Category Archives: Jiva Institute Activities

“Lessons I Learned from My Guru the Hard Way”

By Joshika Devi Dasi (Dr. Jessica Richmond)

joshika with book "Lessons I learned from my Guru"
Joshika with her new book

I had no idea what it really meant to have a guru until I met Babaji. And I definitely had no clue what it meant to travel around the world and teach Vedic Psychology with Babaji within a few months after meeting him.

Needless to say, I was in for a big shock over the next few years after taking diksha as I continued to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire, attempting to avoid all the painful ways that Babaji was trying to invoke change in me. As a psychotherapist for over one decade, I thought I knew my mind pretty well. But it turns out I was dead wrong. And Babaji was not shy about showing me that, albeit in his cryptic, mysterious ways. At first, I wrote about these moments in my personal journal as a way to reflect upon and digest them. Eventually I started posting some of these stories on my blog. The day after each post my inbox would be overflowing with emails from people sharing similar stories. No matter from what walk of life, somehow, they could all relate to my stories.

When I shared my surprise with Babaji, he explained to me that storytelling is the most powerful way to teach, citing examples of the most exceptional teachers of the Indian culture that employed storytelling. He revealed that storytelling is a brilliant way to get the message across to someone without bruising their ahankara (ego). For no one likes it when their mistake, character flaw, inadequacy, or stupidity is pointed out directly. It is much more enjoyable to hear a story of someone else’s ego getting smashed. With this inspiration, I set forth to write a book of my stories. Many of my stories in the book are extracted from my original blogs written in 2019, but have been amplified with deeper explanations, and reflections. A very special bonus is that Babaji took the time to read the entire draft and then to personally infuse his wise words throughout this book. What a rare and true blessing this book has turned out to be.

When I gave Babaji the first copy of the printed book, I was so curious what he would say. After a few minutes in silence and suspense, of watching him carefully review the pages, he said, “I want that all of my students read this book. The lessons in here are crucial for everyone to learn. This book can expedite the serious seeker’s progress since many potent lessons are nicely compressed into just one book. What took you years of pain and suffering to figure out, Joshika, others can benefit from by applying the lessons to themselves immediately. The smartest people learn from other’s mistakes.” 

This book, Lessons Learned from My Guru The Hard Way, contains 11 chapters, each revealing a window into one of my experiences of being faced with all the uncomfortable ways in which I was stuck. Some of the topics of my stories include how to navigate:

  • a jealous boss
  • my own jealousy
  • caffeine addiction
  • death and loss
  • love
  • phobias
  • the silent treatment

Each chapter ends with some of my reflections on how things might have been different, if I hadn’t been so averse to change. Each chapter concludes with a final “Lesson Learned.” I have also included some space at the end of each chapter for the reader to reflect upon each story and to jot down their own insights or lessons learned.

So I leave it up to you. My personal stories on the pages of this book are available to anyone who is courageous enough to use them as an introspection tool into their own heart. I hope that by sharing my experiences and insights, it can not only expedite your learnings, but also spare you some of the suffering along the way.

Hare Krishna.  

Joshika Richmond, PhD

Vedic Psychologist

You can order the book from our Store here



New Publication: Pearls of Wisdom – Questions and Answers with Sri Satyanarayana Dasa

In Bhagavad Gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that the living entity is under the influence of ignorance and therefore in a state of bewilderment, ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ (Gītā 5.15). When a person is in ignorance, their faculty of discernment is eclipsed. As a consequence, they are unable to make proper decisions, thus rendering them ineffective in achieving their cherished goals of peace and happiness. Therefore, ignorance is the root cause of our suffering. Since this ignorance has no beginning (SB 11.22.10), a conditioned living being is called nitya-baddha, or ever conditioned (SB 11.11.7).

