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 taṭastha-śakti, the marginal potency. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains:

bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca

ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

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

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām

jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

(Bhagavad-gītā 7.4-5; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.2)

“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.”

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

nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān

(Kaṭha Upaniṣad (2.2.13); Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.16)

 “There is one eternal being among many eternal beings, one sentient being among many sentient beings, the one Who brings about their desirable objects.”

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

bālāgra-śata-bhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca

bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijñeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate

(Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 5.9; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.3.25)

“The individual soul is meant for liberation and should be understood as having the size conceived as the hundredth part of the tip of a hair again divided by one hundred.”

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

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ

manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

(Bhagavad-gītā, 15.7; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.43)

“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.”

This is confirmed by the following statement:

etāvann asya mahimato jyāyāṁś ca puruṣaḥ

pado ‘sya sarva-bhūtāni tri-pad asyāmṛtaṁ divi

(Chāndogya Upaniṣad, 3.12.6; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.1.24)

 "Such is the greatness of the Supreme Person. Immortality is situated in the spiritual sky and comprises three quarters of the Supreme Lord’s creation, while all created beings and material elements comprise one quarter."

The above quotes from the śruti 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 jīvas are eternally His subordinate particles. By using the word ‘sanātana,’ Lord Kṛṣṇa refutes the idea that the soul remains as a separate unit so long 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 vijñātur vijñāter viparilopo vidyate (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.3.30)

(Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.29)

“The consciousness of the conscious being is never destroyed.”

Since the jīva 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 jīva is unique in his identity, and his subjective experiences are restricted to his own perception. The same is not true regarding Paramātmā, 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 śruti and the smṛti give a lot of evidence for this fact:

dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā

samānaṁ vṛkṣaṁ pariṣasvajāte

tayor anyaḥ pippalaṁ svādv atty

anaśnann anyo abhicākaśīti

(Śvetāvatara Upaniṣad, 4.6)

“Two birds are sitting together on the same tree as friends. One of them is eating the sweet fruits of sense enjoyment, while the other one just observes without eating.”


Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

upadraṣṭānumantā ca bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ

paramātmeti cāpy ukto dehe ‘smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ

(Bhagavad-gītā, 13.23; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.1.7)

“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.”

 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 of sac-cid-ānanda.

 Another feature the jīvas 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 jīvas act in the pure spiritual platform and enjoy transcendental rasa, while in the material world, due to the 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 Kṛṣṇa:

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ

ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate

(Bhagavad-gītā, 3.27; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3. Adhikaraṇa 14)

“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.”

However, all this cycle of material activities that the jīva under illusion claims 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:

eṣa eva sādhu karma kārayati taṁ yam ebhyo lokebhya unninīṣata eṣa u evainam asādhu karma kārayati taṁ yam adho ninīṣate (Kauśītaki-brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad, 3.9; Govinda-bhāṣya, 3.2.41)

“Whomever the Supreme Lord desires to carry to heaven, He inspires him to perform pious deeds. Whomever the Supreme Lord desires to carry to hell, He inspires him to perform sinful deeds.” The Brahma-sūtra (2.3.39) confirms:

parāt tu tac-chruteḥ

“The jīva’s doership depends on the Supreme Lord, for this is stated in the śruti.”


Then, which kind of activity would be performed by the liberated jīva in the spiritual world? By constitution, the jīva is an eternal servant of the Lord, therefore only when reinstated in that capacity one can attain full bliss. One of the pratipādya-vākyas of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism is thus enunciated by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu:

jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’

kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa

(Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.108; Govinda-bhāṣya, 3.4.43)

"It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa because he is the marginal energy of Kṛṣṇa and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord.”


Even in the material world, the jīvas retain their status as servants, although 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:

sālokya-sārṣṭi-sāmīpya-sārūpyaikatvam apy uta

dīyamānaṁ na gṛhṇanti vinā mat-sevanaṁ janāḥ

(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam , 3.29.13; Govinda-bhāṣya, 3.4.42)

“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation—sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sārūpya or ekatva—even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”


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

sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ

kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam

(Gurvāṣṭakam, 7; Govinda-bhāṣya, 3.3.45)

"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 Śrī Hari."

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 ācārya 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 Advaitavādīs are better understood from this angle of vision. For example:

yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ kartāram īśaṁ puruṣaṁ brahma-yonim

tadā vidvān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti

(Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, 3.1.3; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.2.23)

“When one sees the Supreme Person of golden complexion, the Lord and creator, the source of the brahma-jyoti, then shaking off pious and sinful reactions, this wise seer whose heart is pure attains transcendental similarity with the Supreme Lord.”

Here the word ‘samyam’ means similarity, not oneness, thus implying that the jīva still remains an individual, but only his status in the liberated stage is different from that in the conditioned stage. Otherwise, the affirmation that the living entity attains a different ontological state after liberation would contradict the śāstric 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, although circumstantially covered. This difference and non-difference is also implied in the following statement:

brahmaiva san brahmāpnoti (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.4.6; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.1.17)

 "Being Brahman, the individual spirit soul attains Brahman."


