I continue to examine the arguments offered by inherent bhakti-vādis to support the claim that bhakti is inherent but dormant inside the ātmā. In this article, I examine the claim that the word ‘śeṣatva’, which according to Śrī Jīva Goswami, is an inherent characteristic of the ātmā, implies that bhakti is inherent or inside in the ātmā.
Do Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas need to learn from the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas about śeṣatva?
An important thing to note at the outset is that Śrī Jīva Goswami leaves no ambiguity about the meaning of śeṣatva. In fact, he dedicates an entire Anuccheda to the topic. But, his explanation is inconvenient for the inherent bhakti-vādis because in that Anuchheda (Anuchheda 37 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha), he does not at all give the meaning the inherent bhakti-vādis fervently wish to give to the term. So the approach of the inherent bhakti-vādis is to brush his explanation aside. They simply choose not to cite it at all! They do this under the plea that Śrī Jīva Goswami’s purpose in Anuchheda 37 is to refute māyāvada. I find this disrespectful to Śrī Jīva Goswami, because he does not state this to be the purpose anywhere in the Anuchheda. In fact, the entire section, of which Anuchheda 37 is but a part, is a discussion of the intrinsic characteristics of the ātmā. He is teaching us saṁbandha-jñāna. How a Caitanya Vaiṣṇava can choose to ignore his teachings on this topic, and still consider himself or herself a Caitanya Vaiṣṇava, is beyond me.
After blithely ignoring Śrī Jīva Goswami’s explicit teachings on the topic, the inherent bhakti-vādis then go on to claim that the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas are the experts on this subject of śeṣa and śeṣi and therefore one must follow their explanations. This argument does not sit well with me. I mean no offense to the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas, but I am not a Śrī Vaiṣṇava. The Caitanya sampradāya is not dependent on other sampradāyas; we have our own understanding of the topic. It is true that Śrī Jīva Goswami cites a Śrī Vaiṣṇava teacher, Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, in the section on the inherent characteristics of the jīva (Anuchheda 17), but he first cites the Padma Purāṇa verses. He next cites four verses by Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, but these verses merely repeat the content of the Padma Purāṇa verses, with the addition of three characteristics – knowership, doership and experiential capacity. It is for these extra qualities that Śrī Jīva cites Jāmātṛ Muni.
After quoting the verses from Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, he writes:
śrī-rāmānuja-bhāṣyānusāreṇa vyākhyā ceyam –
This explanation [by Jamatr muni] is given in accordance with the commentary of Śrī Rāmānuja on the Brahma-sūtra.
Next, he writes:
tatra devāditvaṁ nirastam evāsti tattva-sandarbhe
Of these characteristics, the first, that the jīva [i.e., the ātmā ] is not a god, a human, or any other species of life, was implied in Tattva Sandarbha ..
Here we see his intent- he wishes to now expound his own interpretation of these verses. Otherwise he could have just verbatim reproduced Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s commentary from the Brahma-sūtra, but he did not.
Śrī Jīva Goswami then goes on to explain each of the 21 qualities in his own way over many Anuchhedas, citing his own sources, primarily from the Bhāgavata. He is presenting the Bhāgavata‘s explanation of the subject. As Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas, we are supposed to follow him. I will reproduce his precise explanation of śeṣatva below.
Instead of citing the primary Anuchheda where Śrī Jīva Goswami explicitly defines śeṣatva, the inherent bhakti-vādis rather self-servingly choose to instead cite another Anuccheda from the Paramātmā Sandarbha, which they claim, shows that ‘śeṣatva includes bhakti’, simply because the term ‘bhakti’ shows up there. I will show that the claim is incoherent, and invalidated by a simple scrutiny of that part.
