Samvit, Sandhini and Hladini
The Three Original Energies of the Lord
By Stephen Knapp
The original form of Lord Krishna is described briefly in the Laghu-Bhagatamrita (Chapter 5, verses 332-342) as the root of all forms of the Lord, which are endowed with good qualities. “The Lord appeared in the mortal world by His internal potency, yoga-maya. He came in His eternal form, which is just suitable for His pastimes. These pastimes were wonderful for everyone, even for those proud of their own opulence, including the Lord Himself as the Lord of Vaikuntha [Narayana]. Thus His (Sri Krishna’s) transcendental body is the ornament of all ornaments.” (332)
“The word bimbam (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.2.11) refers to He who is the origin of all the Lord’s forms, full of six opulences [like strength, beauty, fame, fortune, intelligence, and renunciation]. Because He is the abode of all virtue and handsomeness, it is said that He is the right person to enjoy wonderful humanlike pastimes.” (335-336)
“In the verse 332, [the Sanskrit] sva-yoga-maya means ‘the Lord’s spiritual potency,” balam means ‘power,’ and drshayata means ‘revealing.’ It is as if the Lord said, ‘See the wonderful power of My spiritual potency, even the slightest fragrance of which is not manifest even in the highest planets of the material world!’ By this potency the Lord reveals His form, which charms the entire world. That is the meaning of the word sva-yoga-maya here.” (337)
“This form fills even Lord Narayana and the other avataras with great and new wonder. Saubhaga-riddheh means ‘the highest, most wonderful handsomeness’ and parama padam means ‘He who is the abode of the most exalted eternal opulence.’. . Here it is said that the Lord’s form has no equal or superior. Because He is eternal, and full of knowledge and bliss, there is no difference between the Lord and His form. The idea that they are different is only an imagination. For the Supreme Lord there is no difference between His body and His self.” (338-342)
In this way, we get some idea of the potency of Krishna’s form. There is never any distinction between Him and His form. They are one, which are the essential qualities of eternity, knowledge and bliss. It is sat-chid-ananda-vigraha, or the form of eternal knowledge and bliss. Eternal knowledge itself is a form of the highest happiness and awareness. But when we add that to the quality of eternity and eternal bliss, such joy is beyond our conception.
However, we cannot understand eternity with our feeble brain. We have been conditioned by unlimited lifetimes in the realm of past, present and future and are unable to understand anything else. We know and can conceive of nothing else, unless we attain the level of spiritual realization when we can start to perceive what is beyond our mind and senses. When people say, “What was there before God?” I tell them to first rise to a level in which you can understand your own eternal nature and then you may just begin to get a glimpse of the eternity of God, or even the realm where everything is eternal. It is completely opposite of everything to which we have been accustomed.
Here in the above verses, it has been explained that the Lord is one spiritual energy in three parts, namely eternity, eternal knowledge and eternal bliss. These are called samvit, sandhini and hladini. As stated in the Sri Krishna-sandarbha (Anuccheda 187, verse 9) by Jiva Goswami, “That the Supreme Lord remains always aloof from His potency of ignorance is also confirmed in the following description of Vishnu Purana (1.12.69): ‘O Lord, You are the support of everything. The three attributes hladini, sandhini and samvit exist in You as one spiritual energy. But the material modes, which cause happiness, misery, and mixtures of the two, do not exist in You, for You have no material qualities.”
Of course, this is also in reference to describing the three material modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, which has to do with the other set of three energies of the Lord, consisting namely of the spiritual energy, the material energy and the marginal energy called the tatashta-shakti, the jiva souls, who are subjected to the three modes while in their conditional state in this material creation. But the three kinds of internal potency of the Supreme Lord Krishna are the hladini or pleasure or bliss potency, sandhini or the existential potency of eternal existence, and the samvit or all-cognitive knowledge potency. The total exhibition of these potencies is called vishuddha-sattva, and this platform of spiritual variegatedness is displayed even in the material world when the lord appears here, especially in His form as Vasudeva, which is the Lord as He is above and beyond all material influence, such as the modes of material nature.
From the Supreme Lord, expands all variety of spiritual potencies. The Sri Caitanya-shikshamrita by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur further explains the nature of the Lord’s energies of samvit, sandhini and hladini, and how they expand into many forms for different purposes. In the Fifth Rainfall under The Energies of Bhagavan, it explains, “The chit influence [or spiritual potency] of this energy manifests the Lord’s self, His form, His places of pastimes, and all accompanying objects. The jiva-shakti of this energy manifests the infinite number of liberated and conditioned souls, situated in eternal, spiritual time. The maya-shakti of this energy manifests the infinite number of universes as temporary dwelling places for the conditioned souls. By the sandhini portion of the energy, the spiritual places, time, and objects are all manifest. By the samvit portion of the energy, knowledge of all relationships is manifest along with all types of emotions peculiar to the different abodes of the Lord. By the hladini portion of the energy, all the experience of bliss suitable to each abode is manifest. In other words, God as a real entity is revealed through His energy.”
