viśiṣṭaḥ śakti-sampannaḥ krīḍāvāṇ bhakta-vatsalaḥ
bhakti-vyaṅgo’py ameyātmā prītimān sundaro vibhuḥ
That Absolute Reality who possesses attributes, who is endowed with potencies, who is engaged in loving pastimes, who is affectionate to the devotees, whose nature is immeasurable, who is overwhelmed with divine love, who is beautiful and infinite, is known or manifest through bhakti.
Now bhagavat-tattva is described with this śloka beginning with viśiṣṭaḥ etc. Bhagavān is said to be immeasurable since He cannot be attained or understood through jñāna. By His mercy, that personality (Bhagavān) manifests through bhakti, and due to His affection for His devotees, despite being infinite, He reveals His beauty to them. He sports in supreme love with the jīvas in various transcendental ways – as a Master in association with His servants, as a friend in association with friends, as a child in association with His father and mother, and as a beloved in association with His lovers. All of these relationships are confidential and replete with transcendental sentiments – they have no connection with mundane feelings. How is it possible for the Supreme to engage in pastimes like ordinary people? In response to this doubt, according to the evidence of many statements from the Veda and Purāṇas, that personality (Bhagavān) is the possessor of all potencies – parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śruyate (‘It is said that He is in possession of various specific superior potencies’ – Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8). This is His unique attribute.
guṇebhyaś ca guṇī bhinnaḥ prākṛte parilakṣyate
na tathā prākṛtātīte nirguṇe nitya dehini
In the māyika world, the possessor of qualities (guṇi) is seen as separate from the qualities (guṇa) themselves. In the transcendental world there is no such distinction between the attributes of the eternal sac-cid-ānanda form of Śrī Bhagavān (Śrī Kṛṣṇa), who is beyond the three modes of nature. and their Possessor.
In the māyika world, the difference between attributes and the possessor of attributes, limbs and the possessor of limbs, form and the possessor of form, is possible due to the different relationship between consciousness and matter. It is possible to differentiate the spiritual reality (cit-tattva) of Vaikuṇṭha due to the defective nature of elements comprised of māyā which are simply a refection – this is because cit-tattva is devoid of such duality. When material conditioning disappears, then non-difference in that jīva who is śuddha-cit-tattva (a principle of pure consciousness) is achieved because there is no difference between the body and the possessor of the body. Thus, in the eternally divine intrinsic form of Śrī Bhagavān which is nirguṇa (or devoid of material qualities), the absence of duality between qualities and the possessor of those qualities is accepted in kaimutika-nyāya. * Yet in our gross bodies, due to the defect of duality between qualities and the possessor of qualities, we must strive hard to attain non-duality. Due to a lack of this (dual nature) in the Supreme Being, all actions are without any mundane cause and effortless, and all His senses are spiritual and devoid of any material influence. Just as in the physical body all the senses are situated in their specific places and produce a particular beauty, similarly in the spiritual body, all the senses situated in their specific places emit a wonderful and unique beauty – seeing this, all jīvas are attracted to Bhagavān. By denying the transcendental form of Śrī Bhagavān, then His beauty is not established and one fails to become attracted to Him.
Here, the point is that Śrī Bhagavān’s cit-śakti is one; by its reflection the māyā-śakti arises – by the influence of Bhagavān’s glance, māyā creates the entire universe, and both the jīva’s gross and subtle bodies are formed. Yet all these are simply a reflection of cit (spirit) or cetana (consciousness) – they are not a new kind of tattva. This gross and subtle body is a reflection of the jīva’s spiritual form. The transcendental senses and limbs found in cit-tattva are all reflected in the gross body. In reality, if all conceptions in relation to the state of difference between qualities and the possessor of qualities were eliminated, then the body and everything connected with it would become situated in their svarūpa. When it is free from all misconceptions, the entire world becomes like Vaikuṇṭha. In this way, the Supreme is situated in His inherent eternal form – in this form referred to in the Upaniṣads as the puruṣa, though He is always complete in all respects, due to the power of His acintya-śakti, He is omnipresent. This principle referred to in the Upaniṣads is realised through as proof by pratyakṣa (direct perception) of the ātmā. It is said at the beginning of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata:
apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ māyāṁ ca tad apāśrayām
“He saw the complete Puruṣa and that māyā who took refuge in that Puruṣa. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.7.4)
This authoritative statement, which is famous, was realised by Śrī Vyāsadeva during his samādhi.
