Śrī Jīva Goswami’s central thesis is that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān, and that all forms of Bhagavān including Śrī Nārāyaṇa are expansions of Him. It follows that His dhāma or abode is the highest among all dhāmas or abodes. That is, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abode is Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha, the topmost abode among all Vaikuṇṭhas. We learn from the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha that Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abode is Śrī Vṛndāvana, and Śrī Goloka is one type of prakāśa of Śrī Vṛndāvana. Unlike Vṛndāvana, Goloka is never manifest on earth.
In Anuchheda 106 of the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami establishes the supremacy of Goloka by citing copiously from various sources including the Nārada-pañcarātra, the Mahābhārata, Padma Purāṇa, Hari-vaṁśa Purāṇa, the Brahma-saṁhitā, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and other scriptures. Here we will examine some of his pramāṇas for Goloka’s supremacy over other Vaikuṇṭhas.
Goloka as described in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
Śrī Jīva Goswami explains the etymological meaning of Goloka as follows:
goloka = gavām loka = abode of the cows.
Now gavām does not mean cows alone, but includes all the residents of Vṛndāvana. This is evident from the fact that the word vraja-gavām is used for the gopīs in Bhāgavata 10.35.25. Thus,
goloka = gavām loka = abode of the residents of Vraja.
Goloka is described in a līlā in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Śrī Jīva Goswami examines this līlā in Anuccheda 116 of the Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha. There, Kṛṣṇa displays His own abode to the residents of Vraja after asking them to first take a dip in the Brahma Lake at Akrūra Tīrtha in Vraja. The līlā is described in verses SB 10.28.10–17, of which verse 10.28.14 is as follows:
iti sañcintya bhagavān mahā-kāruṇiko hariḥ
darśayāmāsa lokaṁ svaṁ gopānāṁ tamasaḥ param
Deliberating in this way, the supremely compassionate, all-pervading Bhagavān revealed the cowherds’ own realm, which is beyond darkness.
Here the words used are lokaṁ svaṁ gopānāṁ, the cowherds’ own realm, which is obviously Goloka as we have seen above. This Goloka is described as transcendental in the verses that follow. I present Śrī Jīva Goswami’s commentary:
cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu[bra.saṁ. 5.40] ity-ādi brahma-saṁhitādiṣu varṇita-vyakta-vaibhavātikrānta-prapañca-loka-mahodayas tam evety arthaḥ |tamasaḥ prakṛteḥ paraṁ prapañcānabhivyaktatvena tadīyenāpy asaṅkaram |
That realm [of the cowherd people, i.e. Goloka] is described in Brahma-saṁhitā in verses such as 5.29, “Its pavilions are inlaid with cintāmaṇi and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of wish-fulfilling trees.” The transcendental splendor of that abode surpasses the manifest majesty [of Varuṇa-loka] that was described earlier, and it is the very fortune of both the material and spiritual worlds. It is beyond ( param ) darkness ( tamasaḥ ), or in other words, phenomenality ( prakṛteḥ ), because it is not manifest in the material world and is unmixed with anything material.
ata eva saccidānanda-rūpa evāsau loka ity āha—satyamiti | satyādi-rūpaṁ yad brahma yac ca munayo guṇātyaye [guṇāpāye] paśyanti, tad eva svarūpa-śakti-vṛtti-viśeṣa-prākaṭya-viśeṣeṇasatyādi-rūpāvyabhicāriṇaṁ goloka-rūpaṁ darśayāmāseti pūrvenānvayaḥ | yathānyatrāpi vaikuṇṭhe bhagavat-sandarbhodāhṛtaṁ pādmādi-vacanaṁ brahmābhinnatā-vācitvena darśitaṁ, tadvat
Therefore, this realm is of the nature of unalloyed being ( sat ), consciousness ( cit ), and bliss ( ānanda ), as stated in the next verse ( SB 10.28.15 ). That Brahman, which is “the absolute truth, pure consciousness, unlimited, self-effulgent, and eternal, and which the sages directly apprehend only when the three guṇas are transcended,” is indeed Goloka. Kṛṣṇa revealed ( darśayāmāsa ) to the residents of Vraja that very Goloka, which is undeviatingly self-endowed with the divine attributes above mentioned, being a particular manifestation brought forth by a specific function of the svarūpa-śakti . This verse is to be syntactically connected with the verb darśayāmāsa from the previous verse. Just as there are descriptions of other Vaikuṇṭhas found in Padma Purāṇa and elsewhere, as cited in Bhagavat Sandarbha [ Anuccheda 10], which characterize even those Vaikuṇṭhas as nondifferent from Brahman, so too the same applies here [in regard to Goloka].
