Did Śrī Jīva Goswami copy his theology from others?

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?

  1. Acintya bheda-abheda.
  2. The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the supreme pramāṇa.
  3. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān. (Even Sridhar Swami does not accept Kṛṣṇa as Svayaṁ Bhagavān)
  4. Prema is the fifth prayojana.
  5. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is a commentary on the Vedānta sūtra.
  6. Absolute truth manifests in three ways: Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān
  7. Vaṛṇāṣrama is not needed for bhakti.
  8. Rādhā and the gopīs are the topmost devotees.
  9. Parakīya vāda.
  10. Bhakti as rasa.
  11. Gokula is beyond Vaikuṇṭha.
  12. There are three types of manifestations of Śrī Kṛṣṇa: Mathura, Dwaraka and Vrindavan Kṛṣṇa.
  13. The difference between mādhurya bhāva and aiśvarya bhāva.
  14. The difference between vaidhī bhakti and rāgānugā bhakti.
  15. 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.

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12 replies »

  1. In today’s world ppl can’t even take up respect given to the particulars.

    Only Śrī Vyas is the original writer.

    Śrī Jiva sees the sanatana Dharma as a whole without establishing superiority complex of his Bhakti path etc …….
    Like many of the ppl state that “Varanasrama is the only way” I need not to name them.

    Śrī Jiva is so unique that he has presented the beautiful blend of the bhakti paths and their destinations and Bhavas without refering anyone Asura etc ………

    And one of the major thing which I saw among every honourable ācārya of Vraj sampradaya’s each sect establishes Śrī Kṛṣṇa as Mūla-rūpa e.g Śrī Vallabhacharya glosses in his Subhodini that Śrī Kṛṣṇa who appeared as Nandanandan is the original form. Further Śrī Nimbarka has listed this in very brief that “Śrī Kṛṣṇa is source of Chaturvyuhs” in his Vedanta dasloki. Even Śrī Hariramvyascharya, Śrī Jayadeva etc……….. Has addressed Kṛṣṇa as swayam Bhagavān in flow of their books.

    But No acharya has proved this by writing an explicit book on Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Proving him avatari thoroughly by refuting every purvapaksha statements.

    Only Śrī Jiva did this in Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sandrabha 🙏

    And ppl who haven’t studied a single Book of Śrī Jiva under the guidance of a Acharya can only say him “Confused” to pretend intellectual.

  2. Brilliant defense of Sri Jiva from ignoramuses. I too have encountered lots of arrogant ignorance from uninformed members of other “Vaishnava” sampradāyas too. Also having the hyper stupid Neo-Gaudiyas around throwing fistfuls of apasiddhāntas and illogicalities around doesn’t help us at all. Thanks once again 🙏🧡

  3. Recently I was subjected to abuse by a Vallabhite who expressed great disrespect and antagonism towards Chaitanya Charitamrita and Sri Krishnadas Kaviraj In an article he composed and insisted that I read. Very unpleasant experience especially when I personally respect all Vaishnava sampradāyas and have only warmth and friendship towards most of them especially the Vraj based ones with whom we have many intersectional convergences.

  4. Division of Krishna’s shakti into three types: antaranga, taTasthA and bahirangA and explnation and elaboration of them is also unique to Sri Jiva by which he avoids the doshs of Jiva and Prakriti from becoming inherent in Bhagavan. Shankara, Ramanuja and Baladeva have not divided and explained in this manner. Sridhara Swami also only mentions them and doesnot elaborate their features and relations.

    Explanation of Bhakti as manifestation of hladini and essence of Samvit is also unique.

    Sri Ramanuja calls shuddha sattva as a type of matter(that is unconscious but different from prakriti. Shankara sampradaya calls shuddha sattva as material sattva devoid of rajas and tamas. But Sri Jiva says that it is conscious and His antaranga shakti. The way he explains this in Anuccheda 99 of Bhagavat sandarbha is quite unique.

  5. Thank you for this Great Post. I met a few Madhvas and Sri Vaishnavas claiming that the Gaudiya Samprayda’s teachings are based on Dvaita Vedanta and Vishistadvaita Vedanta. By seeing Madhva’s arguments I could see they don’t know anything. I refuted their arguments with the help of your posts.

  6. Such people call whatever is absent in their sampradaya to be avaidika or as weak concept and whatever matches to an extent with them ascopied. And otherwise, misunderstand Gaudiya concepts witbsomething else and say that it’s also in their sampradaya. It’s a good humour

  7. And of course, if Gaudiya Acharyas give some praise to some older teachers from other sampradayas and cite their works to support the Gaudiya position in a work that is internal to the Sampradaya, then that means that they copied from them and are their students. Such delusions! It only proves that the Goswamis were more humble and open hearted enough to give them respect, otherwise these other panthas are keen to call each others’ acharyas names many times and never give credit(except may be rare instances which I am not aware of) to their older opponent schools.

    • Words are not sufficient to praise an Acarya like Sri Ramanuja or Sri Madhva. Sri Jiva respects them immensely. So we should also.

      When we get into debate, inevitably we start to harbor some ill feeling , maybe without even realizing it. And that is not good for us.

      Sri Krsna and Sri Narayana are different in mood only. They are the same person ultimately. So if someone wants to think Narayana is supreme let them.

      You are absolutely correct/ those people who try to refute Sri Jiva have generally not understood him and end up refuting a straw man. Poor reasoning skills, lack of understanding of the opponent’s view, and an itch to debate – are recipes for disastrous results. Let’s steer clear of such debates – they are not good for either party.

      • I also think that Hindus need to learn how to get along whatever sampradaya they belong to. Otherwise there will be no Hinduism left to speak of.

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