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The Ontology of the Jīva – Part 2
Articles by Satyanarayana Dasa Philosophy

The Ontology of the Jīva – Part 2

The sixth verse will make it clear that the cause of the ātmā’s union with prakṛti is his own inclination towards and infatuation with her (parābhidhyānena). The current verse hints at this by saying that the ātmā sees (abhyapadyata) the enchanting qualities of prakṛti and thus becomes inclined, attracted towards her. Lord Kapila explains that prakṛti is divine (daivi) and therefore can fulfill her role in the divine play of the Lord (līlayā) by reciprocating with the ātmā’s inclination and approaching the ātmā for union, somehow or other (yadṛcchaya). Therefore it is to be understood that the relationship of the ātmā with prakṛti is not intrinsic and permanent.

This is at odds with Advaita-vāda. Advaita-vādīs say prakṛti has two functions: āvaraṇa and vikṣepa. Through āvaraṇa, prakṛti covers proper knowledge. Through vikṣepa she grants improper knowledge. They also say puruṣa is of two types: jīva and iśvara, both of which are products of māyā. Māyā has two divisions: vidyā and avidyā. When Brahman is conditioned by vidyā, the outcome is Īśvara. When Brahman is conditioned by avidyā, on the other hand, jīvas are the outcome. Īśvara is puruṣa in control of prakṛti and engaging in the activities of universal creation, sustenance and dissolution. Jīva is puruṣa bound by prakṛti as a result of his inability to discern the difference between himself and prakṛti. They say the present verse describes how the puruṣa loses discrimination and becomes bound by the āvaraṇa potency of prakṛti.

Such an explanation is improper because it is impossible for the puruṣa, who is self-luminous and forever free from ignorance, to have lack of discrimination about prakrti.

Advaita-vādīs respond that the puruṣa intentionally falls into this illusion for the sake of līlā – to execute the functions of creation.

To express our disagreement, we ask, “Do you mean that līlā is the cause of illusion?” If so, it is an unacceptable proposition because “līlā (lit. amusement) cannot cause illusion and displeasure. No sane person engages in a sport to suffer and become bewildered. Moreover, this opinion is not supported by śāstra, which says, eko bahu syām – “I [the Lord] want to be many.” The Lord desires to manifest creation. Illusion cannot result from this because no living entity will desire to fall into bewilderment.

They may say, “He did not know illusion would result from this.” This would be preposterous because the Lord is omniscient.

They may say, “He is not omniscient.” This would contradict the Vedic statements.

They may say, “He creates the universe to get rid of his ignorance by acquiring discrimination.” We don’t agree. How can this be “līlā”? No one intentionally gets a serious disease just to amuse himself with the medical treatment.

They may say, “Līlā is not the cause of illusion, it is the effect of illusion.” This is at odds with śāstra, which describes the cause of līlā as the Lord’s will to become many.

They may say “That will is also an illusion.” If so, how can it produce līlā (a blissful thing)?

If they agree that the Lord’s will to become many is not an illusion, it cannot be the cause of illusion. Something which is not illusion cannot be the effect of something which is illusion.

They may say, “Līlā is also illusion. It is only an illusion that the One becomes many – like the illusion of seeing two moons when you press your eye with your finger.” We do not find this plausible because it means that the entire creation, everything that exists, is illusion. No learned person enjoys illusions.

The Advaita-vādīs may raise another argument: “The Lord remains free from illusion, but deludes others as His līlā.” But no good person enjoys the sufferings of others. In fact, since Brahman cannot be deluded, he must be fully aware of his non-difference from the jīvas so he would cause himself to be deluded by throwing a jīva into delusion. Thus this argument is self-defeating.

Further, if everything except the original Brahman is illusion, the undeludable, omniscient Brahman will know that all other entities and all varieties of substances are unreal. Therefore enjoyment of līlā would be impossible for līlā requires variety. Indeed, this is why Brahman, which has no qualities (nirvisesa), cannot enjoy any līlā.

The proper conclusion is that the Lord is devoid of any inferior qualities and is an ocean of all wonderful attributes. He controls māyā as an instrument for his līlā. This māyā controls the living entities, who have no beginning and are distinct from the Lord. The relationship of the Lord with the jīvas is like the relation between ātmā and body. The Lord engages in the acts of universal creation etc. as His pastime to liberate the jīvas.

Therefore the Lord’s līlā is neither a cause of illusion, nor an effect of illusion, nor an illusion itself. This is the meaning of the verse.

