JivaGosvami - A Brief Sketch
The disciplic succession of Lord Chaitanya has numerous gems each a great authority on the superlative principles of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The philosophy of Lord Chaitanya was first expounded in the glowing literature of the six gosvamis of Vrindavan, namely Sri SanatanaGosvami, Sri RupaGosvami, Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, Sri JivaGosvami, Sri GopalaBhattaGosvami and Sri RaghunathaBhattaGosvami.
These personalities were powerful acharyas who epitomised the supreme teachings of Lord Chaitanya. Their lives absorbed in pure devotional activities, they inhabited the holy land of Vrindavan and offered to posterity an incomparable treasure trove of devotional works that form the powerful legacy for devotees of Lord Chaitanya all over the world.
Srila JivaGosvami was one of the spiritual giants who prepared a strong foundation on which the world-spanning edifice of Gaudiya Vaishnavism now firmly stands.
Srila JivaGosvami was a brilliant philosopher. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada mentioned in one of his letters,
“Some years back I attended a meeting in Calcutta wherein PramathanathTrakvhusna, the learned Sanskrit scholar, was present.
He said about JivaGoswami very highly that there was no comparison with JivaGoswami and any other philosophers of the world. Gaudiya Vaisnavism is very much proud of hav-ing such a great acarya as JivaGoswami.”
LETTERS : 1970 CORRESPONDENCE : NOVEMBER : LETTER TO: DR.CHAKRAVARTI: -- BOMBAY 3 NOVEMBER, 1970
Throughout his purports in Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada sites the commentaries of Jiva Gosvami to bring out intricate aspects of Lord Chaitanya’s philosophy. Here are some excerpts:
Correction of Neophyte Mentality
“The neophyte devotee gives more attention to the Deity in the temple than to other devotees, so Jīva Gosvāmī warns that this sort of mentality should be corrected.” Bg 9.11 : PURPORT
Grammar with holy names of the Lord
“ŚrīlaJīvaGosvāmī, in order to please the Lord (Lord Chaitanya), composed a grammar in Sanskrit, in which all the rules of grammar were explained with examples that used the holy names of the Lord. This grammar is still current. It is known as Hari-nāmāmṛta-vyākaraṇa and is prescribed in the syllabus of schools in Bengal” SB Introduction
Lord Krishna is the source of all incarnations
“According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī's statement, in accordance with authoritative sources, Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of all other incarnations. It is not that Lord Kṛṣṇa has any source of incarnation.” SB 1.3.28 : PURPORT
Srimad Bhagavatam is not less important than the Vedas
“There is no difference also between the Vedic mantras and what is explained in the Purāṇas andItihāsa. According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, it is mentioned in the Mādhyandina-śruti that all the Vedas,namely the Sāma, Atharva, Ṛg, Yajur, Purāṇas, Itihāsas, Upaniṣads, etc., are emanations from the breathing of the Supreme Being. The only difference is that the Vedic mantras are mostly begun withpraṇava oṁkāra, and it requires some training to practice the metric pronunciation of the Vedicmantras. But that does not mean that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is of less importance than the Vedicmantras. On the contrary, it is the ripened fruit of all the Vedas” SB 1.4.13 : PURPORT
Highest perfection without change of body
“According to ŚrīlaJīvaGosvāmī, a person freed from the three modes of material qualities, namely goodness, passion and ignorance, and situated in transcendence can reach the highest perfection of life without change of body.” SB 1.15.47-48 : PURPORT
The Lord’s activities can only be explained as inconceivable
“The activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His various forms and incarnations are always uncommon and wonderful. It is not possible for a tiny human being to estimate the purpose and plans of such activities; therefore Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has said that unless the Lord’s activities are accepted as inconceivable, they cannot be explained.” SB 4.17.36 : PURPORT
Intricacies of the word ‘niraham’
“The jīvātmā is different from his name, but the Paramātmā is not; His name and He Himself are one and the same. This is the meaning of niraham, which means “without material designations.” This word cannot possibly be twisted to mean that the Paramātmā has no ahaṅkāra, no “I-ness” or identity. He has His transcendental identity as the Supreme. This is the explanation given by Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī.” SB 5.19.4 : PURPORT
Srila JivaGosvami was the nephew of Srila Rupa and SanatanaGoswami. He was the son of their brother Anupama. According to some sources he was born in the year 1511 at the village of Ramakeli where Lord Chaitanya first met Rupa and SanatanaGoswami.
