Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Spiritual Form

For a couple of years now, a Vaishnava has been going around thinking that he has "defeated" the proponents of raganuga-bhakti, specifically in his "research" and interpretation on the siddha-pranali issue. Basically his point was that the siddha-pranali idea of being "bestowed" a spiritual body by the guru is a falsity as the liberated jiva attains "his own form " at the stage of mukti. Therefore what is the use of a "bestowed" body when mukti includes the realisation of one's "own" form?

The guy quoted Sri Baladeva Vidyabhushan's Govinda-bhashya to support this. Here is a typical quotation:

Vedanta Sütra 4.4.1
sampadyävirbhävaù svena-çabdät
sampadya—of he who has attained; ävirbhävaù—manifestation; svena—svena; çabdät—by the word.

Because of the word "svena" it is the manifestation of he who has gone.
Commentary by Çréla Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa
The individual soul who, by means of devotional service accompanied with knowledge and renunciation, attains the effulgent Supreme, becomes free from the bondage of karma and attains a body endowed with eight virtues. This body is said to be the soul's original form. Why is that? The sütra explains, "svena-çabdät" (because of the word "svena"). The word "svena" here means, "in his own original form". For this reason it cannot be said that this passage means, "the soul arrives there and then accepts a form which is an external imposition". In that way it is proved that the form here is the original form of the soul. This is not contradicted by the use of the word "niñpadyate" in the verse of Chändogya Upaniñad, for that word is also used to mean, "is manifested". An example of that usage is seen in the following words found elsewhere the Çruti-çästra:
idam ekaà su-niñpannam
"He is manifested."

Also, it is not that the manifestation of the soul's original form cannot be a goal of human endeavour, because it already exists. This is so because even though the soul's original form exists it is not openly manifested. Therefore it is not useless to say that the soul may endeavour to make manifest the original form of the soul.

Sound familiar?

For the record, I highlighted several problems with this view, not least the fact that the Vaishnava was relying heavily on an English translation of the Govinda-bhashya and couldn't be sure if the original Sanskrit supported the point. Anyway I found these tidbits here today. I recently received a copy of David Haberman's 'Acting As A Way To Salvation' and I couldn't help digging in. And it wasn't long before I found the juice:

In his Priti Sandarbha, Jiva Gosvamin has described the form (rUpa) or body (deha) given to the liberated souls who have attained Bhagavan Krsna. In so doing, he also gives the scriptural authority for the Gaudiya Vaisnava understanding of the siddha-rUpa. He writes:

The Lord makes a body for the liberated one that is identical to those eternal bodies of the people of Vaikuntha (Vraja), which consist of a particle of light from the Lord of Vaikuntha (Vraja).

That is, after the bhakta attains liberation, the Lord will grant him or her an eternal body with which to reside in the eternal world. Once again we see that it is an identity/body that connects one with a particular world. The scriptural authority for this statement comes from the Bhagavata Purana. Jiva cites two verses:

All the people living there are endowed with a form of Vaikuntha (vaikuntha-mUrtI).

When I was transformed into a pure divine body (bhAgavatI-tanu), my earthly body in which past karmic effects had been extinguished fell away.

Jiva also cites Sridhara's commentary on the latter verse. This authoritative commentary indicates that the 'companion body' (pArSada-tanu) of those acting in Krsna's lila is pure, eternal, and devoid of karma.

So there you have it. Makes a body, endowed with a form, transformed into a pure divine body and all of that. For reference, the first statement ("The Lord makes a body..") is from Priti Sandarbha 10 (Puridasa Edition, 1951). The Bhagavata references are 3.15.14 and 1.6.29 respectively. Here's the Sanskrit text for both of them:

vasanti yatra puruSAH
sarve vaikuNTha-mUrtayaH
ye 'nimitta-nimmitena
dharmeNArAdhyan harim

prayujyamAne mayi tAM
zuddhAM bhAgavatiM tanum
nyapatat pAJca-bhautikaH

Haberman may have been quoting from a critical edition of Bhagavata or he was one verse off, because the second verse is 1.6.28 in the ISKCON edition. it should also be noted that this carries the weight of Sripada Jiva Gosvami, another great Gosvami along with Srimat Rupa Gosvami and Srimat Sanatana Gosvami. All these three outdated Sripada Baladeva Vidyabhusan by several hundred years or so? Sripada Baladeva's commentary on the Vedantasutra needs to be analysed but it is suffice to say that he had to follow the structure of Vedanta, but that doesnt deny the fact that at least three Vrindaban Gosvamis subscribe to the "given" theory rather than the "inherent" theory.

Either way, make of this what you will.


