Jaiva Dharma – Chapter 1 – The Eternal And Temporary Dharmas Of The Jiva

by Bhaktivinode Thakur

Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur

Jaiva Dharma – Chapter 1

The Eternal And Temporary Dharmas Of The Jiva

Within this world, the island of Jambudvipa is most excellent. In Jambudvipa, the land of Bharata-varsa is eminent and within Bharata-varsa, the topmost place is Gauda-bhumi.

Within Gauda-bhumi, the nine-island region of Sri Navadvipamandala is most distinguished, and in one area of Sri Navadvipamandala, on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi river, a beautiful settlement named Sri Godruma is eternally situated.

In ancient times, many stalwart practitioners of bhajana lived in the various places of Sri Godruma. It was here that Sri Surabhi, a cow of divine origin, previously worshiped the Supreme Lord Bhagavan Sri Gauracandra in her own kunja, a grove shaded with fragrant flowering creepers. At a little distance from this kunja is Pradyumna-kunja. Here, Sri Premadasa Paramahamsa Babaji, a siksa disciple of Pradyumna Brahmacari, the best among the associates of Sri Gauracandra, now lived in a kutira (hut) covered with vines and dense foliage, and spent his time constantly immersed in the divine rapture of bhajana.

Sri Premadasa Babaji was a refined scholar, and was fully conversant with all the conclusions of the sastras. He had taken shelter of the forest of Sri Godruma with single-minded conviction, knowing it to be non-different in essence from Sri Nandagrama. As a daily routine, Babaji Maharaja chanted two hundred thousand holy names and offered hundreds of obeisances to all the Vaisnavas. He maintained his existence by accepting alms from the houses of the cowherd men. Whenever he found a spare moment from these activities, he spent his time not in idle gossip but in reading the book Prema-vivarta, by Sri Jagadananda, a confidential associate of Sri Gaurasundara.

At such times, neighboring Vaisnavas gathered and listened with great devotion as Babaji read with tear filled eyes. And why would they not come to hear? This divine treatise, Prema-vivarta, is filled with all the conclusions of rasa, the condensed liquid essence of integrated transcendental emotions. Moreover, the Vaisnavas were inundated by the waves of Babaji’s sweet, resonant voice, which extinguished the venomous fire of sensuality in their hearts like a shower of nectar.

One afternoon, having completed his chanting of sri-harinama, Babaji Mahasaya sat reading Prema-vivarta in his bower, shaded by vines of madhavi and jasmine, and became immersed in an ocean of transcendental emotions. Just then, a mendicant in the renounced order of life approached him, fell at his feet, and stayed prostrated in obeisance for a considerable time. At first Babaji Mahasaya remained absorbed in the bliss of transcendental ecstasy, but after a while, when he returned to external consciousness, he beheld the sannyasi mahatma lying before him. Considering himself more worthless and insignificant than a blade of grass, Babaji fell in front of the sannyasi and began to weep, exclaiming, “O Caitanya! O Nityananda! Please be merciful upon this fallen wretch.” The sannyasi then said, “Prabhu, I am extremely vile and destitute. Why do you mock me like this?”

The sannyasi proceeded to take the dust of Babaji Mahasaya’s feet upon his head, and then sat before him. Babaji Mahasaya offered him a seat of banana tree bark, and sitting beside him, spoke in a voice choked with love, “Prabhu, what service may this worthless person offer you?”

The sannyasi set aside his begging bowl, and with folded hands, began to speak. “O Master, I am most unfortunate. I have spent my time in Kasi and other holy places, debating the analytical conclusions of the religious texts – such as sankhyapatanjalanyayavaisesikapurva-mimamsa and uttara-mimamsa – and exhaustively studying the Upanisads and the other Vedanta-sastras. About twelve years ago, I accepted the renounced order of life from Sri

Saccidananda Sarasvati. Having accepted the staff of the renounced order, I traveled to all the holy places, and wherever I went in India, I kept the company of sannyasis who adhere to the

doctrine of Sri Sankara. In due course of time, I passed beyond the first three stages of the renounced order – kuticakabahudaka, and hamsa – and attained the highest status of paramahamsa, in which I have remained for some time. In Varanasi, I adopted a vow of silence, and abided by those statements that Sri Sankaracarya proclaimed to be the maha-vakya (chief axioms) of the Vedasaham brahmasmiprajnanam brahma, and tat tvam asi. However, the happiness and spiritual satisfaction that I was supposed to find did not come to me.

