jīva-tattva

Is the jīva’s bondage real?

The root cause of suffering is the jīva’s identification with the body. Is this identification real? This question is pertinent, because the pure ātmā is immutable or unchangeable. If bondage is in its essence, or svarūpa, then that bondage can never be removed, because that would violate the ātmā’s immutabiity.

The functions of vidyā and avidyā

In Anuchheda 54, Sri Jīva Goswami examines the following verse in the context of explaining the nimitta part of māyā:

vidyāvidye mama tanū viddhy uddhava śarīriṇām |

bandha-mokṣa-karī ādye māyayā me vinirmite || [bhā.pu. 11.11.3]

O Uddhava, know that knowledge (vidyā) and ignorance (avidyā) are My two forms [energies], created by My māyā. They are beginningless and cause the bondage and release of the embodied beings, (sb 11.11.3)

This verse explains that the avidyā part of māyā puts the jīva in bondage, that is to say, the jīva is forced to undergo birth and death in different life forms, enduring the results of its karma. Conversely, the vidyā part of māyā leads the jīva to liberation from bondage.

Now, both vidyā and avidyā are said to be ‘created’ (vinirmite) by māyā in the verse. Does this mean then that these are not beginningless? The answer is ‘no’, because the word ādye is used in the verse as an adjective of vidyāvidye, which Sri Jiva takes to mean anādī or beginningless. Thus, the word vinirmite simply means ‘manifest’, and not ‘created’.

There is a problem with this. Liberation begins at some point and never ends (ananta). So how can the word anādī or beginningless be used for liberation?

Bondage is the beginningless absence of awareness of liberation 

Sri Jiva writes:

jīvasya svato muktatvam eva – the jīva is liberated in its own inherent nature.

That is, the bondage of the jīva is not in its svarūpa. As such, bondage can come to an end. But then does the bondage even exist? He writes:

bandhas tv avidyā-mātreṇa pratītaḥ

There is but an appearance of bondage due to avidyā alone.

Thus, there is only apparent bondage- it is not actually present in the ātmā. Further,

vidyodaye tu tat prakāśate mātram | tato nitya eva mokṣa iti bhāvaḥ|

When knowledge arises, the liberated state is simply brought to light. So, the intended sense is that liberation is the jīva’s permanent state.

This topic can be understood with the famous rope and snake analogy. When we mistake a rope in a dimly lit room for a snake, the snake does not factually exist- it is not real. The rope is real. In the same way, bondage of the jīva is not factual. It only appears to be so.

Bondage is the beginningless absence of awareness of the jīva’s liberated state. Liberation is the factual beginningless state of the jīva. In this way, the word beginningless can be applied to both liberation and bondage.

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