He engaged in pure devotional activities from the very childhood. Averse to mundane sporting, Jiva would make images of Krishna and Balarama, dress and decorate them with jewels and flowers.He would offer sandalwood pulp and pay obeisances with tears in his eyes! He would offer Them sweets, take Prasadam and distribute it to his friends. The sight of little jiva sitting still and gazing unblinking upon his Krishna and Balarama struck awe in the eyes of all who saw him.
Once as a young man, he dreamt of Lord Chaitanya in sankirtana. He was overwhelmed with love of God and soon left home to go to Navadvip where he met Lord Nityananda at the home of SrivasaPandita. Lord Nityananda blessed him by affectionately placing His feet on his head and ordered him to go to Vrindavan.
By the grace of Lord Nityananda, Jiva visited all the holy sites in NavadvipaDhama. He then travelled to Varanasi where he studied scriptures with MadhusudanaVacaspati. Then he went on to Vrindavan where he came under the tutelage of Srila Rupa and SanatanaGosvamis.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Srila JivaGoswami in his Anubhashya to the Chaitanya Charitamrita: “After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatan, Jiva was established as the topmost teacher of doctrine in the sampradaya. He engaged everyone in the worship of Krishna through teaching the truths given by Mahaprabhu himself. On occasion, he would do the VrajaDhamparikrama with the other devotees and sometimes would go to visit Vitthaladeva in Mathura. KrishnadasKavirajGoswami wrote the Chaitanya Charitamrita while Jiva was still alive. Not long thereafter, when Srinivas, Narottama and Dukhi Krishna Das came from Bengal, he taught them and gave them the titles Acharya, Thakur and Shyamananda. He then sent them back to Bengal with all the scriptures that had been written by the Goswamis, with instructions to preach the religion of the Holy Names and love of Krishna. He received the news of the loss of the scriptures and later of their retrieval. He gave the title Kaviraj to both RamachandraSena and his brother Govinda. During his lifetime, Jahnava Devi and other devotees came to Vrindavan. When Bengali devotees came to Vraja, he arranged for their victuals and lodgings during their stay.” (Anubhashya 1.10.85)
Rupa’s Mercy on Jiva
Narahari has shown how Rupa Goswami instructed Jiva, punished him and then blessed him, in a story told in Bhakti-ratnakara:
Once during summer Rupa was writing Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhuwhileJiva fanned him.VallabhaBhatta came by to see RupaGoswami. After reading some of Rupa’s introductory verses, he suggestedsome corrections. When Vallabha went to the Yamuna to take a bath, Jiva followed him on the pretext of going to fetch water. Actually, he was angry because Vallabha’s proposalswere arrogant. He confrontedVallabhaand demanded to know what fault he had found in Rupa’s verses. When Vallabha told him,Jivapointed out the flaws in his arguments. In the ensuing debate Jiva countered every one of Vallabha’s objections. Vallabha returned to RupaGosvami’s hut, impressed with Jiva’s scholarship.When he recounted the entire episode,Rupa gently rebuked Jiva, telling him to return to Bengal and to come back to Vrindavan only when he was sufficiently calm.
Thus banished from his presence, Jiva left Rupa Goswami’s dwelling, but rather than going back to the family home as he had been told, went to Nanda Ghat, a nearby village. Hoping to regain his guru’s favour, he began to practice rigorous austerities, worshiping Krishna intensely while fasting or eating only a bare minimum. As a result of such severe practices, his body became emaciated. One day, SanatanaGoswami came by there and was moved to see his condition. He took Jiva with him to Rupa and arbitrated on his behalf. Rupa forgave Jiva and affectionately blessed him.
Srila JivaGosvami is the author of numerous seminal books in the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Two of his most important works are the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha, which describes the ultimate end of devotional service, and the Gopāla-campū, which gives a description of transcendental mellows in Lord Krishna’s eternal pastimes in Vrindavan.
JivaGoswami appeared on BhadraSukla Dvadasi. His disappearance day is PaushSukla Tritiya. The Deities he worshipped, Sri Sri Radha Damodar, are still worshiped at the Radha Damodara temple in Vrindavan.
This is the same temple where Srila Prabhupada stayed just before leaving for the United States in the year 1965. JivaGoswamis’ssamadhi tomb is located within the premises of the Radha Damodara temple and his bhajana-kutira is preserved at Radha Kund.
Srila JivaGoswami is a preeminent Acharya in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Parampara who helped shape the pure devotional traditions that were propagated throughout the world by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We can serve Srila JivaGoswami well only by developing the spiritual maturity to understand and imbibe his exalted teachings, which explain the finest aspects of devotional service to Lord Krishna.