Srila Prabhupada also explains it this way: “The absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, is the omnipotent form of transcendental existence, knowledge and bliss in full. His internal potency is exhibited first as sat, or eternal existence—or, in other words, as the portion that expands the existence function of the Lord. The same potency while displaying full knowledge is called chit, or samvit, which expands the transcendental forms of the Lord. Finally, the same potency while playing as a pleasure-giving medium is known as hladini, or the transcendental blissful potency. Thus, the Lord manifests His internal potency in three transcendental divisions.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, Chapter Four, purport)
How these energies effect the soul and contribute to its spiritual development is also described in the Sri Caitanya-shikshamrita, in the Fifth Rainfall under Realization of Svadharma. It says: “The soul is a knowing spirit and blissful. This identity and quality are manifest eternally in the pure form in a pure condition, i.e. within the spiritual realm. In contrast, this identity and quality become manifest in a perverted form in the material realm. By exercising logic within the mind or by investigation through the senses of the material body, the nature of the spirit cannot be known. Only spirit can truly know spirit. [The mind itself cannot understand it, which is why we have to attain a level of realization beyond the mind and senses.] Spirit is a particular combination of conscious elements, and by this combination, the soul’s spiritual body, the Lord’s abode, and the Lord’s form are manifest. When the iccha-shakti conjoins with this spiritual body, bliss, which is the nature of spiritual objects, becomes manifest. From the sandhini-shakti arises the spiritual body, from the samvit-shakti arises knowledge and will, and from the hladini-shakti comes bliss. When these three energies combine in the soul, the soul manifests completely. The soul’s body is a particle of spirit of the sandhini-shakti, the soul’s will is a particle of samvit-shakti, and the soul’s bliss is a very small portion of the hladini-shakti. This is the true identity of the soul, or his dharma. If the consciousness of the soul manifests ecstasy through the hladini-shakti, the soul has attained the state of rati.” Rati also means bhava, or the seedling of prema, which is the manifestation of complete and ecstatic love for Lord Krishna. This is the highest level of spiritual maturity for which the soul is meant to attain, which also leads to the foremost levels of happiness and bliss.
HOW THE SOUL CONTRIBUTES TO LORD KRISHNA’S HAPPINESS
The Sri Bhakti-sandarbha by Srila Jiva Gosvami in Anuccheda 142 explains that the Lord is the embodiment of supreme bliss, and He has a potency known as hladini, the pleasure or delight-giving potency, which is part of His svarupa-shakti, the potency which contributes to His eternal form. It is this hladini potency that gives bliss to the Lord and His devotees. It is like the light that emanates from a bright object and illuminates itself and other objects around it.
Bhakti or loving devotion is the supreme aspect of this internal potency known as hladini. The Lord remains eternally situated in His fullness while transmitting this potency of bhakti to His own devotees. Then by contact with His own bliss-giving potency in the form of bhakti, situated in His devotees, He experiences still greater or ever-increasing delight. Thus, although the Lord is the personification of love, He is pleased by loving devotion. This is indicated in this statement by Sri Suka:
“When the Lord, the source of all beings, is pleased, all living beings including the devas, human beings, animals, plants, and grass, all the way up to Brahma are immediately pleased. The same blissful Lord was Himself pleased in the sacrifice of King Gaya.” (Bhag. 5.15.13)
In this way, even though the Lord is fully satisfied in Himself by His own potencies, He nonetheless becomes more pleased by the bhakti or devotion shown to Him by His devotees. Thus, as further explained in Anuccheda 143, it is through bhakti that the Lord’s inherent bliss becomes magnified. Even by what may seem to be insignificant actions, if they are filled with love, the Lord becomes even more pleased and blissful. This is how the process of bhakti not only connects the devotee to this hladini-shakti, but also increases the Lord’s own loving relation to the devotees. This is the foundation of the ever-increasing reciprocal joy and bliss between the Lord and His loving devotees.
How the Lord is pleased by such simple things as eulogy or simple prayers is demonstrated by the example of parents delighting in the broken speech of their children. But whereas ordinary people can experience this type of satisfaction primarily in regard to their own children, the Lord’s delight is extraordinary in that He experiences this feeling towards all living beings. This is why Lord Krishna is called the God of love. This is expressed by the fact that He is known as sarva-suhridam, “the friend of everyone.” The symptom of His being the friend of everyone is that He is the guardian of everyone. Every living being is a part and parcel of Lord Krishna, which will never change, and the awareness of which only needs to be awakened.
