Definitions

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains māyā

Śrī Jīva Goswami examines the meaning of māyā in Bhagavat Sandarbha Anuccheda 18. He gives his own unique explanation of māyā, which we examine here.

Two aspects of māyā

In Anuccheda 17, Śrī Jīva writes that he wishes to begin an analysis Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. For this analysis, he begins first by analyzing Bhagavān’s’ external śakti, māyā. He starts by quoting a verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, from which he derives the concept that there are two aspects to māyā:

सर्वभूतेषु सर्वात्मन् या शक्तिपरा तव।गुणाश्रया नमस्तस्यै शाश्वतायै सुरेश्वर।।यातीतगोचरा वाचां मनसां चाविशेषणा।ज्ञानिज्ञानपरिच्छेद्या वन्दे तामीश्वरीं पराम्।। O Supreme Self of all selves! O controller of the gods! I bow down to your external inferior śakti (aparā), the support of the three guṇas, which exist in all beings. I further worship your all powerful śakti (parā), which is a goddess beyond the reach of word, mind and sense objects, devoid of distinguishing characteristics, and which illuminates the wisdom of the wise. (VP 1.19.76-77)

This verse makes two sub-divisions within māyā: a parā (superior) śakti and an aparā (inferior) śakti. The parā śakti is described as a goddess, implying the conscious aspect of māyā, understood to be Durgā. The aparā śakti is inert, and composed of the three guṇas which are not conscious.

He adds that सैषा बहुवृत्तिकैव ज्ञेया “परास्य शक्तिर्विविधैव श्रूयते” – This latter parā śakti manifests in multiple forms as confirmed by the phrase parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate. Thus, Durgā manifests in different forms as Kāli, Cāmuṇḍa, and so on.

The definition of māyā

In Anuccheda 18, Śrī Jīva quotes a verse from the famous catuḥ-ślokī spoken by Bhagavān from the Bhāgavatam, and goes on to draw out key features of māyā from it.

The following verse is a definition of māyā:

ṛte ’rthaṁ yat pratīyeta na pratīyeta cātmani
tad vidyād ātmano māyāṁ yathābhāso yathā tamaḥ

Here is how Śrī Jīva interprets it:

ṛte ’rthaṁ = mām vinā, that means, without Me, [arthaṁ = parmārthabhutam (the supreme reality), mām (i.e. Me, Bhagavān)]

yat pratīyeta = whatever is perceived,

na pratīyeta cātmani = and which is not perceived in Bhagavān (i.e. which cannot be perceived without Bhagavān’s support),

tad vidyāt = know that to be

ātmano māyāṁ = My (mama parameśvarasya) māyā (which is of two types, jīva-māyā and guṇa-māyā)

yathābhāsaḥ = like a reflection [jīva-māyā]

yathā tamaḥ = and like darkness [guṇa-māyā]

Putting all this together, we get

ṛte ’rthaṁ yat pratīyeta na pratīyeta cātmani
tad vidyād ātmano māyāṁ yathābhāso yathā tamaḥ

“That entity, which is perceived only when I am not perceived [because when I am perceived, it is not perceived], and which is not perceived in Me, know that to be My māyā, which manifests as reflection and as darkness.

Śrī Jīva concludes that ṛte ’rthaṁ yat pratīyeta implies that māyā is perceived as external to or outside Bhagavān, and the meaning of na pratīyeta cātmani is that it cannot exist or manifest independently without Bhagavān’s support. These, then, are the two defining characteristics of māyā:

a. It is perceived outside of Bhagavān.

b. It cannot be perceived/manifested/exist independently of Bhagavān.

Śrī Jīva names the two aspects of māyā described above as jīva-māyā and guṇa-māyā. Jīva-māyā, which is likened to a reflection in the verse, is the nimitta or conscious aspect (aṁśa) of māyā, while guṇa-māyā is the upādāna or insentient aspect [a potter is a nimitta kāraṇa, while the clay is the upādāna kāraṇa of the pot]. Thus, jīva-māyā is Durgā, also called chāyā, which can take the form of vidyā and avidyā. The vidyā aspect of Durgā was alluded to in the verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa mentioned above. Durgā, further manifests from herself, the inert material nature consisting of the guṇas in their balanced state [pradhāna or mahat]. This inert material nature is called guṇa-māyā [and tamas] in the verse. When the guṇas go out of their equilibrated state, material forms arise.

The analogies of reflection (ābhāsa) and darkness (tamas)

We now examine Śrī Jīva’s justification for why the word ābhāsa, reflection, has been used in the verse (which he interprets to be jīva-māyā). Consider a reflecting surface, like a mirror which is placed out in the bright sun. At a certain angle, the mirror will reflect light straight into our eyes. This light is so intense that we would be ‘blinded’ by it, i.e. we cannot see the source. This example has the following features to it:

b) The reflection is dependent on the source for its existence; if we blocked the rays of the sun, we would see no reflection.

a) The reflection is not located in the source; it is perceived outside the source such as in a mirror,

The above features are quite similar to the definition of māyā above. There, jīva-māyā is the reflection and Bhagavān is the source. For the reader’s convenience, the similarity between the definition of (jīva) māyā and the properties of a reflection are reiterated below:

a) jīva-māyā is perceived outside of Bhagavān, and in the jīva because it’s sphere of influence is the jīva (the reflection is outside the source in the mirror),

b) jīva-māyā cannot exist independently without Bhagavān’s support (if the sun were blocked, a reflection could not exist)

Using this analogy, we can now understand the function of jīva-māyā. The correlate for the eyes is the the awareness of the jīva. The intense bright reflected light is correlated to the avidyā śakti aspect of jīva-māyā. The awareness of the jīva (the eye) is distorted such that it is unable to perceive that it is a spiritual being, due to the avidyā śakti (intense reflected light) which exists outside Bhagavān (its source).

