man standing on pathway between treesBhagavān

Did Śrī Jīva teach that the jīva falls down from the spiritual world?

Anyone who has followed this website knows that the answer to the question in the title is an unequivocal ‘no’. Yet, there is now an ongoing trend to misinterpret Śrī Jīva Goswami’s teachings to support the theory that the jīva falls from the spiritual world. We at consider it our duty to set the record straight whenever there are attempts to misuse Śrī Jīva Goswami’s teachings. We believe that the prerequisite to explain every passage of the Sandarbhas is to have learned it directly in the paraṁparā. If one has not learned the Sandarbhas in this way, one does not have the requisite adhikāra to write about it.

The misinterpreted passage in question is in the Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuchheda 1 as follows:

paramātma-vaibhava-gaṇane ca taṭastha-śakti-rūpāṇāṁ cid-eka-rasānām api anādi-para-tattva-jñāna-saṁsargābhāva-maya-tad-vaimukhya-labdha-cchidrayā tan-māyayāvṛta-svarūpa-jñānānāṁ tayaiva sattva-rajas-tamo-maye jaḍe pradhāne racitātma-bhāvānāṁ jīvānāṁ saṁsāra-duḥkhaṁ ca jñāpitam |

I present Śrī Babaji’s translation:

In the context of the elaboration of the potencies ( vaibhava ) belonging to Paramātmā, the living entities ( jīvas ) were classified as manifestations of His intermediary potency ( taṭasthā-śakti ). This signifies that although they are exclusively of the nature of consciousness, their immediate awareness of their own intrinsic nature is covered by Paramātmā’s extrinsic potency, māyā, owing to the deficiency in them of directing their intentful regard away from the Absolute Reality ( para-tattva-vaimukhya ), a state of being rooted in the beginningless prior absence of awareness of that Reality. By the further influence of māyā , they are identified with phenomenal inert bodies, generated out of the primary constituents of material nature, namely, sattva (luminosity), rajas (dynamism), and tamas (inertia). The fact that the jīvas are thereby subjected to the misery of conditional existence ( saṁsāra ) was made known on the basis of this understanding.

This Sanskrit is so straightforward, that there is no way of reading it in terms of a ‘fall-down’. But proponents still try to do so. There are several misinterpretations I have seen. First, in the compound word:


the word saṁsargābhāva is taken to mean saṁsarga-bhāva. This is an incorrect reading of the technical term saṁsarga-abhāva, ‘prior absence’, which is well known to be one of the four types of abhāva in nyāya, and which Śrī Jīva has used several times in the Sandarbhas. For example, consider this passage from the Anuchheda 1.3 of the Prīti Sandarbha:

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.

The meaning of this passage is crystal-clear, and is restating exactly the same concept that is in the above passage from the Bhakti Sandarbha.

Second, proponents interpret the above compound word as describing ‘para-tattva’, which is Bhagavān. The compound word actually describes the jīva. I will translate the phrase word-for-word below:


labdha-cchidrayā = owing to (labdha) the deficiency (chhidra) in them,

tad-vaimukhya = of directing their intentful regard away (vaimukhya) from that Absolute Reality ( tad=para-tattva ),

jñāna-saṁsargābhāva-maya = rooted in (maya) the prior absence (jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāva) of

para-tattva = awareness of that Reality

anādi = [which is] beginningless.

So the meaning is:


owing to the deficiency in them of directing their intentful regard away from the Absolute Reality ( para-tattva-vaimukhya ), a state of being rooted in the beginningless prior absence of awareness of that Reality.

Proponents misinterpret the word anādi to mean ‘eternal’, when in fact, anādi means ‘beginningless’.

An eternal entity, is both anādi and ananta, that is, beginningless and without end. Beginningless entities are not necessarily eternal.

Incredibly, proponents interpret ‘vaimukhya – directing their regard away from the Absolute Reality’ as existing in māyā and not in the jīvas! Yet, the passage states that vaimukhya is the state of the jīvas, not of māyā. And, this vaimukhya has been explained by Śrī Jīva Goswami in numerous places! I have discussed it here and here and here and here. Quite contrary to this idea of vaimukhya in māyā, she has been described as a devotee of Bhagavān in the Sandarbhas.


The passage from the Bhakti Sandarbha has nothing to do with a ‘fall-down’ of the jīva. Instead, it describes a beginningless state of lack of awareness on the part of the jīva, of the para-tattva, Bhagavān. Due to this lack of awareness, the jīva remains beginninglessly overpowered by māyā.

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2 replies »

  1. ‘the word saṁsargābhāva is taken to mean saṁsarga-bhāva.’

    Minor question, but do you know what is the justification for this interpretation? Is it a grammatical argument?

    • No it cannot be grammatically justified. Sandhi rules require that the ‘a’ be lengthened upon joining samsarga and abhava. Unless one incorrectly reads the compound word as containing a short ‘a’- but I haven’t seen an edition where the compound word is present without a long ‘a’.

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