Those who insist that Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti is in the jīva, erase any essential difference between the jīvas who are taṭasthā śakti, and Bhagavān’s associates who are made of svarūpa śakti. If one were to imagine for a minute that all the jīvas in the material world were liberated, Bhagavān would be left with only two types of śaktis: māyā and svarūpa śakti. Indeed, some try to prove that the jīvas who have become siddha and attained Vaikuṇṭha, are factually the same as Bhagavān’s eternal devotees. The reality is that all jīvas are taṭasthā śakti, a separate category of Bhagavān’s śaktis, irrespective of whether they are in Vaikuṇṭha or in the material world. They do not have the same svarūpa as Bhagavān, and never will.
To see this in more detail, we turn to Śrī Viśvanātha’s commentary on the Bhāgavata purāṇa 6.16.56–57. I provide the Sanskrit and my translation below. This commentary, besides being highly illuminating and conclusive on the topic, is one of the more lucid expositions of the Gauḍiya siddhānta of bheda and abheda. Because of its clarity, I present the translation sentence by sentence, with notes in brackets. This article is long, yet it was a pleasure to write for me. Enjoy!
[First, Śrī Viśvanātha raises the question of how, someone who is in deep sleep, can remember experiencing it in the morning.]
nanu svāpa-sākṣiṇā dṛṣṭaṁ jāgrad-avasthaḥ kathaṁ “sukham aham asvāpsam iti smaret ? na hy anyena dṛṣṭam anyaḥ smarati |
Objection: how does the witness of deep sleep, recall the experience upon waking, that “I slept happily”? It is not that one person can recall something experienced by another.
tatrāha—ubhayaṁ prasvāpaṁ pratibodhaṁ ca smarato’nusandadhataḥ puṁsas tayoḥ prasvāpa-pratibodhayoḥ yad anveti, tābhyāṁ vyatiricyeta, ekaikāpāye’py anapāyāt | taj jñānaṁ jīva ity arthaḥ | ato bālye dṛṣṭasya yauvane smṛtivad avasthāntaratve’pi svāpānandayoḥ smaraṇaṁ ghaṭata iti bhāvaḥ |
(reply:) The person, who experiences deep sleep and wakefulness, is distinct from what he experiences in either of these states, because he is unchanging even as the states change from one to another. The word jñānaṁ refers to the jīva. Therefore, just as one remembers what one has seen in childhood in youth, recall of the happiness of deep sleep is possible even when the state changes (to wakefulness).
[Here the reply is that the jīva is the unchanging witness of changing states. As such, he is able to recall the experience. This is supported with an example. ]
tat paraṁ tato jīvāt paraṁ brahma, na tu sa eva brahmety arthaḥ | jīvasya taṭastha-śaktitvena tad-rūpatve’pi tasya svarūpa-śaktitvābhāvāt | ato bhinnam eva brahmety arthaḥ ||56||
Brahman is different from the jīva, and not that the jīva itself is Brahman. This is because although the jīva is the same as Brahman (tad-rūpatve’pi) owing to being its taṭasthā śakti [i.e. there is abheda between them], it is not Brahman because it is not its svarūpa śakti. Therefore, the meaning is that Brahman is definitely different from the jīva [i.e. there is bheda between them].
[Śrī Viśvanātha continues to explain verse 6.16.56. What he says here is crystal clear and crucial to understand. Why is Brahman (i.e. Bhagavān) not the same as the jīva? Because Bhagavān’s essential nature or svarūpa is constituted of His svarūpa śakti, and the jīva is not svarūpa śakti. Note here that the word Brahman here means Bhagavān and not nirviśeṣa Brahman, because nirviśeṣa Brahman does not have śaktis]
ato brahma-jīvayoḥ svarūpaikya-bhāvanam evāparādho’nartha-hetur ity āha—yad etad iti |
Therefore, considering that the svarūpa of Brahman (Bhagavān) and the jīva to be the same (svarūpaikya-bhāvanam) is in itself a cause of offense. This is expressed in this verse.
[This is a thunderbolt of a sentence. The previous sentence denied that the jīvas are Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. Thinking that they are, or in other words, thinking that the jīva’s essential nature is Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, is an aparādha toward Bhagavān i.e. displeasing to Him. He emphasizes this again in the next sentence].
