Jiva Gosvami (1511-1608) was one of the most preeminent scholars of Vedanta Philosophy and a prolific saint of Vrindavan. He was an unusually brilliant student from childhood and left his home in Bengal at young age to study in Navadvipa and Benares, where he mastered the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy before arriving in Vrindavan.
In Vrindavan, he wrote extensively, over 400.000 verses in total, established one of the seven major temples of the town— Radha Damodara, and was an accomplished teacher of the top students. Widely regarded as the highest authority of Vedanta in his time, he also spent considerable time receiving pilgrims from around India and excavating the holy places of Vrindavan.
While Jiva wrote nineteen books on Indian philosophy and science (see below for complete list), his masterpiece is the Sat Sandarbhas. In the Sat Sandarbhas, Jiva offers a comprehensive and exhaustive analysis of the Srimad Bhagavata, and concludes the highest feature of the Absolute is a personal God.
From the traditional Indian perspective, Vyasa is the complier of the Vedas and he himself wrote the explanation of Vedanta in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therein he establishes that the Absolute Truth is indeed a person. Those who come in the line of Vyasa, including Jiva Gosvami, accept, therefore, that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural and authoritative commentary on the Vedanta-sutras.
Being composed in Sanskrit, the Bhagavata is prone to interpretation. Hence the need arose for a thorough analysis of the Srimad Bhagavata that could resolve the thorny issues of interpretation.
Jiva Gosvami’s Sat Sandarbhas consist of six parts, each delving into a different aspect of the Bhagavata philosophy. First is the Tattva Sandarbha, which has two divisions. In the first division, Jiva Gosvami sets forth the pramanas, or the epistemology of the personalist school. Here he tackles such questions as: What are the means of attaining knowledge? And, what is the evidence or proof in support of those means? In the second division he gives the prameya; that is, he explains the object to be realized by knowledge.
In the second book, Bhagavata Sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami speaks about Bhagavan, His abode, and His associates. In the Paramatma Sandarbha, Jiva tells of the three manifestations of Bhagavan’s Immanent Being and describes how the Immanent Being is related with each individual soul in the material world. Jiva also describes maya, or the external potency of Bhagavan.
In the Krsna Sandarbha, Jiva shows that the form of Krsna is the original form of Bhagavan and explains why He is the object of loving devotional service. Then, in the Bhakti Sandarbha, Jiva establishes the path of devotion as the sole means to direct God realization. Finally, in the Priti Sandarbha, he analyzes prema-bhakti, devotional service in pure love, and shows how it is the supreme goal of life for all living beings.
In his thorough analysis of the Srimad Bhagavata in his Sat Sandarbhas, Jiva Gosvami coined the term achintya-bheda-abheda to define the foundation of his philosophical system. Acintya-bheda-abheda means inconceivably one and different simultaneously. It describes the relation between Bhagavan and the world consisting of matter and individual conscious beings. Indian philosophies have tried to explain the complex problem of the relation between the Absolute and the temporal by devising different theories of relation. This indeed forms the basis of differences between various schools. The difficulty lies in accommodating what appears to be an imperfect and temporary world in a God who is supposed to be perfect and complete. If there is a God he must be perfect, independent, absolute and the Supreme controller. But is the existence of a perfect God possible if this imperfect world is also a part of God?
If exclusive emphasis is laid on the identity between the temporal world and the Absolute, it will amount to a virtual denial of the world and acceptance of the world as merely illusion. On the other hand if exclusive emphasis is given to their difference, it divides the reality into two, creating an unbridgeable gap between the Absolute and the world. Difference cannot be denied because our experience of the world, and identity is supported by reason and Vedic scripture. The logical synthesis of the two is not conceivable. The solution is possible only by the inconceivable power (acintya shakti) of the Absolute.
Additional Works of Jiva Gosvami:
1. Sri Harinamamrita Vyakaranam
2. Sri Bhakti-rasamritasesa
5. Sri Gopala-virudavali
8. Gopala-campu (in two parts)
9. Radha-Krsna arcana dipika
10. Sri Radha-krsna-kara-pada-cinha
12. Laghu Vaisnava-tosani
14. Gopala Tapani tika
15. Brahma Samhita tika
16. Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu tika
17. Ujjvala-nilamani tika
18. Bhavartha Sucaka Campu