“One day I saw a Vaisnava sadhu loudly singing about the pastimes of Sri Hari. I opened my eyes and saw that he was bathed in streams of tears, and in his ecstatic rapture the hairs of his body were standing on end. He was chanting the names “Sri Krsna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda!” in a choked-up voice, and as he danced, his feet slipped so that he fell on the ground again and again. When I saw him and heard his song, my heart filled with an indescribable ecstasy. Although that mystical experience was so overwhelming, in order to protect my status as a paramahamsa, I did not speak with him at all. Alas! Fie on my rank and status! Cursed be my destiny! I don’t know why, but since that day my heart has become attracted to Sri Krsna Caitanya’s lotus feet.

“Shortly thereafter, I became obsessed with the desire to find that Vaisnava sadhu, but I could not see him anywhere. Never before had I experienced anything like the untainted bliss that I felt when I saw him and heard the holy name emanating from his mouth. After considerable thought, I concluded that the highest benefit for me would be to take shelter at the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas.

“I left Kasi and went to the beautiful holy land of Sri Vrndavanadhama. There I saw many Vaisnavas, uttering the names of Sri Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Gosvami in a mood of great lamentation. They were absorbed in meditation on the pastimes of Sri Radha-Krsna, and they rolled on the ground, chanting the name of Sri Navadvipa. When I saw and heard this, a greed arose within me to behold the beautiful holy dhama of Navadvipa. I circumambulated the one hundred sixty-eight square miles of Sri Vraja-dhama, and came to Sri Mayapura just a few days ago. I heard of your glories in the town of Mayapura, so I have come today to take shelter of your lotus feet. Please fulfill my life’s aspiration by making this servant an object of your mercy.”

Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya took a blade of grass between his teeth. Weeping, he said, “O Sannyasi Thakura, I am absolutely worthless. I have uselessly spent my life filling my belly, sleeping, and engaging in futile talks. It is true that I have taken up residence in this sacred place where Sri Krsna Caitanya enacted His pastimes, but as the days fly by, I find myself unable to taste this thing known as krsna-prema. You are so fortunate, for you have tasted that divine love merely by seeing a Vaisnava for just a moment. You have received the mercy of Krsna Caitanyadeva. I will be very grateful if you will kindly remember this fallen wretch for a moment when you are tasting that prema, then my life will become successful.”

Saying this, Babaji embraced the sannyasi and bathed him with his tears. When Sannyasi Maharaja thus touched the limbs of the Vaisnava, he experienced unprecedented bliss within his heart.

He began to dance as he wept, and as he danced, he began to chant

(jaya) sri krsna-caitanya sri prabhu nityananda

(jaya) premadasa guru jaya bhajanananda

All glories to Sri Krsna Caitanya and Prabhu Nityananda.

All glories to my divine master Premadasa, and to the bliss of bhajana.

Premadasa Babaji and Sannyasi Maharaja danced and performed kirtana for a long time. When they stopped, they spoke together on many topics. Finally, Premadasa Babaji said very humbly, “O Mahatma, kindly stay here in Pradyumna-kunja for a few days just to purify me.”

The sannyasi said, “I have offered my body at your lotus feet. Why do you speak of a few days only? My anxious prayer is that I may serve you until I give up this body.”

Sannyasi Thakura was an erudite scholar of all the sastras. He knew very well that if one stays in the residence of the guru, one will naturally receive the guru’s instructions, so he took up residence in that grove with great delight.

After a few days Paramahamsa Babaji said to the elevated sannyasi, “O Mahatma, Sri Pradyumna Brahmacari has mercifully given me shelter at his lotus feet. At present he lives in the village of Sri Devapalli on the outskirts of Sri Navadvipa-mandala, where he is absorbed in the worship of Sri Nrsimhadeva. Today, after collecting alms, let us go there and take darsana of his lotus feet.”

Sannyasi Thakura replied, “I will follow whatever instructions you give me.”

After two o’clock, they crossed the Alakananda River, and arrived in Sri Devapalli. They then crossed the Suryatila River and took darsana of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s associate, Sri Pradyumna Brahmacari, who was in the temple of Sri Nrsimhadeva. From afar, Paramahamsa Babaji fell to the ground and offered prostrated obeisances to his guru. Pradyumna Brahmacari then came out of the temple, his heart melting with affection for his disciple. Lifting Paramahamsa Babaji with both hands, and embracing him very lovingly, he enquired about his welfare. After they had discussed topics concerning bhajana for some time, Paramahamsa Babaji introduced Sannyasi Thakura to his guru.

