In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Jīva Gosvāmin

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biography and Hagiography
  • Jīva’s Poetry
  • Contribution to Poetics
  • Contribution to Grammar
  • The Doctrine of Paradoxical Difference-and-Nondifference (Acintyabhedābheda)
  • The Svakīyā-Parakīyā Debate
  • Issues in the Theology and Practice of Bhakti

Hinduism Jīva Gosvāmin
David Buchta
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0201


Jīva Gosvāmin (b. c. 1516–d. c. 1608 CE) was the most prolific theologian from the formative period of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, the tradition of bhakti (devotion) to Kṛṣṇa inspired by the Bengali saint Caitanya (b. 1486–d. 1533 CE), who was himself viewed as a direct manifestation of Kṛṣṇa. (See the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism articles “Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism” and “Caitanya.”) Jīva settled in Vṛndāvana, the village associated with Kṛṣṇa’s earthly play (līlā), joining his uncles, Rūpa and Sanātana, and three other followers of Caitanya who came to be known as the “Six Gosvāmins.” Their works provided the theological foundation for the newly developing tradition. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which includes extensive poetic narration of Kṛṣṇa’s play, occupied the highest canonical status in this tradition. Thus, Jīva’s magnum opus was a series of six topical essays on the Bhāgavata, called the Bhāgavata-sandarbhas (Essays on the Bhāgavata), or simply the Ṣaṭ-sandarbhas (Six essays). An auto-commentary, the Sarvasaṃvādinī, covers portions of the first four. The first of these sandarbhas, the Tattvasandarbha, has received the most scholarly attention, particularly its opening arguments for the canonicity of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. To these, Jīva added a Kramasandarbha (Sequential essay), a verse-by-verse commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Jīva also wrote commentaries on other key canonical texts important to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition and on some of the works of his uncle Rūpa Gosvāmin. In addition, Jīva composed works of poetry and treatises on poetics and grammar. While the earliest foundational theological literature of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition can largely be credited to Rūpa and Sanātana, Jīva developed and expanded their theology of bhakti, often addressing details not examined by his uncles, and adding his own distinctive ideas and modes of argumentation. Jīva had a strong influence on later theological developments in the tradition, either directly or indirectly. The most prominent hagiography of Caitanya, the Caitanyacaritāmṛta of Jīva’s younger contemporary Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, made the theology of the Gosvāmins, including that of Jīva, more accessible to a Bengali-speaking audience. Jīva was also an important mentor to three of the most important Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas of the generation immediately following Caitanya: Śrīnivāsa, Narottama Dāsa, and Śyāmānanda. Jīva showed a degree of conservatism on certain key theological issues, particularly in his claim that Kṛṣṇa and his lovers, Rādhā and other cowherd women (gopīs), were ultimately married, an idea that became the subject of much contestation. While Jīva is regularly discussed in the scholarship on Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology, many of his works have not yet received scholarly examinations or translations.

General Overviews

There are a good number of general overviews of the theology of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, and many of these rely heavily on the writings of Jīva Gosvāmin, such as Kapoor 1976. Holdrege 2015 likewise offers an overview of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology, but through the conceptual lens of embodiment. Dasgupta 1961 and De 1961 have distinct sections discussing Jīva and his writings. Brahmachari 1974 and Sastri 1996 provide book-length introductions to Jīva’s thought. For an important critique of De 1961 and Brahmachari 1974, however, see Edelmann and Dasa 2014 (cited under the Epistemology of the Tattvasandarbha). Valuable encyclopedia entries on Jīva include Dāsa 1957 and Gupta 2012.

  • Bhattacharji, Umesh Chandra. “The Philosophy of Jīva Gosvāmin.” In Commemorative Essays Presented to Professor Kashinath Bapuji Pathak. Edited by S. K. Belvalkar, 200–209. Poona, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1934.

    Introduces Jīva’s epistemology and the nature of and relationship between the individual selves, God, and the world, as well as a very brief comment on Jīva’s presentation of bhakti (devotion).

  • Brahmachari, Mahanamabrata. Vaiṣṇava Vedānta: The Philosophy of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Calcutta: Das Gupta, 1974.

    An expanded version of the author’s 1937 dissertation. Paints a very general picture of Jīva’s theology, comparing it with the philosophies of prominent thinkers from both India and the West, also portrayed in broad strokes. Despite the title’s focus on Jīva, the book also draws significantly from Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja.

  • Dāsa, Haridāsa, ed. Śrīśrīgauḍīya-Vaiṣṇava-Abhidhāna. Vols. 2, 3, and 4. Navadvīpa, India: Haribola Kuṭīra, 1957.

    This Bengali-language encyclopedia of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition is perhaps the single most valuable source for studying the tradition. Volume 2 includes biographies, including one for Jīva, while Volume 3 includes entries on texts, many treating Jīva’s various works.

  • Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. 4, Indian Pluralism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1961.

    The final chapter includes a survey of Jīva’s theology derived primarily from his sandarbhas, with Sanskrit passages consistently cited in footnotes.

  • De, Sushil Kumar. Early History of the Vaiṣṇava Faith and Movement in Bengal. 2d ed. Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1961.

    Still a critical foundation to the study of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, this volume offers a biography of Jīva and the other Gosvāmins and provides a summary of Jīva’s sandarbhas and his poetry, with a negative assessment of the latter, typical for De.

  • Gupta, Ravi M. “Jīva Gosvāmī.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. 4. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, 249–257. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.

    Encyclopedia entry that overviews Jīva’s life, lists his works, and highlights some of his key contributions and his influence on the later Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition.

  • Holdrege, Barbara A. Bhakti and Embodiment Fashioning Divine Bodies and Devotional Bodies in Kṛṣṇa Bhakti. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015.

    Examines key Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theological issues through the conceptual framework of embodiment, discussing the divine body of Kṛṣṇa, the physical and meditational body of a devotee, and the embodiment of divinity in text, holy name, and sacred space. Draws on the writings of Rūpa Gosvāmin, Jīva Gosvāmin, and Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja.

  • Kapoor, O. B. L. The Philosophy and Religion of Śrī Caitanya. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1976.

    A detailed overview of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology, drawing primarily from the Caitanyacaritāmṛta and Jīva’s sandarbhas.

  • Sastri, Asoke Chatterjee. Jiva [sic] Gosvāmin. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1996.

    Offers summaries of Jīva’s sandarbhas and very brief accounts of three of his poetic works, with a very concise sketch of Jīva’s life. This book provides a handy introduction to Jīva’s thought, but only draws on a small body of secondary literature, offering no new insight of its own.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.