People from other sampradāyas often visit this site. These people seek to teach me, sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly, that Śrī Jīva Goswami copied major parts of his theology from others like Śrī Rāmānujacārya, Śrī Madhvācārya and even Śrī Śankarācārya. They want to imply that he was a mere student in front of these great ācāryas. But are such claims justified by the facts?
The uniqueness of Śrī Jīva Goswami
My normal response to such people is to shrug my shoulders and move on. After all, none of the aforementioned ācāryas can claim to be ‘original’, in the sense that they all developed their theology based on the same prasthāna-trayīs, and in their opinion, their viewpoint was the actual meaning of those scriptures. The scriptures existed before these ācāryas, and will exist after them. So these meanings that they gleaned existed before them and will continue to exist. No person can claim originality. So what is the fuss about?
But every now and then, I get irritated by aggressive people who visit this site. These people wish to teach the greatness of their own sampradāya to anyone who will listen, and even to those who do not want to listen, and thereby establish their own superiority over everyone else. They want the ‘truth’ to come out that Śrī Jīva Goswami copied from their sampradāya and that the Caitanya tradition is a scam.
Here is the actual truth. According to Śrī Jīva Goswami –
The highest pramāṇa is the Bhāgavatam – it overrides all other scriptures.
Śrī Nārāyāṇa is an expansion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa
The sādhya is prema, not mokṣa.
The prescribed sādhana is pure devotion unmixed with karma (i.e. vaṛṇāṣrama is not needed for bhakti).
The Caitanya sampradāya is distinct mainly because of these four points. Can anyone prove to me that he copied these points from Śrī Rāmānujacārya, Śrī Madhvācārya or Śrī Śankarācārya? Just because he came after these teachers, does that necessarily imply that he is not original or is of less value?
Below are some other unique contributions of Śrī Jīva Goswami, which I examined here, and list below again for the reader’s convenience. Can anyone prove to me that he copied these points from Śrī Rāmānujacārya, Śrī Madhvācārya or Śrī Śankarācārya?
- Acintya bheda-abheda.
- The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the supreme pramāṇa.
- Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān. (Even Sridhar Swami does not accept Kṛṣṇa as Svayaṁ Bhagavān)
- Prema is the fifth prayojana.
- Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is a commentary on the Vedānta sūtra.
- Absolute truth manifests in three ways: Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān
- Vaṛṇāṣrama is not needed for bhakti.
- Rādhā and the gopīs are the topmost devotees.
- Parakīya vāda.
- Bhakti as rasa.
- Gokula is beyond Vaikuṇṭha.
- There are three types of manifestations of Śrī Kṛṣṇa: Mathura, Dwaraka and Vrindavan Kṛṣṇa.
- The difference between mādhurya bhāva and aiśvarya bhāva.
- The difference between vaidhī bhakti and rāgānugā bhakti.
- Drawing out of the key conclusions of the Bhāgavatam by analysis of the experience of individuals. For example, the thread that ties the entire theology of the Sandarbhas is Śrī Jīva’s analysis of the samādhi of Vyāsa described in the Bhāgavatam.
Did Śrī Jīva Goswami fail to give credit where it was due?
Not at all! In the Tattva Sandarbha, Anuccheda 28, he writes the following disclaimer that applies to the entire Sandarbhas. I reproduce Śrī Babaji’s translation below.
Here, in the Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas, I will quote from the Vedas, Purāṇas, and other such scriptures, just as I have seen them. I will quote these passages to verify my own interpretations, not the statements of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam . Some of the verses quoted here I have not seen in their original texts but have gleaned from citations in the Bhāgavata-tātparya , Bhārata-tātparya , Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya , and other works by the venerable Śrī Madhvācārya, the prolific teacher of the distinct Vaiṣṇava philosophy of Tattvavāda. In his line, such disciples and grand-disciples as Vijayadhvaja Tīrtha and Vyāsa Tīrtha have appeared; very famous in the south, they are most eminent scholars of the Vedic literature and its interpretation.
The texts we will cite from the works of Śrī Madhvācārya will include portions from such Vedic Śrutis as the Catur-veda-śikhā , Purāṇic texts from unavailable parts of the Garuḍa Purāṇa and other works, Saṁhitā texts from the Mahā-saṁhitā and similar works, and Tantra texts from the Tantra-bhāgavatam, Brahma-tarka , and so on.
And in the Paramātma Sandarbha Anuccheda 19, he writes this:
The intrinsic characteristics ( svarūpa-lakṣaṇa ) [of the jīva ] were imparted by Śrī Jāmātṛ Muni, a very senior teacher of the Śrī Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya in the line of Śrī Rāmānujācārya, ..
He clearly gives credit explicitly where it is due and also uses highly respectful terms for all the three ācāryas mentioned above – yes, even Śrī Śankarācārya. We see this attitude throughout the Sandarbhas, and that speaks to the greatness of his character. Contrast this with the boorish behavior of visitors to this site, or the attitudes of some who consider him ‘confused’.
Śrī Jīva Goswami is not confused. He is a brilliant and organized mind — just study the Sandarbhas to experience this. He is one of the greatest teachers of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam that has graced this earth. There is no need to belittle him or be jealous of him. Instead, one should be extremely grateful.