The above explanation was given by applying the words līlayā and yadṛcchaya to the Lord. Alternatively these two words can be combined with the terms upagatam (the one who came near) and abyapadyata (accepted). In that case the words līlayā and yadṛcchaya are in the third grammatical case, generally used instrumentally to indicate cause, but used here in the sense of outcome or result. This is not an uncommon usage of the third grammatical case; here is a common example: adhyayanena vasati (“he lives for the sake of studying”). Here the third case in adhyayanena has not been used to convey instrumentality; it has been used to convey the outcome of his living at a particular place. In the same way, līlayā here means the outcome of the jīva accepting prakṛti. In this alternate explanation the meaning is, “The jīva attained prakṛti who approached him by the will of the Lord, and thus a līlā would transpire [of the Lord rescuing the jīva from bewilderment].”

In the first explanation līla was the cause of creation and in the second explanation līla is the outcome.

Verse Five

guṇair vicitrāḥ sṛjatīṁ
ūpāḥ prakṛtiṁ prajāḥ
vilokya mumuhe sadya

sa iha j

He became bewildered and lost his intelligence to her as soon as he [ātmā] glanced at prakṛti. She emanated so many wondrously attractive qualities, which take the form of so many wonderful sense objects.

A question arises at the conclusion of the previous verse: “The ātmā may approach prakṛti for union, but so what? What does this have to do with the issue at hand: explaining whether the ātmā is an agent involved in material activity?” Lord Kapila speaks this verse to address such a question. He says that ātmā’s approach to prakṛti results in ātmā’s true nature becoming covered; he then becomes bewildered, which will result in his believing himself to be an agent of material activities.

The previous verse mentioned the subtle state of prakṛti. The current verse describes how subtle prakṛti manifests gross prakṛti: her many wondrous subtle qualities become so many wondrous gross sense objects. Vicitrāḥ implies that these sense objects are varied. Sarūpāḥ indicates they are all of material nature.

Lord Kapila describes ātmā’s bewilderment as an outcome of his inherent nature (svarūpa) being covered by prakṛti. The living being looks at prakṛti in her functional state, engaged in birthing her offspring (prajā) – the various wonderful sensorial objects and embodiments – by combining her wondrous qualities (guṇaiḥ, i.e.sattva, etc). The awareness, or proper knowledge (jñāna), of the living being is thus covered or overshadowed (gūhayā) by the intoxicating influence of this vision of prakṛti. Therefore he immediately (sadya) becomes bewildered (mumuhe).

Verse Six

evaṁ parābhidhyānena
ṛtvaṁ prakṛteḥ pumān
karmasu kriyam
ṇair ātmāni manyate

Prakṛti is the entity that carries out material activities, but the ātmā thinks that the deeds done by prakṛti’s guṇas are his own deeds, because he completely absorbs his self identification in her.

Evam (“in this way”) refers to ātmā’s condition, described in previous verses, of having forgotten his true nature due to infatuation with prakṛti. Parābhidhyānena (completely absorbing his concentration in another being) indicates that the self (pumān) completely identifies with a being other than himself, prakṛti. This is why he thinks (manyate) that the deeds carried out by her qualities (guṇas) are actually his own deeds (ātmāni).

The conclusion is that the position of being an agent of material actions is not within the inherent nature of the self, ātmā-svarūpa. Rather it is merely a conception arising from his identification with prakṛti’s guṇa (sattva, rajas and tamas). The meaning is that all actions happen in the mind-body complex made of material nature but the self identifies with them as his own.

By desiring union with prakṛti, the living being desires union with her products, and thus comes to unify its identity with a particular material body. Thus he becomes conditioned and bound.

 (to be continued)


  • Sunayana d.d. March 1, 2014

    The both articles on jiva tattva in connection to sankhya philosophy are very appreciable for all the subtle details between advaita dvaita philosophy. At the end of part one there is material nature mentioned in brackets as brahman. Kind of confusing. How many lifetimes it must take to be able to differentiate between different meanings of such a subtle word…? From the point of gnosis: How can the the atma with his mind differentiate on this level, when as mentioned for example atma and prakriti meet on the level without existence of differentiation of words (but not thoughts, concepts)?
    And what about Krsnas body, when He is performing His Lila? How do we perceive It, since we call It transcendental?

    • malati March 4, 2014

      Dear Sunayana,

      We could not clearly understand your questions, therefore I tried to rephrase them for Babaji in two parts. I apologize if that is not what you meant to say. Here is his reply:

      1. As the jiva unites with subtle prakriti, how is he able to perceive her with his sensory instruments or how can he attain knowledge of her through his mind?

      There is no perception in that state. It is like a state of deep sleep.

      2. How is the jiva able to perceive the Lord’s transcendental body?

      This is possible if Lord blesses a jiva with His internal potency. Otherwise it is not possible.

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