  • At 03 August, 2006 14:37, Blogger advaitadas said…

    I will for the time being remain strictly neutral on the subject, because I havent made up my mind yet. I have a few notes to make here, though:
    1. I dont think there would be any contradiction between Baladeva and Jiva.
    2. Both the Vedanta Sutra-translation that the gentleman quotes as well as Habermann's translations may be faulty. It is important to have access to the original texts and to have a qualified Vaishnava translator of them.
    3. The Bhagavata verse 1.6.28 or 29 (it is 29 in the Gita press edition too), starts with the word prayujyamAna, which means, according to Sridhara Swami and Jiva Gosvami, that it is bhagavata nIyamAna, brought by the Lord.
    4. I am waiting for a sanskritist to translate me the words bhagavatA kriyata from Priti Sandarbha paragraph 10, which should decide whether the siddha deha is manufactured by the Lord or otherwise.

  • At 04 August, 2006 01:24, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    1. I took a look at the end of the VS (GB) and it appears to be the same as other bhashyas; that the soul does not acquire a "new form". However, I need to do further reading to find out exactly what is meant by "new form". Beyond that I don't think any contradiction exists between Sri Baladeva and Sri Jiva either.

    2. It's possible that Haberman's translation may be faulty because he admits that the translations in the book are his own unless otherwise specified. For the record, here is the ISKCON translation of those Bhagavata verses:

    "In the Vaikuntha planets all the residents are similar in form to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They all engage in devotional service to the Lord without desires for sense gratification." (3.15.14)

    "Having been awarded a transcendental body befitting an associate of the Personality of Godhead, I quit the body made of five material elements, and thus all acquired fruitive results of work [karma] stopped." (1.6.28)

    As far as the translation goes the first verse does not really say anything whereas the second makes mention of an award.

    3. So this is a good indication that the siddha-svarupa is an award rather than an inherent thing. When the Vedanta Sutra describes the attainment of mukti and one's "own" form, I suspect that this is a reference to the "own form" of the soul. I remember a Prabhupada conversation somewhere where SP described the body as a garment for the soul as per BG, insinuating that the soul had a "humanlike form" for the body-garment to cover it. This would make more sense. I should get hold of that conversation again and check out the BG references. The BG references are easy enough to find but the conversation would show Prabhupada's way of thinking.

    By the way, I noticed that 'prajuyamAna' is the only occurrence of the word in the entire Bhagavata. :-)

    4. I will wait for you also. By the way I have a word doc. translation of Priti Sandarbha that I downloaded from the Internet a while back at this site (scroll down for English), which is not online anymore. I will check it out and post the results here as far as the translation goes.

  • At 04 August, 2006 06:04, Anonymous "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Nope, looks like my downloaded Priti Sandarbha only begins from Anucheda 46 onwards, so no information about Anuccheda 10. Sorry. :-(

  • At 04 August, 2006 07:43, Blogger advaitadas said…

    More on kriyata in Priti Sandarbha 10: In his Manjari Svarupa Nirupana, Kunjabihari das Babaji translated PS 10 as 'tAhAdera eka mUrtira sahita zrIbhagavAn eka mukta puruSera mUrti karena' "With each form the Lord does a form with a liberated soul". The Bengali verb karena is 'to do' just as the Sanskrit verb kriyata. In the Bengali dictionary of course there are many synonyms for the root verb karA: to do, to perform, to accomplish, to execute, to build, to make, to invent.... The last three seem the most likely meanings here in the context.....Any thoughts?

    Not only is prayujyamana mentioned only once in the Bhagavat, according to Satyanarayan the whole siddha deha concept only appears in 1.6.28/9...

  • At 05 August, 2006 04:11, Anonymous "Gaurasundara das" said…

    "kara" is generally a "to do" in Hindi also and this is good, it means that it is very likely (pending actual confirmation, unless this was it?) that Srimat Jivapada is talking along the lines Haberman interprets vis-a-vis endowing a form.

    I'm more and more convinced that the Vedanta-sutra argument about "reatining one's own form" simply relates to the "natural form" of the soul itself, not that a siddha-deha is inherent as they would have us believe.

    Interesting tidbit from Satyanarayan. I wonder how he would translate 1.16.28/29 because that appears to be slightly troublesome.

  • At 05 August, 2006 04:40, Anonymous "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Taking a look at the flow of this conversation, I can't help being intrigued by that Prabhupada conversation where he speaks about the soul (atma) having some sort of "naturally humanlike" form, which is why the body (in BG) is described as a garment.

    If only I could find that conversation again, I read it in an old BTG.

    I think that this is the key to the argument. I may be wrong but this is what I am thinking at the moment. Are there any references that describe the soul as having some sort of humanlike form, despite it's suposed invisibility? Or was it just a case of reasoning on Prabhupada's part, the garment idea?

