Sat Sandarbhas (Six Sandarbhas) is a 16th-century Vaishnava Sanskrit text, authored by Gaudiya Vaishnava theologian Jiva Goswami. According to Jiva Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami had already done the preliminary work on Sat Sandarbhas but did not complete it. Jiva took the work of Gopala Bhatta and expanded it into six parts, systematically presenting the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and providing scriptural evidences. Jiva Goswami also wrote an extensive commentary to the first four Sandarbhas called Sarva-saṁvādinī.

1st Jul to 30th Nov 2020

The six Sandarbhas are as follows:

  • Tattva-sandarbha
  • Bhagavata-sandarbha
  • Paramatma-sandarbha
  • Krishna-sandarbha
  • Bhakti-sandarbha
  • Priti-sandarbha

Overview of Sandarbhas

The first four Sandarbhas deal primarily with sambandha-jnana, that is, knowledge of God, the living entities, the world, and the relationships between them. The Bhakti-sandarbha covers abhidheya, or the means of reviving the personal relationship between the living entity and Bhagavan, while the final book, Priti-sandarbha, describes prayojana, the ultimate perfected state of pure love for Krishna.

The first three Sandarbhas address questions of ontology in a relatively non-sectarian way, using criteria of knowledge and proof-texts that would be acceptable to an audience much broader than the followers of Caitanya. Only when major issues regarding the status of the world, the personal nature of divinity, and the individuality of the jiva have been settled does Jiva Gosvami go on (in the Krishna Sandarbha) to identify that divinity with Krishna and describe his unique characteristics, relying on scriptural sources that are more internal to the tradition. This is interesting, for it means that Jiva exhaustively describes Bhagavan without seriously describing Krishna; that he explains the concept of lila without addressing rasa; and that he establishes the status of the internal energy (antaranga Shakti) without mentioning Sri Radha. Of course, in the process of elaborating the qualities and characteristics of Bhagavan, Jiva broadly identifies him with Vishnu/Krishna, but this is an assumption that many Vedantic writers will make, if only for the sake of demonstrating the applicability of general principles. Vishnu/Krishna is present throughout the first three Sandarbhas, but not in the way Caitanya Vaishnavas know him. Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, the Lord of the cows, and the beloved of Sri Radha emerges only in the later treatises.

This kind of less-sectarian approach is a clear indicator of Jiva’s Vedantic intentions in the first three Sandarbhas. Engagement in Vedantic discourse requires awareness of a universe of discourse much broader than one’s own community. Eric Lott notes, for example, that there is a “striking difference in style” between Ramanuja’s Vedantic writings and his devotional ones. “There is a remarkable avoidance of strictly sectarian material when he writes as a Vedantin, even though his Vedantic formulation remains based scrupulously on the theology of his Vaishnava tradition.” While it is true that “it is in the very nature of a theistic interpretation of Vedanta to remain closely associated with a particular religious community,” still, a theist such as Ramanuja or Jiva would not “intend his Vedantic writings solely for his own sect”. In the case of Caitanya Vaishnavism, such sectarianism would go against one of the main motivations for Vedantic discourse identified in Chapter 1 of this book, namely, to provide a generally acceptable, philosophical foundation for the practice of bhakti.

Overview of Sat Sandarbhas by Srila Radhika Raman Das


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