Śrī Jīva Goswami teaches that the jīvas are taṭasthā-śakti in their svarūpa

Some argue that upon becoming siddha, i.e. getting entry into Goloka, the term taṭasthā is no longer a primary description of the jīva, since the very definition of taṭasthā implies being conditioned. These proponents argue that Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja prefers the term vibhinna-aṁśa instead of taṭasthā-śakti for the jīvas, and that when Śrī Jīva Goswami includes under the term taṭasthā-śakti, siddhas like Garuḍa, the term taṭasthā-śakti there should be made to drop its primary meaning, and be interpreted to mean vibhinna-aṁśa.

What is the reason for this argument? These proponents hold that the jīva, inherently, is Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti. The fact that Śrī Jīva Goswami calls even the siddhas as taṭasthā śakti is a major problem for this view, which needs to be somehow accommodated. The term vibhinnāṁśa is explained to be more appropriate because it allows the jīva to be Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti, while not being His self-expansions or svāṁśas. The term vibhinna-aṁśa can be taken to mean an ‘aṁśa that has a special bheda (viśeṣeṇa bhinnam)’ from Bhagavān while the svāṁśas do not have such a special bheda. The idea is that the jīvas are minute and Bhagavān is infinite; although both are made of the same substance- Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti. This is the only difference between the two.

Let us examine the reasons for why Śrī Jīva Goswami calls the jīvas taṭasthā śakti, and also examine if the above dropping of the primary meaning of taṭasthā-śakti is consistent with his views.

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains why the jīva is called śakti

In Anuchheda 37 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami cites the following verse:

uktaṁ ca prakṛti-viśeṣatvena tasya śaktitvam—

The jīva is also said to be an energy ( śakti ) due to being a specific fundamental power ( prakṛti ) [of Paramātmā], as it is said in Viṣṇu Purāṇa :

viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā kṣetrajñākhyā tathā aparā |

avidyā karma-saṁjñākhyā tṛtīyā śaktir ucyate || [vi.pu. 6.7.61] iti,

tayā tirohitatvāc ca śaktiḥ kṣetra-jña-saṁjñitā |

sarva-bhūteṣu bhūpāla tāratamyena vartate||

Viṣṇu’s energies are designated as “the potency of inherent transcendence” ( parā ), “the potency that is other than, or apart from, inherent transcendence” ( aparā ), which is also called the knower of the field ( kṣetrajña ), and a third potency called avidyā-karma (ignorance as causal entanglement). ( VP 6.7.61)

The problem here for the proponents of the view that the jīvas are Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti is that they are mentioned as distinct from Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti here. This is highly inconvenient. The response from opponents would be that this definition applies only to the conditioned jīva. Unfortunately, Śrī Jīva Goswami rejects this idea. He writes:

viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā ity-ādi viṣṇu-purāṇa-vacane tu tisṝṇām eva pṛthak śaktitva-nirdeśāt kṣetrajñasyāvidyā-karma-sambandhena śaktitvam iti parāstam, kintu svarūpeṇaivety āyātam |

By virtue of the fact that the above statement of Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61) specifies each of the three categories as distinct śaktis (pṛthak śaktitva-nirdeśāt), the [erroneous] view that the kṣetrajña’s being a śakti is merely attributed to it only due to its relation with the external energy of causally conditioned ignorance ( avidyā-karma ), is refuted. Rather, it is so by its very own intrinsic nature ( kintu svarūpeṇaivety).

Note the following logic:

The three śaktis are named in the above verse as follows; I provide well-accepted alternative names for them in brackets:

parā [Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti]

kṣetrajña [jīvas]

avidyā karma [māyā]

Of these, Śrī Jīva Goswami is writing in the above paragraph about the śakti named kṣetrajña. Does being a śakti for the kṣetrajña only apply to it , i.e. to the jīvas, because of its relation with avidyā karma, i.e. does it only apply to the conditioned jīvas?

