Jiva Goswami (15??-1618 CE)is one of the most prolific and important writers from the Gaudiya Vaishnava school of Hinduism, producing a great number of philosophical works on the theology and practice of Bhakti yoga and associated disciplines. He was a member of Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, being the nephew of the two leading figures, Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami.
Birth and early years
There seems to be some controversy amongst biographers about Jiva Goswami's birth. Some opine that he lived from 1511–1596 CE, while others claim that he lived from 1533 to 1618 CE.
Not much is known about Jiva Goswami's childhood. He was born in Ramakeli in the district of Maldah, West Bengal as the son of Srivallabha Mallika (also known as Anupama), the younger brother of Rupa and Sanatana, his mothers name is unknown. He had a strong affinity to the worship of Krishna even from his childhood and excelled in his education completing his studies in Sanskrit Vyakarana (grammar) and Kavya (poetics) within a very short period.
When Jiva was three or four years old, his uncles resigned from their ministerial posts at the court of Alauddin Hussein Shah (ruled 1493–1519 CE) after their initial meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534 CE) and they decided to join his ranks as mendicants. Jiva's father, Anupama, also met with Chaitanya at this time and followed in the footsteps of his elder brothers and proceeded to travel with Rupa to Vrindavana.
Jiva leaves home
Hearing that his father and uncles had made their decision to work in the service of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the young Jiva desired to join them also. According to the biographical work Bhakti Ratnakara
of Narahari Chakravarti, Jiva had a dream of Chaitanya at this time. This gave him the impetus to leave home and join Rupa and Sanatana. It is unclear from his biographies whether or not Jiva actually ever met Chaitanya personally.
Jiva travelled to Navadvipa in West Bengal and met with Nityananda Rama, one of the foremost followers of Chaitanya. Nityananda took Jiva to all the holy places in Navadvipa and they circumabulated the entire area together. This marked the beginning of the Gaudiya tradition of Navadvipa parikrama (circumabulation of the nine sections of Navadvipa). After the pilgrimage, Nityananda gave his blessings for the young Jiva to proceed towards Vrindavana.
Jiva went on to Benares
where he studied for some time under the tutelage of Madhusudana Vidyavachaspati, the disciple of the famous logician and Vedantist, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya
. Under Vidyavachaspati, Jiva mastered the six systems of Indian philosophy
known as Sad Darsana
In 1535 Jiva arrived in Vrindavana where he remained under the tutelage of his uncles, Rupa and Sanatana (by this time his father Anupama had died). He accepted initiation from Rupa Goswami and was taught the esoteric principles of devotion to Krishna. Jiva helped to edit the writings of Rupa and Sanatana and assisted them in their work in propagating Gaudiya Vaishnavism and excavating the lost holy places of Vrindavana.
After the passing of Rupa and Sanatana, Jiva Goswami became the foremost authority in the Gaudiya Vaishnava line. In 1542 Jiva established one of the prominent and important temples in the Vrindavana area, the Radha Damodara mandir, installing deities of Radha
that had been personally carved by Rupa Goswami. At that time he also established the Vishva Vaishnava Raja Sabha
(World Vaishnava Association) and the Rupanuga Vidyapitha, an educational facility for Gaudiya Vaishnavas to study the works of Rupa and Sanatana. His erudition and spirituality were so famous that the Moghul emperor Akbar
became his ardent admirer and donated paper for his writing.
In 1558, Jiva instructed his students, Narottama Dasa, Srinivasa and Shyamananda, to go to Bengal and propagate the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy and to take with them the original manuscripts that had been written by Rupa and Sanatana.
It was in his Sarva-samvadini commentary to the Six Sandarbhas of Hindu philosophy
that Jiva Goswami first wrote of Achintya Bheda Abheda
, the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In essence, the philosophy of Achintya bheda abheda, or "inconcieveble oneness
", avoids the extremes of Shankara
's monistic Advaita
vedanta and Madhva's
pure dualism (Dvaita
) by interpreting the material and spiritual potencies of the Supreme Person (Bhagavan
) as being simultaneously one and different with Him.
There are about 25 literary works attributed to Jiva Goswami:
This work is a book on Sanskrit grammar wherein each and every word, syllable and grammatical rule is explained in relation to Krishna and his pastimes.
Sutra-malika is a grammatical work dealing with the derivation of Sanskrit words.
The Dhatu-sangraha is a work on the verb roots of Sanskrit words
4-Radha-Krishna Archana Chandrika
Jiva's Rasamrita-sesa deals with Sanskrit composition. Jiva has based this work on the Sahitya Darpana of Visvanatha Kaviraja, but has used many examples of his own as well as examples from other Goswamis.
In Madhava-mahotsava, Jiva Goswami describes the coronation ceremony of Radha
when she is given the position of Queen of Vrindavana.
Jiva Goswami explains the eightfold daily pastimes of Radha and Krishna (asta-kaliya-lila) in the form of a prayer.
This is a short poem by Jiva extolling the glories of Gopala
(Krishna) in 38 verses.
10-Gopala-tapani Upanisad commentary
The Gopala-tapani Upanisad is a minor upanisad that has relevance to Gaudiya Vaishnavas in that it extolls Krishna as the supreme God. Jiva's commentary on this text is called the Sukha-bodhini.