Brahmacari Thakura said with great respect, “My dear brother, you have obtained a most qualified guru. You should study the book Prema-vivarta under Premadasa’s direction.

kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kene naya

jei krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya

Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi, or a sudra, if he is fully conversant with all the truths regarding transcendental knowledge of Sri Krsna, he can become a guru. (Caitanyacaritamrta, Madhya 8.128)

Sannyasi Thakura humbly offered obeisances at the lotus feet of his parama-guru and said, “Prabhu, you are an associate of Sri Caitanyadeva and you can purify hundreds of arrogant sannyasis like me just by your merciful glance. Please bestow your mercy upon me.”

Sannyasi Thakura had no previous experience of the reciprocal behavior between Vaisnavas. However, he accepted the mutual dealings that he observed between his guru and parama-guru as the sad-acara (proper etiquette) that he himself should follow, and from that day on, he behaved accordingly toward his own guru without a trace of duplicity. When the evening arati was over, the guru and sisya returned to Sri Godruma.

A few days after residing in the kunja, Sannyasi Thakura became anxious to inquire about spiritual truths from Paramahamsa Babaji. By this time, the sannyasi had adopted all the ways of a Vaisnava, except for his outer dress. During his previous training, Sannyasi Thakura had developed qualities such as full control over his mind and senses, and had become firmly established in the conception of the non-dual, all-pervading Absolute (brahma-nistha). In addition, he had now acquired staunch faith in the transcendental pastimes of Parabrahma Sri Krsna, and had become deeply humble.

One morning, after performing ablutions at the break of dawn, Paramahamsa Babaji sat in the madhavi grove chanting hari-nama on his tulasi-mala. At that time, Sri Sri Radha and Krsna Yugala’s nisanta-lila (Their pastimes just prior to dawn) gradually manifested within his heart. Because this was the time that Sri Sri Radha and Krsna part from each other’s company, leaving the kunja to return to Their respective homes, Paramahamsa Babaji felt great pangs of separation, and tears of love streamed continuously from his eyes. While absorbed in meditation on this pastime, he was internally engaged in service appropriate for that period of the day in his perfected spiritual form; thus, he had lost all awareness of his physical body. Sannyasi Thakura was captivated by Babaji’s state, and sat beside him, observing his sattvika-bhavas, transcendental symptoms of ecstasy.

Paramahamsa Babaji said to him, “O sakhi, silence Kakkhati (Srimati Radhika’s monkey) at once, otherwise she will rouse Radha-Govinda from Their sleep of divine pleasure; then Lalita-sakhi will become distressed, and will rebuke me. Look there! Ananga Manjari is signaling for you to do this. You are Ramana Manjari and this is your designated service. Be attentive in this regard.”

After uttering these words, Paramahamsa Babaji fell unconscious. From that moment, Sannyasi Maharaja, now acquainted with his spiritual identity and service, engaged himself accordingly. Thus, the day dawned and the morning light spread its luster in the east. Birds began chirping melodiously in every direction, and a gentle breeze blew. The extraordinary beauty of the madhavi grove of Pradyumna-kunja, illuminated by the crimson rays of the rising sun, was beyond description.

Paramahamsa Babaji was seated on a cushion of banana bark. As he gradually regained external consciousness, he began to chant sri-nama on his beads. Sannyasi Thakura then offered prostrated obeisances at Babaji’s feet, sat next to him, and with folded hands spoke with great humility, “Prabhu, O Master, this destitute soul wishes to submit a question before you. Kindly reply and pacify my anguished heart. May you be pleased to infuse vraja-rasa into my heart, which has been scorched by the fire of brahma-jnana (knowledge aimed at the impersonal Absolute devoid of form, qualities and activities).”

Babaji replied, “You are a fit candidate. Whatever questions you ask, I will answer as far as I am able.”

Sannyasi Thakura said, “Prabhu! For a long time I have heard of the pre-eminence of dharma. On numerous occasions I have asked the question, ‘What is dharma?’ to so many people. It is a cause of distress to me that the answers those people have given contradict each other. So please tell me, what is the true constitutional dharma of the jivas? And why do different teachers explain the nature of dharma in such diverse ways? If dharma is one, why don’t all learned teachers cultivate that one universal dharma which is without a second?”

Paramahamsa Babaji meditated upon the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Krsna Caitanya, and began to speak: “O most fortunate one, I shall describe to you the principles of dharma as far as my knowledge allows. An object is called a vastu, and its eternal nature is known as its nitya-dharma. Nature arises from the elementary structure of an object (ghatana). By Krsna’s desire, when an object is formed, a particular nature is inherent in that structure as an eternal concomitant factor. This nature is the nitya-dharma of the object.

