Q/A: did Śrī Jīva Goswami teach that the jīva falls down from the spiritual world?

Q: I saw on social media that some quote text 5 of Anuccheda 4 of Bhagavat-sandarbha about how the jiva ‘regains its natural position’, proving that the jīva falls down from the spiritual world. Can you kindly explain what that text says?

A: Sure. First, a rule to live by: before giving meaning to Sanskrit texts, one should know the context fully. Śrī Jīva Goswami indeed cites SB 4.11.30 in Anuccheda 2 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha. But does he cite it to prove that the jīva falls down from the spiritual world, i.e. to prove that the jīva regains its original position from where it had fallen? No. In reality, the Anuchheda is written to prove that the one Absolute has three names based on the realizations of the worshiper. This is how the Anuchheda begins:

“Thus, in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam as well as in some other texts, the one Absolute Truth is addressed by three names. In some places, the Absolute is called Brahman, in others, Paramātmā, and in yet others, Bhagavān.”

The verse 4.11.30 is as follows:

tvaṁ pratyag-ātmani tadā bhagavaty ananta ānanda-mātra upapanna-samasta-śaktau
bhaktiṁ vidhāya paramāṁ śanakair avidyā granthiṁ vibhetsyasi mamāham iti prarūḍham

By regaining your natural disposition of rendering service unto the Supreme Lord, the ground and source of all potencies [Bhagavān], who is the all-powerful reservoir of all-bliss [Brahman] and who resides in all living beings [as Paramātmā], you will very soon forget the illusory concepts of “I” and “my.” ( SB 4.11.30)

In this verse, ānanda-mātra (indistinguished bliss) refers to Brahman and pratyag-ātmā (the Self within all selves) to Paramātmā. Upapanna-samasta-śakti (comprehending all potencies) is an adjective referring to Bhagavān.

So as you can see, Śrī Jīva Goswami’s purpose is completely different. He is not talking about the fall of the jīva at all.

Q: What is wrong in still quoting as proof for the fall of the jiva? Your translation also states ‘regaining your natural disposition’.

A: The opponent misleads the audience by stating that Śrī Jīva Goswami, in the Bhagavat Sandarbha, has taught that the jīva falls down from the spiritual world. As I have shown above, he is not explaining the ‘regaining your natural disposition’ part at all. He is only concerned with supporting his opening statement in the Anuchheda. Do you agree? Yes or no?

Q: Yes, that is not his purpose.

A: When someone claims that a commentator supports their point of view, look at the context, and see if the commentator actually states that. Proponents insert these words into the mouths of the Goswamis – either they are trying to mislead the audience, or they are just unable to think clearly. Either way, it is high time that people learn to ask such questions, otherwise they will keep getting misled.

Q: How about this one: text 19 of Anuchheda 16. There, the jivas are described as suddha, but the jivas in brahmjyoti elsewhere are stated to be avisuddha-buddhayah, having impure intelligence (10.2.32)

A: Did Śrī Jīva Goswami say that jīvas in Brahmajyoti are impure anywhere? Did he state that in this particular Sandarbha? Did Śrī Visvanatha state it? No? This is misleading the audience.

I suggest you read the commentary on 10.2.32 and you will find that the verse teaches nothing of the kind.

By the way, consider Anuchheda 6 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha. Here is what Śrī Jīva Goswami writes:

We will now offer further elaboration and exposition of the vadanti verse, which will continue through to the completion of Paramātma Sandarbha.

He is reminding the reader of what he wrote in Anuchheda 1 to explain the vadanti tat verse:

The first part of SB 1.2.11 [vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam] describes Absolute Reality in a general manner, characterized as nondual consciousness. Then the second part [brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate] elaborates the Absolute more specifically, “This nondual consciousness is referred to as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.” This one nondual Absolute thus manifests its own existence in one of these three aspects in exact accordance with the specific qualification of the worshiper.

Of these three, Anuchheda 6 explains Brahman. He cites SB 10.14.6 to show the process of Brahman realization. I have written an article on it here. Sri Jiva writes:

“Wherefore is this called Brahman? Because it expands ( bṛṁhati ) and causes others to expand ( bṛṁhayati ).” This glory of Yours deserves to be perceived by pure-hearted selves, that is, to persons whose inner perceptual faculties have been purified.

Note how Śrī Jīva explains the main verse of Anuchheda 6 (10.14.6): Brahman is only attained by pure-hearted selves. It is silly to then claim that Śrī Jīva contradicts himself by teaching that those who attain Brahman are impure hearted. The qualification for attaining Brahman is freedom from all material desires. He is not confused.

