“Jiva Goswami wrote twenty five books on Vaisnav philosophy and eternal pastimes of Radha and Krishna. He composed over 400,000 verses in perfect rhythmic Sanskrit. His divine grace Srila Prabhupad explained that of all philosophers in the world, Jiva Goswami is foremost.” – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami describes Jiva Goswami’s childhood pastimes
Jiva Goswami took birth as the son of Sri Vallabha. When he was only a very small child his father and uncles were the chief ministers of the entire kingdom of Bengal. Their headquarters was in Ramakeli in the Malda district of Bengal, close to the Bihar border. Srila Sanatana and Sri Vallabha, they wrote many letters to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, begging him for mercy, because they were sick and tired of being engaged in all these worldly activities under the jurisdiction of a very cruel and hateful chief. In response to their appeal, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Ramkeli.
When he (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) came dancing in the town, chanting the holy names, there were literally millions of people following him. During that visit, once, in the late of night, Rupa, Sanatan and Sri Vallabha decided that they wanted to meet Lord Chaitanya. So they disguised themselves, incognito, in the middle of the night. There they met Lord Chaitanya, Lord Nityananda and Haridas Takur. Meanwhile, little little Jiva followed from behind. And from a little distance away he watched and heard everything that took place.
“Then, there he saw his father and uncles surrender with topmost humility at the lotus feet of the Lord, and how the Lord embraced them and bathed them with his tears! That impression of the forms of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda in his heart transformed his life. He could never ever give up for a moment the thought of them.”- Radhanath Swami
His father and uncles left; they went to Vrindavan to meet Lord Chaitanya. But on one trip, very soon after, back to Puri, Jiva Goswami’s father Sri Vallabha, who Lord Chaitanya named Anupam, disappeared from this world on the bank of the Ganges. When little Jiva heard this, how much he was aggrieved in his heart at the separation from such a great devotee in the form of his own father! He wept, he cried, he rolled in the ground. It is said that anyone who heard his crying, their hearts would shatter into hundreds and thousands of pieces.
“From that point, Jiva, he would never ever hear anything that was not directed to the glorification of Krishna, although he was only a small child! Any other subject painfully bored him. He could never speak anything except the topics of Krishna. In fact, he was fearful that if he did, he would waste the precious value of the moments of his human life, although he was just a child.” – Radhanath Swami
Some of us are middle aged or even growing old, and we are still thinking, “When I get much older, then I will not waste a second! Now there are so many materialistic desires in my mind to fulfill.” But Jiva was only a tiny child hardly four years old, but he would never hear or speak anything if it was not the glorification of Krishna and the chanting of Krishna’s holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. He would play with his friends; he would not engage himself in any play unless it was directly related to Krishna’s pastimes. He had little deities of Krishna and Balaram. Those deities were his life and soul. In fact, it is said that he made those deities with his own hands. He would offer flowers to the deities, he would offer chandan to the deities, and he would offer food to the deities – delicious foods. He would decorate them with clothing and ornaments, he would sing for them, he would dance for them, and he would gaze upon them sometimes for hours and hours at a time with unblinking eyes.
“His greatest happiness was when he would go to a secluded place, where no one was around to see him, and there he would worship his deities with pure unmotivated love. Sometimes he would dance for them, sometimes he would be in such ecstasy he would fall on the ground unable to even stand. In this way, he spent his childhood.” – Radhanath Swami
Those deities day and night could never be separated from him. When he would go to sleep, he would clutch the deities and embrace them to his heart and sleep every night.
Radhanath Swami describes Jiva Goswami’s divine vision
One evening, just at the time of sunset, an overwhelming separation came to the heart of little Jiva. He called out, “Oh Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu! You are the deliverer of the most fallen. Where are you? Oh Lord Nityananda prabhu! Oh Advaita Chandra! You have descended into this world to deliver the most fallen; I am the most wretched; I am the most unfortunate; please, please have mercy on me!” In this way he cried all night long, crying out for the names of the Lord. He could not sleep, but just towards the end of the night, by the divine arrangement of Sri Krishna, he fell asleep. As he fell asleep, he had a dream.
