The method of the Sandarbhas

Śrī Jīva Goswami did not compile the Sandarbhas in a haphazard fashion. He followed a method of analysis which he explains in Anuccheda 27 of the Tattva Sandarbha. This method ought to be kept in mind when studying the Sandarbhas, because Śrī Jīva follows it throughout the Sandarbhas.

Śrī Jīva’s method of analysis

Śrī Jīva Goswami uses the method followed in commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtras. The general approach in these commenatries is to lay out the Upaniṣadic statement that is relevant to the sūtra under discussion, then present the sūtra, and then provide a commentary on how the sūtra explains the Upaniṣadic statement. The Vedānta-sūtras primarily explain the ten principal Upaniṣads.

Śrī Jīva explains:

tatrāsmin sandarbha-ṣaṭkātmake granthe sūtra-sthānīyam avatārikā-vākyaṁ, viṣaya-vākyaṁ śrī-bhāgavata-vākyam | bhāṣya-rūpā tad-vyākhyā

In these Six Sandarbhas , the statements with which we introduce our explanation of the Bhāgavatam verses will serve as the sūtras , the Bhāgavatam verses themselves will serve as the scriptural text to be analyzed, and the commentary on the verses will be the explanations of those verses given by the great Vaiṣṇava Śrīdhara Svāmī.

In other words, the Sandarbhas are designed to exclusively teach the Bhāgavatam. The approach evident in his next statement has attracted criticism, particularly from academia (e.g. S.K. De):

tu samprati madhya-deśādau vyāptān advaita-vādino nūnaṁ bhagavan-mahimānam avagāhayituṁ tad-vādena karburita-lipīnāṁ parama-vaiṣṇavānāṁ śrīdhara-svāmi-caraṇānāṁ śuddha-vaiṣṇava-siddhāntānugatā cet, tarhi yathāvad eva vilikhyate |

[ Śrī Jīva writes:]

Sometimes he (Śrīdhara Svāmī) inserted Advaitavāda-conceptions into his writings to immerse the non-theists, who are now quite prevalent, especially in central India, in the glories of the Personal Absolute, Bhagavān. When Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary accords with the conclusions of pure Vaiṣṇavism, we shall quote it verbatim.

He only quotes Śrīdhara Svāmī when it accords with the essential meaning of the Bhāgavatam. When it does not, he does not cite it, and provides his own commentary instead. Is this self-serving of him? An example of ardha-kukkuṭi nyāya? After all, Śrī Caitanya Himself approved of Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary and criticized anyone who did not.

Śrī Babaji explains that Śrī Jīva’s loyalty is not to Śrīdhara Svāmī, but to the Bhāgavatam. He gleans the essence of the Bhāgavatam by an unbiased examination of Śrī Vyāsa’s samādhi. Only those statements which accord with Śrī Vyasa’s experience are acceptable, whether they be from Śrīdhara Svāmī, Śrī Madhvācārya, Śrī Rāmānujācārya or Śrī Śankara.

I find this approach particularly inspiring given the profusion of modern Caitanya followers who, when push comes to shove, display a marked lack of courage to place the scriptures, particularly the Sandarbhas, above individuals who propound alternate, deviant viewpoints.

What accounts for Śrī Jīva’s singular focus on Śrī Vyāsa’s samādhi? He explains that Śrī Vyāsa is the author of all other works in the Vedic cannon, and the Bhāgavatam is his final work. It is literally the ‘final word’. And it is the only work that ultimately gave fulfillment and satisfaction to even Śrī Vyāsa himself. Therefore the Bhāgavatam overrides anything else that Śrī Vyāsa wrote, that does not accord with it.

Śrī Jīva is not an opportunist. His approach is logical and neutral. He could have easily written his own commentaries, but he chose to cite Śrīdhara Svāmī instead, out of respect for him and for Śrī Caitanya’s opinion.

While Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary are primarily cited in the Sandarbhas, Śrī Jīva also cites other sources. He writes:

kvacit teṣām evānyatra-dṛṣṭa-vyākhyānusāreṇa draviḍādi-deśa-vikhyāta-parama-bhāgavatānāṁ teṣām eva bāhulyena tatra vaiṣṇavatvena prasiddhatvāt | śrī-bhāgavata eva, kvacit kvacin mahārāja draviḍeṣu ca bhūriśaḥ [bhā.pu. 11.5.39] ity anena prathita-mahimnāṁ sākṣāc chrī-prabhṛtitaḥ pravṛtta-sampradāyānāṁ śrī-vaiṣṇavābhidhānāṁ śrī-rāmānuja-bhagavat-pāda-viracita-śrī-bhāṣyādi-dṛṣṭa-mata-prāmāṇyena, mūla-grantha-svārasyena cānyathā ca | advaita-vyākhyānaṁ tu prasiddhatvān nātivitāyate ||27||

Sometimes we shall follow the views Śrīdhara Svāmī has stated in writings other than his Bhāgavatam commentary. In other cases, we shall base our explanations on the authoritative opinions of the venerable Śrī Rāmānujācārya Bhagavatpāda, expressed in such works as Śrī-bhāṣya . He is the renowned leader of the Vaiṣṇavas of the Śrī- sampradāya , which originated directly from Goddess Lakṣmī. These great devotees are famous throughout India’s southern region (Draviḍa-deśa) and elsewhere.

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam itself states that they are well known as devotees of Viṣṇu in the south: “O King, a few Vaiṣṇavas can be seen here and there in this age, but they can be found in abundance in the land of Draviḍa” ( SB 11.5.39 ).

We shall also proffer alternative explanations [from those mentioned above] as per the intrinsic intent of the original book [i.e., the Bhāgavata Purāṇa].

Since the concepts of Advaitavāda are already well known, we shall not discuss them at length.

In Anuchheda 28, he writes:

atra ca sva-darśitārtha-viśeṣa-prāmāṇyāyaiva, na tu śrīmad-bhāgavata-vākya-prāmāṇyāya, pramāṇāni śruti-purāṇādi-vacanāni yathā-dṛṣṭam evodāharaṇīyāni | kvacit svayam adṛṣṭākarāṇi ca tattva-vāda-gurūṇām anādhunikānāṁ pracura-pracārita-vaiṣṇava-mata-viśeṣāṇāṁ dakṣiṇādi-deśa-vikhyāta-śiṣyopaśiṣyībhūta-vijayadhvaja-vyāsatīrthādi-veda-vedārtha-vid-varāṇāṁ śrī-madhvācārya-caraṇānāṁ bhāgavata-tātparya-bhārata-tātparya-brahma-sūtra-bhāṣyādibhyaḥ saṅgṛhītāni | taiś caivam uktaṁ bhārata-tātparye—

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.

So we see again the essence of his method. He will offer alternative explanations from commentators like Śrīdhara Svāmī, Śrī Madhvācārya or Śrī Rāmānujācārya, when it is necessary to be consistent with the essence of the Bhāgavatam.


Śrī Jīva Goswami’s method can be summarized as follows by analogy to the commentarial tradition of the Vedānta-sūtras

Vedānta-sūtra <–> Śrī Jīva’s opening statement(s) to a given Anuccheda

Upaniṣadic statement <–> Bhāgavatam verses

Commentary by writers <–> Commentary on the Bhāgavatam verse primarily by Śrīdhara Svāmī, but only when it accords with the essence of the Bhāgavatam.

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  1. Krsna Dasji ! Can you REFUTE this Argument on Parmatma Sandarbha 58.3?