His answer is :

No, because each of the three categories are mentioned as distinct śaktis (pṛthak śaktitva-nirdeśāt)

That is, if the kṣetrajña (i.e. jīva) was called a śakti because of its (i.e. the jīva’s current) relation with māyā, it would have not been included as a distinct śakti. It would have been included under māyā, because māyā is itself called a śakti. Let us state his reply more explicitly:

No, because each of the three categories are mentioned as distinct śaktis (pṛthak śaktitva-nirdeśāt)


No, because the kṣetrajña (jīvas) are mentioned as distinct from the following śaktis:

parā [Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti]

avidyā karma [māyā]

What does being distinct mean? It means

the kṣetrajña (jīvas) is neither parā [Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti], nor avidyā karma [māyā]

Now consider the following logic:

Question: Is the kṣetrajña called śakti due to its relation with māyā?

Reply: No, because it is mentioned as a distinct śakti from māyā

Question: Is the kṣetrajña called śakti because it is Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti?

Reply: No, because it is mentioned as a distinct śakti from Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti

Now I will state his conclusion:

So, the kṣetrajña is a śakti in its svarūpa

Is there a name for such a distinct śakti that anyone is aware of? Indeed, there is:


It is concluded that:

The kṣetrajña, i.e. the jīva, is taṭasthā-śakti in its svarūpa

He considers objections to his thesis. The word kṣetrajña should only refer to the knower of the kṣetra, which is the body. How can it be used to refer to the śuddha or pure jīva? There are those who claim that Śrī Jīva Goswami uses the term śuddha or pure jīva primarily to mean the ‘Brahman-identified jīva’. Not so. Here is how the term is used by him:

kṣetrajña etā manaso vibhūtīḥ [bhā.pu. 5.11.12, §1] ity-ādau kṣetrajña-śabdaś ca śuddhe’pi pravartate, kṣetra-śabdasyopalakṣaṇa-mātratvāt |

The word kṣetrajña in SB 5.11.12 is also used for the pure self, since the word kṣetra in the compound functions merely as an incidental distinguishing mark ( upalakṣaṇa ) [for the pure self, and hence is not applicable in its primary sense].

It would be incorrect to suppose that here the word kṣetrajña means ‘Brahman-identified jīva’. Because then the Viṣṇu Purāṇa verse would have to be explained to apply only to the ‘Brahman-identified jivas’.

Is the vibhinna-aṁśa a more inclusive term than taṭasthā-śakti?

Is the term vibhinna-aṁśa a broader term that taṭasthā-śakti? Sadly for the proponents of this view, Śrī Jīva Goswami again does not support this idea. In Anuchheda 39 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha, he writes:

atra śaktitvenaivāṁśatvaṁ vyañjayanti—

The Śrutis explain that the jīvas are integrated parts of Paramātmā because they are a potency belonging to Him:

The jīvas are aṁśas because they are śakti, and as we have seen above, they are taṭasthā-śakti in their svarūpa. Far from the term vibhinna-aṁśa being a more inclusive term than taṭasthā-śakti, the only reason it applies is because the jīvas are taṭasthā-śakti.

To see this more clearly, consider what he writes next. First, the verse he quotes:

sva-kṛta-pure’py amīṣv abahir-antar-asaṁvaraṇaṁ

tava puruṣaṁ vadanty akhila-śakti-dhṛto’ṁśa-kṛtam |

[bhā.pu. 10.87.20] iti |

The Śrutis explain that the jīvas are integrated parts of Paramātmā because they are a potency belonging to Him:

“The Vedas speak of the puruṣa , or the conscious being, dwelling in these bodies that are shaped by its own actions, as a part of You and as made out of You, the repository of unlimited potencies. In reality, however, the conscious being is without external or internal covering” ( SB 10.87.20 ).

Next, he comments:

akhila-śakti-dhṛtaḥ sarva-śakti-dharasyeti viśeṣaṇaṁ jīva-śakti-viśiṣṭasyaiva tava jīvo’ṁśo na tu śuddhasyeti gamayitvā jīvasya tac-chakti-rūpatvenaivāṁśatvam ity anenaivāṁśatvam ity etad vyañjayanti |
“The repository of unlimited potencies” ( akhila-śakti-dhṛta ), meaning “He who possesses all potencies,” is a qualifier describing “You” [Paramātmā].
By making it clear that the jīva is a part only of that [form of God] which is qualified by the jīva potency [i.e., Paramātmā], and not of the pure, or Absolute, [i.e., not of Bhagavān directly, who is without the attribute of the jīva potency], the Śrutis are here explaining that the jīva is an āṁśa of Paramātmā specifically by virtue of being His śakti.