“There he saw Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita, Srivasa and all of their associates. The sankirtan of the holy name was filling the skies, earth and all directions with a loud resounding sound vibration of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” – Radhanath Swami
Suddenly, the dream broke. Jiva Goswami woke up weeping and crying, “Where has my Lord gone?” After he was crying for some time, by the Lord’s desire, he fell asleep again.
This time Krishna and Balaram appeared before him, his own personal worship-able deities! Krishna was blackish like a monsoon cloud; he had a three-fold bending form and his hair was decorated with a feather of peacock. Balaram had the complexion of a beautiful white spring cloud; he had blue garments, beautiful lotus-like eyes. The two brothers stood before him smiling, more enchanting, more beautiful than anything other this world has ever seen. Jiva fell down at their lotus feet and surrendered. At that moment, Lord Balaram transformed into the beautiful form of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Krishna transformed into the form of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Their beautiful golden complexions splendid more than radiant gold, they cast their merciful loving glances on this merciful child. He fell and surrendered at their feet. Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda both placed their lotus feet on top of his head. Lord Chaitanya offered him to the feet of Lord Nityananda Prabhu and Nityananda Prabhu gave him the shelter of Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet. They spoke sweet charming words in his ears again and again; the two brothers embraced him; but that dream broke. When Jiva Goswami woke, it was dawn, the sun was rising. It was then and there that he made his vow to go to Navadweep.
Radhanath Swami describes Jiva Goswami’s goes to Navadweep, Kashi and Vrindavan
Throughout his childhood he was not interested in anything material. Because he was born in a family of royalty, he was given beautiful garments, precious ornaments, very soft wonderful beds and the most delicious foodstuffs; but he didn’t care for any of it. He simply wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncles, Rupa and Sanatan, and entered into the renounced order of life. He contrived by certain means to somehow or the other get permission by which he and one servant went to Navadweep Dham.
“When he arrived at Navadweep and saw the land of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth and his early pastimes, he was jubilant with bliss. Then he came to the house of Srivasa Pandit.” – Radhanath Swami
That morning Lord Nityananda Prabhu told Srivasa, “Today Jiva is going to come, the nephew of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis.” The messenger came to Nityananda Prabhu and told him that Jiva was at the door. Nityananda Prabhu immediately… “Send him in.” It was in the house of Srivasa Takur. When Jiva Goswami first met Sri Nityananda Prabhu, he offered his obeisance at Nityananda Prabhu’s lotus feet, who placed his feet on his head. Previously he did it in a dream, but now he was doing it in person. He picked up and embraced little Jiva again and again. He became so very dear to the heart of Srivasa Takur and all the other devotees.
Nityananda Prabhu, to show him his infinite affection, he personally took Jiva Goswami on a tour of all the nine islands of Navadweep. This is described in great detail in Narahari Chakravarthi’s Bhakti Ratnakar, and also in Srila Bakthivinod Takur’s Navadweep Mahatmayam. From Srivasa Angan they went to Yogapeeth, the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya. There Sachi Devi and Vishnupriya, personally with their own hands, cooked a wonderful feast for Jiva Goswami. Vamsi Vadana, the personal assistant of Lord Chaitanya, who became the personal servant of Vishnupriya, he showered his blessings and even accompanied them on their parikrama for some time.