The meaning of śeṣatva
The term śeṣa-bhūtaḥ parasya vai, meaning “He is indeed the irreducible remainder ( śeṣa ) [i.e., the integrated part] of the Complete Whole”, is present in the Padma Purāṇa; Śrī Jāmātṛ muni uses the term paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāvaḥ for it. Śrī Jīva writes:
atha paramātmaika-śeṣatveti vyākhyeyam – Next to be explained is the meaning of paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāva
This refutes the claim of the inherent bhakti-vādis that Śrī Jīva Goswami is trying to refute māyāvada in this section. I will take him at his word: he wishes to explain the term paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāva. The inherent bhakti-vādis claim that śeṣatva is a correlate of the term dāsabhūto harer eva, which they take to mean, “he is a bhakta of Hari alone, i.e. He has inherent bhakti for Hari”. I invite the reader to test whether this meaning is present in any of what follows. I will present his explanation line by line.
paramātmaika-śeṣaḥ= ekaḥ paramātmano’nyaḥ śeṣo’ṁśaḥ
Here,Śrī Jīva explains the individual words:
paramātmaikaḥ = paramātmā+ekaḥ=paramātmano ekaḥ= paramātmano anyaḥ (ekaḥ=anyaḥ) = ‘distinct from Paramātmā’.
śeṣaḥ= aṁśaḥ = part
paramātmaika-śeṣaḥ = a part distinct from Paramātmā.
The jīva is a distinct part in its intrinsic nature; that this is its intrinsic identity is indicated by the word svabhāvaḥ. Śrī Jīva adds that this is the jīva’s eternal condition, even upon liberation (tathā-bhūtaś cāyaṁ sarvadā mokṣa-daśāyām api). I will now provide the entire Sanskrit and the English translation of the passage below for those who are interested in scrutinizing it:
atha paramātmaika-śeṣatveti vyākhyeyam | ekaḥ paramātmano’nyaḥ śeṣo’ṁśaḥ | sa cāsau sa ca eka-śeṣaḥ | paramātmana eka-śeṣaḥ paramātmaika-śeṣaḥ | tasya bhāvas tattvaṁ tad eva svabhāvaḥ prakṛtir yasya, sa paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāvaḥ | tathā-bhūtaś cāyaṁ sarvadā mokṣa-daśāyām apīty arthaḥ | etādṛśatvaṁ cāsya svataḥ svarūpata eva, na tu paricchedādinā | tadīya-svābhāvikācintya-śaktyā svābhāvika-tadīya-raśmi-paramāṇu-sthānīyatvāt aupādhikāvathāyās tv aṁśena prakṛti-śeṣatvam api bhavati iti ca svata ity asya bhāvaḥ |
Next to be explained is the meaning of paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāva , i.e., “the jīva is by nature the unitary, irreducible remainder of Paramātmā” [quality no. 21]. In the compound paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāva , the word eka (“a unit”) refers to an entity who is other than, or distinct from, Paramātmā, and the word śeṣa (“remainder,” “residue”) means “a part.” That entity who is both a distinct unit ( eka ) and an irreducible part ( śeṣa ) is eka-śeṣa , a part of Paramātmā that is yet different from Him. A unitary, or integrated, part of Paramātmā is known as paramātmaika-śeṣa , and its existential condition ( bhāva ) is called paramātmaika-śeṣatva . So, that which has this condition as its intrinsic nature ( svabhāva ) is called paramātmaika-śeṣatva-svabhāva [referring to the jīva ]. Moreover, this is its permanent state of being ( sarvadā ), implying that such is the case even in the liberated state. The jīva has this intrinsic nature by its very own inner constitution ( svarūpata eva ), meaning that it is not the outcome of some covering or limitation ( pariccheda ) [on Brahman by māyā ].
Needless to say, there is no mention anywhere of ‘bhakta’, ‘bhakti’, ‘servant’, ‘service’, or ‘inherent bhakti’ anywhere.
The meaning of the word aṁśa
We have seen above that Śrī Jīva Goswami glosses śeṣaḥ= aṁśaḥ, or śeṣatva= aṁśatva. What, then, does aṁśatva mean? Perhaps it implies ‘inherent bhakti’? No, it does not, as we see below.
The rest of Anuchheda 37 contains a detailed description of the jīva as a śakti of Paramātmā. A number of interesting points are brought to light, including the fact that the jīva is both a dravya and a śakti, that it has no independent existence from Paramātmā, that it is a separate category of śakti of Paramātmā, and that it is both different and non-different; non-different because it is conscious like Paramātmā (and not because it has bhakti inherent in it), and different because it is a śakti. Needless to say, the word ‘bhakti’ does not show up anywhere in the entire Anuchheda.
