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Article By:Kundali Dasa & Satyanarayana Dasa. 1996

On Srila Jiva Goswam’s Bhagavad-Sandarbha Section 18

“The Two Division of Maya”

Edited & Formatted by Upendranath Dasa 2022 09 16

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Commentary Part 1

In the previous section, Srila Jiva Gosvami mentioned that the Lord has two types of energies para and aparaPara means distant, beyond, superior, and so on.  The energy is called para because it is superior to the material energy, or is beyond it, and thus material energy is called apara, or near, or inferior.  The living entities are also counted as para, because of their conscious nature.  Lord Krishna confirms this (Bhagavad-gita 7.5):

“This eight-fold separated energy, (the material nature) is called apara, but different from it, O mighty-armed one, is the para energy of mine, called jiva, by which this world is sustained”.

To understand para first, apara is explained because it is easier to understand. This is called candra-sakha-nyaya or the branch-moon principle, which means to point to the branch of a tree, which is close to us, and then show the moon beyond it.

To define the apara, or external energy, Srila Jiva Gosvami cites one of the catursloki bhagavatam verses that Lord Krishna spoke to Brahma at the dawn of creation (SB 2.9.33).

“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.”

In this verse, the Lord defines His external energy, Maya.  The term maya has various meanings such as false, cheating, illusion, compassion, power, wisdom, entanglement, goddess of fortune, magic, and so on.  Krishna uses it in the sense of the energy that causes bewilderment, the external energy.

According to this verse the basic characteristics of Maya are:

  • Maya does not exist within the Lord.
  • Maya does not exist without the Lord.
  • Maya exists outside the Lord.
  • Maya is perceived when the Lord is not perceived.

A doubt may be raised concerning this definition.  A conditioned living entity also has the above characteristics, and thus this definition has the defect of being too broad.  To avoid this, Srila Jiva Gosvami says that the jiva is conscious, and has been counted in the same category as the Lord.

 Moreover, the above definition should include the jivamaya and gunamaya features, which are indicated in the verse. Maya is not in the para-sakti. This also implies that it is not in the svarupa of jiva or in the nature of the living being, and this is good news.  Were Maya, the part of the jiva, there would be no question of getting liberated from it.

This explanation of Maya, defies the impersonal view.  Impersonalists say that Maya is neither sat (real), asat (false), or a combination of both.  It is different from both and yet not, nonexistent.  Thus, it is inexplicable, and antagonistic to knowledge.  Sankaracarya defines Maya in his Vivekacudamanias (111): 

“Maya is neither sat or asat nor a combination of sat and asat.  It is neither different from nor one with Brahman nor different and one with simultaneously.  It neither has limbs or divisions nor is it without limbs nor is it a combination of both.  Maya is most astonishing and inexplicable”.

The reason behind such an explanation, is that Mayavadis do not accept that Brahman has potency.  Srila Jiva Gosvami however established that Absolute is full of inconceivable potency, which manifest in multifarious ways. This is a simple fact without which the absolute reality cannot be comprehended.  Because Mayavadis cannot accommodate this fact, they have to give complicated definitions. Instead of accepting achintya sakti, they are forced to accept anirvacaniya maya, which is certainly acintya (inconceivable).

Mayavadis also propose that both Isvara and jiva are products of Maya, and at the absolute level, there is only formless, unqualified Brahman.  Vidyaranya Swami states in his famous work Pancadasi (6.236):

“Both jiva and Isvara are the two calves of the kamadhenu cow called Maya.  Let them drink the milk of dualism to their fill; indeed, reality is advaita.”

But the Supreme Lord does not agree with such a definition of Maya.  He says that Maya is under His support, and the verse cited from Srimad Bhagavatam (11.11.3) states that Maya is the Lord’s energy, and it is beginningless.  Lord Brahma also confirms this (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.6.21):

By His energies, the all-pervading Personality of Godhead is thus comprehensively the master in the activities of controlling and in devotional service.  He is the ultimate master of both nescience and factual knowledge of all situations.

The Lord is the support of both the vidya, and avidya features of Maya.  There cannot be any entity like that who can influence Brahman to turn into Isvara and jiva.  So, it cannot be said to be different from sat and asat.  Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita that there is either sat or asat existenceThere is no third category as speculated by the impersonalists (Bhagavad-gita 2.16): 

“The unreal (asat) has no existence and the real (sat) has no non-existence.  The conclusion about both of these has been seen by the knower of Truth”.

This definition of Maya also defeats the philosophy of Sakti, Sakta Vada.  They consider that Sakti, or Devi, who has various forms, is the Supreme controller.  She is the mula prakrti, original nature, and divides herself into purusa and prakrti.  She is Mahamaya, who creates Visnu, Siva, and Brahma out of herself, and enables them to perform their respective duties.  In her ultimate feature, she is nirguna. and called parabrahmana.  There are various branches of the Saktas. and they have various types of practices for attaining their goal, which is described in scriptures like Devi Bhagavat Purana, Kularnva Tantra, Rudra Yamala Tantra, Spandakarika Tantraloka, and so on.

In the Skanda Purana, Devi Bhagavat Mahatmya (2.36) Narada Muni describes the glories of Devi:

“Bhagavati, or the Supreme Goddess, is eternal and has a transcendental form.  She pervades the whole universe and there is nothing superior to Her”.


[1] pol-y-chro-mic or pol-y-chro-mous adj. 1.  Having or exhibiting many colors.  2. Of or composed of radiation of more than one wavelength: polychromatic light.

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