Part Four of an overview of the Six Sandarbhas of Srila Jiva Gosvami

IN THIS BOOK Srila Jiva Gosvami describes the three Paramatma manifestations of the Supreme Lord. Paramatma literally means "the Supersoul," or the supreme controller. The first form of the Paramatma is Maha-Visnu, the Supersoul for the entire material creation. The second is Garbodakasayi Visnu, the Supersoul for each universe. Finally, there is Ksirodakasayi Visnu, who expands into the hearts of all living beings, into every atom, and even between the atoms.

Hare Krishna

In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that everything is in Him but He is not in everything. He is not present everywhere in His personal form, or Bhagavan feature, but He is present in His Paramatma feature, and thus He controls everything.

The first Paramatma feature, Maha-Visnu, is the source of the second feature, Garbodakasayi Visnu. Garbodakasayi Visnu is the source of all the other incarnations of God who appear within the material universe.

The third Paramatma feature, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, is the form of the Supreme Lord who accompanies the spirit soul within the heart. This form is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna says that as the supreme controller (isvara) He resides in the heart of every living being.

These Paramatma forms, or Visnu forms, are superior to Lord Brahma and Lord Siva. As proof, Srila Jiva Gosvami relates the story of Bhrgu Muni, who conducted an experiment to see who was superior Lord Visnu, Lord Brahma, or Lord Siva. In the end Bhrgu Muni realized that Visnu is superior. Jiva Gosvami says that if Visnu is superior, worship of Visnu is the superior form of worship.

Srila Jiva Gosvami points out that no other deities are eternal nor are their worshipers, for in time both the worshipers and their deities will be destroyed. Lord Visnu, on the other hand, is eternal, and His worshipers attain eternal life. Jiva Gosvami therefore implores that everyone who desires to worship offer worship to Lord Visnu.

Next, Srila Jiva Gosvami examines some scriptural statements that appear to treat the demigods as being equal to Lord Visnu. In one section of Srimad-Bhagavatam, for instance, Lord Brahma prays as if Lord Siva is the Supreme.

Such adoration of the demigods occurs because the demigods, as stated in the Vedas, are part of Lord Visnu, like limbs of His body. As we treat the limbs of our body as one with the whole, some scriptural verses equate the demigods with the Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu. But we should not make the mistake of thinking the Lord and the demigods one in every respect. The demigods are nondifferent from Lord Visnu only as parts are nondifferent from the whole.

The Conscious Self

After considering the relationship between the demigods and the Supreme Lord, Srila Jiva Gosvami undertakes a long discussion on the living entity (jiva). Virtually anything we want to know about the jivas is explained in this section. Let us touch on a few of the highlights of this discussion.

Although the jiva is atomic in size, it is transcendental, eternal, and conscious. Although never transformed itself, it may move from one body to another.

Impersonalists, says Srila Jiva Gosvami, think that the jiva itself is pure consciousness. Jiva Gosvami differs. He says the jiva is not consciousness but conscious; it possesses consciousness. Therefore, just as one may speak of the sun orb and the sun's light, Srila Jiva Gosvami speaks of two things the jiva and its quality, consciousness.

To argue that everything is ultimately one, impersonalists need to describe the jiva as pure consciousness one entity, devoid of qualities. They also define Brahman, the Supreme, the same way as pure consciousness devoid of qualities. Thus the impersonalists hope to merge the jiva into the Absolute.

But since the scriptures describe the jiva as a spiritual entity that has the quality of consciousness, we have not one entity but two the jiva and its quality. And so the monism of the impersonalist fails.

Throughout the Sandarbhas, Jiva Gosvami repeatedly refutes various theories of the impersonalists. He understands that impersonalism is most insidious and that any trace of it within the heart of a devotee will cause ruin. This misfortune, he says, can happen even at high levels of devotional service. We are unaware of all the taints of impersonalism we harbor. Therefore, to remove all doubts, he exposes many aspects of impersonalism, from many angles of vision. So we owe a great debt to Srila Jiva Gosvami for protecting us through the Sandarbhas.

