by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja
According to the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (195), Srila Jiva Goswami was Vilasa Manjari in his previous incarnation in Vraja. In verse 203 of the same book, it is stated that he was the son of Vallabha and a scholar of exemplary character (susilah panditah sriman jivah sri-vallabhatmajah). According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Jiva was present in this world from 1433 to 1518 of the Saka era (1511-1596). Other sources propose that Jiva’s dates are from 1533 to 1618.
Jiva’s early life
Srila Jiva Goswami appeared in the village of Ramakeli in the district of Maldah as the son of Anupama Mallik (Vallabha) who had made his residence there in order to serve in the government. The name of Jiva’s mother is not known. Narahari Chakravarti has given Jiva’s genealogy going back seven generations. This list, as explained by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has been given here in this volume in the chapter on Srila Rupa Goswami (page 14). Jiva Goswami’s father’s original name was Vallabha, but Mahaprabhu gave him the name Anupama.
When Mahaprabhu came to Ramakeli, he met Anupama for the first time. By his desire, a spirit of renunciation took root in Rupa and Sanatan upon meeting the Lord on that occasion. This led to their abandonment of their worldly duties and possessions not long thereafter and they set off in an effort to be reunited with Mahaprabhu in Vrindavan. The same spirit of renunciation took hold in Jiva Goswami’s heart at this time also, as has been vividly described by Narahari in Bhakti-ratnakara as follows:
Jiva’s mind became distracted from the time that his two uncles went to Vrindavan. He abandoned his jewels and fine dress, his comfortable bed and his various amusements. It was as though nothing interested him any more. He could not bear hearing news of political and other material affairs. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.686-8)
Narahari summarizes Jiva’s early life story as follows: In a dream, Jiva had a vision of Mahaprabhu dancing in the midst of sankirtan. He was overwhelmed by feelings of divine love and soon thereafter left his home in Bakla Candradvipa. He had some companions who went with him as far as Fateyabad, but from there he continued alone to Nabadwip. There he met Nityananda Prabhu in the home of Srivasa Pandit and received his blessings. Nityananda Prabhu told him at that time that he should go to Vrindavan:
With fatherly affection, Nityananda touched Jiva’s head with his feet. He showed incomparable mercy toward Jiva, lifting him from the ground and embracing him tightly. Transported by divine ecstasy, Nityananda Prabhu said, “I rushed here from Khardaha for your sake alone.” He said other things like this to pacify Jiva and then made Srivasa Pandit and the other devotees give their blessings to Jiva. After keeping Jiva there for some time with him, Nityananda Prabhu sent him off to the West… He said, “Hurry off now to Vraja. That is the place the Lord has given over to your family.” (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.765-9, 772)
It is not clear whether Jiva ever met Mahaprabhu directly even though there is a hint in the Bhakti-ratnakara that Jiva was a baby when the Lord came to Ramakeli. Thus, Jiva demonstrated an interest in devotion to the Supreme Lord from his early childhood. Even when playing with his friends, he was only interested in games that were connected to the worship of Krishna.