The discussion in Anuchheda 37 might raise the question: what does śeṣatva= aṁśatva have to do with śakti? The answer is provided in Anuchheda 39, where he opens with the statement:
tatra śaktitvenaivāṁśatvaṁ vyañjayanti
The Śrutis explain that the jīvas are integrated parts of Paramātmā because they are a potency belonging to Him.
After citing a verse to support his opening statement, he concludes again:
jīva-śakti-viśiṣṭasyaiva tava jīvo’ṁśo na tu śuddhasyeti gamayitvā jīvasya tac-chakti-rūpatvenaivāṁśatvam ity anenaivāṁśatvam ity etad vyañjayanti
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 integrated part of Paramātmā specifically by virtue of being His energy.
The jīva is not a part in the conventional sense of the word, but it is called a part because it is a śakti of Paramātmā. In other words, the sense of the word ‘part’ is that the jīva is a śakti of Paramātmā. That means, ‘śeṣa’ implies ‘a distinct śakti of Paramātmā’.
Does śeṣatva include bhakti?
After ignoring the above exposition, the inherent bhakti-vādis cite Anuchheda 45 of the Paramātma Sandarbha in an attempt to prove that ‘śeṣatva includes bhakti’. First, śeṣatva is a quality. As such, it cannot ‘include’ anything. Qualities do not have qualities nor can they include dravyas or objects in them. The statement itself is incoherent. For the benefit of the reader, I reproduce the full Anuchheda and its translation below:
anyatrāpi śrī-jāmātṛ-munibhir upadiṣṭasya jīva-lakṣaṇasyaivopajīvyatvena taṁ lakṣayati tribhiḥ—
Elsewhere also, Bhagavān Kapiladeva describes the jīva in three verses, which are supportive of the definition of the jīva imparted by the sage Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni:
ahaṁ mamābhimānotthaiḥ kāma-lobhādibhir malaiḥ vītaṁ yadā manaḥ śuddham aduḥkham asukhaṁ samam tadā puruṣa ātmānaṁ kevalaṁ prakṛteḥ param nirantaraṁ svayañ-jyotir aṇimānam akhaṇḍitam jñāna-vairāgya-yuktena bhakti-yuktena cātmanā paripaśyaty udāsīnaṁ prakṛtiṁ ca hataujasam
When the mind is purged of its impurities like lust and greed, which arise from identification with the notions of “I” and “mine,” it becomes pure, indifferent to pleasure and pain, and equipoised. Then the conscious being ( puruṣa ) perceives itself as a monad ( kevala ), as beyond material nature ( prakṛteḥ param ), perpetually self-effulgent ( nirantaraṁ svayañ-jyotiḥ ), atomic ( aṇimāna ), and indivisible ( akhaṇḍita ). Being endowed in the self with knowledge and dispassion, as well as with devotion, it sees itself in all respects as unattached ( udāsīna ), and material nature as having lost all power over it. ( SB 3.25.16–18 )
spaṣṭaiva yojanā | tatra aham iti padyena sa ātmā nitya-nirmala iti | ātmānam ity anenaiva aham-artha iti, anyathā hy ātmatva-pratīty-abhāvaḥ syāt | kevalam ity anena eka-rūpa-svarūpa-bhāk iti | prakṛteḥ param ity anena vikāra-rahitaḥ [na vikāri] | bhakti-yuktena ity anena paramātma-prasādādhīna-tat-prakāśatvāt | nirantaram ity anena nityatvāt paramātmaika-śeṣatvam iti | svayaṁ-jyotir ity anena svasmai svayaṁ-prakāśa iti jñāna-mātrātmako na ca iti ca | aṇimānam ity anenāṇur eveti prati-kṣetraṁ bhinna iti ca | akhaṇḍitam ity anena vicchinna-jñānādi-śaktitvāt jñātṛtva-kartṛtva-bhoktṛtva-nija-dharmaka iti vyañjitam ||
The syntax [of the three verses, which form a single sentence] is clear. The first verse signifies that the ātmā is eternally unblemished ( nitya-nirmala , Anuccheda 35). The word ātmānam implies that the jīva is the referent of the pronoun “I” ( aham-artha , Anuccheda 29); otherwise, there would be no perception of the self. The word kevala , “a monad,” indicates the self’s establishment in its own unique identity ( eka-rūpa-svarūpa-bhāk , Anuccheda 28). Prakrteḥ param , “beyond material nature,” means that it is free from modifications ( vikāra-rahita , Anuccheda 21).
