A jīva can never become a gopī

There are so many apasiddhāntas floating around in some modern Caitanya sects these days that one could go on refuting them and never reach the end!

One rather startling notion I have come across is that we, the jīvas, can become gopīs or gopas in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s līlās. While such claims may not be openly made in public, I know of people who harbor notions of being a sakhā, a sakhī (i.e. a gopī), or a spouse of Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrī Balarāma! In such situations, I like to say, “हसावे कि रडावे हेच कळत नाही!” – one does not know whether to laugh or to cry!

Śrī Jīva Goswami has done such a comprehensive analysis in the Sandarbhas, that one can easily turn to him for guidance on these matters; yet few try to do so. It is not for nothing that he is considered the founder of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism! Unfortunately for the theory that a jīva can become a gopī, Śrī Jīva explains that the gopīs as well as Kṛṣṇa’s wives are Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śaktis. Jīvas are taṭastha-śakti, and as such, can never be on the same level as svarūpa-śakti even after siddhi.

The gopīs and Kṛṣṇa’s wives are His svarūpa-śaktis

In Anuccheda 183, Śrī Jīva establishes that the 16000 wives of Kṛṣṇa (and by extension, the wives of Balarāma) are His svarūpa-śaktis. He writes:

śrī-mahiṣīṇāṁ tadīya-svarūpa-śaktitvaṁ skānda-prabhāsa-khaṇḍe śrī-śiva-gaurī-saṁvāde gopyāditya-māhātmye dṛṣṭam

– That the mahiṣīs [queens] are Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti is described in the Gopyāditya-māhātmya of the Skānda-prabhāsa-khaṇḍa in a dialogue between Śrī Śiva and Gaurī.

The verses he cites are rather long, and so I refer the reader to the Annucheda for them. In Anuccheda 186 of the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva writes:

atha vṛndāvane tadīya-svarūpa-śakti-prādurbhāvāś ca śrī-vraja-devyaḥ

– the Vraja devīs are manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti in Vṛndāvana.

He cites the famous verse of the Brahma-samhita to support this:

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

I worship that original purusa, Śrī Govinda, who, being unalterably the very Self and dearmost object of love of all the residents of Goloka and other beloved associates (akhilātma-bhūtaḥ), ever resides only in Goloka, accompanied by the gopīs, who are expansions (kalābhiḥ) of His own intrinsic potency of delight [hlādini-śakti], being embodiments of His own form (nija-rūpatayā), and who are completely permeated by the rasa [of love], which is of the nature of consciousness and bliss.

Bramha-samhita 5.37

In his commentary on this verse, Śrī Jīva glosses the word nija-rūpatayā as sva-svarupatayā, meaning “with the gopis who are embodiments of His own essential being and form”.

So no, the jīva is not qualified to be a spouse of Bhagavān, and most certainly not qualified to be a gopī. Those roles are eternally taken by those beings who are constituted of Bhagavān’s own svarūpa-śakti. Likewise with the gopas. That is to say, these beings are basically Bhagavān Himself. As such, one will accomplish nothing by thinking that one is a sakhī or spouse of Śrī Balarāma or Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

What about verses which depict jīvas becoming gopīs?

In Anuccheda 43 of the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami makes reference to the Vedas personified, the sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya, and the sons of Agni. These three groups of jīvas attained gopī forms in Kṛṣṇa-līlā through the performance of austerities. Bhāgavata purāṇa 10.87.23 mentions the Vedas achieving gopī forms, Padma purāṇa uttara khaṇḍa 245.164-165 mentions that the sages of the Daṇḍaka forest achieved gopī forms, and the Mahākurma purāṇa, cited in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, states that the sons of Agni achieved gopī forms [see Anuccheda 43, Śrī Babaji’s commentary for details]. How is this to be reconciled with what was written above?

In explaining verse 10.1.21-23 from the Bhāgavata purāṇa which are instructions of Bhagavān relayed by Brahmā to the devas (that the devas and their wives should take birth on earth in advance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s birth), Śrī Jīva Goswami writes –

tat-priyārthaṁ tat-prītyai | sura-striyaḥ śrīmad-upendra-preyasy-ādi-rūpāḥ, kāścit sambhavantu militā bhavantu | sākṣād avatarataḥ śrī-bhagavato nityānapāyi-mahā-śakti-rūpāsu tat-preyasīṣv avatarantīṣu śrī-bhagavati tad-aṁśāntaravat tā api praviśantv ity arthaḥ | tat-priyāṇāṁ tāsām eva dāsy-ādi-prayojanāya jāyantām iti vā