In other words, Goloka is a Vaikuṇṭha; but it is also a Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha, meaning it is beyond all other Vaikuṇṭhas as we will see below.
Goloka is beyond Vaikuṇṭha
In Anuchheda 106, Śrī Jīva Goswami cites the following verse from the Brahma-saṁhitā:
sahasra-patra-kamalaṁ gokulākhyaṁ mahat padam
tat-karṇikāraṁ tad-dhāma tad-anantāṁśa-sambhavam
This verse is describing Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abode (tad-dhāma). Śrī Jīva explains the word mahat-padam which qualifies tad-dhāma as follows:
mahat = sarvotkṛṣṭaṁ, padam = mahato mahā-bhagavato vā padaṁ śrī-mahā-vaikuṇṭham ity arthaḥ
The adjectival compound mahat padam means that it is the greatest or the topmost of all abodes ( sarvotkṛṣta-padam), or that it is the abode of the mahat , meaning Mahā-Bhagavān, in the form of Śrī Mahā-Vaikuṇṭha.
There are different Vaikuṇṭhas. To specify the Vaikuṇṭha being referred to here, its name is provided: Gokula. And so the translation is:
The abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the supreme abode ( mahat padam ), called Gokula, which is in the form of a thousand-petalled lotus, whose whorl is Kṛṣṇa’s own place of residence. This entire abode is manifest from a portion of the potency of Śrī Ananta [or Baladeva].
Śrī Jīva Goswami cites the following verse which states explicitly that Goloka (Gokula) is above Vaikuṇṭha even, and furthermore, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself has awarded the Lords of the different Vaikuṇṭhas, rulership of those abodes-
goloka-nāmni nija-dhāmni tale ca tasya devi-maheśa-hari-dhāmasu teṣu teṣu
te te prabhāva-nicayā vihitāś ca yena govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship the Original Puruṣa, Śrī Govinda, who has His own abode called Goloka. Below it in order are the various Vaikuṇṭha lokas (Hari-dhāma), the abode of Maheśa [Śiva], and the abode of Devī [the material cosmos], the governing authority over which has been awarded by Him to the rulers of those respective dhāmas . ( Brahma-saṁhitā 5.43)
Śrī Jīva Goswami cites similar verses from the Nārada-pañcarātra, the Mahābhārata and other places. I will only cite the following from Nārada-pañcarātra and the Mahābhārata:
evaṁ ca nārada-pañcarātre vijayākhyāne—
tat sarvopari goloke śrī-govindaḥ sadā svayam |
viharet paramānandī gopī-gokula-nāyakaḥ ||iti
Śrī Govinda Himself, who is the very embodiment of supreme bliss and the unparalleled hero ( nāyaka ) of loving affairs with the gopīs , is perpetually engaged in divine play in Goloka, which is above all other lokas.
evaṁ coktaṁ mokṣa-dharme nārāyaṇīye tathā skānde ca—
evaṁ bahu-vidhai rūpaiś carāmīha vasundharām |
brahma-lokaṁ ca kaunteya golokaṁ ca sanātanam || [ma.bhā. 12.330.68] iti |
O son of Kuntī, in this way I exist in innumerable forms here on earth, in Brahmaloka, and in the eternal Goloka. ( Mahābhārata, Śānti-parva 342.138)
tad evaṁ sarvopari śrī-kṛṣṇa-loko’stīti siddham |
It has thus been established that Śrī Kṛṣṇaloka is situated beyond all other lokas
- Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayaṁ Bhagavān, and so His abode is the topmost Vaikuṇṭha, beyond all other Vaikuṇṭhas.
- Śrī Goloka is one type of prakāśa of Śrī Vṛndāvana, the abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It is never manifest on earth.
In the next article, I will show that Śrī Vṛndāvana, which is currently manifest in Uttar Pradesh, India, is beyond all Vaikuṇṭhas.