Two types of jīvas

The Madhvā sampradaya, of which the Caitanya sampradāya is often and erroneously claimed to be an offshoot, posits that there are three types of jīvas. These jīvas, that is ātmās, are intrinsically different (svarūpa-bheda). The three types of ātmās are discussed by B.N.K. Sharma, who wrote the book, ‘The Philosophy of Madhvācārya’. As an aside, B.N.K. Sharma was the authoritative scholar on the subject, and was interestingly, also the Head of the Department of Sanskrit at Ruparel College in Mumbai; I have had the pleasure of visiting Ruparel college many times.

The three types of ātmās according to Śrī Madhvācārya are [see page 204 here]

  1. muktiyogya (salvable)
  2. nitya-samsārin (ever-transmigrable)
  3. tamoyogya (damnable)

Only jīvas in category 1 can be liberated – the others are intrinsically flawed or defective ātmās who cannot be liberated ever.

Of course, Śrī Jīva Goswami does not agree with this classification at all. For him, all ātmās are identical clones, that is, copies with identical properties. These infinite numbers of ātmās, he explains (in the Paramātmā Sandarbha, Anuccheda 47), fall into two divisions . These divisions are not due to their intrinsic difference, that is not due to differences in their svarūpa, but rather in their beginningless condition.

Two divisions of the ātmās based on their awareness

Śrī Jīva begins the Anuccheda as follows:

tad evam anantā eva jīvākhyās taṭasthāḥ śaktayaḥ | tatra tāsāṁ varga-dvayam

In this way, there are verily unlimited intermediary śaktis, called jjīvas. They form two groups.

Both divisions fall ultimately into one group of taṭastha śaktis. Over the years, I have seen this question over and over again – are the jīvas who are in Vaikuṇṭha still taṭastha? Śrī Jīva’s answer is an emphatic ‘yes’.

Here is the difference between the two:

eko vargo’nādita eva bhagavad-unmukhaḥ, anyas tv anādita eva bhagavat-parāṅmukhaḥ,

One consists of those whose consciousness is turned toward Bhagavān (bhagavad-unmukha) without beginning; the other consists of those whose consciousness is turned away from Bhagavan (bhagavat-parāṅmukha) with no beginning.

The word anādi shows up here, which, as we have seen many times before on this site, means beginningless, i.e. without cause. The two divisions of jīvas are the way they are without any reason or cause for their condition. This refutes the nonsensical notion propagated by many of an ‘anādi choice’ which condemned some jīvas to existence in the material world.

What is the meaning of ‘consciousness turned away from’ or ‘turned towards’ Bhagavān? Śrī Jīva answers:

svabhāvatas tadīya-jñāna-bhāvāt, tadīya-jñānābhāvāc ca

This division is according to whether or not they are intrinsically endowed with experiential awareness, or direct knowing, of Bhagavān.

There are some crucial concepts in this seemingly simple sentence. The bhagavad-unmukha jīvas are *intrinsically* (svabhāvatas) endowed with experience of Bhagavān. That means, this experience cannot be taken away from them as it is part of their intrinsic nature. Therefore the jīvas of this group cannot make the decision to leave Bhagavān’s service and descend to the material world.

For what reason do the bhagavad-unmukha jīvas have this experience of Bhagavān from beginningless time? Because they are beginninglessly endowed by Bhagavān with His antaraṅgā-śakti [not because they made a choice to be so]:

atra prathamo’ntaraṅgā-śakti-vilāsānugṛhīto nitya-bhagavat-parikara-rūpo garuḍādikaḥ |

Jīvas of the first group are favored by the blessings of Bhagavān’s intrinsic śakti and are His eternal associates, such as Garuḍa,

As this group of jīvas are *intrinsically* (svabhāvatas) endowed with experience of Bhagavān, are they different intrinsically from the second group? As if anticipating this question, he answers:

asya ca taṭasthatvaṁ jīvatva-prasiddher īśvaratva-koṭāv apraveśāt |

The jīvas of the first category [those eternally devoted to Bhagavān] are also classified as part of the intermediary potency (taṭastha), because the widely acknowledged condition that “jīva-hood” entails necessarily excludes them from being included in the same category as īśvara Himself.

They are still taṭastha śakti! The word ‘intrinsically’ simply means that these jīvas cannot ever be divested of the intrinsic śakti of Bhagavān, because of its permanent nature (in contrast to māyā which though beginningless undergoes continual transformation).

What is the other group’s lot then? First, unlike the first group, this group is not endowed with antaraṅgā-śakti which disproves the existence of any dormant prema in these jīvas (that is, in us). Śrī Jīva further writes:

aparasya tat-parāṅmukhatva-doṣeṇa labdha-cchidrayā māyayā paribhūtaḥ saṁsārī |

By contrast, the jīva of the second category are those bound to empirical existence, being overpowered by māyā, which takes advantage of their flaw of indifference to Bhagavān.

