The descriptions of the potencies of para-tattva are found throughout the Vedas and other scriptures of divine origin. Great liberated personalities who accept the essence of everything have supported the conclusion that śakti (potency) is one tattva (principle), and śaktimān (the possessor and master of potency) is another tattva. These two principles are distinct, and at the same time they are also eternally inseparable. Mortal men cannot realize the confidential relationship between śakti and śaktimān, because their thoughts are always limited. Actually, although the object and the potency of that object are different, they are also indivisible, meaning that they are non-different. This difference and non-difference is simultaneous. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His followers, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, have accepted the relationship of acintya-bhedābheda, inconceivable and simultaneous oneness and difference, between the object and the potency of the object.
In his Sandarbhas, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has used scriptural evidence and incontrovertible reasoning to prove the acintya-bhedābheda relationship between the potent and the potency. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 4.96–98) it has been said that Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the complete energy and Kṛṣṇa is the complete energetic source, yet there is no difference between Them. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are inherently non-different, in just the same way that musk and its fragrance, or fire and its heat, cannot be separated from each other. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are manifest in two forms just to taste the rasa of Their pastimes:
dui vastu bheda nāhi, śāstra-paramāṇa
mṛgamada, tāra gandha—yaiche aviccheda
agni, jvālāte—yaiche kabhu nāhi bheda
rādhā-kṛṣṇa aiche sadā ekai svarūpa
līlā-rasa āsvādite dhare dui rūpa
This conclusion has also been established in Vedānta: “śakti-śaktimator abhedaḥ – there is no difference between the potent and the potency.” From the consideration of vastu-tattva (the principle of factual substance), there is no substance other than Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which is why the scriptures describe Him as advaya-tattva, the non-dual Reality. The same advaya-tattva is seen in three ways by candidates of different qualifications according to the level of their worship. Those who only cultivate jñāna imagine brahma to be a state of being which is opposite to the inert material existence; in other words, they conceive of brahma as a variety-less, formless, powerless and inactive spirit. However, this does not make clear what is the svarūpa, or real nature, of the object itself. Those who search for the advaya-tattva through buddhi-yoga, the meditational process, see Paramātmā as the witness of the ātmā, a realization which is not contrary to the individual nature of the ātmā. Finally, those who see the factual substance through pure, unadulterated bhakti-yoga directly attain that advaya-tattva and see Svayam Bhagavān in the form of the Supreme Reality, endowed with complete opulences, sweetness and potencies.
The realizations of brahma and Paramātmā carry some material designation. In other words, brahma realization comes from a negative conception of the illusory designations and Paramātmā realization from a positive conception. However, the vision of the spiritual form of Bhagavān is attained only by untainted spiritual eyes. The factual substance is the form of Bhagavān and devotion to Him is the śakti-tattva.
The vision of Bhagavān without potency (śakti ) is only nirviśeṣa-brahma. Some believe that brahma-darśana is the ultimate realization, but this opinion reflects their own preconceived inclination; darśana of brahma which is variety-less and without potency can only be a partial vision or experience, because in scriptures such as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we see the use of words such as para-brahma. Brahma and para-brahma do not have the same meaning. In Bhagavad-gītā and other scriptures, Śrī Kṛṣṇa has been called the basis of brahma, so Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is the intrinsic reality and brahma is only His non-differential manifestation, or the radiance of His form. Paramātmā is also a partial expansion of Bhagavān. In other words, it can be said that brahma realization is the dry and impotent experience of the non-dual Absolute Truth (advaya-jñāna tattva-vastu). Clear knowledge of the Supreme Being who has entered within inert matter in a subtle form is Paramātmā realization, and the complete experience of the advaya-jñāna with all distinct characteristics is Bhagavān realization.
Realization of Bhagavān is also of two types: aiśvarya-pradhāna, realization in which reverence inspired by knowledge of His opulence is prominent, and mādhurya-pradhāna, a realization in which sweetness is prominent. The aiśvarya-pradhāna feature is Śrīpati Nārāyaṇa, the husband of the goddess of fortune, and the mādhurya-pradhāna feature is realized as Rādhānātha Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the beloved of Śrī Rādhā.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the one and only advaya-tattva-vastu. He includes both brahma and Paramātmā; by His sweetness He completely covers all of Śrī Nārāyaṇa’s opulence; and He is possessed of all transcendental energy. This has been described in Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (6.8):
na tasya kāryaṁ karaṇaṁ ca vidyate
na tat samaś cābhyadhikaś ca dṛśyate
parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate
svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca
The activities of that para-brahma are not material because His senses, such as hands and feet, are not material. Therefore, His actions are transcendental līlā. Because of His spiritual body, He is omnipresent at every moment. It is therefore seen that no other is equal to Him, what to speak of being greater than Him. It is heard that Parameśvara has a variety of divine potencies of which three are prominent, namely, His jñāna-śakti, bala-śakti and kriyā-śakti. These three potencies are known as cit- or samvit-śakti, sat- or sandhinī-śakti, and ānanda- or hlādinī-śakti, respectively.
This parā-śakti of Bhagavān is also manifested in another three ways, namely as cit-śakti, jīva-śakti and māyā-śakti. Cit-śakti, which is also called the svarūpa- or antaraṅgā-śakti (internal potency), manifests the abodes of the Lord (the dhāmas) such as Vaikuṇṭha, Goloka and Vraja. Māyā-śakti is called bahiraṅgā-śakti, or the external potency. All the mundane worlds or inert material creations have been manifested from this potency. Its expanded majesty is exhibited as unlimited universes. Jīva-śakti is also called taṭasthā-śakti, from which the aggregate of unlimited jīvas has been manifested. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the shelter, or abode, of these three śaktis.
Kṛṣṇa has one naturally inherent potency called parā-śakti. This is composed of variegated pleasure pastimes and ever-increasing varieties of bliss. Although this śakti has unlimited spheres of influence, among them only cit-śakti, jīva-śakti and māyā-śakti are perceived by the jīvas. The descriptions of the three aspects of this parā-śakti are found in many places in the Vedas, such as: parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate / svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8).
In Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61) it is also found:
viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā
kṣetrajñākhyā tathā parā
tṛtīyā śaktir iṣyate
The potency of Viṣṇu is of three types – parā, kṣetrajñā and avidyā. The name of Viṣṇu’s parā-śakti is cit-śakti, kṣetrajñā is jīva-śakti and avidyā-śakti is called māyā.
Bhagavad-gītā 7.5 states:
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
However, this inanimate material nature, which has eight divisions (earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego), is an inferior nature. O mighty-armed Arjuna, know that I have another energy known as the jīva, which is superior and which accepts this material world for the purpose of enjoying the fruits of his action.
Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa, or form, is composed of eternality (sat), knowledge (cit) and bliss (ānanda). Therefore His svarūpa-śakti is manifest in three forms. From the ānanda portion comes hlādinī-śakti, from sat comes sandhinī and from cit comes saṁvit. Saṁvit-śakti is also called jñāna-śakti. Hlādinī-śakti makes Kṛṣṇa joyful (āhlādit), which is why its name is hlādinī. By this śakti Kṛṣṇa, the embodiment of bliss, tastes pleasure, and enables the devotees to also taste transcendental happiness. The essence of this hlādinī is prema, a phenomenon composed entirely of transcendental rasa, and is the embodiment of bliss itself. The concentrated essence of prema is called mahābhāva. The embodiment of this mahābhāva is Śrīmatī Rādhikā. This is a summary introduction to the identity of śakti.