Śrī Jīva on the Jīva

What is the “superior nature” inherent in the jīva?

Pure sentience. This nature is described as “superior” because sentience is superior to the insentient objects of external reality.

Why would a jīva forfeit her superior nature?

She is mesmerized.

By what?

She is mesmerized by the desire to enjoy the fascinating qualities of the inferior, external world.

Why would the jīva be attracted to an inferior world?

She has not made herself aware that there is anything better. She has beginningless ignorance of the beauty of the Supreme Person.

What is the result? Why is it described as a “forfeit”?

The result is that the jīva, “falsely identifies herself as a part of the insentient external world.” Charmed by the fascinating qualities of māyā, she imagines the inferior to be superior, and the unnecessary to be necessary. Thus she becomes bound and contained within insentient external objects and takes superfluous material incarnations confined to temporary cycles of existence.

Śrī Jīva writes the above in Śrī Tattva-Sandarbha, while explaining one of the Bhāgavatam’s verses describing Vyāsa’s realization (1.7.5):

“He also saw jīvas [living entities] forfeiting their superior nature to falsely identify themselves as a part of the inferior external reality, due to their desire to enjoy her three mesmerizing qualities.”

—  Excerpt from
This is Gauḍīya Philosophy:
Tattva Sandarbha of Śrī Jīva Goswāmī

Rendered in English
by Vraja Kishor dās

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  1. This whole topic on the fall of the jiva is really – as I see it – about explaining the “original sin.” In Christianity we have Adam and Eve disobeying God, and in Gaudia Vaishnavism we have the jiva memorized by the desire to be the center of enjoyment.

    Out of this narrative of the original sin, a whole framework of philosophy, practice, and outlook on life is formed. The world becomes but a mere prison-house where we are prisoners requiring rehabilitation in order to released back to the spiritual world. As prisoners, we can expect austerities, disappointments, and our benevolent prison warden – the guru, who is in the prison but not imprisoned.

    Personally, I have no attraction for the life denying original-sin story line, and more and more people do these days are giving it up too. This narrative has outlived its timespan and needs to be replaced with something more life-affirming.


    1. In the Gauḍīya outlook, the world is not a prison-house in the sense of being a penal colony. The world is an arena where we can get what we want, but have to coordinate that with what other people like us want. This can reform us, because eventually we might realize that getting what we want doesn’t get us what we want. But it is a bit of a stretch to call it a prison. I know that A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī called it a prison house many times. In the contexts he used it, his metaphor is illustrative, but out of context it gives the wrong impression, like you have expressed.


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