ātmano jīvāt sakāśāt mad-bhāvaṁ mat-svarūpaṁ bhinnam eva klībatvam ārṣam | yad yadi vismṛtaṁ syād abhinnam eva syāt, tato hetor etasyābhinna-darśinaḥ puṁsaḥ saṁsāraḥ syāt | saṁsāram evāha—dehād iti |
My (Bhagavān’s) svarūpa [mad-bhāva in the verse] is indeed different from the jīva [there is bheda between the two]. If this principle is forgotten, that is, only abheda or non-difference is considered to exist between the jīva and Bhagavān, such a person who has only such a concept of ‘abheda’ remains in saṁsāra. This is expressed in the verse with the word ‘dehāt’.
[But then what is to be made of statements like tat tvam asi, where tat refers to the jīva, and tvam to Paramātmā? He replies:]
ata eva tat tvam asīty ādau jīvasya tadīya-taṭastha-śaktitvena tādrūpyād eva sūrya-tat-kiraṇayor ivaikyaṁ bhāvanīyam iti bhāvaḥ |
Therefore, the jīva’s being the same as Bhagavān (aikyam) [i.e. abheda], as expressed in tat tvam asi, is only to be conceived as the jīva’s being the same as Him (tād-rūpya) due to being His taṭasthā śakti, just as the ray of the sun is considered the same as the sun.
[Now, Śrī Viśvanātha begins to explain how there is bheda or abheda of various entities with Bhagavān in different contexts. He has explained above that the taṭasthā śakti, i.e. the jīva, in its essence, has tādrūpya, sameness or abheda with Bhagavān, only due to being His taṭasthā śakti]
tad evam avāstava-vastuno viśvasya tac-chakti-kāryatvenābhinnatvāt tādrūpyam | tādrūpyeti tātsvarūpyābhāvād bhinnam eva naśvaratva-prayojakam |
Likewise, the insubstantial material world is the same as Bhagavān (tādrūpya) due to being an effect of His śakti. tādrūpya here implies that because the world does not have the same svarūpa as Bhagavān, it is indeed different(tadrupya=tātsvarūpya-abhavat bhinnam), and a cause of temporality.
[Now an opponent might argue that the foregoing discussion only refers to the conditioned jīva; that the pure or suddha jīva’s svarūpa is the same as that of Bhagavān. Not so, because he writes:
śuddha-jīvasya tv anaśvaratvād vāstava-vastv-antaḥ-pātitve’pi taṭastha-śaktitvāt tādrūpyam eva, na tu tātsvarūpyaṁ|
However, although the pure jīva is imperishable and therefore included within the real substantive, it only possesses identity with Bhagavān (tādrūpya) due to being His taṭasthā śakti, and does not have the same svarūpa as Him (tātsvarūpya).
[Śrī Viśvanātha has introduced two terms: tādrūpya and tāt-svarūpya. He has explained that these two are virodhis, in that tādrūpya implies an abhāva or absence of tāt-svarūpya. He has specified that the pure jīva has tādrūpya with Bhagavān, and not tāt-svarūpya. Then does anyone have tāt-svarūpya with Bhagavān? He answers:]
brahma-paramātma-bhagavatāṁ tu vāstava-vastutvaṁ svarūpaikyādy aikyaṁ ca
In contrast, Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān are real substantives, and are one entity (aikyam), in that they have the same svarūpa.
[Here we see that abheda between Bhagavān, Paramātmā and Brahman is due to their having the same svarūpa or essential nature. He now specifies that Bhagavān’s associates, His abode and so on, have tāt-svarūpya or the same svarūpa as Bhagavān]
bhagavan-nitya-preyasī-pārṣada-dhāmnāṁ cic-chakti-vilāsatvāt |
Nitya preyasīs, pārṣadas and abodes of Bhagavān have the same svarūpa as Him (tāt-svarūpya) due to being a manifestation of His cit-śakti.
[Nitya-preyasis refer to Śrī Rādhā and the gopīs, pārṣadas refer to Sridāma and others, and dhāma refers to Goloka, Vaikuṇṭha and so on. These are all his cit-śakti. Notice that the jīvas are not called cit-śakti. Next he turns to the jīvas.]
keṣāñcin nitya-siddhatvād api vāstava-vastutvaṁ tātsvarūpyaṁ ca |
Some others, due to being nitya-siddha [jīvas] (nitya-siddhatvād api) even, possess the quality of being real substantives and having the same svarūpa as Bhagavān.
