From the traditional Indian perspective, Vyāsa is the complier of the Vedas and he himself wrote the explanation of Vedānta in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Therein he establishes that the Absolute Truth is indeed a person. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu revaled that the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the natural and authoritative commentary on the Vedānta-sūtras. Śrī Jīva finds support for this in scripture. Being composed in Sanskrit, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is prone to interpretation. Hence the need arose for a thorough analysis that could resolve the thorny issues of interpretation. For this purpose, and to synthesize the message of the entire gamut of Vedic literature, Jīva Gosvāmī wrote the Ṣaṭ Sandarbha.
Through the Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has provided the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava School with a clear identity on a par with those of Śrī Rāmānujācārya, Śrī Madhvācārya, and others. He drew freely from the entire heritage of Vaiṣṇava philosophical thought available to him. Śrī Jīva wrote no important conclusion without supporting scriptural references, and yet his conclusions are not mere repetitions, but bear the mark of originality and deserve independent consideration. They are widely acknowledged within the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition as Jīva Gosvāmī’s philosophical magnum opus.
The original name of the Ṣaṭ Sandarbha was Bhāgavata Sandarbha, indicating that it is an exposition and analysis of the essential message of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. In this work, Śrī Jīva offers a comprehensive and exhaustive analysis of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and concludes the highest feature of the Absolute is a personal God. Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sat Sandarbhas consist of six parts, each delving into a different aspect of the Bhāgavatam philosophy.
First is the Tattva Sandarbha, which has two divisions. In the first division, Śrī Jīva sets forth the pramāṇas, 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, Bhagavat Sandarbha, Jīva Gosvāmī speaks about the Bhagavān, His abode, and His associates. He demonstrates with conclusive evidence that Bhagavān is the complete and indivisible Absolute Reality and that all other manifestations are dependent on and thus inferior to Him.
In Paramātma Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva tells of the three manifestations of Bhagavān’s Immanent Being and describes how the Immanent Being is related with each individual self in the material world. Śrī Jīva also describes māyā, or the external potency of God.
In Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, he shows that the form of Kṛṣṇa is the original form of Bhagavān and explains why He is the object of loving devotional service. Then, in the Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva establishes the path of devotion as the sole means to direct God realization. Finally, in Prīti Sandarbha, he analyses prema-bhakti, devotional service in pure love of God, and shows how it is the supreme goal of life for all living beings.
"The Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas were the first works I studied under my Guru Maharaja. The memories of that amazing experience are locked in my heart. Guru Maharaja always lamented about the neglect of the Sandarbhas by the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. He stressed that without studying them, one would not know the philosophy of Mahāprabhu. Just by studying these works, one is transported to another world. I received the inspiration from Guru Maharaja to present the Sandarbhas to the English speaking world and also to found Jiva Institute, a place where students can come and study Śrī Jīva’s and other Gauḍīya’s works."
Director, Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies
“The Sandarbhas of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmin represent the highest exegetical and philosophical theology of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava school. Satyanārāyaṇa dāsa Bābā is uniquely positioned to translate them since he was trained by the 20th century's most prolific and knowledgeable Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava scholar, Śrī Haridāsa Śāstrī, whose published editions and Hindī translations and commentaries of Gauḍīya works are well known to all scholars of the tradition. Satyanārāyaṇa brings a sensitivity to academic discourse, having taught at a number of American and European universities, as well as a seasoned understanding of Indian logic, grammar, hermeneutics, and poetics, all of which Jīva draws upon in his Sandarbhas. This first installment, the Bhagavat Sandarbha, will surely be a welcomed and widely used text by Krishna devotees, Indologists, and scholars of Indian religion in general.”
Professor of Religion, Mississippi State University
“Gaudiya Vaishnavism is one of the most important traditions to emerge in devotional Hinduism, and is primarily responsible for the eruption of Krishna devotion that spread across especially the North of India in the 16th century. Despite being a grass roots movement, the school has deep scholastic roots in the Vedanta tradition and larger philosophical landscape of its time. This philosophical basis is encapsulated in the six-volume Sandarbha treatise written by Jiva Gosvamin, the primary theologian of the tradition. Satyanarayana Dasa's rendition of the Bhagavat Sandarbha, to be followed by the remaining volumes, combines superb Sanskrit and hermeneutical skills with academic standards of scholarship. This volume will be well received by all scholars and students of Vedanta and devotional Hinduism.”
Edwin F. Bryant
Professor of Hindu Religion and Philosophy, Rutgers University
Of the Six Sandarbhas, Tattva Sandarbha is the smallest in size, but not in importance. As its name suggests, it discusses the Reality (tattva) that is the ultimate subject to be understood and realized. Tattva also means “essence,” and thus Tattva Sandarbha provides the essence of what is to be elaborated upon in the rest of the Sandarbhas. Thus, it serves as an introduction to them.
It may be said that Tattva Sandarbha lays the foundation for entry into the subject matter of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, a detailed analysis of which follows in the rest of the Sandarbhas. It does so particularly by providing the epistemological viewing frame through which Bhagavān is directly intuited, devotionally served, and established ultimately as the supreme object of divine love.
