The conscious jīva-māyā is distinct from the jīva

In a previous post, we examined Śrī Jīva’s explanation of māyā in which he divided māyā into two divisions, jīva-māyā and guṇa-māyā. Jīva-māyā is Durgā, and guṇa-māyā refers to inert prakṛti. Questions were raised about whether it is really Śrī Jīva’s view that jīva-māyā is a conscious entity, and that she is Durgā, and whether conscious jīva-māyā is distinct from the jīvas. Here, we examine these questions more closely.

Jīva-māyā is a conscious entity

Interestingly, Śrī Jīva raises similar questions and answers them in Anuchheda 33 of the Tattva Sandarbha. But first, we examine Anuchheda 32, in which Śrī Jīva quotes the following verse from the Bhāgavatam:

vilajjamānayā yasya sthātum īkṣā-pathe ’muyā
vimohitā vikatthante mamāham iti durdhiyaḥ

I offer obeisance to Śrī Bhagavān, before whom the bahiraṅgā śakti is ashamed to stand. Being bewildered by her, those devoid of insight boast of “I” and “Mine”. (SB 2.5.13)

Śrī Jīva comments:

अत्र “विलज्जमानया” इत्यनेनेदमायाति तस्या जीवसम्महोहनं कर्म श्री भगवते न रोचत इति यद्यपि सा स्वयं जानाति। तथापि भयं द्वितीयाभिनिवेशतः स्यादीशादपेतस्य” इति दिशा जीवानामनादिभगवदज्ञानमयवैमुख्यमसहमाना स्वरूपावरणमस्वरूपावेशं च करोति।

Here, we can infer from the phrase “being ashamed” that although māyā knows that her work of bewildering the living beings does not please Śrī Bhagavān, still she cannot tolerate their perversion of attention in the form of beginningless ignorance of Him. SB 11.2.37 illustrates this condition [bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād īśād apetasya viparyayo ‘smṛtiḥ]. As a consequence, Māyā covers their real nature and entices them to identify with that which they are not (asvarūpa).

Pertinent to us here is the fact that Māyā ‘feels ashamed’, that is, she knows (sā jānāti) that Bhagavān is not pleased with her work. This sentence already suggests that Māyā is also a conscious entity.

In Anuccheda 33 of Tattva Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva identifies this conscious Māyā as a devotee of Bhagavān:

श्रीभगवांशचानादित एव भक्तायां प्रपञ्चाधिकारिण्यां तस्यां दाक्षिण्यं लङ्घितुं न शक्नोति। तथा तद्भयेनापि जीवानां स्वसाम्मुख्यं वाञ्छन्नुपदिशति.

For his part, Śrī Bhagavān cannot withdraw His favor from Māyā, whom He has delegated as the controlling agent of the material creation and who has been His devotee from time without beginning. Still, He wills that the jīvas direct their awareness toward Him, even if they happen to do so out of fear of māyā.

Now, he takes up the question of how māyā can be a person, when māyā is generally understood to be inert or jaḍa.

ननु माया खलु शक्तिः। शक्तिश्च कार्यक्षमत्वम्।तच् च धर्मविशेषः। तस्याः कथं लज्जादिकम्?

One may, however, object that māyā is but a śakti, and as a śakti, it is tied to its functional capacity and its characteristic nature [which belongs to and is wielded by its conscious Source (dharmi)]. How then can māyā feel shame or other similar sentiments?

In other words, śakti connotes an impersonal entity which is possessed by a conscious person. How can śakti have a form?

उच्यते- एवं सति अपि भगवति तासां शक्तीनामधिष्ठातृदेव्यः श्रूयन्ते यथा केनोपनिषदि महेन्द्रमाययोः संवादः।

The answer is that although māyā is in fact a potency, we do hear from the Vedic scriptures about goddesses who preside over potencies residing in the Supreme Lord. We find an instance of this in the dialogue between Lord Indra and māyā in the Kena Upaniṣad.

Of note, Māyā in the Kena Upaniṣad dialogue is Umā, the consort of Lord Śiva, and not Lakṣmi, the svarūpa śakti of Bhagavān. This identifies the conscious aspect of māyā as Durgā.

In the commentary to this Anuccheda, Śrī Babaji notes that there are many similar accounts which demonstrate how māyā and other energies of Bhagavān have their own personal forms. Śrī Vyāsa, in his vision which forms the basis of the Bhāgavatam, saw Māyā standing behind the Lord out of embarrassment. This is not a figurative description but a literal one.

