, for although He is one and the same, He can expand Himself unlimitedly as to observe everything that the living entities think, speak,
feel, desire or do. Both the sruti and the smrti give many evidences for this fact:

dva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vrksam parisasvajate
tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo 'bhicakasiti

"Two birds reside in the metaphorical banyan tree of the material body. One of them is engaged in eating the material happiness and distress which is the fruit of that tree, while the other does not eat, but only witnesses the actions of his friend. The witness is the Supreme Lord Visnu, and the fruit-eater is the living entity.”
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 4.6-7; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

Lord Krsna says:

upadrastanumanta ca bharta bhokta mahesvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto dehe 'smin purusah parah

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 13.23; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.7)

The soul, being intrinsically a spiritual being, should never be identified with any material element, gross or subtle. It is only due to the illusory potency of the Lord that the soul identifies himself with a body composed of five gross elements and with a subtle body composed of mind, intelligence and false ego. In the liberated stage, however, the soul exists free from all these coverings in a spiritual body consisting in sac-cid-ananda.

Another feature the jivas share with the Supreme Lord is the desire to perform activities and the desire to enjoy. However, only in the original constitutional position can the jivas act in the pure spiritual platform and enjoy transcendental rasa, while in the material world, due to influence of the false ego and the consequent bodily identification, they assume the authorship of the activities that are indeed an interaction of the three modes of material nature. This is so explained by Lord Krsna:

prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate

“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.”
( Bhagavad-gita, 3.27; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 14, Introduction)

But all this cycle of material activities which the jiva is illusory claiming to perform have behind them a supervisor, as stated above, the Lord in heart, Who is inspiring, directing and reminding every living entity in the course of his respective karma. He guides the soul from within in the form of the Supersoul, and from without in the form of the holy scriptures and the spiritual master. It is said:

esa eva sadhu karma karayati

"The Lord engages the living entity in pious activities."
(Kausitaki Upanisad, 3.8; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.41)

The Vedanta confirms:

parat tu tac-chruteh

“The doership of the jiva is indeed given to him by the Supreme doer.”

Then, which kind of activity would be performed by the liberated jiva in the spiritual world? By constitution, the jiva is an eternal servant of the Lord, therefore only when reinstated in that capacity one can attain full bliss. One of the pratipadya-vakyas of gaudiya vaisnavism is thus enunciated by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:

jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa'
krsnera 'tatastha-sakti' 'bhedabheda-prakasa
"It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna because he is the marginal energy of Krsna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord.”
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.108; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.43)

Even in the material world the jivas retain their status as servants, though in a perverted way. Thus, one becomes the servant of family or society, while the root purpose is to serve one’s own senses, either individually or collectively. Innumerable statements from the scriptures prove that even in the ultimate stage of liberation the living entities engage eternally in the devotional service of the Lord, thus refuting the theory that they merge in the Supreme and lose their identities, for it is not possible to speak of service without individual existence. This view is supported in this way:

salokya-sarsti-samipya-sarupyaikatvam apy uta
diyamanam na grhnanti vina mat-sevanam janah

“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation—salokya, sarsti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva—even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam , 3.29.13; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.42)

For attainment of liberation, it is imperative that one receive instructions from a bona fide spiritual master and render service unto him. Although the guru is also a jiva, due to his elevated position in the path of bhakti-yoga, he is able to take the disciple to Lord Krsna. As Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti prays:

saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya vande guroh sri-caranaravindam

"The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and is followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari."
(Gurvastakam, 7; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.45)

Here the word ‘kintu’ is very significant, for simply because the guru should be shown the same respect as God, one should not erroneously think that he is God. Therefore, our acarya says that the spiritual master is worshipped as God, ‘but’ he is not God, rather he is the beloved of God. Because he is so dear to the Lord, he has the power to deliver the Lord to whomever he wishes. His oneness with God consists in his spiritual quality, dovetailing his soul to God’s will, never in quantity or identity. The scriptural statements used by the advaitavadis are better understood from this angle of vision. For example:

yada pasyah pasyate rukma-varnam kartaram isam purusam brahma-yonim
tada vidvan punya-pape vidhuya niranjanah paramam samyam upaiti

"One who sees the golden-colored Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Lord, the supreme actor, who is the source of the Supreme Brahman, becomes free from the reactions to past pious and sinful deeds, and becomes liberated, attaining the same transcendental platform as the Lord."
(Mundaka Upanisad, 3.1.3; Govinda-bhasya, 1.2.23)

Here the word ‘samyam’ mean similarity, not oneness, thus implying that the jiva still remains an individual, but only his status in the liberated stage is different from that in the conditioned stage, otherwise by affirming that the living entity attains a different ontological state after liberation would contradict the sastric evidence that the soul is immutable, never undergoing any change . Even in the conditioned life, the soul is never touched by matter, and thus always keeps his own transcendental nature, though circumstantially covered. This difference and non-difference is also implied in the following statement:

brahmaiva san brahmapnoti

"After becoming Brahman, the individual spirit soul attains Brahman."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.4.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.17)