Thus, the view that “when Śrī Jīva Goswami includes under the term taṭasthā-śakti, siddhas like Garuḍa, the term taṭasthā-śakti there should be made to drop its primary meaning, and be interpreted to mean vibhinna-aṁśa” is refuted. Instead, because Garuḍa is taṭasthā-śakti, he is a vibhinna-aṁśa of Bhagavān.

What to make of the definition of taṭasthā śakti that only applies to the conditioned jīvas

In Anuchheda 37, we see that Śrī Jīva Goswami provides the following definition for the term taṭasthā:

yat taṭasthaṁ tu cid-rūpaṁ sva-saṁvedyād vinirgatam |

rañjitaṁ guṇa-rāgeṇa sa jīva iti kathyate || ity-ādau |

— That entity which is intermediately situated, conscious by nature, whose self-awareness has been lost, and who is tainted by attachment to the material gunas, is called the jīva.

In Goloka, the definition should cease to apply to the jīva as its self-awareness is never lost there and it is never tainted by material gunas .

Here, the word taṭasthā is explained by Śrī Jīva Goswami as follows:

tad evaṁ śaktitve’py anyatvam asya taṭasthatvāt | taṭasthatvaṁ ca māyā-śakty-atītatvāt, asyāvidyā-parābhavādi-rūpeṇa doṣeṇa paramātmano lepābhāvāc cobhaya-koṭāv apraveśāt

The jīva is called taṭastha because it cannot be subsumed under either of the two categories (māyā and Paramātmā). The reason for this is that it is superior to māyā. [But at the same time], it is subject to the defect of being overpowered by ignorance, which does not influence Paramātmā.

He then uses the sun-sun ray analogy to further explain that the sun-rays can become covered by shade, while the sun cannot be covered by anything:

tasya tac-chaktitve saty api paramātmanas tal-lepābhāvaś ca yathā kvacid eka-deśa-sthe raśmau chāyayā tiraskṛte’pi sūryasyātiraskāraḥ, tadvat

Although the jīva is the energy of Paramātmā, the latter is not tainted by [ māyā , or ignorance, like the jīva ], just as the sun rays in a particular area may be covered by an object that shades them from view, but the sun [itself] remains uncovered. The intermediary status ( taṭastha ) of the jīva is stated in Śrī Nārada Pañcarātra :

So doesn’t this definition need to be dropped for the siddhas in Goloka?

No. Here is why.


These three śaktis are distinct in their very svarūpa:

parā [Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti]

kṣetrajña [jīvas]

avidyā karma [māyā]

What name should be given to the kṣetrajña śakti [jīvas]? The name given is taṭasthā. Why? The reason is clear in what he writes:


The jīva is called taṭastha because it cannot be subsumed under either of the two categories (māyā and Paramātmā).

1) and 2) apply to both siddhas and conditioned jīvas.

The reason for 2) above is given as follows:

The reason for this is that it is superior to māyā. [But at the same time], it is subject to the defect of being overpowered by ignorance, which does not influence Paramātmā.

Are the siddhas subject to the defect of being overpowered by ignorance? Yes, of course. But because they are now siddhas, they are in Vaikuṇṭha. There is no māyā in Vaikuṇṭha, where everything and everyone is endowed with Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti. Therefore, it will never happen in practice.


The jīvas are taṭasthā-śakti in their svarūpa or inherent nature.

This will not change even when they become siddhas.

The jīvas are called vibhinna-aṁśas because they are taṭasthā-śakti.

The siddha-jīvas are theoretically subject to being overpowered by ignorance, because they are taṭasthā-śakti.

