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Who is Jiva Goswami

Jiva Goswami is the most prolific, voluminous and versatile writer of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana. He composed about 400,000 verses of commentaries, abstracts and at least twenty authoritative works on the science of bhakti. Acknowledged as one of the greatest philosophers in all times, the Benares Hindu University, has dedicated an entire department to study the works of Jiva Goswami. He also initiated the systematic preaching of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission by training and dispatching luminaries like Narottama Dasa Thakura, Shrinivasa Acarya and Shyamananda Pandit.

Jiva Goswami (1513-1598) is the youngest of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana. His father, Anupama is the younger brother of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami and was initiated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Ramakeli. On the instructions of the Lord, Rupa and Anupama left Ramakeli and later received many instructions from Him in Prayaga (Allahabad). Later when travelling to Puri through Bengal, Anupama left his body on the banks of the river Ganges. While Jiva Goswami did not get the privilege of being instructed directly by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he was greatly inspired by his illustrious uncles in Vrindavana. As he grew, his body acquired all the symptoms of a Maha-purush or an empowered divinity.

He had lotus like eyes, high nose and forehead, large shoulders and chest, hands reaching to his knees and the effulgence of molten gold. He was a child prodigy having mastered grammar, poetry, logic and scriptures at a very young age. As Jiva grew into the teens he displayed a burning passion for spiritual enlightenment. Jiva had no interest in worldly affairs and constantly hoped to join his two uncles in Vrindavan. At this time he began to worship the deity form of Krishna-Balarama, seeing Them as non-different from Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. In order to fulfill his burning desire to visit Navadvipa, Jiva had to resort to tricking his reluctant mother.

On the pretext of visiting their ancestral home in nearby Fatehbad, Jiva proceeded to Navadvipa. In Navadvipa he met Lord Nityananda Prabhu. Jiva immediately recognized Him as non-different from Lord Balarama, and surrendered to His Lotus feet for instruction. Nityananda Prabhu took Jiva to the many sites where the pastimes of the Caitanya Mahaprabhu had been enacted. He took Jiva to meet Sacidevi, the mother of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Here Jiva also had the privilege to honor prasadam prepared by Vishnupriya, the widow of the Lord. In this way Jiva was visited all the nine islands of Navadvipa. When his mother passed away Jiva resolved to live the life of a recluse in Vrindavan under the guidance of his two elevated uncles. Following the instructions of Lord Nityananda, Jiva first went to Benares to seek out Madhusudana Vachaspati, an important disciple of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya.

In a relatively short time, Jiva became well versed in all aspects of Vedanta philosophy and acquired the reputation of an eminent scholar. Following the instructions of Lord Nityananda, Jiva now proceeded to Vrindavana. By the time Jiva reached Vrindavana, he was twenty years old and was greeted joyfully by his uncles Rupa and Sanatana Goswami. Jiva first approached his elder uncle Sanatana Goswami for initiation into the Caitanyaite Vaishnava line. Out of humility, Sanatana Goswami referred Jiva to his younger brother Rupa Goswami. Before Rupa initiated Jiva, he tested his mettle for one year, by having him perform all kinds of menial service. Finally satisfied that Jiva in addition to being a brilliant scholar also had self-control, humility and respect, Rupa Goswami accepted him as his disciple. Some months passed since Jiva's initiation, and a travelling scholar called Rupanarayana Saraswati arrived in Vrindavana.

He was a vastly learned scholar, a 'digvijaya' (one who had conquered in all directions) but, unfortunately his pride was as vast as his knowledge. He was in the habit of travelling to all places, defeating scholars and then getting them to sign a letter of defeat. Having heard of the fame of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami, he had come to challenge them to a debate. In the spirit of true Vaishnava humility, both Rupa and Sanatana simply accepted Rupanarayana as their superior and signed the letter of defeat without engaging in any debate. Rupanarayana then proceeded to challenge Jiva, who was also famous as a scholar. Incensed at the boasting of the vain scholar, Jiva accepted the challenge and defeated him in a debate that lasted for seven days on the banks of the river Yamuna. Rupa Goswami was very upset at this display of non-Vaishnava behavior by Jiva. He severely chastised him and actually banished him from Vrindavana. Jiva accepted the rebuke of his spiritual master, and lived for one year in Mathura, following a vow of silence, living in great austerities in the hollow of a tree and eating very frugally.

Finally by the mercy of Sanatana Goswami, Rupa forgave Jiva and accepted him back into Vrindavana. The behavior of Jiva Goswami is exemplary in both respects. As a Vaishnava one is supposed to be meek and humble when one's own honor is insulted, but should not tolerate any disrespect to his spiritual master or Krishna. Jiva' s victory was not for personal prestige but to refute Rupanarayana's unfounded claims of superiority over Rupa and Sanatana Goswami. But at the same time he unwaveringly accepted the chastisement of his spiritual master. Jiva Goswami inspired many great kings of his time. Prominent amongst them was Akbar, the Moslem emperor of India.

Having heard of the fame of Jiva Goswami, he personally came and took many instructions from him. So impressed was Akbar, that at the request of Jiva Goswami, he played a major role in establishing prominent temples of worship in Vrindavana, specially the Radha-Damodar temple. The literary contributions of Jiva Goswami are too many to list here. Prominent amongst them is Hari-namamrita-vyakarana, which provides a unique way of learning Sanskrit grammar through the names of Krishna. His masterful Shat-sandarba is a six volume literary jewel that fulfills not only the goals of his prestigious uncles and Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but of the entire world. Spiritual knowledge in its purest form is delivered to the fullest extend in these literary masterpiece, which is know being closely scrutinized by scholars all over the world.

Jiva Goswami also wrote elaborate commentaries on the works of his uncles, and made the knowledge accessible to every one. He worked hard to preserve the volumes of Vaishnava literature and with the help of Emperor Akbar, masterminded the construction of Granth Bhandara or a library of scriptures. Jiva Goswami was the personification of all Vaishnava qualities. Brilliant yet humble, he dedicated his life to the instructions of his spiritual master and Vaishnava teachers. He was a crucial link between the immediate disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who wrote and explained the philosophy of Bhakti Yoga, and the next generation of Vaishnavas who took these transcendental teachings and preached them to the world.