“The nature of a given object becomes altered or distorted when a change takes place within it, either by force of circumstance, or due to contact with other objects. With the passage of time, this distorted nature becomes fixed, and appears to be permanent, as ifit were the eternal nature of that object. This distorted nature is not the svabhava (true nature); it is called nisarga, that nature which is acquired through long-term association. This nisarga occupies the place of the factual nature, and becomes identified as the svabhava.

“For example, water is an object and its svabhava is liquidity. When water solidifies, due to certain circumstances, and becomes ice, the acquired nature of solidity takes the place of its inherent nature. In reality, this acquired nature is not eternal; rather, it is occasional or temporary. It arises because of some cause, and when that cause is no longer effective, this acquired nature vanishes automatically. However, the svabhava is eternal. It may become distorted, but it still remains inseparably connected to its object, and the original nature will certainly become evident again when the proper time and circumstances arise.

“The svabhava of an object is its nitya-dharma (eternal function), while its acquired nature is its naimittika-dharma (occasional function). Those who have true knowledge of objects (vastu-jnana) can know the difference between eternal and occasional function, whereas those who lack this knowledge consider acquired nature to be true nature, and they consequently mistake the temporary dharma for eternal dharma.”

“What is it that is called vastu, and what is the meaning of svabhava?” asked Sannyasi Thakura.

Paramahamsa Babaji said, “The word vastu is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root vas, which means ‘to exist’, or ‘to dwell’. The verbal root becomes a noun when the suffix tu is added. Therefore, vastu means ‘that which has existence or which is self-evident’. There are two types of vastuvastava and avastava. The term ‘truly abiding substance’, vastava-vastu, refers to that which is grounded in transcendence. Temporary objects, avastava-vastu, are dravya (solid objects), guna (qualities), and so on. Real objects have eternal existence. Unreal objects only have a semblance of existence, which is sometimes real and sometimes unreal.

“It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2) 

vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam

Only a truly abiding substance, which is related to the Supreme Absolute Truth and which yields supreme auspiciousness is worthy of being known.

“From this statement it is clearly understood that the only real substance is that which is related to the Supreme Transcendence. Sri Bhagavan is the only real Entity (vastava-vastu). The living entity (jiva) is a distinct or individual part of that Entity, while maya—the potency that produces bewilderment—is the energy of that Entity. Therefore, the word vastu refers to three fundamental principles: Bhagavan, the jiva, and maya. Knowledge of the mutual relationship between these three principles is known as pure knowledge (suddha-jnana). There are innumerable apparent representations of these three principles, and they are all regarded as avastava-vastu, unreal substances. The classification of phenomena into various categories such as dravya (objects) and guna (qualities), which is undertaken by the Vaisesika school of philosophy, is merely a deliberation on the nature of avastava-vastu, temporary objects.

“The special characteristic (visesa-guna) of any truly abiding substance is its factual nature. The jiva is a real entity, and his eternal characteristic quality is his true nature.”

Sannyasi Maharaja said, “Prabhu, I want to understand this topic very clearly.

Babaji Mahasaya replied, “Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, who was an object of the mercy of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, showed me a manuscript that he had written with his own hand. Sriman Mahaprabhu has instructed us on this subject in the book named Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 20.108) as follows:

jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa

krsnera tatastha-sakti bhedabheda-prakasa

The constitutional nature of the jiva is to be an eternal servant of Sri Krsna. He is the marginal potency of Krsna, and is a manifestation simultaneously one with Him, and different from Him.

krsna bhuli sei jiva anadi-bahirmukha

ataeva maya tare deya samsara-duhkha

Caitanya-caritamrta, (Madhya 20.117)

The jiva who has forgotten Krsna has been preoccupied with the external potency since time without beginning. Consequently, Krsna’s illusory potency (maya) gives him misery in the form of material existence.

“Krsna is the complete transcendental substance (cid-vastu). He is often compared to the sun of the spiritual realm, and the jivas are compared to the sun’s atomic particles of light. Jivas are innumerable. When it is said that they are individual parts of Krsna, it does not mean that they are like the pieces of stone that form a mountain. Although innumerable jiva portions emanate from Sri Krsna, He is not diminished by this in the slightest. For this reason,

the Vedas have compared the jivas in one respect to sparks emanating from a fire. In reality, no adequate comparison can be made. No comparison—whether to sparks of a blazing fire, atomic particles within the rays of the sun, or gold produced from powerful mystic jewels—is completely appropriate. The true nature of the jiva is easily revealed in the heart, but only when the mundane conception of these comparisons is given up.

