The inherent bhakti-vādis claim that the guṇāṣṭaka or group of eight qualities cannot exist in the ātmā without a form, and given that these qualities are in the ātmā’s svarūpa, the form or siddha-deha is proven to be inherent in the ātmā. The mistaken idea of the siddha deha being inherent in the ātmā was already refuted in a previous article, but here I want to examine who the guṇāṣṭaka actually belongs to.
The guṇāṣṭaka belongs to Paramātmā
The guṇāṣṭaka is mentioned in the following statement from the Chāndogya Upaniṣad:
ātmāpahata-pāpmā vijaro vimṛtyur viśoko vijighatso’pipāsaḥ satya-kāmaḥ satya-saṅkalpaḥ
The Supreme Self is free from sin, old age, death, grief, hunger, and thirst. He has infallible desires and infallible will.
The word ‘ātmā’ here actually refers to Paramātmā, the Supreme Self, because these qualities actually belong to Him. This becomes clear in the Vedānta-sūtra 1.3.20 which Śrī Jīva Goswami cites in the Paramātmā Sandarbha Anuccheda 1.2:
anyārthas tu parāmarśaḥ
The deliberation ( parāmarśa ) on the individual self is in order to know the other ( anyārtha ) [i.e., the Supreme Self]
I reproduce Śrī Babaji’s commentary on the Anuchheda below:
“..To support this argumentation, Śrī Jīva refers to a sūtra ( VS 1.3.20 ) from the Daharādhikaraṇa of the Brahma-sūtra , where a section of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.1.1 ff.) is under scrutiny. The Upaniṣad states that there is a tiny (dahara) lotus-like space ( ākāśa ) in the “city of Brahman” (i.e., the body) and the material element of ether ( bhūtākāśa ), the individual self ( jīva ), or Brahman / Viṣṇu. The first part of the Daharādhikaraṇa ( VS 1.3.14–17 ) establishes that this “sky” ( ākāśa ), a word that is also used to indicate Brahman, cannot be the material element ether.
The next portion of the adhikaraṇa raises the possibility that the dahara is a reference to the individual self, as indicated further in CHU 8.3.4 , but then refutes this proposition: “If it is argued that because there is a reference to the other, namely the jīva , in the dahara section, and that therefore ākāśa means the jīva , this is denied as impossible” ( itara-parāmarśāt sa iti cen nāsambhavāt , VS 1.3.18 ). In the section of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad to which this sūtra refers, the word prajāpati refers to the jīva , and it is pointed out that when the jīva meditates on Brahman, the eightfold qualities 36 appear in him. These qualities naturally exist in Brahman, not in the jīva . Thus, the word dahara does not refer to the jīva but to Brahman, by meditation on whom the jīva is endowed with the eightfold qualities.
After this, another doubt is raised: “Why, then, is there a reference to the jīva in this section related to dahara ” (i.e., CHU 8.3.4 )? This question is answered by sūtra VS 1.3.20 cited by Śrī Jīva here in Paramātma Sandarbha , “The deliberation ( parāmarśa ) on the individual self is in order to know the other ( anyārtha ) [i.e., the Supreme Self].” The meaning here is that the reference to the jīva is intended to impart knowledge of the Supreme Brahman. It indicates that when a jīva attains perfection, it also becomes endowed with the eightfold qualities (as in CHU 8.1.5 ) belonging to the Supreme Reality.”
In what sense is the the guṇāṣṭaka inherent in the ātmā?
The whole section on dahara-vidyā explicitly establishes that the eight qualities are inherent in Paramātmā. Then in what sense is it inherent in the ātmā? After all, in VS 4.4.1, the following verse from the Chāndogya Upaniṣad is cited:
evam evaiṣa samprasādo’smāt śarīrāt samutthāya paraṁ jyotir
upasampadya svena rūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate sa uttamaḥ puruṣaḥ
“In this way, receiving His mercy, rising from his present body, having approached the supreme light, he is accomplished with his own nature. He is the best person.” (Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.12.3)
and Śrī Baladeva writes in his commentary on VS 4.4.1:
jñāna-vairāgya-niṣevitayā bhaktyā paraṁ jyotir upasampannasya jīvasyeha karma-bandha-vinirmukta-guṇāṣṭaka-viśiṣṭa-svarūpodaya-lakṣaṇo’vasthāna-viśeṣaḥ svarūpāvirbhāvaḥ kathyate
The special state characterized by the appearance of one’s svarūpa, which is free from the bondage of karma and endowed with eight characteristics, is called “manifestation of the svarūpa (svarūpa-āvirbhāva)” of the jīva who has attained the supreme light through bhakti assisted by knowledge and renunciation.
