The awareness of the ātmā of its svarūpa is absent or ‘unmanifest’ in its conditioned state

The inherent bhaktivadis claim that intrinsic śaktis of the ātmā like its jñāna-śakti or its ability to know, its ability to act, and so on, become unmanifest when it is conditioned by māyā. To support this, they cite the Prīti Sandarbha. Here I continue to examine the evidence cited and show that such claims are contrary to Śrī Jīva’s teachings.

Direct experience of Paramātmā, the ātmā‘s very svarūpa, is beginninglessly absent in its conditioned state

We begin at Anuchheda 1.3 of the Prīti Sandarbha. Here we find a clear statement of what exactly is the problem of the jīva in the conditioned state. The problem is simply the absence of awareness of its own svarūpa. The pure jīva’s jñāna-śakti is functional in the conditioned state, except that it does not have Paramātmā as its object, i.e. the jīva lacks direct experience of Paramātmā, who is its very self or svarūpa. That is all!

Śrī Jīva Goswami writes:

atha jīvaś ca tadīyo’pi taj-jñāna-saṁsargābhāva-yuktatvena tan-māyā-parābhūtaḥ sann ātma-svarūpa-jñāna-lopān māyā-kalpitopādhy-āveśāc cānādi-saṁsāra-duḥkhena sambadhyata iti paramātma-sandarbhādāv eva nirūpitam asti |

The individual living being (jīva), although belonging to the Supreme Reality by its constitutional nature (tadīyo’pi), is overpowered by the latter’s deluding potency (māyā) due to the jīva’s being adjoined to the beginningless prior absence of awareness of that Reality (taj-jñāna-saṁsargābhāva). Being thus bereft of awareness of its own essential nature (ātma-svarūpa), the jīva becomes identified with the limiting adjuncts (upādhis) created by māyā, and on this account, it is subjected to the beginningless miseries of conditional existence (saṁsāra). This was detailed in Paramātma and Bhakti Sandarbhas.

This precise statement is like a problem statement of mathematics. If our understanding of our problem is confused, then we cannot hope to solve it. There is no way to interpret the statement to mean that the ātmā’s jñāna-śakti or other intrinsic śaktis become ‘unmanifest’ in the conditioned state, or that its prema becomes dormant.

It is very simple. Our problem is that we are unaware of ourselves, and we are very much aware of objects other than ourselves. Our ‘self’ includes not only us but also Paramātma, who is our innermost self. Now he provides the logical solution to the problem.

tata idaṁ labhyate parama-tattva-sākṣātkāra-lakṣaṇaṁ taj-jñānam eva paramānanda-prāptiḥ | saiva parama-puruṣārtha iti |

From this analysis, the following is understood: Awareness of Reality (taj-jñāna), characterized as the immediate intuition (sākṣātkāra) of that Supreme Reality (parama-tattva), is itself identical to the attainment of supreme bliss (paramānanda). This indeed is the ultimate object of human attainment (parama-puruṣārtha).

Naturally, awareness is the solution for the problem of lack of awareness! Lack of awareness cannot co-exist with awareness. jñāna-abhāva cannot coexist with jñāna. Lest someone misinterpret what jñāna means here, he qualifies it:

parama-tattva-sākṣātkāra-lakṣaṇaṁ taj-jñānam = Awareness of Reality (taj-jñāna), characterized as the immediate intuition (sākṣātkāra) of that Supreme Reality (parama-tattva).

Attaining this sākṣātkāra or direct experience of Paramātmā, Śrī Jīva writes, is identical to the attainment of supreme bliss, paramānanda. Why? Because Paramātma is paramānanda. Note again that he does not state that the jīva becomes blissful because it realizes its own bliss. Paramātma’s sākṣātkāra is absent in the conditioned state, and so bliss is also absent in the conditioned state. He will emphasize this point and support it with citations:

svātmājñāna-nivṛttiḥ duḥkhātyanta-nivṛttiś ca nidāne tad-ajñāne gate sati svata eva sampadyate |

When the root cause [of conditional existence], namely ignorance of the Supreme Reality, is dispelled, then the appearance (pravṛtti) of authentic self-knowing (svātma-jñāna) and the ultimate dissolution of misery (atyanta-duḥkha-nivṛtti) take place automatically (svata eva).