In Devotion or in Illusion

Continuing his analysis, Srila Jiva Gosvami says that there are unlimited living entities and they belong to the marginal potency of the Lord (tatastha sakti). These numberless entities are grouped into two classes. Since time immemorial, one class has turned away from the Lord and been situated in ignorance. The other class has eternally been devoted to the Lord and is always situated in knowledge.

The living entities devoted to the Lord are blessed by His internal potency. They are not of the internal potency themselves. Still, they get to serve the Lord and associate with Him directly.

The jivas situated in ignorance (maya) wander in the material world. By illusion they mistake the material body for their self, and its destruction for their death. Thus they repeatedly accept material bodies and repeatedly experience death.

In some places the scriptures say that the jivas come into existence. Though this may seem to imply that the jivas are not eternal, that is not the intent. When the cosmos is annihilated, the illusioned jivas rest unconscious inside Maha-Visnu. When creation begins anew, Lord Maha-Visnu, by His glance, impregnates the material energy with the jivas again. At that time, in a manner of speaking they "come into existence," but they factually existed before.

In Bhagavad-gita (14.3) Krsna says He impregnates material nature with the jivas. He doesn't say He creates the jivas. Indeed, in the second chapter He says the jivas are all eternal; they are never born or created.

Countless jivas, therefore, emanate from the Lord's marginal potency (tatastha sakti). Some of them, averse to surrendering to the Lord, remain in this material world. Others, desiring to serve the Lord's lotus feet, exist in greater glory in the spiritual sky.

The One and the Many

Next, Jiva Gosvami speaks of the Lord's external energy, or maya sakti, the energy that subjects us to illusion. By knowledge in the mode of goodness one gets rid of ignorance, but this knowledge is itself one of maya's potencies. It is still within the sphere of the material world and still a cause of bondage.

One cannot get free from maya without bhakti, devotional service to the Lord. Other methods yoga, jnana, and so on can elevate one to the mode of goodness and place one in knowledge, but one cannot cross beyond knowledge to reach transcendence by any means but bhakti.

Turning to the opening and concluding verses of the Bhagavatam, Jiva Gosvami finds in both places the phrase satyam param dhimahi, "We meditate on that Absolute Truth." He says that this phrase signifies that the Absolute Truth is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because there can be no meditation on impersonal Brahman. This is confirmed by Krsna Himself in the twelfth chapter of the Gita (kleso 'dhikataras tesam).

Meditation implies a distinction between the meditator and the object of meditation: the object is superior to the meditator. This duality rules out the monistic theory of absolute oneness between God and the living entity.

Again, the word dhimahi is plural, signifying that meditators are many. But the Supreme Absolute is one, so this rules out monism again. And Bhagavan, the object of meditation, cannot be illusory, because the Bhagavatam states that Bhagavan, who is to be known through the Bhagavatam, is the reality (vedyam vastavam atra vastu).

In the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Brahma decries impersonal meditation. Such meditation, he says, is like beating the chaff after the rice has been husked. The only reward one gets for beating empty husks is one's labor. In other words, impersonal meditation is a futile waste of time.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Srimad-Bhagavatam propounds as supreme the personal conception of God, not the impersonal one. The impersonal Absolute is only a feature of Bhagavan and is totally dependent on Him.

Why, then, are there statements in scripture that seem to promote the idea of oneness between the Absolute and the living entities? Jiva Gosvami replies that there are two types of transcendentalist the devotee and the monist and statements promoting oneness or impersonalism are only to attract those who are attached to the monistic idea.

Jiva Gosvami ends the Paramatma Sandarbha by explaining the purpose of the sacred Gayatri mantra. Next comes Sri Krsna Sandarbha, in which Srila Jiva Gosvami gives many excellent arguments to establish that Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is Krsna.