Pearls of Wisdom bunchMoreover, just as we have beginningless ignorance about our own self and source, we also have beginningless inquisitiveness. From our very birth, we are inquisitive about everything around us. This inquisitiveness is the most intense drive that we experience. It begins from our very birth and continues until death. Wherever we go and whomever we meet, we are always curious to know more. In fact, much of our dialogue begins with a question. We are always hungry for new pieces of information. Yet, no matter how much we acquire, we never seem to be satisfied. No one thinks that they know enough and that there is nothing more to know. Even the greatest scientists of modern times feel inadequate in their knowledge about the world.

Unfortunately, although we have the gift of an inquisitive nature, most of us utilize it only to learn about mundane subjects. We use it to sustain our material life and get material pleasure. This, however, does not bring us complete satisfaction or an end to our suffering. The real use of our inquisitive nature is to know the ultimate source of our existence. In Upaniṣadic terminology, that source is called Tattva or Brahman. Therefore, while answering the second question of the sages assembled at Naimiṣāraṇya, “What is the essential engagement by which the self can attain complete fulfillment?” (SB 1.1.11), Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī states that the purpose of life is to inquire about Tattva and not just to work for material pleasure (SB 1.2.10). It is only by knowing this Tattva that our inquisitiveness will become fulfilled, yasmin vijñāte sarvaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati.

Most śāstras, such as the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata, are composed in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and student. In the olden days, the student would personally approach a teacher or a learned sage to pose questions and clarify doubts. In the modern age, however, the internet gives an inquisitive person the facility to engage in conversation with someone far away and ask them questions. There may not be any personal contact between them. In fact, they may even be complete strangers. 

Our new publication “Pearls of Wisdom – Questions and Answers with Satyanarayana Dasa from A to Z” is a collection of such questions and answers on a variety of topics related to bhakti, be it philosophical, social, or practical aspects. Some of these questions were emailed to Babaji directly, while others were asked via our website. Sometimes, the questions posed by one person can be illuminating to others as well, for no one can conceive of every type of question. Additionally, one may also not always get the opportunity to ask questions. Therefore, for the benefit of an inquisitive person, we have compiled these questions and answers in the form of a book. The questions related to a specific topic have been grouped together although they may have been asked by different people at different times. For the purpose of maintaining privacy, the identities of the questioners have not been revealed. We hope that this book will be helpful for people on their spiritual journey. The replies given here are according to the school of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, whose theology is the acintya-bhedābheda-vāda of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

The book was printed in Europe and is presently only available there. It can be ordered through our Online Store.

New and Revised Edition of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Māhātmyam

We are happy to announce that a new and revised edition of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Māhātmyam has just been published. This book was originally authored and published when Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji was a member of ISKCON as a Centennial offering for ISKCON’s  Founder-Ācārya Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda.

It is a small and easy-to-ready book in glorification of Śrīmad Bhāgavata. It narrates the allegorical story of Bhakti personified, who become afflicted by the age of Kali and then rejuvenated by sage Nārada Muni. It also contains other stories that illustrate the auspiciousness of hearing the Bhāgavata in the age of Kali.

Glimpses from the Introduction

In the dark age of Kali, bhakti is the only process for getting free from material conditioning.

Bhakti is achieved only by the holy association of a pure devotee of Bhagavān. Specifically, one must hear kṛṣṇakathā from such a devotee. Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the best source of kṛṣṇakathā. It presents questions and answers related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, His name, form, pastimes, energies, and various avatāras. It was manifested by Śrī Vyāsa and is the essence of all Vedic literature. 

Bhāgavata Purāṇa is so potent that it captivated the heart of Śukadeva Gosvāmī, a self-realized person completely absorbed in Brahman. He ran away from home right after his birth but returned as soon as he heard a few verses of Śrīmad Bhāgavata.

Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the very life and soul of the Vaiṣṇavas, especially the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu called it spotless (amala Purāṇa). He would hear it from His dear associate, Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita, at Narendra Sarovara in Jagannātha Purī. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī lists hearing Śrīmad Bhāgavataas one of the five essential processes of devotional service. Indeed, it is so wonderful that even impersonalists, who do not consider Bhagavān’s form or abode transcendental, cannot resist studying and commenting upon it.