He is explaining again that a lack of awareness of Paramātmā is the problem. He emphasizes that direct experience of Paramātmā (see above for a reminder that awareness means direct experience), automatically, brings with it experience of one’s own self and cessation of suffering. Śrī Jīva next teaches that these latter two attainments are unending, albeit for different reasons:

pūrvasyāḥ parama-tattva-svaprakāśatābhivyakti-lakṣaṇa-mātrātmakatvāt, uttarasyāś ca dhvaṁsābhāva-rūpatvād anaśvaratvam |

The former [i.e., authentic self-knowing] is imperishable (anaśvaram) because it is essentially nothing other than a symptom of the Supreme Reality’s self-disclosure (parama-tattva-sva-prakāśatā), whereas the latter [i.e., the ultimate dissolution of misery] is imperishable because misery is then relegated to the state of post nonexistence (dhvaṁsa-abhāva) [meaning the permanent absence (abhāva) of misery after its destruction (dhvaṁsa)].

He will now provide citations to support these two points. The first point is supported by the famous verses from the Bhāgavata 1.2.9-1.2.12:

uktaṁ ca pūrvasyāḥ parama-puruṣārthatvaṁ dharmasya hy apavargasya ity-ādinā [bhā.pu. 1.2.9],

tac-chraddadhānā munayo jñāna-vairāgya-yuktayā |

paśyanty ātmani cātmānaṁ bhaktyā śruta-gṛhītayā || [bhā.pu. 1.2.12] ity antena |

The following series of verses establish the appearance of authentic self-knowing (svātma-jñāna-pravṛtti) as the ultimate object of human attainment (parama-puruṣārtha):

Dharma, the intent of which is liberation (āpavargya), is certainly not meant for material prosperity (artha). Prosperity, which is the unfailing attendant of such dharma, is assuredly not meant for the fulfillment of desire (kāma); so it has been attested to [by contemplative sages (munibhiḥ)]. The fulfillment of desire (kāma) [meaning the willful appropriation of sensory objects (viṣaya-bhoga)] is not meant for sensual pleasure (indriya-prīti) but only for requisite life sustenance. The purpose of life is to inquire into the Absolute Truth and not to procure the worldly benefits (artha) attainable through virtuous or prescribed action. (SB 1.2.9-10)

Those who have directly realized the Absolute Reality declare that alone to be the Absolute Reality (tattvam) which is nondual consciousness (advaya-jñāna). That Reality is denoted as Brahman, as Paramātmā, and as Bhagavān. (SB 1.2.11)

The sages, endowed with resolute faith, directly perceive that very [nondual Reality (tac ca tattvam)], the Self [ātmānam, i.e., paramātmānam], within their own pure cognitive ground [ātmani, i.e., śuddhe cetasi] by bhakti imbibed through hearing [the self-revealed truth teachings (vedānta śravaṇena)], and invested with immediate awareness and freedom from all attachment. (1.2.12)

He will now support the second point:

svataḥ sarva-duḥkha-nivṛttiś ca tatraivoktā—bhidyate hṛdaya-granthir [bhā.pu. 1.2.13] ity ādinā | śrī-viṣṇu-purāṇe ca—

nirastātiśayāhlāda-sukha-bhāvaika-lakṣaṇā |

bheṣajaṁ bhagavat-prāptir ekāntātyantikī matā || [vi.pu. 6.5.59] iti | śrutau ca—ānandaṁ brahmaṇo vidvān na bibheti kutaścana [tai.u. 2.4.1] iti |

