Bhagavān, in the form of Paramātmā, is present in every living being. And yet, He does not ever identify with any body, unlike the jīva, who, even though present in only one body, and despite hearing from scripture thousands of times, cannot let go of its false misidentification with the body. Why is this so? This is particularly vexing, because, in truth, the jīva is not bound, but ever liberated, as we have seen elsewhere.
In this context, Anuchheda 90 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva discusses a reply of Śrī Maitreya to questions asked by Śrī Vidura. Śrī Vidura presents his question in the following verse:
bhagavān eka evaiṣa sarva-kṣetreṣv avasthitaḥ |
amuṣya durbhagatvaṁ vā kleśo vā karmabhiḥ kutaḥ || [bhā.pu. 3.7.6]
This Bhagavān, who is One alone, exists in all fields. How then can that one [the jīva] experience misfortune and distress as a consequence of conditional action (karma)? (sb 3.7.6)
Śrī Jīva interprets the question as follows:
tatra sati katham amuṣya jīvasya durbhagatvaṁ svarūpa-bhūta-jñānādi-lopaḥ, karmabhiḥ kleśaś ca tasya vā kuto nāsti ? na hy ekasmin jalādau sthitayor vastunoḥ kasyacit tat-saṁsargaḥ, kasyacin neti yujyata ity arthaḥ ||
Of the jīva and Paramātmā, how is it that only one, the jīva, undergoes the misfortune of losing its intrinsic awareness and experiences distress because of conditional action (karma)? Why do these not also accrue to Him [Paramātmā]? It is not logical that when two objects lie in the same reservoir of water, one has contact with the water and the other does not.
Another related question is, how the jīva becomes conditioned to think it is material even though it is self-aware. The jīva’s consciousness, or the sense of “I”, is inherent to it, and as such, cannot be lost through the influence of space, time, or circumstance. Yet, the jīva is deprived of the awareness of its own self, and becomes absorbed in matter. Vidura asks this question in the verse preceding the above one (i.e. SB3.7.5).
The reply of Śrī Maitreya as follows:
seyaṁ bhagavato māyā yan nayena virudhyate |
īśvarasya vimuktasya kārpaṇyam uta bandhanam || [bhā.pu. 3.7.9]
Such is Bhagavān’s extrinsic potency [māyā], which contradicts all logic, for [due to its influence] the living entity, who [by nature] is a ruler and liberated, experiences impoverishment and bondage. (SB3.7.9)
Because the verse has the term bhagavato māyā (Bhagavān’s māyā), it is clear that Bhagavān is free from the control of māyā, because it belongs to Him. On the other hand, the jīva, even though actually liberated because it is equipped with inherent self-awareness, is as if devoid of self-awareness, and becomes entangled in māyā. This contradicts logic, because any quality that is inherent to an entity, can never be covered or lost. And yet, this is precisely the jīva’s condition, and this is so because māyā is inconceivable (acintya), and therefore ‘contradicts all logic’ (nayena virudhyate). This of course does not mean that māyā is to blame for the jīva’s condition, because its condition is beginningless, and therefore without a cause.
Śrī Jīva summarizes his extensive ensuing discussion that goes till the the end of Anuccheda 92 as follows:
tasmād bhagavato’cintya-svarūpāntaraṅga-mahā-prabala-śaktitvād bahiraṅgayā prabalayāpy acintyayāpi māyayāpi na spṛṣṭiḥ | jīvasya tu tayā spṛṣṭir iti siddhāntitam
Therefore, the conclusion is that because Bhagavān has supremely powerful, inconceivable intrinsic śaktis that belong to His essential nature, He is not affected by māyā, His extrinsic śakti, even though it too is powerful and inconceivable. It is concluded, however, that the jīva is affected by māyā.
This, then is the difference between the jīva and Bhagavān – the jīva lacks Bhagavān’s antaraṅgā śakti. Bhagavān’s antaraṅgā śakti‘s essence is prema, which is present in His svarūpa alone. It follows that if the jīva had (dormant) prema as is mistakenly believed, it could not be conditioned by māyā. The one and only solution to its predicament is to receive bhakti to Bhagavān, by which it can become situated again in its own self-awareness.