    Where is that intrinsically existent color
    in the world? Is it in the object?? The answer is no. For a certain animal might see something red, another might see it colorless, etc. Hence color doesn’t exist in
    the object. Then is color in the wavelength of light?? Again the answer is no, there are just electromagnetic radiations out there. None of the waves intrinsically carry something called Colour. Then where are the colors we see?? The colors are nothing but mental superimpositions of an object by the mind. They don’t at all exist elsewhere. For the same reason, Humans can only see waves in the range of visible light, not beyond that. No two people can exactly say that one’s perception of the color red is the same as the others. And the sole locus of color is the mind and the mind superimposes it on the
    object. Hence, the contention that any object or property to be superimposed on an object must intrinsically exist elsewhere stands refuted. Now coming to the next argument that the water superimposed on the sand in a Mirage is not illusory. superimposed on the sand in a Mirage is not imaginary. Though this argument does not hold water, we still refute it. For an object to be unillusory, it needs to be unsublatable by any valid means of knowledge, but the water in the Mirage is sublatable by the knowledge of the non-intrinsic existence of water in the sand. Hence, the water seen does not exist intrinsically but is a mere illusion. The vritti(mental modification) that makes one mistake sand for water is also illusory as it is sublated by suitable means of knowledge. Similarly, The Jagat is also devoid of intrinsic existence apart from Brahman on close examination and is sublatable by the Akhandkara
    `vritti at the dawn of Brahman knowledge. Hence, Jagat is also an illusion w.r.t Brahman

    Only Brahman or One’s Self is unsublatable and
    that alone stands as REAL!!

    • Interesting but I dont find the argument clear or convincing.

      FIrst Sri Jiva Goswami does not mention color in 58.3. So what is this person refuting? I think the reason he or she might bring up color is that it is supposed that we dont see object shapes but we see color. And if color does not exist in the object, then the color is an illusion that we have superimposed in our mind. The problem with this chain or argument is as follows.

      I agree with the opponent that a red apple appears red to us, and not that it has an intrinsic quality of ‘red’. But this is a childish argument that simply plays with words. The fact that the object appears red to us is for two reasons, 1) First there is absorption of light by electrons in the molecules coating the apple surface, and 2) There is re-emission but only of red light. Note that we did not ‘superimpose’ anything here. The apple does this intrinsically. It will do this everytime.

      When the light passes through our eye, the molecular machinery in the eye and the brain registers a stimulus. This stimulus has no ‘name’ for a baby that has no language and is seeing the red apple. So the baby has no knowledge that it can articulate. It cannot say ‘red apple’. But as the baby becomes a child, someday someone points to the apple and calls it red. Now the baby associates the mental stimulus caused by the real light emitted by the real apple surface with the word ‘red’. Is the word ‘red’ an illusion? No? It is just a label given to a stimulus elicited by the apple. Note that there is no ‘superimposition’ of any kind here.

      The question of superimposition only arises when the child sees the red apple and thinks its a red cricket ball. Here there is a problem. The apple is not a cricket ball. But when the light comes into the brain, because of insufficient light, the brain is not able to relate the signal of ‘apple’ to the stored memory of ‘apple’ which the child has learned previously. Instead, the child erroneously relates it to another stored memory of ‘cricket ball’ owing to similarity. Here, the apple is real, the cricket ball is also real. There is just a perceptual error or mismatching of one signal with another. The light signal from the apple is not illusory.

      So you see that the argument offered is not convincing at all.

      Now this sublatable and unsublatable business is not convincing either. The opponent has defined something for themselves: that which is unsublatable by any valid means of knowledge is non-illusory. Good, but I don’t accept your definition. So you can prove something to yourself, but not to me. The water in the mirage argument is refuted in the same way. See the article on Sri Jiva Goswami refutes Advaitavada parts I and II where I examined this argument. The light rays enter your eye. The rays are misinterpreted just like the cricket ball and the apple. It is very simple. The light rays exist- they are not illusory. The silicon dioxide in the sand exists, and always interacts with light in a certain way. It is only misinterpretation of light that occurs.

      Advaitavada used to be powerful at one time. But with the advent of Science, its arguments are childish and unsatisfying.

      • Jisne yeh Faltu Argument likhaa hai! Woh Sri Jiva Goswami ke Mayavada Refutation ko “Childish” Arguments keh raha tha!! 😂

        And Advaitavadis have a Super Ultra Conception that Everything is Imposed By our Mind so, the Colors are also Not Real!!

        But, hamaare Cameras aur Smartphones ke pass toh koi Mind wageraa nahin hai!! Then, how they are able to Capture Photos!!

        By the way, आपके Response के लिए धन्यवाद। 🙏🙏

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