[Note that Śrī Viśvanātha, by the use of the word ‘api’, is suggesting a contradiction. He has already stated that the pure jīva only has tād-rūpya and not tāt-svarūpya. How can nitya siddha jīvas have tāt-svarūpya? He replies with a beautiful, lucid explanation:]
keṣāñcin nitya-mukta-bhaktatvena, keṣāñcil labdha-bhakti-kaivalyatvena siddhānāṁ dāsyādi-vāsanāvatāṁ jīvānāṁ tu nitya-dāsādi-antaḥ-pātitvena svarūpa-śaktyāviṣṭatvād eva tātsvarūpyam |
Some [jīvas] have the same svarūpa as Him (tāt-svarūpya) only (eva) due to being imbued with His svarūpa śakti (svarūpa-śaktyāviṣṭatvād) either because of 1) being siddhas due to being eternally liberated devotees, 2) being siddhas due to having attained pure bhakti, or 3) or because of their being included in the group of the eternal servants of Bhagavān due to their desire for servitorship.
[Can it be made any more clear? He has already stated that the pure jīva does not have the same svarūpa as Bhagavān. Yet, some lucky jīvas are said to have the same svarūpa as Bhagavān, if and only if (eva) they are imbued with Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. Of these jīvas, some are eternally siddhas. Others have become perfected by attaining pure bhakti. These siddhas continue to be the ātmā in their svarūpa, but they exist as ātmā imbued with Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. This is why they are said to have the same svarūpa as Bhagavān. Śrī Viśvanātha is trying to explain this simple point- the jīvas have tāt-svarūpya not because their *svarūpa* is the same as Bhagavān, i.e. not because their essence is His svarūpa śakti, but because they are endowed with His svarūpa śakti. In contrast, nitya preyasīs, pārṣadas and abodes of Bhagavān have svarūpa śakti as their very essence; i.e. they are Bhagavān Himself]
[As if to emphasize that not all jīvas in the spiritual world get this svarūpa śakti, Śrī Viśvanātha now points out the fate of śānta bhaktas who are in Vaikuṇṭha. Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti is awarded to some jīvas, and not to others, depending on the purity of their bhakti ].
labdha-bhakti-prādhānyena siddhānāṁ jīvānāṁ śāntabhaktatvāt dāsādi-gaṇāntaḥ-pātitvābhāvena svarūpa-śaktyānāviṣṭatvāt tādrūpyaṁ vāstava-vastutvaṁ ceti bhagavato’neka-śaktimatvenādvaitaṁ phalitam iti prasaṅgāt vaiṣṇava-siddhānto darśitaḥ ||57||
Because some jīvas, who became siddhas due to having attained mixed bhakti, are śānta bhaktas, they are not included in the group of eternal servants. As such, they are not endowed with Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, and therefore they are the same as Bhagavān (tādrūpya), and are real substantives (but do not have the same svarūpa as Him i.e. not tāt-svarūpya). In this way, it is concluded that Bhagavān, being characterized by many śaktis, is non-dual reality and Vaiṣṇava siddhānta has been demonstrated incidentally.
The pure jīva is the same as Bhagavān (abheda) because it is Bhagavān’s taṭasthā śakti. It has tādrūpya with Him.
The pure jīva is different from Bhagavān (bheda) because it is not Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. It does not have tāt-svarūpya with Him.
Nitya preyasīs, pārṣadas and abodes of Bhagavān have svarūpa śakti as their very essence; i.e. they are Bhagavān Himself. Needless to say, they have tāt-svarūpya with Him.
Some jīvas in Vaikuṇṭha exist as the ātmā (taṭasthā śakti) imbued with Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti. It is only for this reason that they are said to have the sameness of svarūpa (tāt-svarūpya) with Bhagavān.
There are jīvas in Vaikuṇṭha who are not imbued with the svarūpa śakti. They continue to only have tādrūpya with Bhagavān.
Thinking that the jīva’s svarūpa and Bhagavān’s svarūpa are the same is an offense to Bhagavān.