“During this parikrama, by Nityananda’s transcendental will, the whole Navadweep Lila manifested itself to Jiva Goswami’s eyes.” – Radhanath Swami
When they came back to Srivas Angan, Nityananda Prabhu told Jiva Goswami, “You should go to Vrindavan, because now Gauranga Mahaprabhu has personally given Vrindavan as a home to your family. You go home, but on the way stop in Varanasi and you study the shastras under Madhusudan Vachaspathi.” Jiva Goswami, following that instruction, went to Kashi or Varanasi. Madhusudan Vachaspathi was the greatest scholar of that time in Kashi. Jiva Goswami was his topmost student. He studied Vedantas, he studied Upanishads, he studied Puranas, he studied Nyaya philosophy of logic and superseded in every subject matter. Madhusudan Vachaspathy, who was a personal associate of Vasudeva Sarvabhauma Battcharya, he was glorifying his student wherever he went.
“Soon Jiva Goswami, although he was only a teenager, became the most reputed, celebrated of all the scholars of the holy city of Benaras. But his mind was fixed on his order to join Rupa and Sanatan Goswami in Vrindavan.” – Radhanath Swami
When he was twenty years old, Jiva Goswami entered into Vrindavan. There, he was joyously welcomed by Srila Sanatan Goswami, Srila Rupa Goswami, Raghunath Bhata Goswami, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, Gopal Bhata Goswami, Lokanatha Goswami, Bhugarbha Goswami, Kashiswara Pandit and so many other devotees. Jiva Goswami became so very, very dear to all of them.
Radhanath Swami on Jiva Goswami’s initiation
Jiva Goswami approached his eldest uncle Sanatan Goswami for initiation. Sanatan Goswami, out of great humility, offered him to Srila Rupa Goswami. In obedience to Srila Sanatan Goswami’s desire, Rupa Goswami willingly accepted him as his disciple. However, before giving him initiation, he wanted to give him proper training. He engaged him in the most menial types of services.
“This is a wonderful phenomenon. Jiva Goswami was the most learned and famous pundit of Varanasi – which is very much the high seat of learning in this section of India – but just to please Srila Rupa Goswami, he would beg alms to bring back to his Gurudev. He would wash the pots and vessels with his own hands. He would go out and collect palm leaves and prepare them into what Rupa Goswami could use for his scripts. He would massage his Gurudev’s feet and legs. He would help his Gurudev in service to other devotees.” – Radhanath Swami
When Rupa Goswami saw he was genuinely and actually humble and really had a service spirit, a menial service spirit… for a devotee of the Lord, there is nothing too low to serve. Recently, one Brahmin was very shocked because he saw one of our Brahmin devotees shaving the head of a new bhakta. He was shocked! His mind was so disturbed – ‘how a Brahmin can be doing such a low dirty job as shaving another person’s head! Hair is filthy! He should just hire a barber to do this! He shouldn’t do this. This is degradation of the Brahminical standards.’
Now we know why Srila Bakthisiddanta Saraswathi delivered that famous lecture – ‘Brahminism and Vaisnavism’. What is Vaisnav? Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya explained:
naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaishyo na shudro
naham varni na ca griha-patir no vana-stho yatir va
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanu dasah
das, das, das anu das. “I am not a Brahmin, not a Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra; nor am I a Brahmachari, Grihastha, Vanaprashta, Sanyasi. These are all temporary designations. My eternal aspiration and my only real identity is that I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the insignificant atomic particle of the devotee of Krishna.”
That mentality is Vaisnava. Krishna himself washed the feet of all the guests that came into Maharaj Yudishtir’s assembly. Sri Chaintanya Mahaprabhu performed all the most menial tasks to his devotees, even to Haridas Thakur, who was born into a family of outcastes. So Vaisnava means,
trinad api sunicena
taror api sahishnuna
kirtaniyah sada harihi
That is a Vaisnava: to be humble as a straw on a street, more tolerant than a tree, to be eager to offer all respects to others, and to expect none in return. In this consciousness we can all chant the holy names of Krishna. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
“Seeing this sincerity in Jiva, Rupa Goswami gave him initiation. Not only did he give him initiation, but Srila Rupa Goswami personally with his own hands carved the deities of Radha Damodar and then he established the worship and handed it over to Jiva Goswami, his most blessed and dear disciple.” – Radhanath Swami
And Jiva Goswami, when he worshipped Radha Damodar, it was with such love. It is described in our holy scriptures that he would every day see the lila of Radha Damodar being performed by the deity. The deity would tell Jiva Goswami with his own mouth, “Jiva, please prepare some food for me; I am hungry.” Jiva Goswami would prepare the food and offer it, and the Lord would invite Jiva Goswami to stay right in the little deity room and watch him eat. One day Jiva Goswami heard Radha Damodar playing his flute. Radha Damodar called him and told him, “Come and watch what I do.”
