The Soul and the Supreme Soul

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam Canto Two, Chapter Ten, Text Eight

yo ‘dhyātmiko ‘yaḿ puruṣaḥ so ‘sāv evādhidaivikaḥ |
yas tatrobhaya-vicchedaḥ puruṣo hy ādhibhautikaḥ || 8 ||

The key words in this śloka are: (1) adhyātmika, (2) adhidaivika, and (3) ādhibhautika. All three words basically start with “adhi” and end with “ika” – if we strip away these parts we can see the key parts more clearly: (1) ātma, (2) daiva, and (3) bhauta. These three are in a strengthened grammatical form. If we revert this, the three words will become very familiar: (1) ātma, (2) deva, and (3) bhūta.

So, the three key concepts in this text are:

  1. Individuality (ātma)
  2. Divinity (deva)
  3. Substance (bhūta)

The subject of this śloka is the word puruṣaḥ – a “person.” Every person has three aspects: individuality, divinity, and substance. This śloka explains the interrelationship of these three aspects of a person:

About individuality (ātma) the text says: yo ‘dhyātmiko ‘yaḿ puruṣaḥ – “Where there is individuality there is a person.”

About divinity (deva)so ‘sāv evādhidaivikaḥ – “And that person is also certainly divine.”

About substance (bhūta)yas tatrobhaya-vicchedaḥ puruṣo hy ādhibhautikaḥ – “But, the part of a person that stands between the two is the substance.”

“Substances” (solids, liquids, etc) can be unreal products of māyā or real products of yogamāyā. When considering substance as the unreal product of māyā, it refers to a material body. So the meaning of the śloka is – A person is a divine individual, but a body of unreal substances separates and cuts off the individuality off from divinity. This is the primary meaning. The secondary, or hidden, meaning emerges when we consider “substance” as the real products of yogamāyā. That meaning is – A person is a divine individual, and a body of true substances facilitates the relationship between the individual and the divinity.

Note: “Cuts off” dually means “Facilitates the connection” due to the dual nature of the prefix vi- in viccheda. However this is an uncommon, unconventional, hidden meaning.

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam Canto Two, Chapter Ten, Text Nine

ekam ekatarābhāve yadā nopalabhāmahe |
tritayaḿ tatra yo veda sa ātmā svāśrayāśrayaḥ || 9 ||

This verse continues talking about the three (tritayam) components of a person described in the previous verse: individuality (atma), divinity (deva), and materiality (bhūta). 

The first thing it says is ekam ekatara the three components of a person are interdependent, that is, one depends upon the other. How so? ekam ekatarābhāve yadā na-upalabhāmahe – if one of them is not present, the other two cannot be tangible.

An divine (deva) individual (ātma) without a body (bhūta) cannot be tangibly experienced, for example. An individual body without a divine element is also not tangible, it quickly decays and disappears.  Etc. Śrīla Viśvanātha and his greatest modern follower Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swāmī Prabhupāda give another example by brilliantly extending the three keywords like this: deva is analogous to the (divine) power of perception, ātma to the consciousness, and bhūta to the physical organs of perception. In the absence of one, the others become intangible.

To review, the śloka so far says “These three components of a person are interdependent, if one is not present the other two seem to vanish also.”

The second half of the śloka says something revolutionary for us, in the sense that it points out a part of reality that is so close to us that we almost always see right through it, and thus forget about it. It says that these three components of personality are not the actual person itself. After all it has already said that these three are relative realities. Now it will point to the actual person, an absolute (non-relative) being. It says: tritayaḿ tatra yo veda sa ātmā – “The one who possesses all three, s/he is the true self.” In other words the true self (ātmā) has three intrinsic qualities: individuality, divinity, and substance. 

The śloka ends, thus ending the “paragraph” begun in the previous śloka by saying something deep in a very amazing way. It ends by saying svāśrayāśrayaḥ. This is a compound of three words: sva-āśraya-āśrayaḥ. The true self is the shelter of three amazing qualities (individuality, divinity, and substance), but the true self is not independent. Svāśrayāśrayaḥ means means that the true self is an entity sheltered (āśrayaḥ) by one who is his own shelter (sva-āśraya). In other words, the spiritual entity is sheltered by/ rooted in the Supreme Spiritual Entity, and the Supreme Spiritual Entity is self-sheltering / self-rooted.


Altogether, these two outstanding verses teach us this:

Where there is individuality there is a person, and that person is also certainly divine, but the part of a person that stands between its individuality and divinity is its substantiality.

These the three components of a person are interdependently relative. If one is not present, the other two cannot be manifest.  The entity who possesses all three of these is the true self, an entity sheltered by one who is his own shelter.

May we all take sincere shelter of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

Mahaprabhu and associates hear Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from Gadādhara Pandit
Mahaprabhu and associates hear Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from Gadādhara Pandit
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