“For His [Kṛṣṇa’s] pleasure, some of the wives of the suras, such as the consort of Śrī Upendra [an aṁśa of Bhagavān], should merge (sambhavantu) into Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds (tat-preyasīṣu). Just as all the diverse aṁśas of the original Bhagavān [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] enter into Him on the occasion of His direct avataric descent, let the consorts as well [of those aṁśas] enter into His beloveds (tat-preyasīṣu), who are embodiments of His eternal inseparable supreme potency, when they too descend along with Him. Alternatively, the compound tat-priyārthaṁ could be taken to mean, “for the purpose (artham) of rendering service to his (tat) beloveds (priyāṇāṁ), let them take birth. “

The problem here is that the wives of the devas, being jīvas, are not qualified to take birth as gopīs. Śrī Jīva presents two meanings of the verse –

  1. The wives of the devas refer to wives of Bhagavān’s expansions (such as Śrī Upendra), and so they can merge into the Kṛṣṇa’s eternal consorts such as Rukmiṇī, just as Bhagavān’s expansions all merge into Him when He descends on earth.
  2. The wives of the devas are jīvas, who can serve the gopīs in Vṛndāvana and the queens in Dvārakā. The wives of the devas do not have the intrinsic eligibility necessary to become Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds or wives, who are His eternal counterparts and direct embodiments of His own svarūpa-śakti.

Śrī Jīva is entirely consistent with what Śrī Caitanya taught the jīvas – to serve Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. Thinking oneself as a sakhā or gopī goes against Śrī Caitanya’s teachings. In the Caitanya tradition, one must aspire to be a servant always, in keeping with one’s humble position as taṭastha-śakti, which is eternally inferior to the svarūpa-śakti.

Śrī Jīva highlights this point in the context of the three groups of jīvas mentioned above:

tad evaṁ śrutīnāṁ ca daṇḍakāraṇya-vāsināṁ munīnāṁ cāgni-putrāṇāṁ ca śrī-gopikāditva-prāptir yat śrūyate, tad api pūrvavad eva mantavyam |

In this way, when it is said that the śrutīs, the sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya, and the sons of Agni attained the position of Kṛṣṇa’s gopīs, that too should be understood precisely along the lines of what has been explained here [i.e. they attained servitorship of them].

Proof that the jīvas cannot appear as gopīs

Śrī Jīva Goswami emphatically rejects the notion that the devas’ wives, who are jīvas, can literally appear as gopīs (which is the meaning that arises from a literal reading of verse 10.1.23; see Anuccheda 43 for the verse itself) –

atra prasiddhārthe, nāyaṁ śriyo’ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto’nyāḥ [bhā.pu. 10.47.60] iti virudhyeta | na ca sura-strīṇāṁ sambhava-vākyaṁ śrī-mahiṣī-vṛnda-paraṁ, tāsām api tan-nija-śakti-rūpatvena darśayiṣyamāṇatvāt |

In this regard, if the literal meaning of the above verse were to be accepted [i.e. the wives of the devas (sura-striyaḥ) would personally appear as Kṛṣṇa’s beloved gopīs], it would contradict Uddhava’s statement [glorifying the unique position of the gopīs]:

nāyaṁ śriyo’ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto’nyāḥ rāsotsave ’sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-vallabhīnām –

The grace bestowed upon the cowherd women of Vraja, whose longing was fulfilled when Kṛṣṇa danced with them in the rāsa festival, placing His stout arms about their necks, as not attained by Lakṣmī (Śrī), who is ever attached to His breast, nor by the celestial damsels, who are favored with the fragrance and splendor of a lotus. How then could other women expect to receive such grace? (SB 10.47.60)

The gopīs’ position is so unique, that Uddhava was moved to proclaim that even Śrī Lakṣmī, Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, could not attain the grace received by the gopīs. What then is the position of jīvas like the wives of the devas? What further, then, is the position of ignorant souls in the material world who are arrogant enough to imagine themselves as sakhīs or consorts of Bhagavān?

Just to make sure that there is no wiggle room left for the jīva-can-take-the-position-of-antaraṅgā-śakti theory, Śrī Jīva Goswami concludes –

 na ca sura-strīṇāṁ sambhava-vākyaṁ śrī-mahiṣī-vṛnda-paraṁ, tāsām api tan-nija-śakti-rūpatvena darśayiṣyamāṇatvāt |

Nor should it be conjectured that this statement, regarding the appearance of the wives of the suras, implies that they attained the position of Kṛṣṇa’s wives [in Dvarakā] instead, because it will be shown that they too belong to His own intrinsic potency.


1. Being taṭastha śakti, no jīva has the qualification to be a gopī. The gopīs are manifestations of Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. By extension, no jīva has the qualification to be a sakhā.

2. When jīvas are mentioned as achieving gopī forms in Krsna-līlā, it is to be understood that they became the servants of the gopīs.

3. Thinking one can become a gopī or a consort of Bhagavān is a delusion.

Categories: Bhagavān, jīva-tattva

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