Three concepts of jīva

The teaching is completed by showing the problem of life of becoming (samsāra) and it's solution (ātmā-jñāna), in the same time prescribing the means to prepare oneself for the knowledge of the self. But most of us are still having the difficulties to see the ultimate seer sāksī - I am Brahman alone. The experience being a jīva (the embodied of this body-mind-sense-complex) is too strong. Therefore next verse onwards, ācārya adapts another method to explain the nature of jīva to be identical with Absolute-Brahman.

avacchinnaścidābhāsa stṛtīyaḥ svapnakalpitaḥ । vijñeyastrividho jīvaḥ tatrādyaḥ pāramārthikaḥ ॥ 32 ॥

There are three conceptions of jīva , namely as that limited (as though), as reflected consciousness and the third as projected in dream.

In this portion, ācārya explains about three jīva within one individual self. Every individual is a combination of three jīva, the first one called pāramārthika-jīva (absolute- reality jīva), the second called vyāvahārika-jīva (empirical-reality jīva), and the third called prātibhāsika-jīva (projected jīva). The first one pāramārthika-jīva is the non-dual consciousness which pervades the entire creation, which is satyam - has its own independent existence where even the destruction of the entire creation is there, the consciousness continues to exist. But this original consciousness is not available for transaction. Therefore there is second jīva which is manifested or reflected in the body-mind-complex called reflected consciousness, where transaction is available here. While we said that the original consciousness pervading all creations without exception, but why there are non-living being where sign of consciousness is not there at all? It is because the medium of the creation can not reflect the availability of the consciousness. Therefore only the creation with the medium can reflect the availability of the consciousness is called vyāvahārika-jīva.


This jīva carry-on with various activities including dreaming. In the dream-state, the mind obtaining in dream does not know that is dreaming state. The reflected consciousness obtain in the dream mind is called prātibhāsika-jīva. When the person wakes up from the dream, the prātibhāsika-jīva with its correspondent dream world resolved in the waker, similarly vyāvahārika-jīva and its world resolved in the deep sleep. Pāramārthika-jīva is never resolved in all states of experience, all states of experiences are there because of superimpose upon it.


Here ācārya addresses the original consciousness "as that limited", because it is always appears limited only on account of the experiential vyāvahārika-jīva.

Further explain about the appearance limitation of the original consciousness.


avacchedaḥ kalpitaḥ syāt avacchedyaṃ tu vāstavam ।

tasmin jīvatvamāropāt brahmatvaṃ tu svabhāvataḥ ॥ 33 ॥

Limitation is illusory but that which appears to be limited is real. The status of jīva is due to superimposition of the illusory attributes. But really it has the nature of Braman.


Original consciousness can be experienced only in the limited body-mind-complex, therefore consciousness always being experienced as limited only. This limitation is not real, because the limitation is belong to the body-mind-complex, not belong to the consciousness. Therefore it is called as illusory. And the status of jīva become limited due to superimposition upon the limited attributes of body-mind-complex. In reality jīva is of the nature of non-dual Brahman.

As the example of the pot-space which is seemingly limited by the pot. The space seemingly being obtained in the pot, but really the pot is in the space, not the other way around. And because of the space is seemingly limited by the pot, therefore there are seemingly individuals pot-spaces. These individuals pots space can never limit the space itself. In the same way, there is only one non-dual Brahman, but because of nama-rūpa (name and form), seemingly there are individuals jīva which carry with various activities. Therefore consciousness is called absolute reality and the jīva is called empirical / experiential reality.


avacchinnasya jīvasya pūrṇena brahmaṇaikatām ।

tattvamasyādivākyāni jagurnetarajīvayoḥ ॥ 34 ॥

Such Vedic statements such as “That Thou Art” / “You are That” etc., declare the identity of part-less Brahman with the jīva who appears as such from the standpoints as “that limited”. But it does not agree with the other two views.


As we understand the consciousness we are experiencing is the reflected consciousness which has the borrowed limitation from our body-mind-sense-complex. The original consciousness never can be experienced. Just like we can never see our original face without the help of the mirror. In the same way only through mahāvākya śāstra pramānam (words from scripture which reveal the oneness of brahman and jīva, as the means for self-knowledge), we come to know the existence of absolute consciousness which can not be experienced. Such words like tat tvam asi (you are that) reveals the oneness of absolute reality Brahman and experiential-reality jīva. Most of us can not accept this teaching because we have the concept that things are real only if we can experience them, and even the prātibhāsika - projected in our mind during dream state, it was real alone while we are experiencing the dream. Śāstra never reveals what is already know to me (experiential and projected me), but it reveals what the truth which is unknown to me (as the purpose of the teaching).

If my true self is absolute reality Brahman, why I never experience it and in the other way, I experience what is not my true nature? Next verse is the explanation.


brahmaṇyavasthitā māyā vikṣepāvṛtirūpiṇī ।

āvṛtyakhaṇḍatāṃ tasmin jagajjīvau prakalpayet ॥ 35 ॥

Maya which characterized by projection and covering, is established in Brahman. Having covered the undivided whole, the world and jīva as though created in Brahman.


For the absolute saccidānanda-Brahman to be experienced, we need to bring māyā into the picture, otherwise there is no way we can explain about it. Māyā as the magic power of Brahman which is not a separate entity, characterised by two fold powers namely projecting and veiling power. Having covered the true nature of Brahman and projecting the nama-rūpa, the world and individual jīva as though being created. Just like waves are never created by the water, in the same way this world and individuals are never created by Brahman. They appeared, supported and resolved back in to Brahman.


We can understand more from our own dream experience. The status being a waker is being covered in the dream state. And having project the dream, the entire dream world and the dreamer are appeared, supported and resolved back to the waker alone. But during the dream state, the dreamer does not know his/her real status being a waker. Only by waking up, one knows it was a dream.

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