A reader requested that I explain the definitions of the term ‘śakti’ present in Śrī Jīva Goswami’s Sarva-samvādinī commentary on the Bhagavat Sandarbha. As I examined the commentary, I realized that I would have to present his arguments in their entirety. I have therefore decided to translate Śrī Jīva’s commentary that runs over several sections, where he discusses objections to śakti-vāda and his refutations. To keep things readable, I will split this article into parts. In translating the commentary, I consulted Śrī Ānanda Gopāla Vedānta-tirtha’s Sanskrit commentary on the Sarva-samvādinī on the Bhagavat Sandarbha.
I pick up the thread in Anuchheda 4 of the Sarva-samvādinī. The opponent is Advaita-vada. He writes:
tatrādvaita-vādina evaṁ vadanti—sajātīya-vijātīya-svagata-bheda-rahitaṁ jñānam eva paraṁ tattvam iti | vadanti [bhā.pu. 1.2.11] ity ādāv advaya-padena labhyate, tac ca bhāva-sādhanam | tarhy eva tasyādvaya-viśeṣa-labdhena sajātīyādi-bheda-rāhityenānantatvaṁ satyam upapadyate | anyathā kāraka-sādhane jñeya-jñāna-tat-sādhanaiḥ pravibhāge sāntatvam eva syāt | tathā kartṛ-sādhane jñānasya kartṛtayā vikriyamāṇasya karaṇādi-sādhane ca vāsyādivad jaḍatayā pratipannasyāsatyatvam eva ca syāt | tasmāj jñapty-avabodha-paryāyaṁ taj jñānaṁ nāma tattvaṁ śaktimad iti na yujyate |
In this context, the Advaita-vādis speak like this: in the verse ‘vadanti tat-tattva-vidas’ (SB 1.2.11), the word ‘advaya’ conveys that jñāna is paraṁ tattva which is devoid of sajātīya, vijātīya and svagata-bheda, and [the word ‘jñāna’] is a means to convey the sense of bhāva [i.e. just the verbal meaning of jñā avabodhane]. Only then is that jñāna established as ananta and satya by the absence of sajātīya and other bhedas conveyed by the specific word ‘advaya’. Instead, if the word jñāna conveys the sense of kāraka, the jñāna will be sa-anta [and not ananta] owing to the divisions of that which is to be known, that which is knowledge, and its means, and when the word jñāna conveys the sense of kartā, it becomes modified due to being a kartā [and is therefore sa-anta]. It becomes established as material when it conveys the sense of an instrument like an axe, and therefore becomes ‘asatya’. Therefore, the word jñāna is a synonym of words like ‘avabodha’, ‘jñapti’. This jñāna is indeed the [advaya] tattva. It is therefore not correct to consider it as being endowed with śakti.
Śrī Jīva Goswami has concisely summarized the main argument that an Advaita-vadi would offer to the notion of śakti in the paraṁ tattva. The point of discussion is the verse SB 1.2.11:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate
All those who have realized Absolute Reality refer to that reality as non-dual consciousness. This nondual consciousness is referred to as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
At issue is the meaning of the term jñāna. The word jñāna can be carry different meanings. It could be used in the sense of bhāva, for example, where the meaning of bhāva is given by Śrī Jīva Goswami in the Harināmāmṛta vyākaraṇam-
bhāvo dhātv-arthaḥ – bhāva is the meaning of a dhātu.
The word jñāna, according to the Advaitins, should be taken in bhāva. It is formed in grammar by the following sutra in Harināmāmṛta vyākaraṇam-
ano bhāve – Ana is applied in bhāva
So the addition of ‘ana’ to the root jñā, in bhāva, leads to the word jñāna. Its meaning conveys only the meaning of the verbal root jñā avabodhane – to know, and nothing more. So in this meaning, the word jñāna would be understood as follows: jñāyate iti jñānam
Now Śrī Jīva Goswami raises the question of whether jñāna in the verse should be understood as a kāraka. A kāraka is defined in the Harināmāmṛta vyākaraṇam as follows–
kriyā-sambandha-viśeṣi kārakam — kāraka is that which is related specifically to an action.
There are six kārakas that are captured by six cases in Sanskrit. The main problem in considering jñānam as a word related to a verb, is as follows. Suppose it is taken as the first case- i.e. jānāti iti jñānam. Then, one would have to explain who knows, what is known, how it is known, where it is known, etc. Thus, jñānam is no longer advaya – non-dual. And anything that is non-dual is sa-anta, i.e. with an end, and not ananta. This is because it is vyavahārika.
If we consider jñānam as the kartā , or an agent, then as every doer must undergo a change, jñānam will undergo a change, and therefore is sa-anta.
If we consider jñānam as an instrument – i.e. jñāyate anena iti jñānam – then it becomes material, because all instruments are material.