In this way, although the Lord is absorbed in relishing the bliss within His own Self, and although His desires are fully satiated, He still experiences this type of love towards those who feel themselves to be related to Him through love. This occurs in the same way that a parent’s love is aroused for his or her children by their affectionate behavior.
This is how bhakti-yoga can increase one’s internal and spiritual happiness, bringing one closer to being in touch with the hladini-shakti, which also increases the Lord’s happiness by such loving sentiments.
THE PERSONIFICATION OF THE HLADINI-SHAKTI
Though the Lord’s energies are one and make up the composition of His svarupa-shakti, or His complete eternal form, the hladini-shakti separates for the enhanced and intensification of the Lord’s bliss-producing pastimes. This is especially outlined and described in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, Chapter Four, starting with verse 55.
Although Lord Sri Krishna is complete in His form composed of the samvit, sandhini and hladini energies, and needs nothing else, the hladini energy separates and becomes personified as Srimati Radharani. In this way, Radharani is always hankering to unite with Krishna, and Krishna is always hankering to unite with Radharani. This is because together, as Radha and Krishna, They make up the complete whole of the Absolute Truth, and combination of hladini, samvit and sandhini. And in this way, They exhibit the highest levels of spiritual loving exchanges and pastimes. Not only do the two of Them engage in such loving relations, but this arrangement allows the many millions of other devotees who have similar sentiments to also become a part of these loving affairs, and engage in the loving service of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. This is the extraordinary transcendental arrangement that can be found in the spiritual realm.
“The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krishna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krishna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krishna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krishna Himself.” (verse 55)
“Radha and Krishna are one and the same, but They have assumed two bodies. Thus They enjoy each other, tasting the mellows of love.” (56) And this allows the innumerable devotees to witness and participate in Their extraordinary loving pastimes. In the living being’s eternal search for happiness, there is nothing greater than this.
“Now, to enjoy rasa [the nectar of loving relations], They have appeared in one body as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.” (57) In this way, one of the internal reasons why Lord Caitanya appeared as He did in this material world was to investigate and experience the love and intense bliss that Radharani feels in Her love for Lord Krishna.
“Srimati Radharani is the transformation of Krishna’s love. She is His internal energy called hladini. That hladini energy gives Krishna pleasure and nourishes His devotees.” (59-60)
“Lord Krishna’s body is eternal [sat], full of knowledge [chit], and full of bliss [ananda]. His one spiritual energy manifests three forms. Hladini is His aspect of bliss; sandhini of eternal existence; and samvit of cognizance, which is also accepted as knowledge.” (59-62)
“The essential portion of the sandhini potency is shuddha-sattva [pure goodness]. Lord Krishna’s existence [and all variegatedness in the spiritual world] rests upon it [or are manifestations from the sandhini potency]. Krishna’s mother, father, abode, house, bedding, seats and so on are all transformations of shuddha-sattva.” (64-65)
“The essence of the samvit potency is knowledge that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Lord Krishna. All other kinds of knowledge, such as the knowledge of Brahman, are its components. The essence of the hladini potency is love of God, the essence of love of God is emotion [bhava], and the ultimate development of emotion is mahabhava.” (67-68)
In this way, when samvit is enlightened by the hladini potency, one can attain knowledge of the Lord. When the hladini-shakti emanates or when one is blessed by it from Lord Krishna and it is bestowed upon the living being to attract Him, then the living being becomes a pure lover of God. But when such love is adulterated or mixed by the external material energy, it does not attract Krishna. But through the practice of bhakti-yoga, under the guidance of a pure devotee, the living entity can attain the state of mahabhava or prema.
“Sri Radha Thakurani is the embodiment of mahabhava. She is the repository of all good qualities and the crest jewel among all the lovely consorts of Lord Krishna [who are expansions of Sri Radha]. Of these two gopis [Radharani and Candravali], Srimati Radharani is superior in all respects. She is the embodiment of mahabhava, and She surpasses all in good qualities. Her mind, senses and body are steeped in love for Krishna. She is Krishna’s own energy, and She helps Him in His pastimes.” (69-71)
“Now please listen to how Lord Krishna’s consorts help Him taste rasa and how they help in His pastimes.” (73)
Every devotee has a different range of the sentiment of love for the Lord, and Krishna’s many consorts and devotees all help the Lord taste even the slightest differences in loving relations, which is the cause of bliss for every devotee, whether in the mood of servitude, friendship, parental sentiment, or with conjugal feelings. This is how the many millions of devotees help in the Lord’s pastimes. They all have something different and unique, to large and small degrees, to offer the Lord in this way, and the Lord enjoys tasting all levels of such rasa from each and every devotee. Of course, all of Lord Krishna’s consorts have the deepest range of love to offer Him, which makes them the most special of all of Krishna’s devotees. They are only interested in His happiness and pleasure, which happens on a purely spiritual level with not the slightest carnal desire between them.
