Nothing is more frustrating for a serious seeker than conceptual inconsistencies. Thankfully, Śrī Jīva Goswami’s approach is methodical, structured and well-planned, features a fearsome command over Sanskrit, and involves searching for and establishing a consistent, unitary message of the entire corpus of Indian theological literature.
Seven types of consistency
Indeed, consistency, or avirodha, is a prized asset in Indian theology that every theologian had to strive for. The method of finding the samanvaya or common thread running between diverse scriptures, and providing a self-consistent theology was the hallmark of all major Vedantic sampradāyas. Śrī Babaji quotes the following statement in Anuccheda 106.3 of the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, wherein Śrī Vallabhācārya enumerates seven types of consistency in his Tattvārtha-dīpa-nibandha :
śāstre skandhe prakaraṇe’dhyāye vākye pade’kṣare
ekārthaṁ saptadhā jānan na virodhena mucyate
One becomes free of all apparent contradictions by recognizing the singularity of meaning present within a sevenfold span, namely, in a letter, a word, a sentence, a chapter, a topic, a canto, and the book as a whole. ( Tattvārtha-dīpa-nibandha 1.2)
There should be consistency between different portions of a work, and furthermore, consistency between that work and other works. If such eka-vākyatā is not established, one’s understanding remains fragmented and ineffective, and one’s theology weak and insubstantial.
The Bhāgavata demands consistency
In fact, the Bhāgavata itself frowns upon inconsistency. Consider the following statement cited in the Bhagavat Sandarbha Anuccheda 30:
evaṁ vadanti rājarṣe ṛṣayaḥ ke ca nānvitāḥ
yat sva-vāco virudhyeta nūnaṁ te na smaranty uta
Such is the account some sages put forth, O wise king, but those who speak in this illogical manner contradict themselves, having forgotten their previous statements. SB 10.77.30
I paraphrase Śrī Babaji’s commentary below:
“Śukadeva made this statement while narrating the story of a battle between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śālva. During the fight, Śālva disappeared and a messenger appeared before Śrī Kṛṣṇa, announcing that he had been sent by Mother Devakī to deliver a message, “Śālva has captured Your father and carried him away like an animal.” Hearing this, Śrī Kṛṣṇa became morose and said, “Oh, how surprising that Śālva captured my father in the presence of Balarāma, who cannot be defeated by anyone. Indeed, Fate is most powerful!” Then Śālva himself appeared before Kṛṣṇa with a false Vasudeva, created by his illusory powers, and beheaded him. Seeing this, Śrī Kṛṣṇa was bereaved just like an ordinary man, until He realized that it had all been an illusion created by Śālva.
After this narration, Śukadeva Gosvāmī states that some people speak incoherent words and contradict themselves. How is it possible that the Śrī Kṛṣṇa can fall into illusion? The point is, rather, that sometimes even sages forget that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is transcendental and thus cannot become bewildered. Therefore, when such descriptions are found in the Purāṇas or Itihāsas, they should be considered as misleading and hence not accepted as literal, or as descriptive of higher-order truth, by the Vaiṣṇavas. “
The Sandarbhas are methodical and unerringly consistent
In stark contrast to the confused and confusing hodge-podge of theology of many modern writers, Śrī Jīva Goswami’s Sandarbhas are methodically designed to establish one consistent message, to which they return over and over again. This message is presented in the beginning of the Tattva Sandarbha Anuccheda 8:
yasya brahmeti saṁjñāṁ kvacid api nigame yāti cin-mātra-sattāpy
aṁśo yasyāṁśakaiḥ svair vibhavati vaśayann eva māyāṁ pumāṁś ca |
ekaṁ yasyaiva rūpaṁ vilasati parama-vyomni nārāyaṇākhyaṁ
sa śrī-kṛṣṇo vidhattāṁ svayam iha bhagavān prema tat-pāda-bhājām ||8||
In one feature, Śrī Kṛṣṇa exists as pure consciousness, without any manifest characteristics, and is referred to as Brahman in some portions of the Vedas. In another feature, He expands as the Puruṣa, who regulates the extrinsic potency ( māyā ) by His many plenary portions. In yet another of His principal forms, He is Nārāyaṇa, resplendent in the spiritual sky, Vaikuṇṭha. May that Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the original complete Absolute Truth (Svayaṁ Bhagavān), bestow love for Himself on those who worship His lotus feet in this world.
In his Sarva-saṁvādinī commentary on this statement, Śrī Jīva Goswami writes that it summarizes the meaning of all Śāstras (sarva-granthārthaṁ saṅkṣepeṇa darśayann). Śrī Baladeva in his commentary on this statement writes, “atha śrotṛ-rucy-utpattaye granthasya viṣayādīn anubandhān saṅkṣepeṇa tāvad āha yasyeti — to generate interest in the hearer for this book, the four anubandhas starting with viṣaya are presented briefly here.”
Śrī Babaji identified these four anubandhas in his summary of the Tattva Sandarbha which is reproduced below:
The subject ( viṣaya ) of the book is identified as Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
The relation ( sambandha ) of the book to its subject involves the correlation of signified and signifier ( vācya-vācaka-sambandha ), implying that the signified Reality, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is self-evidently disclosed through the power of the signifying word in the form of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.
The means ( abhidheya ) that self-discloses the subject is bhakti.
The end state ( prayojana ), which is the completion stage of the means, is prema , or divine love for Kṛṣṇa.
An inspection of the statement above will show how these topics are indeed present in it. Over and over again in the Sandarbhas, Śrī Jīva Goswami methodically distilled the essence of the scriptures and slowly but surely established his theological framework.
Consistency is the hallmark of all great theologians, and Śrī Jīva Goswami, the founder of the Caitanya tradition, is no exception. It follows also, that if a work is inconsistent, confused and devoid of structure and method, it is inauthentic and not a worthy or genuine representative of Śrī Jīva Goswami’s Sandarbhas, even if it pretends to be so.