The Jīva’s Beginningless Nature and Bondage

The following is an excerpt from the commentary on Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Tattva Sandarbha (Anuccheda 32). The subject is the individual self, jīva, and its involvement with Bhagavān’s deluding potency, māyā.

By Satyanarayana Dasa

The following is an excerpt from the commentary on Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Tattva Sandarbha (Anuccheda 32). The subject is the individual self,  jīva, and its involvement with Bhagavān’s deluding potency, māyā.

Beginningless Bondage

According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, māyā’s conditioning of the jīva has no beginning; it is anādi. Although statements such as, “she covers the real nature of the jīva” seemingly imply a beginning, in the fact there is no beginning to the jīva’s bondage. Śrī Kṛṣṇa confirms this:

       prakṛtiṁ puruṣaṁ caiva viddhy anādi ubhav api
       vikaramś ca guṇāṁś caiva viddhi prakṛti-sambhavān

“Primordial nature and the living beings should both be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the guṇas of nature are phenomenal arisings out of primordial nature.” (Gītā 13.20)

Commenting on this verse, both Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa confirm that the conditioning of the jīva is beginningless. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura states: [Śrī Bhagavān says] ““Because both māyā and the jīva are My potencies, they both are beginningless. Thus, their conjunction is also without beginning.” This is the sense of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s words.” Here Viśvanātha is employing the nyāya principle that the qualities of anādi substances are also anādi. Naturally, a beginningless substance or entity cannot have a prior state of existence, for it could not be said to be beginningless. In this case the subjects—primordial nature and the jīvas—are anādi, and their shared quality of apparent separation from Kṛṣṇa, is also anādi.

In fact, in the beginning of his comment on the Gītā verse, Visvanātha says, “In this verse, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is answering two questions—why or how did the conjunction of the jīva and māyā occur? And when did it occur? He says that both of these are answered by the word anādi. In regard to the first question, anādi implies na vidyate ādi kāraṇam yayoḥ, that the conjunction of māyā and the jīva is beginningless, it has no cause, and hence no “why”. The answer to the second question – when? – is also anādi: it has no beginning, it did not occur at any moment in time. It always existed.

Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, commenting on this same verse writes: “In this way, primordial nature and the living being, who have distinct natures and who are beginningless, are conjoined together without a beginning point in time.” He uses the term anādikālikatvam, “the beginningless conjunction of the jīva with māyā.”

From this, we understand that the jīvas and primordial nature are both eternal, although sometimes manifest and sometimes wound up within Mahāviṣṇu. Being eternal they are beginningless, and the nature of their conjunction is also beginningless. Just as there was no prior state of existence for material nature, there was also no prior condition of existence for the bound jīvas. The common example given is that of a spider, which expands its energy in the form of its web and sometimes withdraws the web back into its body. Similarly, primordial nature and the bound jīvas are manifested and unmanifested in a cycle that is anādi, beginningless.

Karma, the nature of the beginningless bond between jīva and māyā – is therefore also beginningless.

Surpassing the Bounds of Logic

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī will explain all this in greater detail in the Paramātma Sandarbha (Anuccheda 47). He will show that, according to the precise criteria pertaining to definitions in the nyāya system of logic, the word anādi is to be taken literally. We should note, however, that the subject at hand transcends conventional logical faculties. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam confirms:

       seyaṁ bhagavato māyā yan nayena virudhyate
       īśvarasya vimuktasya kārpaṇyam uta bandhanam

“Bhagavān’s extrinsic potency (māyā) defies logic – for it takes the superior ruler of prakṛti [the jīva], who is unbounded, and binds him to misery.” (SB 3.7.9)

We are advised not to impose empirical logic to comprehend the beginningless bondage of the jīva. Rather, through open receptivity to the verdict of śāstra, accompanied by profound contemplation on the truth therein disclosed, there arises immediate intuitive insight of this enigma. This is the way of the self-disclosure of śāstric truth, and it is, therefore, the means to resolve this riddle of beginningless bondage. To not avail of this trans-empirical śāstra-based epistemology is to risk failure in completing life’s essential purpose. Gītā (16.23) confirms:

       na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim

“One who rejects śāstra attains neither completion nor contentment nor the supreme destination.”

Eternal Potential for Enlightenment

Although the jīva is beginninglessly deluded, it eternally retains the inherent capacity to know Bhagavān. This capacity is an unactualized potential, something like the illumination power in an unused light bulb. Even when unused, a light bulb retains the capacity to illuminate, but cannot do so until connected to a power source. Similarly, the conditioned jīva’s capacity to know Bhagavān is unactualized, but is ever present as an inherent potential of consciousness itself. When consciousness is attuned to its Source, the inherent capacity to know Bhagavān manifests, like the illumination that manifests when a light bulb attunes to a power source.

This is why the jīva is described as an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, “nitya kṛṣṇa-dāsa.” When conditioned, the jīva’s constitutional eternal servitorship (dāsatva) remains in a potential state. This potential is actualized when Kṛṣṇa’s intrinsic potency descends to the jīva, dissolving the empirical conditioning through unconditional devotion.

While conditioned, however, the jīva misdirects it’s fundamental attention into phenomenal identities and appearances. Thus its instruments of knowing — the mind and senses — are misapplied in service of a separatist egoic point of reference. In this condition, the jīva’s inherent potential to be devotionally attuned to its Source remains undiscovered, causing the jīva to suffer. But when the jīva redirects the mind and senses to repose in their conscious Source, effected through the trans-mutational power of sādhana-bhakti, divine power descends to the jīva and pervades it, allowing its true potential to become functional and actualized. If one perseveres on the path of bhakti, he becomes aware of his original identity and is established in the unending bliss of prema-bhakti.

In Paramātma Sandarbha (Anucchedas 19-47), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī discusses this and other aspects of the jīva’s nature in greater detail.

Comments ( 2 )
  1. Priyank

    I have doubts on sense perception, The knowledge the jiva gets through sense perception is subjective, which makes it completely impossible to know that the other person is sentient, how could a jiva Know other Jiva “Directly” i.e. not its phenomenal appearance?

    my second question is on if two jivas are looking at same object, are they seeing the SAME object, or they are just seeing their own phenomenal worlds ?

    • malati Post author

      Babaji’s reply:
      The answer to the first question is that to know another jiva directly, first you have to know yourself directly. If you do not know yourself directly, it is impossible to know the other jiva directly. At present we only know our phenomenal body and mind, and that also not fully. You can only know that much about others also.

      The answer to your second question is that they are seeing the same object, but from different angles. No two persons can see the same object exactly in the same way simultaneously. Moreover, although they see the same object, their cognition of it will be different according to their own personal experience, emotions and moods.

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