December 21, 1998 VNN2720
Sri Jiva Jivanamrtam (Part 2)
BY SWAMI B.V. TRIPURARI (FROM SANGA)
USA, Dec 21 (VNN) Disappearance of Srila Jiva Goswami (December 22 in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore).
Sri Jiva Jivanamrtam (The Nectar of the Life of Sri Jiva) cont'd
An excerpt from 'Jiva Goswami's Tattva-sandarbha: Sacred India's Philosophy of Ecstasy' by Swami B.V. Tripurari
Sri Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva were three of those known as the Six Goswamis. Together with these three lived Gopala Bhatta, Raghunath Bhatta, and Raghunatha dasa Goswamis. Amongst them, Sri Jiva was the youngest and most prolific. He was a perfect disciple of Rupa Goswami and certainly qualified to initiate others, yet it is questionable as to whether or not he personally initiated any disciples, although many considered themselves his disciples and he appears to have addressed some devotees as such.
Sri Rupa and Sanatana did not accept disciples, Sri Jiva their nephew a lone exception. The reason for this was not their lack of qualification. It seems that the socioreligious climate of the times was respected by the Goswamis. They reformed the society yet remained within existing socioreligious parameters, having assessed that which they had to contend with in order to successfully establish an organized systematic school of thought (sampradaya) centered around the ecstasy of Sri Caitanya. Thus for some time students desiring initiation were regularly referred to Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who hailed from a prestigious South Indian brahmana family. If Sri Jiva did not personally initiate, it was in pursuance of this strategy. The sampradaya's next generation appears to have been less concerned with disturbing the socioreligious climate. By this time the sampradaya was better established, with a literary legacy of considerable size and temples built with the patronage of the Rajas. Two of the sampradaya's leading members, Narottama dasa and Syamananda, were not from brahmana families, and Syamananda from the lowest caste (sudra), yet they did initiate widely while Sri Jiva was still alive. Thus the policy of Sri Rupa and Sanatana, one probably followed by Sri Jiva as well, was based not upon devotional conclusions of the sampradaya, but upon consideration of the social climate of the day, as well as the humility of the three Goswamis.
Sri Jiva devotedly served his seniors and continued to live in Vrndavana, eventuallly becoming the spiritual guide for all of the followers of Sri Caitanya until the end of the sixteenth century. He was the ultimate authority in all esoteric and practical issues concerning the culture of spiritual love. After the departure of Sri Rupa and Sanatana, he served the community in this capacity even in the presence of others senior to himself.
His life in Vrndavana was that of extreme renunciation and devotion. He wore only the traditional loincloth and accepted many hardships in the service of the absolute. At the same time, he was intimately involved in excavating the places of Krsna's pastimes and building temples for the deities of Radha-Krsna and Sri Caitanya. Fabulous temples of architectural wonder were arranged for the deities, yet Sri Jiva himself slept beneath the trees. The Govindaji Mandir in particular is an extraordinary blend of architectural styles that reflects the prominent religious influences of the time, built as a monument to the deity that in Sri Jiva's mind represented transcendence of religious convention. That Sri Jiva was intimately involved in its fourteen years of construction is evidenced by his Govinda mandir-astakam, an eight verse tribute to this temple and its patrons.
At one point, the powerful emperor Akbar came to Vrndavana with the hope of meeting this extraordinary ascetic. Akbar was a man of enormous wealth and influence, yet he was humbled to hear of the spirituality of Sri Jiva and his elders. He patronized Sri Jiva to the extent of removing obstacles that impeded the development of Vrndavana by the Rajas, who subscribed to the religion of love explained by and embodied in Jiva Goswami.
More than twenty-five books are attributed to Sri Jiva. The list of these twenty-five found in Bhakti-ratnakara ends with "etcetera." Caitanya Caritamrta credits him with writing more than four hundred thousand verses. If this is accurate, it makes Sri Jiva second only to Vyasa in authoring Sanskrit verses concerning the nature of the absolute truth. The tradition holds that whatever he wrote was first fully manifest in his mind and once he committed a thought to writing he never changed it.
Of all of his books, Sat-sandarbha is the most famous. In this sixfold treatise, he manifests his opulence of superhuman command over the enormous body of India's sacred Vedic and supplementary Vedic literature. From the Vedas, Upanisads, Puranas, Itihasas, and the epic Mahabharata to the Tantras and Agamas, there seems not a page unturned by Sri Jiva. His comprehension of their contents makes it appear almost as though he wrote them himself. Studying Sat-sandarbha, one is held spellbound by this opulence alone, dumbfounded by Sri Jiva's scriptural command, what to speak of the realization he so kindly shares therein. Sat-sandarbha serves as the philosophical foundation for the ecstasy and love that Sri Caitanya embodied and Sri Jiva experienced so deeply.
In Sat-sandarbha Sri Jiva argues persuasively that the ecstasy of Sri Caitanya is that which the entirety of Vedic India's vast sacred literary heritage is pointing to. To his arguments and conclusions there are no doubt counterarguments, as all logic is inconclusive and scripture lends to innumerable interpretations. Yet it is the charm of his conclusions Ñ Krsna lila Ñ that is difficult to match. A more endearing conception of the absolute, reasonably and eloquently articulated and well supported by a sacred literary heritage is, if in existence, yet to express itself.
Sri Jiva Goswami is one of the greatest religious philosophers in history. His spiritual lifestyle is insturctive to us as well. It would be difficult to find a person as intelligent as Sri Jiva, who at the same time thought so little of intelligence. He used his intellect to argue on behalf of the eternal soul, and more, its emotional potential in transcendence. While doing so, his life's example teaches us that there is indeed firm ground to stand on beneath the soft surface of the ground of our material experience. That ground of being, while firm, is moving. Its movements, however, are not cause for concern for those who stand upon it. This is so because, to begin with, we are that ground. But in Sri Jiva's eyes there is much more to tell, much more that makes for a Vedanta of aesthetics. Realizing ourselves to be consciousness is to stand at the door of transcendence. Sri Jiva opens the door to a life in transcendence culminating in the circular love dance (rasa) of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, synonymous with the ecstatic chanting and dancing of Sri Caitanya.
On the ground of consciousness, Sri Jiva has crafted a diety of the same material, his chisel the Bhagavata Purana. His diety is dark and handsome and never alone, standing eternally in the embrace of his feminine counterwhole. He rules over all by the force of affection and beauty. He is a deity more human than transcendent, more transcendent than human. Sri Jiva has built a temple for this deity, and that too is made out of the ground of being, pure nondual consciousness. It is spacious and inviting in the most charming sense. Call this deity Krsna, his feminine counterwhole Radha, and be done with a life of illusory happiness and empty promises of love. Calling their names, Sri Jiva turned his back on this illusory world to tell us of another, which, as it turns out, is no more than this world when viewed through eyes anointed with divine love.
The world influenced by Western philosophy, to which this edition of his work is presented, will have to wrangle with what may appear to be foreign concepts and language (Sanskrit) to penetrate Sri Jiva's mind and heart. Yet what modern readers will find is a vision not so foreign after all. In this vision lies the full potential of humanity Ñ to turn from the senses' beastly call of the wild, to the language of logic, and from the language of logic to the life of eternal love.
See also (Part I)
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