And the dissolution of all miseries (sarva-duḥkha-nivṛtti) that occurs automatically as a concomitant effect [of the realization of Bhagavān] is also described in the very same chapter as follows:

Precisely coinciding with the immediate perception [sākṣātkṛte of Īśvara within the core of being (ātmani) of such a realized person, the knot of ego in the heart is pierced, all doubts are cut asunder, and the reaction to all karma is nullified. (SB 1.2.21)

The same idea is expressed in Viṣṇu Purāṇa:

The attainment of Bhagavān, which is resolutely fixed (ekāntā), unending (ātyantikī), and intrinsically of the nature of that supreme bliss which casts aside all other forms of happiness, is considered [by learned authorities (paṇḍitaiḥ) to be the remedy [for the threefold miseries of material existence (tri-viddhasyāpi duḥkha-jātasya)] (VP 6.5.59)

One might ask: if sākṣātkāra or direct experience of Paramātmā is the parama-puruṣārtha or ultimate object of attainment, how can prīti also be the ultimate object of attainment? The answer, of course, is that there are gradations of sākṣātkāra. One can attain Brahman-mukti, in which case it is meaningless to talk about prīti. One can attain Paramātmā while in the body. Or one can realize Bhagavān. Prīti is that puruṣārtha which is parama-tama – the ultimate among the ultimate objects of attainment. Śrī Jīva Goswami explains this in the latter part of Anuchheda 1. But I will not get into that here. Instead, I will present some parts of Śrī Babaji’s beautiful commentary on this Anuchheda.

The jīva’s ignorance of its own svarūpa is illogical but possible due to māyā

Śrī Babaji writes:

“The jīva’s state of conditioning by ignorance seems illogical—how can a conscious being not know its true identity? This, however, is possible by the influence of māyā, as was discussed in Paramātma Sandarbha (Anucchedas 48-55). By the inconceivable power of Bhagavān, māyā can cover the intermediary potency, despite being inferior to it. This is affirmed by Maitreya Muni while instructing Vidura:

Such is Bhagavān’s extrinsic potency [māyā], which contradicts all logic, for [due to its influence] the living entity, who [by nature] is the ruler and liberated, experiences impoverishment and bondage. (SB 3.7.9)

This beginningless ignorance is sometimes described as the jīva’s knowledge being covered by ignorance, as in Gītā 5.15 (ajñanenāvṛtam jñānam tena muhyaṇti jantavaḥ), or as its bewilderment by māyā, as in Vyāsadeva’s samādhi vision, described in the beginning of the Bhāgavata:

Bewildered by this extrinsic potency, the individual self, although transcendental to the three guṇas of material nature, thinks of itself as consisting of them and thus undergoes the misery resulting from this identification. (SB 1.7.5).”

The jīva’s ignorance is not a positive entity but a type of absence

Śrī Babaji writes:

“Normally, we think of a covering as a positive existent, denoted in Indian philosophy by the term bhāva. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains, however, that the beginningless covering of the jīva is not a positive entity but a type of absence, called saṁsarga-abhāva. According to the Nyāya school of philosophy, absence (abhāva) is of two types, namely saṁsarga-abhāva and anyo’nya-abhāva. The first of these has three further divisions, called prāg-abhāva (prior or antecedent absence), pradhvaṁsa-abhāva (post or subsequent absence) and atyanta-abhāva (absolute absence). The word saṁsarga-abhāva in this anuccheda refers specifically to prāg-abhāva, or prior absence, implying that the absence in question will eventually come to an end.

In general terms, antecedent absence (prāg-abhāva) refers to the nonexistence of an object, quality, or action before it comes into being. This absence is without beginning, but it comes to an end as soon as the object, quality, or action is produced or manifests. In the case of the conditioned or bound jīva, the prior absence being spoken of is that of awareness of the Absolute Reality, which includes awareness of the jīva’s own true identity. Thus the implication is that a bound or conditioned jīva is ignorant of the Absolute Reality as well as of itself, and this ignorance has no beginning.

