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God’s Compassion – Part 2
Questions & Answers

God’s Compassion – Part 2

Question: Thank you for your reply. You have raised some interesting points. My understanding is that Jīva Gosvāmi ultimately admits that there is no harm in thinking that Bhagavān’s knowledge of material misery is an indirect cause of Bhagavān’s compassion. The direct cause is His compassionate affection toward His devotees, who do feel compassion for samsārins, desiring to give them bhakti. Thus God’s compassion primarily touches samsārins through the compassion of His devotees.

Yes, Advaita Ācārya is a devotee, but He is God in the disposition of a devotee, as is Mahāprabhu. And in their līlā they conceive of themselves as sādhakas. Perhaps this is what gives Kṛṣṇa dasa Kavirāja and others the sense to describe them as having compassion for samsārins in terms of desiring to bestow bhakti upon them.  There are several statements of Kṛṣṇadāsa that on their face appear to contradict the theology of Jīva Gosvāmi. Here is another example from Viśvanātha Cakravarti Thākura (VCT) in his commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (SB) 11.5.34:

“Going to the forest, what did He do? He sought out persons who were chasing the form of māyā—wife, sons, and wealth. He pursued men who were absorbed in samsāra. Out of great compassion (dayitayā) He desired to touch such persons drowning in the ocean of samsāra by embracing them (svābhīpsitam), in order to drown them in the ocean of prema. This indicates Ṡri Caitanya’s causeless mercy.”

So it is statements like this that I am trying to harmonize with the theology of Jīva Gosvāmi, statements that describe Mahāprabhu/ Advaita Ācārya as being motivated by compassion for the plight of the jīvas in samsāra (out of knowledge that they are suffering and have the potential to taste bhakti) with a view to bestow bhakti upon them. So perhaps as much as devotees are motivated to bestow bhakti on such persons in this sense, when Bhagavān becomes a devotee, He does as well.

However, other than Gaura-līlā, VCT and others appear to have contradicted Jīva Gosvāmi on this subject. Here is an example from Sārārtha Darśini:

 “The cause of His mercy is that He is the witness (draśtā) of the jīvas, seeing the jīvas who have fallen into the ocean of suffering through repeated birth.” SB 9.24.57 (VCT)

 “The action in the form of glance of the Lord (puṁsāṁ) upon prakrti (māyā-ceśṭitam) for creation, maintenance, and destruction of the jīvas’ bodies, is certainly (hi) because of His mercy. What then to speak of His activities such as lifting Govardhana, which are completely devoid of māyā? The Lord’s mercy consists of glancing over māyā, thinking, “Let the jīvas get their material enjoyment after attaining material intelligence and senses!” But how can this be mercy? The jīvas, by enjoying material objects and undergoing creation maintenance, and destruction of the universe, simply experience suffering. He acts so that the jīvas become detached from the world and its enjoyments, by bhaktijñāna, and vairāgya, and so that the jīvas can attain the Lord (ātmā-labhāya). Without intelligence and sense, the jīvas cannot attain bhakti or jnāna. The cause of the creation of the world is mercy to the jīvas.” SB 9.24.58 (VCT)

Notably, Jīva Gosvāmi himself cites these verses in the context of establishing his theology on this point, albeit with a different understanding.

In closing, I am not sure you will agree with the way in which I have tried to harmonize the many statements concerning Mahāprabhu’s compassion with the insights of Jīva Gosvāmi. Your idea that Mahāprabhu comes to the world because of His devotee Advaita Ācārya’s call and desire to bestow bhakti is included in that, but personally I think that something more needs to be said, hence my effort and inquiry. As for comments unrelated to Gaura-līlā like those of VCT above, it would seem that he feels more strongly about the idea that knowledge of the jīvas’ suffering is an indirect cause of Bhagavān’s compassion. He comes to the world or manifests it primarily for His devotees and secondarily for the sake of bestowing bhakti on non-devotees, which in turn works well with the sense that Kṛṣṇa primarily comes to the world to taste the bhakti of Rādhā and secondarily to bestow bhakti.

Answer: My simple reply is that Jīva Gosvāmi discusses this point of compassion in his Sandarbhas quite thoroughly. In Paramātma Sandarbha and in Bhakti Sandarbha, while investigating the cause of the manifestation of bhakti in a conditioned being, he concludes that it happens only by sādhu sanga. He is doing this to explain to us that bhakti is not dependent on any material cause. A very important principle of the Gauḍīya school is that bhakti is not a product of any material action. This is also the principle accepted by the Bhāgavata and explained by Rupa Gosvāmi in Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu. Therefore, if it were accepted that God’s compassion, which is really bestowing bhakti, is inspired by seeing the material misery of a living being, it would go against the principle that bhakti is its own cause. 

VCT in his Mādhurya Kābambinī has done an elaborate analysis that bhakti is only caused by bhakti. So it will be hard to accept that VCT is contradicting himself in the commentaries that you have referred to. You have to understand his commentary keeping in mind that he accepts bhakti as not being caused by anything else. 

God may come to help the suffering jīvas in the material world, but Jīva Gosvāmi’s point is that He is not moved by their suffering. He comes by His own will, otherwise He would become controlled by suffering. 

If VCT’s commentary on SB 9.24.57 is understood to mean that He comes to alleviate the suffering of the jīvas, then the natural question that arises is why the jīvas are still suffering and why He does not give His bhakti to all the jīvas and make them free from suffering? This is the question that Jīva Gosvāmi himself has raised in Paramātma Sandarbha. 

There are only two possible answers to this: Either God is not capable of giving bhakti to all and gives it only to a few or He does not give bhakti just because the jīvas are suffering. Jīva Gosvāmi accepts the second option. 

(End of Part 2)


  • Stoka Krsna Dasa October 29, 2018

    The point raised by the questioner that Srila VCT has a different view from Srila Jiva Goswami in his Bhagavatam commentary is a little hard to digest, because a Sampradaya is based on Shastra and the Shastra gives just one Siddhant and not multiple ones.
    The application of that Siddhanta may differ based on the social conditions and situations prevalent at different times but ultimately the Siddhant is one.
    Can the Sanskrit commentary of Srila VCT be seen for the quoted verses because many a times a different meaning comes out during translations.

    • Babaji October 30, 2018

      The confusion is being caused by not paying attention to what exactly Sri Jiva Gosvāmi is saying. He is not saying that Krishna is not compassionate or merciful or compassionate. All he is saying is that He is not touched by material misery. Thus His compassion is not elicited by being empathetic to a suffering Jiva. Empathy means to feel the feelings of the suffering person.
      I do not see that VCT or Krsnadas Kaviraj is countering what SJG says.

  • Sherin Mani November 12, 2018

    It is mentioned in, The teachings of lord Chaitanya clearly. Mahaprabhu himself quotes from the atmarama verse from the Bhagavatam, where he has detailed the atmarama verse in 64 different interpretations, on the request of Ramananda Raya. The lord further explains the same verse into 64 different explanations at the request of Sanatana Goswami. All different to the verses explained to Ramananda Raya. Thus a verse may be differently viewed on different occasions as time demands.

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