The flaw of indifference here simply means a beginningless lack of experience of Bhagavān as stated above. Not some choice that they made. I remember a ‘senior devotee’ who, in a temple lecture, was ‘preaching’ that he had probably fallen from Vaikuṇṭha some ten thousand years ago. After all, “time immemorial’ (the proffered translation of anādi) is a relative term as 10000 years is a *really* long time for us whose life spans are a hundred years at best. I often wonder how Śrī Jīva would react were he here to listen to his self-styled followers mutilate his teachings.

Is there an intrinsic flaw in this second group of jīvas (such as a ‘choice’ they made to leave Bhagavān) that differentiates them from the first group? Śrī Jīva answers that they have the same exact nature as the other group (they are pure – śuddha, just like the first group; māyā cannot defile them in anyway)

tatra parameśvara-parāṅmukhānāṁ śuddhānām api tac-chakti-viśiṣṭāt parameśvarāt sopādhikaṁ janma bhavati |

Although the jīvas whose attention is directed away from Parameśvara are pure [in their inherent nature], they are sub­jected to taking birth along with their upādhis [i.e., the body- mind complex] from Parameśvara [i.e., Paramātmā] who is intrinsically endowed with the jīva potency.


  1. There are two groups of jīvas who are identical in all respects, except, that one group is blessed with Bhagavān’s intrinsic śakti, while the other group is not. This disproves dormant prema in jīvas of the second group.
  2. The intrinsic śakti situates the first group in direct experience of Bhagavān, and this has been ongoing from beginningless time.
  3. The other group is under māyā’s control from beginningless time because they lack experience of Bhagavān. As beginningless means without a cause, this group’s condition is not its own fault, nor the fault of Bhagavān, nor that of māyā.
  4. The second group can also gain direct experience of Bhagavān by practice of bhakti, which shows that the differences between the two groups is not intrinsic.

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10 replies »

  1. Thank you for this enlightening post. Are associates like Lalita sakhi , Subala, Mother Yashoda also taṭastha śakti? Or are these associates in a different category of their own?

    • No they are not. They are part of anataranga sakti. Some modern Caitanya adherents claim that a jiva can be come a sakhi (and not just a manjari) – but that cannot happen. Tatastha remains tatastha. Antaranga will remain antaranga. Sakhis, sakhas, Yasoda etc are nitya-parsadas of Bhagavan.

      • Thank you. That makes sense. A follow up question then, functionally there is no difference between nitya siddha tatastha jivas and nitya-parsadas? They are eternally under svarupa shakti and can never fall down – correct? But the nitya badhas can become like the nitya sidhas, experience similar rasas. Is this understanding correct? Of course some people will object to this and say that the difference between the nitya siddha tatastha jivas and nitya-parsadas is that nitya sidhas have free will to become envious of Krishna and fall down, but you have already shown that this is not the case

      • Functionally, there is a difference between nitya siddha tatastha jivas and nitya parsadas. The nitya parsadas are made of antaranga sakti, and so are Krsna Himself but in a different mood/form. Their service is also of a different type- a sakha can wrestle Krsna- they are on equal terms so to speak. A nitya siddha tatastha jiva can never take on a nitya-parsadas role and cannot be on equal terms with Krsna. So the two cannot experience similar rasas.
        Other than that, yes, neither can fall down. The nitya parsadas do not fall down becasue they are made of antaranga sakti. The nitya siddha tatasthas cannot fall down because they were given antaranga sakti. Nobody in Vaikuntha has free will – not even Krsna as He Himself says – aham bhakta paradhino – He is controlled by His devotees.

      • How is Garuda who is a dAsa-bhakta not a nityapArShada but a Nityasiddha jīva as per Sri Jīva Goswāmī?

      • He called him ‘nitya bhagavat parikara’ above. At the same time, Garuda is a jiva. I guess I dont understand your question. Are you saying that Garuda should not be a jiva but antaranga sakti?

  2. What I meant was what differentiates Garuda(who is an example of a jīva from the likes of sakhAs like Sridama, Subala etc. whom you said were not Nityasiddha jivas but expansions of Antaranga shakti directly. Elsewhere sometimes i there are statements like: “Garuda is an amsha of Shridāma in Vaikuntha” etc.?

    • If you mean how to recognize whether someone is a jiva or expansions of antaranga sakti, only shastra is pramaan for it.. All jivas are amsas .. sometimes the antaranga sakti personalities have jivas merged in them also- as in Yashoda when she descended with Bhagavan on earth.

  3. Namaste,

    “3. The other group is under māyā’s control from beginningless time because they lack experience of Bhagavān. As beginningless means without a cause, this group’s condition is not its own fault, nor the fault of Bhagavān, nor that of māyā.”

    Brahma-samhita says that Krishna is the cause of all causes (sarva karana karanam).

    Is there a way your statement can be reconciled with above from Brahma-samhita?

    Thank you.

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