Q: Another evidence is: text 4 of Anuccheda 1 of Sri Paramatma-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami described the jiva as suddho ‘pi mayatah parah, “Originally pure“.

A: What will you do to understand the text?

Q: Read the opening part?

A: Indeed. The opening statement is:

Now Paramātmā will be explained. Although the Paramātmā aspect of Bhagavān exists in [the spiritual domain of] Vaikuṇṭha also, even that Paramātmā is just a function of Bhagavān Himself. For this reason, Paramātmā is said to be that feature of Bhagavān that pertains specifically to the cosmos. As such, in the following two verses, by first describing the nature of the individual being (the jīva ) who is involved in the cosmos, Jaḍa Bharata specifies the nature of Paramātmā to King Rahūgaṇa.

So his purpose is to now explain the nature of the jīva. After quoting the primary verse of the Anuchheda, he comments:

The one who, even though pure, perceives these familiar modifications of the mind, and upon seeing them becomes identified, is known as the jīva . “Even though pure” ( śuddhaḥ api ) means “although transcendental to māyā .”

There is no word in the Sanskrit corresponding to the word ‘original’. His purpose is not to teach that the jīva falls down. He is teaching that the jīva is pure, and yet is under the influence of maya. You can see this also from the verse he cites next:

yayā sammohito jīva ātmānaṁ triguṇātmakam
paro’pi manute’narthaṁ tat-kṛtaṁ cābhipadyate

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

All ‘śuddha’ means here is that the jīva is beyond māyā. It does not refer to any ‘original’ position or fall down.

Q: How about text 20 of Anuchheda 90 of the Paramatma Sandarbha which mentions ‘apeta bhagah’? This indicates that the soul loses variegated opulences. This means the original position of the soul must have been a situation where these opulences were displayed.

A: Again, lets look at the purpose of this Anuchheda. The opening statement is:

That by which the creation, etc., of the world is conducted is this potency, called māyā , of Bhagavān, who possesses inconceivable potency in His essential nature ( acintya-svarūpa-śakti ). This māyā “contradicts logic,” which means that because it is beyond rational argument, it too is inconceivable ( acintya ).

This Anuchheda will prove that māyā is beyond logic. That is why she can delude the jīva. The purpose is not to teach fall down at all. The opponent cites the ‘apeta-bhaga’ word, without citing what comes immediately before it. Here is Śrī Jīva’s chain of thought:

In this way [in SB 3.7.9 ], after discarding the possibility of there being any opposition of māyā in Bhagavān, the problem of the jīva’s relation with ignorance is solved by the same māyā itself due to its transrational nature [as elaborated in the second half of the verse]. The word īśvarasya , “of the ruler” [i.e., the jīva ], is to be related only with the pronoun yat , “which” [standing for māyā ]. And here the pronoun yat is to be taken in the third case, i.e., yayā , “by which,” because such meaning is appropriate to the context.

The word īśvarasya (“of the one endowed with ruling power”) signifies that the jīva is capable because consciousness is intrinsic to its essential identity, and as such it is liberated ( vimuktasya ). Nonetheless, by the influence of māyā [ yayā ], the jīva experiences impoverishment ( kārpaṇya ) — meaning that its inherent radiance of consciousness is eclipsed— and bondage ( bandhana ), meaning that it also enters into the net made of the guṇas displayed by māyā .

This condition is expressed in the following statement: “The jīva’s autonomy ( aiśvarya ) is lost through identification with such deluded intellect [i.e., māyā ]” ( SB 6.5.15 ). Intending all this, the Śrutis also stated in their prayers in SB 10.87.38 that the jīva has lost its intrinsic opulence ( apeta-bhaga ) because of association with māyā

The first paragraph above reiterates the purpose: to teach that māyā itself due to its transrational nature deludes the jīva. The second paragraph teaches that the jīva is not factually in bondage, but still experiences it. The word ‘apeta-bhaga’ simply explains this point- that the jīva’s bondage is an illusion, but it still experiences it. I wrote an article on this here.

Q: One last evidence: In text 19 of Anuccheda 37 of Sri Paramatma-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami says: ata evavidya-vimoksa-purvaka-svarupavasthiti-laksanayam muktau tal-linasya tat-sadharmyapattir bhavati “When he becomes free from ignorance and situated in his original constitutional position, the soul is said to be liberated. In this liberated condition his spiritual nature is like that of the Lord Himself.” ata eva: therefore; avidya: ignorance; vimoksa: liberation; purvaka: before; svarupa: own form; avasthiti: situation; laksanayam: in the nature; muktau: liberated; tal-linasya: merged into Him; tat-sadharmyapattih: attainment of His nature; bhavati: is. The words purvaka-svarupavasthiti indicate that the original constitutional position was in fact experienced in the past, before the soul entered the conditioned state.