When Jiva was a little boy, he refused to play any game with the other boys that had no relation to Krishna. He made images of Krishna and Balaram and would worship them with flowers and sandalwood paste and dress and decorate them. He would gaze upon them with unblinking eyes, looking for all the world like a golden doll himself, sitting motionless on the floor. When he paid obeisance to the deities, his eyes filled with tears. He would offer their Lordships sweets and then take the prasad and distribute it to his friends. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.719-23)
Jiva Goes to Vraja
By Nityananda’s grace, Jiva was able to visit all the sacred sites in Nabadwip Dhama. After completing the tour of the dham, he travelled to Benares where he studied all the scriptures with Madhusudana Vacaspati. Then he went on to Vrindavan where he remained under the tutelage of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Srila Jiva Goswami in his Anubhashya to the Chaitanya Charitamrita: “After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatan, Jiva was established as the topmost teacher of doctrine in the sampradaya. He engaged everyone in the worship of Krishna through teaching the truths given by Mahaprabhu himself. On occasion, he would sometimes do the Vraja Dham parikrama with the other devotees and sometimes would go to visit Vitthaladeva in Mathura. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami wrote the Chaitanya Charitamrita while Jiva was still alive. Not long thereafter, when Srinivas, Narottama and Dukhi Krishna Das came from Bengal, he taught them and gave them the titles Acharya, Thakur and Shyamananda. He then sent them back to Bengal with all the scriptures that had been written by the Goswamis, with instructions to preach the religion of the Holy Names and love of Krishna. He received the news of the loss of the scriptures and later of their retrieval. He gave the title Kaviraj to both Ramachandra Sena and his brother Govinda. During his lifetime, Jahnava Devi and other devotees came to Vrindavan. When Bengali devotees came to Vraja, he arranged for their victuals and lodgings during their stay.” (Anubhashya 1.10.85)
The loss of the scriptures refered to in the above paragraph took place when agents of the king Vira Hambira of Vana Vishnupura stole them. Later, when the king heard Srinivas Acharya speak on the Bhagavat, he was converted to Vaishnavism and took initiation from him. The books were thus recovered by Srinivas. All this is described in full in this volume in chapter 17 on Srinivas Acharya.
Jiva’s Writings and Controversies
In the Bhakti-ratnakara, a list has been given of twenty-five works ascribed to Jiva:
- (1) Harinamamrita-vyakarana
- (2) Sutramalika
- (3) Dhatusangraha
- (4) Krishnarcana-dipika
- (5) Gopal-virudavali
- (6) Rasamrita-sesha
- (7) Madhava-mahotsava
- (8) Sankalpa-kalpa-vriksha
- (9) Bhavartha-sucaka-campu
- (10) Gopal-tapani-tika
- (11) Brahma-samhita-tika
- (12) Rasamrita-tika
- (13) Ujjvala-tika
- (14) Yogasara-stavaka tika
- (15) Agnipurana-stha-Gayatri-bhashya
- (16) Padma-puranokta Krishna-padapadma-cihna
- (17) Sri Radhika-kara-pada-sthita-cihna
- (18) Gopal-campu, Purva and Uttara divisions
- (19) Krama-sandarbha
- (20) Tattva-sandarbha
- (21) Bhagavat-sandarbha
- (22) Paramatma-sandarbha
- (23) Krishna-sandarbha
- (24) Bhakti-sandarbha
- (25) Priti-sandarbha
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has given the following warning in his Anubhashya to those inexperienced persons who might be deprived of Krishna-prema through the influence of ignorant and offensive sahajiya teachings: “Three slanderous ideas about Jiva Goswami are current amongst the ignorant Prakrita Sahajiyas. Anyone who becomes influenced by these calumnies will increase his offenses and will end up losing his taste for service to the Supreme Lord because they are, at their very root, inimical to Krishna, the guru and the Vaishnavas.
“(1) It is said that a certain dig-vijayi scholar, eager to amass mundane prestige, came to Rupa and Sanatan to get their signature as an admission of defeat in debate.Jiva’s gurus conceded defeat without any argument and the arrogant scholar proclaimed them to be nothing but ignorant fools. He then asked Jiva to also sign such an admission of defeat. Jiva, however, decided to take on the puffed-up Brahmin in debate in order to silence his scurrilous tongue. In this way, he preserved the integrity of his spiritual master’s reputation and demonstrated the ideal behavior of one who is guru-devatatma, i.e., one who recognizes his spiritual master to be his worshipable deity and source of life. The ignorant Sahajiyas, however, say that Sri Jiva’s behavior goes contrary to Mahaprabhu’s teaching of being humbler than a blade of grass and of giving respect to others while demanding none for oneself. Indeed, Rupa Goswami chastised Jiva for this very reason and ostracized him for some time, but later Sanatan interceded on Jiva’s behalf and had Rupa accept him again into his association.
