Some claim that instead of using the ātmā’s intrinsic jñāna śakti, the ātmā uses māyā’s jñāna śakti or the material jñāna śakti to know. Likewise, instead of using the ātmā’s intrinsic kriyā śakti, the ātmā uses māyā’s kriyā śakti or the material kriyā śakti to act.
To understand the incoherence of this argument, consider an analogy.
A person is reading a book. Who is the knower? The person or the book? The book contains knowledge. Here, I use the word knowledge in the sense of ‘content’ or ‘information’. The person depends on the book for knowledge. But he is the one who understands it. The book cannot understand it even though the knowledge is recorded in the book.
Who has jñāna śakti or the ability to know? The person has it and never the book. The book is not conscious and the person is conscious. The person knows and the book doesn’t. Despite the fact that the knowledge is in the book, the book has no jñāna śakti in it.
The scriptures contain all manner of refutations of the notion that the material mind can be a knower or that the material body can be a doer. The apparent knowership of the material mind and body are exclusively due to the ātmā’s knowership and doership. In fact, it is Sāñkhya which claims that the body is the doer. For this, they cite the famous Gita verse 13.20 where doership is ascribed to prakṛti alone. Our ācāryas, and indeed all Vaiṣṇava ācāryas refute this, and establish doership in the ātmā alone. Their arguments are developed by analyzing the ātmā when in the material body.
But even Sāñkhya accepts the knower to be the puruśa or ātmā, and not prakṛti.
Even the statement, “the ātmā uses māyā’s jñāna śakti”, cannot be made without the ātmā being a doer. How will it ‘use’ anything without its own intrinsic doership? Doesn’t the statement, “the ātmā uses māyā’s jñāna śakti to know”, establish that the ātmā is using its intrinsic knowership? What is the meaning of the verb ‘know’ in this sentence otherwise?
All the great teachers in the Indian tradition of Vedānta are united on this point. Therefore, it is strange that I am having to refute these ideas. I am genuinely taken aback. Perhaps, as has been suggested, I have misunderstood the arguments or misrepresented them, but I cannot see how (believe me, I have tried hard to understand!).
Further, the claim is that when liberated, the ātmā uses its intrinsic jñāna śakti and kriyā śakti, which were hitherto unmanifest or inactive or inoperational, to know and act. It is further claimed that these śaktis are Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti and hence this establishes that bhakti is inherent in the ātmā. These śaktis are not operational when the ātmā is in the material body.
However, the ātmā cannot store information inside of it. It has the capacity to know, but the knowledge is not inside of it. It has the capacity to act, but action is not inside of it. Jñāna śakti and kriyā śakti refer to its ability to know and act. These words do not refer to content-filled knowledge or action. In fact, this is the argument that Śrī Jīva uses to refute opposing Buddhist views about the temporality of consciousness. I have written an article on this site about his refutation. To state that bhakti is inside the ātmā is to state that knowledge of the Vedas, which is information, is inside the ātmā. This is impossible. Instead, all thoughts and emotions of bhakti occur in the mind, and all actions of bhakti occur in the body, and all information about the scriptures is stored in the citta or our memory storage.
In the case of the person reading the book, the knowledge is processed in the mind, and later stored in the citta or unconscious mind. It does not go inside the ātmā. The ātmā does not store physics and chemistry formulae inside of it, because we would have to postulate another mind inside of it that processes the information of the book. All processing occurs in its material mind. The processing occurs because of the ātmā’s intrinsic knowership. There is no knowership in the mind.
And what is the evidence proffered for supporting such claims? I have written an article on much of the evidence cited here. To me, the claims above are strongly opposed by the very evidence that is cited to support them. I will examine the remaining evidence that is provided to support the claims in the next article.