Śrī Jīva Goswami explains the Bhāgavatam’s secret

We continue our discussion on the Bhāgavatam’s catuḥśloki. The third item of the catuḥśloki according to Bhagavān, the speaker of the catuḥśloki, is rahasya or secret. Yet, a first look at the verse offers no such rahasya to the reader. Śrī Jīva Goswami takes this verse up in the Bhagavat Sandarbha Anuchheda 96, and beautifully explains how it contains the greatest secret in all of existence, prema!

Here is the verse:

yathā mahānti bhūtāni bhūteṣūccāvaceṣv anu
praviṣṭāny apraviṣṭāni tathā teṣu na teṣv aham

Just as the great elements pervade the physical bodies of all living beings, higher and lower, and yet subsist outside of them as well [in a non-pervasive state], similarly I pervade all living beings and yet remain apart from them. SB 2.9.34

The common meaning of this verse given by commentators does not explain prema.

The conventional meaning of this verse is straightforward. Prakṛti undergoes transformation when the universe is created. It goes through the stages of mahat-tattva, ahaṅkāra, manas, indriya, tan-mātrās, and ultimately the five mahā-bhūtas. The mahā-bhūtas combine or mix together to form various products in material world. But these elements are not only present in mixed form, but also in their unmixed forms outside the universe, where they exist as layers. So the verse explains that just as the mahā-bhūtas pervade all objects in the material world but are also outside, in the same way Bhagavān is also in every living being and outside every living being.

But it is not at all clear how this verse gives the rahasya of prema.

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains why this verse is not more explicit about its rahasya, prema.

First, Śrī Jīva Goswami notes that Bhagavān mentioned before He began the catuḥśloki that He would reveal jnāna, vijnāna, rahasya and aṅga. Therefore, this verse must contain the rahasya as it is the third verse in the sequence. But if that is the case, why does the verse, which seems ordinary at first glance, not mention the rahasya, prema, clearly? Śrī Jīva Goswami explains this as follows:

अपि च रहस्यं नाम ह्येतदेव यत् परमदुर्लभं वस्तु दुष्टोदासीनजनदृष्टिनिवारणार्थं साधारणवस्त्वन्तरेणाच्छाद्यते यथा चिन्तामणिः सम्पुटादिना।अत एव “परोक्षवादा ऋषयः परोक्ष च मम प्रियम्” इति भगवद्वाक्यं च।

Furthermore, the concept of confidentiality (rahasyatva) is truly fulfilled here, for that indeed is called rahasya which is most rare and is hidden away from miscreants and indifferent people by covering it with another, ordinary object, just as a precious jewel is kept hidden in a box. For as the Lord says, “the seers keep their meaning out of sight (परोक्षवादाः), and I am pleased by such hidden explanations” (SB 11.21.35).

तदेव च परोक्षं क्रियते यददेयं विरलप्रचारं महद्वस्तु भवति। अस्यैवादेयत्वं विरलप्रचारत्वं महत्वं च “मुक्तिं ददाति कर्हिचित् स्म न भक्तियोगम्” (भा ५/६/१८) इत्यादिषु बहुत्र व्यक्तम्। स्वयं चैतदेव श्रीभगवता परमभक्ताभ्यामर्जुनोद्धावाभ्यां कण्ठोक्त्यैव कथितम् “सर्वगुह्यतमं भूयः श्रृणु मे परमं वचः (गीता १८/६४) इत्यादिना। “सुगोप्यमपि वक्ष्यामि” (भा ११/११/४६) इत्यादिना च।इदमेव रहस्यं श्रीनारदाय स्वयं श्रीब्रह्मणैव प्रकटीकृतम् (भा २/७/५१-५२) –

Only something that is not to be given away (अदेयत्व), that is scarcely known (विरल-प्रचारत्व), and that is of the utmost importance (महत्त्व), is kept hidden from view (परोक्ष). These three qualities are all characteristic of prema alone, as is clearly stated in many verses, such as, “The Lord sometimes awards liberation, but never Bhakti-yoga” (SB 5.6.18). Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself has also stated this directly to His great devotees Arjuna and Uddhava in verses like, “Hear once more My supreme words, which are most confidential” (Gītā 18.64), and, “Although it is to be kept most hidden, I shall speak it to you” (SB 11.11.49).