In this state of ignorance, the jīva considers itself to be the body-mind complex, which is an external covering (upādhi) and a product of the three guṇas of māyā. Due to being adjoined to the prior absence of awareness of the Absolute Reality (taj-jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāva-yuktatvena), and being bereft of awareness of its own essential nature (ātma-svarūpa-jñāna-lopāt), the jīva identifies with and becomes absorbed in the mind and physical body, which are products of māyā (māyā-kalpita-upādhi-āveśāt). Ignorance thus has two aspects. The first is negative, involving the beginningless absence of awareness of Bhagavān and the self. The second is an outcome of the first and takes the form of mistaken knowledge about oneself. This is termed sometimes as avidyā (Yoga Sūtra 2.3) or ajñāna (Gītā 5.15). The jīva who is thus influenced by māyā is devoid of devotion to Bhagavān, the Nondual Personal Absolute. This beginningless absence of knowing is determined as the cause of the jīva’s being influenced or covered by māyā.


The implication behind the specification of ignorance as a “covering” (āvaraṇa) is that bondage is not intrinsic to the jīva and can thus be dispelled (SB 11.11.1). When a jīva is invested with devotion by the causeless grace of a devotee, his or her beginningless ignorance (saṁsargābhāva) comes to an end. This results in immediate awareness of the Absolute and of one’s own self (svātma-jñāna-pravṛtti), as well as the absolute cessation of all suffering (atyanta-duḥkha-nivṛtti). “


Direct experience of Paramātmā, the ātmā’s very svarūpa, is beginninglessly absent in its conditioned state. This is jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāva.

The jīva’s ignorance is not a positive entity but a type of absence.

Direct experience of Paramātmā is the solution to the problem. jñāna-abhāva and jñāna cannot co-exist.

The jīva’s ignorance of its own svarūpa, despite it being conscious, is illogical, but possible due to māyā.

None of the intrinsic śaktis of the ātmā are unmanifest in the conditioned state.

Categories: Bhagavān, jīva-tattva

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26 replies »

  1. Namaste!
    In the commentary of Sri Babaji can you clarify the following doubt with respect to “ Due to being adjoined to the prior absence of awareness of the Absolute Reality (taj-jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāva-yuktatvena), and being bereft of awareness of its own essential nature (ātma-svarūpa-jñāna-lopāt), the jīva identifies with and becomes absorbed in the mind and physical body, which are products of māyā (māyā-kalpita-upādhi-āveśāt).”
    In above comment how can absence of awareness of absolute reality be the cause of being absorbed in maya? How can a non-positive thing be the cause of positive existence(maya)?


    • Namaste. First, Babaji is restating what Sri Jiva wrote: taj-jñāna-saṁsargābhāva-yuktatvena tan-māyā-parābhūtaḥ sann – Sri Jiva states that the cause of being defeated by maya is the absence of jnana.

      When you have misplaced your pen – ie you have pen-abhava, do you look for it? An abhava here has caused a positive action.


      • Namaste T.Krishna Das ji. I think in the misplaced pen example makes sense to me. I think in the the misplaced pen example the misplaced pen is the atma and we are searching for atma. Correct me if I am wrong.

        But looking from the perspective of cause and effect, logically speaking can a non-existent cause produce existence. If such a case is possible then wouldn’t big bang theory also make sense. Where the cause is nothing and the effect is the universe.

        In above paragraph I am trying to look at Jiva Prabhu’s statement from the perspective of cause and effect relation.


      • The example of the pen is simply to show that it is possible to have cause and effect relation between abhava of something and a bhava padartha.

        The abhava of a pen is not a ‘non existent cause’. The abhava exists.

        The Big Bang is not something out of nothing. The Big Bang theory makes complete sense to me.


  2. When abhAv is bhAva rupa then it’s not a seperate padArtha as accepted in nyAya.
    abhAva in siddhAnta is bhAvAntar rupa only.