“Only when these enemies of the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas receive Krishna’s mercy and begin to see themselves as their eternal servant, then will they also receive Jiva’s blessings and be able to understand what it really means to be ‘humbler than a blade of grass’ and ‘a giver of respect to all’. Only then will they be eligible to chant the holy names in the proper way.
“(2) Some other ignorant Sahajiyas say that when he saw the manuscript of Chaitanya Charitamrita with its clear language and brilliant explanation of the divine devotional sentiments of Vraja, Jiva was afraid that it would hamper his own scholarly reputation and therefore threw it down a well in a spirit of mean-mindedness. Upon hearing of Jiva’s action, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was greatly shocked and immediately gave up his body. Krishnadas’s disciple Mukunda had fortunately made a copy of the original manuscript and thus it was preserved and later published. Had he not done so, the Chaitanya Charitamrita would have been lost forever. This is another contemptible bit of invention based on an inimical attitude to the guru and Vaishnava. It has no basis in reality and there is no possibility of its being true.
“(3) According to other sense-obsessed fornicators, Srila Jiva Goswami should not be accepted as an exemplar because in his treatises, he opposed the idea that the gopis of Vrindavan were married to other men (the parakiya-vada), but rather supported the svakiya-vada. They say that he cannot be accepted as a rasika-bhakta, or a devotee who is knowledgeable in the divine sentiments.
“The fact is that during Jiva’s lifetime, some of his followers demonstrated a preference for the sviya-vada. Jiva recognized their limitations and so, for their benefit and for the benefit of those in the future who would be unable to comprehend the transcendental nature of the parakiya-vada and would try to practice adulterous relationships themselves in imitation of Krishna, he accepted the svakiya doctrine. This is a sign of his acting as an acharya. One should not take this as evidence of his being opposed to the transcendental parakiya-vada, however, for he is the topmost of Rupa Goswami’s followers and one of Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s spiritual teachers.” (Anubhashya, 1.10.85)
Rupa’s Mercy to Jiva
Narahari has shown how Rupa Goswami instructed Jiva, punished him and then blessed him, in a story told in Bhakti-ratnakara:
One hot summer’s day, while Rupa was writing Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Jiva fanning his perspiring body, Vallabha Bhatta came by to see Rupa Goswami. After reading some of Rupa’s introductory verses, he offered to make corrections. When Vallabha went to the Yamuna to take a bath, Jiva followed him on the pretext of going to fetch water. In fact, he was angry because he considered Vallabha’s proposal to be arrogant. He asked him what fault he had found in Rupa’s verse. Vallabha told him and Jiva immediately showed him the flaws in his argument. A debate ensued in which Jiva countered every one of Vallabha’s objections. When he came back to Rupa’s hut, Vallabha told him how impressed he was with Jiva’s scholarship, recounting the entire episode. Rupa gently rebuked Jiva, telling him to return to Bengal and to come back to Vrindavan only when he was sufficiently calm. Thus banished from his presence, Jiva left Rupa Goswami’s dwelling, but rather than going back to the family home as he had been told, went to Nanda Ghat, a nearby village. Hoping to regain his guru’s favor, he began to practice rigorous austerities, worshiping Krishna intensely while fasting or eating only a bare minimum. As a result of such severe practices, his body became weak and sickly. One day, Sanatan Goswami came by there and was moved when he saw his condition. He took Jiva with him back to Rupa and interceded on his behalf with his brother. Thus Rupa and Jiva were reconciled and Jiva once again won Rupa’s affectionate blessings.
Jiva Goswami’s appearance day is on Bhadra Sukla Dvadasi, his disappearance day is Paush Sukla Tritiya. His deity, Radha Damodar, is still being worshiped in the Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan. His samadhi tomb is on the grounds of the Radha Damodar temple and his bhajana-kutira is preserved in Radha Kund, near Lalita Kund.
(Source: Gaur Parshad Vol 2 by His Divine Grace Srila B.B. Tirtha Goswami Maharaj)