“He saw Radha Damodar in his most enchanting, beautiful, youthful form, performing intimate pastimes just for the pleasure of Jiva Goswami. Seeing this, Jiva Goswami fell to the ground unconscious in ecstasy while weeping and crying and rolling on the ground.” – Radhanath Swami
Defeat of Rupa Narayan and pastimes in the presence of Vallabha Bhattacharya
One day, one very egoistic pundit of the name Rupa Narayan came to Vrindavan. He proclaimed himself to be ‘Digvijay Pandit’ – a scholar who had traveled all over the entire land of India challenging every scholar to debate and had defeated all of them. He had a document called Jayapatra, where each scholar had to sign his name and write, “I am hereby certifying that I have been defeated by Rupa Narayan.” He came to Vrindavan as the last place, as he had heard the glories of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. He challenged them to a debate. Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis, they were not concerned with winning debates; they were only concerned with glorifying Krishna. Why should they waste their time like this? He said, “I challenge you.” And they said, “We accept defeat. You are such a great scholar and we have no hope of competing against someone like you.” Rupa Narayan said, “Oh! But I have heard, everyone is boasting about how you are such great scholars; come debate with me.” Rupa Goswami said, “No, no, you know how disciples are! They always over-glorify their gurus, and we are not much of anything. Why should we waste your time?” Rupa Narayan said, “Ah! You say like that, then you sign the certificate: we certify that we have been defeated by Rupa Narayan – by Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami.”
Now he had already performed the task. Every famous pundit there was, he had their names. But he heard that the little Jiva Goswami, he was very learned and an upcoming great scholar. So he was thinking, “Better to defeat him now so that later on people will not think that there is any stone unturned.” He went and challenged Jiva Goswami. “I have already defeated your two uncles Sanatan Goswami and Rupa Goswami; your Guru has signed my certificate.”
“Ah! What are you saying? My guru has been defeated by a puffed up wretch like you!” He looked at the certificate by Rupa Goswami in his own beautiful handwriting which was like rows of pearls. He understood that his Guru Maharaj did this only out of their humility but this man was going to misuse their humility to blaspheme them. He said, “Alright, I accept your challenge.” He sat on the bank of Jamuna for many days and in the end Jiva Goswami conquered over Rupa Narayan. He was so humiliated; he was defeated by such a young person. He was irrefutably slaughtered in this debate. He left Vrindavan never to be returned.
Jiva Goswami explained to Rupa Goswami what had happened. Rupa Goswami, he said that this was very bad. “You have taken to the renounced order of life. Renunciation is humility. It means no desire for name or fame. You wasted your precious time debating with a mundane scholar only for your own reputation! No one who has any desire for honor or distinction can live in the land of Vrindavan. Therefore you must leave immediately.”
“Please note, Jiva Goswami did not do this for his own name, he did this to protect the name of his guru and the whole sampradaya. Therefore, he was perfectly correct in what he did. Srila Prabhupada explains that a devotee is more humble than a blade of grass when any infliction comes upon himself. But to protect the dignity of Krishna and other Vaisnavas, that devotee can be very bold.” – Radhanath Swami
Just like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for himself, when Ramchandra Puri was blaspheming him terribly, he said, “Yes, yes, what he is saying is correct; he is my well wisher.” But when there was an injustice to Nityananda Prabhu, he became like fire, ready to protect him. But Jiva Goswami, he had such humility, even though he was perfectly right in what he did. When Rupa Goswami said, “You are proud, you are not fit to live in vrindavan,” from the core of his heart, he was thinking – “Yes, this is correct. I am too proud; I am offensive and I must leave.”
