Vedānta series 33
Tattvabodha now proceeds to discuss about the difference between jīva and Īśvara. The one who identifies himself with his gross body is called jīva. Brahman veiled by the individual ignorance (avidya) is called jīva. An individual soul is nothing but the Brahman covered by individual ignorance is jīva. Please refer to the chart in series 14. Īśvara is also the Brahman, but veiled by the collective ignorance of all the jīva-s. Īśvara is the saguṇa Brahman or the Brahman with attributes. As discussed earlier, nirguṇa Brahman is beyond human comprehension as He is totally without any attributes. When we talk about creation, sustenance and absorption, we always refer to Īśvara or the God. Tattvabodha explains an individual soul as ‘brahmapratibimbaṁ’ which means the reflection of the Brahman. Therefore, reflection of the Brahman veiled by avidya (ignorance) is the jīva. This reflection can be compared to the reflection of the sun in different pots of water. The same sun appears as many because of the presence of different pots with water. Brahman is one but appears as many because of different types of gross bodies. The cause for each of these bodies is the soul, without which the causal body cannot be formed. Without the causal body, subtle and gross bodies cannot be formed. Therefore, without the soul, there cannot be any existence.
There are two schools of thought about the individual soul. Some argue that jīva is the reflection of the Brahman and others argue that jīva is the reflection of Īśvara. In the first instance, it is enough if one understands that he is the reflection of the Brahman by dissolving his ignorance and he is said to be a Self realised person. In the case of the latter, he has to transcend the stage of Īśvara to realise the Brahman. This school of thought is known as vivaraṇa. The first school of thought is known as bhāmatī. Serious advaita vedāntin-s follow only the bhāmatī school and Tattvabodha also follows the same.
The conditioning power of the Brahman is called māyā and it co-exists with the Brahman. Māyā is both real and unreal. When the Brahman, whose reflections are the individual souls or jīva-s is Īśvara, covered by the collective ignorance or māyā of all the beings. Individual soul + māyā = jīva and the sum total of all the individual souls + the sum total of māyā of all the jīva-s is Īśvara. When the Self within (the individual soul) is able to realise its true nature, it is known as Self-realization. When the Self is deluded by māyā, It identifies itself with the gross and subtle bodies, where the mind is the predominant factor. The mind deluded by māyā fails to recognize the Truth and Reality and instead looks at the materialistic world and undergoes pleasure and pain. Pleasure and pain cause impressions in the mind, which also percolates into the subconscious mind, which also transmigrates along with the soul. Such pleasures and pains are recorded in karmic account and happiness or sorrow do not stop with the existing life, but also is carried over to the subsequent births. The cycle goes on and on, until the Self realises its true nature. From this one can understand the power of māyā, who is not only deceptive but also seductive. This māyā is worshipped as Śaktī in Śaivaism.
Differentiation between Īśvara and jīva is further discussed in the subsequent verses. At this point we know that jīva is the individual soul veiled by māyā and Īśvara is the sum total of all jīva-s and their collective total of māyā. Dissolving the difference between Īśvara and jīva is Self realization.