QUESTION: I have some doubt about Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s explanation of the jīva. I would be very grateful if you could please enlighten me on this subject.
ANSWER: In summary Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has stated that love of God is dormant in the heart of the jīva where as some of the early ācāryas have said that there is no svarūpa-śakti in the jīva. This is the basic difference that some people point to as a defect or concoction of Bhaktivinoda — that he has differed from the previous ācāryas.
However, we find a similar understanding in Caitanya-caritāmṛta by Kavirāja Gosvāmī supporting the conception of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura:
nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-prema sādhya kabhu naya
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya
“Pure love for Kṛṣṇa is eternally established in the hearts of living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, the living entity naturally awakens.” (CC. Madhya-līlā, 22.107)
Kṛṣṇa-prema means love of God (Kṛṣṇa) and ‘karaye udaya’ means to awaken. When something is awakened it is assumed that it was previously sleeping or dormant. Thus love of God is dormant in the heart of the conditioned soul in the same way that fire is dormant in wood. When wood comes in contact with fire it will then ignite. That is to say that when a conditioned soul comes in contact with a liberated soul (guru) he will then awaken to his eternal life of loving and serving Kṛṣṇa.
Many bābājīs and so-called scholars in Vṛndāvana give a different interpretation to the above. They say that the guru instills prema in the heart of a disciple and that before the connection with guru no trace of prema exists there. However, although learned to some extent these bābājīs and so-called scholars are not very deep philosophers. What the main difference between spirit and matter is they do not know.
There are of course many distinctions between matter and spirit, but the final and most important distinction is that matter has no capacity to love. Only the jīva can love. This love is perversely manifest in the conditioned soul and purely manifest in the liberated soul. But in either case, liberated or conditioned, the tendency to love is there in the jīva.
For the so-called scholars of this world the śāstra is the highest truth, but for the devotees the realizations of the pure devotees are more important. The śāstra shows the way, but the realizations of the pure devotees are the conclusive truths. The so-called scholars do not realize that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a liberated soul and that his bhakti-samādhi gives us much needed clarification to various topics found in the śāstra.
The critics of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura are blind to self-evident truths. They study the scriptures for lifetimes, but they never arrive at the conclusion or the realized knowledge of the scriptures. To instruct such lay students of the śāstra Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written in his Tattva-sūtra as follows:
“This Tattva-sūtra is obtained and proved by the eternal realization. Therefore, it can be known as the very essence of the Vedas. This is originated from the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya, and hence, is the origin of all the revealed scriptures. Only the Reality has been accepted in this treatise. The Divine Knowledge is characterized as the Sun whereas all the scriptures (śāstra) are rays of that Sun. This saying reveals that no scripture can contain the Divine Knowledge to the fullest extent. The self-evident knowledge of the jīvas is the source of all the scripture. This self-evident knowledge should be understood as God-given. The sages endowed with compassionate hearts have received this self-evident knowledge (axiomatic truths) from the Supreme Lord, and recorded the same in the scriptures for the benefit of all jīvas. This recorded portion of this primeval knowledge (God-given to the jīva) has been manifested in the form of the Vedas.
“The independent cultivation of the self-evident knowledge is always necessary. This is the important thing needed in understanding the Truth along with the study of the scriptures. Since the knowledge (Divine Knowledge) itself is the origin of the scriptures, those who disregard the root and depend upon the branches cannot have any well-being. Now, it may be argued that, when all the scriptures have been derived of the self-evident faith, where is the need for honouring them? The answer is that, in the conditioned state of the jīvas, the real knowledge is covered by the darkness of ignorance. In the devotional cultivation associated with retraction, when the hidden Reality is gradually manifested in the state of bhakti–samādhi, the jīvas will be realizing the self-evident knowledge.
“Beginning from the time of cosmic creation until today, a great amount of knowledge about the Reality has been discovered by the sages. Apart from that limitless knowledge discovered, still the sages are occasionally delivering many new facts about the Reality, obtained in their devotional trance of samādhi. All these discovered principles may be called as the scriptures. By the help of a certain principle another one may be properly understood. Therefore, it is imperative to carefully record all these discovered principles of Reality. Without following this process, the ultimate conclusions of the discovered principles can never be attained.
“Śrī Brahmā, the original proponent of the scriptures enlightened Śrī Nārada with the principles of Reality discovered by himself and advised him to develop the same by the further discovery of other Divine Principles.
“All the discovered principles of the Reality will get added to the scriptural knowledge and help the future developments of the same. Therefore, those who believe in the self-evident faith, they can never disparage the scriptures if at all they are intelligent in the study of them. But, those who are not endowed with the study of the principles of bhakti, which is the essential purport of the scriptures, their scriptural learning is only a waste of labor.
“Therefore, the essence-seekers’ conclusion is that, all the principles will be decided by the help of self-evident knowledge. All the scriptures should be understood by the help of that unalloyed knowledge. But, this rule does not apply to those whose self-evident knowledge has been adulterated with the empirical knowledge. Hence the following aphorism,
“Scriptural ordinances are intended for the regulation of the ignorant human beings whereas those who are endowed with discretion and Divine Wisdom are not controlled by them.”