Śrī Jīva Goswami considers a further argument:
svarūpa-bhūtayaiva śaktyā yujyate iti cet ka svit svarūpa-śaktiḥ ? sā ca kiṁ tad-atiriktānatirktā vā ? ādye kathaṁ svarūpatvaṁ ? antye ca kathaṁ śaktitvaṁ ?
[If the opponent argues that] śakti is the svarūpa, then what is that svarūpa-śakti? And, is that śakti different from the jñāna or not different from it? If it is the former, how can it be the svarūpa? In the latter case, how can it be a śakti?
Here, the question is: is there bheda between the advaya jñāna and śakti, or abheda? The very word svarūpa-śakti is a contradiction- svarūpa implies non-difference (abheda), and śakti implies difference (bheda). Of course, Śrī Jīva Goswami’s answer is that there is neither bheda nor abheda between the two.
atha sādhitāyāṁ ca bhedena svarūpa-śaktyāṁ tasyāḥ kathaṁ ṣaḍguṇātmaka-bhaga-mayatvaṁ, yena tad bhagavān iti śabdyate ? tasya tattvasya jñāna-mātra-svarūpatvāt sāpi jñānaika-svarūpaiva bhavitum arhati | tataś ca tad-vilāsasya nānātvaṁ na sambhavati | katham api nānātve ca īśitādi-lakṣaṇa-kriyā-guṇatvaṁ tasyā na yujyata eva |
Now if svarūpa-śakti is proposed to have bheda from jñāna, how can it be composed of six-fold opulences (bhaga), due to which that jñāna is called Bhagavān? That advaya tattva is exclusively jñāna in its svarūpa. Therefore, even that śakti ought to be jñāna-svarūpa exclusively [and not different from jñāna due to being composed of six opulences]. As such, the different forms of that śakti are not possible [as Bhagavān, Paramātmā or Brahman]. Even if such variety were to be accepted, actions like control [of the world] and qualities [like omniscience] are not applicable to śakti.
He now considers one more objection, in which the Advaitin ultimately argues that śakti is mithyā.
kiṁ ca nīla-pītādy-ākāratvaṁ paricchinnatvaṁ ca tasya niṣiddham | samprati tu tat-tad-varṇatā-parichinna-caturbhujādy-ākāratā ca katham asyāṅgīkṛtā ? api ca tat-paricchadānāṁ dravya-viśeṣaṇatvāt, vaikuṇṭhasya loka-viśeṣatvāt, tatratya-janānāṁ ca jīva-viśeṣatvāt kathaṁ tad-ādīnāṁ tādṛśatvaṁ ? tad evaṁ tasya tattvasya punar api tat-tad-avasthā svīkāre hasti-snānam iva sarvaṁ jātam | tasmād yā śaktiḥ kāryānyathānupapattyā pratīyate, sā tattvātattvābhyām anirvacanīyatvena mithyaiva, na tu svarūpa-bhūtā | tan-mayaṁ ca bhagādikam atropalakṣaṇam eveti | jahad-ajahal-lakṣaṇaiva tenādvaya-jñānena bhagavataḥ sāmānādhikaraṇyaṁ yuktam iti |
Furthermore, blue, yellow [or other colored] forms are not allowed in [ advaya jñāna], nor is it allowed to be delimited [by anything]. How can delimitedness or the four-handed-form be accepted in that jñāna, as currently claimed [by some] who describe it thus [as jñāna and as advaya]? And how can Vaikuṇṭha, its residents etc. be considered like that [advaya jñāna], given that Vaikuṇṭha is qualified by being an abode, while the residents there are not different from jīvas. And if again these states are accepted for that tattva, all effort becomes [useless] like an elephant taking a bath. Therefore, that śakti which appears as such by kāryānyathānupapatti [the inability to come to a conclusion by any other means than the effect], is anirvacanīyā, i.e. inexpressible as tattva or atattva, and therefore is certainly mithyā, and not the svarūpa [of advaya jñāna]. As such, being composed of that śakti characterized by opulence etc., is just an upalakṣaṇa, indirect mark [of advaya jñāna]. Advaya jñāna can be considered to have sāmānādhikaraṇyaṁ [i.e. is in the same category] with Bhagavān only through jahat and ajahat lakṣaṇā.
jahat and ajahat lakṣaṇā refers to the secondary meaning in which part of the meaning is dropped and another part preserved. For example, the phrase tat tvam asi, “You are That,” is an example of jahad-ajahat lakṣaṇā in Advaitavāda. Here tat refers to Brahman and tvam to an individual being. The two have been equated in the above statement. Yet they cannot be absolutely equal if the literal meaning of the pronouns tat and tvam is taken. The individual being is a conscious entity limited by a material body, whereas Brahman is unlimited consciousness. If the two pronouns that refer respectively to Brahman and the living being are dropped, then what remains is consciousness, and that is what is being equated in this sentence. Likewise, Bhagavān can be equated to advaya jñāna.
I will examine Śrī Jīva Goswami’s replies to the objections in the next article.