How the catuḥśloki verse explains prema

In the above verse,

tathā teṣu na teṣv aham = similarly, I (aham) am in them (teṣu) but not in them (na teṣu),

is the common translation, and this is how the verse was translated above. Śrī Jīva notes a problem with this translation. Saying “tathā teṣu aham” is sufficient for conveying the meaning. That is, “Just as the great elements pervade the physical bodies of all living beings, higher and lower, and yet subsist outside of them as well, similarly I am in [relation to] them.” Adding, “I am not in them” adds nothing, because the analogy with entering and non-entering of the elements is complete simply with the use of teṣv aham.

Thus, Śrī Jīva ingeniously takes the na teṣu to be nateṣu, one word. nateṣu is the locative plural of the word nata, which is itself is a past participle made from the verbal root nam, and carries the meaning of ‘surrendered’. Thus he explains,

teṣu = tadtadguṇavikhyāteṣu = who are well-known for their virtuous qualities


nateṣu = praṇatajaneṣu = surrendered souls.

Here then is Śrī Jīva’s explanation of the verse:

यथा महाभूतानि भूतेष्वप्रविष्टानि बहिःस्थितान्यपि अनुप्रविष्टान्यन्तःस्थितानि भान्ति तथा लोकातीतवैकुण्ठस्थितत्वेन अप्रविष्टोSप्यहं तेषु तत्तद्गुणविख्यातेषु नतेषु प्रणतजनेषु प्रविष्टो हृदि स्थितोSहं भामि।

Just as the great elements, though existing in a non-pervasive state, meaning that they subsist outside the physical bodies of living beings, nonetheless enter within them, meaning that they appear to be situated within them, similarly, though I have not entered into the living beings due to being situated in Vaikuṇṭha, which is beyond the material world, I nonetheless appear within the heart of surrendered souls (nateṣu) who are well-known for their virtuous qualities (teṣu).

Śrī Jīva further explains why prema is a rahasya or secret. He writes,

तदेवं तेषां तादृगात्मवशकारिणी प्रेमभक्तिर्नाम रहस्यमिति सूचितम्.

This verse thus indicates the rahasya, or mystery, which is another name for the devotees’ loving devotion (prema-bhakti). It is mysterious because it has the power to control even the Lord, the indwelling Self [and regulator] of all living beings as described here.

Two verses from the Brahma saṁhitā are a commentary on this third verse of the catuḥśloki.

Śrī Jīva mentions two verses from the Brahma saṁhitā in this context. They are reproduced below:

ānanda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhāvitābhis tābhir ya eva nija-rūpatayā kalābhiḥ
goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūto govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

I worship Govinda, the original Supreme Person, who though present in the self of every living being, ever resides in Goloka in His own form, accompanied by His own expansions [the gopīs], who are completely permeated by the conscious and blissful rasa [of love].

premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeSpi vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

I worship Govinda, the original Supreme Person, whose essential being of inconceivable attributes is a beautiful blackish form that the sages, their eyes clarified by the salve of love, see constantly in their hearts also. (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.37-38)

The reason these two verses acts as a commentary on the third verse of the catuḥśloki is as follows. The first verse mentions how Bhagavān resides inside the heart of His devotees (ātma-bhūto = praviṣṭāni from the catuḥśloki verse) and also resides in Goloka which is outside them (goloka eva nivasati = apraviṣṭāni from the catuḥśloki verse).

Thus Śrī Jīva gives an alternative meaning:

यद् वा तेषु यथा तानि बहिःस्थितानि चान्तःस्थितानि च भान्ति तद्वत् भक्तेष्वहमन्तर्मनोवृत्तिषु बहिरिन्द्रियवृत्तिषु च विस्फुरामीति च।भक्तेषु सर्वथाSनन्यवृत्तिताहेतुर्नाम किमपि स्वप्रकाशं प्रेमाख्यमानन्दात्मकं वस्तु मम रहस्यमिति व्यञ्जितम्।

“Just as the cosmic elements appear outside the living beings as well inside them, I similarly appear both within the minds as well as external senses of My devotees. In other words, the cause behind the devotees having no object other than Me in their thoughts or actions is a self-luminous substance, blissful in nature, called prema. This substance is My rahasya, or secret. “

Such a meaning is possible in the second verse of the Brahma-saṁhitā above because the verse has the word ‘hradyeSpi’ in it. Here the word ‘api’ is taken to mean seeing Bhagavān externally by the eyes. The devotees see His form outside, and see Him inside in their minds, both with eyes of devotion anointed with the salve of love.

Thus, He is seen both outside and inside by devotees who possess prema. This fulfills the meaning of the third verse of the catuḥśloki.

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