11-Commentary on Brahma-samhita
The Brahma-samhita was discovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at the Adi Keshava temple in Kerala, during his travels in South India. Jiva's commentary to this text is known as the dig-darshani.
Jiva Goswami wrote his Durgama-sangamani commentary on Rupa Goswami's Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.
13-Commentary on Ujjvala-nilamani
Jiva wrote his Lochana-rochani commentary to Rupa Goswami's Ujjvala-nilamani.
14-Commentary on Yogasara-stavaka
15-Agni Puranastha gayatri-bhasya
This work is a commentary on the Brahma Gayatri
mantra as found in the ancient Agni Purana
, chapters 216-217.
16-Padma Puranokta Krishna-pada-padma-chihna
This text by Jiva describes the insignia found on the feet of Krishna according to the text of the Padma Purana
In this short work, Jiva Goswami describes the insignia found on the hands and feet of Radha.
18-Laghu Vaishnava Toshani
The Laghu Vaisnava Toshani is Jiva Goswami's commentary to the Srimad Bhagavatam
The Gopala-champu is a poetic work written by Jiva and is divided into two parts. The first part is the Purva-champu, which has 33 chapters and describes Krishna's life in Vrindavana. The second section, the Uttara-champu has 37 chapters and describes the pastimes of Krishna after he leaves Vrindavana and the separation the residents of Vrindavana feel in his absence.
20-Sad Sandarbhas (Six Sandarbhas)
According to Jiva Goswami himself, Gopala Bhatta Goswami
had already done the preliminary work on these books but could not complete it. Jiva took the work of Gopala Bhatta and expanded it into six books wherein he systematically presents the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with scriptural evidences. Jiva also wrote an extensive auto-commentary to the Sandarbhas called Sarva-samvadini. The six Sandarbhas are as follows:
sandarbha is a treatise on the various types of evidences (pramanas) used in Vedic philosophy. Jiva's conclusion is that shabd
(divine sound in the form of the Vedic scriptures) is the highest, and of all the scriptures, the Bhagavata Purana is the highest.
In the Bhagavata-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami makes the distinction between the impersonal aspect of Godhead (Brahman
), the localized form of God within the heart of each living being (Paramatma
) and the highest personal aspect of Godhead (Krishna or Bhagavan
). He also describes the spiritual realm of Krishna, the modes of material nature, the mode of pure goodness (visuddha-sattva), the importance of worshipping the deity
of Krishna and the nature and qualities of the deity.
The paramatma-sandarbha describes the Supersoul (Paramatma)
and how the Supersoul resides in the hearts of all beings. The differences amongst incarnations
is also discussed as well as the nature of the conditioned living entity, the illusory potency (Maya
), the temporal world, the theory of transformation, the various avataras of Krishna and how they respond to the desires of the Vaishnava, and how God is characterized by six particular opulences.
In his Krishna-sandarbha, Jiva gives a number of quotes from various scriptures to prove that Krishna is the supreme god. He also discusses the pastimes and qualities of Krishna as well as his avataras
and functionary expansions. There is a description of Goloka
, the planet of Krishna in relation to Vrindavana in the material sphere, the associates of Krishna and their expansions and there is also a description of the Gopis
and the topmost position of Radha
Bhakti-sandarbha explains how devotion to Krishna is executed. It also discusses Varnashrama dharma
(the socio-religious system established in scriptures), the superexcellent position of devotion to Krishna as compared to other conceptions such as yoga
, and the worship of minor deities of the Hindu
pantheon as being futile in comparison to the worship of Krishna's devotees. The text also explains liberation of the soul, the position of Shiva
as a devotee of Krishna, how unmotivated devotion to Krishna promotes a devotee to the highest spiritual position and numerous other points concerning the performance of Vaishnava devotion.
The Priti-sandarbha is a treatise on divine love, the supreme object being Krishna. Love for God (prema) is considered by Jiva to be the highest form of liberation
. Jiva goes on to make a comparative study of other types of liberation but finally concludes that Prema Bhakti
is topmost. There is also a discussion on how to attain Prema, how to awaken it, and the symptoms of one who has attained it. Priti-sandarbha also discusses the distinctions between mundane lust and divine love, the various mellows found amongst the associates of Krishna, the superexcellence of Madhurya-rasa (divine conjugal love), the overlapping of different rasas, and the glories of Radha.
The Krama-sandarbha is a commentary on the 10th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam
Jiva Goswami died in 1596 CE (or 1618 according to some biographies). His samadhi
(tomb) is located in the precincts of the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavana.
According to followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Jiva Goswami is considered to be the incarnation of Vilasa Manjari, an eternal maidservant of Krishna.
- Tirtha, Swami B.B., Sri Caitanya and His Associates, 2001, Mandala Publishing, San Francisco, ISBN 1-886069-28-X.
- Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana (Bengali), Compiled by Haridasa Dasa, Haribol Kutir, Navadvipa, W.Bengal, 1957.
- Bhakti-ratnakara (Bengali), Narahari Chakravarti, Pub. By Gaudiya Mission, Kolkata, 1986.
- Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, by Steven Rosen, Folk Books, 1991. ISBN 0961976322
- Jiva Goswami's Tattva-Sandarbha: Sacred India's Philosophy of Ecstasy, by Swami B.V. Tripurari