*Translator’s Note: Kaimutika-nyāya means “if this, then even more so that.” For example, if a strong man can lift 100 kilos, he can also lift 20 kilos. In other words, if there is an absence of mundane duality amongst Kṛṣṇa’s qualities, then there is naturally an absence of mundane duality between the qualities and Kṛṣṇa, the possessor of those qualities. All are of a transcendental nature.
bindu-bindutayā jīve ye ye śakti-guṇādayaḥ
te sarve kila vartante nityaṁ pūrṇatayā harau
anye ca bahavaḥ santi guṇāḥ kṛṣṇe svabhāvataḥ
nopalabdhir bhavet teṣāṁ nrṇāṁ śakter abhāvtaḥ
The potencies, qualities etc. which are present in the jīvas in minute quantities are all eternally present within Śrī Hari in their most complete manifestation – this is well-known from the statements of sādhus and śāstra. Many other qualities are naturally there within Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It is not possible for human beings to perceive them all due to a lack of potency.
Deliberation, compassion, as well as potency and qualities etc., are measured in minute quantities within the jīva. These are all eternally present in Śrī Hari in their most complete manifestation. Furthermore, Śrī Bhagavān has many additional natural qualities. It is not possible for the jīva to perceive all these because he is devoid of the necessary potency to do so.
prapañca-vijayas tasya līlayā nija-śaktitaḥ
tathāpi parameśasya nirguṇatvaṁ na hīyate
Due to līlā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa comes to the māyika world by the strength of His own potency. There also there is no harm since the form of the Supreme is beyond the three modes of nature.
The appearance of the Supreme in the māyika world is also possible due to His svarūpa-śakti. But in all His appearances, He does not lose His quality of nirguṇa like the jīva. As His maidservant, Māyā is restricted when He comes. But upon seeing Māyā, the Supreme Lord of Vaikuṇṭha is never restricted. This is what Śaṅkara and other māyāvādīs say.
hy avatāra harer bhāva manasy-ūrdhvodhvagāmini
sarvordhvabhāva sampannaṁ vraja-tattvam mahīyate
Sentiment for Śrī Hari (the manifestation of His pastimes or His presence) is attained by those jīvas who possess the eligibility. The supreme and most prominent vraja-tattva is worshipped above all others.
āvirbhāva-tirobhāvā svapade tiṣṭhati
tāmasī rājasī sāttvikī mānuṣī
sac-cid-ānandaika-rase bhakti-yoge tiṣṭhati
“He who appears and disappears always remains within His own abode. His forms which seem to be in the modes of ignorance, passion, goodness or human-like, are condensed knowledge and bliss, exclusively encompassing eternity, knowledge and bliss, and situated in connection with bhakti.”
From this statement of the Gopāla Tāpani Śruti, it is confirmed that all the avatāras of Śrī Bhagavān gradually manifest within the chamber of the heart as the bhāva-mūrti (a form according to one’s inherent mood, or bhāva) according to the development of the conceptual knowledge and understanding of the jīvas.
1) In the first stage, when the jīva’s form is without a proper spine, that bhāva appears in the form of a fish.
2) Second – at the stage when the jīva’s form has a hard shell, that bhāva appears in the form of a tortoise.
3) Third – at the stage when he has a spine, He appears in the form of a boar.
4) Fourth – when the jīva is a human and beast, He appears in the form of Narasiṁha.
5) Fifth – at the stage when he is a diminutive human, He appears in the form of Vāmana.
6) Sixth – at the stage when he is an uncivilised human, He appears in the form of Paraśurāma.
7) Seventh – at the stage when he is in a civillised state, He appears in the form of Śrī Rāmacandra.
8) Eighth – at the stage when he is a vessel for rasa, He appears in the form of Kṛṣṇa.
9) Ninth – when the jīva is under the influence of trying to measure the Supreme through knowledge gained by the senses, He appears in the form of Buddha.
10) Tenth – when the jīva is under the sway of atheistic thoughts, He appears in the form of Kalki.
These are the moods of the ten avatāras. Whatever defects are perceived in all these stages are those of the observer, but they are not of that which is observed. Although there are various concepts, one can observe these different stages through scientific deliberation. All these states of Śrī Bhagavān are eternal and belong to the Vaikuṇṭha variety. The sāragrāhīs understand all these to be without any defect (they know that they are devoid of any defect).
cid-ātmā prīti-dharmāyaṁ bhagavac-chakti-bhāvitaḥ
prapañce dviguṇo jīvaḥ svarūpī-nitya-dhāmani
This jīva is inherently conscious, naturally endowed with prema, and manifested and enhanced by Śrī Bhagavān’s potency. In the māyika world he is bound by two ropes, or attributes – the gross and subtle bodies. In the eternal abode (Vaikuṇṭha), he is situated in his intrinsic nature and form (svarūpa).
