vijñāna in the catuḥśloki

As discussed in a previous article, the four topics of the Bhāgavata’s catuḥśloki are jñāna, vijñāna, bhakti and prema. The first of the catuḥśloki gives jñāna, while the second gives vijñāna. Śrī Jīva Goswami analyzes the second verse in Anuccheda 96 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha, which goes as follows:

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

That which is perceived only when the underlying essential Reality (artha or Bhagavān) is not perceived, but which is never perceived in the Self (ātmani, i.e. in Bhagavān), you should know to be My māyā, manifesting both as a reflection (ābhāsa) and as darkness (tamas).

SB 2.9.33

We have examined this verse elsewhere in some detail.

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains that Bhagavān gave this definition of māyā in order to specify Himself in terms of what He is not. This was necessary to induce realized knowledge in Brahma. (अथ यथानुभावत्वमुपदिशन् तादृशरूपपादिविशिष्टस्यात्मनो विज्ञापनार्थं व्यतिरेकमुखेन मायालक्षणमाह)

In the verse, the word vidyāt (one should know) instead of viddhi (you should know) was used despite the fact that Bhagavān spoke this verse to Brahmā who was standing in front of Him. This is because by the above definition, māyā cannot be perceived when Bhagavān is perceived; this means that Brahmā was not perceiving māyā during this conversation. Thus, the teaching in this verse is meant for others, and not for Brahmā, who was directly experiencing the truth of this statement. The point is that as long as one is not free from māyā, one cannot realize Bhagavān. Thus, this verse explains vijñāna or direct realization of Bhagavān through vyatireka – in terms of what Bhagavān is not.

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains how this verse teaches vijñāna as follows:

व्यतिरेकमुखेनानुभावनस्यायं भावः – शब्देन निर्धारितस्यापि मत्स्वरुपादेर्मायाकार्यावेशेनैवानुभवो न भवति।अतस्तदर्थं मायात्याजनमेव कर्तव्यमिति। एतेन तदविनाभावात् प्रेमाप्यनुभावित इति गम्यते।

The purpose of apprehending the truth in terms of what it is not (vyatireka) is this: Even after ascertaining My essential nature and so on [conceptually] through the medium of revealed sound, one cannot realize them directly as long as one is identified with the products of māyā [i.e. as long as one has attachment to material things independent of service to Bhagavān]. Thus to awaken such vision, one must purposefully let go of māyā. From this, it can be understood that the Lord also induced Brahmā to experience love for Him, because it is inherent in His nature [lit. because the absence of prema is completely absent in Him].

Realization of Bhagavān means the attainment of prema for Him. Śrī Jīva Goswami discusses prema in the next verse of the catuḥśloki, which we will take up in an upcoming article.

Categories: Bhagavān, Māyā

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