Do Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja or Śrī Baladeva teach that bhakti is inherent in the ātmā?

In a previous article, I refuted the claim that the dāsa bhūto harer eva implies inherent bhakti in the ātmā. Here I examine citations that are claimed to support inherent bhakti.

The first one is from Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja. I provide the verse and the cited translation below.

Claim: Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja explains that the jīva’s nature (svabhāva) is to possess the conception (abhimāna) of being a servant of the Lord:

jīvera svabhāva—kṛṣṇa-dāsa-abhimāna

dehe ātma-jñāne ācchādita sei ‘jñāna’

[the following translation is provided:]

The jīva’s intrinsic nature is to have the conception of being a servant of Kṛṣṇa. That knowledge is covered by the misconception of the body being the self. Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 24.201

This proves that the jīva’s intrinsic nature is to be a bhakta, i.e. bhakti is inherent in the ātmā.


Nowhere does this payār state that bhakti is inherent in the ātmā. On the contrary, Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa is simply repeating in Bengali, the concepts taught in the Sandarbhas which I discussed in two recent articles. Consider the second line of the payār:

dehe ātma-jñāne : By considering the body to be the self,

sei ‘jñāna’: that jñāna

ācchādita: is covered

Where have we heard this concept of covering of jñāna by absorption in the body? In the Sandarbhas, of course, discussed in detail here and here. There I showed how Śrī Jīva teaches the following sequence:

  1. anādi-para-tattva-jñāna-saṁsargābhāva-maya-tad-vaimukhya: beginningless (anādi) prior absence of experience of Paramātmā, which characterizes vaimukhya, or diversion of awareness away from Paramātmā
  2. Covering of svarūpa-jñāna by māyā, i.e. absence of svarūpa-jñāna (tan-māyayāvṛta-svarūpa-jñānānāṁ)
  3. Identification with inert bodies
  4. Misery of conditional existence

I showed in these articles that the word ‘jñāna’ in this context means absence of direct experience, i.e. a lack of awareness. Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja is repeating the same concepts here. The words dehe ātma-jñāne ācchādita directly correlate with tan-māyayāvṛta, while the word jñāna refers to svarūpa-jñāna.

The pronoun ‘sei’ in ‘sei jñāna’ refers to kṛṣṇa-dāsa-abhimāna. The word ‘dāsa’, as we have already seen, conveys dependence on Bhagavān, because that is the sense of its usage in the Padma Purāṇa. As such, dāsa-abhimāna means awareness of one’s utter dependence on Bhagavān. While the inherent bhakti-vādis claim that the payār indicates that ‘the jīva’s true nature is to serve the Lord with intentionality’, the payār does not support this interpretation. As I will discuss in an upcoming article, the essential nature or svarūpa of the jiva is śeṣatva, which simply means that it is an aṁśa, part, that is, a śakti, of Paramātmā. The śakti belongs to the śaktimān and therefore has no independent existence.

Meanings to this payār should not be given whimiscally, but in accordance with Śrī Jīva Goswami’s Sandarbhas. Subsequent writers, including Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, should not be understood independently of the Sandarbhas.

To restate the meaning of the payār in a different way (which is also stated in the Sandarbhas), this payār states that antar-mukhatā, or being turned toward Bhagavān, i.e. being aware of Bhagavān, is the jīva’s natural condition, obviously, because it has no independent existence from Bhagavān. Obviously, bahir-mukhatā, or being turned away from Bhagavān, is an unnatural position. None of this in any way implies that bhakti is inherent in the ātmā.

None of the Goswamis have written anywhere that bhakti is inherent in the ātmā. All attempts that I have seen so far to prove this apasiddhānta, have been attempts to read meanings into verses and passages that are not explicitly there.  In contrast, I have provided explicit evidence from the Sandarbhas here and here that the hlādinī, sandhinī and samvit śaktis are not present in the ātmā. That is, bhakti is not in the ātmā.

I now turn to another claim of the inherent bhakti-vādis below.