He went to Mathura for approximately one year. He performed severe tapasya, fasting, praying, weeping, crying, and trying to atone for his false ego. It was at that time Srila Sanatan Goswami came to Mathura and found him. He returned to Vrindavan. Sanatan Goswami was Rupa Goswami’s guru. He said “Rupa Goswami, you are not attentive to the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” Now if someone said that to you and me, we would say, “What you mean! How can you… dare you say that to me!” Rupa Goswami said, “Oh! Please, please tell me how I can improve. How am I deviating? Please enlighten me.” Sanatan Goswami said, “Oh Rupa! Please tell me what the cardinal principles of Lord Chaitanya are.” So he (Rupa) named chanting of the holy names, service to the Vaisnavas – Vaisnav seva – and then he mentioned compassion to the living beings – Jivedoy. When he said Jivedoy, Sanatan Goswami acknowledged, and Rupa Goswami understood – I am not properly compassionate to Jiva. So he called him back.
Another occasion like this took place. Rupa Goswami was writing his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. When the very senior great Vaisnava Vallabha Bhattacharya came to visit them, he asked to see Rupa Goswami’s work and Vallabha Bhattacharya said, “I see some grammatical mistakes here.” Rupa Goswami said, “Oh! You do very good. Please take the manuscript and correct it in any way you like.” So he took the manuscript, he went to the Jamuna to bathe, and there was Jiva Goswami. He said, “Your Guru Maharaj gave his manuscript to correct.” Jiva Goswami, with great humility, said, “To correct? Rupa Goswami doesn’t make mistakes! Please, can you tell me what mistake?” Vallabha Bhattacharya explained and Jiva goswami described with such incredible precise philosophical conviction how what he (Rupa) said was perfectly right. Vallabha Bhat was astounded – what kind of scholar is this! “Rupa Goswami is right. You are right.” He went back to Rupa Goswami and said, “I’m sorry and should never have taken your manuscript. Everything you say is perfect.” Rupa Goswami said, “What are you talking about? I thought you were going to edit my work!” He said “No, no, no. Your disciple Jiva explained it to me. It is perfect.” Rupa Goswami called Jiva Goswami and said, “He is a senior Vaisnav; he is senior to you, he is senior to me; he wanted to do some service and you are correcting him?! This kind of false pride is not tolerated in Vrindavan. You must get out.” So again he left to Vrindavan. This time he went to Nanda Ghat on the bank of Jamuna in a very secluded place. That is the place where Nanda Maharaj was arrested by Varuna.
“According to Bakthi Ratnakar, he lived in a little thatched hut; according to some, he lived in a hole that was residence of crocodiles in the ground previously. Then there he was fasting and constantly praying to the Lord for forgiving his offences and loudly crying the holy names” – Radhanath Swami
Oh Sanatan! Oh Swamiji! We have a Babaji in our village that is more renounced than anyone else. All he does is cry underground in a hole all day and night. He practically doesn’t eat. We throw some roti flour; he just mixes it with some Jamuna water and eats it; he doesn’t even cook it. He is constantly crying out the names of Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Gauranga Mahaprabhu, Sri Sri Radha Krishna. Sanatan Goswami: “Ah! This must be Jiva Goswami.”
He was in a very terrible state of health. Sanatan Goswami brought him back to Vrindavan and Rupa Goswami, seeing the sincereity and the humility of his disciple, personally nursed him back to health with his own hands.
