The Sruti on the Subject of Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva



eko vasi sarvabhutamtaratma

ekam rupam bahudha yah karoti

tam atmastham ye' nupasyanti dhiras-

tesam sukham sasvatam netaresam


            Although His form is one, the Supersoul, who is the indwelling witness

and controller of all living beings, is manifest in innumerable ways. The wise

who can see that Supreme Soul within his heart becomes peaceful and enjoys

transcendental bliss. (Katha Upanisad 2.2.12)


Srimad Bhagavatam on Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva



rte 'rtham yat pratiyeta na pratiyeta catmani

tad vidyad atmano mayam yathabhaso yatha tamah


            O Brahma, whatever appears to be of any value, if it has no relation to Me,

has no reality. It is My illusory energy that reflection which appears to be in

darkness. (Bhag. 2.9.34)



yatha mahanti bhutani bhutesuccavacesv anu

pravistany apravistani tatha tesu na tesv aham


            O Brahma, please know that the universal elements enter into the cosmos

and at the same time do not enter into the comos; similarly, I Myself also exist

within everything created, and at the same time I am outside of everything.

(Bhag. 2.9.35)



yatra yena yato yasya yasmai yad yad yatha yada

syad idam bhagavan saksat pradhana-purusesvarah


            You are the substratum, the agent, and the instrument of the universe.

You are its source and its object or purpose. Whenever or whatever form it

assumes is You. As the universe evolves, all the causes thereof, including time

and manner, are You, the Almighty Lord, the controller of both prakrti (the

enjoyed) and purusa (the enjoyer) and who transcends them both.

(Bhag. 10.85.4)


Smrti on Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva



maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina

mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham tesv avasthitah


            In My unmanifest form I pervade this entire universe. All beings are in

Me, but I am not in them. (Bhagavad-gita 9.4)



na ca mat-sthani bhutani pasya me yogam aisvaram

bhuta-bhrn na ca bhuta-stho mamatma bhuta-bhavanah


            And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic

opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am

everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation; for I am the very

source of creation. (Bhagavad-gita 9.5)


Srila Jiva Gosvami on Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva



ekam eva tat parama-tattvam svabhavikacintya-saktya sarvadaiva svarupa-

tad-rupa-vaibhava-jiva-pradhana-rupena caturdhavatisthate

suryantarmandalastha-teja iva mandala


durghata-ghata-katvam hyacintyatvam


            The Absolute Truth is one. His natural characteristic is that He has incon-

ceivable potency. His inconceivable potencies are reposed in four different

stages: His personal form (svarupa), the expansions of His divine form (tad-

rupa-vaibhava), the jivas, and the material ingredients (pradhana). With re-

gard to the sun, there is the sungod, the internal power of the sun, and that

power when it is expanded as the external rays of the sun. Then there is the

shadow of the sun, that is to say, the sun's reflection which is in darkness, far

from the sun's influence. This illustration is used as an example. The point of

the example is that in the same way as the sun appears in this fourfold manifes-

tation (the sungod, its internal power, its external rays, and its shadow), there is

one eternal Supreme Truth (the Lord) whose form is eternal, but who is pos-

sessed of different potencies: svarupa-sakti, jiva-sakti, and maya-sakti.

            There seems to be a contradiction in this matter between the Lord being

one eternal Absolute Truth and His simultaneously possessing inconceivable

potency. How is it possible to understand such a contradiction? To that it is

said acintya means beyond the jiva's capacity to understand. An event which is

extremely rare or unlikely, even physically impossible, is inconceivable. For

the Supreme Lord, however, nothing is impossible for He has inconceivable

power. [Therefore the Lord's oneness with (and distinction from) His energy is

said to be inconceivable acintya-bhedabheda-vada.]

(Bhagavata-sandarbha 16)


Note: Srila Prabhupada paraphrased this section of Jiva Gosvami's

Bhagavata-sandarbha as follows:

Srila Jiva Gosvami states in Bhagavata-Sandarbha (16) That by His po-

tencies, which act in natural sequences beyond the scope of the specula-

tive human mind, the Supreme Transcendence, the summum bonum, eter-

nally and simultaneously exists in four transcendental features: His per-

sonality, His impersonal effulgence, His potential parts and parcels (the

living beings), and the principal cause of all causes. The Supreme Whole

is compared to the sun, which also exists in four features, namely the

personality of the sun-god, the glare of his glowing sphere, the sun-rays

inside the sun planet, and the sun's reflections in many other objects. The

ambition to corroborate the existence of the transcendental Absolute Truth

by limited conjectural endeavors cannot be fulfilled, because He is be-

yond the scope of our limited speculative minds. In an honest search for

truth we must admit that His powers are inconceivable to our tiny brains.