This book is a translation of six chapters of the Padma Purāṇa, Uttara Khaṇḍa, entitled Śrīmad-bhāgavata-māhātmya, the glories of Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Śrīmad Bhāgavata is the mature fruit of the Vedic tree and therefore, can grant all desires. In India, there is a tradition of reciting Bhāgavata Purāṇa for seven days, following the original recitation by Śrī Sukadeva Gosvāmī to King Parīkṣit, which lasted for seven days. According to Śrīmad-bhāgavata-māhātmya, the process of hearing it in seven days (saptāha-yajña) is the means for attaining all desires. Bhāgavata-saptāha is very popular all over India, especially in North India. Generally, pure devotees of Śrī Hari, being free from all material desires, do not engage in such recitation or rituals, but they use the saptāha process for spreading the message to the masses. Therefore, they are not concerned with all the details of the rituals, as the real purpose is to convey the teachings of Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

The Purāṇas sometimes instruct through the indirect method of storytelling (parokṣavāda). This does not mean, however, that this narration is a fable. It is based on history, but its purpose is not to describe historical facts. The real purpose is to teach about the importance of bhakti through storytelling. To give some insight into the teachings behind the story, brief comments are given in the footnotes.

Within these chapters, there are a lucid description and incidental predictions for the modern age. Modern scholars should not consider them interpolations because even according to modern historians, the Purāṇas existed prior to the activities narrated herein. This is a confirmed historical fact. For example, the first chapter states that yavanas will take control of holy places and demolish temples. This is a reference to Muslim rulers like Auraṅgazeb, who destroyed the major temples in Vṛndāvana, Mathurā, and other holy places in India. Modern scholars would say that such statements have been added later on. However, those who follow the tradition believe them to be part of the original book.

Bhāgavata Māhātmyam  4 booksThe new edition contains modifications where clarity was needed, along with style and formatting changes that fit the current Jīva Style Guide. Unlike its original counterpart, the revised version comes in hard cover, which adds well to its look and feel and hopefully makes it more enjoyable to the readers.

The book is now available in our Store. You can order it here. 

New Book Release: Jiva Tattva!

This long awaited book conclusively deals with the nature of the living being as per the Gauḍīya School of thought and related aspects. It also deals with various misconceptions about the jīva that are prevalent in Vaiṣṇava circles.

Knowledge about the jīva is gained from śāstra. However, if one does not know how to interpret it properly, śāstra can be misunderstood. It is for this reason that there are differences of opinion about the nature of the jīva in different groups of spiritualists. In this book, some basic principles are discussed that govern how śāstra is meant to be understood at different levels and how its true intentions are realized. 

On any spiritual path, including bhakti, there are three factors involved: the practitioner, the practice, and the goal to be achieved. To be successful in one’s spiritual practice, one must have a clear understanding of all three of these factors. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī calls them sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana, respectively. As a practitioner on the path of bhakti, one must know one’s identity and relationship with Kṛṣṇa clearly. To practice bhakti successfully, one should also know what bhakti is and how it is to be practiced. And finally, one must have a clear understanding of the goal one is aspiring for in one’s practice. Jiva Tattva primarily focuses on providing authoritative knowledge about the practitioner, the jīva.

The main points that have are established are as follows: 

  1. The jīva is an eternal conscious being belonging to Kṛṣṇa’s intermediary potency (taṭasthā-śakti) and has the potential to act, know, and experience.
  2. In the conditioned state, the jīva is under the influence of Kṛṣṇa’s external potency, called māyā.
  3. The conditioning of the jīva has no beginning.
  4. The conditioning of the jīva can come to an end by the grace of bhakti.
  5. Bhakti is attained by the grace of a devotee or Kṛṣṇa.
  6. Bhakti is not dormant within the svarūpa of the jīva.
  7. When a jīva becomes perfected in bhakti, he is awarded a spiritual body at the time of giving up the physical body.
  8. The spiritual body is not dormant or inherent within the svarūpa of the jīva.
  9. The spiritual bodies attained by perfected jīvas exist eternally in the spiritual world and a particular spiritual body suitable to each particular perfected jīva is awarded to them for their eternal service to Bhagavān.
  10. Once the jīva attains a spiritual body, the jīva is never again conditioned by māyā.
  11. No jīva ever falls from the spiritual abode back down in the material world of māyā.
  12. There is no such thing as taṭastha region and thus there is no fall-down from there.