“So, one may think – why is Rupa Goswami so irrational and cruel? But it’s not like that. Rupa Goswami, Jiva Goswami, they descended from the spiritual world on the order of Lord Chaitanya to manifest the higher principles of Vaisnava behavior. By doing this, Rupa Goswami glorified Jiva Goswami for all time to come. Although such a great scholar, such a great acharya, still he was so humble, so very much eager to be corrected, so un-argumentative with his superiors. Through this incident, these two great souls revealed the highest behavior patterns of true Vaisnavas – trinad api sunicena taror api sahishnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harihi.’ He revealed to the world Jiva Goswami as the very embodiment of this verse – more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, ready to offer all respect to others and expect none in return, and in this state of mind Jiva Goswami was constantly chanting Krishna’s names.” – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami exaplins Srila Jiva Goswami’s role as the acarya in the sampradaya
After Srila Rupa and Sanatan left this world, Jiva Goswami was unanimously accepted as the acarya of the sampradaya. And throughout Orissa, Bengal, Vrindavan and all other areas, all the followers of Lord Chaitanya accepted Jiva Goswami as their leader. All the other spiritual masters – Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Lokanatha Goswami, Raghunath Das Goswami, Hrday Chaitanya – they all accepted Jiva Goswami as their leader. There was not this autonomous idea – if I am big, no one can be bigger than me. This is the tendency. When we get some position, prestige or power, the more we have, the less we can tolerate anyone above us. But Vaisnavas – Narottamdas Takur, he had hundreds and thousands of disciples; Shyamananda had hundreds and thousands of disciples; Raghunathbatta Goswami had some of the greatest generals and most powerful learned scholars as his disciples – but still they all accepted Jiva Goswami as their leader, and previously, Rupa and Sanatan as their leader. One day in a dream, Rupa and Sanatan Goswami appeared to Jiva Goswami and told him, “Today Srinivasa Acharya will come to you. You will recognize him in his all beautiful qualities. He is very sad in his heart.” And they told him the story of how he went to Puri to meet Lord Chaitanya, but Lord Chaitanya left this world on his way. Then Lord Chaitanya told him to take shelter of Gadadara Pandit, but Gadadara Pandit left the world. Then he was told to go to Vrindavan to take shelter of Rupa and Sanatan, but when he arrived at Mathura, he found out that Rupa and Sanatan had left the world. “Now we have appeared and sent him to you. Tonight during evening arati at the Radha Govinda temple, he will be there. You should find him and you should bring him to Gopalabhata Goswami to take initiation. And later on you should give him all the books of the Goswamis and send him to Bengal to distribute them.”
“So Jiva Goswami became the siksha guru for Srinivasa Acarya and then Narottamdas Takur and Shyamananda. It was he who personally gave him the respectable titles and it was with his blessings that they learned the most intimate details of the scriptures and understood in the deepest most unparalleled forms the realizations of pure bakthi.” – Radhanath Swami
One day Jiva Goswami called all the saints of Vrindavan to Radha Govinda temple and announced, “On the fifth day of the bright moon of the month of November-December I am going to be sending these three personalities to distribute the Goswamis’ books, and from their efforts these books will be distributed all over the world.” He sent Srinivasa Takur, Narottamdas Takur and Shyamananda to visit all the great devotees in different places to get their blessings. And they came and had another meeting in the Radha Govinda temple. Jiva Goswami and the devotees prayed to the deity of Govindaji – “Please empower Srinivas; please empower that their mission will be a success.” As they were praying, the garland of the deity came off his neck and Jiva Goswami placed it on Srinivasa Acarya. There was a procession to Mathura on bullock carts which carried the books, and Jiva Goswami embracing again and again Srinivas Acarya and Narottamdas Takur and Syamananda Prabhu, sent them to Bengal. The oceanic topics of Jiva Goswami are unlimited. But small persons as ourselves, what can we say? For the purification of our hearts, it is our great fortune to try to share something about the attributes of our divine spiritual forefathers such as Srila Jiva Goswami.