The exploration of space has demanded the work of the greatest scientists

of the world, yet there are countless problems regarding even fundamen-

tal knowledge of the material creation that bewilder such scientists. Such

material knowledge is far removed from the spiritual nature, and there-

fore the acts and arrangements of the Absolute Truth, are, beyond all

doubts, inconceivable.



apare tu "tarko-pratisthanat" bhede' pya-bhede' pi

nirmaryada-dosa-santati-darsanena bhinnataya

cintaryitumasakayatvadabhedah sadhyantah

tad-vad-abhinnatayapi cintayiuamasakyatvadbhedamapi sadhayanto'

cintyabhedabhedavada svikurvanti.

tatra badara-pauranika-saivanam mate bhedabhedau bhaskaramate ca.

mayavadinam tatra bhedamso vyavaharika eva pratitiko va.

gautama-kanada-jaimini-kapila-patanjalimate tu bheda eva.

sri ramanuja-madhvacaryamate cetyapi sarvatriki prasiddhih.

svamate tvacintyabhedabhedaveva acintyasaktimayatvaditi


            Other sampradayas of Vedantists admit that boundless essays, disserta-

tions, and theses can never be established as truth through any amount of argu-

ment. Still, they think that the principle of oneness and difference existing to-

gether in the same place transgresses the boundaries of reality. They take it

that this is a symptom of the fault of neglecting the nature of universality that

is, that if difference is true, then it must be true universally, and if oneness is

true then it must be true universally. Following this faulty logic they therefore

think that these two difference and non-difference cannot independently co-

exist. There cannot be both duality and oneness, they reason; one of these

doctrines must have supremacy over the other. Those who think it is one, find

that their attempts to practice the doctrine of oneness are impossible. In the

same way, those who attempt to practice a doctrine of absolute difference will

find their position untenable. In this way, both the practitioners of absolute

oneness and the practitioners of absolute duality will be unable to realize their

philosophy. Therefore, in light of the difficulties of trying to realize oneness

without distinction or distinction without oneness, the principle of acintya-

bhedabheda-vada, or inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and distinction, has

been accepted as the highest harmonizing principle.

            The true opinion of the sage Badasa and the Puranas is bhedabheda-vada,

oneness and difference. Even the followers of Siva sometimes accept this. For

example, the commentator Bhaskara accepts bhedabheda-vada in the idea that

there is a difference between the articles offered to the Deity and the Deity

Himself. In the opinion of the mayavadis, the branches of difference are merely

vyavaharika, mundane or apparent. Gautama, Kanada, Jaimini, Kapila, and

Patanjali admit the existence of distinction. In the opinions of Ramanuja and

Madhva's this principle reaches a higher level of perfection. Ramanuja's

visistadvaita philosophy supports difference and nondifference, and Madhva's

suddha-dvaita philosophy supports the principle of difference. The Supreme

Lord has inconceivable potency; and He supports the conclusion of acintya-

bhedabheda-vada. This is our conclusion. (Paramatma-Sandarbha, Sarva-

samvadini-tika, Jiva Gosvami)


The Brahma-sutras Support the View of Sakti-parinamavada



vyasera sutrete kahe 'parinama'-vada

'vyasa bhranta' bali' tara uthaila vivada

parinama-vade isvara hayena vikari

eta kahi' 'vivarta'-vada sthapana ye kari

vastutah parinama-vada sei se pramana

dehe atma-buddhi ei vivartera sthana

avicintya-sakti-yukta sri-bhagavan

icchaya jagad-rupe paya parinama

tathapi acintya-saktye haya avikari

prakrta cintamani tahe drstanta ye dhari

nana ratna-rasi haya cintamani haite

tathapiha mani rahe svarupe avikrte

prakrta-vastute yadi acintya-sakti haya

isvarera acintya-sakti, ithe ki vismaya


            In Vedanta-Sutra, Srila Vyasadeva has described that everything is but a

transformation of the energy of the Lord. Sankaracarya has misled the world,

however, by claiming that Vyasadeva was mistaken. Thus he has raised great

opposition to theism throughout the world. According to Sankaracarya, by

accepting the theory of the transformation of the energy of the Lord, one cre-

ates an illusion by indirectly accepting that the Absolute Truth is transformed.

Transformation of energy is a proven fact. It is the false bodily conception of

the self that is an illusion. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is opulent in

all respects. By His inconceivable energies, therefore, He has transformed the

material cosmic manifestation. Using the example of a touchstone, which by its

energy turns iron to gold and yet remains the same, we can understand that

although the Supreme Personality of Godhead transforms His innumerable

energies, He remains unchanged. Although a touchstone produces many vari-

eties of valuable jewels, it nevertheless remains the same. It does not change its

original form. If there is such inconceivable potency in material objects, why

should we not believe in the inconceivable potency of the Supreme Personality

of Godhead? (Cc. Adi 7.121-127)


The Meaning of Parinama-vada and Vivarta-vada



satattvato' nyatha pratha vikara ityudiritah

atattvato' nyatha pratha vikarta ityudahrtah


            When a real substance takes another form it is called vikara, or transfor-

mation. An example of this is the transformation of milk into yogurt. When

something is mistaken for something else it is called vivarta, or illusion, like

when a rope is taken as a snake. (Sadananda Yogindra, Vedanta-sara 59)


Thus ends the Eleventh Jewel of Gaudiya Kanthahara, entitled Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva

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