“Similarly, Manu also has elaborately explained the importance of scriptures and finally told the following:
“In this way; in all the scriptures these two signs can be seen viz., 1) honor of the revealed scriptures in general, 2) secondary importance of the scriptures in comparison to the self-evident faith. But, the authors of the scriptures do not clearly indicate the lightness of the scriptures. The reason for such an attitude is that, the meritorious people who are authorized to discard the scriptural binding can naturally become independent of the scriptures by the help of the hidden indications of the scriptural authors and also by their own purified knowledge. Such meritorious persons can carry on the sinless activities by the help of his own intellect as well as by the advice of the scriptures. In that stage, the scriptures will not have any binding over them but only they serve as their guides. On the other hand those who are unable to understand their own spiritual path due to the lack of self-evident knowledge and due to ignorance who may not be able to ascertain their duties and fall into misery due to sensuality, for such people the scriptural ordinances are imperative. Such persons should not know that there is any way for them apart from the bindings of the scriptures. When they become authorized due to their advancement, they will be able to know this secret by the suggestions of the scriptures.
“Since knowledge itself is the root of the scriptures the one who has attained that self-evident knowledge will not be ruled by the scriptures, but only they guide him with advises. In case of ignorant people, this is not so. They must be governed by the rules of the scriptures for their upliftment, if not they will have their inevitable down fall due to the sensual addictions. If it is argued that, instead of governing by means of tedious rules, let the scriptures help the ignorant people by means of friendly advises. The reason for such an attitude is that the ignorant people do not understand their own good and bad due to the lack of knowledge. Due to the instinctual habits they will engage in wanton activities.
“Since their nature is mostly inclined towards the gratification of the senses, for their spiritual betterment the scriptures try to reform them through many types of tricks, by applying coercion, and with skillfulness etc. Often the scriptures threaten the ignorant people with punishment of the hell, at times they put forth the temptations of heavenly enjoyments. Again, they reform the human beings depending upon their inclinations. In many scriptures one may see the sanction of liquor, polygamy, killing of animals etc. All those are meant for the gradual control of the barbarian human beings by means of sanctioning some type of restricted activities according to their inclination. By their gradual reformation, the scriptures want to put them in the path of detachment. The many types of fruits mentioned along with those activities are only meant for attracting the attention of the ignorant followers.
“An argument may arise in this regard that, this Tattva-Sūtra also being a scripture, why the secret purport of the scriptures has been openly given here? The answer is that, this book of Tattva-Sūtra has been published for the benefit of the self-realized Bhāgavata devotees. They are authorized to know about all these thoughts. By the help of these aphorisms, their intellect will become favourable for the cultivation of Divine Love. Therefore, the author has openly declared here the scriptural secret.
“Devotees of the Supreme Lord are not controlled by the scriptures since their activities are congenial to the Divine Wisdom.
“Therefore, when the self-realized devotees ordain any new arrangement, they should be agreed with as a religious code, even if such new arrangements are not found in the scriptural dictums of the previous sages.” (All of the above quotes are from Śrī Tattva- Sūtra by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, pages 191-204)
If one is genuinely interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he should know that scholarship does not necessarily lead to real devotion or love of God.
bahu-śāstre bahu-vākye citte bhrama haya
sādhya-sādhana śreṣṭha nā haya niścaya
“If one becomes a bookworm, reading many books and scriptures and hearing many commentaries and the instructions of many men, this will produce doubt within the heart. One cannot in this way ascertain the real goal of life.” (CC, Ādi-līlā, 16.11)
The search for knowledge is certainly misleading in our ultimate quest for pure devotional service. In fact, although somewhat necessary in the beginning of devotional service, it nonetheless becomes the prerequisite for pure devotional service that one become free from knowledge, jñāna-śūnya-bhakti. By knowledge it is meant the spirit of ascertaining the Absolute Truth with a calculative approach, the attempt to capture the infinite in one’s fist. In the ultimate issue Kṛṣṇa is unknown and unknowable. Śāstra points the way, but only faith can reveal the higher plane. By jñāna-śūnya-bhakti it is meant the plane of Divine Love that is free from any calculation and does not consider even the opulence and power of the Lord. This is the standard of pure devotion of the eternal residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana.
The mastery of knowing everything must be hatefully rejected if we are to approach the highest domain, jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam. It is not possible to “know” anything about the infinite, either in magnitude or quality. The infinite is a flow of autocracy, so what can we “know” of it? Whatever we “know” at present can all prove false in a moment simply by His will.
Kṛṣṇa is the unconquerable (ajita), but He becomes conquered (jita), by the love of pure devotees not by the knowledge of scholars or the study of many books.
What will make spiritual life successful is that one must learn to love Kṛṣṇa and serve His devotees. That is the happy life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.