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 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 jīva 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 śāstra 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’yaṁ tavāgato deva samīpaṁ devatā-gaṇaḥ

sa tvam eva jagat-sraṣṭā yataḥ sarva-gato bhavān

(Viṣṇu Purāṇa, 1.9.69; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.1.30)

            “O Lord, this host of demigods that has come before You is You Yourself, for You are omnipresent, the creator of the universe.”

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, and 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 jīva is indeed Brahman covered by avidyā, and once this ignorance is removed by the process of knowledge, the soul is reinstated as Brahman just like the 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 avidyā? 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, although 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 is 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 śruti confirms the eternal difference between the jīva and the Lord:

pṛthag ātmānaṁ preritāraṁ ca matvā

juṣṭas tatas tenāmṛtatvam eti

(Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 1.6; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.1.2)

“Considering oneself and the Supreme Ruler as different, one then becomes pleased and thus attains immortality.”

By rejecting this siddhānta 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, which would violate the Vedic injunctions.

 A doubt may be raised regarding the origin of the jīvas: 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:

yataḥ prasūtā jagataḥ prasūtī toyena jīvān vyasasarja bhūmyām

(Mahā-Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad, 1.4; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3. Adhikaraṇa 11)

 "The universe was born from the Supreme Lord, and through water, He created the living beings on the earth."

san-mūlāḥ somyemāḥ sarvāḥ prajāḥ sad-āyatanāḥ sat-pratiṣṭhāḥ (Chāndogya 6.8.4)

“Dear Śvetaketu, all these created beings have the Supreme Lord (sat) as their root, support and ultimate abode.”


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

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ

ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

(Bhagavad-gītā, 2.20; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.16)

“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.”


It is also stated in the śruti yhat the jīva was never born:

jñājñau dvāv ajāv īśānīśāv ajā hy ekā bhoktṛ-bhogārtha-yuktā

(Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 1.9; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.16)

“Both the Supreme Lord and the jīva are never born, but the Lord is omniscient, while the jīva is ignorant.

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 jāta-karma, for indeed all these usages are directly applied with reference to the body, not the soul. The jīva is certainly different from the material body, merely dwelling within it like a passenger:

sa vā ayaṁ puruṣo jāyamānaḥ śarīram abhisampadyamānaḥ sa utkraman mriyamāṇaḥ

(Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.3.8; Govinda-bhāṣya, 1.3.43)

 "When one takes birth, the soul enters a material body, and when one dies, the soul leaves the body."


jīvopetam vāva kiledaṁ mriyate na jīvo mriyate

(Chāndogya Upaniṣad, 6.11.3)

 "When the body possessed of a soul dies, the soul does not die."

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

eṣa hi draṣṭā spraṣṭā śrotā ghrātā rasayitā mantā boddhā kartā vijñānātmā puruṣaḥ

(Praśna Upaniṣad, 4.9)

“The individual soul is consciousness itself, the one who sees, the one who touches, the one who hears, the one who smells, and the one who tastes. It is the thinker, the knower, and the doer.”

In the Smṛti-śāstra it is said :

jñātā jñāna-svarūpo ‘yam

 "The jīva is both consciousness and conscious."

 Some consider the soul’s consciousness to be temporary, acquired under some specific circumstances, giving up which the jīva again attains 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, and that otherwise the soul is incapable of perception, just as someone 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, such as in deep sleep. Moreover, if knowledge were an intrinsic attribute of the soul there would be no need for any sense organ such as the mind and the five 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:

avināśī vā are ayam ātmānucchitti-dharmā

(Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.5.14; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.26),

“O Maitreyī, the individual soul is imperishable and has indestructible attributes.”


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:

yathā na kriyate jyotsnā mala-prakṣālanān maṇeḥ

doṣa-prahāṇān na jñānam ātmanaḥ kriyate tathā

yathodapāna-khananāt kriyate na jalāntaram

sad eva nīyate vyaktim asataḥ sambhavaḥ kutaḥ

tathā heya-guṇa-dhvaṁsād avabodhādayo guṇāḥ

prakāśyante na janyante nityā evātmano hi te

(Viṣṇu-dharma Purāṇa, 100.55-57; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.26)

“Just as a jewel’s light is not created by cleansing it from dirt, a living entity’s consciousness is not created by removing material contamination. Just as water is not produced by digging a well, only an existent being becomes manifest. How can a non-existent being be brought into existence? Similarly, after negative qualities have been destroyed, qualities like consciousness are merely revealed, and not produced, for they are eternal attributes of the soul.”

Knowledge exists eternally along with the jīva 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, such as 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 vijānāti vijānan vaitad vijñeyam na vijānāti na hi vijnātur vijñānāt viparilopo vidyate avināśitvāt (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhāṣya, 2.3.29)

 "During dreamless sleep, the soul is not aware, but it is conscious and simply does not perceive any cognizable object. The consciousness cannot be separated from the conscious being, since it is never destroyed."


If consciousness or knowledge did not exist in the soul as an intrinsic attribute, then even in the wakeful state, 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 jīvan-muktas, liberated even before leaving the material world.

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