Claim: Śrī Baladeva Vidyabhūṣana, in his commentary on the dāsa bhūto harer eva verse from Padma Purāṇa, writes:

dāsa-bhūto harer eva nānyasyaiva kadācaneti pādmāt । nanu sarveṣāṁ jīvānāṁ tad-dāsatve svarūpa-siddhe nirviśeṣe ca saty upadeśāder vaiyarthyam iti cen na । tad-abhivyañjakatvena tasya sārthakyāt । na hi mathanena vinā dadhni sarpir araṇau ca vahnir āvirbhavet ।

[The following translation is provided of this passage:]

“If all individual souls’ status as servants of Lord Hari is an accomplished fact by their own nature and is invariable, then the instructions of the scriptures and so on would be useless.” It is not so, for by revealing their status as the Lord’s servants, such instructions and so on are useful. Without churning, butter certainly does not appear from yogurt, nor does fire appear from wood without friction.

This verse directly supports the presence of inherent bhakti in the jiva, because the soul’s true nature of being a dāsa, i.e. bhakta, is unmanifest, like butter in yogurt or fire in wood. It becomes manifest under the right conditions. If we were to take the word ‘dāsa’ to imply ‘dependence’, then Śrī Baladeva’s commentary would make no sense, as nothing would be unmanifest and then manifest.


The inherent bhakti-vādis argue that the objection in Śrī Baladeva’s writing above would make no sense if one took the meaning of the word ‘dāsa’ as ‘dependent on Bhagavan’. This is false as I show below.

First, the commentary of Śrī Baladeva explains what his guru wrote. It is not original to him. The actual meaning of Śrī Baladeva’s objection (actually the objection of his guru) can be understood as follows:

Someone may object that anything that is the very svarūpa or essential nature of an object, is always that object’s existential state. If the jīva is utterly dependent on Bhagavān as His śakti in its very svarūpa, that will always be the case, whether the jīva hears scriptural teachings or not. As such, what is the need for scriptural teachings at all? They seem pointless.

Śrī Baladeva’s response can be understood as follows:

While it is true that anything in the very svarūpa of the jīva, is always the jīva’s existential state, what scriptural instructions will do is bring about awareness of its svarūpa. [This is the meaning of the Sanskrit term: tad-abhivyañjakatvena – because they reveal the svarūpa of the jīva [scriptural teachings are meaningful]].

Who is the svarūpa of the jīva revealed to? To the jīva of course, who else? Of course, this is simply a restatement of the fact that the jīva lacks knowledge of its svarūpa, and that attaining this knowledge solves the problem of ignorance, as I have already discussed above and extensively in the two articles here and here. The ‘dāsa bhūto harer’ statement is a simple re-statement of the fact that the jīva has no independent existence from Hari, being His śakti in its very svarūpa. Under the influence of māyā, the jiva’s awareness of its svarūpa as Hari’s śakti is absent. Śrī Baladeva’s commentary is consistent with this concept: that even though the jīva is a śakti of Hari, it is not aware of this essential fact about itself. The churning of yogurt, and the friction with the wood, indicate the process of sādhana taught in scripture, that brings awareness of the jīva’s eternal relation with Bhagavān as śakti and śaktimān. The jīva’s svarūpa is not unmanifest in the sense of all its śaktis being dormant, as the inherent bhakti-vādis claim. Rather, its svarūpa, which was hidden from itself, becomes ‘manifest’ i.e. revealed to itself.

I note in passing that the objection above, and Śrī Baladeva’s response where he accepts part of the objection while resolving how scriptural teachings are not meaningless, shows that nothing in the jīva’s svarūpa can become non-functional or ‘unmanifest’. All inherent śaktis are always functional. This, in effect, refutes the position that the śaktis of the ātmā become dormant in the conditioned state.

Meanings to the writings of all subsequent writers, including Śrī Baladeva, must not be given independently of Śrī Jīva Goswami’s Sandarbhas. They must be harmonized with the Sandarbhas because the Sandarbhas are the foundation of the Caitanya sampradāya. The Gangā does not flow upstream. In the case of the inherent bhakti-vādis, however, I must say: यहां पर तो उल्टी गंगा बह रही है!

Categories: Bhagavān, bhāva, jīva-tattva

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