Now, these four ślokas will explain the nature of the jīva as being inherently spiritual. In the eternal abode of Vaikuṇṭha, the jīva is situated in his intrinsic nature and form (svarūpa). Cid-ātmā – this is his natural inherent identity. prīti-dharma – he is naturally endowed with prema. His nature is known through his actions, in other words, by his activities he attains his identity. He is conceived through the potency of Bhagavān, in other words, he is guided, created and nurtured. When he is in a bound state in this physical world, then although his ātmā is inherently spiritual, he has two specific bodies – the gross and subtle. The gross state is perceived through the karmendriya (the working senses), and the subtle state is perceived through the jñānendriya (knowledge-acquiring senses) – it should be understood like this.
saṅkoce vikace śaśvat ṣaḍ-vikāra vivarjitaḥ
bhoktṛtva-bhramajālāt sa svadharmāddhi bahirmukhaḥ
That jīva, whether in the Vaikuṇṭha world or in the material world, is eternally devoid of the six transformations. In the mundane world, bound by the illusory net of identifying with sense-enjoyment, he refrains from engaging in his inherent nature (service to Kṛṣṇa).
Birth, maintenance, old age, decay, dwindling and death – these are the six transformations. In that fully expanded realm (vikaca), in other words Vaikuṇṭha, the jīva is situated in his svarūpa and these six transformations are absent. Even in the constricted world (saṅkoca), in other words the realm of gross matter, the pure jīva is devoid of all these transformations – these changes only take place in the gross and subtle bodies. The jīva experiences suffering due to identifying with the body (within the gross physical world, or in the gross and subtle bodies). In his svarūpa, the jīva is enjoyed (i.e. he is controlled) and the Supreme is the enjoyer (i.e. the Master). Desiring independent love from the jīva, the Lord has give him freedom, however desiring his own enjoyment, the jīva has foolishly used this gift in a contradictory manner. Being trapped in the net of illusion, he considers himself the enjoyer and the jīva becomes antagonistic to his own inherent nature. Due to this, when the gross physical world, the realm of enjoyment is attained, the jīva is bound in a web of bewilderment, identifying the body to be the self and experiences many miseries in relation to these transformations.
svadharmaḥ kṛṣṇa-dāsyaṁ hi tasmiṁs-tiṣṭhan sukhī sadā
tad-abhāvāt tridhā kleśā māyāsaktasya duḥkhadāḥ
Servitorship to Kṛṣṇa is the inherent nature of the jīva. When he is situated in that, he is always happy. When that is absent, he is bound by māyā and undergoes the threefold miseries.
naisargikaṁ tu jīvānāṁ dāsyaṁ viṣṇoḥ sanātanatam
tad vinā vartate mohād ātma-cauraḥ sa kathyate
“Eternal servitude is the natural disposition of the jīva. If out of illusion he is situated outside of that, he is said to be an ātmā-cora (a robber of his own self.”
According to this authoritative statement from the Vasiṣṭha Smṛti, it is accepted by the entire śāstra that the inherent nature of all the jīvas is kṛṣṇa-dāsya (servitude to Kṛṣṇa). Although the jīva is trapped in a network of bewilderment in the state of being the enjoyer, the bliss of cultivating his natural tendency (love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa) is eternal and the attachment to that happiness of this world is transient and unsubstantial. Attachment to māyā is due to the absence of one’s inherent nature which gives rise to the three kinds of suffering – adhyātmika (miseries caused by ones self), adhidaivika (miseries caused by nature) and adhibhautika (miseries caused by other entities). In Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s book (Śri Bhakti-rāsāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.12) these three kinds of suffering have been described as avidyā (ignorance), pāpa–bīja (the seed of negative reactionary deeds) and pāpa (negative reactionary deeds).
sat-saṅgaj-jayate śraddhā tasmāj-jñānaṁ sunirmalam
jñānād-dhyānaṁ tato bhaktiḥ kleśaghni kṛṣṇa-toṣaṇī
From sat-saṅga (association with sādhus who are devotees of Kṛṣṇa), śraddhā (faith in those things in connection with Bhagavān) appears. From that sādhu-saṅga, pure sambandha–jñāna arises. From that knowledge comes meditation (remembrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa). From that meditation, bhakti manifests which satisfies Kṛṣṇa and eliminates suffering.
Sat-saṅga means sādhu-saṅga. Those who experience Bhagavān are sādhus. But they are not only those who bear the paraphernalia of āśramas such as the renounced sannyāsīs etc. because even without accepting such paraphernalia, they have achieved experience of Bhagavān. “We are sādhus!” – those beggars who introduce themselves in this way are not sādhus. Only considering those persons who bear the markings of one’s own sampradāya as sādhus comes from attachment to that sampradāya. “Those who bear the markings of a sampradāya are all deceivers!” – such envy based on illusion arises in those who do not belong to a sampradāya. Sāragrāhīs are devoid of such attachment and repulsion. Through the association of superior sāragrāhīs who possess experience of Bhagavān, in other words by being influenced by their behaviour and following that, persons who have śraddhā achieve the purest form of sambandha-jñāna in relation to those things connected to Bhagavān. Upon achieving that, they then meditate upon that Supreme Object. Bhakti (sevā-ruci, or a taste for devotional service) manifests from that meditation, which destroys suffering and satisfies Śrī Kṛṣṇa.