    This is important concept unlike naiyayik


    • Namaste Gaurav ji and T. Krishna dad ji. I think I understand your responses. But regarding abhava is Brava rupa only in siddhanta( by siddhanta I assume Gaudiya Vaishnav Siddhanta) then what is the difference between bhava and abhava? Wouldn’t “abhava” as a word/concept be redundant?


  3. धनाभाव अभाव= धन
    So nyaya would also have to accept abhAv as bhAv rupa somehow.

    abhAv is not redundant because it’s observed in day to day activity , word usage. Only thing is it’s not a seperate entity as in nyAya.

    SiddhAnt i mean is vaishnav siddhAnta

    In siddhAnt it is a different avasthA of bhAv padArtha only.
    PragbhAv of ghat is mrid rupa only. Bhutale ghatAbhAvah is bhutal rupa only as there is nothing else which can be seen in pratyaksh accept bhutal ,Iike that.

    PrAgbhAv of bhagvat sAkshAtkAr is gyAn rupa only. As the gyAn changes its avastha , the prAgbhAv would end.


    • I asked you for a source. You did not provide it. Why?

      SP ji, look up the book Yatindra mata dipika, page 64 (English translation from 1912, available on the web) which is a Sri Vaisnava book. There abhava is rejected as a seventh (separate) padartha- contrary to nyaya which accepts it as a separate padartha.

      Gaurav ji, when you say “Vaishnav siddhanta”, do you mean “Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta”? Do you have any citations to Gaudiya writings which support this point?


      • Thank you for providing this nice reference. The explanation provided there for not considering abhAva as a separate category(padArtha) is because abhAva is always in connection with bhAva, which is what max I could also think of. As my mind could not think of abhAva(non-existence) as a standalone concept. I mean to think of non-existence is really not possible for me. So abhAva or absence of a substance, which is rooted in something makes sense to me.


      • In nyaya also, abhava is of a substance. Like abhaav of a pot on the floor.

        Nyaya claims that you see the abhava with your eye.

        The Advaitins do not agree. They say that you see the empty floor, not the abhava. They have a separate pramana for perceiving abhava, which they call anupalabdhi. Sri Jiva accepts anupalabdhi pramana.


  4. Mādhva-Dvaita seems to accept abhāva as a separate category like Nyāya as per this statement:

    “Abhava – negation: Abhāva or negation, though not positive, is considered as a category in this system. The four varieties, same as the Nyāya Vaiśeṣika-system, are:
    Prāgabhāva – perception of non-existence before a thing is produced
    Pradhvarisā-bhāva – perception of its absence after it is destroyed
    Anyonyā-bhāva – perception of the mutual non existence of one thing in another
    Atyantābhāva – absolute non-existence
    The absence of a pot before its production and after its destruction is the example for the first two abhāvas. The reciprocal negation between a jar and a cloth is the example for the third. The ‘son of a barren woman’ or the ‘horns of a hare’ are the illustrations for the last.”


    • I think Gaudiya Acharyas have used terms like vAstava-vastu, avAstava-vastu and avastu which can correspond to some of the different kinds of abhAva.


    • I confirmed with Sri Babaji that we accept abhava as a separate category. So it appears that the Sri Vaisnava concept is not acceptable to Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

      I do not know why people insist on injecting views from outside of Gaudiya Vaisnavism into Gaudiya conversations. If I visit Sri Vaisnava sites and start insisting that they are wrong and Sri Jiva is right, that would be highly inappropriate.


      • Not sure how it would be appropriate to consider “son of a barren woman”, “sky-flower” etc. as bhAva-rupa, which are termed as avastu by Acharyas.


      • I got this reference from Madhwacharya’s work Tattva-sankhyanam:
        स्वतन्त्रो भगवान् विष्णु भाव अभावौ द्विधा इतरत,” There is one independent principle-Vishnu, and two dependent principles Bhāva and Abhāva, i.e. ‘being’ and ‘non-being’.


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