“The beloved consorts of Lord Krishna are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens, and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Radhika. Just as the fountainhead, Lord Krishna, is the cause of all incarnations [or avataras], so Sri Radha is the cause of all these consorts. The goddesses of fortune are partial manifestations of Srimati Radhika, and the queens are reflections of Her image. The goddesses of fortune are Her plenary portions, and they display the forms of vaibhava-vilasa [expansions of bodily differences]. The queens are of the nature of Her vaibhava-prakasha [expansions of Her pastimes]. The Vraja-devis have diverse bodily features. They are Her expansions and are the instruments for expanding rasa [the various tastes of emotional exchanges]. Without many consorts, there is not such exhultation in rasa. Therefore, there are many manifestations of Srimati Radharani to assist in the Lord’s pastimes. Among them are various groups of consorts in Vraja who have varieties of sentiments and mellows. They help Lord Krishna taste all the sweetness of the rasa dance and other pastimes.” (75-81)
Here we can start to understand that Krishna cannot be pleased with anything of His inferior material energy. He can only be pleased by what is of His spiritual energy. And the highest level of His spiritual energy that provides happiness is in His hladini-shakti, especially in the form of Srimati Radharani. However, this also applies to us, the marginal living beings. When we become spiritually advanced, we will understand that we hardly have any real happiness while in this material creation, and any real happiness is connected with the spiritual energy. That happiness shines forth from the hladini-shakti.
In the material creation, the energy of maya-shakti makes it appear like even the illusion has some capacity of infatuation for the soul, but only while the soul does not know or remains unaware of its true spiritual identity and the higher spiritual happiness that is available to it. Once this spiritual awareness awakens, then the soul will not remain content in the illusion of maya and will earnestly work to attain the spiritual dimension. This is especially effective through the process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Lord, wherein the topmost levels of bhakti, such as in bhava and prema, the soul comes in direct contact with Lord Krishna and His pleasure potency of hladini-shakti, especially in the form of Srimati Radharani. Then the living being’s own loving relations with Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani become fully awakened in which it feels the highest levels of spiritual happiness.
“Radha is the one who gives pleasure to Govinda, and She is also the enchantress of Govinda. She is the be-all and end-all of Govinda, and the crest jewel of all His consorts. (82)
“The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krishna. She is the central figure of all the goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord.” (83, and from the Brihad-gautamiya-tantra)
“Her [Radha’s] worship [aradhana] consists of fulfilling the desires of Lord Krishna. Therefore, the Puranas call Her Radhika.” (87)
“Therefore, Radha is the parama-devata, the supreme goddess, and She is worshipable for everyone. She is the protectress of all, and She is the mother of the entire universe… Radha is the original source of all the goddesses of fortune. Or ‘sarva-lakshmi’ indicates that She fully represents the six opulences of Krishna. Therefore She is the supreme energy of Lord Krishna. The word ‘sarva-kanti’ indicates that all beauty and luster rest in Her body. All the Lakshmis derive their beauty from Her. ‘Kanti’ also means ‘all the desires of Lord Krishna.’ All the desires of Lord Krishna rest in Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radhika fulfills all the desires of Lord Krishna. This is the meaning of ‘sarva-kanti.’” (89-94)
“Lord Krishna enchants the world, but Sri Radha enchants even Him. Therefore She is the supreme goddess of all. Sri Radha is the full power, and Lord Krishna is the possessor of full power. The two are not different, as evidenced by the revealed scriptures. They are indeed the same, just as musk and its scent are inseparable, or as fire and its heat are nondifferent. Thus, Radha and Lord Krishna are one, yet They have taken two forms to enjoy the mellows of pastimes.” (95-98)
This is the summary understanding of the energies of samvit, sandhini and hladini and how they manifest, and effect the soul, and even separate to display the many aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth and the eternal loving pastimes that go on in the spiritual domain. That is why it is the goal of human life to reawaken ourselves to our real identity as a spiritual being, part and parcel of the Supreme, and enter into these eternal, spiritual pastimes to taste the highest levels of love, which lead to the most fulfilling feelings of happiness. This is all that can completely satisfy the self, which makes it the ultimate goal of human existence.
Laghu Bhagavatamrita, by Rupa Goswami, translated by H.H. Bhanu Swami, Sri Vaikuntha Enterprises, 2006
Laghu Bhagavatamrita, by Rupa Goswami, translated by Kusakratha dasa, Rasbihari Lal & Sons, 2007.
Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Gosvami, Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, Vrindavana, 2005.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Los Angeles, 1974.
Sri Caitanya-shikshamrita, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, translated by H.H. Bhanu Swami, edited and published by Keshidamana dasa, 2004.
Sri Krishna-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Gosvami, translated by Kusakratha Dasa, Rasbihari Lal & Sons, 2006.