The eight qualities are called here as part of the very svarūpa of the jīva. However, in his commentary on anyārthas tu parāmarśaḥ (Vedānta-sūtra 1.3.20), Śrī Baladeva writes in the Govinda bhāṣya:
tatra jīva-parāmarśaḥ paramātma-jñānārtha eva.
The reason for mentioning the jīva in the Dahara section is for the purpose of knowing Paramatma.
[here he gives the same meaning to the Dahara section like Śrī Jīva Goswami]
yaṁ prāpya jīvastadaṣṭakavatā svarūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate sa eṣa paramātmā iti
He is this Paramātmā ( sa eṣa paramātmā), obtaining whom (yam), the jīva manifests as endowed with a svarūpa (svarūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate) endowed with his (Paramātmā’s) eight guṇas (tadaṣṭakavatā).
Here we see that he uses the same words svarūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate, referring to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.12.3, which contains the words svena rūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate. As an aside, the word rūpa does not mean ‘siddha deha’ even in Śrī Baladeva’s opinion, because he combines the two words svena and rūpa as svarūpa which simply means essential nature. Further, he explicitly writes above that the eight guṇas the jīva is endowed with are Paramātmā’s eight guṇas (tad-aṣṭakavatā).
Why are the eight guṇas said to be in the jīva’s svarūpa then, if they are actually in Paramātmā’s svarūpa? Consider the following section from the Priti Sandarbha:
atha muktir hitvānyathā-rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ [bhā.pu. 2.10.6] ity etad api tat-tulyārtham eva | yataḥ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitir nāma svarūpa-sākṣātkāra ucyate, tad-avasthāna-mātrasya saṁsāra-daśāyām api sthitatvāt, anyathā-rūpatvasya ca tad-ajñāna-mātrārthatvena tad-dhānau taj-jñāna-paryavasānāt |
In this regard, we may now consider the following assertion: “Liberation (mukti) means to be established in the self’s true essential nature (svarūpa), after abandoning identification with all that it is not” (SB 2.10.6). This statement is identical in meaning to the one just cited [SB 12.4.34], because establishment in the self’s essential nature (svarūpa-vyavasthiti) is defined as the immediate intuition of the same (svarūpa-sākṣātkāra).
This specification is necessary because bare establishment in one’s svarūpa [bereft of its realization] is the status of existence even in the state of material bondage. Additionally, because identification with “all that the self is not” (anyathā-rūpa) is nothing other than ignorance of its own svarūpa, the abandonment of that ignorance is synonymous with the realization of its svarūpa.
[So what is the svarūpa of the jīva refer to here? He writes:]
svarūpaṁ cātra mukhyaṁ paramātma-lakṣaṇam eva | raśmi-paramāṇūnāṁ sūrya iva sa eva hi jīvānāṁ paramo’ṁśi-svarūpaḥ
Moreover, the word svarūpa primarily denotes Paramātmā, because He alone is the supreme whole (parama-aṁśi-svarūpa) of which the living entities are but parts, like the sun in relation to its particles of light.
The word ‘svarūpa’ when applied to the jīva can also refer to Paramātmā, and as such, it is not incorrect to state that the eight guṇas are in the jīva’s svarūpa.
The eight qualities in the verse ātmāpahata-pāpmā belong to the Paramātmā, and not the ātmā.
In mukti, when the ātmā becomes situated in its relationship as aṁśa of Paramātmā, the aṁśi, the qualities of Paramātmā manifest in the ātmā.
The word ‘svarūpa’ when applied to the jīva can refer to Paramātmā. As such, it is not inaccurate to say that the eight qualities are part of the ātmā’s svarūpa