“Krsna is infinite spiritual substance (brhat-cid-vastu), whereas the jivas are infinitesimal spiritual substance (anu-cid-vastu). The oneness of Krsna and the jivas lies in their spiritual nature (ciddharma), but they are undoubtedly different as well, because their natures are complete and incomplete respectively. Krsna is the eternal Lord of the jivas, and the jivas are Krsna’s eternal servants. This interrelationship is natural. Krsna is the attractor, and the jivas are attracted. Krsna is the supreme ruler, and the jivas are ruled. Krsna is the observer, and the jivas are observed. Krsna is the complete whole, and the jivas are poor and insignificant. Krsna is the possessor of all potency, and the jivas are devoid of potency. Therefore, the eternal svabhava or dharma of the jiva is krsna-dasya, eternal service and obedience to Krsna.

“Krsna is endowed with unlimited potencies. His complete potency (purna-sakti) is perceived in the manifestation of the spiritual world, cit-jagat. Similarly, His tatastha-sakti, or marginal potency, is observed in the manifestation of the jivas. A special potency acts in assembling the finite world (apurna-jagat), and this potency is known as tatastha-sakti. The action of the marginal potency is to create an entity (vastu) which exists between the animate objects (cid-vastu) and inanimate objects (acid-vastu) and which can maintain a relationship with both the spiritual and material worlds. Purely transcendental entities are by nature quite the opposite of inanimate objects, and therefore have no connection whatsoever with them. Although the jiva is an animate spiritual particle, he is capable of a relationship with inanimate matter due to the influence of aisi-sakti, a divine potency, which is  known as the tatastha-sakti.

“The boundary region between land and the water of a river is known as a tata or shore. This tata may be considered to be both land and water; in other words, it is situated in both. The divine aisi-sakti, which is situated in the border region, upholds the properties of both land and water, as it were, in one existential entity. The jiva’s nature is spiritual, but still, his composition is such that he can become controlled by jada-dharma, the inert nature. Therefore the baddha-jiva (conditioned soul) is not beyond all connection with matter, unlike the jivas in the spiritual domain. Nonetheless, he is distinct from dull matter because of his animate, spiritual nature. Since the jiva is by nature different from both the purely spiritual entities and dull matter, he is classified as a separate principle. Therefore, the eternal distinction between Bhagavan and the jiva must be accepted.

“Bhagavan is the supreme ruler of maya (His external potency which creates bewilderment), which is under His full control. The jiva, on the other hand, may under certain circumstances be controlled by maya, for he is subject to its influence. Hence, these three principles—Bhagavan, the jiva, and maya—are real (paramarthika satya) and eternal. Of these three, Bhagavan is the supreme eternal principle, and is the foundation of the other principles. The following statement of Sri Katha Upanisad (2.2.13) confirms this.

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam

He is the supreme eternal amongst all eternals (and the fundamental sentient being among all sentient beings).

“The jiva is by nature both an eternal servant of Krsna, and a representation of His marginal potency. This demonstrates that the jiva is distinct from Bhagavan, yet at the same time is not separate from Him. He is, therefore, a manifestation that is both different and non-different (bhedabheda-prakasa). The jiva is subject to domination by maya, whereas Bhagavan is the controller of maya. Herein lies an eternal distinction between the jiva and Bhagavan. On the other hand, the jiva is by his constitutional nature a transcendental entity, cid-vastu, and Bhagavan is also by nature cid-vastu. Moreover, the jiva is a special potency of Bhagavan. Herein lies the eternal non-distinction between these two. Where eternal distinction and non-distinction are found at one and the same time, eternal distinction takes prominence.

“The nitya-dharma of the jiva is servitorship to Krsna. When he forgets this, he is subjected to the tyranny of maya, and from that very moment he becomes diverted from Krsna. The fall of the jiva does not take place within the context of material time. Accordingly, the words anadi-bahirmukha are used, meaning that the jiva has been diverted since time without beginning. From the moment of this diversion and the jiva’s entry into maya, his nitya-dharma becomes perverted. Therefore, by the association of maya, the jiva develops nisarga, an acquired nature, which thus facilitates the display of his temporary function and disposition known as naimittika-dharma. The nitya-dharma (eternal function) is one, indivisible, and faultless in all different situations; but the naimittika-dharma (temporary function) assumes many different forms when seen in diverse circumstances, and when it is described in various ways by men of divergent opinions.”

Having spoken thus, Paramahamsa Babaji stopped and began to chant sri-hari-nama-japa. Hearing this explanation of spiritual truths, Sannyasi Thakura offered prostrated obeisances and said, “Prabhu, I shall deliberate on all these topics today. Tomorrow I shall submit at your lotus feet any questions that may arise.”



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