Jiva Tattva cover pageYou can order the book here from our Onlinestore. 

Sandarbhas Now Available as E-books

Jīva Institute has started to publish the Ṣad Sandarbhas and other books as E-books. Currently, Tattva Sandarbha and Bhagavat Sandarbha are available through Amazon Kindle Store, Apple-books and our Online Store. These electronic editions include the full text and figures available in the print book. Additionally, it contains all forewords, introductions, and appendices. Only the subject and verse indices are omitted.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Ṣaṭ Sandarbha is one voluminous work divided into six parts and taken as a whole, forms a far-reaching synthesis and commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The original name of the work was Bhāgavata Sandarbha, indicating that it is an exposition and analysis of the essential message of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

A sandarbha is a literary work that discloses the confidential meaning of a subject or book, incorporates its essence, explains the superiority of the subject, and elaborates its various meanings. The entire Ṣaṭ Sandarbha is a treatise on love for the Absolute, Bhagavān, as revealed in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī wrote the Sandarbhas specifically for those who aspire to enter into a relationship of loving transcendental service to Bhagavān. He takes the beginner by the hand, guiding him or her through the subject matter to the ultimate goal of prīti, or divine love. 

Previously, this knowledge was available only in Sanskrit and thus inaccessible to most readers. Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji has translated the entire text into English with elaborate commentaries on Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s often terse passages, while keeping the author’s intention in mind. 

Additionally, the Sandarbhas lay the theological and philosophical foundation for the entire Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava school of thought by establishing Śrī Kṛṣṇa as Svayaṁ Bhagavān and by introducing the concept of acintya-bhedābheda tattva. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s treatise offers the most systematic and complete synthesis of Vedānta. Consequently, the highest benefit to the reader can be had by studying the Sandarbhas in order, as intended by the author. 

Tattva Sandarbha

Tattva Sandarbha, the first book of the Ṣaṭ Sandarbhas, 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 subsequent volumes of the Sandarbhas. Thus, it lays the foundation for entry into the subject matter of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which Jīva Gosvāmī establishes as the supreme authority in the matter of the Absolute Nondual Reality, or Bhagavān. 

This book can be divided in two parts; namely, pramāṇa and prameya. The first part deals with the highly essential topic of epistemology (pramāṇa), or the means of valid knowing, without which nothing conclusive can be determined. The second part of Tattva Sandarbha deals with the knowable (prameya). In keeping with the epistemological view established in the first part, the determination of the knowable is not arrived at through logical analysis but through direct revelation to Śrī Vyāsadeva in samādhi. The knowable is thus unmistakably shown to be Svayam Bhagavān, who is inclusive of diverse potencies.

Bhagavat Sandarbha

Bhagavat Sandarbha is the second book of this treatise. Jīva Gosvāmī builds on the overview provided in Tattva Sandarbha to elucidate on the nature of nondual Reality in explicit detail. He covers the topic of ontology, or sambandha-jñāna, knowledge of Reality as the nondual Absolute, which finds its highest completion exclusively in Bhagavān, the transcendent personal Absolute. The one indivisible total Reality is referred to primarily by the names Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. 

These three different names refer to the exact same Reality but as seen from different points of view. When that Reality is intuited as unqualified being, it is known as Brahman; when realized as the Immanent Self, it is known as Paramātmā; and when directly apperceived as the trans-conventional Person inclusive of all opulence and potency, it is known as Bhagavān. He is the most complete manifestation of nondual Reality, inclusive of Brahman and Paramātmā.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī wonderfully elaborates on the trans-conventional nondual nature of Bhagavān, who can be only known through the Vedas. He provides a deep analysis of Bhagavān’s name, form, actions, and attributes, all of which are transcendental. They spring from His essential nature and are thus diametrically opposed to their material counterparts. Bhagavān is inconceivable in all respects. 