A: The opponent again inserts the word ‘original’ here into Śrī Jīva Goswami’s mouth when there is no such word in the Sanskrit; this distorts Śrī Jīva Goswami’s actual intent. The statement “purvaka-svarupavasthiti indicate that the original constitutional position was in fact experienced in the past, before the soul entered the conditioned state” is an extrapolation that is not implied anywhere in the section. The context of the section is as follows:

  vibheda-janake’jñāne nāśam ātyantikaṁ gate | ātmano brahmaṇo bhedam asantaṁ kaḥ kariṣyati || [vi.pu. 6.7.94] iti |

Thus, it is said in Viṣṇu Purāṇa :
Even if the ignorance that produces the perception of difference were completely destroyed, who could render non-existent ( asanta ) the difference between the [individual] self and Brahman? ( VP 6.7.94 )

He wants to explain this particular verse next. He writes:

devatva-manuṣyatvādi-lakṣaṇo viśeṣato yo bhedas tasya janake’py ajñāne nāśaṁ gatebrahmaṇaḥ paramātmanaḥ sakāśād ātmano jīvasya yo bhedaḥ svābhāvikas taṁ bhedam asantaṁ kaḥ kariṣyati ? api tu santaṁ vidyamānam eva sarva eva kariṣyatīty arthaḥ | uttaratra pāṭhe nāsantam ity etasya vidheyatvād anyārthaḥ kaṣṭa-sṛṣṭa eveti mokṣadāyām api tad-aṁśatvāvyabhicāraḥ svābhāvika-śaktitvād eva |

Ignorance is the cause of the perception of difference ( bheda ), which here refers to cognitive awareness of distinctions ( viśeṣa ) based on the unique characteristics by which individuals are defined, such as those that determine the nature of a god, a human being, or a lower creature. Even if this ignorance were destroyed, who would be able to render non-existent ( asanta ) the innate ( svabhāvika ) difference between the jīva ( ātmā ) and Paramātmā [here indicated by the word brahman ]? In other words, everyone would affirm that their difference does indeed exist. Because the principle to be predicated in the subsequent part [of the sentence] is the negation of the “non-existence” ( na-asanta ) of distinction [between the jīva and Paramātmā], any contrary interpretation would certainly be a stretch of the imagination. Thus, because the jīva is the inherent ( svabhāvika ) energy of Paramātmā, it is never divorced from its constitutional nature of being an integrated part of Him, even in the liberated state.

Now comes the statement cited by the opponent:

ata evāvidyā-vimokṣa-pūrvaka-svarūpāvasthiti-lakṣaṇāyāṁ muktau tal-līnasya tat-sādharmyāpattir bhavati, nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti [mu.u. 3.1.3] ity-ādi-śrutibhyaḥ,   idaṁ jñānam upāśritya mama sādharmyam āgatāḥ | svarge’pi nopajāyate pralaye na vyathanti ca || [gītā 14.2] iti śrī-gītopaniṣadbhyaś ca |  

Therefore, in final liberation, which is characterized by establishment in the self’s intrinsic identity ( svarūpa ) after being freed from ignorance, the merging of the self in the Absolute actually refers to entrance into the state of identity with the nature and qualities of Bhagavān, as is seen from the Śruti statements such as, “The illuminated seer, free from the conditioned state, attains the supreme sameness ( paramaṁ sāmyam )” ( MUU 3.1.3 ), and from the words of the Gītā :
Those who, by resorting to this knowledge, have attained sameness with My nature and qualities are not born again at the time of creation nor are they distressed at the time of dissolution. ( Gītā 14.2 )

So the meaning of the statement is simply this:

avidyā-vimokṣa-pūrvaka-svarūpāvasthiti-lakṣaṇāyāṁ muktau tal-līnasya tat-sādharmyāpattir bhavati

Therefore, in final liberation, which is characterized by establishment in the self’s intrinsic identity ( svarūpa ) after being freed from ignorance, the merging of the self in the Absolute actually refers to entrance into the state of identity with the nature and qualities of Bhagavān

And now the conclusion:

ata eva brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati [mu.u. 3.2.9] ity-ādiṣu ca brahma-tādātmyam eva bodhayati, svābhāvyāpattir upapatteḥ [ve.sū. 3.1.23] itivat |

Therefore, statements such as, “The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman indeed,” indicate that such a knower specifically attains sameness of nature ( tād-ātmya ) with Brahman. This is to say that the transrational intuition of the Supreme self-manifests of its own accord [in correspondence with the specific intent of the worshiper].

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