Here it is clearly mentioned that the soul is Brahman and that he attains Brahman. Now, it is neither logical nor feasible to say that one attains something that he already is. Therefore, the simple conclusion is that we must qualify the terms in order to understand that the Brahman soul attains the Brahman abode where he enjoys a similar Brahman nature with the Parabrahma, Who is quantitatively and ontologically a being distinct from all the other beings. It is this disassociation from the Lord and His abode that makes the status of the conditioned entities different from that of the liberated ones, for under no condition the jiva ever loses his status as Brahman. When the scriptures speak of the Supreme Lord as the all in all, that refers to His all-pervasive feature that propels all the universal elements and the living beings to act, for none of them has any independent power apart from the will of God. This obviously does not support the pantheistic view that everything is God, as if He had become amalgamated or diluted in His creation. Certain statements from the sastra should be interpreted according to the philosophical context instead of the immediate literal meaning, for otherwise we would end up with innumerable contradictions and unable to draw any conclusion. For example, let us consider the following prayer:

yo 'yam tavagato deva samipam devata-ganah
sa tvam eva jagat-srasta yatah sarva-gato bhavan

"Whoever comes before You, be he a demigod, is part of You, since they are all created by You, Who is All-pervading, O Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(Visnu Purana, 1.9.69; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.30)

Here one should not hastily conclude that the demigods are also God, for this is not what it is meant. Moreover, it would be meaningless for the demigods to offer prayers to God unless they are distinct from one another. What is philosophically meant here is the fact that all souls and their material bodies are expansions of the energy of the Lord and are maintained by Him, therefore there is no possibility of their existence apart from Him, since He pervades all and everything. But at the same time there is no scope for stating that on this basis ontological diversity is not a reality, for the Lord is still clearly referred to as the Supreme All-pervasive. If instead of a Supreme Person, what pervades everything is the same common principle present everywhere, then there would be no need to glorify anyone, nor there would be any difference between the prowess of one being and another, nor any kind of dependence.

Then, again the monists may propose that the jiva is indeed Brahman covered by avidya, and once this ignorance is removed by the process of knowledge, the soul is reinstated as Brahman just like sky inside an earthen pot is again one with the outside sky once the pot is broken, or just like the same sun is reflected in innumerable reservoirs of water. These illustrations, however, are defective to describe the soul either in his conditioned or liberated phase. Since the impersonalists consider Brahman an undistinguished agglomerate of consciousness, how it could be possibly divided and covered by avidya? This would contradict both common sense and the scriptural descriptions of the soul’s indivisible nature and Brahman’s supremacy. And if Brahman is impersonal and formless, how could it be reflected at all? Otherwise, in the given illustration we could wonder why the wind and the directions-both formless- don’t display any reflection, though situated in the sky just like the sun. The fact here is that just like the sky, the soul’s nature does not change after liberation, but simply gets rid of its material designations. Moreover, no sane man would say that the sun in inside the glass of water, for anyone can understand that the reflection is due to a mere particle of its rays that are temporarily appearing on the surface of the water. Further evidence from the sruti confirms the eternal difference between the jiva and the Lord:

prthag-atmanam preritam ca matva justas tatas tenamrtatvam eti

"When one understands that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual spirit souls are eternally distinct entities, then he may become qualified for liberation, and live eternally in the spiritual world."
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 1.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

By rejecting this siddhanta and accepting the monist one, several incongruities accrue. For example, it would not be possible to ascertain who is a bona fide spiritual master, for one who realized the same undivided spiritual nature in everyone would contradict his own philosophy by seeing someone as a different person to be accepted as a disciple. Thus, if one does accept a disciple, he is not a realized monist; and if he does not, nobody would be instructed. In any case there would be no possibility of a disciplic succession, what would violate the Vedic injunctions.

A doubt may be raised regarding the origin of the jivas: if everything is a creation of God, we may conclude that the souls are also made by Him. Some statements of the scriptures may apparently give this idea:

yatah prasuta jagatah prasuti toyena jivan vyasasarja bhumyam

"From the Supreme Personality of Godhead the universe was born. With water He created the living entities on the earth."
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.4; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 11, Introduction)

san-mulah saumyemah sarvah prajah

"O gentle one, all living entities have their roots in the Supreme."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 6.8.6)

But we should understand that there is no contradiction in the sastra, therefore when it is mentioned that the souls are born, that is obviously referring to the material body accepted by the jiva, who is eternally unborn, as already stated:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 2.20; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