    The idea of the soul having it's own humanlike form would make much more sense in the context of Vedantasutra. Upon the attainment of mukti the liberated soul does not acquire a "new form" but retains it's "own" form. 'Own' and 'new' need to be properly defined and I haven't found any clues yet, otherwise SB 1.6.28 won't make much sense nor would Srimat Jivapada's idea be easily explained.

    The search continues...

  • At 05 August, 2006 04:43, Anonymous "Gaurasundara das" said…

    By the way, the Bhagavata is chock-full of examples of devotees attaining "new forms" upon attaining mukti and being transported to Vaikuntha. Ajamila is just one example.

  • At 05 August, 2006 17:24, Blogger advaitadas said…

    I had a discussion about this which I posted on my weblog today.

  • At 05 August, 2006 17:56, Blogger advaitadas said…

    I have discussed the issue and blogged it on my weblog. Check it out.

  • At 06 August, 2006 04:36, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    verse 2.2186 of Sri Brhadbhagavatamrtam:

    Srila Sanatan Gosvami quotes Shankaracarya's verse, "mukta api lilaya vigraham kritva bhagavantam bhajanta", which he translated as "Even the liberated assume a form and worship the Lord in his pastimes". Srila Sanatan Gosvami then quotes Srimad Bhagavatam 6.14.5 "muktanam api siddhanam narayana parayana", that is, "The liberated and perfected souls are engaged in Narayan's service." Then Srila Sanatan Gosvami asks himself: "If liberated souls didn't have forms then how could they engage in the Lord's service?" The answer: "Bhagavati layam praptasyapi nri dehasya mahamuneh punar narayana rupena pradurbhavah". Even those who have merged into the Lord have dormant human forms.

  • At 07 August, 2006 02:02, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Interesting point of view. Any thoughts on that, Advaitaji?

    Following the understandings I have gained from my recent research into the issue, I would say that this doe snot contradict Baladeva Vidyabhushan/Vedantasutra because the understanding given there relates to the "natural form" of the jIvas.

    Else how can we explain the "assumption of new forms" related all over the Bhagavata in respects to Ajamila, Citraketu et al? it also looks like Srimat Jivapada confirms the acquisition of a "Vaikuntha-murti". It would look strange if Srimat Sanatana and Srimat Jiva appeared to contradict one another.

    At the end of Baladeva's commentary to VS 4.4.12, he confirms that the mukta achieves that which he had been meditating on during his sadhana, citing BG 8.5 in support of this. As we all know, Sri Narottam das Thakur confirms this too.

    Any thoughts, Advaitaji?

  • At 07 August, 2006 02:44, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Oh I was wrong. Baladeva did NOT cite BG 8.5, but a Sruti text.

  • At 07 August, 2006 13:48, Blogger advaitadas said…

    I dont see a contradiction either.

  • At 08 August, 2006 01:24, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gaurasundara you don't need to publish this. I am writing simply to you.

    Gaurasundara wrote:

    Else how can we explain the "assumption of new forms" related all over the Bhagavata in respects to Ajamila, Citraketu et al?
    I suggest you should check your sources more closely before you publish things in future.

    Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.2.43

    hitvā kalevaraḿ tīrthe gańgāyāḿ darśanād anu sadyaḥ svarūpaḿ jagṛhe

    hitvā — giving up; kalevaram — the material body; tīrthe — in the holy place; gańgāyām — on the bank of the Ganges; darśanāt anu — after seeing; sadyaḥ — immediately; sva-rūpam — his original spiritual form; jagṛhe — he assumed; bhagavat-pārśva-vartinām — which is fit for an associate of the Lord.


    Upon seeing the Viṣṇudūtas, Ajāmila gave up his material body at Hardwar on the bank of the Ganges. He regained his original spiritual body, which was a body appropriate for an associate of the Lord.


    Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.12.35

    vṛtrasya dehān niṣkrāntam atma-jyotir arindama paśyatāḿ sarva-devānām alokaḿ samapadyata


    vṛtrasya — of Vṛtrāsura; dehāt — from the body; niṣkrāntam — coming out; ātma-jyotiḥ — the spirit soul, which was as brilliant as the effulgence of Brahman; arim-dama — O King Parīkṣit, subduer of enemies; paśyatām — were watching; sarva-devānām — while all the demigods; alokam — the supreme abode, filled with the Brahman effulgence; samapadyata — achieved.


    O King Parīkṣit, subduer of enemies, the living spark then came forth from Vṛtrāsura's body and returned home, back to Godhead. While all the demigods looked on, he entered the transcendental world to become an associate of Lord Sańkarṣaṇa.