But in practice, this can never happen because there is no māyā in Vaikuṇṭha, and because the siddhas are endowed with Bhagavān’s svarūpa-śakti

Categories: concepts, jīva-tattva

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  1. In Bhakti Sandarbha Anuccheda 198, while explaining the meaning of ‘Artha-pañcaka’ where Srimad Ācārya quotes हयशीर्षपञ्चरात्र and explains that the fifth of the artha-pañcaka, i.e. Jīva, described there is sopādhika. Then he immediately quotes विष्णु पुराण (६/७/६१) and नारदपञ्चरात्र ( यत् तटस्थं तु चिद्रूपं …) to give the nirupādhika description of the distinct Jīva so that no confusion remains(Refer to Page 1218 of Bhakti Sandarbha Vol. 1)

    • Here is another nugget from Auccheda 8 of Paramatma Sandarbha

      evam ekasya puruṣasya nānātvam upapādya tasya punar aṁśā vivriyante |
      atra dvividhā aṁśā svāṁśā vibhinnāṁśāś ca | vibhinnāṁśās
      taṭastha-śakty-ātmakā jīvā iti vakṣyate | svāṁśās tu
      guṇa-līlādy-avatāra-bhedena vividhāḥ | tatra līlādy-avatārāḥ
      prasaṅga-saṅgatyā śrī-kṛṣṇa-sandarbhe vakṣyate |

      After thus establishing the various forms of the one Puruṣa, His portions ( aṁśa ) will now be further described. His portions are of two types: selfsame ( svāṁśa ) and differentiated ( vibhinnāṁśa ). It will be described that the vibhinnāṁśas are the living beings, the jīvas , who are of the nature of the intermediary potency ( taṭastha-śakti ) [or in other words, the potency situated on the dividing line of, and mediating between, the intrinsic and extrinsic potencies of Bhagavān]. The svāṁśas are of various types with divisions of guṇāvatāra , līlāvatāra , and so on. Of these, the līlāvatāras and others will be described in Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha ( Anucchedas 6–26), due to the relevance of the context there.

    • Thank you. I included the English translation below. This is what pure jiva means. Nirupadhika jiva. Not ‘Brahman identified jiva’ —

      “In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa , however, we find this description of the witness-self [ kṣetrajña , i.e., the ātmā ] as distinct from its involvement with upādhis [i.e., nirupādhi ]:

      Bhagavān Viṣṇu has three potencies — His own intrinsic potency [ viṣṇu-śakti , i.e., svarūpa-śakti ] is known as the supreme potency ( parā ); inferior to this ( aparā ) is the potency that manifests as the living beings [ jīva-śakti ], who are designated as the knowers of the limited field of their own bodies ( kṣetrajña-śakti ); and the third potency [i.e., the extrinsic potency ( māyā-śakti )] is termed as conditional action proceeding from ignorance ( avidyā-karma ). ( VP 6.7.61 )

      An additional reference to the ātmā as distinct from its limiting adjuncts ( nirupādhi ) is found in the following Gītā verse:

      This is My inferior nature, O mighty-armed one. But you should know that distinct from this, is My superior nature, which consists of the living beings ( jīva-bhūtām ), by whom the cosmos is sustained. ( GĪTĀ 7.5 )

      And in this statement of the Gītā as well: “The eternal living being ( jīva ) in this material world is an integrated part of Me alone” ( GĪTĀ 15.7 ).

      And according to the Nārada Pañcarātra [the jīva is distinct from its limiting adjuncts ( nirupādhi )]:

      The intermediary potency ( taṭasthā-śakti ), which is conscious by nature ( cid-rūpa ), which is turned away ( vinirgatam ) 20 from the very Reality [i.e., Bhagavān] it is meant to know ( sva-samvedyāt ), and which is impassioned with desire due to contact with the fundamental attributes of material nature (i.e., the guṇas ), is called the jīva . ( Nārada Pañcarātra ) ”

  2. Kṛṣṇa Dāsjī,

    Can you provide some excerpts from Goswāmīs Books which state that the jivātmā is Formless?

    • The Paramatma Sandarbha describes the jiva as ‘anu’. This word ‘anu’ is a technical term which means ‘without parts’. Anything without parts has no form. So the atma does not have form.

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