Now that we have established that māyā has a form, and that she is Umā or Durgā, we now move on to the next question: is this Durgā a jīva or a separate śakti of Bhagavān?

Durgā is not a jīva

We return to Anuccheda 18 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha. Śrī Jīva writes,

अत्र शुद्धजीवस्यापि चिद्रूपत्वेविशेषेण तदीयरश्मिस्थानीयत्वेन च स्वान्तःपात एव विवक्षितः| Here, the pure jīva is counted in the same category as Bhagavān, because of being conscious like Him [which means that the jīva is distinct from guṇa-māyā] and is like a ray of the sun-like Lord [which makes the jīva distinct from jīva-māyā].

With this comment, Śrī Jīva has excluded the jīva from the two sub-divisions of māyā, namely conscious māyā and inert māyā. Durgā is not the jīva, but she is the personification of Bhagavān’s bahiraṅgā śakti. [Durgā’s consort, Lord Śiva is similarly not a jīva, but I digress].

Durgā is not Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti

We now turn to Anuccheda 99 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha. There, Śrī Jīva explains Lakṣmi, the svarūpa śakti of Bhagavān, by citing the following verse from the Bhāgavatam:

śriyā puṣṭyā girā kāntyā kīrtyā tuṣṭyelayorjayā vidyayāvidyayā śaktyā māyayā ca niṣevitam: Also in attendance were the Lord’s personified śaktis- Śrī, Puṣṭi, Gīr, Kānti, Kīrti, Tuṣṭi, Ilā and Ūrjā, Vidyā, Avidyā, Māyā, and Śakti. (SB 10.39.55)

Śrī Jīva’s commentary is as follows:

शक्तिर्महालक्ष्मीरूपा स्वरूपभूता।शक्तिशब्दस्य प्रथमप्रवृत्त्याश्रयरूपा भगवदन्तरङ्गमहाशक्तिः।माया च बहिरङ्गा शक्तिः।श्र्यादयस्तु तयोरेव वृत्तिरूपाः।तासां सर्वासामपि प्राकृताप्राकृतताभेदेन श्रूयमानत्वात्।ततः श्रियेत्यादौ शक्तिवृत्तिरूपया मायावृत्तिरूपया चेति सर्वत्र ज्ञेयम्। Here Śakti means the svarūpa śakti in the form of Mahālakṣmi. The supreme svarūpa śakti of Bhagavān is the entity denoted by the primary meaning of the word śakti. And Māyā is the bahiraṅgā śakti. The other śaktis like Śrī etc. are indeed various manifestations of these two, because the scriptures divide all of them into categories of material and transcendental potencies. It should be understood, therefore, that all of these, beginning with Śrī have two facets: as a manifestation of the svarūpa śakti, and as a manifestation of Māyā.

In a fascinating discussion, he then goes on to show how each of the above names can refer to Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, or refer to Bhagavān’s bahiraṅgā śakti. Important to note here is that there is a very good reason for considering these two as distinct śaktis. Bhagavān’ svarūpa śakti is called that, because by her very nature, she serves Him in His own abode. Conversely, Māyā is called bahiraṅgā śakti because she serves Him by taking the support of the Puruṣa (Paramātmā), while remaining at a distance from Him (बहिरङ्गसेवित्वं च तस्या भगवदंशभूतपुरूषस्य विदूरवर्तितयैवाश्रितत्वात्). This is what Vyāsa saw in his vision. By definition, the svarūpa śakti can never be distant from Bhagavān.

Śrī Jīva makes it very clear that these two śaktis are distinct (माया बहिरङ्गा, तद्वृत्तयः श्र्यादयस्तु पृथक् ज्ञेयाः).


Bhagavān has three types of śaktis: svarūpa śakti, bahiraṅgā śakti and taṭastha (jīva) śakti. The bahiraṅgā śakti has two broad divisions in it: a conscious controlling deity, and inert matter. The other two śaktis are conscious alone and do not have any inert aspect to them. The svarūpa śakti and conscious bahiraṅgā śakti have further sub-divisions in them, with names that are similar, and functions that appear similar. However, their functions are in different locations (the spiritual world and the material world respectively) and have different purposes.

In addition to the ontological status of these śaktis, they are presented in different contexts in scriptures in many different ways. So for example, bahiraṅgā śakti can sometimes be referred to in the scriptures as svarūpa śakti, if it is being emphasized that this śakti belongs to and serves Bhagavān alone and not anyone else.

Categories: Māyā

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