    This living spark manifest as a personal associate of Lord Sańkarṣaṇa. The Bhagavatam does not say he was GIVEN A SPIRITUAL BODY.


    Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.12.33

    pīnāhi-bhogotthitam adbhutaḿ mahaj jyotiḥ sva-dhāmnā jvalayad diśo daśa

    pratīkṣya khe 'vasthitam īśa-nirgamaḿ viveśa tasmin miṣatāḿ divaukasām


    pīna — very great; ahi-bhoga-utthitam — issuing from the serpent's body, which was meant for material enjoyment; adbhutam — very wonderful; mahat — great; jyotiḥ — effulgence; sva-dhāmnā — by his own illumination; jvalayat — making glaring; diśaḥ daśa — all the ten directions; pratīkṣya — waiting; khe — in the sky; avasthitam — individually staying; īśa-nirgamam — until the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, came out; viveśa — entered; tasmin — in the body of Kṛṣṇa; miṣatām — while observing; divaukasām — all the demigods.


    From the body of the gigantic python, a glaring effulgence came out, illuminating all directions, and stayed individually in the sky until Kṛṣṇa came out from the corpse's mouth. Then, as all the demigods looked on, this effulgence entered into Kṛṣṇa's body.

    naitad vicitraḿ manujārbha-māyinaḥ
    parāvarāṇāḿ paramasya vedhasaḥ
    agho 'pi yat-sparśana-dhauta-pātakaḥ
    prāpātma-sāmyaḿ tv asatāḿ sudurlabham


    na — not; etat — this; vicitram — is wonderful; manuja-arbha-māyinaḥ — of Kṛṣṇa, who appeared as the son of Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā, being compassionate upon them; para-avarāṇām — of all causes and effects; paramasya vedhasaḥ — of the supreme creator; aghaḥ api — Aghāsura also; yat-sparśana — simply by the slight association of whom; dhauta-pātakaḥ — became freed from all contamination of material existence; prāpa — became elevated; ātma-sāmyam — to a body exactly resembling that of Nārāyaṇa; tu — but; asatām sudurlabham — which is not at all possible to be obtained by contaminated souls (but everything can be possible by the mercy of the Supreme Lord).


    Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes. The causes and effects of the material world, both higher and lower, are all created by the Supreme Lord, the original controller. When Kṛṣṇa appeared as the son of Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā, He did so by His causeless mercy. Consequently, for Him to exhibit His unlimited opulence was not at all wonderful. Indeed, He showed such great mercy that even Aghāsura, the most sinful miscreant, was elevated to being one of His associates and achieving sārūpya-mukti, which is actually impossible for materially contaminated persons to attain.


    Note, when it says he attained sārūpya-mukti it does not say he was given a spiritual body. You assume this happened, but in Brhadbhagavatamrtam we have this description of the four Kumara brothers (Sanaka, Sanatana etc) showing their sārūpya-mukti forms:

    One brother manifest the form of Narayan, another that of Vishnu. One, the form of Yajneshwara, and the last manifest several different forms.

    eko narayano vrtto visnu-rupo paro bhavat
    anyo yajnesa rupo bhut paro vividha rupavan

    (verse 2.2.111)

    That is, the living entity manifest himself as a Visnu form (the difference from God being that a person who has attained sarupya mukti does not have all the greatness of Narayana).

  • At 09 August, 2006 04:04, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Received from Yadupati das:

    I wanted to say was that the sruti text that Baladeva Vidyabhusana referred to in VS 4.4.12 'yathakratu' is from Chhandogya Up. 3.14.1.:

    "A person consists of pupose (kratu-maya). According to the purpose which a person has in this world, thus he become on departing hence. So let him form for himself a purpose."

    An idea that is found in several places in the Upanishads, Gita and Bhagavatam and very important because you choose your purpose or goal (kratu) and that will determine eventually the siddha-deha you get.

    Could a Rama-bhakta get a siddha-deha belonging to the Krishna-lila?

  • At 09 August, 2006 04:05, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Yes this is true. I've been reading more of Govinda-bhashya and this "yatha kratu" idea (known as the 'Tat Kratu' maxim in the GB) is noted all over the place!

    It a thing is repeated in many places then it gains importance and authority as we all know.

  • At 08 September, 2007 21:00, Blogger The Truth said…

    Functioning through the causal body the mind enjoys bliss; it dwells in the anandamaya kosa. This corresponds to the semi-conscious state experienced by Chaitanya. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna IN FMSR, 71.)

    Chaitanya experienced … the semi-conscious state, when his mind entered the causal body and was absorbed in the bliss of divine intoxication. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 330.)

    By means of [the causal body] one enjoys the Bliss of God and holds communion with Him. The Tantra calls it the Bhagavati Tanu, the Divine Body. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 902.)


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