More on Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 1

So in the previous post I left things open a bit in order to follow up on the context, to see whether the asti nāsti was specifically refering to any particular debate. The chapter does begin with an inquiry into differences of opinion about the number of tattvas according to different analyses of the Sankhya categories. Krishna said they are all okay depending on the particular point of view. After explaining what the different enumerations of the tattvas intend and how these differing views can be reconciled, he stops at verse 11.22.25. Uddhava then asks further about the Sankhya philosophy, in particular about its dualism of Consciousness and Matter, prakṛti and puruṣa.
prakṛtiḥ puruṣaś cobhau yady apy ātma-vilakṣaṇau |
anyonyāpāśrayāt kṛṣṇa dṛśyate na bhidā tayoḥ |
prakṛtau lakṣyate hy ātmā prakṛtiś ca tathātmani ||

Consciousness and Matter, though differing in essence, appear to not be different because of their interdependence. Thus the ātmā is observed in Nature and Nature is similarly observed in the ātmā.

The immediate problem here is the two different uses of ātmā in the verse. The immediate way that I read the words ātma-vilakṣaṇau are “different from the ātmā” which cannot be, since puruṣa and ātmā are synonymous. So the commentaries of S and VC use svarūpeṇa (“in essence”) to explain it. Now the question is: In verse 34, does ātmā mean essence? Or Self? Or both?

Krishna’s answer to this question in verses 29-34. [Note that numbering differs since some editions count the half verse 32 separately or as included in 31. So BBT has 34, Gita Press 33.] The passage, with the exception of the last verse, is about the distinction of spirit from matter and the transformation of matter through the working of the three gunas. Verse 32 (we are going to follow Gita Press numbering) talks about the threefold division of ahankara. So verse 33 is introduced by Shridhara, “So how do we get rid of [ahankara]?”

So the verse is not really about the first part; the asti nāsti are not about anything in particular, but are just away of changing the subject altogether. It is saying that due to ignorance of the Self [here I think it is justifiable to say “Supreme Self”] one becomes involved in arguments about whether something is or is not; it does not really matter. The highest truth is non-dual, and it is the second part of the verse that Jiva wants to draw attention to.

This indeed what Jiva Goswami says in his Krama Sandarbha. He cites the verse we looked at the other day (11.2.37), a parallelism that is also found Bhakti Sandarbha, even though in this case the text is not cited word for word. So how do we get rid of ahankara? Jiva says, “In keeping with the verse 11.2.37 one does so by turning inward towards me (mad-antar-mukhatā, which puts an end to one’s external orientation away from me (mad-bahir-mukhatā).”

In other words, when a person’s attention is diverted from me, who am everyone’s true shelter (sva-loka), then their true identity does not manifest (ātmāparijñānaṁ sva-svarūpāsphūrtiḥ) and this is what leads to differences of opinion and argument. In other words, as long as one is turned away from Krishna, there is disagreement and debate, and real knowledge is never attained. It is thus a waste of time. On the other hand, when one is turned inward, towards Krishna, then knowledge arises as a secondary result; the main result attained is Krishna himself, who is the supreme goal of human life. That is the message of this verse according to Krama Sandarbha.

The Bhakti Sandarbha comes to the same point where it states what is found in Krama Sandarbha, which is to summarize the abhidheya. As already stated in the above-linked note, Jiva says that upon the delineation of the Supreme Truth, the sambandha, as given in the first four Sandarbhas, the course of action to be taken and the ultimate goal of such action, should be understood automatically, but that is usually not the case. He uses the example of Prahlada, who in exemplary humility says to Nrisingha:

naitan manas tava kathāsu vikuṇṭha-nātha
samprīyate durita-duṣṭam asādhu tīvram
kāmāturaṁ harṣa-śoka-bhayaiṣaṇārtaṁ
tasmin kathaṁ tava gatiṁ vimṛśāmi dīnaḥ
O Lord of Vaikuntha! This mind of mine does not take pleasure in hearing Your pastimes because it is polluted by sinful desires, utterly impious, agitated by lust, and afflicted by ardent desire, lamentation, fear and worldly hankerings. With a mind such as this, how can a pitiable person like me ever come to know Your truth? (7.9.39)

In other words, the mind is so contaminated that it cannot directly perceive what is to be done and not to be done and so the scriptures are there for the benefit of mankind to help choose a course of action for realizing that truth. That is called the abhidheya, which can be summarized as “Placing oneself before God, because this is the way to oppose the movement away from Him.” (tatrābhidheyaṁ tad-vaimukhya-virodhitvāt tat-sāmmukhyam eva). That is characterized by His worship, whereby which proper knowledge appears.

The prayojana, Jiva elaborates, is direct experience of God, which is characterized by seeing Him in all things internally and externally. Through such direct experience, all suffering comes to an end forever.

So the two verses (11.22.33 and 11.2.37) are shown to be saying basically the same thing: The non-dual Reality is realized through turning inward towards the Supreme Self. Confusion about Reality, which produces fear, comes from turning away from Him.


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