Question: What is the concept of jīvanmuktas in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism? And how similar or different is it from the concept of Advaitic jīvanmukta?
Answer: Jīvanmukta in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism means one who has attained bhāva-bhakti. In Advaita Vedānta, it means one who has given up the sense of doership and identifies with Brahmaṇ.
Question: How do you interpret the word “jivanmukta” as the attainment of bhāva-bhakti? Please explain the derivation of the meaning as per Gaudīya ācaryas as we know the meaning of the word according to Śankarādvaita.
Answer: The term “jīvanmukti” means liberated while living in the sādhaka body. This meaning of jīvanmukti is the same for Gaudīyas as well as Advaitavādīs.
Mukti means to give up bodily identification and to be situated in our own svarūpa—muktir hitvānyathā rūpam sva-rūpeṇa vyavasthiti, SB 2.10.6. Our svarūpa is kṛṣṇa-dāsatva—jīvera svarūpa haya kṛṣnera nitya dāsa, CC, Madhya 20.108. The jīva is a servant of Hari and never of anyone else—dāsa-bhūto harer eva na anyasya kadācan, PP 226.37.
We become situated in our svarūpa when we have attained bhāva-bhakti or have gotten our sthāyi-bhāva.
Question: Can a devotee fall from bhāva-bhakti, sthāyi-bhāva, or jīvanmukti due to aparādha, as Śrī Jīva seems to say in the Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas?
Answer: Yes, it is theoretically possible. It is also stated by Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that one can lose bhāva as a result of one’s offense to a dear devotee of Kṛṣṇa (bhāvo’pi abhāvam ayati kṛṣṇa preṣṭha aparādhataḥ, BRS 1.3.54, Eastern Division).
Question: Once one gets any of the five types of mukti in one of the Vaikuṇṭha planets, is there is a chance to attain vraja-bhakti? Perhaps this never happens? To ask the question differently, having received one of these muktis, does one remain permanently there, or can one advance according to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism?
If so, then how does a soul who attained sayujya-mukti get the chance to associate with vrajarasikas to develop a taste for vraja-bhakti?
Similarly, in Vaikuṇṭha I imagine that everybody is in sānta-rasa and a few are in dāsya-rasa. So how does one get the chance to develop sākhya, vātsalya or the rarest and most precious mādhurya-rasa?
Answer: All types of mukti are eternal destinations. Once someone gets it, then there is no change after that. The person who attains a particular type of mukti is not interested in any other type of mukti. He worked for that mukti and desired it. Such a person will go to a destination where there will be other people of the same mood. They will enhance each other’s mood by their association. They would not be interested in any other mukti, even if they come to know about it or already know it.
Question: Can Lord Śiva, goddess Tulasī, and goddess Gaṅgā grant liberation as stated in Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa? The following are some instances in scriptures regarding Lord Śiva: Once upon a time, Lord Śiva did severe penance for the period of one year, to worship Lord Viṣṇu. Lord Śiva then obtained the vision of Lord Viṣṇu and asked for the boon to obtain the power to give mukti (liberation) to others. Thus Lord Śiva became Muktidātā (giver of liberation or mokṣa). This incident is mentioned in Padma Purāṇa, Uttara-khaṇḍa, chapter 2.16 as follows:
Lord Śiva says to Nārada Muni: tava prasadād deveśa muktidātā bhavamy aham, “By the mercy of Lord Viṣṇu, I became capable of giving mukti to others.”
This incident is also mentioned in Skanda Purāṇa, Bhāgavata Māhātmya, chapter 3.39–42. Stated as follows:
Lord Rudra said: “O lord of Devas, O my Lord, I have ample power in the case of the annihilation of nitya (daily), naimmitika (occasional) and prākṛta (pertaining to prakṛti) types. But I do not have any power in regard to ātyantika(ultimate) annihilation (liberation or mokṣa). On account of this, I am very unhappy, therefore, I request you.”
Śrī Bṛhaspati said: “Lord Narayana then imparted Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to Lord Rudra. By resorting to it, he conquered the tamo guṇa. The story of the Bhāgavatam was then read by Lord Śiva for a period of one year. Thereafter Lord Sadāśiva obtained the power to manage the ultimate annihilation (ātyantika) (mokṣa) as well.”
However, according to Gītā, the giver of mokṣa is only lord Krṣṇa or Viṣṇu. What then do these stories indicate?
Answer: You yourself have cited the statement of Lord Śiva to Narada, in which he says that he is capable of giving mukti to others by the grace of Lord Viṣṇu. So it is clear from this statement that it is Viṣṇu who is the giver of mukti and by His grace, Śiva can also give. So he is not independent in giving mukti. Nobody is independent of Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. If anyone has any power, it ultimately comes from Krṣṇa.
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