That the individual spirit soul was never born is also declared in the sruti:

jnajnau dvav ajav isanisau

"Neither the Supreme Personality of Godhead nor the individual spirit souls were ever born."
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 1.9; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

It is only a matter of worldly convention to say that such-and-such person was born or died, as well as holding ceremonies like jata-karma, for indeed all these usages are directly applied with reference to the body, not the soul. The individual spirit soul is different from the external material body and resides in it like a passenger:

sa va ayam puruso jayamanah sariram abhisampadyamanah sa utkraman mriyamanah

"At the moment of birth the spirit soul enters a material body and at the moment of death the soul leaves the body."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.8; Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.43)

jivopetam vava kiledam mriyate na jivo mriyate

"The soul resides in the material body. When the body dies the soul does not die."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 6.11.3)

How is the nature of the soul to be understood? It is perceivable that the conscious living entities are cognizant of themselves (dharmi-jnana) and of the external world (dharma-bhuta-jnana), therefore endowed with knowledge. Some claim that the soul is knowledge itself, while the gaudiya siddhanta is that the jiva is the knower and has knowledge as his attribute, thus being both of them simultaneously. This is based on some particular passages from the sruti, like the following one:

esa hi drasta sprasta srota rasayita ghrata manta boddha karta vijnanatma purusah

"The individual spirit soul is the seer, the toucher, the hearer, the taster, the smeller, the thinker, the determiner, the doer, and the knower."
(Prasna Upanisad, 4.9)

In the Smrti-sastra it is said:

jnata jnana-svarupo 'yam

"The individual spirit soul is both knower and knowledge."
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.17)

Some consider the soul’s knowledge to be temporary, acquired under some specific circumstances, which once given up leave the jiva again in his original state characterized by unconsciousness. They believe that it is the mere contact of the living entity with the mind that produces the perception of knowledge, otherwise the soul is incapable of perception just like one in a state of dreamless sleep does not perceive anything. They claim that the mind brings about cognition to the soul just like an iron rod put in the fire acquires fiery attributes and that if knowledge were eternal it would not be possible for the soul to be unconscious at any stage like deep sleep. Moreover, if knowledge were an intrinsic attribute of the soul there would be no need of any sense organ such as the mind and the fire acquiring knowledge senses, for under any condition the soul would be able to experience cognition. The Vedic conclusion, however, refutes all these arguments in the following way:

avinasi va are ayam atmanucitti-dharma

"The soul's consciousness is never destroyed."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.5.14; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.26)

Cognition cannot be produced by the contact of the soul with the mind, for none of them is constituted by parts nor is the soul ever subject to any factual interaction with any material element. The soul’s eternal knowledge is simply temporarily covered due to the influence of the Lord’s external illusory potency and again revived by the process of devotional service unto Him:

yatha na kriyate jyotsna mala-praksalanan maneh
dosa-prahanan na jnanam atmanah kriyate tatha

"As by washing away the dirt that covered a jewel, the jewel's splendor is not created but merely uncovered, so by removing the dirt of materialism that covered the soul, the soul's splendor is not created, but merely uncovered.

yathodapana-khananat kriyate na jalantaram
sad eva niyate vyaktim asatah sambhavah kutah

"As by digging a well, water is brought forth but not created, so by spiritual activities the nature of the soul is brought forth but not created. How would it be possible to create the soul's qualities from nothing?

tatha heya-guna-dhvamsad avarodhadayo gunah
prakasyante na janyante nitya evatmano hi te

"When material faults are destroyed, the soul's qualities become revealed. The soul's qualities are eternal, they are never created."
(Visnu smrti, 104. 55-57; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.26)

Knowledge exists eternally along with the spiritual soul and cannot be alienated in any circumstance, just like fire and its light exist concomitantly, therefore there is no contradiction in calling the soul knowledge itself or saying that it possesses knowledge as his attribute. However, it can be latent or dormant in specific conditions like under the material coverings. The example given is that in childhood one’s procreative power is in a latent phase to be manifested later. This is described in the following words:

yad vai tan na vijanati vijanan vaitad vijneyam na vijanati na hi vijnatur vijnanat viparilopo vidyate avinasitvan na tu tad dvitiyam asti tato 'nyad vibhaktam yad vijaniyat

"In the state of dreamless sleep the soul is both conscious and unconscious. The soul is always conscious, and consciousness can never be separated from it, because the soul and its consciousness can never be destroyed. Still, in the state of dreamless sleep no object is presented before the soul for it to be conscious of."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.29)

If knowledge did not exist in the soul as an intrinsic attribute, then even in the awaken stage it would not be possible to apprehend anything, for the senses themselves are mere material elements which once left by the soul are simply dead matter. The soul’s spiritual senses, however, are also eternal and are also non-different from the soul. They can be fully manifested only in the spiritual world or in this world by those who are jivan-muktas, liberated even before leaving the material world.