The compound bhakti-yuktena , “endowed with devotion,” implies that because the self’s manifestation [ prakāśa , i.e., its existence] is dependent upon the grace of Paramātmā, and because of the eternality of such existence, indicated by the word nirantara , the jīva is to be understood as an integrated part of Paramātmā ( paramātmaika-śeṣatva , Anuccheda 37). Svayañ-jyoti , “self-effulgent,” means that the jīva is self-luminous in regard to itself ( svasmai svayam-prakāśaḥ , Anuccheda 27) and also not merely of the nature of consciousness ( jñāna-mātrātmako na ca , Anuccheda 22). Aṇimāna , “atomic,” means that it is aṇu in dimension ( Anuccheda 33) and [also] distinct in each body ( prati-kṣetre bhinnaḥ , Anuccheda 32). Akhaṇḍita , “indivisible,” signifies that it is inherently endowed with the capacities of knowership ( jñātṛtva ), agency ( kartṛtva ), and experiential capacity ( bhoktṛtva ), because it has potencies, such as consciousness, that are inseparable ( avicchinna ) from its being ( Anucchedas 35–36).
The inherent bhakti-vādis notice the term ‘bhakti-yuktena’, and convince themselves that this supports the notion that “śeṣatva includes bhakti”. If we study the verse where this compound word is present carefully, and then Śrī Jīva Goswami’s commentary, it becomes plain that the term ‘bhakti-yuktena’ implies that one’s existence, the experience of which is described in the cited verse as resulting through the means of bhakti (bhakti-yuktena cātmanā paripaśyati), depends on Paramātmā’s grace (bhakti-yuktena ity anena paramātma-prasādādhīna-tat-prakāśatvāt). Taken together with the fact that the self is eternal (nirantaram ity anena nityatvāt), the quality of ‘paramātmaika-śeṣatva’ – is established.
The point is that the original verse does not contain the word ‘paramātmaika-śeṣatva’. How is this conveyed in it then? The word ‘bhakti-yuktena’ is present in the verse for the purpose of conveying that the ātmā experiences itself through the means of bhakti (bhakti-yukta is in the instrumental case). Since the word ‘Paramātmā’ is not explicitly present in the sentence, Śrī Jīva resorts to an implied meaning (iti vyañjitam). Bhakti, which implies service of Paramātmā, implies dependence on Paramātmā (he uses the word adhīna which means dependent), which implies ‘paramātmaika-śeṣatva’. Note, that the logic does not work the other way around: dependence does not imply bhakti, which is what the inherent bhakti-vādis attempt to conclude. Nowhere does Śrī Jīva Goswami support the bizarre conclusion that “śeṣatva includes bhakti”. Instead, he is teaching the same principle, that he already taught in Anuchheda 37-39: that the jīva is a śakti of Paramātma, and therefore not independent of Him. And we have seen that śaktis are distinct- bhakti is a distinct śakti of Bhagavān or Paramātma, and the jiva is a distinct śakti of Paramātma.
[Note: I have modified the foregoing paragraphs as they were not clear enough or crisp enough before].
For the Caitanya Vaisnavas, the meaning of the term ‘śeṣatva’ has to be learned from Śrī Jīva, and not Śrī Vaiṣṇavas
Śrī Jīva teaches that śeṣatva= aṁśatva ∵ śaktitva. śeṣatva means that the jīva is a part distinct from Paramātmā, meaning it is a distinct śakti of Paramātmā.
The śeṣa- śeṣi relationship between ātmā and Paramātmā is the same as an aṁśa-aṁśi relationship, which in turn implies the relationship of śakti-śaktimān. That is, śeṣa implies śakti, and śeṣi implies śaktimān.
śeṣatva has nothing to do with inherent bhakti.
Experiencing one’s quality of śeṣatva requires the practice of sādhanā bhakti, which alone can invoke Paramātmā’s grace.