The second book of Jīva Gosvāmī’s Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas, is quite simply a book about Bhagavān, or God, the Supreme Being. To avoid narrow and misleading notions, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī first establishes an objective and far-reaching context in which Bhagavān can be self-evidently understood, free from constrictive or reductionist interpretations. In striking opposition to popular spiritual ideas, such as "All is One," he supplies the reader with knowledge of Ultimate Reality with unparalleled precision and exacting detail.
This Reality, which is described as Nondual Consciousness (advaya-jñāna), is realized in three aspects: as Brahman (God without any qualities, the Unqualified Absolute), as Paramātma (the Immanent Self residing in each of us), and as Bhagavān (the all-powerfull, all-blissful, infinitely charming playful Person). Jīva Gosvāmī analyzes each of these aspects and demonstrates with conclusive evidence that Bhagavān is the complete and indivisible Absolute Reality and that all other manifestations are dependent on, and thus subordinate to, Him.
In Bhagavat Sandarbha, Satyanarayana Dasa has translated the entire Sanskrit text, which is rendered in the original Devanagari script, and has given commentary on each section. Special attention has been given to the topic of epistemology, which is the beginning point and foundation of Śrī Jīva’s exposition.
Among the four Sandarbhas that delineate the knowledge of sambandha, Paramātma Sandarbha is the most important because it analyzes the nature of the self and its conditioning by maya. We have to begin where we stand at present. Without this knowledge, we cannot know in which direction to move, even if we are clear about the destination.
Some spiritualists are of the opinion that it is enough to know the process and goal. This situation can be compared to a person lost in a forest, who knows his destination but does not know which direction to take. Without knowing our present condition, we cannot become clear about the process. For this reason, Sri Jiva Goswami has explained sambandha in the first four Sandarbhas, the present volume being the third in this series. Thus, Paramātma Sandarbha is crucial to imbibe the knowledge of sambandha, and every serious practitioner should study it carefully. The truths contained in this book can uproot many of the common misconceptions that may be lurking in our minds, sometimes even without our being aware of them. Among these misconceptions, the most troublesome are those that are akin to radical nondualism. Even Vaisnavas on the path of bhakti can be subject to such pitfalls.
Here a list of the essential points discussed in this volume:
• The difference between the Paramātma and Bhagavān manifestations of tattva.
• The three primary manifestations of Paramātma and their functions.
• The difference between the terms jiva and atma.
• The inherent nature of the atma.
• Maya and its various functions.
• The relationship between maya and the jiva.
• The mystery behind the bondage and release of the jiva.
• The dynamics involved in the evolution of the cosmos.
• Examination of the nature of the world as real or unreal
• The intent behind the acts of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the cosmos.
• Exploration of the question as to why God does not relieve the suffering of humanity.
• The unbiased nature of God.
Paramātma Sandarbha is the most philosophical of the Six Sandarbhas, and it demands focused attention and an unbiased attitude on the part of the reader. Anyone who is willing to take up this challenge will reap rich benefits from Sri Jiva’s profound knowledge and unique insight into the above subjects. From my lifetime of study of the systems of Indian philosophy, I am unaware of any other book that so lucidly explains the nature of atma, Paramātma, maya, and the cosmos (jagat). My commentaries are based upon my studies of the book under my Gurudeva. I share them with my readers and trust that they will benefit from them on their spiritual journey, as I did on mine.
Within the entire gamut of Vedic literature, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha stands out as a unique and brilliant investigation into the constitutional being of Svayaṁ Bhagavān. Who or what Bhagavān actually is in His own identity is not at all clear to people in general and also to the majority of spiritual practitioners. Prior to discussing Bhagavān in general in Bhagavat Sandarbha and Svayaṁ Bhagavān in particular in this fourth volume, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī laid the foundation for an existentially grounded inquiry in the first volume itself, by making evident the primordial and fundamental nature of the Reality (tattva) to be investigated. After first defining Reality as nondual consciousness with reference to the famous vadanti verse (SB 1.2.11), he proceeded to explain how the One Nondual Absolute is self-disclosed as Bhagavān to the devotees, as the Immanent Self, Paramātmā, to the yogīs, and as unqualified Brahman to the jñānīs.
In spite of this elaborate and systematic investigation, the ownmost identity of Bhagavān in His essential being and highest completion had not yet been addressed. This is an essential prerequisite for establishing the optimal orientation of being in regard to Bhagavān, which determines the nature of the abhidheya, or the means undertaken to realize Him directly. To address this predicament, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī wrote Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha.
Establishing Kṛṣṇa as Svayaṁ Bhagavān is the principal theme of Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha. This is also one of the chief distinctive features of the Gauḍīya School of Vaiṣṇavism. Although it contravenes the popular belief of Hindu indologists, this understanding is crucial for the highest type of devotion, uttama-bhakti , known as rāgānugā. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī thus endeavors to dispel any doubts in this regard. This is his unique contribution to Hindu theology.