Śrī Jīva continues with the example: when the eyes are blinded by bright reflected light, one eventually sees colors and forms. These colors and forms are called ‘tamas’ or darkness. Just as in darkness, one cannot see objects, in the seeing of the colors/forms caused by bright light, one cannot see real objects. Also, it is justifiable to interpret the word ‘tamas’ as guṇa-māyā as the word tamas has been used in the Bhāgavatam to refer to mahat, the inert material nature. Similar to the colors/forms one sees after being blinded by intense light, jīva-māyā or Durgā produces from within herself, guṇa-māyā, which eventually goes out of equilibrium and produces material forms. The function of guṇa-māyā is to supply the body, which allows the jīva to perceive material forms, to act, and this completes its illusion.

Thus, māyā has two functions: one is to keep the jīva in ignorance, and the second is to keep it entangled in the material world. The jīva is ‘under the influence’ of these two eternally.

To summarize the basic characteristics of māyā in Śrī Jīva’s commentary (ch. f. page 178 of Śrī Babaji’s commentary):

  1. Māyā does not exist within Bhagavān.
  2. Māyā does not exist without Bhagavān’s support.
  3. Māyā exists outside Bhagavān.
  4. Māyā is perceived when Bhagavān is not perceived.
  5. Māyā is not perceived when Bhagavān is perceived.

Categories: Definitions, Māyā

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10 replies »

  1. Srī Bhagavān controls and maintains his aparā-sakti which is inert (Jada) through his parā-sakti (svarūpa-sakti/antaranga-sakti), Srī Bhagavati who is non-different from the lord,

    The svarūpa-sakti as jīva-māyā controls the jada-prakriti. The jada-prakriti (jada-māyā/guna-māyā) which is always subject to modification has the three qualities (gunas), sattva, rajas and Tamas. The presiding deities of these respective gunas are Srī (Sattva), Bhū (Rajas) and Durgā (Tamas)

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  2. TK ji, There are only two conscious entities:

    1. Bhagavān (saktimān)/Bhagavatī (svarūpa-sakti)
    2. Jīva (Tatastha-sakti)

    You referred to Jīva-māyā as Durgā. Now to which category this Jīva-māyā belongs? Ishwara-tattva or Jīva-tattva? If it belongs to Jiva-tattva it is just nimitta-mātra because Bhagavān/Bhagavatī is the kartā.

    Jiva Goswami tells in the Anuchheda 22 that Māyā which is inert by nature works under the control of svarūpa-sakti like a piece of iron moves under the influence of a magnet taking SB 5.18.38 as Pramāna.

    Another analogy is Svarūpa-sakti is like electricity and the māyā is like an electrical Machine

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      • Namaste. If Durgā is a concious entity, how can she be a third category of conciousness? Conciousness can only be Ishvara (including Parshadas like Lakshmi etc.) or jivātmā. I dont think there is any pramāna for a third category of conciousness. Bahiranga shakti is only jada (inert) as far as I know.

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  3. TK ji, You have written:

    ” Two aspects of māyā

    In Anuccheda 17, Śrī Jīva writes that he wishes to begin an analysis Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. For this analysis, he begins first by analyzing Bhagavān’s’ external śakti, māyā. He starts by quoting a verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, from which he derives the concept that there are two aspects to māyā:

    सर्वभूतेषु सर्वात्मन् या शक्तिपरा तव।गुणाश्रया नमस्तस्यै शाश्वतायै सुरेश्वर।।यातीतगोचरा वाचां मनसां चाविशेषणा।ज्ञानिज्ञानपरिच्छेद्या वन्दे तामीश्वरीं पराम्।। O Supreme Self of all selves! O controller of the gods! I bow down to your external inferior śakti (aparā), the support of the three guṇas, which exist in all beings. I further worship your all powerful śakti (par ), which is a goddess beyond the reach of word, mind and sense objects, devoid of distinguishing characteristics, and which illuminates the wisdom of the wise. (VP 1.19.76-77)

    This verse makes two sub-divisions within māyā: a parā (superior) śakti and an aparā (inferior) śakti. The parā śakti is described as a goddess, implying the conscious aspect of māyā, understood to be Durgā. The aparā śakti is inert, and composed of the three guṇas which are not conscious.

    He adds that सैषा बहुवृत्तिकैव ज्ञेया “परास्य शक्तिर्विविधैव श्रूयते” – This latter parā śakti manifests in multiple forms as confirmed by the phrase parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate. Thus, Durgā manifests in different forms as Kāli, Cāmuṇḍa, and so on.”

    The VP 1.19.76-77 verse actually talks of parā-sakti which is the antaranga-sakti/svarūpa-sakti & aparā-sakti which is the inert bahiranga-sakti. It’s not about parā being the jīva-māyā & aparā being the guna-māyā.

    You can confirm it with Bābāji’s translation of the verse and Anuchheda 17 and his commentary to the Anuchheda

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    • Hariji, The words parā and aparā simply mean superior and inferior. The articles here are not only based on the book, but also on Babaji’s lectures on this topic, in which he emphasized this interpretation. If you have access to his lectures, listen to Bhagavat Sandarbha 25/26. In any case, there can be no doubt if you read Anuccheda 18. Like I said, I will follow up with an article on this. But thanks for your attention to detail here!

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