Babaji with Tattva

Note: Discounts are available for people who have bought the print. For details and technical questions on E-books, please refer to our FAQ file.

New Publication: Vedānta-syamantaka

We are glad to announce the release of the Vedanta-syamantaka, composed by Sri Radha-Damodara Gosvami, whose foremost disciple was Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. This book, translated by Dr. Demian Martins, gives a concise but profound exposition of some of the major tenets of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy and theology. Following a discussion on epistemology, each one of the remaining chapters deals with one of five major philosophical topics: Isvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity), prakrti (material nature), kala (eternal time) and karma (material activity). In defining these topics, the author provides ample quotations from various scriptures, as well as sound arguments that corroborate the Gaudiya Vaisnava conclusions. The original text is further clarified by Vidyabhusana’s gloss, which is found only in a few rare manuscripts and is being published here for the first time. The introduction addresses the old controversy regarding the authorship of this book, the causes of the confusion, and the evidence that Sri Radha-Damodara is the real author. This critical edition has been prepared by consulting a total of 32 different manuscripts collected from all over India, including all published editions, and in this way it has been possible to rid the text of multiple wrong readings seen in the previous printed editions.

This edition includes:

  1. The original Sanskrit text in Devanagari.
  2. The original Sanskrit gloss by Baladeva Vidyabhusana.
  3. Alternative readings and notes from multiple manuscripts.
  4. An English translation of the original text and gloss.
  5. Extensive footnotes glossing technical terms and elucidating some of the arguments.

Vedanta-syamantaka is now available in our Online-Store

Bhakti Tirtha Level 4

On October 15th, we launched into the fourth year of Bhakti Tirtha, which has now become an ongoing program at Jiva Institute. People who cannot participate in the complete six months semester can also come for a shorter period or just follow the course through the recordings.

If want to follow the classes from home at your convenience, you can receive the daily recordings. Please visit our Online Store for that. You will then be added to student email groups, where you receive all the necessary information.

This course is a unique opportunity to study Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures in specific and the Sad Darshanas in general, which are necessary to understand Gaudiya philosophy properly.

This semester, there will be no winter break. Rather, we will have a Japa Retreat from Jan. 4th until Jan. 11th. You can also participate in that if you don’t register for the course.


Class schedule from Monday through Friday
8:00 – 9:00 am Sanskrit Beginners (by Jagadananda Das)
11.00 – 12.00 am  Paramātma Sandarbha  (by Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa)
12:10 – 01:00 pm Sāṅkhya Tattva Kaumudi with Sanskrit commentary by Vacaspati Miśra (by Babaji)
5:30 – 6:30 pm Sanskrit Advanced: Reading of Bṛhad Bhāgavatamṛta with ṭīka (by Jagadananda Das) 
5 – 6 pm A Course in Sanskrit and Vernacular Devotional Poetry with special accents (by Radhika Devi)

Every morning there will be kīrtana at 9.30 (Please notice the changed time!) Everyone is welcome to join. Besides the regular schedule, we will also have additional classes and weekend seminars, which will be announced in our Bhakti Tirtha email group.


If you have any questions about the registration or the course, please write to
Food per month: $ 250.
Accommodation: Ashram: $ 150 per month. $ 800 for 6 months in advance.
Student Hostel: $ 210 per month. $ 1100 for 6 months in advance.
Guest House: $ 300 per month. $ 1600 for 6 months in advance.
There are other options for food and accommodation in the vicinity, which students are free to choose.

Remote, On-Line Study:
$ 550 for complete recordings of the whole course.
Recordings for registered students who attend the course: $ 150.
Each course can also be purchased individually. Details can be given upon request.